Thursday, May 28, 2015
Authors Posts by Alec Brownscombe

Alec Brownscombe

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]

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According to Ansar Khan of Michigan Live, assistant coach Jim Hiller will join Mike Babcock on the Maple Leafs coaching staff next season.

Some management groups, upon hiring a new head coach, allow the new HC to bring along an assistant of his choosing and hire the rest by committee, but it’s not yet clear what the agreement or hiring strategy will be for Mike Babcock as he goes about building his staff. It does sound like Babcock will be bringing along Hiller, who, based on his role with the Red Wings last season, would run the powerplay and do some analytics work.

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Mark Hunter
Mark Hunter

One of yesterday’s emerging factors in the Maple Leafs winning the Babcock sweepstakes was the level of respect Mike Babcock has for Leafs Director of Player Personnel Mark Hunter as a hockey man and talent evaluator, something he reiterated in multiple interviews in his media rounds yesterday.

That has some, like Elliotte Friedman today, wondering if Hunter’s stock within the Leafs management hierarchy has risen to the point where he’s now among the favourites to be handed the official GM’s title by Brendan Shanahan, an added responsibility Hunter’s been reported to be interested in for a few weeks now. Shanahan so far has only said that he is evaluating both external and internal candidates, which would account for the possibility of a promotion from within.

“Now, yesterday Mike Babcock mentioned Mark Hunter’s name about how much he likes him about four or five times. So on the daily wagering chart on who is going to be the next GM of the Maple Leafs, Mark Hunter’s name shot about 10,000 points yesterday.”

It also had Bob McKenzie wondering if the Leafs might add GM, coach and owner of the Brandon Wheat Kings, Kelly McCrimmon, to the front office staff after Babcock mentioned McCrimmon alongside Hunter as two of hockey world’s best noses for young talent.

Babcock: Well, Mark Hunter, when they hired Hunts last year, I said home run. The two guys that I know that are two of the best hockey men, period, there’s a guy named Kelly McCrimmon, and there’s a guy named Mark Hunter. They’re the guys for me. They just flat out do it year after year after year. They find players, they can smell ‘em and bring ‘em. So that right there, when I heard that last year, I said, there’s a hire. That’s a hockey man. When I met with Hunts and Shanny when I first got in here that day, I can talk to that guy. He’s a hockey man.

McCrimmon has been with the Wheat Kings for over 25 years, taking over the GM’s role way back in 1989, and has served three stints as head coach spanning a total of 10 years. Under McCrimmon’s guidance, the Wheat Kings have captured eight Eastern Division titles (five in the last ten years), four Eastern Conference Championships, played in four WHL Finals, and participated in three Mem Cups. Since the 1992-93 season, when the Wheat Kings set a CHL record for the biggest single season improvement of 62 points, the Wheat Kings have won more games than any other team in the CHL. McCrimmon won the CHL Executive of the Year Award in 2010.

McCrimmon took over sole ownership of the Wheat Kings in 2000, making him owner, GM and head coach of the one of the most successful teams in junior hockey. After two decades of consistent success, McCrimmon is actually coming off his best ever season with the Wheat Kings this past season, posting a 53-11-4 record while coaching and managing a team featuring projected 2015 top 10 pick Ivan Provorov and a strong cast of NHL-drafted senior players (Morgan Klimchuk, Peter Quenneville, Jayce Hawryluk). The 2014-15 Wheat Kings recently lost out in the WHL final to the Kelowna Rockets.

Among the more recent graduated NHL products of McCrimmon’s Wheat Kings: Mark Stone, Brayden Schenn, Matt Calvert, Michael Ferland.

McCrimmon will be coaching the 2015 Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team with Sheldon Keefe as his assistant.

The Leafs have pulled a lot of brain trust out of the OHL pool, and if they’re looking for hockey minds elsewhere in the CHL, there isn’t anyone in the WHL who has been at it longer or been more consistently successful at all levels of the game, from coaching, to management, to ownership (he even played for the Wheat Kings in the ’70s, too). Given the main thrust of the rebuilding plan is to outdraft 29 other teams, he’s another good asset to have if there is any interest in McCrimmon’s part in leaving the GM and coaching role with a team in which he’s so deeply embedded.


Here’s the full transcript from Elliotte Friedman’s radio spot today, where he talks about Julien BriseBois (who sounds like he’s staying in Tampa), Mike Futa, George McPhee (who Friedman describes as an “ideal” fit as an experienced executive frontman), and Jeff Gorton.

Bob McKenzie seemed to agree that George McPhee could be a fit on TSN1260 today:

“I think a guy like McPhee would jump at it in a heartbeat. I mean, there’s only 30 jobs in the NHL, so when you lose one you want to get back in. George McPhee is very close with the Hunter family; he hired Dale to coach the Capitals. He could work with Mark Hunter in a heartbeat.”

Mike Futa, meanwhile, is rumoured to be highly interested in the job, but there is some talk of concern with the exact role and level of responsibility of the GM’s chair in Toronto as well as the compensation situation between LA and Toronto:

 

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Guy Boucher
Guy Boucher

Darren Dreger is reporting the team who contacted Guy Boucher about a possible return to the NHL (news Boucher broke himself yesterday on TSN Drive) is the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Everyone remembers this infamous sequence against Philadelphia and Boucher’s memorable response from the bench in that series:

(Jeff Marek has since claimed part of the reason Boucher was fired was because Steve Yzerman was embarrassed by this sequence; seems unlikely getting to overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals was seen as embarrassing, but who knows).

Patrick Roy also claimed when coaching against him in the Q that Boucher was killing junior hockey with his passive 1-3-1 system (essentially, forcing dump ins with three wide stacked between the defensive blueline and redline, with one defenceman as a sweeper, back to retrieve).

While undoubtedly a counterattacking system, those specific memories may lead to some misconceptions of how Guy Boucher’s teams actually won games. In 2010-11, the year the Lightning made the Conference Finals, the team was bottom 10 in goals against and top 10 in goals for. The same pattern held for the season following, when the Lightning finished top 10 in goals for and missed the playoffs because they finished dead last in goals against that season.

In the Q, when asked about the effect his system might have had on junior hockey and if it was being mimicked across the league, Boucher said:

“I wouldn’t be pretentious enough to say I had that much impact, either positive or negative on an entire league,” he said. “His comments were about the fact that some teams were playing the same defensive style that we had. The funny thing is my teams were always the No. 1 offensive teams. We were first in the league in junior in offense, the same last year in the American League (at Hamilton). This year we are the top team in the NHL. We spend 80 percent of our time working on offense. If you watch our practices you’ll see, so that’s all I’m focusing on.”

Boucher’s trajectory as a coach seemed to be skyrocketing until he ran into goaltending and roster turnover problems in the year after the Lightning Conference Finals appearance. He won the QMJHL championship with the Drummondville Voyageurs, who featured such players as Sean Couturier, Mike Hoffman and Dimitry Kulikov. He jumped into the AHL with the Bulldogs and went on a deep playoff run in his first year. Yzerman then hired him (along with Julien deBrisebois) in Tampa, where he went straight to the Conference Finals in his first year; at the time it seemed Boucher could do no wrong and most of what he touched was turning to gold.

But a bad season and a bit in Tampa saw him over in Switzerland in 2013-14, where he took over for half a season and then posted a great record (32-13) in 2014-15, winning the Swiss Cup. In 2013-14, Boucher agreed to a no-out clause if he was to coach the team, but that is no longer in effect; Boucher is free to opt out of his current contract if he so chooses and has expressed an interest in returning to the NHL.

Now working for the Leafs, Cam Charron had an interesting piece during the collapse of 2013-14 that detailed why Boucher may be a good fit for the Leafs. Kyle Alexander from Raw Charge postulated that a team with some mobile D and fast aggressive forwards (Leafs need some help in the aggression department), if they bought into Boucher’s system, could have a lot of success within it (granted, fast-aggressive forecheck with a mobile D core is the goal of most teams, and the general formula for success in the League now). Guy Boucher took his Lightning team from a 45.7% team at Corsi Tied and helped turn them into a 51.2% possession team in 2010-11. They nosedived the following season; there’s competing theories as to why.

The team could always score, and they couldn’t get goaltending, but their possession plummeted to below 46% in 2011-12. Some criticism surfaced suggesting that the 1-3-1 system had been figured out and Boucher’s jig was up. Maybe it was more about losing seven of his regular players after 2010-11, which he references below (“patch up”), in addition to terrible netminding. The Lightning had a whack of good young players just entering their organization but were not ready yet, which Boucher just missed out on timing wise.

In general, Boucher does have a track record of successfully and immediately implementing some structure that has led to significant upticks in results. The Leafs haven’t played with structure since Paul Maurice was head coach, so it’s at the very least an interesting idea.

Of course, there’s nothing saying Boucher is married to his past systems; his success did, however, show he was a bright strategist and an innovative hockey mind.

Boucher’s answers below on the importance of development and where he sees the game today (and where it’s going) seem to align with a lot of what you hear out of the new management regime. Transcript below.

On his time in Tampa Bay:
“Before my first year, no, because we needed to build – actually, I still remember Steve Yzerman sitting in the summer and half our board was empty. Steve had a lot of guys to sign, a lot of free agents to fill the lineup. The first year we did terrific, but you know he told me before hand the second year we’d lose a lot of players; we lost seven guys, we had that second year we were trying to bring in new guys, but most of these kids either came after or when they were there they too young, they weren’t ready at all. We tried to patch up that second year to try to buy time for these guys to come in. We knew for sure that Conacher, back then, who later gave for Bishop who I didn’t coach, then Johnson, a free agent; a lot of these guys after, even by the draft, a lot of free agents signed – Sustr and all these guys – I saw them but I never coached them. The funny thing is, people ask me all the time, “my old team,” really there’s only two players I’ve coached on that team: Stamkos and Hedman. The 22 guys that have come in in the last two years, I think Steve and Julien and the rest of the organization there did a terrific job of either scouting or signing guys in free agency or developing them. We knew a lot of these guys were terrific guys, Palat included, but they needed time at that point. You can see now what that’s giving them – this is a terrific group of players.”

On his time in Hamilton with some of the now-Canadiens competing in the playoffs:
“There actually is, that’s the funny thing. Obviously Dehairnais and Pacioretty and Subban, three guys that were players that we knew were going to become good players. I’m quite fortunate to have been passed their way; they’ve done terrific since then, they’ve developed and become men and leaders, and yeah this is a great series for me to follow. There’s obviously close interest for me because I started with Montreal as a professional coach, and Steve Yzerman gave me my first professional job in the NHL. There’s good people in both organizations and it’s hard to wish everybody good luck, but I think this series for me is a perfect representation of what hockey is now – the new NHL. The rules that have changed, the speed of the game, what I call the “machine generation,” the kids are so in shape, so fast, so strong. Two teams that are built similarly I think, with big goaltenders, big mobile defencemen, speed and skill with the forwards; this is what the game is all about right now.”

Importance of the AHL and development:
“If you look at organizations like Detroit, for instance; they’re famous for getting their guys ready. I respect what Detroit does; they draft, and they take the time that it takes to build the players in the American League, and sometimes I see it too many times, whether it’s the NHL or the other leagues, is you try to hurry up your young guys in the lineup either because of money issue or because of cap, or because you just think you can accelerate the process. You really got to make the right decisions for not just the team but for the individual. I’ve seen it, we’ve made some mistakes in Tampa, and I’ve seen it before in junior, where you have guys and you try to hurry up their process.

Everybody’s got their own path, and you got to respect that. Yes, it’s extremely important to draft well, and it’s really important to develop, because then you don’t have to trade and give away assets. You build from within with your old values. It’s a lot easier to get the culture that you want. It’s clear the teams that have been able to do that, they have a tendency to have many years with consistency. Some other teams don’t. I certainly don’t want to talk about Toronto, but when you look at the teams that have done well with their draft it’s made a huge different. You look at Montreal and you look at Tampa, they’re two perfect examples. I know both head scouts, terrific people, knowledgeable guys, guys that work extremely hard, and they certainly as individuals made a big difference in the organization because now you can see what those organizations are looking like. They’re both at the top and that’s a great way of doing things. Having said that, you can’t escape the fact that at some point you have to make some trades and sign from free agents to back up the players that you have. Especially, I find, with leadership. I think it starts and end with leadership, so if you have that, then all the young guys that you have are going to be raised in the right way and you’re going to have the right culture.”

Degree of interest in returning to the NHL:
“I’ve never hid the fact that I definitely do want to go back. I have another year on my contract here, my family is happy, had a terrific year, it’s all good things – learned and grew – and I’ve got no problem staying here. But yes, last year I couldn’t accept it because I didn’t have an out clause. This year, I do have an out clause. It would certainly be in the right situation with the right people, and if I fit it would certainly interest me, but like I said, it has to be in the right situation because I have a very good situation now. I’ve been approached, so it’s a possibility. We’ll see what happens.”

Guy Boucher Coaching Record & Accolades

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 9.08.10 PM

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As we continue to bat around candidates for the vacant Leafs GM role, Elliotte Friedman reported today that he’s hearing the Leafs will try to request permission from Tampa Bay to speak to Julien BriseBois (as well Director of Player Personnel, Pat Verbeek, who oversees pro scouting for the Lighting).

No confirmation, but other teams would be surprised if Toronto did not at least try to interview both Julien BriseBois and Pat Verbeek from Tampa. No doubt there will be more. Verbeek played with both Shanahan (in New Jersey) and Hunter (in Hartford). As you can imagine, there were a lot of names tossed around yesterday, including a few suggestions Hunter will eventually take the job himself. But someone’s going to have to do all the interviews, and he probably doesn’t want that fun. Finally, a few Ontario-based scouts say they still hear Dale Hunter’s name for some role. I only include it because Shanahan’s respect for the family is obvious.

Like Kyle Dubas, BriseBois was hired into NHL management before the age of 30 when, in 2003, the Montreal Canadiens promoted him from their legal affairs department into the hockey operations side at age 27 (in the role of Director of Hockey Operations). Promoted to VP of Hockey Ops in 2006 and then later appointed as GM of the Bulldogs in 2007, Briseboise presided over a couple of mediocre seasons in Hamilton before hiring coach Guy Boucher for the 2009-10 season. Boucher won AHL coach of the year honours and the Bulldogs made it to the Conference Finals that year, at which point Steve Yzerman came calling and hired away both BriseBois and Boucher.

BriseBois’ role in Tampa is impressive in that he has been responsible for a lot of areas within the Lightning’s hockey operations. His legal background prepared him to handle arbitration, contract negotiation and the CBA side of things; he’s the GM of the Syracuse Crunch – and Norfolk Admirals before them – and he does analytics work for Steve Yzerman. He also manages the salary cap.

Building on his success with the Bulldogs, the Lightning’s AHL teams have been quite productive under his watch. He hired Jon Cooper, who won the AHL coach of the year honours in 2011-12 after the Norfolk Admirals went on that ludicrous 28-game winning streak during the regular season and eventually won the Calder Cup, defeating the Toronto Marlies in the Finals. The Crunch then returned to the Calder Cup Finals  the next season, this time losing to Grand Rapids.

Cooper, of course, now coaches the high-powered Lightning after he, along with a number of players from that 2012-13 team, graduated to Tampa’s big club or elsewhere in the NHL in 2013-14, including Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, JT Brown, Mark Barbeiro, Richard Panik and Cory Conacher.

Now coached by Rob Zettler, the Crunch missed the playoffs in the 2013-14 season after graduating a big group of players, but Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette followed suit after 2013-14 and are now contributing members for the Lightning (Nikita Kucherov, who has been impact player for the Lightning this season, spent some time there as well last season, but only 17 games). The Crunch will be back in the playoffs this season with a 41-23-9 record.

Dubas has the same aim of turning the Marlies into a productive factory of player development, but he’s still brand new to professional hockey. BriseBois has managed a Calder Cup championship team in Norfolk (and overseen  a few deep runs with both the Bulldogs and Syracuse), and has been a big part of the management team that has set the Lightning up for sustained success for the foreseeable future. It’s not in the GM’s role, but he has experience in the NHL and a winning track record.

 

BriseBois has the credentials to take the next step, but, as has been talked about a lot the past few days, the Leafs are not going to be running a traditional configuration wherein he would have carte blanche to mould the front office and team in his image. He would be collaborating with Shanahan, Dubas, Hunter and Pridham. BriseBois already has ample responsibility under Yzerman in Tampa as they’ve worked together to build a franchise that looks well set up to enjoy sustained success in the coming years.

Here is what BriseBois said about taking the next step back in December at the John Molson Sport Marketing Conference in Montreal:

According to BriseBois, it’s paramount to put your full effort into what you do if you want to get somewhere that is competitive. For him, there are only 30 General Manager positions in the world, and if he wants one of them, he knows he has to give it everything he has.

Shanahan has said he isn’t concerned about adhering to the traditional meaning of the GM job title; his general idea is to bring in another bright hockey mind who is excited by his vision and wants to be part of what he, Dubas, Hunter and Pridham are building. The Leafs can offer the GM’s title and a healthy raise in salary, but we obviously don’t know how excited BriseBois would be by the position, if he’s really available and if the timing and circumstances in Toronto make it the right fit.

Here’s a look at Mike Futa, who comes from more of a drafting and scouting background than BriseBois having served as director of Amateur Scouting in LA for seven years.

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There’s so much that has to happen still before this management regime has my faith, but I thought Brendan Shanahan’s press conference today hit all the right notes.

While watching I couldn’t stop drawing the contrasts: Brendan Shanahan’s approach couldn’t be more starkly different from Brian Burke’s in the early days of his tenure. It was almost like he was utilizing the early-days Burke era example as a manual for what not to say. Shanahan gave Leafs fans more credit for their patience and desire to follow a draft and development model than Burke. He implicitly acknowledged the need to be bad before you can be good. Shanahan and his assistants have kept the details of their plan largely in house — Shanahan has had all the insiders guessing — and they’re much more calculated about their media spots.

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In a great piece on the ‘Shanaplan’ and the mass firings today by the Leafs, Bob McKenzie put forth the name Mike Futa as a good fit for the now-vacant GM’s role.

Los Angeles King exec Mike Futa is a name that will no doubt come up. When Buffalo and Calgary were looking for GMs, Futa was a prime candidate, but the Kings took him out of the mix, promoted him and gave him a new contract with some restrictions on when and what jobs he can entertain. Or not.

… He has an impressive hockey CV, dating back to his days as a general manager in the Ontario Hockey League, as well as his exemplary work, first as co-director of amateur scouting for the Kings and now vice president of hockey operations and director of player personnel. Futa has had working – and seemingly respectful – relationships with both Dubas and Hunter from their OHL days. At face value, not knowing any of his specific contractual restrictions or willingness to leave L.A., Futa could potentially be a perfect fit in Toronto.

Futa, in his first year in the role of VP of Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel after a promotion last Spring, comes from a scouting background having served as the director of amateur scouting for seven years in LA, presiding over the following drafts for Los Angeles:

DraftNum.RoundPlayerPosDrafted FromGPGAPtsPIM
2013 Entry372Valentin ZykovRBaie-Comeau Drakkar [QMJHL]
2013 Entry1034Justin AugerRGuelph Storm [OHL]
2013 Entry1184Hudson FaschingRU.S. National Development Team [USHL]
2013 Entry1465Patrik BartosakGRed Deer Rebels [WHL]
2013 Entry1485Jonny BrodzinskiCSt. Cloud State [WCHA]
2013 Entry1786Zac LeslieDGuelph Storm [OHL]
2013 Entry1917Dominik KubalikLSudbury Wolves [OHL]
2012 Entry301Tanner PearsonLBarrie Colts [OHL]671582322
2012 Entry1214Nikolay ProkhorkinLCSKA Moscow [KHL]
2012 Entry1515Colin MillerDSault Ste. Marie Greyhounds [OHL]
2012 Entry1716Tomas HykaRGatineau Olympiques [QMJHL]
2012 Entry1816Paul LadueDLincoln Stars [USHL]
2012 Entry2117Nick EbertDWindsor Spitfires [OHL]
2011 Entry492Christopher GibsonGChicoutimi Sagueneens [QMJHL]
2011 Entry803Andy AndreoffLOshawa Generals [OHL]1821318
2011 Entry823Nick ShoreFU. of Denver [WCHA]3416710
2011 Entry1104Michael MerschFU. of Wisconsin [WCHA]
2011 Entry1405Joel LowryFVictoria Grizzlies [BCHL]
2011 Entry2007Michael SchumacherLFrolunda Jr. [Sweden]
2010 Entry151Derek ForbortDU.S. National Development Team [USHL]
2010 Entry472Tyler ToffoliROttawa 67's [OHL]14837468349
2010 Entry703Jordan WealCRegina Pats [WHL]
2010 Entry1485Kevin GravelDSioux City Musketeers [USHL]
2010 Entry1586Maxim KitsynLNovokuznetsk Metallurg [KHL]
2009 Entry51Brayden SchennCBrandon Wheat Kings [WHL]2745876134146
2009 Entry352Kyle CliffordLBarrie Colts [OHL]356283563483
2009 Entry843Nicolas DeslauriersLRouyn-Noranda Huskies [QMJHL]996101689
2009 Entry954Jean-Francois BerubeGMontreal Juniors [QMJHL]
2009 Entry964Linden VeyRMedicine Hat Tigers [WHL]9310192918
2009 Entry1265David KolomatisDOwen Sound Attack [OHL]
2009 Entry1566Michael PelechCMississauga St. Michael's Majors [OHL]
2009 Entry1796Brandon KozunRCalgary Hitmen [WHL]202246
2009 Entry1867Jordan NolanCSault Ste. Marie Greyhounds [OHL]194161329182
2009 Entry1987Nic DowdCWenatchee Wild [NAHL]
2008 Entry21Drew DoughtyDGuelph Storm [OHL]52466201267403
2008 Entry131Colten TeubertDRegina Pats [WHL]2401125
2008 Entry322Vyacheslav VoynovDChelyabinsk Traktor [Russia]19018638172
2008 Entry633Robert CzarnikCUS National Under 18 Team
2008 Entry743Andrew CampbellDSault Ste. Marie Greyhounds [OHL]3601110
2008 Entry883Geordie WudrickLSwift Current Broncos [WHL]
2008 Entry1235Andrei LoktionovCYaroslavl Jrs. (Russia)15522264822
2008 Entry1536Justin AzevedoCKitchener Rangers [OHL]
2008 Entry1837Garrett RoeLSt. Cloud State [WCHA]
2007 Entry41Thomas HickeyDSeattle Thunderbirds [WHL]2027414868
2007 Entry522Oscar MollerRChilliwack Bruins [WHL]8712142622
2007 Entry612Wayne SimmondsROwen Sound Attack [OHL]524139145284632
2007 Entry823Bryan CameronRBelleville Bulls [OHL]
2007 Entry954Alec MartinezDMiami University (Ohio) [CCHA]25929487762
2007 Entry1094Dwight KingLLethbridge Hurricanes [WHL]23837438062
2007 Entry1245Linden RowatGRegina Pats [WHL]
2007 Entry1375Joshua "Podge" TurnbullCWaterloo Black Hawks [USHL]
2007 Entry1847Josh KiddDErie Otters [OHL]
2007 Entry1887Matt FillierLSt. John's Fog Devils [QMJHL]

Futa started as an assistant GM and assistant coach for the Oshawa Generals before becoming the GM of the Owen Sound Attack for five seasons starting in 2002. In 2004-05, the Attack had their best season in franchise history at the time with a 40-18-7-3 record, for which Futa was awarded OHL Executive of the Year honours. While a perennial playoff team, the Attack never made it past the second round with Futa at the helm.

Among his most notable achievements with Owen Sound, he was credited with talking Bobby Ryan into taking the OHL route when he first arrived. He also convinced the undrafted Mike Giordano into coming to play for the Attack instead of attending York University in 2002. That worked out better than okay and Giordano later named him as the most influential person on his career.

NHLers to come from those Attack teams include Ryan, Giordano, Wayne Simmonds (Futa’s likely the reason the Kings later grabbed him in the third round), Josh Bailey, Trevor Lewis, Andrej Sekera, Bob Sanguinettii and Brad Richardson

For a regime that is going to be religious about emphasizing draft and development, he really does seem to fit the bill quite well on paper. It’s unlikely someone of Peter Chiarelli’s experience (just an example, should be become available), a proven winner in the GM’s role, is going to jump at an opportunity to answer to a rookie NHL exec in Shanahan, and on certain matters defer to a cast of assistant GMs he didn’t hire.

As McKenzie points out, the likes of Brad Treliving, Marc Bergevin, Jim Nill and Jim Benning all traveled this path in the recent past, going from the assistant GM’s role with successful organizations into the head GM role with project teams. The Leafs tried their hand with proven winners in Brian Burke and Randy Carlyle, while Nonis arrived with executive experience (in the GM’s role specifically) of his own. Experience isn’t always consonant with high-level competence.

Futa seems to walk a nice line amid all these considerations. He’s worked with an NHL team for eight years and that’s plenty more than the current Leafs front office personnel combined. He’s got two Cup rings to show for it. He checks a lot of the right boxes and seems to mesh well with what’s already in place.

As the Leafs front office seems to be taking on a more collaborative structure (the way many teams are going), one consideration is that his influence in Toronto may not be much of a step up from what he is doing in Los Angeles now, if at all given he was recently promoted to a significant role as the VP of Hockey Ops and the Director of Player Personnel. It’s not like he would be going to a team, taking the reigns and moulding things in his image. He would be expected to slide in and work within the hierarchy Shanahan has established with Kyle Dubas, Mark Hunter and Brandon Pridham.

But Futa is a Toronto native and still lives here for parts of the year, and there’s something to be said for the power of the title of GM. The team may suck currently, but serving as GM in the “Vatican of hockey” is a major honour and a draw to any competitive person in this line of work.

There will be many names batted around in the coming days and weeks in the search for candidates to replace Dave Nonis. We don’t have any clue as to his availability and at what cost it would come in terms of executive compensation, but Futa does seem like a pretty good one.

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Brendan Shanahan Leafs President
PHOTO: PETER J. THOMPSON/NATIONAL POST

Brendan Shanahan has continued the organizational overhaul with the dismissal of Director of Pro Scouting Steve Kasper and Director of Player Development Jimmy Hughes, with a number of scouts expected to be dismissed shortly as well.

Last summer we spoke to Kasper, and here’s one of the most notable quotes worth revisiting:

AB: Does the pro scouting staff measure players with anything other than their “eyeballs”? Does the team use any statistical metrics within their database of players?

SK: No, we are not using a statistical analysis. I am not saying there’s not room for that in the game, but sometimes a player’s contribution does not always show up on a stat sheet. I know a statistical analysis isn’t simply looking at goals and assists, but sometimes a player can play his best game and you don’t see his name anywhere on the scoresheet. My own personal belief is that I like to be there live and see a game myself.

Kyle Dubas recently spoke at the SAS analytics conference about the need for all levels of management and coaching to be on the same page on their thinking processes when it comes to implementing a more analytical approach to decision making. Clearly, Kasper was more of the old management’s paradigm. That’s reason enough to move on.

The pro scouts have done a few good things over the years. Identifying JvR’s potential was one. The Leafs have also grabbed some good bargains late on in the offseason the past few years (to what degree those were a credit to pro scouting, who knows).  While Bernier has not had the year many wanted, that’s a trade most don’t take back for a goaltender most fans didn’t think the Leafs needed at the time.

But the failure to identify what they were actually getting in Clarkson — he wasn’t the power forward he was billed as, and the pro scouting staff missed that he was the product of being in the right place at the right time with two great linemates, and that he couldn’t play top 6 anywhere else — was a massive pro scouting pitfall.

As for the amateur side, Dave Morrison is expected to be retained. It could be because the draft is approaching and to completely rid of the amateur scouts who have been scouting the 2015 draft class all year would put the team at a disadvantage. Morrison’s long-term future isn’t known to us yet, other than he’s staying on for now.

But Morrison can also stand by his work in terms of the number of NHLers the Leafs have drafted. 2006 was when Dave Morrison was promoted to his Director of Amateur Scouting position:

While some don’t like some of the Leafs safer picks late in the first round and in the 2nd – rightfully so in the case of Biggs, Ross to name a few – the primary issue has come in the number of picks the Leafs have traded away, despite never being a playoff team. (Also, in terms of second round picks, the Leafs traded Jimmy Hayes, their 2nd rounder in 2008, and clearly gave up there too early).

The Leafs have done fairly well between picks 5 and 10 in the draft order with Kadri, Rielly, and the early returns on Nylander. There are no sure bet picks once out of the top 5, so that’s worth noting. They’ve also been pretty productive over the years with late round finds.

Here are some of the relevant statistics.

As for the development side, the Senators are currently going to the playoffs with big contributions from a number of young players who were groomed in their development system and have emerged in a big way, just to name one example from around the League. The Leafs simply haven’t graduated enough players through their system who have gone on to emerge and become impact players with the big club. For that, Director of Player Development Jim Hughes is no longer with the organization. The Leafs have had some promising-looking players knock on the door – Leivo and Percy, for instance – but the breakthroughs just haven’t happened yet from anywhere outside their top 10 picks in Kadri and Rielly.

While Morrison and some of his scouts will remain, it does look like Mark Hunter will revamp the scouting staffs and begin bringing his guys on board. More to come.

 

Dylan Strome vs Mitch Marner - Maple Leafs

With Connor McDavid on the sidelines (resting for the playoffs), Dylan Strome put together a six-point afternoon versus Niagara yesterday, including four goals, to capture the OHL scoring title from Mitch Marner’s grasp.

With both putting up fantastic draft year seasons and Marner technically still edging Strome on points per game, the debate as to who goes fourth behind the consensus top 3 of Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin is unlikely to rest anytime before the draft. And as we’re all well aware, their current fourth overall draft standing places the Leafs central to that debate.

Strome vs. Marner has been written about a lot in the online hockey world already, but it’s worth an update now that the OHL regular season is in the books. Another chapter is soon to be written as London and Erie embark on their 2015 playoff bids.

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Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It could fairly be depicted as a seller’s market this past deadline season, but only in the context of cap uncertainty going forward, with the big unknowns of whether the players will opt for the escalator and where the upper limit might track with the strength of the Canadian dollar.

The result? A heavy majority of deals around the deadline featured expiring contracts or at the most one more year of term on the player’s contract.

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CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 14: Tim Erixon #34 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Lance Bouma #17 of the Calgary Flames get physical in front of goalie Antti Raanta #31 during the NHL game at the United Center on December 14, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Leafs have decided to take a flyer on 24-year-old defenceman Tim Erixon, claiming him off waivers from the Chicago Blackhawks.

Erixon’s a former 2009 first round pick of the Calgary Flames who hasn’t found a stable spot in the League yet. He is an RFA at season’s end.

Tim Erixon Scouting Report

A strong, aggressive rearguard .. all-around type .. moves well in all directions, propelled by a long, powerful stride.. handles pressure well ... initiates physical contact and knows how to apply his large, sturdy frame .. proactive rushing the puck, relying on his skating and reach advantage .. not a natural possession type - can get let down by his first touch .. does make smart pinches and is quite assertive supporting the rush .. tends to over extend himself however - on both sides of the puck .. must learn to be patient defending 1 on 1 .. positioning can still be scattered - in part due to a propensity to swirl in arcs - and get angled the wrong way .. does possess strong recovery, including a good active stick and solid shot-block technique .. closes gaps quickly, underscored by a rangy upper body .. must continue to improve strength and physical efficiency.
 - Gus Katsaros, McKeen's Hockey

Chicago had previously traded forward Jeremy Morin for Erixon earlier this season after Morin, productive for several seasons in the AHL, couldn’t find the opportunity he wanted on a deep Blackhawks team. Erixon played only eight games for the Blackhawks since that mid-December trade, getting spot duty as their seventh defenceman and averaging only 9:59 in time on ice over those games.

In addition to Morin (who, with this waiver claim, now effectively went for nothing), Chicago’s moved four defencemen 25 and under in the last month — the Leafs have grabbed two, with the TJ Brennan for Spencer Abbott trade and this latest pickup of Erixon off waivers, while Klaus Dahlbeck was traded in the Vermette deal. They also flipped defenceman Adam Clendening, 36th overall pick in 2011, for long-term project and 2014 5th round pick Gustav Forsling as Clendening was approaching waiver eligibility.

The Leafs are almost definitely going to be offloading another defenceman or two themselves by the deadline based on these two moves. Korbinian Holzer has been showcased as of late, last night getting a chance on a top pairing with Dion Phaneuf in 19:33 of icetime. Holzer is likely a 2:30 p.m. proposition  at tomorrow’s deadline for potential suitors should other depth options fall through. He hasn’t looked half bad this season, but at 27 and replacement level, the Leafs will grab a pick if they can.

Roman Polak’s been identified as the type of veteran the Leafs wouldn’t mind keeping around in what is likely to be another lean season next year, but, without a second round pick in 2015, the Leafs should jump at the chance to grab one if that type of value is out there for Polak. If they’re unable to get the pick or what they feel is equivalent value (prospect or what have you), the Leafs may hold on as he can always be moved next deadline.

Erixon, meanwhile, is a why-not addition with no commitment beyond season’s end. He’s on the right side of 25 still and has only appeared in 78 NHL games, so essentially one full season. There’s some tools here with his size, skating and puck moving ability, although obviously some big holes too given he’s a former first rounder who has bounced around a lot in his young career.

(The Leafs’ Twitter account is using advanced stats now since the NHL.com launch! SAT% = Shot Attempt Percentage/Corsi For%).

As Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos likes to say, “it’s a free look,” and the Leafs should be able to offer some opportunity and minutes to Erixon in the final 20 games.

Steve Staios on Tim Erixon claim:

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Dion Phaneuf Panthers
SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 10: Dion Phaneuf #3 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates in on goal with the puck against goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on April 10, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The only real rumour buzzing as we approach Noon Eastern is rumblings of Dion Phaneuf to the Red Wings (nothing close).

It would be somewhat surprising if the Leafs can find best-possible value for Phaneuf, inked for 6 more years at $7 million a season, at the deadline and not in the offseason, when the summer cap might expand the market to include some more suitors.

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Columbus Blue Jackets' Nathan Horton, playing his first game of the season, waits for the drop of the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

As Leafs fans rightfully celebrate not having to watch David Clarkson play hockey for 5 more years while taking up $5.25 million a season of their team’s cap space, here’s a basic reminder of how LTIR works now that the injured Nathan Horton is getting paid by the Leafs organization.

Placing a player on Long Term Injured Reserve does not remove a cap hit altogether. In cases of LTIR, the cap hit is still technically on the books and the team is granted an exemption that allows them to exceed the cap by upwards of the full amount of the injured player’s cap hit (this doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s new cap limit is the cap ceiling + the full amount of the injured player’s cap hit).

SP-MARLIES? TORONTO, ON- OCTOBER 20 - Marlies defenceman T.J. Brennan (3) comes over the boards into the action during the game. The Toronto Marlies defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 2-1 at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, October 20, 2013. David Cooper/Toronto Star

The Leafs have re-acquired defenceman TJ Brennan in exchange for forward Spencer Abbott.

The Leafs re-signed Abbott, a former free agent signing out of college, while letting Brennan go last July, and have evidently decided to reverse their decision with this trade.. After an All-Star AHL season with 69 points in 66 games (and 11 more points in 11 playoff games), a season which included his first NHL game as a callup, Abbott took a considerable step back this season and, turning 27 in a few months, doesn’t appear to have a future at the highest level. Reasonably skilled but undersized and not particularly quick, Abbott has long been caught in a position where he isn’t physically-imposing enough to carve out a role for himself in the bottom end of the roster, and doesn’t appear to have the speed or NHL chops to crack a roster as a top 9 forward.

Tyler Bozak, Morgan Rielly
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 05: Tyler Bozak #42 of the Toronto Maple Leafs (R) scores at 1:51 of overtime to defeat the New York Rangers 3-2 at Madison Square Garden on March 5, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

With the Daniel Winnik trade goes the Leafs’ most consistent player of the past couple of months, as the Leafs get necessarily worse in the short term while fetching good value for their final major pending-UFA (Jokinen, Holzer and Booth could be moved, but if there’s any value to be had is unknown).

Roman Polak, with one year left on his contract, seems to be the most likely remaining candidate to be moved for value, while Tyler Bozak’s name has been gaining steam as well, with Bob McKenzie reporting a possible New York Rangers connection yesterday. The Rangers don’t ostensibly have the cap room, but Glen Sather has proven daring enough time and again, should he really want to make something happen. The Rangers are in a bit of an unknown spot with Mats Zuccarello in contract talks and his name has been floated in the rumour mill recently, with Elliotte Friedman reporting the following yesterday:

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Dion Phaneuf, Nazem Kadri
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 5: Dion Phaneuf #3 and Nazem Kadri #43 of the Toronto Maple Leafs battle for the puck with Zach Redmond #25 of the Winnipeg Jets as goalie Ondrej Pavelec #31 reaches for the puck during NHL game action April 5, 2014 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Maple Leafs hit game #60 of the season tonight – roughly the three-quarters pole – which has Toronto fans going, “there’s still 22 more of these?”

Storylines:

  • The Jets are one of a collection of teams rumoured to be interested in adding Daniel Winnik at the deadline, for whatever that’s worth.
  • The Leafs mustered zero shots on four powerplay opportunities last night and just six scoring chances over the final 40 minutes, as their ineptitude during this protracted slump keeps finding new ways to express itself.
  • Similar to last night’s opponent in the Hurricanes, the Leafs have been dominated in this matchup in recent times, losing their last five consecutive to the Jets.
  • Tyler Myers has four points in four games since the trade to Winnipeg. Drew Stafford has one goal since the move from Buffalo.
  • The Jets are 4-4-2 in their last 10 and that won’t be good enough to keep pace in the Western wildcard race with the surging Kings (winners of six in a row) and Minnesota Wild (8-2 in their last 10) nipping at their heels. No question who the hungrier team should be tonight.

Lineup Notes: Jonathan Bernier will start in this second half of the back to back; he lost his lone career start against the Jets back in 2011 with LA, but stopped 26 of 27… Joffrey Lupul returns to the lineup after his latest injury and is expected to start on the fourth line with David Booth and Peter Holland.

Tank Coordinates: A Leaf loss combined with a Carolina win over New Jersey tonight would move the Leafs into fourth from the bottom (9.5% lottery probability).

Winnipeg Jets Projected Lines

Andrew Ladd – Bryan Little – Blake Wheeler
Dustin Byfuglien – Mark Scheifele – Drew Stafford
Chris Thorburn – Adam Lowry – Michael Frolik
Carl Klingberg – Jim Slater – Anthony Peluso

Ben Chiarot – Adam Pardy
Toby Enstrom – Tyler Myers
Mark Stuart – Jacob Trouba

Michael Hutchinson
Ondrej Pavelec

Scratched: Jay Harrison, Paul Postma
Injured: Grant Clitsome (back), Matt Halischuk (lower body), Mathieu Perreault (lower body)

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Daniel Winnik – Nazem Kadri – Richard Panik
Leo Komarov – Olli Jokinen – David Clarkson
Joffrey Lupul – Peter Holland – Booth/Kozun

Morgan Rielly – Roman Polak
Jake Gardiner – Korbinian Holzer
Petter Granberg – Stephane Robidas

James Reimer
Jonathan Bernier

Scratched: TBA
Injured: Dion Phaneuf (hand), Trevor Smith (upper body)

Status report: The Maple Leafs returned defenseman Andrew MacWilliam to the Toronto of the American Hockey League. With Lupul returning to the lineup, Kozun will be a healthy scratch… Wheeler took a shot on the leg Thursday but will play, according to the Winnipeg Sun. (NHL.com)

Who’s hot: Kozun scored his first NHL goal Friday … Ladd has points in his past three games for the Jets (two goals, assist). (NHL.com)

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BESTPIX RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 14: Tyler Bozak #42 of the Toronto Maple checks Jay Harrison #44 of the Carolina Hurricanes during play at PNC Arena on February 14, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

In their last visit to Raleigh, a week before Christmas, the Maple Leafs were riding a six-game winning streak, sitting 19-9-3, two points out of the Atlantic Division lead with two games in hand on Tampa Bay.

Before that last visit with the Hurricanes, we wrote:

There’s also a parallel to last season here that can serve as a cautionary tale: The Leafs beat the Kings and Ducks amid their hottest streak of 2013-14, and proceeded to lose to a struggling Capitals team, the start of their epic collapse. Win streaks can’t last forever and a loss on a weekday visit to Carolina in game 32 of the season wouldn’t technically be the end of the world, but it’s funny how quickly good wins over good teams can be erased by bad losses to bad teams.

In the intervening 27 games, the Leafs have collected a total of 10 points over a remarkably inept 4-21-2 stretch that has the Leafs sitting 26th in the League eight weeks later. Amazing to think about.

This game represents a potential four-point swing in the lottery race. A loss to the Hurricanes in regulation tonight puts the Canes two points behind the Leafs with two games in hand, edging the Leafs closer to fourth last in the League, also known as the fourth overall pick and a 9.5% probability in the lottery.

The Leafs have been dominated in recent seasons by the Hurricanes, losing eight of their last nine versus the Canes, usually having no solution for the Staal matchups at center ice.

Lineup Notes: Still no Dion Phaneuf, who experienced a setback with his hand injury. James Reimer will start in net as the Leafs look for only their second win against he Hurricanes in their last nine meetings. Andrew MacWilliam was recalled as an extra body for the trip, but is expected to watch from the pressbox. Cam Ward is expected to start for the Canes; he’s posted a 15-9-2 record, with a .910 save percentage and a 2.73 goals-against average, against the Leafs, including two shutouts.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Daniel Winnik – Nazem Kadri – Richard Panik
Leo Komarov – Olli Jokinen – David Clarkson
David Booth – Peter Holland – Brandon Kozun

Morgan Rielly – Roman Polak
Jake Gardiner – Korbinian Holzer
Petter Granberg – Stephane Robidas

James Reimer
Jonathan Bernier

Scratched: Andrew MacWilliam
Injured: Joffrey Lupul (upper body), Dion Phaneuf (hand), Trevor Smith (upper body)

Carolina Hurricanes Projected Lines

Eric Staal – Jordan Staal – Jiri Tlusty
Jeff Skinner – Riley Nash – Alexander Semin
Nathan Gerbe – Victor Rask – Elias Lindholm
Brad Malone – Jay McClement – Andrej Nestrasil

Andrej Sekera – Justin Faulk
Tim Gleason – John-Michael Liles
Ron Hainsey – Brett Bellemore

Cam Ward
Anton Khudobin

Scratched: Patrick Dwyer, Chris Terry
Injured: Ryan Murphy (lower body)

Status report: Toronto called up MacWilliam, but coach Peter Horachek did not say if the 24-year-old would make his NHL debut. “We just want to make sure we’re in a good place if one of the other guys can’t go,” he said. … Dwyer will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season, along with Terry. “There’s two guys who come out who don’t deserve to in essence, but that’s the way it is,” Peters said. (NHL.com)

Who’s hot: Kadri had two assists in a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. … Nestrasil has two goals and two assists in his past three games. … Skinner has three goals in his past four games. (NHL.com)

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Joffrey Lupul Seidenberg
Photo: NHLI via Getty Images

After practice today, Jonas Siegel pulled Joffrey Lupul aside for a one-on-one chat about the buzz of a major rebuild in Leafland. The most candid and thoughtful interviewee on the team had a few interesting things to say.

I don’t really get it, blow it up. We’re just going to restart with a complete new group with four new guys next year and try to finish last? I don’t think that… I haven’t spoken to management at all, but I’m sure that’s not their idea. You can play a bunch of young guys and lose all year, who is to say that those young guys are going to develop? I think it is maybe more of a media-driven thing. There’s trade rumours on every guy in here, so who are we going to put on the ice next year?

You need veteran players, you need Polaks and Robidas, and you can’t just throw out a team of young guys and say well we’re going to get our ass kicked this year and we’ll be better next year. And it could hurt guys’ development big time, I think.

They’re all very good young players [in Edmonton], but it’s probably wearing on them not being on a good team however long Taylor Hall has been in the league.

Joffrey Lupul has made a few important points here that sometimes get lost in the scorched-earth narratives.

Here’s the thing: Tanking is a teardown strategy, not a team building strategy. Draft and development, asset management (trades/free agency) and cap management are three core pillars of team building, and it doesn’t matter where you draft, those things have to be done well to succeed.

Boston and Detroit have won in recent years without high-high picks (of their own), while Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Chicago have all benefited to varying degrees from drafting high after lean years. There’s little doubting it’s very difficult to get elite talent anywhere but the top of the draft, and the Leafs have to really get it right this year. And for that reason they should make sure they’re an even worse team after the deadline. This is a big opportunity and there’s no guarantee that the Leafs will draft this low again. This draft class has considerable hype, to boot.

Of course, there’s also the list of the teams that have drafted high and failed. There’s simply no definitive blueprint – finish this low for this number of years, draft this many players, and you’ll be good in this many years – that exists.

The point about Edmonton is oft cited, and one of the many things it tells us – and what Lupul is espousing – is that proper insulation while bringing along young assets is imperative. You don’t want to overexpose your young players, in the Toronto market especially. The same media that is beating the scorched-earth drum will rip some of these youngsters apart during the learning curves and cold streaks. You don’t want players getting roles and icetime handed to them they haven’t yet earned. You have to make the tough decisions, ones that don’t immediately sell jerseys and hope to fans, when you know a young stud needs more time in a feeder league. You don’t want to waste entry-level years on lost seasons and expedite the big paydays on your marquee young players. You need the right veterans around setting the tone, demanding accountability, and teaching the right work ethic and habits.

There’s tonnes of dramatic rhetoric swirling around this market right now, but there’s pieces here that can be part of the solution long term, and there might be some pieces here who would be useful to keep around for a few more years while the team transitions.

More than anything, if the Leafs do a full reset (Phaneuf and Kessel out the door, along with the rest of the usual candidates), this is the reality: Committing hard to years of drafting and development is never as glamorous as it sounds. Short of a miracle that gets the Leafs Connor McDavid and having him jump into the lineup next season – instantly transforming a team like only a generational talent like a Crosby can, and even then… – this is going to be arduous and improvement/hope is not always going to be readily apparent.

SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 28: Roman Polak #46 of the Toronto Maple Leafs scores a goal against Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on December 28, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

In a league where contenders are looking for defence, there’s interest in Toronto’s Roman Polak. The Los Angeles Kings, who have discussed Dion Phaneuf, are in on this too, but they are not alone. It probably comes down to a.) price and b.) how a potential trade partner feels about term.

Polak has one more year left on his contract at $2.75 million. Even in a tight cap world, there are teams who prefer multiple years if giving up an asset.

If the offers are less than a 2nd round pick, keeping Roman Polak around for another season — a good veteran player with some game, who sets the right example amid a rebuild — might make sense, but without a second in the 2015 draft the Leafs have to make the move if they can get one. The 2nd round in particular is the money round where the good scouting can really separate itself from the bad, and it makes too much sense not to grab one in what has to be a big draft year for the management team and scouting staff. It would be nice to have a couple once the deadline passes, and zero is unacceptable.

There are wildly divergent opinions on whether or not Florida is serious about Phil Kessel. Some yes, more no, but remember one thing: the Panthers took a very hard line with Vancouver during the Roberto Luongo negotiations. They refused to part with their best prospects, and would not make the deal until it was on their terms.

Well, this isn’t anything close to the Roberto Luongo situation, who carries one of the more ridiculous contracts in the League and needed out of Vancouver. The Leafs in no shape or form should cave to another team’s idea of Kessel’s value if it isn’t commensurate with that of an elite scorer.

Toronto should expect no different treatment. By the way, Kessel has eight he can be traded to. Dion Phaneuf has 10 and Tyler Bozak has 12. Those can be altered, if the player wishes to do so.

Just an FYI here for those unsure about the constraints of the individual no-trade clauses. There seems to be some serious smoke around Bozak in particular right now, and thankfully his list isn’t too limiting, though it definitely doesn’t help.

Thursday Links:

  • Elliotte Friedman: 30 Thoughts — Fedorov could be future NHL GM (Sportsnet.ca)
    There are several GMs concerned the players will not use their five per cent escalator to raise the salary cap next season. That’s going to make the trade market even tighter.
  • Alec Brownscombe: The Leafs shouldn’t retain a dollar of Phil Kessel’s contract (MLHS)
    If Kessel has to go for a rebuilding Leafs team to improve in the long haul, in hopes of shoring up its deep weaknesses at the vital C and D positions with some young assets, then so be it; we’ll take our medicine. However, if Dave Nonis and Brendan Shanahan want to move Phil Kessel and have to retain salary for 7 more seasons to move him for good value, it’s because they aren’t doing their jobs. 
  • Anthony PetriellI: Leafs Notebook — February 17 (MLHS)
    The draft represents the greatest opportunity for the Leafs to improve. Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas will have first-handed knowledge of players going back to their bantam AAA years, and right now the Leafs have a top 10 pick in the making, a late 1st, and their 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th rounders. That’s not nearly good enough to have a huge draft. This trade was a solid start, but the work is far from over.
  • James Mirtle: Leafs need to focus on bringing in talent (TSN 1050)
    James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail joins Dave Naylor and Dave Feschuk to discuss the Leafs current roster and what they might do in the coming weeks approaching the trade deadline.
  • Crlaitken: Did the Maple Leafs learn their lesson? (Pension Plan Puppets)
    Since the corporate message is now one of acceptance that the Leafs are a bad team, the spin has changed from it being all about how awful people our players are to how this time the team is going to be rebuilt right, with patience and drafting and development. After all, we know that devotion to putting a terrible product on the ice and just waiting for the #1 picks to roll in is a panacea that guarantees future success. This is why theEdmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers should be hooking up to contest the Stanley Cup in a few short months although we shouldn’t count out those pesky Colorado Avalanche or Columbus Blue Jackets. No, the Maple Leafs are going to “do this rebuild right”, a thought so hilariously obtuse and devoid of any actual meaning that people could say the Leafs plan for this rebuild is “purple monkey dishwasher” and it would provide just as much insight into their future plans.
  • Michael Traikos: Leafs hope Olli Jokinen can bring positive attitude to team steeped in ‘negative energy’ (National Post)
    The 36-year-old, who was acquired by the Maple Leafs on Sunday in a multi-player trade with the first-place Nashville Predators, said even he was taken aback by the defeatist attitude inside his new dressing room.
  • Luke Fox: Why Maple Leafs’ Jokinen cut 14 inches of hair (Sportsnet.ca)
    The 36-year-old father of three girls had a date circled on his calendar, Feb. 13, when he would chop his mane and donate it to Pantene in Tennessee, which weaves real-hair wigs for children losing their own hair to chemotherapy.
  • Brandon Worley: Dion Phaneuf to the Dallas Stars? Don’t bet on it (Defending Big D)
    It would be an incredible commitment for the Stars to have to make without ever being able to determine how he’d actually fit in Dallas — that’s a six-plus year gamble you’re making on a player that has been pretty bad for a terrible Maple Leafs team the past few years.

 

Tweet of the Day

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Phil Kessel vs LA Kings
Photo: NHLI via Getty Images

I’ve been listening to more hockey talk radio than I usually do in the past week or so – as a Leafs fan, trade rumours are nearly all I have left in terms of a stake in the 2014-15 season — and I’ve been surprised by the common refrain suggesting the Maple Leafs will have to retain salary if they’re to trade the remaining 7 years and $54 million of Phil Kessel’s contract for good value (should they move him in the off season).

As I just stated, this isn’t only in regards to a potential move before the deadline, when the cap logistics figure to squeeze a high number of otherwise-interested buyers out of the running, but insiders like Pierre LeBrun seem to be suggesting it will still be the case when rosters are more fluid and teams aren’t required to be one-hundred-percent cap compliant in the summer.