Thursday Morning Leafs Roundtable: A New Era for The Battle of Ontario


Let’s have a moment of silence for Daniel Alfredsson’s reputation in Ottawa…

As ‘sad’ as it is to see him go, given all the moves that Ottawa has made and the departure of Alfie, it seems we will be entering a new era in the Battle of Ontario next Fall. The departure of Alfie may partly take away the thrill of attending a Leafs game in Ottawa and showering boos on the home captain, but with the additions of Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan the  provincial battle certainly won’t be lacking in storylines.

MacArthur was a healthy scratch numerous times under Carlyle, and much like Grabovski, probably feels some vindictiveness towards the coach for his falling out of favour in Toronto.

Bobby Ryan, the newest and shiniest acquisition by the Senators, also knows what it’s like to harbour ill-will for  Carlyle. He was having a terrible season and was demoted to the third line just before Carlyle’s dismissal in Anaheim, said to have had a poor relationship with his ex-coach. Remember, Ryan was all over the rumour mill before Carlyle’s dismissal and was promptly announced as “off the trading block” once Carlyle was fired.

Ryan figures to feature on a line with Spezza and Michalek. Combine that with a back-to-health Erik Karlsson and a supporting cast that stepped up big time in wake of all the injuries last season; not since the days of Chara, Redden, Hossa, and Havlat have the Leafs seen an offense like what Ottawa is going to throw our way next season.

With the additions of Clarkson and Bolland, the Leafs will be countering with a little more grit to go along with the speed game that defeated the Senators handily in the season series.

On paper it looks to be an interprovincial battle of two clubs on the up and up after surprise playoff berths last season. No matter your current opinion of the Leafs, you must agree that the Battle of Ontario has the potential to take on a different but intriguing flavour in the near future.

And with Detroit joining the division there’s still plenty of opportunity to boo Alfredsson next season.

With Free Agency almost a week old, time has allowed the dust to settle somewhat and the emotion to drip off our words (for some).  The Leafs are currently in a period of negotiation with their outstanding RFAs.  Meanwhile, their prized prospects are being put through their paces at development camp, a.k.a. dream camp.

Here are some of our writers’ thoughts on what transpired following Free Agency Frenzy and what the fallout means for the division’s competitive landscape.

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Which team got more competitive in our division?

“For me the choice of most improved team improvement comes down to Detroit and Ottawa. In terms of roster players, Ottawa lost Alfredsson and Silfverberg but brought in Ryan and MacArthur. That’s a pretty big boost to Ottawa’s anemic offense that saw them score the fourth fewest goals in the league last season. Detroit lost Filppula, is trying to bring back Cleary and will likely not bring back Brunner or White. They brought in Alfredsson and Weiss. It’s tough to say how that will shake out in Detroit because Weiss might produce more with better line mates (though his production and possession statistics right now are seemingly slightly worse than Filppulas over the past few seasons) and Alfredsson will (most likely) be an upgrade on Brunner. So I’m going to give the edge to Ottawa on this one, great goaltending and solid defence get more support up front with two good offensive players. Honourable mention to the Bruins for brining in Iginla and Eriksson (despite losing Seguin). ” –Taylor Wright (@Taylor_Wright)

“It’s pretty clear that Ottawa has upgraded significantly with replacing Alfredsson with MacArthur then hugely upgrading their top six by adding Bobby Ryan. Detroit made some sound moves, though a 40 year and an injury prone centre are not magical upgrades that fix their blueline or stop Zetterberg and Datsyuk from aging. Briere is a decent add for Montreal, and Eriksson and Iginla are sound moves for Boston which more than make up for who they lost. Tampa adding Filppula I don’t like too much but they also drafted that Drouin guy. I’m not certain the Lightning will be more competitive but they’ll be in a battle to the death with the Leafs for the meaningless 5th in the Flortheast title.” –Jon Steitzer (@YakovMironov)

“Gotta go with the Sens on this one.  Sure, they lost their captain and longest-serving player in Daniel Alfredsson, but his offensive game has been on the decline and will continue this way.  But GM Bryan Murray pulled the trade of the offseason when he acquired Bobby Ryan on July 5.  Ryan, a four-time 30-goal scorer, comes to the nation’s capital cheaply, and still has two years left on his contract.  He’ll instantly replace Alfredsson’s offense on the top line, and will likely skate with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek to form one of the more formidable trios in the league.” –Michael Stephens (@MLHS_Mike)

” I would say the Ottawa Senators.  They lost Alfredsson, but gained back Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur.  Of note: Alfredsson’s been in decline for awhile — quite the captain in Ottawa and a big part of their history, but Ryan has the potential to break open games with his skill set… I think the Leafs made the biggest ‘gains’ as far as their top six wings are concerned.  Quite easily the best in the division and maybe the entire league.  Deep, skilled, fast, and highly intelligent.  Their defense remains a work in progress, but I’m convinced after hearing Loiselle speak on Rielly and Granberg that management has designs in promoting one of the kids this year.  Bet on that kid being Rielly at this stage.” –(@mORRganRielly)

Which team got less competitive?

“Losing Stephen Weiss and adding Joey Crabb seems pretty awful. Barkov should be ready to play this season for the Panthers, but in the short term they’ve definitely downgraded. Buffalo (both the city and the team) remain a flaming garbage pile and could still be selling off pieces to make them even worse. It’s likely that if Stafford, Miller or Vanek move it won’t be for an immediate impact player. Viva Darcy Regier!” –Jon

“You’ve got the think that the Tampa Bay Lightning will be the worst team in the division this coming year.  For the Bolts, it’s not just a matter of a losing the overpriced-but-effective Vincent Lecavalier, team captain and franchise leader in just about every category.  The Lightning have seven players earning over $4-million a season for the next two years, and only two (Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman) could be considered anything other than depreciating assets…Add to that the fact that they haven’t adequately addressed their middling goaltending situation, and it’s a fair bet to say that it’s going to be a long winter in Tampa.” –Michael

” I guess we can add Florida to that list since they just joined the division.  They are a very young team rich in prospects with major upside in Huberdeau, Bjugstad, Barkov, Gudbranson, Kulikov, Markstrom.  They just aren’t ready to compete yet.  It’ll take them some time before they can start pushing for a playoff spot.” –(@mORRganRielly)

“Well, as much as I’ve disagreed with the moves Nonis has made this offseason I don’t think the Leafs are the worst of the bunch. Buffalo will have to go the full season without Pominville, and Florida has lost a big piece of their team in Weiss. Both teams are in different stages of a rebuild but I don’t think either team has improved relative to the gains made by teams like Detroit, Boston (bringing in Iginla and Eriksson) or Ottawa. ” –Taylor

Which team stands to benefit the most from a falling cap?

“I’ll go off the board and select the New York Islanders.  Under GM Garth Snow, the Islanders have slowly and steadily locked up a lot of their young talent to reasonable deals, finding a way to keep their overhead low while acquiring an embarrassment of skilled players through the draft.  The Isles already have a young core signed through the next half-decade, and still have over $20-million in cap space to play with.  With the shrunken cap lowering free agents salary demands, and a terrifyingly skilled top six, I’d expect them to be able to sign a couple key depth pieces on the cheap while still being able to integrate their promising bevy of prospects as needed.” –Michael

” Definitely Florida.  They will save a lot of money and work their way back to competitiveness.  They have a long way to go, but they have given themselves a bright future with no cap issues.  They also have roughly 7M per spot available, which works out to three spots.  That money will inevitably go towards the core over time. ” –(@mORRganRielly)

“This is a tough question for me to answer because I’m not yet well versed with each team’s financial situation (internal budget v.s. cap team, etc.). But I think I’m going to go ahead and say that the St. Louis Blues benefit from the falling cap, Chicago had to get rid of some useful pieces and then overpaid (in my opinion) for Bickell. Based on the moves Dallas (Seguin and Horcoff) made, plus a full season of Pominville and hopefully a bounce-back season out of Backstrom in Minnesota, St. Louis benefits from those moves made by Chicago because of the cap. ” –Taylor

“At a glance Ottawa is doing nicely with cap management and if Melnyk figures out his finances they could add a ton to an already good team when the trade deadline comes around. The Alberta teams both have money to burn as well. Pretty much any team that didn’t burn a buyout on their top centre then lock up two players with third line talent long term for $9.5 million a season seem to be doing okay. Good teams like St. Louis should be interesting to watch at the cap as well.” –Jon

Is the above-mentioned cap advantage short-lived because of the anticipated increase in cap space?

” I guess Florida and Tampa Bay will struggle generating revenue with a rising floor, but Tampa Bay has already committed a lot of dollars to their cap — it seems as if Florida’s set to build towards contending in a few years, so as the youth grows, so will the salary they will pay out.  Hopefully for Florida they will be able to meet the floor and generate revenues without accessing the revenue sharing program.” –(@mORRganRielly)

“It won’t be short lived because a competent GM who can build a team with space to spare will always give you an advantage over teams throwing big money at middling players. If the Leafs want to make up for not having this advantage they should start locking up all their 2014 free agents now before there are too many horrible contract precedents and certainty about how much cap space teams will have to work with. It’s also likely that with the increases to the cap next season that every team that wants to sign their free agents will be able to, so expect an even worse group of free agents.” –Jon

“In the Islanders case, not particularly.  The team is set to move to Brooklyn, and with the move will come a vast increase to the team’s coffers, especially if they continue their ascent in East standings.  The Islanders have always been a cap floor team, but that will soon change.  Beyond that, they still have five more seasons of Jonathan Tavares’ at an insanely reasonable $5.5-million salary, as well as at least three seasons with Grabner, Okposo, Nielsen and Clutterbuck all earning $3-million or less.  These prudent, frugal deals and the pending financial windfall coming with the move, and the Islanders will be well positioned both financially and competitively as the cap increases.  They’ll have both the ability to hold onto their homegrown talent, and acquire the pieces (goaltending) they need. ” –Michael

“Based on the contracts handed out during free agency I’m going to have to say that teams firmly believe the cap advantage (if they believe there’s one) gained by teams will be short lived. I’m fairly certain St. Louis is an internal budget team and that there is much speculation that ownership is willing to spend while they are contenders but only while results are there. So once St. Louis doesn’t have the cap inhibiting them from the other teams in their division they might be worse off.” –Taylor

Fondest memory of and/or parting words for Daniel Afredsson?

“You’re still playing for a division rival so I can still despise you, which was really considerate.  You just picked the wrong team in red and white to sign with.  Enjoy your ultimately fruitless cup chase with Hank and Pavel in the Murder City, Danny boy; hope the extra couple million will be worth your own dubious reputation being tarnished in the only city to have ever embraced you. *drops mic*” –Michael

“Being a Leafs fan in Ottawa, I’m going to miss booing him in his own rink. But seriously I think the rivalry is worse off having him leave the Sens. The mocking of Mats, the hit on Tucker, the beating them in the playoffs after they tore up the regular season… many fond memories. ” –Taylor

“Alfredsson’s tantrum and benching during the 2012 playoffs were pretty great. I really hoped that would be what lead him into retirement, but at least we were able to watch him fall apart in the playoffs again this year and then slap Ottawa in the face. I look forward to him playing on a line with Todd Bertuzzi so there won’t be any debate about what the scummiest line in the NHL is. So I guess to answer the original question – my favourite moment is either when Mark Bell murdered him or the day he decided he wanted to look like a homeless Ronald McDonald.” –Jon

“No fond memories other than that he’s a clown and I will miss booing him in the Leafs’ practice arena.”  –(@mORRganRielly)

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Morning Links

VLM: If I’m James Reimer… – Michael lays out his thoughts on the Bernier trade and what he thinks it does for the Leafs’ goaltending situation

BCP: A Look at David Clarkson’s Contract BCP with an analysis of DC’s recently signed hella-long contract with the Leafs

Backhand Shelf: Fighting in hockey isn’t always pointless, and it isn’t always good, it just is – …

Hockey Analysis (David Johnson): Standardizing Advanced Stats Nomenclature – About time.

Forbes: 2012 NHL Team Values (Ottawa Senators) – For your amusement

Somebody call a pest exterminator already for Jeremy Jacobs.

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Aaron Chan (@MLHS_Aaron)