MLHS’ Anthony Petrielli joined Real Kyper & Bourne on Friday afternoon to discuss the Maple Leafs’ needs through 18 games, including whether the team’s biggest hole is at forward or on defense and if Frank Seravalli’s Nick Robertson-for-Ville Heinola trade idea makes any sense.
Petrielli on whether the bigger trade need is up front or on the blue line:
It has to be a forward. They’ve struggled to score in the playoffs in pretty much every playoff run when it comes down to it. They were shut out by Columbus in Game 5. It was effectively the same against the Habs in Game 7 — they scored against Carey Price with a minute left. Against Tampa, they scored once in a game where they were at home and Brayden Point was knocked out of the game.
Even if past years, they have consistently not been able to score enough, and now they have a third line without a purpose. What do they do?
I get why Pontus Holmberg is there. I get what Keefe is trying to do. He is saying, “Engvall is just a left winger. We have established he can’t play any other position well. He hasn’t been good this year, but if he does turn it around, it will be as a left winger.” Calle Järnkrok has established throughout his career that the is only good on the right wing. He is sitting there thinking he doesn’t want to put these guys out of position because they are already not playing well.
I like Holmberg — I think he looks the part as an NHL center — but for him to be the third-line center for a Cup contender with no pedigree or AHL production to his name in his first year in North America is a massive ask. He is positioned in the wrong spot.
Petrielli on Frank Seravalli’s idea of a Nick Robertson-for-Ville Heinola swap:
I don’t see how you are going to get anything for Roberson that makes it worth it. He is an undersized winger who I think can score in the league. I don’t know if he can do anything else in the league. When he came up in game one, he scored, and everyone said it was awesome. Can he do anything else? Can he take shifts at five-on-five? We know if he gets chances in the slot, he’ll score, but beyond that, I am not sure if he does anything. He will have to prove that.
He hasn’t played much in the league, and he is still really young. There is a reasonable chance he develops into more. Are you going to give up on a guy for Ville Heinola? I don’t think so. I don’t know if there is the value.
Robertson probably represented the biggest opportunity for gains at forward for the Leafs. If they hit on Robertson this season, suddenly, Kerfoot is out of the top six — and Kerfoot has one goal in the first 18 games, which was a power-play goal. Robertson really represented that at the beginning of the season anyway, unless you want to get on the train that is praying Matthew Knies walks into the league and is very good.
For the first half, it is about Robertson. I think they have to give him a solid 10-15 games as opposed to waiting to see if someone else plays their way out of the lineup, which is a perplexing approach.
Petrielli on the state of the team’s blue line group without Jake Muzzin:
I think Liljegren is a real deal and that he’ll become a top-four defenseman. I would give him the year, or at least up until the trade deadline, to work into that.
You’d be hard-pressed to trust Rasmus Sandin in a playoff series in a notable role at this rate. I think Liljegren can do it, though. He has the tools.
There is Liljegren, Brodie, Rielly, and Holl, who is criticized, but he’s something and is important on the penalty kill. I think Giordano is really good still. I don’t want to pin everything on the oldest player in the league right now, but I think he could play more and they are just saving him. He is legit. He is really good. As Bourne always says, he is an adult out there.
There are five good guys on D at least. At forward, they don’t have enough good guys. Last night, I know we’re all quick to pick apart coaching decisions, but I was watching them get outplayed by the Devils and thought, “I legitimately don’t think he has the horses to keep up.”