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Photo: Michael Dwyer/AP

Ron Hainsey discusses Morgan Rielly’s evolution as a player and the team’s home vs. away record, Mike Babcock praises The Goat’s start to the season, Steve Thomas expresses his excitement about the current sports scene in Toronto, Elliotte Friedman provides a William Nylander “update,” and much more in the links.


Leafs Links

Friedman: “The Leafs are determined that they are going to be patient and see where this goes” (Fan 960)
Elliotte Friedman provided a Nylander update, or lack thereof, on Sportsnet 960 on Monday.

On the latest in negotiations and interest from other teams:

I don’t think there is much going on contract wise. The one thing is, people are like, “Do teams need permission to talk to him?” You don’t. He’s not signed. He is an RFA, so anyone can talk to him, and teams have.

I think the thing that is interesting is that I think they know that Carolina is very interested. I think Carolina has some of what they want. I think Kings are very interested; I just don’t think the Kings have what they want. I think Minnesota is interested, but I am not convinced Minnesota has what they want; I just don’t know, to be perfectly honest.

I think there are other teams, too. But I think Carolina is right in there. He fits the kind of thing that Carolina would want to do. They’ve got to get Aho done. They’ve got to get Teravainen done. They’ve got to get Ferland done. But I don’t think that’s going to prevent them, necessarily, from doing anything.

I think there is a lot of interest. I would think that Toronto is going to take — I don’t know if another chance is the right answer — but I think they are determined that they are going to be patient and see where this goes. We are three weeks away now. He’s got to sign by December 1st or he can’t play. I think Toronto always wanted to keep him, but I think there is the realization now that that might not be possible.

On what the Leafs would be looking for if it came down to a trade scenario:

I think they would love to get a right-shot defenseman. But if you’re taking Nylander off the roster, you might need another forward. Kapanen has played well this year, but Marleau has not to this point and neither has Johnsson, who was a guy they are really counting on.

To me, what Toronto is going to look at is skill. They really like Nylander. They recognize how skilled he is. They are going to want skill in some way back. It’s obvious to say right-handed D, but if you’re subtracting him from the roster, you’re subtracting a skilled player. They might look back at that, too.

Rielly is on ‘another level’ this year (NHL Network)
Kevin Weekes says Morgan Rielly is his Norris leader one month into the season.

Leader for the Norris right now. Leader. He is skating the puck out of trouble, bypassing forecheckers, looking guys off… the confidence, the hockey IQ, shooting at the right time, dishing at the right time, joining the rush. He’s defending with intensity and defending with purpose… all while playing 22+ minutes a game. Right now, 14 weeks into the season, he is the Norris Trophy leader this early into the season.

Hainsey: Rielly’s offensive game has taken huge step forward (TSN1050)
Ron Hainsey joined Leafs Lunch and discussed his 1,000 game milestone, playing with Morgan Rielly, Rielly’s evolution as a player, and more.

On Rielly’s improvement in the defensive end:

He continues to improve. Defensive hockey has changed a lot. Defensemen are not really responsible for… you don’t have too many defensive defensemen who are responsible for taking care of the whole end. When you are defending now in your own end, it’s 3-on-5, basically. It has changed a lot. You don’t have defensive defensemen who are controlling the defense with one guy to shut people down. You shut people down by outnumbering them. That’s really just the way it is.

The other thing with Mo is, if he is playing in the offensive zone and creating offense, that’s all time we aren’t playing in the defensive zone. That is a big part of how you play defense now, too, as well as in the neutral zone, making sure teams don’t get in your zone with possession with the puck to create things that way.

There are always things you can improve on, obviously, but our defensive game is really based on the five players on the ice and how you perform your role in that. I think he’ll improve in that and continue to improve on that as he goes forward.

Obviously, his offensive game has taken a huge step forward, and that benefits us as well.

On the leadership dynamic in the room:

We have a great dynamic and we have so many of these great young players. We have Patty, who is a former captain. John is a former captain. There is no lack of leadership. You don’t need one person steering the ship. There is not one person making every decision — not that there are a ton of decisions to make. The exciting thing about the young players is, and Mo is a little bit older than Mats and Mitchy — who are still 21 or 22 — is that you are not the same man at 25 as you are at 20. You don’t even know how these guys are going to develop over the next couple of years and the type of personalities they’re going to have.

Mitch — you wouldn’t think he has such a big personality as a leader, but he is going to be a leader on this team. I am not saying you make him a captain, but you have tons of options for leaders, is the point I am getting at. Seeing how all of these guys develop over time is going to be really exciting. A lot of it is going to be after I’m gone, unfortunately. These guys have great careers ahead of them. It’s going to be really fun to watch all of them.

On the team’s contrast in home vs. road record:

It is one of those things that I think tends to equal out over time. We seem to shoot the lights out on the road. I don’t know our goals per game but I know we’ve got a seven and we’ve got a five. I think we’ve got another five in there. At home, we have just not scored as many goals to this point.

I assume that will flip. The power play got off to a roaring start, especially on that road trip, where it was almost automatic. It’s slowed down a little bit, as it tends to do. No one is going to click at a 50% power play. But hopefully, we will get off to a better start tomorrow, get that first goal, and hopefully get on a roll.

… It wasn’t like it was the easiest six road games, right? It was in Dallas, in Chicago, in Pittsburgh, in Winnipeg, in Washington… That’s why you play the games, I guess, because you never would’ve had 6-0 on the road with some tough trips, and then 3-5 at home. But it happens and we’ll take the 6-0 on the road, obviously, and try to turn this 3-5 around at home.

Mike Babcock after Monday practice: “Goat has been real good” (MapleLeafs.com)
Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Monday, discussing Morgan Rielly’s evolution as a player and a person as well as The Goat’s play.

On Gauthier:

I think Goat has been real good. Of the guys who have come from the minors — the transfers — he’s probably been the best. Part of it is because he has a dimension of size and playing defense. As the guys say, wherever Goat goes, he just wins — so that’s a good thing, too. He knows how to play without the puck. He’s done a good job for our team. He’s just got to keep working away. Eventually, he’ll end up on the penalty kill and grow into a more important role.

On Rielly:

I don’t think he’s grown into the enthusiasm or into his love for the game. You have that and you bring that with you. He’s an energetic guy.

I think Ron has been really good for Mo and Gards. He looked after him and protected him. Him being a real solid citizen himself helps out, but I think he’s just been around and understands what it takes.

Mo is an important, important player on our team, but he’s an important guy because of his energy and what he brings every day and how much he cares about winning.

He comes in here every day fired up. You know people like that, and you know people that aren’t. Who do you want to hang out with?

Game #14 Review: Toronto Maple Leafs 5 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins 0 (MLHS)
Declan Kerin has ten points of analysis on the Leafs‘ best win of the season, including: Their PK excellence (5 for 5) vs. the Penguins power play, Kapanen’s evolution, Marner’s 200-foot play and PK contributions, Tavares taking down Sid, Rielly’s roaring start, understated fourth-line contributions, and more.

Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner stepping up in Matthews’ absence (Toronto Star)
“Obviously, tremendous skill set and just brings it every shift with his all-around game,” said John Tavares. “The more you play with him, the better idea you get about his poise and his ability to hang onto the puck, read the play and buy time. It allows me to find space in open areas and get a sense of when he’s going to find the seams. The more you play together, the more you understand each other’s tendencies.”

Slow and steady, Gauthier is making his case with the Leafs (The Athletic)
Ian Tulloch points out a 2015 interview from then Marlies-GM Kyle Dubas defending Gauthier as a player and mentioning his defensive value and how well he stacks up in different defensive metrics. Ian then takes a look at some of those metrics for The Goat’s start to the 2018-19 season in the NHL.

Here is the full quote from Dubas on Gauthier back in 2015, as transcribed at MLHS:

With Frederik, I think he’s the type of guy a lot of people who are big on statistics and analytics would say he hasn’t produced as much as some of these other guys. And that’s true, he hasn’t. Mike uses a phrase that some guys are scout players and some guys are “coach players.” Every coach wants a player like Frederik on their team. You watch him, his skillset, his skating, his ability to move with the puck a little bit out here on the ice, and it’s come so far.

When you talk to Sheldon, when you talk to Mike, he’s one of the players they’re most excited about. I think everybody gets excited about the high end, flashy skilled guys, but with Sheldon and Mike – the people who are standing behind the bench – they get excited about him because he’s a guy you can trust out there in any circumstance. He’s great on faceoffs, he’s a big body, he plays extremely well defensively, he’s got a great stick defensively, able to get his stick on the puck and move it up the ice. He’s going to need to be able to be a little more assertive defensively and break out of our own zone quickly.

He’s a better player in that regard [advanced statistics]. There’s a couple players in this year’s draft that were eligible and then there’s a guy like Frederik, where people who are pure analytics people would say, “he’s not the type of guy you would suggest taking in that spot,” but if you go down to the shot attempts and the possession parts of it, he’s a guy that charts out extremely well. It’s just an interesting kind of paradox with where we’re at with hockey and advanced statistics. Frederik is a guy that’s a prime example, he’s a polarizing player in that regard. It’s interesting because baseball has gone through this already – people that have really strong defensive value – in hockey, how do we measure that? For us, he charts out really well in that regard.

Steve Thomas: This Leafs team is one the city can wrap its arms around (Fan 590)
Steve “Stumpy” Thomas joined Sportsnet 590 to discuss the 2018-19 Leafs team.

They’re an exciting bunch of guys to watch. The Leafs have had some success in the past, but this team here is a team you can really wrap your arms around and enjoy watching the skill level, the creativity, the passion that these guys have to play. It’s a lot of fun for the city. The Leafs are playing good, the Raps are playing amazing, and it’s just a fun time to be a Toronto sports fan.