Jan 17, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak (42) skates against the Buffalo Sabres at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Buffalo 4-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The debate about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ intentions ahead of the February 26 NHL trade deadline is at the middle of today’s links.

Leafs Links

McKenzie: I think Leafs plan is to stay the course at deadline (TSN1050)
Bob McKenzie discusses the Leafs’ approach to the deadline, whether Travis Dermott has changed the plans to add to the blue line before the deadline, and more.

I haven’t specifically heard anything on Tyler Bozak. It doesn’t surprise me [that there’s interest]. There is a lack of centers available. Other teams are looking for them. I think a player like Bozak is always in demand. The issue is: What if I told you get a draft pick and a kid playing junior hockey? What do you think about that?

I could be way off on this, because I’ve been saying this since the get go: I don’t think the Leafs are looking at trading any of van Riemsdyk, Bozak or Komarov. I think we all know there is a plan in place, and it’s called the Shana-plan. They don’t lay it out there and plans change on a daily basis, but I would take a pretty good guess that, coming into this season, the foundation of the Shana-plan is that, “We’ve become a pretty good team and we certainly have a chance to compete in the playoffs against just about anybody. It doesn’t mean we’re a front-line Cup contender, but we’re in the playoffs and we’d be happy taking our chances with the group we have right now. It’s a pretty good hockey team.” That’s the basis on which I think they approach this season.

Now, could it be better? Sure. I don’t think the Shana-plan includes going out and adding a whole bunch of assets and giving up future considerations to load up. There is a school of thought among some Leafs fans that the window has never been more open. If you got the kids – Matthews, Nylander, Marner – on their entry-level contracts, and you’re not dealing with any financial pressures, now is the time. You’ve got to surround them with talent and really go for it in the next two or three years because you might not be able to keep the band together.

Well, I think the Leafs think they can keep the band together for quite some time. I don’t think they feel that ticking sense of urgency that some Leafs fans believe exists in the next two-three years. I think their plan is to basically stay the course. That doesn’t mean going out and paying a premium to add a bunch of players to make the team the best it can possibly be right now and throw caution to the wind for the future. I also don’t think it means giving up and taking away from this time in its opportunity to do something in these palyoffs.

At the end of the day, I think if van Riemsdyk walks and Bozak walks and Komarov walks, they’ll replace them with younger, cheaper talent, but they want to have those guys in their lineup to give themselves the best possible chance to beat the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning; to see how deep they can go and continue the maturation process for these kids. I don’t think they want to leave the kids hanging on the vine with a huge hole at third-line center.

Justin Holl on finding success with Marlies & Maple Leafs (Fan 590)
Goal-a-game defenceman Justin Holl joined Ben Ennis and JD Bunkis on the Good Show.

There is a ton of talent on the [Marlies]. They are a fun team to play on because there are such good players that are all in the right spots and are able to get you the puck in the right spots. I feel lucky to be part of a team like that.

In terms of being up and getting an opportunity to play a few games with the Leafs, it’s more of the same, pretty much. It’s so much fun to get out there and play with all of those good players. They make you better as well. It was a great experience. I’m back with the Marlies and working to get another shot here.

Why the Maple Leafs should be sellers at the trade deadline (The Athletic)
James Mirtle breaks down why selling could be beneficial for the club long term, knowing the tough path to make it through Boston and Tampa Bay in the playoffs and some of the value their rentals might carry on the trade market.

Are the Maple Leafs better off playing the Bruins or Lightning in Round 1? (MLHS)
Gus Katsaros breaks down who should be the Toronto Maple Leafs’ preferred first-round opponent — the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Boston Bruins? — as well as Kasperi Kapanen’s progression into an NHL regular.

Game Review: On Leafs vs. heavy teams, Kapanen staking claim to permanent spot, Auston Matthews’ recent struggles vs. top competition (MLHS)
It seems clear Babcock is looking for the final puzzle piece at center ice to turn the Leafs into a real four-line hockey club capable of competing over a long series against Boston or Tampa Bay in round 1. Dominic Moore sat on the bench a lot after his late second-period penalty – an undisciplined cross-check in the o-zone – and finished at 9:21 TOI while winning just 21% of his faceoffs. Auston Matthews took his spot in the fourth-line rotation in the third period, which is something we’ve seen in the later stages of recent games. It’s pretty obvious what Babcock has written down at the top of his trade deadline wishlist.

Unearthing Toronto Maple Leafs’ win song takes some digging (Sportsnet)
“I don’t know if I can say what it is. It’s kinda private, I think,” said Morgan Rielly. “You start off with one. During training camp, you’re playing music in the room, in the gym, during scrimmage, or whatever. The conversation will happen between a few of the older guys about what the win song is going to be. You sample a couple, and usually by the first game of the season you know what it’s going to be.”

Image leaks of possible Maple Leafs 2018 Stadium Series jersey (Sporting News)
“Conn Smythe spoke of his team wearing the Maple Leafs bade with ‘honour, pride and courage’ and those words are now stitched into the collar of each swear so that our players, and fans, are reminded of that every time they put it on,” Brendan Shanahan said in an explanation of the Leafs current sweater on Toronto’s website.

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