Leafs Notebook (Part 2) – Notes, Quotes & 5 Things I’d Do

Leafs Notebook (Part 2) – Notes, Quotes & 5 Things I’d Do

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If you missed part one of this week’s Notebook on Morgan Rielly, check it out here.

Notes

- Thought the JVR goal against Edmonton was a subtle example of the growth in Kessel’s game. If you watch the reply below, he gets knocked down, but keeps his stick on the puck and holds it against the boards to buy time for help. Then, he gets up and keeps battling. That effort and battle wasn’t always evident in Kessel’s game. Against Nashville, he went into the boards with Seth Jones and as they were on a collision course for the puck he dropped his shoulder and made contact to establish body position. A few times in that game he dumped it in deep and forechecked, too. The first few years we grew accustomed to Kessel stopping before getting to the puck to avoid contact, and hoping to use his stick to retrieve possession.

- Kessel also had 15 shots on net in three games this week.

- On the RNH 5v3 goal, McClement actually pointed to RNH before the puck went over to him in order to try and get Gunnarsson to go over and take it away. When the goal went in, McClement appeared a little perturbed that Gunnarsson wasn’t up there right away. Simply put, you can’t have two guys down low while the puck is up high on a 5v3 kill. Gunnarsson has to know that.

- Another no-no was Kadri failing to get the puck in deep on Smyth’s second goal of the night. Kadri skated up to the blue line and he did try to get the puck deep, but he didn’t execute and it ended up in the back of the Leafs net. He was far from the only guy to blame on that goal, but that play will drive Carlyle nuts.

- Of course, Colton Orr did the same thing against Colorado which resulted in the game winner. Pucks have to get in deep because teams transition up the ice too quickly and the results speak for themselves.

- What a play by Gardiner to feed Lupul a pass for the game tying goal. He could have easily just thrown the puck on net and hoped for a good bounce, but he saw the passing lane and Lupul, and fed it through softly.

- By the way, coaches don’t put players on the ice in the final minute of a one goal game if they are pushing them out.

- JVR looks noticeably faster, which is something I noted in the preseason notebook. The Kessel goal against Nashville was the perfect example, and it turned the game around. JVR wasn’t always making plays like that and beating guys with his first three steps. His skating was always fine once he got going, but his explosiveness has improved leaps and bounds.

- It was really interesting watching Bernier in the Edmonton game because it was clear that he wasn’t on his game; I was anxious to see how he’d battle. In this space I’ve written time and again that Reimer has that Grant Fuhr quality in him, where he might get lit up but he’ll regroup and shut the door despite how bad things are going. Lo and behold, Bernier makes the save of the game on Arcobello to keep the Leafs within reach of the Oilers after a rough outing.

- Ashton played really well against Colorado in his near 10 minutes of ice time, but went right back to playing 5-7 minutes the next two games. It’s a shame he didn’t build off of that effort. He didn’t have a shot on net against Nashville or Edmonton.

- It was nice to hear Franson call himself out after a rough game Saturday night. There are players who play bad games but don’t care because they got two assists, and then there are players who push themselves to be better. That showed us which of those two Franson is.

- Carlyle has put Kulemin, Ashton, and Broll with Kadri-Lupul to help create space for them, so it will be really nice once Clarkson is back and leading the forecheck for the duo. In the meantime, when games have tightened up Raymond has been moved up to that line and they’ve worked well, especially on the power play. Raymond passed to Kadri on his power play goals against Ottawa and Edmonton. The trio were on for Lupul’s power play goals against Nashville and Ottawa, too.

- One thing that didn’t get much attention this summer is that Grabovski won over 50% of his draws last year (50.6%), and was replaced by a guy who is generally speaking a 45% man in the dot in Dave Bolland. So far Bolland has won 44.4% of his faceoffs, and the Leafs have been getting dominated on the dot. Their best regular faceoff man is Jay McClement and he’s won exactly 50% of his draws.

- Ranger has been receiving some flak from Leafs fans but he really started settling in against Nashville and Edmonton. Against the Oilers, he even put a nice hit on Joensuu which will get Carlyle’s attention in a good way. The key for Ranger was that he wasn’t getting caught out of position and he was allowing the game to come to him instead of chasing it.

- The Leafs allowed one power play goal last week and it was on a 5v3, which is really interesting because Nik Kulemin hasn’t been playing. McClement is the top dog on the unit, but Kulemin is the firm second and the Leafs are surviving without him pretty well so far. The question now is whether this is because the Leafs have such a good system, or if it’s really all on Jay McClement.

- It’s amazing how many people write off Reimer after a few good games from Bernier. Reimer is a fighter and he’s battled for everything he’s been given throughout his career, so he won’t go down in this battle without a fight first. This competition is far from over.

***

Quotes

“Dave Nonis was really the only one who was seriously interested in him. Everyone else was just tire-kicking. I was shocked at the lack of real interest. He had proven himself again last season. The other reason I think people overlook Bernier is because he is small; they overlook his hockey sense, which is his best asset.”
- Kings GM Dean Lombardi discussing the Bernier trade.

Looks more and more like Dave Nonis knows what he’s doing.

“It was a game of mistakes and each team seemed to capitalize on one another’s mistakes.”
- Randy Carlyle on the game against Edmonton.

Say it time and time again: if teams want to swap chances with the Leafs, Toronto is more than likely coming out ahead.

“The two biggest things that I noticed and I think every young guy that breaks in at a young age notices, it’s the speed and strength of the guys. It’s not just that they’re stronger on the puck, but it’s that they’re that much quicker with that extra strength. Junior’s a great pace, there’s lots of pace to junior hockey. But at this level everyone’s consistently big, strong and I’m not talking that every guy’s 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6, I’m talking every guy is strong on their feet and they know how to protect the puck and they’re strong on the puck. That’s the biggest thing for young guys jumping in.”
- Dion Phaneuf on the adjustment from junior to the NHL.

In other words, in junior, you can really take advantage of the weaker players in the league. In the NHL, it’s always a battle and you have to adjust to that level of constant intensity and ability.

***

5 Things I Think I’d Do

1 – I think I’d go back to Reimer Tuesday against Minnesota. Bernier had a rough game, but Reimer has also shut out the Wild before and needs to get back in there. Plus, it’s in the comforts of the ACC. It is worth noting that the Leafs play Carolina right after and Reimer should start against them on the familiarity factor alone, but if you’re going to have a goalie competition you can’t throw a guy back in after a rough game.

2 – I think I’d consider keeping Broll in over Ashton once Kulemin and Clarkson return. The Leafs won’t take out Orr against teams with heavyweights because Broll can’t fight the Scotts, Kassians, and even Thorntons of the division. That brings things down to Ashton vs. Broll, and Broll is really acquitting himself well as a guy who can move up the line-up. Against teams that don’t play ultra-heavyweight (Detroit, for example), it would be nice to see both Ashton and Broll in.

3 – I think I’d swap Gardiner and Rielly around on the pairings. Franson hasn’t looked great with Rielly, which is my main reasoning, and Ranger is starting to play well. I think those two would be safe in a third pairing role.

4 – I think I’d like the Leafs signing Dion Phaneuf to a longer-term deal if it means a lower annual average. He’s only 28, and if they lose him they would really be forcing someone into his role and hoping for the best. Plus, on a defense full of skill, it’s nice to have a guy who can log big minutes and has some snarl to his game.

5 – I think I’d make it very clear that, although the Leafs have a good record right now, they need to play a lot better, and tighter defensively, if they are going to make the playoffs over the 82 game season. The Oilers game was pond hockey, the Preds dominated the first half, and the Duchene line controlled play all night. The best time to be critical is when you’re winning. Yes, there are definitely a lot of positives to take away so far (mobile defense, ridiculous amount of goal scoring up front, good goaltending, young kids stepping in, etc.), but if everyone is being honest the Leafs can/need to play better. Plus, it’s only six games into the season and the goal has to be continued improvement.

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
265 comments
Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

jonasTSN1050: Dating back to last season, Joffrey Lupul has scored 16 goals in the past 19 regular season games.

Komas Taberle
Komas Taberle

I want to see Leafs win big.

Montreal, Ottawa, Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Detroit all lose badly.

Yeah that would make me real happy.

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

Phaneuf has the hammer in determining his future. He could pretty much halt any trade by letting it be known he'd only be a rental until next summer's FA bidding war season. Not many D up for grabs next year, either.

DWCMLHS
DWCMLHS

Also: don't trade any of our top-5 Dmen! (Phaneuf, Gunnarsson, Franson, Gardiner, Rielly).

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

Just catching up here on the west coast. Nice detailed write up for a morning read. Just wanted to add something to the JVR-skating comments which I mentioned the other day.

JVR mentioned in a story the other day that it was actually Martin St. Louis who saw something in JVR's stride this summer that helped him improve on the blades. They were in Connetticutt along with Colton Orr working with Barb Underhill when St. Louis caught something on the video tapes. JVR gave full credit where it was due.

DWCMLHS
DWCMLHS

Reimer starting tonight is the right call. When he had a bad game, Bernier took the net, and ran with it for a few games. Now it's Reimer's turn to try to take advantage of a sub-par performance by Bernier on Saturday.

MaxwellHowe
MaxwellHowe

@DWCMLHS 

They should contemplate dumping Gunnar.   He has been shite so far this year.

Biltmore
Biltmore

@DWCMLHS 

Two off nights by two goalies, yet both still ended up as wins. And our solution is to put in net a goalie just as strong as the one being given a rest. Never in my life has Toronto had such wealth between the pipes. With an Olympic year and a compressed schedule, this advantage will have the same effect of having an extra $5 mil in cap space.

CanuckUKinToronto
CanuckUKinToronto

@DWCMLHS  It is the right call for multiple reasons.  He should play well as something to prove.. Bernier was weaker last game (even with the win).. so you play the hot hand and do not let one sit too long unless the other is just outstanding and can not be removed from the net.  Prior to Edmonton, that was the case with Bernier.. if he had a shut out vs Edmonton, he would have been starting still tonight..

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

Way around it is to load it up in the early portion of the contract for whatever the new CBA allows. Weber is making between $14 million and $12 million in the first six years of his contract but his cap hit is only $7.8 million.

Mitch92
Mitch92

@dlb eh Phaneuf along with all the players on that list have to understand that under the new CBA, which the players are a party of, was designed to lower salary's and end the circumventing deals.  Phaneuf may get resigned for 6.5 again but he would be foolish to insist on a raise.  He was brought here to lead the Leafs to the promised land and until he does he hasn't earned a raise!  Yeah, I said it!!!

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

I just like saying RNH is -9 in four games. Advanced stats project -180 by the end of the season.

Mind Bomb
Mind Bomb

@dlb eh @Bobsyouruncle Still weak in the corners and Front of the net, uses his stick in a poke check thing instead of taking the man. He is making better decisions though the last couple of games, still think he is a pussy though, but an extremley gifted one lol


CanuckUKinToronto
CanuckUKinToronto

@MaxwellHowe @DWCMLHS  I think Gunnar plus a prospect or pick could swing us back a better defensive D man... that is what Gunnar is but he comes without the physical presence, elite skating, and lately calm effectiveness (his giveaways and inability to clear the zone).

DWCMLHS
DWCMLHS

Gunnarsson hasn't gotten off to a great start, but we're only 6 games into the season. He's the only guy we have that can handle playing on the top D pair with Phaneuf. He's not a true #2 Dman, but he's the closest thing we've got. Franson has been great this season (except Saturday), but Phaneuf plays better on the right side than the left. Plus Franson is an offensive Dman, and isn't exactly suited for a shut-down role.

DWCMLHS
DWCMLHS

In a way, yes. Nobody should really be untouchable, because if a team is willing to wildly overpay for one of the Leafs' players, they'd be crazy not to accept.

That being said, they shouldn't be shopping any of these guys. Defence is the Leafs area of weakness. They cannot afford to lose anyone that even looks half-decent in a top-4 role.

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

Or Orr and Martin St. Louis! I have to say I think Orr's skating has improved in the past few years, so maybe the buddy system works. And hats off to St. Louis who is still working on his skating going on 38 years old.

DWCMLHS
DWCMLHS

That would be great. Maybe it would get people to shut up about trading him... Bernier has played just 5 games as a Leaf, people! He and Reimer now have the same career save percentage, at .915.

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

@CanuckUKinToronto @DWCMLHS Carlyle also spoke about not allowing Riemer to get too stale. At this point I agree . There's a long season ahead. Do as much as you can to keep both sharp

JWaterdrager
JWaterdrager

Could we get Girardi with Gunnarsson + Fenton? 

DWCMLHS
DWCMLHS

MacWilliam is a future 6-7 Dman, like Fraser. Percy has the potential to possibly become a top-4 Dman like Gunnarsson, but that's not a sure thing. We can't really afford to move players based on what prospects could eventually become.

.JVR.
.JVR.

@MaxwellHowe

I wouldn't say Gunnar is regressing at all.

Have yet to see him out of position this season and don't you think 6 games is a bit quick to declare that somebody is regressing? 

.JVR.
.JVR.

@MaxwellHowe

Rielly is a -3, so I guess that means he REALLY sucks!

Oh yea, he's also averaging more giveaways per games played and has 3 less hits than Gunnarsson. 

MaxwellHowe
MaxwellHowe

@.JVR. @MaxwellHowe 

The Corsi point was made is jest.  He leads the league in giveaways.  He barely hits.  He doesn't score.  His plus /minus is -1 on a team with a 5-1 record.  He has sucked.

.JVR.
.JVR.

@MaxwellHowe

I really couldn't give a fuck what his Corsi looks like.

How many goals against could you say he is directly responsible for?


MaxwellHowe
MaxwellHowe

@.JVR. @MaxwellHowe 

He leads the NHL with 12 giveaways.  No takeaways.  He is a Corsi nightmare (I  don't know about the Corsi thing, I just wanted to sound like I understood that nonsense)

MaxwellHowe
MaxwellHowe

@DWCMLHS 

I gave Gunnar a pass last year bc of the hip, but its obvious now IMO that he is just really not that good.  Put 7 Dmen on the bench and rotate two with Phanuef.  See who can handle it.  Fraser, Gardiner, Rielly, TJ Brennan, Ranger - give them all a shot with the big guy.  Gunnar is frstrating to watch.

DWCMLHS
DWCMLHS

The Leafs should just be looking to add a good Dman, preferably without moving out one of their good ones to do so. I'd rather move a couple good picks/prospects for a good Dman than just upgrade one of our current good Dmen. We need more good Dmen.

.JVR.
.JVR.

@dlb eh

Must not have been to obvious if DWCMLHS says not to trade them.

Jantz
Jantz

Captain obvious ......... ha,ha.......good one dlb

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

It is, and it's an extreme example. Kessel is a better one, he'll be earnng $10 million the first few years of his contract.

theacs1966
theacs1966

@dlb eh @theacs1966 A simple extension that pays him 6.5 AAV could easily happen.  Does he want to start over somewhere else?  Or does he want to stay in the biggest market, being the Captain.  On a team that is on the upswing and may shoot for a cup this yr, or in the next 3? yrs.  If he and his wife are happy here, then he'll stay, if his wife is working in LA, maybe he'll want to sign in Ana, La, or SJ?  I say he stays at he 50m range I talked about earlier.

theacs1966
theacs1966

@dlb eh @Greg Fenton I see 7 yr at 50 million.  More if he moves on, there will be teams that will offer him more money, it will come down to who, where, term, if he's happy here, he may sign for the same AAV for whatever term, if not a slight raise.  Teams number one D's don't play for 5m, especially not UFA's.

theacs1966
theacs1966

@Greg Fenton @theacs1966 He's the Captain of the Maple Leafs and is their number one Dman.  He's not signing for 5m.  HIs AAV is 6.5, look for him to sign for at least that amount.  More if he decides to leave.

theacs1966
theacs1966

@Greg Fenton @theacs1966 My long winded point was you can't sign everyone to 8yrs 8m with NTC's and expect to be able to have any flexibility in the future.  Both are true, you need to ice the best team, you also have to look to the future.  Phaneuf will also be over 30 by the time Riley hits RFA, if he's at 7-8m, he may be impossible to move at that point.  We see this with teams like Philly, sign everyone to big money/big term deals, and worry about the detail later, well right now they're fucked! 

theacs1966
theacs1966

@dlb eh @Greg Fenton There are other factors than just money.  Location, is standing (being capt) storied team, team on the upswing etc.  He might get more money in Edm, or Phil or pick your team, but why stop at the bottom again.  I predict he'll sign long term 6-8 yrs at 7 per.  One other thing to keep in mind.  Either 3 or 4 yrs from now, Riely will be RFA, if he is a superstar (Letang, Keith,Doughty), then we may not be able to keep Kessel 8m, Riley 7m, Phaneuf 6-8m, Kadri?m 6 maybe,  Before you say RFA for Riley, Doughty and others have signed huge money contracts right after their ELC. So we could have half or more of our cap locked up with 5 players.  We can do it now with all the ELC contracts, but will we in 3-4 yrs.  Throw in Gardiner too.