Photo: Associated Press

Lou Lamoriello discusses the team’s trade deadline outlook, Bob McKenzie looks at the Maple Leafs’ options for improving their blue line before the deadline, Team Canada’s 2018 Olympic roster is announced, and more in the links.

Leafs Links

Lamoriello: Maximizing Leafs potential won’t be easy (TSN1050)
Lou Lamoriello joined TSN Overdrive earlier this week, discussing the state of the team at the halfway point before looking ahead to the trade deadline.

On Travis Dermott’s first two NHL games:

I thought he played extremely well. I was really impressed that he wasn’t intimidated by the game coming in. He did play exhibition, but as we know, this is a different level during the regular season. We were all pleased – myself in particular. I thought he did an outstanding job.

On whether the team is feeling good about where it sits in the standings, especially with the state of the Atlantic Division:

You’re never comfortable, nor should you be. If you do, you’re in trouble. There is a lot of hockey left. We just have to focus in on our game and continue to get ready each and every day and allow the end result to take care of itself. But there is a lot of hockey left, and there is parity in the league. Fortunately, we’ve got more home games than road games. We’ve got a pretty tough road schedule, but it all balances out. I always say that it depends on how you’re playing at a given time, not how difficult the schedule is.

On how the team has grown and how things stand compared to a year ago:

Going back to the first year, we went through a little under 50 players to see who exactly wanted to be a part of it. Last year, with the infusion of the young players on a regular basis and what they were able to accomplish at the end of the year and really the playoff experience they had, and then coming into their second year…. Other people got to know who they were.

This is a difficult league. This is not a league where you can take anything for granted – not that our players have, but the success that they had last year certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the teams and the players that we’re competing against. It makes it a little more difficult.

But I think the growth has been the way we would’ve hoped to have seen it be. I think we are a little ahead of where we thought we might be at the beginning of last year. I agree with Mike 100% that the good news is that the ability some of our players have and the potential they have – it’s encouraging. But it has to be actualized. Playing with potential is the easiest way to get in trouble. You have to maximize it and make the most of it.

These players, in my opinion, want to be good. But it’s not going to be easy, either.

On what the team is looking to do at the trade deadline:

I think you always know what [areas] you want to improve in, but it’s easier said than done. First of all, you need a partner to do it. And then whatever the price is, it can’t be something where you’re going to put a hole in your team from an area that you know and you’re potentially acquiring somebody you don’t know, even though you’ve done a job of scouting, or your scouts have been brought in. Everybody is involved as far as where you go, but you still don’t know how a player is going to adjust. You have to be very, very careful.

When you have the parity in the league, it’s even more difficult because there are fewer people looking to make transactions. It’s going to be very interesting, but you’re constantly trying to get better. You just wish sometimes it would be a lot easier to do without giving up too much, but if you talk to the 30 other GMs in the league, you’re going to find the same comment.

On how he feels about trades within the division given the potential sellers in the Atlantic:

I personally don’t look at it any different. I think if you can make your team better and the team that you’re trying to trade with – whether it’s in your division, in your conference, out of your conference, out of your division – shouldn’t matter. You have to realize that if you’re making that transaction, you feel it’s for the better of your team. If a player goes to another team and does very well, so be it. In fact, I’ve always said that any trade that we’ve been able to make over the years that I want to see a player have success so that there is the potential of making a trade the next time with those individuals. You’re doing it for the good of your team, and if it works out for another team, so be it.

McKenzie: Dermott will develop & can be a future answer for Leafs defence (TSN1050)
Bob McKenzie joined Leafs Lunch to discuss the Leafs‘ potential plans at the deadline.

On whether there is anything brewing with the Leafs trade-wise, Travis Dermott, and Mike Babcock’s coaching philosophies:

I think it’s status quo. I’ve said over and over again, really — will they improve the team if they can via trade? Absolutely they will. Do they have a burning desire to shake things up and move this guy out and that guy in? I would say no. I think they’re just waiting and listening and seeing what’s out there. It’s not easy to get what they’re looking for — an impactful defenceman.

I think, long term, my own personal view is that, when I saw Travis Dermott this week, it suggests — to use Mike Babcock’s terminology — he’s going to grow into a top-four defenceman all day long. He’s good. I think he’s going to be excellent, but I think he’s got to go through the Mike Babcock torture test. Mike’s got a way that he coaches and he believes that you’ve got to play to win, and everybody has got to do it and go through it.

Whether you’re Auston Matthews — who doesn’t get as much as ice time as most players of his stature — or Mitch Marner — who doesn’t get much ice time as players of his stature — or any of the kids, he keeps it lean, he keeps it hungry. It’ll be up to him to manage that because I’m sure, along the way, these guys are bristling and saying, “We want more.” He’s also got a very firm idea… we know inside and out that Hyman plays with Matthews and Komarov plays a lot. Those types of players are going to have central role in a Mike Babcock-coached team, and everyone has got to learn to deal with that.

Ultimately, he thinks that the manner in which they play, it’s important for them to learn how to play the game now the way it can be won in April and May. That means dumping it in and retrieving it. That means they’re not as much fun to watch as they were last year. But that’s part of the maturation and development of the team as he sees it.

On whether any of Mike Green, Tyson Barrie, Cody Franson or Ian Cole might make sense for the Leafs:

I think Mike Green could be a useful rental for them. Tyson Barrie is an intriguing name. I keep coming back, though, and thinking: Right now, if you gave me the option of Tyson Barrie vs. Travis Dermott, I’d say Travis Dermott. A lot of those names [on the rumour mill on defense], I’d rather just go with Travis Dermott and grow him into what I think he’s going to be, which is a top-four defenceman in the NHL.

Ian Cole is an interesting guy because he’s got a lot of experience and would qualify as the type of defenceman that Mike Babcock seems to like. But, again, at the expense of who?

Let’s do the math. You’ve got Rielly and Hainsey and nobody is displacing one of those guys. You’ve got Gardiner and — when he’s healthy — Zaitsev. Babcock loves Zaitsev, and Gardiner isn’t going anywhere.

Mike Green is not going to knock any of those guys out of the top four. Gudbranson is not going to knock anybody out there. Tyson Barrie might, but what would the price be? I don’t know.

Ian Cole — same thing. None of those top-four guys are getting supplanted by any of the guys mentioned on the list. Most Leafs fans are saying, “Well, take Polak’s place.” I would agree with that and say Travis Dermott should take Polak’s place. I don’t think you need to go out and make a trade to find someone to take Polak’s place. And I’m not saying Polak doesn’t have some value as a depth defenceman, but for me, it’s closer to a #7 than a #5 or a #6. He mostly plays as #5, really, in Mike Babcock’s scheme of things.

For me, when I look at what Travis Dermott is, and when Zaitsev is healthy, I think you’ve got five good defencemen there and Carrick might make a sixth. Maybe some of those guys that we talked about — a Green or a Cole — might be an upgrade on Carrick, and if that’s already your plan, then great. I just don’t see any of those guys supplanting anybody in the top four of this team right now.

Lou Lamoriello likes roster but will make trade if fit is right (Toronto Sun)
“To do something for the sake of doing something is never a good thing. (When describing a possible trade) you don’t even want to use the word ‘substantial.’ Sometimes the smallest things become the biggest. There is constant communication right up until the trade deadline, all teams are doing that. We’re no different than anyone else.”

Bourne: Polak, bench dynamics & how coaches decide who plays when (Athletic)
To get specific with the Leafs for a second, what needs to happen is a discussion of how they can tamp back the big Czech’s minutes. I know there are plenty of people who’d like him to play roughly zero, but if the brass and staff have concluded he needs to be in, then maybe they try to basically roll five D with him killing penalties and just jumping in when there’s a need.

Leafs Prospect Report: Looking through a fully-stocked system (Sportsnet)
“I play a minimum of 15 minutes a game for the Marlies, so that’s been good,” Liljegren told the Star. “To really belong to one team is something that I wanted, so it’s been good.”

Elliotte Friedman: I think Flyers will try to keep Simmonds (FanRag)
“Philly is Catapult team; they’re one of the teams that use that Catapult system. They are going to know Wayne Simmonds better than anybody else, and if they believe, based on what they know of his body, they’ll extend him. I really believe that.”

Friedman: Extremely unlikely Maroon finishes season in Edmonton (FanRag)
“I don’t think there’s a doubt that he’s going to get traded. I would be surprised that they’re keeping him. I don’t see any way that he finishes… I shouldn’t say that because there’s always a way. I would say it is extremely, extremely unlikely that he finishes this year in Edmonton.”

Sean Burke betting on “Canadian way,” balance for more hockey gold (Fan 590)
The GM for the Canadian men’s Olympic hockey team discusses the challenges and philosophy behind putting together the squad going to Pyeongchang, and which country he believes will present the biggest challenge for a third straight gold medal.

Team Canada 2018 Olympic Roster

PlayersHometown/Current Team
Rene BourqueLac La Biche, Alta./DjurgŒrdens IF, SHL
Gilbert BrulŽEdmonton/Kunlun Red Star, KHL
Andrew EbbettVernon, B.C./SC Bern, NLA
Quinton HowdenOakbank, Man./HC Dinamo Minsk, KHL
Chris KellyToronto, Ont./Belleville, AHL
Rob KlinkhammerLethbridge, Alta./Ak Bars Kazan, KHL
Brandon KozunCalgary/Lokomotiv Yaroslav, KHL
Maxim LapierreBrossard, Que./HC Lugano, NLA
Eric O'DellOttawa/HC Sochi, KHL
Mason RaymondCochrane, Alta./SC Bern, NLA
Derek RoyRockland, Ont./Linkšping HC, SHL
Christian ThomasToronto/Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL
Linden VeyWakaw, Sask./Barys Astana, KHL
Wojtek WolskiToronto/Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL
Stefan ElliottVancouver/HV71, SHL
Chay GenowayMorden, Man./Lada Togliatti, KHL
Cody GoloubefOakville, Ont./Stockton, AHL
Marc-AndrŽ GragnaniLÕële-Bizard, Que./HC Dinamo Minsk, KHL
Chris LeeMacTier, Ont./Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL
Maxim NoreauMontreal/SC Bern, NLA
Mat RobinsonCalgary/CSKA Moscow, KHL
Karl StolleryCamrose, Alta./Dinamo Riga, KHL
Justin PetersBlyth, Ont./Kšlner Haie, DEL
Kevin PoulinMontreal/Medvescak Zagreb, EBEL
Ben ScrivensSpruce Grove, Alta./Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL
Previous articleToronto Marlies Fortnight in Review – Back on track with a four-game winning streak – January 12
Next articleAnthony Petrielli with Rob Wong on Fan590
Founded in 2008, Maple Leafs Hotstove (MLHS) has grown to be the most visited independent 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, and a weekly feature piece entitled "Leafs Notebook." MLHS has been cited by: ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBC News, USA Today, Fox Sports, Yahoo! Sports, NBC Sports, TSN, Sportsnet, Grantland, CTV News, CBSSports, The Globe & Mail, The National Post, The Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun, Global News, Huffington Post, and many more.