Toronto Maple Leafs: Weekly Thoughts

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been off for over a month.

And there is still almost a month until the expansion draft.  Sure, the Stanley Cup Playoffs march on, but it’s the most boring time (with the possible exception of August) to be a Toronto Maple Leafs news junkie.

That said, there’s a lot to think about, and so I figure a kind of weekly re-cap, catch-all type article is in order:

William Nylander

Great to see him win the MVP at the Worlds.  I can’t believe people actually think the Leafs will trade him – they’d be idiots to do so, as all you have to do is look at the disaster that was Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson to know moving an elite forward for a defenseman is a losing proposition.

Nylander has to become a centre.  There is no way the Toronto Maple Leafs can pass up having the best 1-2-3 centre combo in the NHL – which is what they’d be doing if they insist on keeping Nylander on the wing.

Outdoor Game

I could not care less.  Outdoor games are just asking for people to get hurt.  Outdoor games are novelties that are about as thrilling at this point as the Mackerena.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will be playing an outdoor cash-grab against the Capitals sometime in the future, and……..big deal.

Defense

The Toronto Maple Leafs should sign one of the best shot-suppressors in the NHL – ex-Leafs Cody Franson.  I’ll have more on that later, but for the price of a medium range free-agent deal, the Leafs could get Rielly the exact partner he needs.   The other two pairings can be deployed with players the Leafs already have.

Rielly – Franson

Gardiner – Carrick

Marincin – Zaitsev  

Yeah, it’s not sexy, but Marincin/Zaitsev were a 57% pairing – and that is elite puck possession.  Carrick/Gardiner were 54.5%, also very, very good.

The Leafs really don’t need to expend a lot of assets or money to improve their D.  Contrary to popular belief, they already have a half-way decent D core.

Also, if you don’t worry about upgrading a defense that doesn’t really need to be upgraded all that much, you get to keep JVR.

Forward:

If the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t expend all their trade capital and cap room on defense, they will have an opportunity to upgrade their forwards significantly.

Nino Niederitter is one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL.  The Wild are going to get screwed by the expansion draft.   This is a target who would significantly improve the Toronto Maple Leafs.

A move of Nylander to C opens up a right-wing job for Niederitter.

The other forward the Leafs should pursue is Nashville’s Call Jarnkrok. An excellent defender in his own right, Jarnkrok also has the best value contract in the NHL and would be an elite fourth line centre, as well as the perfect candidate to move up the lineup when injuries inevitably occur.

I’d like to see the Leafs forwards look something like this in the fall:

Hyman – Matthews – Kapanen

JVR     –   Nylander –  Marner 

Brown  – Kadri –  Niederitter 

Martin – Jarnkrok – Griffith/Rychel/Leipsic 

 

Icing a lineup like this means that you can also trade Komorov and Bozak – maybe for picks before the expansion draft – to keep building up a prospect system that is sustainable.

Of course, If the Leafs want to make a blockbuster and add Chris Tanev or some unsuspected forward, I am not going to complain. I’m just saying that the team isn’t far off – with their current lineup – from being a contender.

I think given their bad team defense and penchant for blowing leads, adding three shot-suppression masters in Niederitter, Jarnkrork and Franson would go a long way in providing what they’re missing.

Load Comments