The odds of Tyler Bozak moving, Ryan O’Reilly’s status ahead of the deadline, the Leafs coaching situation, Roman Polak’s value, and more.
Bob McKenzie on TSN Drive on TSN 1050:
There are teams inquiring. Again, I think people see the distress the Leafs are in and are thinking they can pick the carcass. So, when you hear ‘total rebuild’ or ‘blow it up,’ you think they’ll make a trade for a couple of picks or ‘B’ prospects. I’m sure the Leafs‘ attitude is we have to rebuild but do it smartly. “In absence of a really good pick and or really good prospects, we can’t take fair to middling draft picks or prospects for a guy like Bozak because, whatever shortcomings he may have as a so-called number-one center, who do we play if he isn’t there?” This rebuild sounds terrific, but you have to ice some NHL players. The return becomes important and right now I don’t think it’s been on a level the Leafs desire. I think at best it’s 50-50 that Bozak moves.
Is it going to take 3, 4, 5 years to turn the Leafs around?
I think, probably, in the big picture, yes. If you want a legitimate chance to get better they do have to go deeper than Vancouver did. Thing with Vancouver is, in spite of the fact that they missed the playoffs or didn’t perform expectations, at no point did anybody say, unequivocally, “we’ve had it with the Sedins, we won’t win with these guys.” They’ve built up too much currency for the way they play the game. Yeah, people said, “diminishing returns, they’re getting older,” but they’re good hockey players and they didn’t say, “we’re done with these guys.” In a manner of speaking, no one has said, “we’re done with Phil Kessel or Dion Phaneuf,” but because we’ve had collapse after collapse after collapse, there’s this sense that you can’t win with these guys. Maybe you can, maybe you can’t. Ultimately, one or both might not get dealt because the return can’t be justified. If you bring in other pieces and start to build it up, maybe they will be a competitive team with one or both of those guys in the lineup.
Who is the best coaching choice for the Leafs this offseason?
I think you have to do things in the proper sequence. If you’re Brendan Shanahan, I’m sure you’re thinking about the coach because you know Peter Horachek is a caretaker as an interim guy; [but] first thing’s first, you have to decide what is going to happen with the GM, if Dave Nonis is the general manager or if someone else is going to the be the GM. If it’s not Dave Nonis, I‘m sure the GM is going to want input as to who the coach is. If Peter Chiarelli got let go in Boston, and Dave Nonis got let go in Toronto, and Pete Chiarelli becomes the GM, it may well be that Claude Julien makes the most sense, but I’m sure if Babcock or McLellan is available [the Leafs would be interested]. This is why the Leafs and a bunch of teams are going to be eagerly anticipating what is going to happen in the playoffs. For teams that struggle like Leafs in the regular season, the playoffs become the great equalizer. Right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in tatters, and what they want is some company. Nothing brings company quicker than the playoffs, when some team thinks they’re going go the distance, i.e. Anaheim, Boston, San Jose; the level playing field comes when we go through who makes it and who misses and how much carnage there is on the executive and coaching front. There’s the potential for some really good hockey people, and a lot of really good hockey people might become available between now and the draft.
Bob McKenzie earlier on TSN1040 Vancouver:
There hasn’t been anything front burner on that. That said, I think the Colorado Avalanche are open to the idea of doing it, but I think their expectation is it‘s much more likely to be a deal done in offseason. If they get the right offer between now and the deadline, they might move, but I don’t think they’ve got anything close to what would make them consider moving between now and next Monday. It’s much more likely to happen at the draft or in the offseason. The door is open a crack, but no one has really kicked it in. It’s not a firesale, he’s an important piece for them, but they have concerns, obviously, financially long term with O’Reilly, and have more holes to fill, specifically on the blueline. For the right defenceman at the right time, I think they make the move. I don’t think they’ve shut the door on O’Reilly considerations at all between now and the deadline, but I don’t think they’ve been enticed by anything they’ve seen so far. Therefore, I suspect it carries over to the summer.
His [give a shit meter] is really high. This is one where his tangibles are good but his intangibles are even higher. Everybody just loves everything about him; the way he approaches and thinks the game, his effort, commitment, dedication, his personality on and off the ice, his skillset. He’s not the fastest skater in the world, which is probably what prevents him from being the prototypical number one center, and he’s maybe not going to be putting up last season’s numbers every year, but there are so many other things he does for you. At the risk of sounding cliché, the 200 foot player, faceoffs, penalty kill, blocking shots, hockey sense, ability to read offensively, make plays offensively, score goals… There really isn’t anything he can’t do other than be an elite level number-1 C who skates really well; he’s not gifted in that sense, but he is in every other facet of the game and hockey people love the full package.
Ray Ferraro on TSN1050’s Leafs Lunch:
Roman Polak’s value:
I think [playoff teams] would like him. I think he would return a draft pick or a not-an-A prospect, but maybe someone just below that. An equivalent of a 2nd or 3rd round pick, that’s the trade value. But I think playoff teams would be very interested in him.
Quite honestly, I’d be interested in, as Toronto, keeping him. They don’t have enough of [what he brings]. Someone has to lead by example. You need some veterans to do that, even as you go through this transitional stage. I know because I hear from young players and they talk of older players that they see and can’t believe now hard these guys work. If there’s nobody leading the way — you can have a coach tell you all day, but if you see a peer doing something and you go, “huh, that’s something I should probably be doing.” I think Polak can be one of those guys. I don’t think he’s going to return you so much; maybe you’ll get blown out of the water, if someone has a key injury between and the deadline and the team becomes, instead of just interested, more desperate, and says, “hey, look, we’ll give you a 2nd and a top end prospect.” Then you have to look at it. Let’s not get seduced by just first round picks here. If you’ve got three or four seconds in the next two years, you can really do some damage there. My experience with the draft is there is a clear separation generally at about pick 20, and then from player 20 to player 40 a player could be just about anything. A player in that range is in essence kind of a first round player anyway.