Maple Leafs Hot Stove’s Anthony Petrielli joined Sportsnet Today with Roger Lajoie to discuss the Leafs’ loss to Boston on Saturday night, their odds against the Bruins in a playoff series, Josh Leivo’s reported “play me or trade me” request, possible deadline moves, and more.
On what he sees as the team’s best option is for the third pairing going forward:
I’d like to see a bit more of Justin Holl. Not expecting him to be a goal-per-game player the rest of his career, but honestly, I thought he was good in preseason. He was steady. He’s not going to wow you or anything, but he’s big, he’s mobile, he breaks the puck out well, he has some patience with the puck, and he’s an All-Star this year in the AHL. You kind of connect those dots and I’d be curious to see what he looks like.
I do think they’ll eventually go back to Polak when it all settles at the end of the day. That’s my guess as to what they do, but I’d be curious to see what Holl looks like.
Otherwise, that lineup was pretty close to what they can do optimally speaking. The tough thing is you have that Bergeron line for the first round of the playoffs, and that’s probably the best line in the league. It’s a tough ask to ask Matthews to go against them for a full series with that Nylander and Hyman line. But I’m not sure that they can really change that around at this point.
On whether there is another level to come from Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander this season:
The player that I don’t think necessarily gets talked about enough in that whole thing: For me, down the stretch last year into the playoffs, I thought Nylander was their best player. I thought he was really, really good after the trade deadline last season. He definitely has another level. He can be so much better. For me, the overall package with the shot, speed, hands and passing ability — I don’t know if the other two have him in terms of that entire package. He definitely has another level. All three of them do, especially compared to last night against the Bruins.
The switch for Marner has been really good going up next to Kadri and Marleau. That line has just been a huge improvement over Komarov there and I think it’s elevated Marner’s game. Kadri and Marleau have just been much better than JVR and Bozak so far this season. At the end of the day, I think those guys will pick it up. I wouldn’t pick the Leafs to beat Boston in a series, but I don’t think it would be a four or five game series, either. The Leafs will have some pride.
On whether the Leafs need to manage Ron Hainsey’s minutes more down the stretch:
That’s why I keep coming back to Polak in the back of my mind — not because I think Polak can replace him, but I think they’ve played Hainsey so much on the penalty kill, in particular, and those can be really long, grinding minutes. You have to be very detailed on the penalty kill and you’re in shooting lanes all the time. It’s always a battle in front of the net. It’s hard, as a defenceman, to play on the penalty kill. I feel like they’ll eventually end up putting Polak back in and evening out some of those PK minutes a little bit, or as best as they can.
The interesting thing about Hainsey getting inserted back into the lineup and just the general top four defencemen back together: They go off the glass a lot more than a bunch of these Marlies kids that they’ve called up. Holl, Dermott and Carrick — those guys try to make plays. Zaitsev and Hainsey are very default “off the glass and out.” You saw it burn them on the first goal that Boston scored. It was a fluke play — it hit the stanchion or glass piece and bounced and it was a strange play — but bigger picture, it was hard for the Leafs to transition yesterday, and that’s just how their group plays with their top four.
On the report that Josh Leivo wants to play or be traded:
I don’t think Lou Lamoriello has to do anything, and that’s Leivo’s fault because he decided to sign a contract extension. Honestly, that contract extension was confusing for him. For the Leafs, it made total sense. “Let’s keep this pretty good player at a pretty good price. He’s young and he seems to do well when he gets in the lineup.”
But Leivo was barely playing. I don’t know why he signed that deal. In doing that, Lou can do whatever he wants now. He put himself in that situation. I wouldn’t give him away for free just because he’s not playing and just because he demanded a trade. At best, I would look at it in the summer, unless, for some reason, you got a good offer for him. And how likely is that right now? If someone offered you a third-round pick for Josh Leivo, what is the point for the Leafs?