The Toronto Maple Leafs next GM needs to change this team into a faster, younger version of itself.
The Toronto Maple Leafs next GM – which names coming up (Mike Gillis, Jim Nill) seem to get stupider every day this thing drags on – has to lean into the youth this team has on the farm, and get back to being a fast team.
The Leafs lost their identity when they got slow.
They couldn’t score, and considering they used to be a run-and-gun team built around offense, whatever they became didn’t really make any sense.
It’s time to make some changes.
Toronto Maple Leafs Changes to Make
That means that Ryan O’Reilly is gone. He’s too slow, he didn’t perform like the Leafs thought he would – at 5v5 he posted a 44% xGoals, zero goals, five assists in 11 playoff games. (stats naturalstattrick.com).
That means Luke Schenn is gone. His playoff stats were decent, but using him in a top 4 role was perhaps the worst thing Sheldon Keefe ever did in his time as Leafs coach. Matthews individual xgoals per 60 was 1.1 per 60 minutes for the playoffs, but with Schenn on the ice it dropped to .88, which is significant because Schenn was Matthews 3rd most common partner.
A lot of the Leafs lack of playoff offense can be put on Luke Schenn – easily the worst puck handling player on the team – playing so much with their best players. Marner and Matthews scored at half their regular season rate in the playoffs, and playing them with Schenn was at least a factor in this.
Even though he’s a fast skater, Alex Kerfoot is for sure gone. His salary is too high for what he does.
As for Michael Bunting, he’s a solid player and possibly underrated. But he plays left wing and is going to get somewhere in the neighbourhood of four or five million annually, so it should not be with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have Nick Robertson and Matthew Knies to play left-wing in their top-six next season at league minimum rates.
Finally, the most controversial position I have today is that the Leafs should not pay money to Ilya Samsonov. Going cheap in net is the way to go, unless you have Sorokin, Hellebuyck or Vasilevskiy, or maybe one or two other guys.
Joseph Woll deserves a chance to start, and Matt Murray is a perfectly reasonable back-up if necessary, though I’d like Erik Kallgren just fine in the role.
The next Leafs GM is hopefully not going to be the kind of old-school thinker who will do the opposite of all these moves, because these are the correct moves to make.
To recap: Bunting, O’Reilly, Schenn, Kerfoot and Samsonov all need to be let go.
They are all UFAs, except for Samsonov, who is an RFA, which means maybe the Leafs can get something for him. He had a good season, but not good enough to commit any term to.
While we’re at it, Holl, Acciari (he’s 31), Kampf and Aston-Reese can all get lost too. Forget the “Core Four” they are all coming back (with the possible exception of Nylander getting traded for a true number-one defenseman), the Toronto Maple Leafs will be getting a ton of turnover with their supporting players.