Scattered Thoughts: Eakins, Marlies, Komarov, Lessons from Boston

Scattered Thoughts: Eakins, Marlies, Komarov, Lessons from Boston

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Even though the Leafs haven’t played a hockey game in weeks and the Stanley Cup Finals are about to begin, there is no shortage of storylines surrounding the team right now. Let’s get to them.

Losing Eakins

After four years in which Dallas Eakins served as an assistant coach for the Leafs and Marlies, and after a year as the Leafs director of player development, Eakins became head coach of the Marlies in August of 2009. He took a team that finished with 90 points and lost out in the first round of the playoffs to last place in their division with 78 points a season later. In fairness to Eakins, the Marlies had lost their leading scorer from the year before – Tim Stapleton — as well as their other offensive leaders in Jiri Tlusty, Bates Battaglia and Jeremy Williams. In fact, the best way to sum up Eakins’ first year as the Marlies coach is by pointing out that Andre Devaux led the team in scoring.

The following season, however, the Marlies were led by Mike Zigomanis, a yo-yoing Nazem Kadri and Christian Hanson, Matt Lashoff, Joe Colborne and Fabian Brunnstrum (both acquired half way through the season) along with Ben Scrivens in net, yet they still missed the playoffs with 85 points as the Marlies once again finished last in their division.

That takes us to last season, when the Marlies went to the Calder Cup finals and were swept. They finished with 96 points and were led by Scrivens, Zigomanis, Ryan Hamilton, Greg Scott, Marcel Mueller and a host of young players such as Jerry D’Amigo.

This was Eakins’ first time in the playoffs with the Marlies and the Leafs sent down all their young guys to help the run. The team was aided by Kadri, Frattin, Colborne and Gardiner as the Marlies lost just two games total in their first three rounds. Generally speaking, when a team dominates their way to winning a conference it has more to do with the talent on the team than anything coaching or luck related. The Marlies were a stacked team from head to toe.

That brings us to this season, which started with a lockout. The Marlies had Aucoin, Kadri, Fraser, Kostka, Gardiner, Scrivens and Holzer head to the NHL once the lockout concluded. From there, the team eventually acquired Drew MacIntyre who went onto have a .931sv% and 1.83GAA as he basically carried the team. The Marlies won their division and swept Rochester in the first round again, but were ousted in the second round.

In summary, under Eakins the Marlies finished last twice and first twice in their division. Players that played for the Marlies and the Leafs or another NHL team under his reign include: Viktor Stalberg, Keith Aulie, Jonas Frogren, Troy Brodie, Jiri Tlusty, Tyler Bozak, Ryan Hamilton, Tim Brent, Christian Hanson, Luca Caputi, Darryl Boyce, Joey Crabb, Matt Lashoff, Joe Colborne, Carter Ashton, Korbinian Holzer, Mark Fraser, Colton Orr, Keith Aucoin, Mike Kostka, Jake Gardiner and Leo Komarov.

If you want to give Eakins credit for some of these guys contributing to NHL teams by all means do so, but most of them are marginal NHLers at best. Other than Kadri and Colborne, most of the successful bonafide NHL players passed right through the minors straight to the NHL – Stalberg, Bozak, Gardiner, etc. The Leafs also haven’t been a very good team over the years so there’s been a lot of roster spots up for grabs.

The truth is that we really don’t know how good of a coach Eakins is. The players definitely seem to like him, he represents the new wave of younger coaches coming through, and he’s achieved modest results, but that’s not enough to be too upset about losing him. Scott Arniel, Guy Boucher and Glen Gulutzan are examples of celebrated young coaches who spent time in the AHL before being hired by NHL clubs. All of them are unemployed at the moment.

Losing Eakins isn’t ideal, but the Leafs will be able to survive it. As we can all see right now, there are plenty of good coaches without work. Even if the Leafs do get rid of Carlyle sometime soon, there will be plenty of good options available to them.

The Marlies

The Marlies are now looking for a new coach, which is of more interest to me than Eakins leaving.

Dreger tweeted this yesterday:

It seems more Dreger is speculating more than anything, so I’m not going to breakdown those options one by one, but needless to say there are more than a few interesting coaching candidates for the job.

Of course, many will remember JFJ hiring Paul Maurice to coach the Marlies before promoting him to coach the Leafs. A similar situation could easily play out again.

Beyond that, the Leafs have two promising young coaches on their staff in Scott Gordon and Greg Cronin.

Gordon just turned 50 this year and already has nine years of head coaching pro hockey under his belt (One in the ECHL, six in the AHL and two in the NHL).

Greg Cronin spent five years as an assistant coach with the Islanders plus another two as head coach of their AHL team on top of his eight years coaching in college hockey.

By that token alone, it will be interesting to see if Nonis thinks one of those two associate coaches should get back to being a head coach in preparation of eventually becoming head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Losing Komarov

According to various reports, the Leafs appear to be losing Leo Komarov to the KHL. The first thing to note is that we don’t know if this is happening for sure. Even if he does sign a contract, we don’t know if there’s an out clause for a possible return. Speaking in certainties at this time would be foolish.

Assuming the Leafs do lose Komarov though, that would mean Toronto is now without two of their top four penalty killing forwards according to ice time, as it looks like Bozak is going to hit the open market at this point. The good news is that McClement and Kulemin are their two best penalty killing forwards, plus the core of the defense is returning and their best penalty killer James Reimer is still in the fold. Bozak and Komarov they might not be crucial losses to the unit, but they do open up holes that need to be filled.

Penalty kill aside, Komarov is really an ideal fourth liner more than anything. He can move up the line-up in a pinch, play all three forward positions, be a pest, get physical, and contribute some offense. Most importantly, he’s not a liability on the ice despite his limited ice time.

That limited ice time and role is most likely why he wants to go back to the KHL since he’ll play more and get paid more to do it.

For the Leafs, they have internal options to replace Komarov; it’s not a huge deal even though Komarov is a solid player and contributor. The most likely and seamless replacement is Jerry D’Amigo, who has featured on a shutdown line and penalty kill role for the Marlies for two straight years now. A season ago he had 41 points in 76 games before putting up 29 in 70 games this season. D’Amigo started the season way down the depth chart due to the lockout, but once the NHL started back up he got more ice time and played better. While D’Amigo is listed as bigger than Komarov (around 15 pounds heavier), he isn’t as physical, but he is faster. The Leafs also have Carter Ashton, who is much bigger than both at 6’3 but not as strong defensively.

Maybe the Leafs hope to add both Ashton and D’Amigo next fall, or maybe they will acquire someone to fill the role, but right now it looks like those two will at least be in the mix of competition for a low roster spot. It would be unfortunate to lose Komarov, but he’s not worth overpaying to keep on the fourth line and the Leafs will be able to move on just fine if he does leave.

Boston Lessons

There’s this growing sentiment in Toronto that, had the Leafs held onto beat the Bruins, they would be in the Stanley Cup Finals right now in Boston’s place.

None of us can possibly know if the Leafs would have beat the Rangers and Penguins. I’m not going to go down that path, but what is worth discussing is what the Bruins series has taught us.

The first thing is that we can’t make huge generalizations about the team based on seven games. There are things to learn from the seven games, but drastic decisions shouldn’t be made based exclusively around them.

The most notable and eye popping thing about the Leafs’ play against Boston compared to New York and Pittsburgh is how much faster the Leafs are than all three. Boston was generally able to shut down New York and Pittsburgh at will, but the Leafs speed put them on their heels and opened up scoring lanes and opportunities. For all that’s made about the Leafs lack of size and snarl in their top six, they are the only team that has really been able to create and produce against Boston and they did it by getting to the dirty areas no less.

It would be awesome if the Leafs could find a top line center to play with Kessel, but if not we know they can score against the best anyways.

Conversely, the Krejci line dominated the Leafs. However, they have been dominant throughout the Bruins’ entire playoff so it would be unfair to say the Leafs alone need a better shutdown unit.

If anything, the playoffs highlighted what we already knew throughout the season – the defense needs to be deeper. Even when the Leafs ran their best possible top 4 in Gunnarsson-Phaneuf and Gardiner-Franson, the workload was too much and they were noticeably out of gas in the third period of game 7. Phaneuf in particular looked completely done by the time Boston tied the game.

The Leafs don’t have a monster like Chara who can play half the game and dominate, so they need to make-up for that with defense by committee and that means they need to be strong one through six. The aforementioned four can be strong and Fraser too will be in the fold. Some sort of Marlie – be it Blacker, Holzer, Ranger or Rielly — will probably start as the seventh man, but the remaining defense spot has to be filled by a reliable player in order to spread out responsibilities and give the Leafs three strong pairings. As long as Gardiner and Franson continue to emerge, the Leafs are very close to having a strong overall unit on defense.

In net, Reimer gave the Leafs everything they could have hoped for. He stood on his head in games 5 and 6.

Other than another solid defenseman, the Leafs looked in need of another strong center – maybe that comes internally via Colborne — and a few more defensive-minded forwards. As we’ve noted, the Leafs didn’t have a huge issue scoring, and they have a number of players who are strong “two way” players like Kulemin, Grabovski, Frattin and JVR, but could use another defensive specialist.

Nonis doesn’t have to make huge changes, but a few savvy moves will have this Leafs team competitive and ready to go.

Anthony Petrielli has been writing Leafs Notebooks, also known as short stories, on MLHS since the beginning of the 2011 season. He'd rather let his work do the talking but Alec and Declan have been bugging him about writing a bio, so here it is. You can contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @APetrielli
901 comments
Claymish
Claymish

The Leafs only need some tweaking.....

1. Bozak, please please let him walk. Sure he can win a faceoff, but is only an average passer, and is a C+ center. A 3rd liner on a good team, 2nd liner on a poor team.

2. Sign David Clarkson he will be an instant favourite much like back in the days of Wendel Clark, plus he wants to play for the Leafs, it's his dream. Some toughness in our top 6, and protection for Kadri.

3. Trade with the Islanders get Dipietro's contract to buyout, Casey Cizikas (Toronto boy, excellent on faceoffs, and hits, perfect 3rd liner), Matt Martin (awesome Windsor boy, lead the league in hits to replace Komarov), plus Nino and switch first round picks. In return we ship out Liles to replace Streit,  and Komisarek for the Islanders to buyout much cheaper. Who knows, maybe the New York native will get a shot before they buy him out. If Strome is available then jump at that chance instead of Nino, and offer up a prospect, Biggs at the most.

4. Say bye bye to Grabovski. He is getting paid way too much, which makes it hard to sign anyone such as Kadri for less money. Also, yes he provides heart and energy, but he also doesn't pass nearly enough or even hit the net when he shoots. He appears to create offense, but ends up missing the net and the puck goes around the boards and out of the zone. If we can find a suitor then great, if not then consider him a buyout. I would potentially keep him around till the end of the year only if we can afford it, and only as our 3rd line center.

5. a) Veteran Center. I have felt for years Stastny belongs, and with only 1 year left before he is a UFA, then it shouldnt be too difficult to make it happen. As soon as we get him lock him down to another 4 years at just under $6 million. He will be guaranteed to hit 80-90 pts each year playing with Kessel. 

 b) If the first option proves too difficult, then pick up a buyout. Choices in order should they become available Lecavalier, Richards, Cammalleri, or Briere. They can be had for cheap and a short term contract. If injuries happen we have Colborne to move up, when needed. 

6. Defence, pick up a big minute defensive D-man. Cut down Phaneuf''s minutes to 20 max, he is very effective if he isn't overused. Definitely resign Fraser, surprisingly his stats this year were very similar to Schenn's and yet Fraser also was tops in the league for fighting majors.

JVR               #1 Center         Kessel

Lupul              Kadri              Clarkson

Kulemin                *                 Frattin               *Grabo, Cizikas or Colborne

(Rookie)        McClement       Martin

MaxwellHowe
MaxwellHowe

Not adding any new blogposts today?  No one wants to talk about Eakins, Komarov nor lessons from the Bruins series anymore.  This thing is devolving into the usual crazy trade banter.  Fun, but the roads all lead to the same names and the same arguments.

.JVR.
.JVR.

@mcloki 

Exactly, kids have to learn how to deal with failure! 

mcloki
mcloki

@Zep2 NIce sour grapes from the former goalie coach. 

Joe_17
Joe_17

@Pent_House Yea i agree. i rarely see him rated as low as 21 but for me if we dont move our pick i'd be happy landing any of the names ive heard bandied around the most

-Mantha,Gauthier, Lazar, Horvat (not likely anymore), Rychel,

mcloki
mcloki

@Burtonboy Justice is served. Gillis you overplayed your hand and should be fired.

hahahahahahaha. 

B_Leaf
B_Leaf

@Claymish 

1) Bozak should be brought back. He is still improving. Carlyle plays him more minutes than any other forward. 

2) Yes to Clarkson

3) If there is a deal involving Dipietro then great, take the contract, buy it out, but you better be getting some talent back...I mean MLSE would have to justify the money spent in future playoff games. But you have to think the islanders are considering the same thing.

4) I most definitely would not give up on Grabovski yet. He can be a dominant player. He is coming off a bad year but lets see if he can get right.

5) Point number 5 is ridiculous. Paul Stastny is arguably no better overall than Bozak. Bozak did play 1C on what was arguably the 8-10 ranked team in the league. His loss in game seven may have made the difference. Stastny would cost now in players and money, and more money down the road.

6) Pick up a big minute defenceman? Like how? They don't grow on trees. Continue to develop from our farm. Hopefully Ranger might sign.

I still think Komarov will be back, but if not we have D"Amigo

JVR Bozak Kessel

Lupul Kadri Clarkson

Frattin Grabovski Kulemin

Komarov/DAmigo MacClement McLaren/Orr

B_Leaf
B_Leaf

@Claymish 

Clarkson is a no brainer, but after that everything here is rubbish and dream world.

phaneufoundlander
phaneufoundlander

I can see Bozak walking and Nonis signing Weiss.....good move I'd say...another TO boy in the mix....an upgarde over Bozak for sure

MaxwellHowe
MaxwellHowe

@Claymish I cannot recall seeing your posting before, but I must say, I agree with just about everything you suggest.  Even your proposed lines are flawless.  I would suggest that if the Leafs managed to get Strome, he's in the lineup next year.  And getting Stasney is going to cost serious assets, I think  - but still quite worth the effort.   

phaneufoundlander
phaneufoundlander

David Clarkson will be a boost of dynomite on this team.....we haven't had his spunk since Tucker!!  If Nonis does nothing only sign Clarkson I'd be happy

wendelsfist
wendelsfist

@MaxwellHowe Not much happening in leaf land.   Feschuk should have waited till today to publish his trade Kessel article. It would generate hits for the site as fans are starved for something to debate and ridicule waiting for the finals.  

mcloki
mcloki

@MaxwellHowe It gets slow around here in the summer. August is usually very dry until camp talk starts up. It turns in to BBQ talk. Free agency and Draft day are pretty big. 

But the Dog days of August are going to be unbearable. Can't wait for the season to start.

.JVR.
.JVR.

@Joe_17

I'd also be happy with Max Doni, Adam Erne or Samuel Morin. 

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

@Mind Bomb @Burtonboy I think the Nucks have no choice but to spend the bucks and buy him out . Not a team in the League are interested in that contract 

Claymish
Claymish

You opinions are valid except for your love of Bozak. I would bet money on him never breaking even 60pts. Imagine not even getting 50 pts a year getting 20 mins a game playing with two guys that can each score 30+ goals a year in their sleep. The guy is a joke just like Stajan was. At least a dozen times this year Kessel was in the clear for a freebie but Bozak didn't realize it until too late. Resigning that player would be a huge mistake.

MaxwellHowe
MaxwellHowe

@mcloki @MaxwellHowe I am interested to see how many players bolt to the KHL.  I hope a number of quality players leave, just so the league begins to see the KHl as a rival and begins to reconsider the wisdom of a salary cap.

Mind Bomb
Mind Bomb

@mcloki @Joe_17 @.JVR.  Plus MC, Domi is likely a winger, or we will have the smallest 2 centers in the League with Kadri and Domi as our top 2 going forward :)


mcloki
mcloki

@Joe_17 @mcloki @.JVR. If the Douchebags at the Star called Reimers mom, just imagine what they would do during a particularly rough spell with Max. He'll be a star when he comes to Toronto for Road games and have tons of medi attention. But the scrutiny combined with the MSM stupidity would be just too much.

Joe_17
Joe_17

@mcloki @Joe_17 @.JVR. Yea thats a valid concern. I had similar fear of media meddling if we went with a Carlyle/Eakins tandem - though i dont have to worry on that anymore. I think the kid at least is super prepped for 'the life' - but you're right, he and his family would be relentlessly hunted by the media. Luckily we have Kadri who already attracts a fair bit of it

mcloki
mcloki

@Joe_17 @.JVR. i'm so wary of taking Domi. The media circus would just be crazy  And then all the reporters asking tie why Max is still on the Marlies roster. Ya just a PR nightmare waiting to happen.

Joe_17
Joe_17

@.JVR. @Joe_17  Im not counting Domi - but if he was there i'd take him yea. I dont know much about Erne and so long as Boston doesnt take Morin i think i'd pass.


Whats Erne all about

Jimmie Dorey
Jimmie Dorey

@Pent_House @Joe_17  Checked Rychel's  highlight videos a while ago and while he has a good one timer, his skating is labored and slow. That and the rumored dressing room problems are some mighty big red flags on him.

Joe_17
Joe_17

@Pent_House @Joe_17 some folks here have said that Rychel may be a lockerroom cancer. I havent heard that myself, but if true then i avoid him like a bag of aids. But at 21 i think we can get a Colborne-like prospect that likely wont explode onto the scene but if groomed right could have an impact one day. 


Or maybe we hit a homerun. Who knows!

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

@Pent_House @Joe_17 This is where the good teams have it all over the others . Finding the hidden gems requires a lot of work and good scouts. 

Mind Bomb
Mind Bomb

@Pent_House @Mind Bomb  The owner should Fire Gillis, and hire a GM to rebuild, get good assets for the sedins with a year left. You can get real good assets for Bieksa, Edler, etc. They cant compete with Chicago, LA. Crawford is young So I would rebuild 


Burtonboy
Burtonboy

@Pent_House @Burtonboy Why in fuck does he still have a job . What a freakin mess and to think he might have got Kadri for Lou at the draft last yr.

Mind Bomb
Mind Bomb

@Pent_House @Burtonboy They are still fucked if they do that. The only have 9 forwards signed and 6 d man, and they Have 47 k in cap space, which wont sign them a Water boy. Now if you do trade Schneider, you have 4 mil to sign 4 forwards a D, and replace a goalie. 

Now they may be able to do this by signing league min players, but then, good luck competing with that line up, so you have a non Contender with the Sedins UFA's at the end of the season.

hhahahhahahhahhahhhahah!

phaneufoundlander
phaneufoundlander

for sure.....and I'm certain Nonis wont overpay, but if he does a little, who cares, this guy will be worth it, especially come playoff time

phaneufoundlander
phaneufoundlander

Found it...someone made a good comment after the article...."Trading Kessel to get a No. 1 centre is like trading all your pants to buy some new shirts"

phaneufoundlander
phaneufoundlander

lol..got none left....Leafs drove me to heavy drinking and drugs in the 80's and the last 8 years I  OD 'd twice :)

phaneufoundlander
phaneufoundlander

exactly, the Leafs are loaded and they can't use the money they so rightfully deserve on the UFA market b/c of the friggin cap...if a team’s fan base sucks well, there shouldn't be a team there in the first place...it sticks it my craw that the leafs are keeping over half the teams in the league afloat

mcloki
mcloki

@MaxwellHowe @mcloki I think you'll see 3rd and 4th line guys going first. More salary and the like. And then you'll see superstars like OV go in their later years. They'll get big contracts to go play at home. The bigger deal will be when the KHL starts attracting Europeans stars and NA draft picks. The KHL has to morph into a European NHL before the big money starts to show up. Europe could easily support a 16 team league.