Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
For reasons beyond my comprehension, the two-year contract extension handed out to 25-year-old Korbinian Holzer yesterday generated reactions beyond “oh, alright” on Twitter.
Unless you’re predisposed to criticizing minor decisions with little downside, what is there to hate?
Worst case: The Leafs have signed a relatively young, homegrown depth defenceman for a deal below the 900k salary required for a one-way contract to count against the salary cap if the player is in the minors. Yes, he takes up a SPC slot, but you need cheap depth options in your organization.
The best case is that Holzer, he of 18 games, develops into a dependable last pairing defenceman for the team and gets paid a cap-friendly 725k/850k to do it for the next two seasons.
Yes, he’s made mistakes and is out of his depth in his current role. He’s also shown enough to indicate he can play at the NHL level if he continues to round out the edges.
In the short term, I’m interested to see how Carlyle and Nonis start sorting out the situation on defense over the next month. There seems to be an excess of bodies and a need for a top 4 defenceman. We need to find out if Gardiner is ready to take on that role for this season sooner or later (Liles also deserves another look), and if not I’d suggest Nonis pursues some trade options with intent. He’s not going to land our 1c before the season’s out, but an experienced top 4 rearguard who can hold his own could go a long way for this team in the playoff hunt. Of course, at least one body has to go out before a new one comes in.
It all seems pretty complicated, but I’m sure it will become much clearer with time. The path Nonis takes will be dictated by results. Whether it’s part-thanks to or in spite of his play, Holzer so far has those going for him.
A few Wednesday morning links…
Jeffler’s take on the signing.
Right Place, Right Time
What to do with pending UFA Tyler Bozak. If cap money were no object I’d say sign and keep him as your third line center for next season.
Maple Leafs-Sens preview
Both teams are tied at 28 points and will play their 24th game (half way) tonight.
Leafs face dilemma when Lupul returns from injury
I’d start him with Kessel, bump JvR to either Grabo’s wing or Kadri’s, with MacArthur taking the other spot, and one of Orr or McLaren playing on line 4 rather than both.
Remember Kadri’s goal if he struggles later in the season
From Michael at VLM.
Photo: Nathan Denette/Canadian Press
No games for three days makes for very little in Maple Leafs land development. There’s Komisarek’s laughable trade request, there’s Frattin’s potential return to the lineup this week, and there’s still the question of why isn’t Gardiner on the Maple Leafs, but for the most part all of it is nothing more than a waiting game. Instead, I’m going to look at the most basic of stats (goals and assists) and how the first line forwards are doing in those categories.
Photo: Abelimages/Getty Images
I hope everyone will be taking the opportunity to do something with their families, spouses or significant others on this unfortunately vacant Saturday night.
Just a few thoughts on the Leafs’ recent performance before we get into some links.
After 22 games, the one thing Leafs fans can agree on is that Randy Carlyle’s coaching methodology can be frustrating as hell. Nowhere is this more apparent than the deployment of Mikhail Grabovski.
After signing a five-year, 27.5-million dollar contract extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs last March, it seemed as though the Leafs had shored up a terrific top-six centreman who could be counted on for 50 points a season. But after 22 games Grabo sits with a modest 10 points (six goals, four assists); good for about 37 points in an 82-game schedule. Yet under Carlyle he’s developed into the team’s top shutdown pivot. So what’s to make of it?
Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press
Tonight, the Leafs look to move to 3-0 against the Canadiens and in the process take down the current Eastern Conference and Northeast Division leader.The Leafs have handed the Habs two of their only four regulation losses this season.
You have to like how the Leafs have matched up with the Habs so far this season, allowing just one goal in their two meetings, and the thoroughness of the Hockey Day in Canada beatdown has to give the Leafs a mental edge. The Leafs have gotten good goaltending against Montreal and have dominated the key areas of the ice with strong physical and defensive play. On the other hand, the Habs have gone 6-1-1 since the big defeat and are definitely going to be out to prove something after getting embarrassed in just about every way possible by the Leafs in their own barn.
The always tedious Hockey Night in Canada Hot Stove brought us a worthwhile nugget to examine this weekend, and that’s our first look at the proposed four new conferences that the NHL will be rolling out next season. Earlier in the week, both Darren Dreger and the more reliable Bob MacKenzie hinted that we are only a week or two away from this realignment being finalized, so we can assume this is pretty close to being set in stone:
If I reported back from the future after the Leafs’ first 17 games and told you before the season started:
Joffrey Lupul has been out injured since game three, Jake Gardiner has only played two games and is in the minors, Phil Kessel went on a 10-game goalless drought to start the season, Dion Phaneuf recorded only one assist and no goals in his first 11 games, James Reimer has been out injured for several games and we haven’t acquired Roberto Luongo or any form of goaltending help, our only player acquisition since the lockout ended is Frazer McLaren, Colton Orr has been playing on the third line the past few games, and John-Michael Liles has been a healthy scratch while Korbinian Holzer, Mike Kostka and Mark Fraser are playing significant minutes on the backend…
One of the more interesting, borderline meaningless stats associated with the Maple Leafs at the moment is their league-leading hit count despite the subtraction of Luke Schenn’s ~270 “hits” (not that Schenn wasn’t physical, but pity the ACC stat recorder who decided his patented three-step push counted as one). Through 16 games in 2013, the Leafs lead the league, ahead of the Flyers and Rangers, with 454 hits.
The month’s half over, and after Monday’s game, the season is a third over. The Leafs are sitting three games over .500, holding 6th place in the East, and are currently on pace for 58 points (rounded up from 57.6) in a season where many prognosticators have considered 54 the magic number for making the post season.
So far, the Leafs are sitting pretty despite now being without Reimer, Gunnarsson, Frattin and Lupul. The Leafs have benefited from a friendly schedule. The average 2011-12 point total of their opposition has be 91, which averages out to facing a bubble team every night. This also doesn’t account for the dramatic drop off in teams like Washington, Philadelphia, and now Ottawa. Compare that to the average of 95 points in March and the average of 94 in April and it makes sense that the Leafs are coming out of the gates strong.
On Wednesday, Wade Arnott, Phil Kessel’s agent, indicated his client’s apparent desire to spend the rest of career playing hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs. This, despite being disappointed in the club’s performance last season (I don’t even want to know what adjective he’d use to describe the two previous seasons in Toronto), and with little guarantee yet that this team is primed for long-term playoff success.
We’ll probably never know why the camera-shy Kessel wants to remain in a media-laden Toronto; Arnott seems to suggest it is an admirable inner desire to win in hockey’s mecca. Perhaps the better question is, what could it cost to keep him?
Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press
Leafs Nation is feeling a little down on its luck with the injuries to resurgent starter James Reimer and one of our point-a-game youngsters off the third line, Matt Frattin (while Joffrey Lupul and Carl Gunnarsson remain shelved). Given the busy schedule, two major contributors to the Leafs’ 8-5-0 start will be out for what could amount to half a dozen games, as the Leafs play six games in the coming ten days starting tonight in Carolina.
Chris Chiasson/Canadian Press
When the Leafs get a couple of days off, bloggers have a little bit of extra time to take a wider look at things. I’ve spent a lot of time this year watching CHL games, pouring over AHL stats and looking at the player development side of hockey. Unsurprisingly, that has led to a lot of conversations about the draft itself and it was one of these conversations that spurred me to look into some draft outcomes.
The Maple Leafs are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference (7th in the league), against everyone’s better judgement — the smart money being that the Leafs will be a non-playoff team and probably a lottery pick team. And by everyone, I mean everyone except for Ian Dudgeon (@Dudgee) and I. Most people that write about the game had them finishing out of the playoffs again and if I’m being honest, I saw everyone else’s prediction via email first and thought I should be throw them a bone. While the key will be avoiding the characteristic season-crippling slump, this start means considerably more in a 48-game schedule and I wouldn’t have expected 8-5 through the first 13 games, especially not with Joffrey Lupul and Carl Gunnarsson going down early.
“When the schedule first came out, you know, you look forward to it. But I think both teams have moved on now and they’re having some success, too.” – Luke Schenn
The definition of success is a funny one. It seems like it should be the Flyers who are proudly sitting in fifth place in the East, poised to make a leap into a tie with Pittsburgh or surpass a division leader with a victory on Monday night. It seems like it should be the Leafs who are taking pride in getting over the hiccups of a slow start, pleased to be part of an early tie for the last playoff spot in the Conference. Surprisingly, the tables have turned, and with very little changing for either team besides the Schenn/van Riemsdyk trade, it seems like Schenn has a lot to prove against his former club on Monday. Moreover, he’s got to show his current club that he can eventually become the type of shutdown defenseman that can warrant giving up a player who now seems to be discovering his true offensive upside.
On Hockey Day in Canada in February of 2012, the Leafs organization added special lustre to their matchup against the Montreal Canadiens with the decision to honour Mats Sundin with a pregame banner raising ceremony at the ACC. The Leafs were 28-21-6 at the time, in the playoff hunt, and had even more reason than usual to put on a good showing. They proceeded to get stomped by a score of 5-0, slipping silently into the night and initiating a disastrous slump that would eventually extend the team’s playoff drought and end their head coach’s tenure behind the bench.
Not a bad day to be snowed in, with a full lineup of all-Canadian hockey on television. Peterborough is hosting Hockey Day and I may brave the conditions to check out the scene on the Trent Canal.
The road warrior Toronto Maple Leafs (5-1 away) look to replicate their success in the season opener at the Bell Centre tonight. The Leafs should expect a stiffer test as the Habs have gone 6-2-1 since looking awful in that opener and are no longer sans Subban. The two teams are a point apart sitting sixth and seventh in the Eastern Conference standings.
There’s no time to lick our collective wounds over a poor 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes; the Leafs square off against The Washington Capitals tonight (7pm, Leafs TV).
Here is the NHL.com‘s preview for the game:
Photo: Associated Press
It’s painful for me to admit, but as much I will continue to bitch about how useless Colton Orr, Mike Brown, and (presumably) Frazer McLaren are, they will always have a spot on a Dave Nonis/Randy Carlyle run team. This is clearly an issue that I and many others have a difficult time coming to terms with, but it’s true. An enforcer will be dressed every night, and we’ll all be treated to a sideshow (admittedly an entertaining sideshow most of time) before proceeding to move on with the game, and coming back to terms with the other shortcomings of the lineup. Since I’m ready to concede that there will be an enforcer, I’d like to make the following asks. They will fall on deaf ears, but I’m going to make them anyway. Hopefully we can move past this annoying little issue and begin discussing the bigger issues of the roster.
Photo: Getty Images
At the start of this season, noise was made that the current Leafs roster would be ill-equipped to serve under Randy Carlyle’s tough-nosed, nasty, defense-first style of play. That there was not enough team truculence to compete.
Despite the team placing 3rd in the league in fighting majors with seven, the club has been shorthanded a surprisingly low 23 times (3.29 penalties per game), fifth least in the league thus far. It’s quite early still, but the disciplined play is a stark change for a team coached by Carlyle. And that’s all for the better.
On Wednesday I joined Michael (from Vintage Leaf Memories) and Matteo (from We Want A Cup) on their Leaf Matters podcast. If you haven’t had a chance to check out their podcast, please do so. Our good friend Curt (Blue Chip Prospects) has been on previously, as well as other notable guests like Pat Quinn, Allan Bester, Joe Bowen, Down Goes Brown, and more.
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