The Toronto Maple Leafs might be in full meltdown mode by the time you read this.
Tonight, as I write this, but last night, as you read it, the Toronto Maple Leafs take/took on the Tampa Bay Lightning in what is arguably the most important game ever for Sheldon Keefe, who is moving rapidly towards scapegoat duty.
As much as I hate the lineups he makes, and as much as I hate starting David Kampf in OT or sending the fourth line out after a goal, and even though I said last summer and last season that he should be fired, he isn’t really the problem.
The problem is the GM who came in and made some frighteningly bad assessments and seemingly made his UFA purchases based on players having recognizable names.
The fact is, anyone with the ability to navigate naturalstattrick.com could have done better with $20 million to spend. Treliving made bad bets, and appears VERY MUCH to be a ‘perception over reality’ kind of guy. ( I mean, why else would he have given Keefe an extension or signed Ryan Reaves?).
That’s a shame, because guys like that can fail upwards by accident, but they don’t build perennial winners.
There is, however, a way out of this for Trelilving that doesn’t result in the Toronto Maple Leafs wasting an entire season of their best ever player’s primes and being dismissed along with Shanahan and Keefe at the end of the season.
Toronto Maple Leafs: How Brad Treliving Could Prove to Be a Genius
First, he must call a press conference and explain that with almost no time to prepare for free-agency, and that with the added pressure to be different than the outgoing GM, he made some mistakes in who he signed.
However, he can point out that he only signed them to one-year deals (with two brutally stupid exceptions) and then proceed to fix it, now, in-season.
If he admits that he screwed up, and then works to fix it, he can be a good GM.
Even a great one.
Everyone screws up, and if they admit it, learn from it and do better, sometimes screwing up is (in the long run) a good thing.
But right now, Treliving’s first moves with the Toronto Maple Leafs, coupled with signing Nazem Kadri (at his age, didn’t he need a medical!) and Jon Huberdeau (the signing and the Tkachuk trade), and the fact that he presided over the hiring of Darryl Sutter make his continuing presence in Toronto terrifying.
All Treliving would have to do to earn my confidence and respect is admit that he didn’t now what myself and many other analytics invested analysts said the second his first moves were announced: that they were bad bets that had almost no chance of working out.
Readily available for viewing on Twitter: a Max Domi player card showing that he was better than just 7% of NHL players over the last three years.
Common Knowledge: Players that decline heading into their 30s will not find their game at the pro level, on a contender, at age 31.
Also Common Knowledge: Multiple Teams (Pittsburgh, Minnesota, the Rangers) have bailed on Ryan Reaves because he can’t play no matter how good he is in the room.
Something Everyone Who Cares About Analytics Already Knew: Kampf without Engvall is useless (I guarantee you that he listened to Keefe on this one. But a good manager should know the coach is too close to the players to give objective opinions on them).
The Leafs could make a major improvement just by acknowledging their errors and putting them on waivers.
Max Domi, David Kampf, Ryan Reaves and John Klingberg, off the team in one day. The GM says sorry, but I’ll do better, and we are all happy.
He’s going to need a new coach too, and the man for the job is clearly Claude Julien. This team is begging for an old-school defense-first coach, so why not give them what they so clearly want?
He did make one good move, and that was to sign Tyler Bertuzzi, who has played better than he’s being credited for. He should use this opportunity to sign him to a cheap extension. A short one.
And finally, as a mea culpa, he could orchestrate a stunt where he shoots Jake McCabe out of a cannon towards the sun. Or at least trade him back to Buffalo.