An interview with Toronto Maple Leafs Director of Player Development Jim Hughes

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Jim Hughes
Jim Hughes (Photo: MapleLeafsHotStove)

MLHS’ Alec Brownscombe caught up with Leafs Director of Player Development Jim Hughes this morning to talk about some of the younger Maple Leafs. While much of the Leafs scouting staff heads to Bratislava next week for the Ivan Hlinka U18 tournament, Hughes will be taking in the World Junior exhibition games in Lake Placid. Dominic Toninato will participating for Team USA while Ryan Rupert, Matt Finn, Morgan Rielly and Frederik Gauthier will be playing for Canada.

Alec Brownscombe: What does the job of Director of Player of Development involve on a day to day basis?

Jim Hughes: My job is to monitor our draft picks, our drafted players. We have about 16 amateur scouts who work hard at identifying particular kids, and once they’re drafted we pass them over to the player development department, which includes myself, Bobby Carpenter and Steve Staois. At that point, we monitor their progress, we share the good news with them, we talk with the things they need to work on and improve, we develop relationships with their coaches, we make sure they are in good spots, and we make recommendations that they should maybe stay in school for another year. We may make recommendations on who we should sign and possibly who we should pass on. We’re constantly nurturing and talking to the kids about situations, about professionalism, about pro hockey, about habits, work ethic, skill sets. Every kid is different. Some are physically strong early, some aren’t. We show them video clips, and we most importantly support what their coaches are talking to them about. We support what their coaches are saying and then we may tack on a little bit more than that. We want to make sure our message is always consistent. Myself and Bobby always make sure we’re on the same page so that our message is consistent. We need to be consistent with the coaching staffs and the general managers, wherever these kids may be playing.

AB: What type of life coaching does the Maple Leafs organization do for its prospects? I know the team emphasizes off ice humanitarianism and intangibles like clean living.

JH: We just recently had prospect camp, so we talked to them about media awarenesses, about Twitter’ing. We talked to them about cooking, we had cooking classes with chefs. We basically talk to them about taking initiative in their lives and business, and making what they want out of this hockey lifestyle. If you’re good, become great; if you’re average, then you have to work hard. You got to be your best, you’ve got to put that effort in, and you’ve got to concentrate on the details. Again, it’s taking the initiative, the responsibility. What we’re trying to do is be patient with the kids, and yet we’re trying to expedite the process and give them the information so that no kid when he’s 24 or 25 can say, “nobody ever told me that,” because they have been told. We’re advocates of kids that go to bed early and wake up early. Kids that eat a healthy, hearty breakfast, guys that are eating the right food groups, guys that get their training in in the morning, guys that take initiative in knocking on the coach’s door looking to either get video attention or maybe additional individual instruction on the ice from their coaching staff. There’s a multitude of things. We have a lot of resources between Barbara Underhill doing our power skating, Dana Sinclair is our sports psychologist [more on Dana here], and we constantly are urging our players to use these resources. Anthony Belza does a great job with the strength and conditioning side of things. We are constantly trying to stimulate their minds so that their minds function in such a way where we’re making NHL players.

AB: Nazem Kadri is training with Leafs trainers Barbara Underhill and Anthony Belza instead of Gary Roberts, who he worked with last off season. Why did the team decide to keep him in house, and did it have anything to do with Dallas Eakins being a little disappointed in his conditioning last training camp?

JH: It’s a probably a multitude of all of those things. He came in house because he understands the value Belza brings, and he’s probably matured to the point where he understands that Barbara can help him. It’s part of that maturation period, and he’s really wrapped his head around it. He’s done a wonderful job this year on a consistent basis. He’s the first guy in in the morning, he’s got his eye on the ball, and he’s putting time in and working hard, certainly from a physical standpoint. I’d imagine he’s working on the mental side of it as well. He’s made a lot of forward strides in the last 18 months, and I assume that he’ll continue to move in that direction.

AB: Is this the year Colborne finally breaks the NHL full time? What are you hoping to see from Joe this season, and do you think he could benefit from full-time NHL duty even if it’s on the 4th line?

JH: It’s a loaded question and I guess the answer to the question will be that it’s up to Joe and his desire and his determination to do whatever Randy and his coaching staff ask of him. I’m sure they’ll give him instruction that you’re going have to do x, y and z in order to play in the lineup or you simply won’t be in the lineup. It may not be about scoring, it may be about checking, physicality, and being stronger on loose pucks. I don’t know what items they’ll discuss, but at the end of the day it is always the player who will have the opportunity to make what the player wants. He’s got a foot in the door, and it’s really a matter of whether he take advantage of the opportunity. Does he seize it? Not wait for it to be given to him, but to simply go out and take a spot and make it his business to take a spot. He’ll have to demonstrate that and show Randy that he belongs. Through the exhibition series we’ll have an answer to those questions.

AB: Moving on to some still-amateurs, we’ll start with who is bound to get the most attention at training camp among the youngsters. Do you think Morgan Rielly has anything left to gain in the WHL should he return for another year?

JH: I don’t know yet. It’s still undecided. I think judgment day will be the rookie camp, leading into training camp, leading into NHL exhibition games, leading into the beginning of the NHL regular season. At that point, there will be discussions of where he belongs. Will he be getting NHL duty, coached by NHL coaches, being nurtured by Randy and his staff, and playing a fair number of games, or is it sending him back and allowing him to dominate at the WHL level. One thing is for certain, I assume he’ll be on that World Junior team which will be a great experience. Regardless of what happens with Morgan, it’s not going to be because there’s something missing in his game. He’s very goal oriented, he’s sharp as a tack in his mind, he’s hungry to get to the NHL, and he’s a strong kid with a wide base and a wide foundation; he doesn’t get knocked off the puck easily. He’s got good hockey sense and played very well for the Marlies. It’s really about sort of being patient with him and making sure we activate him at the right time.

AB: Petter Granberg is also getting some hype after his performance at the World Championships. Do you think based on how he fared against the older competition, and how he looked in the prospect camp, he could really challenge for a spot or is he likely to need an adjustment period to the North American style of play and rink size down with the Marlies?

JH: I assume it would be option number two. Let’s see how he comes in and performs early, and how he looks in the month of September. It will give Dave and Randy a better sense of where he’s at. I don’t believe, if Petter played 25 or 30 or 40 AHL games, that it would hurt him. It would be part of the process to get acclimated to North America, and to get real comfortable with his game and sort of take it from there. He certainly demonstrated in the World Championships that he’s a high-end player who can shut down guys, who defends very well off the rush, and he plays in 4 on 4, 5 on 5 and PK situations. He’s certainly a good prospect, but again I think the AHL, like most players, it would not hurt him to go down and play a boatload of games. It would give him a better North American foundation.

AB: Jesse Blacker has now had two full seasons with the Marlies. What does he need to do to take the next step?

JH: He needs to probably be an AHL All Star this year. He’s got great physical ability. He’s strong and he can skate and he loves the game. Now he just needs to tighten up his game and be a solid defender. I think we’ll see that as he matures. He’s got two years under his belt, he needs to stay healthy and strong, and he needs to be consistent from start to finish. Be a guy who can demonstrate a shutdown role and a good first pass, a guy who can defend who from shift to shift, and show his great hockey sense. I think that, over time, Jesse has realized he doesn’t need to chase the game but let the game come to him. He’s got that great passion, he loves the game, and he basically will do whatever it takes to be an NHL player. Let’s see how it unfolds.

AB: Same goes for Jerry D’Amigo – two and a half seasons, actually. Why do you think he’s been especially effective for the Marlies in the playoffs, first off? He’s been a point a game performer. Could he be ready to challenge for a bottom six wing role in the not so distant future?

JH: I don’t have the answer to that. He’ll get a real good look and a opportunity to see where he’s at and see if he can make the next step. He certainly can kill penalties, he can certainly skate, he’s certainly aggressive. Now, can he take his game to the next level? I guess that will be decided again in September to see where his game is at. Coming out of the World Juniors and when he went into Kitchener, we know he’s got ability. Maybe he needs a chance now, a good, hard, solid long look to see if he can take his game to the next level. We’ll where it goes with that.

AB: Speaking of Kitchener, I came away very impressed with Josh Leivo in a few viewings this season. How much does a good +1 or +2 year for a prospect change original expectations for a lower round draft pick like Leivo? I guess Connor Brown would be in the same boat.

JH: Well, quite honestly we don’t really care what pick Josh is or Connor. They both can play the game, they both love the game. Josh has come a long way. It’s a guy who we drafted when he was 178 pounds and now he’s 200. He’s wired correctly, he’s got NHL thoughts, he’s very quick, he’s got an NHL stick, he’s got nice soft hands, and he’s got his eye on the ball. He’s worked hard this summer. He’s certainly a top six guy, a guy who can generate offense. When he has the puck, it’s really hard to take it away from him. He protects it well. Again, he’s somebody who we think can put up some numbers. He needs to really come out of the shoot fast. He’s comfortable with Steve Spott and hopefully he can come out of the shoot fast and have a great AHL start and we’ll see where it goes. He’s on the right track and he’s a very good prospect.

Connor will go back to Erie. He’s another guy who is skilled. He’s got some slippery speed and some soft hands. He loves the game. He has the ability to make offensive plays. I’m sure he’ll play with McDavid again this year. His situation is that we just got to be patient with him and let him continue to get stronger and continue to grow. He’s really young. If we can put 5 pounds on him this year, 5 pounds on him next year; once this guy becomes a man, he’s going to be very effective. We just need to allow him to go play junior hockey and have another great season and see where his progression is and figure out what the next step would be for him. Would it be an AHL season after that, or would it be an overage year with McDavid? We’ll see how that plays out. As you mentioned, both Leivo and Brown have some upside offensively and they’re both working really hard again this summer.

It’s all about time and patience. Some of these guys we project are 12 months out, some are 24 months out, some are 36 months out and some are 48 months out. A guy like Carter Verhaeghe might be 48 months out. We’ve got short term projections and then we’ve got long term projections.

AB: What are you hoping to see from Tyler Biggs this season? Will it be with the Marlies?

JH: If it is with the Marlies, he basically needs to come in here and just needs to take the spot. Take the spot. Don’t wait for it to be given to you. Take it, be aggressive about it, take ownership in the group immediately and be the guy. He’s got those capabilities. Steve Spott is very familiar with him as a player. He’s going to be given the opportunity and he’s going to be empowered. He needs to embrace that, and take that opportunity and really run with it. Really run with it. It would be in all situations. He should be on the powerplay, he should be a PK guy, a 5 on 5 and a 4 on 4, and he should get ample minutes. He’s got so much physical ability that he shouldn’t allow anybody to get in his way. We believe he has the capability of doing that.

AB: In terms of other big, physical guys with the Marlies, could David Broll find his way into the NHL as an enforcer before long, or is the plan to give him ample time with the Marlies and try to unearth or develop a bit of an offensive game?

JH: Probably a little bit of both. He can continue to work on his offensive point production. In a lot of ways, it will be up to David Broll in how he fast he wants to make this happen. He can go out of his way and make it his business to grab people’s attention and do it early and do it often. The more he does it, and the sooner he does it, the sooner he will be recognized and acknowledged. It’s simply going to be up to David Broll. Steve Spott loves the way he plays. He will be given every opportunity. It will be up to him to really, similar to Biggs, to take the opportunity and make it what he wants for himself. He can skate, he can protect the puck, he’s got really good hockey sense, he’s got soft hands, then he’s got the physical part where he can hit and he can fight. He needs to take all of those tools and use them and apply them. It will be fun to watch some of these guys and see where they take their games.

AB: Yeah, the prospect of a prospect-heavy, quite young Marlies team must be exciting. There could be a dozen players on entry level contracts playing on the Marlies, which is mostly the work of this current development and scouting staff. That has to be exciting for you.

JH: I think it will be a lot of fun to watch these guys perform on a nightly basis. They’ll take their lumps; they’ll win some games and lose some games, but some of these guys, not all of them, will be a big part of our future. They’ll play with Maple Leaf jerseys on some day. This is again part of the process in the American league. It’s a wonderful league for these guys to work on their trade, grow as young professionals, to really embrace as a team and maybe win a trophy, and yet on an individual level basis to make themselves better every single day. They have the opportunity to make themselves better everyday. Some take advantage of the opportunity and others may not, but they certainly have been told as we discussed at the beginning of this conversation.

There’s one guy you are missing who is a little bit of a blue chip. Andrew MacWilliam. He played at North Dakota, he played four years and was the Captain at North Dakota last year. This is a big, imposing physical player. He’s a good first pass guy. He is mean and it’s natural. He’s very competitive. He’s got the right mentality, he’s got a pro mentality. He’s got some force when he hits. His puck skills have really improved over the last four years; he can move the puck efficiently. He’s got the mental makeup that is going to take him a long way in this sport. He’ll be fun to watch and we’ll see what he does at the AHL level, but this is a big, physical player. He might be a lot like Mark Fraser down the road; a big, physical, left-shot D, a #5 guy who brings a physical presence to the team. He’ll be another one of those guys who comes in, plays solid minutes, gets some AHL experience, but he certainly has the mentality and the makeup.

AB: Overall, where is the Leafs prospect system deepest and where is it shallowest?

JH: Dave Morrison and his crew supplied us with an awful lot of ingredients right now. We’ve got Gauthier at the center spot now, we’ve got some skill with Leivo and Brown, and we’ve got some girth with Biggs and Broll. We’ve got Verhaeghe who’s got skill. We’ve got Stuart Percy who has tremendous hockey sense. We’ve got some physicality in MacWilliam and some shutdown with Granberg and Blacker. We’ve got a lot of ingredients right now; we’ve got size, we’ve got skill. Let’s just see how this all unfolds. Some will develop faster than others, some we’ll need to be patient with, but I think we feel pretty good in all areas of where we’re at right now from a development standpoint.

AB: Frederik Gauthier has been projected as a third line center by Dave Nonis after the draft and Dave Morrison when we talked to him earlier in the week. Do you agree with that projection? His numbers, for a first-year rookie who battled a broken jaw, were actually pretty good.

JH: I do agree with it. Let’s see where his offensive skill sets take him, but when you’re talking about an NHL playoff team, Gauthier is probably in the three spot. If you’re talking about a non-playoff team, Gauthier is in the two spot. To be realistic, if you’ve got Gauthier in the three spot, you most probably have a pretty good hockey team. With that big physical size that can get up and down the rink, he plays 200 feet and he’s got a good skill set. If you put him in a two spot, he’s biting off more than he can chew. If you keep him in the three spot, it’s probably a good spot for him. We’ll let him go do his thing and in three years or three and a half years from now I think we’ll have something special there.

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    Great interview, Alec.

    • NotInsane

      DeclanK 
      Yes, excellent interview

  • twitting_sg

    So following the Marlies would be fun this year? after Nazem/Gardiner etc graduated, I kinda lost interest in them last yr.

  • mORRganRielly

    Fantastic.  Interesting label for MacWilliam — “Blue Chipper”.

    • Burtonboy

      mORRganRielly This guy is a beast, mean and nasty, and hits like a tank

      • rustynail

        Burtonboy mORRganRielly and naturally nasty way way cool

        • Burtonboy

          rustynail Burtonboy mORRganRielly I heard a little bit about him the last yr Fratts was at UND . Lost touch a little bit to be honest . Was really surprised he didn’t get more playing time under Dallas

  • wiski

    Top notch as always Alec, great read.

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    Nice job Alec, love his comments on Leivo…very encouraging that he’s seen as top six.  MacWilliam sounds like a beaut too.

    • mlclearwater

      ingy56 Marlies d will get lots of development opportunity this year. Macwilliam sounds like he is going to be drinking some beer and kicking some ass

      • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

        mlclearwater ingy56 I saw him play a bit late last year and he delivered a thundering hit. Closed the gap quickly and boom…big time hip check.

        • playoff nut

          ingy56 mlclearwater I can see that here now in my mindless day lol,midless cause no hockey is mindless

        • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

          playoff nut ingy56 mlclearwater
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsHO8SZfE0w

        • playoff nut

          ingy56 playoff nut mlclearwater awww thank you Ingy ,I needed that

        • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

          playoff nut ingy56 mlclearwater Always glad to oblige. I needed it too.

        • playoff nut

          ingy56 playoff nut mlclearwater And I just watched Frederik Gauthier bein a horse at  the under 18 game against Finland ,sure hope he can learn to do that here

        • mlclearwater

          playoff nut ingy56 mlclearwater SOunds like he’s pencilled in to be a very solid checking centre a couple years from now. Kid is a beast and a Frenchy too which is cool

        • playoff nut

          mlclearwater playoff nut ingy56 I just remember he could be either a 3rd line with 2end line possiable ,he has good hands I think

  • wendelsway1

    Outstanding interview Alec!  :)

  • mlclearwater

    Good read man. I enjoyed watching the Marlies last two years and now we have so many young guys that we drafted coming up it is really exciting. Leivo and McKegg I think will produce well this yr and hopefully Biggs and Broll will be beasts who can put up points as well.
    ALso hoping Brad Ross has a bit more bite this yr, would’ve liked to hear his thoughts on him too

    • mlclearwater

      Gilbey93 mlclearwater I like your avatar pic. I expect good things from both of them this year.

    • mlclearwater

      CanuckUKinToronto Gilbey93 mlclearwater It was their first year in the AHL last year, they need s little water and sunshine to grow my friend

  • wewantstanley

    Excellent interview! Seems like Hughes is a straightforward, honest guy. Seems like he’s also very passionate about what he does, I thought his answers were informative and detailed.

  • LePetomane

    Interviewing 101…never ask this or that questions..
    example,  Does he need to improve skating OR his strength?The person will always respond,  Both,  when asked that way

    • Alec Brownscombe

      @LePetomane Are you a jerk or an ass? 😉

      • wendelsway1

        Alec Brownscombe LOL….I think the right answer would be both….lol  jk  :)

        • Alec Brownscombe

          wendelsway1 Alec Brownscombe I’m led to believe it will always be both.
          Just teasing.

        • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

          Alec Brownscombe wendelsway1 Alec…just another tip, if you are interviewing Torts never say “Talk about…” LOL

        • LePetomane

          wendelsway1 Alec Brownscombe go Leafs go

      • LePetomane

        Alec Brownscombe hahahaha

    • Jimmy Keating

      @LePetomane Perhaps when you are interrogating someone, but when you are trying to generate as much conversation as possible, so that he speaks to both skating and strength of a player, then it would be foolish to ask: Does he need to improve his skating? Which generates a: “Yes”. 
      Compare this to the Scott Gordon interview and you’ll see what I mean.

      • Alec Brownscombe

        Jimmy Keating Using an ‘or’ is actually good strategy in this case I think. Avoided pointed questions, keep it open ended, and hope he serves up some gold.

    • Uncle Otis

      @LePetomane 
      Respect 101
      When reading a free website,with impossible to get interviews for other blogs, always throw the owner a compliment before the rebuke,or he,and others, will respond with an insult. 
      Unless he’s talking about Grabo :)

      • Komas Taberle

        Uncle Otis Probably a Hab fan. Hey don’t you have a protest march to plan?

      • mcloki

        Uncle Otis Explain it to the newbs Uncle.

        • Uncle Otis

          mcloki 
          Seems like common sense ain’t so common

  • Gord

    Great interview – will there be a magazine coming out this year? I bought last two years and it was the very best Leafs mag ever.

    • Alec Brownscombe

      @Gord Unfortunately no, but on the upside you’re getting some of the material online and for free!

  • mlclearwater

    http://www.hockeysfuture.com/teams/toronto_maple_leafs/
    Leafs still seem a little thin down the middle in terms of high end skill for this upcoming year. Mckegg and Abbott are skilled but after that it is a lot of grit i.e. Crecenzi, Rupert, Carrick, etc. 
    Wings are solid, defense is almost too stocked (if possible) and goalie looks good with Mc, Sparks and Gibson

    • NotInsane

      mlclearwater 
      This is the other side of the Bernier trade.  It takes the pressure off our lack of young goaltending prospects. Owuya and Rynnas were busts, sadly.  But now we have two goalies with a lot of potential and some past success at 25 years of age

  • Robbies

    AB…that was the best one yet ..kudos
    Reading about these kids is an absolute mega-buzz
    And Hughes is so stoked as a mentor
    Thanks again for filling months in superb style !!

    • Alec Brownscombe

      Robbies Wasn’t the best… Cronin interview was my Sgt Pepper’s.

      • Robbies

        I wll allow you artistic override !

      • Komas Taberle

        Alec Brownscombe Robbies Yeah but that was your Abbey Road!

  • Komas Taberle

    Nice Interview Alec, here is a video I posted when The Leafs first signed MacWilliam, the guy he hit was severely hurt, broken, hip, ribs, sternum etc, but the hit was fair, This guy hits like a Mack Truck and takes no prisoners.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZ0hw9WqqBM

    • mlclearwater

      Komas Taberle Jesus

    • Komas Taberle

      Gilbey93 Komas Taberle Yeah him and Granberg are our future defensive Dman I feel sorry for anyone who goes near him, he will actually put you in hospital with his hitting, he is a beast,I’m just glad he plays for us not against us.

    • Robbies

      That was a thing of horrific beauty..
      I was lucky enough to grow up in Ottawa when Denis Potvin And Ian Turnbull
      Were partnered together , with the 67’s…they would send an ambulance case out
      EVERY night with devastating but clean hits
      Old school …brilliant

      • Komas Taberle

        Robbies He will decimate a lot of teams forwards over the course of a season

    • maximus_asinus

      Komas Taberle I love the video, I thought of Scott Stevens a little bit (minus the headshots). You could see that he was looking to make that big hit with the player skating over the blue line.

    • Komas Taberle

      And another, this guy is ferocious.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO7sMIvP6vs

      • mlclearwater

        Komas Taberle WTF did he get a penalty for? Great clean hit

        • Komas Taberle

          mlclearwater Komas Taberle NCAA referees, they don’t have a clue, any hard hit and they are looking to toss you.In the NHL he will be feared.

        • mcloki

          Komas Taberle mlclearwater It’s college they are all over any hit that anywhere near the head. And the bench helped sell it a bit.

      • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

        Komas Taberle I posted his hit with the Marlies further down this thread. So looking forward to see him with the big club.

        • Komas Taberle

          ingy56 Komas Taberle Yeah I saw that Ingy, this guy is going to put a half dozen habs in hospital, i hope Quebec has good health insurance.

      • Black_Hawk

        Komas Taberle nice as well

    • Black_Hawk

      Komas Taberle nice

    • Jimmy Keating

      Komas Taberlehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33bQwpO68a0

    • Jimmy Keating

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dUSdvVQpAM

    • Jimmy Keating

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x75VJ2nNYFw

    • Jimmy Keating

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYPr-05CxBQ

    • Jimmy Keating

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO7sMIvP6vs

  • wendelsway1

    One thing that impresses me about our prospects is that we do have several that are/have been team captains which translates into good character and compete levels.

    • mlclearwater

      wendelsway1 Thats funny I was literally just writing a post with some names. thinking alike WW

      • wendelsway1

        mlclearwater wendelsway1 …..great minds or idiots?……LOL  :)

        • mlclearwater

          wendelsway1 mlclearwater interviewing 101 WW dont asks questions using this or that :)
          My answer, prolly a little bit of both

        • wendelsway1

          mlclearwater wendelsway1 LOL….depends on the day :)

        • mlclearwater

          wendelsway1 mlclearwater Well were leaf fans so im guessing most days we fall under the hockey crazed idjuts category

        • wendelsway1

          mlclearwater wendelsway1 Nobody’s perfect….but posters on this site are closer than others  :)

    • wendelsway1

      CanuckUKinToronto wendelsway1 Look up…..mlclearwater posted names  :)

  • mlclearwater

    Captains in Junior Level: Brown, Percy, Finn, Carrcik, Mcwilliams, Mckegg and Biggs (Biggs captained the US-18 team to gold, and scored the OT winner in the gold medal game)
    Interesting to see who will be named captain of junior level teams this year. Leafs seem very high on character/leadership qualities

    • ErikGruber

      mlclearwater I would be ecstatic if Biggs wound up being a similar player to Dustin Brown

      • mlclearwater

        ErikGruber mlclearwater Dido, but Biggs needs to start playing meaner. From what I’ve seen and heard he hasn’t been playing to his potential yet

    • B_Leaf

      mlclearwater 
      The Marlies will need that leadership because they are very young. If this team plays 500 hockey I would be surprised…hoping but surprised.

      • mlclearwater

        B_Leaf mlclearwater Could be a tough go but if McIntyre can make behind the back saves every night that will help our W total. I still hold out hope for our young Marlies

  • maximus_asinus

    decent interview, unfortunately you got fed a lot of the cookie cutter responses. Not as good as the Cronin interview but still good.

    • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

      maximus_asinus Yeah, the Sun interview with Hughes was ….Oh, wait a tic…….

  • rustynail

    nice interview, great to see how positive Hughes is and how they mentor our prospects and how the ball is basically in their court after all is said and done

  • mlclearwater

    Also funny the leafs brass puts such an emphasis on humanitarian work off ice and a keen emphasis on tough as hell assholes on the ice.
    Leafs,
    Freaks in the rink
    Gents on the street

    • playoff nut

      mlclearwater lmao ,thats good ,freaks in the rink I like lol

      • wendelsway1

        playoff nut mlclearwater …..Let your freak flag fly!    LOL  :)

        • playoff nut

          wendelsway1 playoff nut mlclearwater I cant fly I still at work grrrrr lol and outa beer

  • LyrkiJumme

    Keep up the great work, MLHS.
    Alec you are the esteemed leader of the Leafs blogosphere, thanks for taking us along for the ride.
    Signing off,
    Lyrki Jumme

  • Knights2Leafs

    Thanks Alec!!! – great start to my long weekend.  Of to play some golf shortly.

  • B_Leaf

    Jim Hughes is by far my favorite hockey interview, the guy is a rock star. I just love his hockey IQ, and very effective way of making his point. He is not afraid to say something and yet doesn’t ever seem to stir controversy.
    Great job Alec.
    Also really good to hear he is going to be watching WJC exhibitions with so many of our excellent prospects…Toninato, Rielly, Finn, Gauthier, and Rupert. That is a pretty good accomplishment for Gauthier to be there already, and for Rupert who was a late pick.

  • GeorgeCastanza

    I especially LOVE the interviews with the Prospectors.  These are the guys that mine the gold.  Thanks Alec.

  • skiingallday

    Awesome article Alec! I love it when we get some good insight on the prospects. It feels like these coaches/leafs staff are more willing to go in depth for a guy like you rather than the MSM that will spin the story and create controversy.

    • Uncle Otis

      skiingallday 
      Something tells me they know all about this site and feel comfortable with passing on info
      More summer interviews than Steve Simian will get in a season..or two :)

      • rustynail

        Uncle Otis skiingallday or a career

        • Uncle Otis

          rustynail 
          what’s left of it
          He’d fit in with a certain blog I have heard about….

  • skiingallday

    woahhhhh, there’s an edit button now?

  • Uncle Otis

    Packed the pick-up in time to unpack…nasty little thunderbanger rolling through :(
    Great,informative interview as my knowledge on Hughes specific roll was limited
    Loved that you tried the Gary Roberts Q….
    Like my fishing trips….wouldn’t take the hook. :)

  • mlclearwater

    Holy %$** look at Bollands numbers here:
     2005-06 London OHL 59 games 57 goals 73 assists 130 points
    I know its junior but still, I don’t really remember hearing much about him.

    • mlclearwater

      CanuckUKinToronto mlclearwater I dont think 65 is reasonable. His best in the NHL is 47, but yes he may have been in a checking role.
      I’m happy with 40-50 as our 3rd/2nd liner as long as he is tenacious defensively

      • mlclearwater

        CanuckUKinToronto mlclearwater agree. We have great wingers and im sure he’ll get a chance to produce. Even if he’s on the 3rd with Kulemin and Colborne, he should be able to bury a couple

      • Black_Hawk

        mlclearwater CanuckUKinToronto i think he can crack 40 points hopefully

    • rustynail

      mlclearwater He was pretty dominant and fast, fast, fast

      • mlclearwater

        rustynail mlclearwater Now or ohl?

        • rustynail

          mlclearwater rustynail yes :)

    • Black_Hawk

      mlclearwater he is a shutdown guy in the nhl though and that is what i expect from him

      • rustynail

        Black_Hawk mlclearwater  exactly, nice to have tools as well though

        • Black_Hawk

          rustynail Black_Hawk mlclearwater yeah it is nice, we might see the odd highlight real goal from him and i wont be surprised but wont expect to see it all the time.

  • Burtonboy

    Great stuff again Alec . I’m running out of superlatives lol

  • B_Leaf

    We have heard Leafs scouts and Hughes talk about MacWilliams with a sparkle in their eye for a few years now. Clearly they feel they have a player here. If we play Boston next spring, and MacW has a good season, don’t be surprised if this guy makes an appearance. He looks like he is built for the playoffs. Just a devastating hitter. They should hand out complimentary diapers to the visiting team at Ricoh this year.

    • B_Leaf

      CanuckUKinToronto B_Leaf 
      Sorry I don’t know, but Fraser is probably one of the best in the league at that…sigh game seven. But I for one just cant wait to get a good look at MacWilliams to see whats what. Hughes has been talkin this guy up for three or four years, he rarely lets an opportunity pass without mentioning this guy. And Hughes evaluates talent extremely well.

      • Komas Taberle

        B_Leaf CanuckUKinToronto He is 6’3″ and 235 lbs and strong as a bull, he should have no problem clearing the front of the crease.

      • Komas Taberle

        CanuckUKinToronto B_Leaf My thought exactly Canuck, him and Granberg are going to be a nightmare to play against

      • B_Leaf

        CanuckUKinToronto Komas Taberle B_Leaf 
        It may take some time but yes I think that could happen in a couple of years.

  • mcloki

    Great stuff Alec. Your reputation grows for quality. Conngrats on a great article/interview. You’re quickly going to become the Brian Linaham of Hockey journalism.

  • mlclearwater

    Broll, Biggs, Devane, Crecenzi, Ross, MacWilliam, SMith- AHL
    Orr, McLaren, Frasor, Clarkson – NHL
    Man we are going to be fighting, fighting, fighting this year. Love it
    I remember watching the leafs during our 2004-2012 stretch when we would get fed on the scoreboard and  in the fisticuffs. Good to know we at least have the fisticuffs taken care of, and we are working on the scoreboard

    • Burtonboy

      mlclearwater Orr ,McLaren and Fraser are place holders until these guys are ready. Not disrespect to any of those guys but what we have coming is far more talented and can bring the nasty side  as well.

      • mlclearwater

        Burtonboy mlclearwater For sure, Broll seems like he can play. Orr and McLaren  certainly grew on me as their forecheck game improved but ya pretty limited

        • B_Leaf

          mlclearwater Burtonboy 
          Agree on Biggs and Broll

      • B_Leaf

        Burtonboy mlclearwater 
        BB, I am not sure Fraser is going anywhere…he is still pretty young. Not really sure how you can improve on him in the 5 or 6 spot. There is nothing saying both cant play on this team…we have a lot of skilled, but only average sized guys in our system.

        • Burtonboy

          B_Leaf Burtonboy mlclearwater I am . Unless Underhill can work miracle’s with his skating there are players in the pipeline that can do all that he does and skate circles around him. Greats guy and all but there is better on the horizon

        • mlclearwater

          B_Leaf Burtonboy mlclearwater I like Frasor lots too, every team needs a defender (or two) like him. Poor mans WIllie Mitchel in the making?

        • B_Leaf

          Burtonboy B_Leaf mlclearwater 
          Frasers skating has already improved leaps and bounds (pun intended…barb underhill…sorry) but generally you give up a little mobility for size and strength. The Leaf management said last year that they are surprised he is not an even better fighter because they said no one on the team comes close to his strength.
          I just thought Fraser was fantastic for this team…the question I have is can he come back and do it again.

        • mlclearwater

          B_Leaf Burtonboy mlclearwater over a full schedule too…He was easily won of the players that I loved. Took some pressure of Phan having to fight as well. Frasor is big, mean and strong. He’ll need some breaks and limited minutes so he doesn’t wear down

        • Burtonboy

          B_Leaf Burtonboy mlclearwater Bet he’s not with the Leafs next yr. lol

        • rustynail

          Burtonboy B_Leaf mlclearwater I agree even though I have loved Fraser since he first came to the Marlies some of the young D will supplant him.

        • Burtonboy

          rustynail Burtonboy B_Leaf mlclearwater I have nothing against Fraser and he’s likely to be a 6th 7th d for us this yr. But the writing is on the wall . There are just too many good prospects who will likely take his spot

      • Dan39

        Burtonboy mlclearwater Broll is seriously impressive. Cresenzi I thought so too but nobody ever talks about him. 
        Devane is not going anywhere unless he steps up big time. 
        MacWillian we haven’t seen enough from him to know – I’m very hopeful based on his college highlights. 
        Ross is more of an agitating scorer than a tough guy but let’s see if he can find his ECHL form this coming season.

    • mlclearwater

      CanuckUKinToronto mlclearwater Ross the boss? Come on, he was kinda disappointing last year but that was his first in the AHL. I think he blossoms next 2 years in the AHL. Devane, you’re prolly right, but he can fight!

      • Komas Taberle

        CanuckUKinToronto mlclearwater Devane is more of an Orr ? McLaren replacement, if he can pick up his skating he could be a very good policeman, guy is a tough nut.

    • Dan39

      mlclearwater Tremendous comment – the toughness brought respectability to the team right from the get-go last season. More of the same, pls!

    • Dan39

      CanuckUKinToronto mlclearwater Good comment. I think Devane is basically redundant on the Marlies with Broll coming on so strong and hopefully Biggs stepping up. We’ll see but I’m predicting very little ice team unles he finds some charcater and starts fighting and hitting and doing damage.

  • Jay_Berg

    Woa
    Berger_BYTES: Looks like #Leafs will use a non-compliance buy-out on John-Michael Liles, though I’m not convinced team can ever have too many defensemen.

    • B_Leaf

      Jay_Berg there it is

      • Jay_Berg

        Not a surprise but still kind of a surprise.

    • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

      Jay_Berg Ok, so that means they won’t buy him out.

    • rustynail

      CanuckUKinToronto Jay_Berg from an unemployed source :)

      • mcloki

        rustynail CanuckUKinToronto Jay_Berg Pulled fresh from his ass. Where’s the confirmation.

    • Uncle Otis

      I’m unsure Hamburglar knows the difference between a d-man and a man door.
      Consider the source before we get too worked up.

    • Alec Brownscombe

      Jay_Berg They can have too many defencemen who have fallen out of favour and make $3.875 mill though, Howie.

      • Uncle Otis

        Alec Brownscombe 
        You forgot to swear :)

        • Alec Brownscombe

          Uncle Otis Alec Brownscombe We need to get the old comments displaying again so I can revisit that thread

        • Uncle Otis

          Alec Brownscombe 
          Maybe Howie kept one for posterity..most popular he’s ever been

        • Alec Brownscombe

          Uncle Otis Alec Brownscombe I loved the way he called me out.
          THIS IS THE PROPRIETOR OF A BLOG SITE AND HERE HE IS SWEARING FOR ALL TO SEE. CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS!?

        • rustynail

          Alec Brownscombe Uncle Otis AGREED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Uncle Otis

          Alec Brownscombe 
          Haha..
          He probably found out about the dirty movies the same day
          The horror

        • Alec Brownscombe

          Uncle Otis Alec Brownscombe SEX! ON THE TV!?
          MY WORD

        • Uncle Otis

          Alec Brownscombe
          Funny,when I first started on this site like 4 years ago, I wouldn’t let my kids read the comments..but they have seen/heard it all now.
          Promised my then 8 yr old daughter I’d never use the “f” word…which is why to this day I sub an A for U
          Broke my promise that one, special day
          But hey, I’m a fackin’ father

    • Komas Taberle

      Jay_Berg Wee we will know in 2 days if Berger is right or he ‘s off his fucking head as usual.

    • Black_Hawk

      Jay_Berg until its done its not

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/mayorNHL
    CONFIRMED: Kings have new deal in place with Kyle Clifford

    • Komas Taberle

      Burtonboy I would love Clifford on a 3rd line LW for the Leafs..

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    Stellick thinks Kadri will get one year @ 4 million. Yikes, stick to broadcasting Gord.

    • mcloki

      ingy56 I’m listening but Stellick is just trying to stir up the pot on the 2nd of August. It’s all BS out of his mouth to stir up talk.

      • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

        mcloki ingy56 Yeah, Gord’s a lightweight.

    • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

      CanuckUKinToronto ingy56 Even Gord has  laughs about all that, would you say no? I wouldn’t hahaha…..

    • Black_Hawk

      ingy56 maybe but probably less

  • Black_Hawk

    i agree about gauthier. He could be a beast third line center for us down the road.

  • Black_Hawk

    I see we can edit comments now which is nice to see

    • playoff nut

      Black_Hawk and some here need that more then most ,but not me ,,,,,,wink lol

      • Black_Hawk

        playoff nut Black_Hawk lol

      • Alec Brownscombe

        playoff nut Black_Hawk I’ve never seen Jim Gra make a typographical or grammatical error in all of my time here. No joke.

        • playoff nut

          Alec Brownscombe playoff nut Black_Hawk lmao ,your to kind ,As ai typist I suc and proud of it lol

        • Alec Brownscombe

          playoff nut Alec Brownscombe Black_Hawk Chalk up another one. Batting 1,000.

        • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

          Alec Brownscombe playoff nut Black_Hawk Its GraEnglish…I understand it completely.

        • playoff nut

          ingy56 Alec Brownscombe playoff nut Black_Hawk Lmao u ,thats a funny imho

        • rustynail

          ingy56 Alec Brownscombe playoff nut Black_Hawk google translater

        • playoff nut

          rustynail ingy56 Alec Brownscombe playoff nut Black_Hawk lol,its to throw off the undesirable net elements ,mostly hab and sens fans ,frigg that was hard to type

        • Mind Bomb

          Alec Brownscombe playoff nut Black_Hawk  hahhahha Alec.

  • Uncle Otis

    -Keon- 
    Women prefer girth :)
    My wife does anyway

    • ErikGruber

      Uncle Otis -Keon- Please share you secrets 😀

      • Uncle Otis

        ErikGruber 
        Beer :)

      • rustynail

        -Keon- job hunting

      • Uncle Otis

        -Keon- 
        Haha…glad somebody got it :)

  • http://stores.ebay.ca/UncleJakesCards?_rdc=1 unclejakescards

    you guys are all asses !!!!

    • ErikGruber

      unclejakescards slick

  • ErikGruber

    Let’s face it. No one is going to trade for Liles. They will force the Leafs to buy him out or put him on waivers and get him for nothing.

    • rustynail

      ErikGruber unless the Leafs don’t buy him out, They don;t really have to.

      • ErikGruber

        rustynail ErikGruber If they were to send Liles down during training camp, would he still go through waivers?

        • rustynail

          ErikGruber rustynail yes

        • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

          rustynail ErikGruber How long is this present buyout window open Rusty?

        • ErikGruber

          rustynail ErikGruber Then they would have to trade one of Kadri or Franson or someone  else if they want to keep Liles and have a full roster, correct?

        • rustynail

          ingy56 rustynail ErikGruber  48 hours

        • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

          rustynail ingy56 ErikGruber So they would have to put Liles on waivers first?

        • ErikGruber

          rustynail ingy56 ErikGruber I heard it goes from Friday to Monday. Not sure of the times.

        • rustynail

          ingy56 rustynail ErikGruber since he doesn’t have a NMC I believe they do

        • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

          rustynail ingy56 ErikGruber …and that takes 24 hrs?

        • rustynail

          ErikGruber rustynail or go with less than 23 players

        • Burtonboy

          rustynail ErikGruber Melky on waivers

        • rustynail

          Burtonboy rustynail ErikGruber  who cares :)

        • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

          Burtonboy rustynail ErikGruber Did you see his throw last night?

        • ErikGruber

          rustynail Burtonboy ErikGruber Maybe McClaren or Orr will be demoted to make room for another FWD

        • Komas Taberle

          Burtonboy rustynail ErikGruber That would give the Leafs enough money to sign Kadri, Franson and grab a 3rd line LWr.

        • rustynail

          ingy56 Burtonboy rustynail ErikGruber  I missed last night did they lose again?

        • rustynail

          Burtonboy rustynail ErikGruber  probably to see if anybody is interested in him

        • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

          rustynail ingy56 Burtonboy ErikGruber Josh Johnson was pitching…need I say more? LOL

        • rustynail

          ingy56 rustynail Burtonboy ErikGruber  that is all I need to hear

        • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

          rustynail ingy56 Burtonboy ErikGruber Blown away in the first two innings again.

        • Burtonboy

          rustynail Burtonboy ErikGruber I certainly don’t but I thought you did :)))))

    • Black_Hawk

      ErikGruber i like liles anyways and wont mind seeing him back. He can return to form and be useful for us im sure of it.

      • ErikGruber

        Black_Hawk ErikGruber Yeah me too. He can help our PP and is a good leader.

  • http://stores.ebay.ca/UncleJakesCards?_rdc=1 unclejakescards

    dam , i think we gettin spoiled with all these awesome interviews ……. keep em comin tho …….

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/FredPoulin98https://twitter.com/FredPoulin98/status/363373683785469952
    The Toronto https://twitter.com/search?q=%23MapleLeafs&src=hash are expected to use a non-compliance buy-out on overpriced D John-Michael Liles.

    Is this guy just parroting Howie ? Habs writer

    • Black_Hawk

      Burtonboy probably has as much weight to it if i said it

    • rustynail

      Burtonboy  never heard of him

      • Burtonboy

        rustynail Burtonboy Decent profile and has some followers

        • rustynail

          Burtonboy rustynail as many as you?

        • Burtonboy

          rustynail Burtonboy Hahaha just a few more ….7300

        • rustynail

          Burtonboy rustynail so no one with connections has said anything :)

    • Uncle Otis

      Burtonboy 
      Looks like he’s parroting a turkey vulture :)

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/adater
    Why I think the Avs should sign John-Michael Liles if Leafs, as is rumored, buy him out… http://t.co/t4gRTqRJVb
    http://t.co/t4gRTqRJVb

    • Black_Hawk

      Burtonboy They should just trade for him

  • mlclearwater

    This just in the Blue Jays suck

    • rustynail

      mlclearwater just in? :))))

      • mlclearwater

        rustynail mlclearwater I honestly watch Jeopardy over Jays games now

        • Black_Hawk

          mlclearwater rustynail i just turn the TV off and stare at the wall. Less frustration.

    • Black_Hawk

      mlclearwater lol kinda late on that one

  • Burtonboy

    Maple Leafs’ Jonathan Bernier savours chance to battle James Reimer to be No. 1 goalie
    http://www.thestar.com/sports/leafs/2013/08/02/maple_leafs_jonathan_bernier_savours_chance_to_battle_james_reimer_to_be_no_1_goalie.html

  • Doorman

    Wow AB:  This was by far the best interview yet!!!  Very Informative;  You dont here about this side of the business very often!  Lots of good shit here!!!  Thanks!!!

    • Uncle Otis

      Doorman 
      Hey D-man!
      Check you’re mail…hitting the beach once the storm breaks here

      • Doorman

        Uncle Otis Doorman I will see you on the 19th!!!  Start reading fishing 101!!!  lol

        • Uncle Otis

          Doorman 
          Haha..that’s what u there are for!
          That phone # will get us at the island…will touch base before for timing/directions etc
          Now if we can get Mindbomb and Keon up there :)

        • Doorman

          Uncle Otis Doorman Fuck Id Like that!!!  Then I can razz them all day long!!!  Lol

        • Uncle Otis

          Doorman 
          I’m outta here…work you’re magic!!!
          Have a good longy all!

        • Doorman

          Uncle Otis Doorman Have a great weekend!!  Will talk soon!!!

  • Xxxxxnew

    I had no idea Bobby Carpenter worked for the Leafs.

  • WAMCO

    Really stupid of the Leafs to use a compliance buyout on Komi rather than Liles. They should have used compliances on Liles and Grabbo and then used a regular buyout on Komi as his contract expires at the end of the season.
    Whatever.

    • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

      @WAMCO I agree, the cap hit would have been larger this season and next, but it’s better than 6 seasons if they buy out Liles.

      • B_Leaf

        ingy56 
        no excuse for this IMO…unbelievable really

        • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

          B_Leaf ingy56 Only plausible reason I can think of is they aren’t going to buy out Liles.

        • rustynail

          ingy56 B_Leaf  this year and next are the ones we are close to the cap though

        • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

          rustynail ingy56 B_Leaf For sure, but counting on an increased cap is a gamble imo. Paying 6 years on the cap for a player no longer here is also silly.

        • Xxxxxnew

          New CBC contract will push up the cap.

        • rustynail

          Xxxxxnew  and 7 zillion outdoor games :)

        • Xxxxxnew

          I agree but Liles has a limited no-trade which limits the Leafs to 12 teams he can be traded to. And I also think we’re into a period where some teams want to see what they have at training camp before making any moves.

        • Xxxxxnew

          I don’t doubt the Avs would be on his list. He was actually making $4.2 million a season when he was in Colorado.

        • Bobsyouruncle

          Xxxxxnew I keep hearing people say this. but where does it say Liles can reject 18 teams?

        • Xxxxxnew

          It’s listed at Capgeek which is pretty accurate about contract details

        • Burtonboy

          Xxxxxnew That was his other contract . All it says for this on is modified NTC

        • Xxxxxnew

          Maybe the number has changed

        • Xxxxxnew

          Just read the story on his last signing and it just says limited no trade. No details, I just assumed it probably carried over. Komisarek had the same sort of clause, he had to give the Leafs a list of eight teams he’d be willing to go to every fall.

        • Burtonboy

          Xxxxxnew Obviously there is a number of teams he has to list . We just don’t know how many

    • Xxxxxnew

      Cap hit’s under $900,000 for Liles for the first two years of the buyout and that’s when the lower cap hurts us the most.

      • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

        Xxxxxnew True, but how does anyone know what the landscape will look like in three seasons? Maybe that pricey $2.3 cap hit prevents the team from signing one of their own or attracting a free agent? Bad business IMO.

  • playoff nut

    Few teams have dominated a season like the Chicago Blackhawks did in 2013. Their 24-game point streak was bla bla ,Its our turn to surprise ,we got Bolland now ,Go leafs eh

    • Xxxxxnew

      Half season.

  • LePetomane

    Leafs will not buyout Liles, 
    book it.

    • NotInsane

      @LePetomane 
      I hope not.  I’m not keen on wasting cap space and an asset.  Give Liles a chance to play I say

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    Off to run the young lady down to the Boots and Hearts Festival then back north to cottage country. Everyone have a safe and enjoyable long weekend. You too JM Liles!

  • Doorman

    There hast to be a way of Keeping Liles and signing those two!!!

    • Xxxxxnew

      Everyone thought Fraser was gone. All thing are possible under the Nonis.

    • reenergized

      Doorman why?