A couple of days ago, I had a pretty interesting conversation with @Dudgee (solid MLHS guy, give him a follow) when he first stated that he thought the Leafs brass should withhold judgement on Kessel and Bozak until we see them in the playoffs. This got me thinking, because Bozak is due for an extension and Kessel is going into the final year of his contract, ultimately with the prospects of a massive raise from his current $5.400mn salary. So I wondered – is Bozak destined to simply be a rental player for the Leafs during the playoffs, or is there anything he can do to solidify himself as a key cog in the organization?
Judging from most of the stuff I’ve heard on Twitter, if seems like the masses are ready to dispose of Bozak, and I wanted to reach out to our writers to see what they thought. From my side, regardless of whether Bozak stays, or not, the situation at centre will change – with Kadri‘s ascension and Grabovski‘s sub-optimization – and this summer could mark the beginnings of the organization’s intense search for a #1 Centre, which is key to turning the Leafs into a better possession team.
I also don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but it’s worth touching upon, for the fan-bases’ sake, the shellacking the Leafs were dealt by the Capitals on Tuesday night. As much as the Leafs needed a wake-up call, it’s probably important for the fan base to temper their recent expectations as well. Should their performance on Tuesday be a cause for concern? I don’t think so but I’ll let our writers do the talking.
In this week’s roundtable, we cover Bozak+Kessel, the Leafs’ poor back-to-back performance, implications of the additional outdoor games on the Winter Classic, and just for fun, some Team Canada projections for the 2013 Men’s World Championship in June.
How will the post-season affect Bozak and Kessel’s fate?
“Barring a herculean performance in the playoffs from Tyler Bozak, I think the futures of both players are already sealed. It comes down to a fairly immutable truth; you can replace the Tyler Bozaks of the world a lot easier than you can Phil Kessel.” -Michael Stephens (@MLHS_Mike)
“As for Kessel, if the club were to ever part ways with the talented American sniper, they would be hard-pressed to find his missing offense. This is especially the case with the Leafs lacking any top-level forward prospects and unlikely to draft high in the near future. He could go pointless in a four gamesweep, and he’s still probably looking at an $8 million x 8 year deal in the summer of 2014.” -Michael Stephens (@MLHS_Mike)
“Unless the Leafs play upwards of 15 games it doesn’t affect my thought on either all that much. If Kessel doesn’t score I’d probably just say get him a better center more than anything. Phil is going to finish top 15 in league scoring for a second straight year; it would be awesome for Kessel to have a great playoff, but it won’t ruin my opinion of him if he has a bad five games and the Leafs are ousted.” -Anthony Petrielli (@APetrielli)
“ Kessel becomes an UFA in 2014-15, so I think next season will impact his future deal more prominently than the upcoming playoffs simply because it’s a case of “what have you done for me lately?” situation…Bozak is a different case entirely. I see him as a guy this team can afford to lose if his price isn’t right and he has to convince the management he’s worth investing in.” -Mislav Jantoljak (@Xterratu)
“ I don’t think the post season will affect my views on either Bozak or Kessels future with the Leafs. As it sits today the Leafs would face Boston who will have Chara shadowing Kessel and limiting his ability to produce offense… If Bozak and Kessel do produce offense it doesn’t change the fact I want Kessel locked up long term and Bozak kicked to the curb.” -Jon Steitzer (@YakovMironov)
Was the recent lackluster back-to-back a cause for concern?
“Monday night was a little concerning, but it’s hard to blame a team for phoning it in on the second half of a back to back when they’ve all but clinched their playoff spot. I’m interpreting this as they won’t kill themselves to hold fifth place (Gunnarsson, Mac sitting), they’d rather be rested and ready for the first game. I think they get back in it by giving greater opportunities to players like Colborne, Frattin, Gardiner and even Kostka to prove that they will add value in the post season.” -Jon
“The Leafs need to learn, and learn quickly, that playoff hockey is won by outworking the other team. If the skill plays don’t work, you have to know how to grind it out and still keep momentum. Despite the results (excl. WSH) they don’t seem to find zone time needed to generate that momentum…But with all that said, I’m more willing to chalk the uninspired efforts of Monday and Tuesday nights to sheer exhaustion.” -Mislav
“If they lose the next two games then I’ll start worrying, but at this point it’s a few bad games in a row and they somehow still split them. Gunnarsson wasn’t playing, Lupul just got back in, and MacArthur wasn’t playing, in other words I’ve already moved on.” -Anthony
“I’m more willing to chalk the uninspired efforts of Monday and Tuesday nights to sheer exhaustion… I’d think that with a precious two-day rest and a home crowd tonight, we’ll get the type of performance we expect from the team that had recorded a point in 13 of their last 15 games.” -Michael
Will the additional outdoor games dilute the Winter Classic?
“The Winter Classic is special because it’s the game. It’s special because for the duration of HBO‘s 24/7 and the game, the hockey world is focused on two opponents. The players feel it, the coaches feel it and so do the fans. Everyone is proud to be a part of it because the opportunity comes so rarely. More events kills the one thing that made it special, the uniqueness, if you will.” -Mislav
“No, because the Leafs and Wings are getting HBO 24/7. The best part about the Winter Classic for me is sitting down with a beer and watching that show every week leading up to the big event. If this was the last of the six outdoor games it would suck, but it’s the first, the most marketed, it’s on a marquee day and the only one with HBO.” -Anthony
“I’m not too worried about the NHL attempting to hold as many as six outdoor games next season. Spectacles like these can help to generate the type of revenue the league needs to remain in the ‘Big 4’ professional sports leagues in North America…With HBO’s 24/7 series only to follow the Wings and Leafs, the most attention will be paid on the Winter Classic and not the others.” -Michael
“Absolutely it does, and you can expect a post from me over at The Leafs Nation covering this in greater detail” -Jon
Team Canada Roster Projections - 2013 Men’s World Championship
*Anthony’s roster represents a best-case scenario if the best players were available to play.
**First round playoff exits will change these rosters, but below is a good sense for who you’ll be seeing on the WC roster
BCP: Moving Forward, What to Expect from Kadri - Curt thinks Kadri is a ~67-point player, and backs it up.
VLM: The Maple Leafs and Adversity – Michael asks if the Leafs are truly ready for the playoff grind.
National Post: Ponikarovsky Relives Playoff-Crazed Toronto - Apparently, he hid in his car.
Globe and Mail: Lowe in Damage Control - Kevin Lowe is a douche-satchel.
The Star: NHL Could Have Six Outdoor Games Next Season - Kevin McGran with some more details.
THN: Welcoming More Outdoor Games With Open Arms - Ryan Kennedy thinks it’s a good idea.
Buzzfeed Sports: Burish & Ekman-Larsson Get “Tangled-Up” - OEL taking Avery’s on-ice push-ups to a new level.