Revisiting the Nonis blueprint

Dave Nonis
Chris Young/Canadian Press

I took a look at Dave Nonis’ GM’ing history before the off season started. Since the summer has come to a crawl I thought it would be a good time to look back on it.

The first thing that leaps out at me — and I’ve been thinking about this for awhile — is that Nonis was handcuffed due to limited cap space for most of his time in Vancouver. And yet this time around he was gifted cap space, he gave it away, and still has two key cogs to resign. I’m just shocked he’s put himself in that same position again. I guess Nonis is comfortable working right up against the cap.

Another thing I noted was Jovanovski being allowed to leave as a UFA at 30, with the obvious parallel of Phaneuf potentially becoming a UFA at 29. It really didn’t surprise me to hear Phaneuf’s name thrown around in the trade market. I don’t know what kind of return he was looking for, but if getting a good player or two under 25 years old was possible as opposed to paying Phaneuf handsomely in his early-to-mid 30s, it’s likely Nonis would at least consider it.

It was also noteworthy that Vancouver wasn’t big on enforcers during Nonis’ time there, so that makes it pretty clear that Carlyle has a significant say on final roster decisions in Toronto.

While with the Canucks, Nonis identified the core of Kesler, Burrows, the Sedins, Bieska, etc. and stuck with them. While the Leafs have gotten rid of a few good players, Kessel, JVR, Lupul, Gardiner and Kadri (I’m not worried about him being re-signed at all) are all still apart of the team.

Furthermore, Nonis also threw a good chunk of coin at Willie Mitchell to join their core in Vancouver. Although I didn’t feel confident enough to say it in the blog because I didn’t want to rumour monger at the time, I always sort of thought Nonis would view Clarkson similar to the way he viewed Mitchell, as a hometown boy (Mitchell is a BC native) who plays a rugged style of hockey and bangs bodies. It’s obviously not a perfect parallel, but I see the similarities.

I also noted he’d look for a shutdown center, and obviously he did get one by bringing in Dave Bolland. It’s really too bad Komarov bolted for Russia, though.

A few other things that struck me were Burrows starting his career on the fourth line and working his way up, because it sounds like Colborne will have to follow the same path should he reach his potential. While the jury is still out on whether the Bernier trade was worth it, Nonis experienced having bad goaltending in Vancouver and quickly acted to bring in Luongo to end that (not to mention all the horrendous goaltending he’s had to endure while with the Leafs). While the Leafs actually got great goaltending last year statistically, I still maintain that Reimer is a serious injury risk. With Bernier in the fold, even just as insurance, I expect the Leafs receive at least top 15 goaltending this season.

Moreover, the very first thing I noted was that Nonis has probably changed since his time in Vancouver, and boy has he ever. Known for being too patient as a Canuck, Nonis struck fast with the Leafs and the team will look noticeably different next season. They have a new goalie, two new forwards, Colborne should be with the Leafs full-time unless he’s dreadful in camp, Ranger has been added to the defense, and Gardiner should play the full season this year, too. It’s a pretty different group which is mildly surprising considering they had some success last season.

In Vancouver, Nonis was questioned for his decisions on Kesler, the Sedins, the Mitchell contract, letting Jovanovski go, letting Carter go and so on, and he ended up looking good often than not. Hopefully that will prove to be the case with his asset management in Toronto.

Wednesday Morning Links…

Jake Gardiner breakout season around the corner?
Gardiner stepping up and pushing Gunnarsson off of the top pairing would be massive for the Leafs.

Maple Leafs & Nazem Kadri in holding pattern over new contract
Expect media outlets to make a big deal about Kadri not being signed until he’s signed. I for one am not worried about him. It’s the Franson situation that concerns me.

Ontario boys are back on the Leaf roster after period of absence
If you care about the Leafs having Ontario born players, they do now.

Kessel’s brother joins in Leafs skate
I really hope there aren’t Leafs fans who actually still question/dislike Kessel.

Kadri doing extra work on skating
Some stuff here on Kadri and Brennan, but the sad part was the blurb on Kulemin being all alone. One of my favourite Leafs without question.

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Anthony Petrielli has been at MLHS since 2011. He is known for his weekly "Leafs Notebook" feature, and also writes specific analysis pieces. You can contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @APetrielli.
  • darthNihilus

    Good assessment Tony, I see things kind of the same. I hope Nonis is one to learn from past mistakes and we wont be letting Dion walk for nothing-I hope he re-signs. I am cautiously optimistic and excited for training camp.

  • darthNihilus

    In the star story Kadri says he’s aware of the team’s cap issues. This makes me believe a bridge contract is something that he would accept if it made sense and I believe Ffranson would be smart to go down that route as well.

  • Dink

    I dunno, I am boosting my dishwashing

  • Dink

    I did a rough look at cap money and found that there is about 300 unsigned UFA’s and RFA’s. Some will never be resigned (maybe as many as half) but for argument they are out there.
    Of the 30 teams, there is a total of 124 Million available (even counting the deficit teams of Phil, etc.)
    That’s about 4 million a player available. 
    What’s it all mean?
    To me it means, a lot of teams will be adding payroll soon (by any means possible) and you will see a lot of cap freeing up on a lot of teams, not just Toronto.
    I did this mainly to see if teams could even operate with the present cap and it most definitely can.

  • mcloki

    The more important question is how many roster spots are available? Not too many I believe. Leafs just have 2.

  • leafscapguru

    -Keon- completely agree with you, I’ve also been tired of the leafs lack of UFA’s moves in previous season’s so i was have to see that we were able to land Clarkson, hopefully this starts a trend of players wanting to play here.

  • Jmessih

    Very true the Leafs still needed to sign, Bozak, Clarkson, Fraser, Gunner, Ranger and still Kadri and Franson. That takes up cap space and fills roster spots, where as the Islander have a lot of cap space and not too many roster spots to fill.

  • leafscapguru

    @Dink I think that Nonis will be able to trade a player before the season starts to lower the cap we might not be running a 23 man roster but what player wants to play that healthy scratch role.

  • TMLfan_15

    How long has Nonis had on the Job?  The only cumbersome contract that this team has that Nonis is responsible for is Clarkson’s.  If the Cap goes up as expected then that becomes less so.  Part of managing a cap is drafting and developing young and cheap players to plug into the line-up.  That is perhaps the most important element of “cap management”.  On that front the Leafs are in the best shape they have been in since i can remember.   The “mismanagement” of the cap that is referred too is highly exaggerated.  If anything, not having a boatload of money forces our two RFA’s to temper their demands.

  • ingy56

    -Keon- Totally agree Keon, Nonis had to take out the trash before he got to work and retained some salary in order to get Bernier and in some ways that has pinched his cap space a bit. I also believe there are players on the team he’d like to move in favour of younger/cheaper. If he can move Liles he is looking just fine and I actually think he can get Kadri and Franson done with Liles still on the roster.