Maple Leafs Off Season: Assessing “Plan B”

Maple Leafs Off Season: Assessing “Plan B”

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    Based on what we have been told, we would be looking at a notably different roster if the Toronto Maple Leafs’ plan A this summer had come to fruition.

    Dave Bolland would still be a Leaf, making $4.75M/year for five years, according to Darren Dreger.

    Josh Gorges would be a Leaf in exchange for Cody Franson, according to Dreger as well.

    Perhaps they would have signed Dan Boyle instead of Stephane Robidas, too, who Pierre Lebrun noted the Leafs were very serious about for days.

    From the outside, it appears the Leafs desired a defense of:

    Gorges – Phaneuf
    Gardiner – Boyle/Robidas
    Rielly – Polak

    Dave Bolland certainly  would have been a Leaf if they got their way. Brendan Shannahan was consistently firm about his desire to retain Bolland, and we all know how the incumbent staff felt about him. It is probably safe to assume that Mike Santorelli would not have become a Leaf if he had been retained. Komarov was very much a priority regardless, and there is no reason to think the Frattin deal doesn’t happen; same goes with the Petri Kontiola and Troy Bodie signings. Between the Gorges trade, Bolland and one of Robidas/Boyle, all of those moves would pretty well have eaten up the Leafs‘ cap space barring an additional major trade.

    In a Capgeek mock-up here, we can see the Leafs would be right up against the cap without James Reimer signed. And this does not take into account the fact that the team was negotiating with Mason Raymond right until free agency began, which presumably could have meant less depth guys, and more money spent just on Raymond.

    The make-up of the team now is still very similar to the original outlined plan and last year’s team; the difference is Bolland would have been on a five year deal making a lot more money than Mike Santorelli’s one year, $1.5M contract, and what happens on defense remains to be seen, although Robidas and Polak are in the fold. So, it appears for now Cody Franson is on the outs provided the Leafs find the right trading partner.

    Plan B: New-look bottom six, restructured defence

    Before the draft and free agency, I discussed the Leafs lack of depth and determined they almost certainly had the worst bottom six in the league last season. To this point, the management staff has been attempting to address that and pick off the “low hanging fruit” that I discussed frequently.

    This chart shows the changes:

     
    Age
    Height
    Weight
    PPG 2013-14
    Career PPG
    CF% 2013-14
    Career CF%
    OUT
    Mason Raymond286'01850.550.4944.50%51.20%
    Dave Bolland286'01840.520.5144.90%50.50%
    Jay McClement316'12050.120.338.80%44.50%
    Nik Kulemin286'12250.290.4641.30%49%
    Carl Gunnarsson276'21960.210.2839.90%45.90%
    Paul Ranger296'32100.260.3342%48.80%
    Tim Gleason316'02170.110.242.20%48.20%
    Average28.96'1203.10.290.36741.94%48.30%
    IN
    Leo Komarov275'101870.210.2145.60%45.60%
    Matt Frattin266'02050.160.2852.80%50.60%
    Mike Santorelli286'01890.570.3450.90%50.30%
    Stephane Robidas375'111900.260.2851%50.20%
    Roman Polak286'02360.180.1949.70%49.30%
    Average29.25'11201.40.280.2650.00%49.20%
    Kept/promoted
    Peter Holland236'21940.260.2543%43.40%
    Troy Bodie296'52260.210.1443%45.80%
    Carter Ashton236'32150.090.0643.80%44.70%
    Average256'3211.70.190.1543%44.63%

    What this shows is that the Leafs downgraded on some established scoring, but added a lot more cycling and board play, so they hope. Bolland and Raymond have strong career percentages, but Bolland is coming off an injury that will surely affect him for the rest of his career, and Raymond’s averages are inflated by a few strong years playing with elite players in Vancouver; plus, he has not been exactly the same player since a big injury, either.

    Komarov is replacing Kulemin’s role for over $1M less. He isn’t as big, or as heavy, or as established of a scorer, but he brings a lot of the same board play Kulemin does, is sound defensively, can kill penalties, and draw power plays. How these two score moving forward is anyone’s guess, though. Komarov produced 9 points in his only 42 NHL games, which was almost on par with the 20 in 70 Kulemin put up last season. Kulemin figures to score more in an offensive role, yet so does Komarov the more he plays in the NHL, as he has a track record of at least decent numbers playing pro hockey in Russia.

    Otherwise, many of the exchanges made appear to be reasonable upgrades. Stephane Robidas is coming off an injury-plagued season, but there is no question that a healthy Robidas is a better player than Carl Gunnarsson. The same can be said of Roman Polak in comparison to Tim Gleason. Polak might have some inflated numbers of late because of how good St. Louis is, but they have only recently become a strong team and his career numbers have been steady across the board; at 28, he isn’t exactly at the age where we expect players to fall off a cliff, either. It is curious, though, that the team appears to not be bringing back Paul Ranger. Last summer, Nonis talked about him as a potential top 4 candidate, and while he understandably struggled to start the year, he started to turn the corner in the second half of the season and we have to figure that a full season of hockey under his belt would lead to a much smoother season in the second go around.

    Mike Santorelli appears to be the big wildcard. He has washed out of a few programs now, but has strung together a few very solid campaigns. The Canucks offered him a one year deal to return and — despite being from Vancouver and having some success from there — he chose the Leafs. I suspect that is because he will have a better opportunity to play up the line-up in Toronto, where the second line right wing spot is wide open because Kadri and Clarkson mixed like water and oil last season.

    The new additions are smaller and lighter on average than the players leaving, but when we add in the players that are sure to come from within through the Marlies, the team actually gets a little bigger and heavier.  Beyond that, though, they added a lot more versatility and moving parts. Santorelli, Komarov and Kontiola (if he turns out to be NHL calibre) can all play center and wing. While Ashton, Frattin and Bodie can each play both wings, plus Holland adds another C. Last season, the Leafs had trouble making solid lines once injuries hit because they didn’t have many players that could move up the line-up or multi-position players. Lupul was forced to switch over to his right side where he was uncomfortable in order to accommodate Raymond, while players like Colton Orr couldn’t move up the line-up and McClement did but couldn’t handle it.

    Brendan Shanahan has said teams can’t be built through free agency, and the basement hunting they have been doing follows along those lines, even if we consider the Bolland and Raymond pursuits, as those would have been re-signings. So far, he is sticking to his word by backfilling the roster more than anything.

    All indications are that the fighters are done and the Leafs are gearing up to roll four lines. The Bodie signing all but points to a shift in player approach.

    McLaren finished last season on the Marlies while Orr was healthy scratched with frequency in the second half of the season. Provided Ashton and Holland are retained, the Leafs would have 13 forwards signed not including Orr and McLaren. The writing is on the wall. When Loiselle was asked about McLaren and Orr playing regularly on the radio last week, he completely avoided the question and started talking about speed and forechecking.

    Going into the summer, the Leafs had three primary problems: a weak bottom six, a weak center group, and a need to reshuffle the defense.

    So far, the management has attempted to reshuffle the defense by adding a solid top 4 guy and a reasonable third pairing player, both of whom are right handed players. They’ve added a lot of pieces to the bottom six to remake the lower portion of the forward group. While time will tell if it is ultimately a better group, on paper it certainly is:

    Kulemin – McClement – Clarkson
    Bodie – Holland/Smith/Smithson – Orr
    McLaren, Bolland

    Vs.

    Komarov – Santorelli/Kontiola/Holland – Clarkson
    Ashton – Holland/Kontiola – Frattin
    Bodie

    Where Things Stand

    The center position is still a sore spot. At the top of their line-up especially, they still lack a horse down the middle who can go up against the other team’s best line successfully. Swapping out McClement and Bolland for Holland and Santorelli (or Kontiola) is a downgrade on name value but consider that the two centers who played the most last year in the bottom six for the team were McClement and Holland, followed by Trevor Smith. A year of growth for Holland –he really had an excellent playoff in the AHL—and bringing in Santorelli is an upgrade, on paper.

    The roster is not where it needs to be to compete against the best, but Rome was not built in a day. The defense is gambling on the health of Robidas and Gardiner plus Rielly continuing to grow and play good hockey versus taking a step back. Plus, they have a trade chip to cash-in on in Cody Franson. But this is a defense that ran Carl Gunnarsson on its top pairing all year and now will be running at least two better options (Gardiner, Robidas) and possibly three (Rielly, but we’ll see how his sophomore year goes) alongside Phaneuf. Meanwhile, Polak hopes to be an upgrade on some of the players they trotted out on the bottom portion of the Leafs defense.

    Up front, the Leafs will be adding in a few more kids and hoping they develop. They need to get contributions from players like Holland, Ashton and Frattin, and they need at least one of their gambles to payoff whether that is Santorelli or Kontiola, or even Komarov to a degree, by taking a step upward in production. This is to say nothing of Clarkson hopefully bouncing back and contributing.

    Many of the same problems still exist that were present all throughout the season, but clear issues are attempting to be patched up with value signings. Even though a big name center has not been brought in, they drafted William Nylander and another year of development for Kadri, Holland, and even Gauthier could have them where they need to be at that position sooner rather than later.

    That is a step up on last summer, when they went out and spent heavy money on a winger and traded assets to bring in a goalie, which were their two strongest positions. Maybe they spent the way they did this time because Plan A failed, but plan B appears to have worked out just fine and perhaps better than plan A would have. Cap space is an asset that cannot be taken lightly  – consider the Leafs tried to get Vanek at the deadline last season and couldn’t get it done. They ended up doing nothing at the deadline while the Habs made numerous moves with their cap space that helped push them to the Eastern Conference Final.

    This is not a banner summer, but it appears to this eye that they are at least pushing the needle forward this time around. Now, we wait to see what happens with James Reimer and Cody Franson.

    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

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    909 comments
    OGVender
    OGVender

    New here, but i love the site, would like to make a comment on the leafs recent transitions..Weather we like the moves they have made or not, and some that are still rumoured to be happening, i.e. is Phaneuf on the move or not, ect...my biggest concern, is that realistically everyone, (even florida) looks like they've added, and at least got better on paper.  other rosters, like Philly, New York Rangers, remains pretty much the same, and even the islanders look like they could be stronger..So my only conclusion is to suggest, the leafs have remained the same, while everyone else is passing them, at least talent wise on paper...Unfortunately, i think by Christmas, we will be challenging buffalo for the McDavid sweepstakes..

    Bobsyouruncle
    Bobsyouruncle

    If he starts the year with us I would like to see Lupul back with Kessel and Bozak. Build up his trade value with a good season.  

    In 2011-12 Lupul put up 59 of his 67 points (66 games) while playing on a line with Kessel.

    NotSince67
    NotSince67

    Bahaha, Gotta love AP.

    Misrepresents my point (need for an enforcer to not get abused/bullied) and then tries to argue vs I said fighting equals wins. Then when I've pointed all this shit out, he tries to interject we were bullied because we lost a lot of games. And then goes back and deletes all the comments pertaining to the thread... except his OP.

    It's telling when AP deleted the comment off the thread I made "Orr and FML played 81 games last year combined, they appeared in every game for the leafs on the same line. Fact." In reference to his assertion we got "bullied" all year (his term now for getting dominated in the actual play) with Orr and FML on the same line! (I sense a little hyperbole)

    What a joke AP. Do you delete all threads, or just the ones where your goal is to embarrass someone and they flip the script?

    Savo43
    Savo43

    @OGVender Welcome to the site budday. I think the roster is "interesting". Not Horrible, but "interesting". Seems like an anything can happen type roster. One thing i see improving though, is our work ethic. 

    DJGLENN22
    DJGLENN22

    @OGVender How can you say remained the same................guys where moved out and new ones brought in......we will never be in the McDavid sweepstakes...Not with Bernier,Kessel,JVR,Dion,Kadri,Gardiner,Reilly all on the team........core group too good to finish in bottom of league

    Reether
    Reether

    @Bobsyouruncle I think the one thing that bothered me the most about Carlyle's lineup last year was that our secondary scoring was struggling and he wasn't willing to break up Kessel and JVR. I know you want to keep them hot, but they are both great players and could have helped some other players get going too. Might not be a bad idea as you say to give Lupul some confidence and maybe give Kadri JVR to switch it up a bit and maybe get one of the other wingers a different look. 

    Murph2417
    Murph2417

    @Bobsyouruncle I'd run 

    Lupul - Bozak - Kessel

    JVR - Kadri - Santorelli 

    Komarov - Holland - Clarkson

    Ashton - Kintiola - Frattin 


    Good mix of skill and PWF's on each one

    Savo43
    Savo43

    @Bobsyouruncle JVR with Kadri wouldn't be so bad. Add Clarkson or Fratts on the other side and thats a damn solid 2nd line. 

    Murph2417
    Murph2417

    @NotSince67 Honestly it takes 2 to tango, so instead of both arguing why don't you BOTH just let it go and call it even?

    Tim Horton
    Tim Horton

    @NotSince67 Honestly I read the entire thing and I was confused with your point, so I think that is how things got mixed up. You call for an enforcer but when he says fights don't relate to winning your counter point was that he inferred wrong and got defensive. But I never really followed what you were trying to get at with that comment then. So maybe just try clearing things up.

    Reether
    Reether

    @NotSince67 You gotta let this go man, that was last night. You can't care so much that you are continuing this same argument today 

    4evrblue
    4evrblue

    Not much there lol

    Winnik? Morrow? Ott? Booth didn't make the list but on a 1M 1 year deal maybe...? Morrow in a 4th line role might not be terrible either if they're looking for leadership

    OGVender
    OGVender

    @Savo43 @OGVender For sure..and just to clarify, because it seems some may be taking offence to what i said...but there are other teams in the east that got better this offseason..strong draft pics, free agency and even trades.  My point was, that I don't see our roster got that much better, time will tell, while others around us, are getting better and or younger, meanwhile, we seem to be stuck in the middle.  We did just draft 8th overall if I'm not mistaken..We don't have to get much worse, to be in the bottom quarter of the league.  Which, in turn, would put us in the Mcdavid sweepstakes.  For the record, I hope I'm wrong, and maybe, Nonis has found lightning in a bottle.

    OGVender
    OGVender

    @DJGLENN22 @OGVender Would you be referring to the same core that we have had for the last five years, and still finished in the bottom of the league.?

    barjv01
    barjv01

    @Savo43 @Bobsyouruncle While there is undoubtedly chemistry with JVR/Bozak/Kessel there was also undoubtedly chemistry with Lupul/Bozak/Kessel. However I don't see great chemistry with Lupul/Kadri. For me it would be:


    Lupul/Bozak/Kessel

    JVR/Kadri/Frattin or Santorelli

    Komarov/Kontiola/Clarkson

    Ashton/Holland/Frattin or Santorelli


    Clarkson earns second line status by his play IMO

    Yaknowwhat
    Yaknowwhat

    Who really gives a shit either way...waste of time for both of you...

    NotSince67
    NotSince67

    @Alec Brownscombe @NotSince67 I think it woulod have been better if he left the thread standing OR deleted the OP as well. But he left his pot shot standing and removed the defense of it. 

    billtech
    billtech

    @OGVender @DJGLENN22 no because we did not have the same core last yr. We had our top 2 centres out for a couple months together and at that time our 3rd center decided to take a suspension or 2. So our best LW and 2nd best scorer went for a wander in center ice. Are they really good....no. Will they challenge a Buffalo or Calgary or Enmonton for last...not likely. But sure hope the draft is opened up so Leafs could finish just out of play-offs and still land a McDavid.

    Murph2417
    Murph2417

    @barjv01 @Savo43 @Bobsyouruncle Santorelli shouldn't be on the 4th line, if anything he'd be on the 3rd line and it'd be 

    Lupul - Bozak - Kessel

    JVR - Kadri - Frattin/Santorelli

    Komarov - Kontiola/Santorelli - Clarkson

    Ashton - Holland - Kontiola/Frattin

    Murph2417
    Murph2417

    @Yaknowwhat That's what I'm getting at, just let it go. It's summer, enjoy the weather till winter when we are all stuck inside wether we want to be or not.

    4evrblue
    4evrblue

    @JMAC17 @mike_84 @4evrblue  they had high hopes for him once upon a time but he never really met his potential. Probably could be a depth guy on a contending team

    barjv01
    barjv01

    @Murph2417 @barjv01 @Savo43 @Bobsyouruncle For some reason I think the fact that Komarov & Kontiola have played together will lead to them being on the same line, at least at first. I think Frattin has to win line 2 from Santorelli. Either way, it is kinda nice to have these discussions/options.


    I think a line of Komarov/Kontiola/Clarkson would be a real good possession/forechecking line

    Yaknowwhat
    Yaknowwhat

    Its funny how we can allow ourselves to get hung up on trivial details or debates from time to time..we're all guilty of it....but when you look back on it...you just shake your head...its so not worth it...

    NotSince67
    NotSince67

    @Alec Brownscombe @NotSince67 It kinda was. He was trying to argue fights don;t equal wins, and I was trying to point out I never once said anything of the matter, and he wouldn;t accept that I didn't write it.

    Murph2417
    Murph2417

    @Yaknowwhat Oh yeah, for sure. I do it too haha, basically it's an argument fuelled by rage and then when you calm down you think to yourself. "That didn't even make sense"

    Yaknowwhat
    Yaknowwhat

    Yep..get all bent out of shape because somebody had the nerve and gull to have a different opinion...lol

    Yaknowwhat
    Yaknowwhat

    Thanks buddy....I've learned as well..and so have you: )

    4evrblue
    4evrblue

    @Loric76 @mike_84 @4evrblue @JMAC17  I agree. I think we could expect Ranger to be a little better this year than last.

    Winnik and Morrow are probably the only guys from that list that I would show interest in and that would be solely to add a little experience to the 4th line and help bring the kids along. Booth I'd take a flyer on because you never know, he could do something still. Highly doubtful though

    Yaknowwhat
    Yaknowwhat

    Anybody who doesn't always agree with me is obviously an idiot...lol