Saturday, May 30, 2015
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Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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Founded in 2008, Maple Leafs Hotstove (MLHS) has grown to be the most visited unofficial team-focused hockey website online (Quantcast). Independently owned and operated, MLHS provides thorough and wide ranging content, varying from news, opinion and analysis, to pre-game and long-form game reviews, a weekly feature piece, the "Leafs Notebook", along with a Web TV show the "Maple Leaf Hangout".

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Olli Jokinen makes his Leaf debut tonight hoping it’s his first and fifth-last game in Toronto.

The Leafs and Jokinen both will be pulling for the same thing, which is that he returns to his natural center ice position and convinces some GM tout there that he could be of some use to a team in the playoff mix down the stretch as a veteran depth player. From there, the Leafs might be able to grab a late conditional pick that’s dependent on playoff results. It would be nice  to get him out of the way of Holland and Carrick and get those two more minutes in the final 25 games.

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Pierre Lebrun

Pierre Lebrun joined the Bryan Hayes Show to discuss, among other things, the Kessel to Florida rumour.

How real is the Panthers-Kessel connection?
Let’s go through this together. I can tell you, from sources in both front offices, there have not been any conversations between the two teams concerning Phil Kessel. Having said that, if you’re going to look for a team to get into the mix — and I think this is a June conversation more than anything — the Panthers have a tonne of cap room, a new owner, have had trouble scoring this year, and I think Tallon has always been fond of Kessel. I would suggest, if this conversation ever happens between Tallon and Nonis, that they’re going to say they are not giving up any grade A talent for this guy.

Is that the same impression elsewhere?
There are Phil Kessel lovers in the league. Who is the President of Hockey Ops in Calgary? [Brian Burke]. The Kessel derby gets going in the summer and it wouldn’t surprise me if Calgary at least looks into it. He’s not GM and he would adhere to Brad Treliving, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were a part of that mix. I know a few other teams that would be in that have asked not be named. I think what’s going to be interesting is this, when the time comes on Kessel: Is this going to be about simply getting rid of the contract and getting little in turn, or if the Leafs are willing to eat some of the contract and then get something in return, because he is a very good offensive player. Those are two different transactions and I don’t think you’re pulling both off in one deal.

As low as people’s opinion is of Phil Kessel in some areas of this city, you’d be surprised what you hear from other teams. That’s not say they don’t agree 8 million a year is a lot.

On Dion Phaneuf:
I wrote this yesterday in my rumblings blog, if Toronto phoned Detroit tomorrow and said Phaneuf is now a 5.5 million player instead of a 7 million player, do we have a conversation? The answer would probably be yes, they’d be intrigued by that conversation. What we’re hearing from our sources with the Leafs is that they’re not interested in eating contract right now.

Bob McKenzie on TSN Drive:

Olli Jokinen — Any chance they get some value for him?
I guess. Anything is possible. He hasn’t the kind of year that would generate a lot of interest, but you never know now; at the last moment someone might be sitting there who has lost out on this guy or that guy, feels like they want a veteran body, and they might get a little something something. I wouldn’t go to the bank on it.

Does him having next to zero playoff experience water down any attraction?
I think there’s an element to that. Mind you, internationally, for Finland, he’s been pretty good, and those are playoff type games. Our stats guy sent out a thing that showed people playing the most NHL games with least playoff experience and Olli is right up there. Only way you can get playoff experience is to get it and it’s kind of late in the game for Olli at this point.

Bob McKenzie joined TSN Drive with Dave Naylor on Sunday to discuss the Santorelli/Franson trade and the logistics of moving Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf:

On the trade:
The Leafs were angling to try to get a first round pick for Cody Franson. They probably wouldn’t have been able to get that on its own for just Franson, so they packaged Santorelli and they get a prospect in Brendan Leipsic and a first round pick, which is a good days work under the circumstances. They obviously took the contract of Jokinen back and will try to dispense that if they can. If not, they will just play out the string with Olli.

The blueprint for moving Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf:
A lot of it depends on their contracts. The fact that they have so many years left with so much money left tends to devalue them a little bit, or maybe a lot. It’s hard to say, especially in context of between now and the deadline because no one knows what the cap is going to be. It’s really complicated, teams are fearful of making that type of move by the deadline. Not to say it can’t happen, but it’s not likely.

The blueprint for players, the good players in the NHL, whether it’s Evander Kane who is 23, or if it’s Phaneuf, who is 29, or Kessel, who is a bit younger, the general rule of thumb is that you want a good player back, a really good prospect, and a first round pick. That’s the textbook of any individual good player in the NHL that’s in his prime. Three elements: First round pick, high prospect, and a good player. It’s obviously a sliding scale depending on a lot of different factors. It’s harder to get that for the player if they have that many years left with that much money. A $7 million cap hit for Phaneuf, $8 million for Kessel, tends to devalue the return because teams tend to say, “sure we’ll take Dion or Phil. They’re not playing very well right now, obviously Dion’s hurt, Phil hasn’t had a great season but he has great numbers over a number of years, sure we’ll take your player but it’s got to be a soft deal. In other words, you’re going to pay the price for us taking on that contract.” The biggest thing you’re getting back is cap space, not actual returns on the players, or varying degrees of it. That’s the problem you run into: You’re selling low.

Will they retain salary?
The problem they’re going to run to is that they’re in a cap crunch. They’ve got the Clarkson contract, Robidas contract, Gleason they’re still paying out; that’s 10-12 million dollars that is eating up cap space on players that aren’t playing nearly as well (or at all) as the Leafs hoped they would. It’s tough to take back salary, and that’s the other element: There will be teams who say they, “yeah we are interested in Dion, why don’t you take two or three million back, and we’ll give you a 2nd or a 3rd round pick and a prospect.” Suddenly, the Leafs are faced with the decision of how valuable is the space, how much are we eating, and what is the draft pick and the prospect.

How quickly can they be moved?
The trade deadline is difficult, not impossible, but extremely difficult. It’s more likely in the summer. Right now the Leafs, in the strongest manner of speaking, are at a strong disadvantage trying to move these guys. They’re not playing well, they’ve got lots of term left, and they’ve got lots of dollars left. What the Leafs need to do is wait to even out the playing field a little bit. The way the playing field evens out is for some team who thought they were going to go deep into the playoffs to get bounced in the first round. Suddenly now there’s a different dynamic and tone from the teams. “We thought we were pretty good but we aren’t as good as we thought we are, now we need to make some moves and one of those moves could be Dion or Phil.” At the best of times it’s going to be a tough deal to negotiate and navigate, but probably the best hope for Toronto is for some outrageous things to happen in the playoffs, for teams to get eliminated who thought they were better than they were.

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Dave Nonis in the stands at the morning skate at the ACC. (Rene Johnston/ Toronto Star)

Dave Nonis speaks to Hockey Central at Noon about rebuilding the Maple Leafs, the Franson & Santorelli trade, and more.


How long were you working on the trade?
Quite a while. We played in Nashville earlier in the month. I stayed behind and spent a couple of days, with Dave [Poile] and I after that just talking about potential of a deal involving various players, including the two we ended up moving. Dave is a very thoughtful guy who takes a long time to evaluate things. We spent a few days doing that and then over the next 10 days or so we continued talks. Once David was willing to put in certain pieces, which happened on Saturday in the Montreal during the game — we had a discussion between periods – it picked up pretty quick once he made the decision that this is what he wanted do and that he was going to put the pieces on the table.

How important was Brendan Leipsic to getting the deal done?
Very. We talked to a number of teams. We were in a position where we were looking to see what value was out there for these players. There were a number of teams that were offering a prospect as part of the package, but there is a difference between a name that is under contract and a real prospect and in some cases we were just getting a name. We got the player we thought had a chance to play, by no means a lock, but has a chance to play because of his skillset and determination and the way he plays the game. Once that was for sure, it made it a lot easier. Then, obviously going from a second [round pick] to a first was important to us.

What’s the plan for Olli Jokinen moving forward?
I was pretty open with Olli. He hasn’t played a lot there [in Nashville], I think he has played 40 something games, but very few down the middle, which is his natural position. That stage of your career, I think most people want a chance at the Cup. We are going to play him, we are going to get him ready to perform at the highest level he can, and if there’s a deal there that makes sense I wouldn’t be surprised if Olli ends up on a team that’s pushing for it. He can still play the game at a pretty high level. He had a good year last year, I think he had 18 goals last year, and I think for a stretch run he would be an ideal person. First and foremost, we need to get him playing and playing well, and I think he’s excited to get back in the middle instead of playing right wing.

I’m certain that Olli was looking at where they were in the standings, and even though he wasn’t playing a lot, there was a good chance he was going to have a good playoff run. So, for him, at this stage of his career, there’s go to be some level of disappointment it’s not going to be a playoff situation for him. If there was an opportunity to get him to a spot, I think guys like that deserve it. If you’ve played this long in the league and you know you don’t have many left, and you can get a guy to a spot where he has a chance to win, I think you always try to do that.

Have you had other similar conversations about moving players to playoff-bound clubs, like with Franson and Santorelli?
They knew when we started talking about potential contract extensions, and not that it as going poorly, but it wasn’t one where we were certain we were going to get a deal done, that’s for sure.  Both the players that we moved know that we like them, and that we’d always have them back. Two really good guys you’d love to have back on your team. But we were not in a position as we approach this deadline to take that chance. We took that chance a couple years ago with Tyler Bozak because we were in a playoff spot, but that’s different. This one, we’re looking from the outside and we are in a position where we are going to be selling for sure at the deadline and we were having a difficult time getting the contract done. So, you’re trying to put them in a good spot, and this is a spot both players were happy to go to. They know the city, the team, they have friends on the team, and I talked to both of them and they were both excited to get a chance to play in the post season.

 A report came out about the board giving you and Shanahan approval to scorch as much earth as possible.  Can you confirm that mandate?
No. I am not going to confirm anything that happens in this building in terms of discussions and things like that, but I will say nothing has really changed in terms of what we were looking at or are looking at, and what we are prepared to do. We’ve had a lot of discussion and we’ve developed a plan going forward; this goes back months. There also isn’t a firesale to get people out of here. If and when there are deals that make sense for us, whether it is free agency or trades, that will help us win and help us develop our team long term, we will do it. But there isn’t a time frame on it. Whenever I hear things like that, in terms of scorched earth or clean house, it’s not the way the league works. You have to get value if you are going to move players. There are players here who, despite the fact that we’ve gone through a very difficult time, there are players on this team that can be part of the solution, too, and you want to make sure you are taking your time and evaluating correctly in terms of moving pieces in and out.

Is there a feeling you need to adjust the core, given this has been four seasons in a row here there’s been some major slump?
I would say that, given where we are right now, it’s fair to say we have to make some changes. I also would say, regardless of changes we make, if we do trade a player, you want to make sure you are getting value for that player. That’s the most important thing. We don’t have players that have complete “no moves.” When we’ve signed someone we’ve made that point; for example, when we signed Phil Kessel, that day we made it clear that “yes, we signed Kessel long term, we think he is a good player” — I think he’s still top 20 in goals the League despite the fact that he’s having a difficult time lately – but he doesn’t have a full No Trade. We do have teams we can trade him to. You do have to have some flexibility to change your team and we have that.

How many conversations have you had regarding those type of players (core players)?
I would say some, I don’t know about significant, it might be too strong, but a number of them. Players that are that end of the pay scale usually get moved in the offseason if at all. There are very few that get moved during the season, but we have had discussions with other teams.

Peter Horachek, what do you say to him during a season and a stretch like this?
Peter’s been great. He hasn’t given up. He’s trying to get whatever he can out of the group. There have been some positive developments with him behind the bench in certain areas, but we haven’t had the success. When we made the change we headed out to California and played three really good games, and kept those teams – three of the top teams in the League – we kept he scoring chances to a minimum and had a lot ourselves, but we didn’t get a point. I think, from that point on, the players’ confidence was definitely waning at that point. But Pete’s worked hard, he hasn’t given up, he’s made a lot of changes to try to develop certain people and we’ve seen some positive elements in our game. Guys like Richard Panik I think have really improved and come a long way under Pete.

David Clarkson was scratched in a tough decision by Horachek, and he responded with his most intense game of the year on Saturday. Where do you think it hasn’t worked with Dave? What did you think of  [his game] Saturday?
David’s had some flashes of being the player that we know he can be, but it hasn’t come consistently. He knows that. There have been games where he has played like that, like he did in Montreal – without getting thrown out obviously – and played with an edge. The game in Ottawa before the All Star game comes to mind, where he was one of the best players on the ice. Consistency has not been there for him. I think you have to be honest and say that’s been the case. It’s not that he hasn’t been able to do it, it’s that he hasn’t done it on a regular basis. He has to if he’s going to have an impact on our team. In Montreal, I think he played hard, he didn’t deserve to get the penalties that he got. It was a call that I understand why they made it, but I think David was just trying to play an aggressive style that night.

How many balls do you have in the air, two weeks to the day of the March 2nd trade deadline?
We’ve got some, but I would expect, the way it looks right now, the deals that we have or that we will probably pull of between now and then will probably be closer if not on deadline day. That’s the way it is looking anyway. If someone steps up and makes us an offer we think is really fair we wouldn’t wait, we would do it, but I think that’s how it is going to play out. Obviously we want to drive ratings for you on that day, and we’ve got to make sure we keep something for you.

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NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 3: Mike Santorelli #25 of the Toronto Maple Leafs shoots the puck against Victor Bartley #64 and Seth Jones #3 of the Nashville Predators during an NHL game at Bridgestone Arena on February 3, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Maple Leafs have pulled the trigger on a few expiring contracts, sending Mike Santorelli and Cody Franson to Nashville for Olli Jokinen, Nashville’s 2015 first round pick and prospect Brendan Leipsic.

The first round pick is obviously the centerpiece and the must have in this deal as the Leafs begin their rebuild and commit to the draft. Right now it’s the 30th overall pick, and add in a mid-level prospect and a salary dump in Olli Jokinen for Franson plus Santorelli and the knee jerk reaction might see this return as underwhelming. What might have been underestimated, amid the talk of Franson’s big value as a right-handed point producer on the backend and so on, is that these are expiring contracts we’re dealing with and both players are looking for significant raises and term this summer. Franson in particular is almost certainly testing UFA waters looking to cash in having been very patient waiting for his first long-term deal.

(Note: Here’s how the entry draft order is determined; Leafs are likely looking at a best case of a mid-20s pick given Nashville will likely win their Division. In addition to cheering for the Leafs draft pick to improve, cheer against the Predators down the stretch and into the playoffs).

Brendan Leipsic led the CHL in scoring in his +1 season playing on Nic Petan’s wing for Portland in 2012-13, and carries the reputation of a super pest; he has some interesting potential as an agitating grinder with some offensive upside, but he’s a former third round pick so expectations can’t be huge. He looks to be the modern version of the agitator and the Leafs could use some proper dirtbags in their lineup right now, to be sure, and he’s fourth in rookie scoring in the AHL this season. The Leafs have to become a team that’s harder to play against and if Leipsic keeps developing as he has since getting drafted, he could become a part of that solution.

Interesting that the Leafs didn’t push these sweepstakes to the final hour, but they must be big on Leipsic and fans of the tank will be pleased the Leafs have made themselves significantly worse well in advance of the deadline. Without Franson on the backend and Phaneuf still hurt, that defence will be paper thin.

Most would have been hoping for a first round pick for Franson, and were angling for a 2nd round pick for Mike Santorelli. In the end, the Leafs traded a pair of expiring contracts, got their first for Franson along with a prospect who is more of a known commodity than a pick — and is tracking along better than his third-round-pick status — for Santorelli. Hard to complain too much.

Brendan Leipsic

With 302 points in 261 regular season games, it’s obvious that Brendan Leipsic can play. He’s also scored 73 points in 76 playoff games so he’s a guy you can depend on when it counts. And with a total of 468 career penalty minutes on his WHL resumé, the 5’10, 177 lb forward has a proven track record of “getting involved”.

Everyone has an opinion on Leipsic; those that dislike him are mostly opposing players. I can tell you from speaking with them that there are a number of non-players around the league who aren’t fans either – executives, coaches, support staff, media. They say he’s cocky and arrogant, a dirty player who cheap shots guys then “gets tough once a linesman has stepped in to save him”.

Personally, and I’ve said this many, many times on The Pipeline Show, Brendan Leipsic can play on my team any day. He’s tenacious, he’s talented and he not only “knows the role” but he thrives doing it. That’s not always easy to find.
– The Pipeline Show 

May 2013 – Predators’ prospect Brendan Leipsic is the co-recipient of the CHL Top Scorer award with linemate Nic Petan (2013 NHL Draft eligible). The teammates each recorded 120 points to lead all three CHL leagues and Leipsic’s 49 goals fell one shy of crossing the 50-goal plateau. Leipsic possesses one of the best shots in the CHL and projects as a true sniper at the next level.
– Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungBlood)

March 2013 – Brendan Leipsic and Winterhawks’ teammate Nic Petan finished in a tie for first place in Western Hockey League scoring with 120 points. Leipsic’s 49 goals led the league in scoring and his 100+ penalty minute season bodes well for his fantasy value.
– Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungBlood)

December 2012 – Portland Winterhawks forward Brendan Leipsic has been named WHL Player of the Week (ending November 25) after posting three goals, nine points and a plus-5 rating.  Leipsic sits second in team scoring with 15 goals for 38 points through 22 WHL games.
– Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungBlood)

June 2012 – After an impressive WHL season, Brendan Liepsic was taken by the Nashville Predators in the third round of the NHL Entry Draft. Leipsic is a small, energetic forward with very good vision and stickhandling abilities. His skill set can be used in a variety of ways, including the power play, or even playing on a checking line. His mixture of smarts and skill make him a very enticing prospect. He will need to bulk up to make up for his lack of size. Leipsic also needs to work on his discipline and avoid taking bad penalties.
– Zenon Herasymiuk (@ZenonHerasymiuk)

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Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens
Photo: Getty Images, NHLI

Games like this, on a day dedicated to celebrating hockey in Canada to boot, transcend the standings and draft pick positioning. It’s about representing the crest on the jersey in the game’s oldest rivalry. Let’s hope the boys show up. It’s as simple as that.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Daniel Winnik – Nazem Kadri – Richard Panik
Leo Komarov – Peter Holland – Mike Santorelli
David Booth – Trevor Smith – David Clarkson

Morgan Rielly – Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner – Roman Polak
Korbinian Holzer – Stephane Robidas

Jonathan Bernier
James Reimer

Scratched: Petter Granberg
Injured: Joffrey Lupul (lower body), Dion Phaneuf (upper body)

Montreal Canadiens Projected Lines

Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Dale Weise
Alex Galchenyuk – Tomas Plekanec – Brendan Gallagher
Lars Eller – Jacob De La Rose – Brandon Prust
Michael Bournival – Manny Malhotra – Christian Thomas

Andrei Markov – P.K. Subban
Nathan Beaulieu – Sergei Gonchar
Alexei Emelin – Mike Weaver

Carey Price
Dustin Tokarski

Scratched: Tom Gilbert, Jiri Sekac
Injured: Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau (concussion)

Status report: The Maple Leafs’ morning skate at Bell Centre and Montreal’s at its suburban practice facility were optional. Weaver and Malhotra will play for the first time since Feb. 1. Weaver has played twice in the previous 25 games. (NHL.com)

Who’s hot: Panik had a goal and an assist Thursday. He has three points in his past three games after going without a point in his previous 14 games. Rielly has scored three of his seven goals in the past three games. … Price is 16-3-1 in his past 20 starts. Markov has a four-game points streak (two goals, three assists). Subban has five assists in his past five games. (NHL.com)

Bob McKenzie

From Bobby Mac’s Friday afternoon segment on TSN Drive with Dave Naylor:

On moving Tyler Bozak:
Especially now, when you trade a player with term on his deal, the team almost inevitably wants you take a contract back. In the case of the Leafs, there are two considerations. One is they want to get younger and want prospects and draft picks, but this notion that Shanahan has the greenlight to burn it to the ground: I worked for Bell in a round about way, I don’t work for Rogers, but at the end of the day I think they have similar sensibilities. If anyone thinks Shanny said there’s going to be 5, 6 or 7 years of terrible, where they’re not going to win any games, that they can’t count playoff revenue… I don’t think so. This notion of a teardown or rebuild, while real on one level, is going be done step by step and probably a lot more measured than that. I’m not sure what the future holds for trading a Bozak and what you get coming back, but most teams when they trade for a contract with term and dollars there’s an expectation they’re going to ship something back the other way.

Which teams are interested in Dion Phaneuf:
I wonder about the Stars. They would be the team that has done some nice things and have a program in place, they have Seguin in place and have Benn; they committed to Spezza, they’ve got enough offensive weapons and they’ve got some good depth there with guys who are tough to play against with Eakins, Garbutt, Rouselle, and they’ve got Nichushkin coming. Goaltending and defense has been so suspect, and I think the defense has been suspect because it’s so young and lacks a veteran presence. I think there was some dialogue between Dallas and Toronto, but I’m not sure how far it went. All I’m saying is, and I have to be careful not to sound like this is a definitive rumour I’m reporting, but Dallas fits the profile of a team that could have some interest in Phaneuf and probably has had some dialogue with the Leafs.

The Kings’ level of interest:
That’s where the Voynov situation – we don’t know what’s going to happen, and can’t even guess. The LA Kings are saying at the end of this season we’ll have clarity. Voynov is either going to be in the NHL or he’s not. If he is in the NHL, I think that notion that they need Phaneuf is out the window. The Kings have some work to do. Williams is a UFA, Toffoli’s contract is up. One of the unspoken things I’m wondering if will come into play – with this cap and not knowing what is going to be, Chicago and LA being in distress having to sign good young players or lose them – I’m wondering about offer sheets. What if someone wanted Toffoli, and went in there with a monster offer sheet? Could the Kings match? Everyone says the automatic thing is yes, then you figure out how to do it, but they would have to throw bodies overboard if that’s the case.

If there’s more big moves to come before the deadline:
The whole salary cap thing for next year has chilled the marketplace. It’s been a huge wet blanket on the trade market to the point where I’m almost positive the only trades we’ll see are rentals. Hope I’m wrong, I want to see player for player and contract for contract like the Kane deal, but I’m not real convinced that that’s going to happen. Too big of a chill because of the economic uncertainty.

If Kessel, who looked dejected after the game last night, has been told of his standing by the organization:
I don’t think there’s been any direct correspondence. I don’t know that the Leafs know what his status is. The day Carlyle got fired and Shanahan talked to the group, the fact the group hasn’t performed at a level that would assure this group could stay together means they’ve got to be all ears on all players. It doesn’t automatically assume Kessel is first out the door. I don’t think they can tell Kessel what his status is if they don’t know themselves. If he looks indifferent, it’s more to do with a player who has hit a big bump in the road. This is probably his greatest amount of adversity ever. People say it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops with the Bruins, but he was just a kid back then. It’s a different context when you are a teenage kid in the NHL who isn’t playing the way Claude Julien wants you to play, not fitting in with the Bruins the way you’re supposed to; it’s way different when you’re making 8 million, ostensibly the best player on the team, your game has gone south and team has collapsed around you. I’m not sure Kessel has had any experience like this to draw on. He strikes me as a guy who has lost his confidence, is obviously frustrated, and has to figure out a way to work his way through this. Really good players figure out how to deal with adversity, turn it in your favour and get on the right side of the ledger.

On Kessel’s No-Trade List parameters:
[It’s a list of] eight teams he wants to go to. I just glanced it quickly, so I stand to be corrected if wrong. I believe it is 8. Chris Neil has 15 he can’t go to, so my guess is when Phil negotiated his contract, he didn’t get only 8 exclusions.

Photo: NHLI via Getty Images

Amid the sense of the relief that seemed to sweep over Leafs fans concerning the report that Brendan Shanahan is set to tear things down and commit to the draft,  came this downer moment after the game last night:

Blame a faulty attempt at a fast tracked rebuild, or the flawed thinking behind the timing of the original Kessel trade, or blame Dave Nonis for subsequently dropping the ball on the hand off, but either way it doesn’t change the fact that Phil Kessel is an elite talent who was let down by poor management and things outside his own control. If he does go sometime in the coming months, he’ll be the next in the long line of Leaf greats who aren’t fully appreciated until it was too late. Having to trade elite talent because a team couldn’t supplement it properly is never cause for celebration. If he moves, it won’t take long before Kessel is ripping it up on a much better team, and the same media that started a cottage industry ripping on him here in Toronto will  be taking cracks at the Leafs for his success elsewhere.

Friday Links:

  • Bob McKenzie: Trade deadline will be all about the rentals (TSN 1050)
    Coming off the huge Sabres/Jets deal TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie joins TSN Drive to discuss the implications of the trade, players who could be on the move come trade deadline for the Leafs and what type of deals to look for.
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  • Jonas Siegel: Cloud of uncertainty hovers over Leafs, Kessel (TSN.ca)
    Casting a watchful eye over his team at the Coliseum, Shanahan declined to discuss the Globe and Mail report and has been reluctant to publicly state his intentions for the team. But with the plan now in plain view, the questions don’t simply stop. What’s to come and how it all shakes down is a question that lingers for every one of those players in Toronto’s room.
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  • Dave Hodge: Leafs need to capitalize on other team’s mistakes (TSN Drive)
    Dave Hodge joins TSN Drive with Dave Naylor and Steve Simmons to debate what the plan is in Leafs Land, whether or not the Leafs should rebuild through the draft, what the Leafs should do moving forward and touch on the Sabres/Jets trade.
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  • JP Nikota: Immoral victories — Game Recap: Islanders 3, Leafs 2 (PPP)
    Oh yeah, and in case you didn’t hear, Phil Kessel is sounding more and more resigned to the idea of being traded. If you think you can blame him, you’re dumb.
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  • Gord Stellick: Draft pick management key to Leafs rebuild (Sportsnet.ca)
    As the Edmonton Oilers have discovered, the tear down is easy but the rebuild not so much. Keeping draft choices appears to be the mantra of the current Leaf management. Grabbing the odd legitimate NHL player or two beyond the first-round is imperative.
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  • Travis Yost: Playing the percentages in the NHL Draft (TSN.ca)
    All this said, I think it’s important to remember that not every scouting contingent or NHL front office operate on a level-playing field – there are teams that simply do it better than others, and that can skew the odds a bit. Even with that caveat, I still think it’s beneficial to treat each pick or picks like chances at winning a lottery. Once we start thinking of draft picks as ‘future NHL players’ instead of simple selections in a snake process, we’ll better recognize when a package is worth accepting, and when a package is worth rejecting.

 

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TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 19: David Clarkson #71 of the Toronto Maple Leafs checks Matt Donovan #46 of the New York Islanders during NHL game action November 19, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Not much left to say at this point.

We’ve got quotes like this surfacing:

Which, while anonymous, do match those of late last season.

The Leafs clearly sense the end is near, who doesn’t, and so far knowing the season is over and the team is soon to be dismantled hasn’t seen them loosen up and play better hockey; it’s seen some of their best players check out entirely. Not a bad thing for the ubiquitous pro-tank faction of the fanbase, but it’s been the toughest stretch of Leafs hockey to watch, arguably ever and certainly for those born after the 80s.

Phil Kessel spent good chunks of last game on the fourth line and practiced there yesterday, so we’ll have to see if Horachek gives him a chance to respond of the bat or if he has to earn his way back up the lineup.

David Clarkson will re-enter the lineup after a pair of consecutive healthy scratches; he’ll take Joffrey Lupul’s place, who got hurt in Tuesday’s game we all know the drill.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Leo Komarov – Peter Holland – David Clarkson
Daniel Winnik – Nazem Kadri – Mike Santorelli
David Booth – Trevor Smith – Richard Panik

Morgan Rielly – Roman Polak
Korbinian Holzer – Stephane Robidas
Jake Gardiner – Cody Franson

Jonathan Bernier
James Reimer

Scratched: Petter Granberg
Injured: Dion Phaneuf (hand), Joffrey Lupul (lower body)

New York Islanders Projected Lines

Anders Lee – John Tavares – Josh Bailey
Mikhail Grabovski – Frans Nielsen – Ryan Strome
Cal Clutterbuck – Brock Nelson – Nikolay Kulemin
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Colin McDonald

Lubomir Visnovsky – Travis Hamonic
Nick Leddy – Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Hickey – Brian Strait

Jaroslav Halak
Chad Johnson

Scratched: Matt Donovan
Injured: Calvin de Haan (facial cut), (upper body), Kyle Okposo (upper body), Michael Grabner (upper body), Eric Boulton (lower body)

Status update: Capuano said de Haan could have played, but didn’t want to change any of his defensive pairings. The Islanders returned forward Harry Zolnierczyk to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League to make room for Clutterbuck. … Lupul aggravated a knee injury Tuesday and will miss at least one week. (NHL.com)

Who’s hot: Hamonic has four assists in three games. … Grabovski has two goals in four games. … McDonald has goals in each game since being recalled from Bridgeport on Sunday. … Rielly has three goals in his past two games. (NHL.com)

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

A major story breaking this morning from The Globe and Mail’s Cathal Kelly, with some big implications for the coming weeks and months ahead.

According to Kelly, Brendan Shanahan concluded last Spring’s initial evaluation period and asked the new ownership group for the mandate to strip the team down. Reportedly, the board wasn’t yet ready to commit to a likely 3-5 years without sniffing the playoffs, and voted to give the core of the team once last chance after attempting to shore up the depth with some low-commitment adds to the bottom end of the roster.

Four roster players of name value plus three prospects and a first round pick changed hands in a rare modern day multi-player NHL blockbuster.

Buffalo may well end up with the two best players in the deal if Bogosian and Kane can stay healthy and progress, with the convenience of Kane not being able to hurt their draft position at all for the rest of the season. For Winnipeg, Tyler Myers has flashed a lot of upside in his mixed career to date, plus there’s futures heading Winnipeg’s way, and for the stretch run they add a veteran scorer in Drew Stafford in the place of a malcontented, injured player who was going to play no part in the rest of their season. Interesting deal that seems to have sound logic behind it for both sides, with no clear winner right away.

In Leafs news, a pretty major story in The Globe and Mail this morning courtesy of Cathal Kelly, with the brass tax being that Shanahan wanted a full-scale teardown the summer after arriving but needed to persuade ownership. The key passage:

Mr. Shanahan and his lieutenants have now finally received a broad mandate from ownership to scorch as much earth as they see fit in order to return the Leafs to contention, according to two sources familiar with that meeting. It will mean a new philosophy on building slowly through the draft and long-term projects, rather than quick fixes via trades for established players. It will mean at least three more years of pain for fans, and as many as five.

Thursday Links:

  • Cathal Kelly: Kelly: Shanahan’s scorched-earth Leafs plan wins MLSE support (Globe and Mail)
    These informal meetings had been ongoing since the start of the National Hockey League calendar. New Leafs president Brendan Shanahan was hired with a mandate to remake the team. From very early on, he’d realized that if the club aspired to be a Stanley Cup contender, it required a major overhaul. But he needed the evidence of the season to persuade his employers fully. After the Leafs’ recent slide out of contention, the club’s given him that.
  • Jonathan Willis: Trading for Kane was a smart move (Sportsnet.ca)
    The first important thing to note with Kane is that, unlike virtually every other offensive player in the NHL, he doesn’t make his living on the power play. To date in his NHL career, Kane has never cracked 10 power-play points in a season, despite having scored 23 power-play goals in just 61 games in his final season of junior. It’s not a matter of him not getting power-play time either; it’s just that prior to this season he hasn’t been a dynamic scorer with the man advantage.
  • Elliotte Friedman: Why the fiercely independent Kane must change his ways (Sportsnet.ca)
    “Jeff Carter is a talented guy who needed direction, to be shown the way,” one scout said. “Now he’s a different player on and off the ice, a real leader on that team. You wouldn’t have said that previously. I see real similarities between those guys.”
  • Bruce Arthur: Leafs finally come down from false hope (Toronto Star)
    But Clarkson is the example of the thinking that dragged the Leafs down into this ditch. In the last three years — and since the first lockout, really — the Leafs have always held onto some measure of hope that they could turn this thing around. They could add some pieces, makes some trades, accelerate the process, make the playoffs. I once asked Brian Burke why he wasn’t patient with his rebuild. He said maybe it was his age, and maybe it was because he didn’t have to wait in Anaheim. That’s why he traded for Kessel, as young as Kessel was.
  • Allan Muir: Benching Phil Kessel makes sense for struggling Leafs (Sports Illustrated)
    The game was raw meat for Kessel’s critics, a showcase for all of his worst attributes. In the 12:57 he played—a new low since he came to the Leafs in a September 2009 trade with the Bruins—he was scarcely more than an empty sweater, satisfied with floating around the perimeter of plays rather than being actively involved in them.
  • Michael Traikos: Peter Horachek using his only weapon — ice time, to send a message to Phil Kessel (National Post)
    “I mean, you never want to see everybody come right off,” Horachek said after Kessel botled for the dressing room as practice ended. “You want to see them working on their trade. I wasn’t very happy with him last night. I didn’t spend a lot of time today having meetings and video. I didn’t show him anything. I just told him we had to get back to work.”
  • Jonas Siegel: Leaf culture has changed post-Carlyle; losing continues (TSN.ca)
    Under Carlyle, errors could be harped on, grilled over and punished with a selected seat on the bench. All of which led to a culture of tension, a culture where emphasis tended toward not making the wrong play as opposed to making the right one.

 

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TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 8: Peter Holland #24 of the Toronto Maple Leafs scores on Cam Talbot #33 of the New York Rangers during NHL action at the Air Canada Centre November 8, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

New York Rangers Projected Lineup

Mats Zuccarello – Derick Brassard – Rick Nash
Chris Kreider – Derek Stepan – Martin St. Louis
Carl Hagelin – Dominic Moore – Lee Stempniak
Tanner Glass – Kevin Hayes – J.T. Miller

Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Marc Staal – Kevin Klein
John Moore – Dan Boyle

Cam Talbot
Mackenzie Skapski

Scratched: Matt Hunwick
Injured: Henrik Lundqvist (neck), Jesper Fast (knee)

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lineup

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Leo Komarov – Peter Holland – Joffrey Lupul
Daniel Winnik – Nazem Kadri – Mike Santorelli
David Booth – Trevor Smith – Richard Panik

Morgan Rielly – Roman Polak
Korbinian Holzer – Stephane Robidas
Jake Gardiner – Cody Franson

James Reimer
Jonathan Bernier

Scratched: David Clarkson
Injured: Dion Phaneuf (hand)

Status report: Clarkson, who was a healthy scratch against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, will not play against the Rangers. Horachek said he wanted to play the same lineup that beat the Oilers against New York. … Bernier will be the backup goalie after not playing Saturday because of illness (NHL.com)

Who’s hot: Nash did not score against the Stars on Sunday but had goals in his previous four games. … Zuccarello has one goal and five assists during his five-game point streak. … Kessel has points in back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 29-31. … Gardiner has three points in his past two games (NHL.com)