Should He Stay or Should He Go?

carlyle_0

Oh what an impact 2 weeks can have on an NHL team. No I am not talking about Detroit leapfrogging Washington, Columbus and Toronto. I am talking about how the Toronto Maple Leafs went from 2nd in the Atlantic Division to 10th in the Eastern Conference as a result of a 6 game losing streak. 4 out of 6 games were close but their poor play has made people question where this team went wrong, is it the coach? Management? The players? Look I am not an advanced stats wiz so I don’t have charts, fancy stats and video to back up my argument, the reason being that I did not have the time to do it (university stuff).

What is apparent with this team is that they lack the confidence to have a strong start to the game and control the pace of the game, it has been the same story all season long. They refuse to use their speed, and have no bite to their physical play. Damien Cox said on Prime Time Sports that he believes that the team’s identity from last season is lost and it has hurt this team in the worst way.

An argument can be made that losing players like Komarov, Grabovski, MacArthur, and Frattin had a major impact on this team, especially when you look at the teams inconsistent play. Other than Komarov, the other players were not considered “Randy Carlyle players” and they were not happy while playing for him.

How much does Carlyle’s relationship with these players have to do with their departure from the team?

It is no secret that Carlyle’s style does not suit every player in the NHL but he does have a track record when it comes to relationship problems in the dressing room. Upon his arrival in Toronto the media questioned Joffrey Lupul on his differences with Carlyle in Anaheim. Greg Wyshynski wrote an article about the critique that Lupul had of Carlyle when he was hired by the Leafs. Here are some snippets of the article that should be noted. Here is what Lupul had to say about his time with Carlyle in Anaheim.

[“In my conversation with Randy, he said he didn’t think I had the skill to play left in wing in this league being on my off side,” Lupul said. “So he wasn’t going to give me that opportunity here. And I’m not going to knock Corey Perry or Teemu Selanne off their right wing spot. So pretty much after that conversation, I realized that I probably wasn’t in their plans here.”].

Carlyle did agree with those comments and he has made it his mission to keep Lupul in the top 6 group on the left wing and for the most part it has worked out. Here is the link to the article. (http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/maple-leafs-coach-randy-carlyle-accepts-joffrey-lupul-155538837.html)

Carlyle has mentioned that his temper has gotten the better of him in the past and that he has worked hard to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. He has not called out his players this season for their play but he has not supported them either.

Here are references to the MacArthur and Grabovski situations and how they felt mistreated by Carlyle. MacArthur (http://www.thestar.com/sports/leafs/2013/10/05/exleaf_macarthur_sounds_off_on_carlyle.html) Grabovski (http://www.tsn.ca/toronto/blogs/jonas_siegel/?id=426967).

Here were two players that were great 2nd line players for the Leafs but failed to be more than that under Carlyle, however they have both found success elsewhere. More so in MacArthur’s case who  has played great for the Senators with 22 goals and 49 points in 69 games. How different would this team be with MacArthur instead of David Clarkson (who the Leafs signed because he was more of a Carlyle player).

So are the Leafs making a mistake keeping Carlyle as coach and should he return as coach next season? I will list reasons below to explain why he should stay and why he shouldn’t.

Why should he stay as coach?

1. He is the best option available at the moment. If the Leafs did fire him who are they going to bring that can do a better job?

2. It is hard to get the most out of a lineup with a lot of younger players especially on the blueline. Carlyle has had to put his trust in Gardiner and Rielly on defence and not many coaches would choose to do that.

3. Phil Kessel has become a better player and keeps on getting better. Carlyle has made Phil realize that he can’t be one dimensional all the time and you see Kessel try to use his speed to put pressure on the other teams forwards.

4. The penalty kill was a major improvement last year. Can’t say the same this year but last year the penalty kill was a major contributor to the Leafs success and if it was better this year, the Leafs would be in a better position.

5. Last year the Leafs were supposed to be have a top 5 pick in the NHL draft, instead they earned their first playoff berth in 8 years.

6. Turned around Cody Franson’s game. Franson was a healthy scratch under Ron Wilson but Carlyle put Franson in a position to succeed last season and he was very good in the playoffs last year. Carlyle made Franson try to use his size more and his decision to put him on the powerplay showed his ability to get the puck on net through a screen.

7. He lost Tyler Bozak, Dave Bolland, and Nazem Kadri at times this season and it is not easy for a coach to lose those types of players and still manage to stay in the playoff hunt (look at Detroit now).

8. He has kept the players in check and what I mean by that is that none of the players have shown frustration during this tough stretch. It seems as if Randy has kept a positive vibe in the room and part of the reason is because he hasn’t called out his team. During 24/7 we did hear him yell at the team but when it comes to the media scrums he only gave light criticism for his team.

Why he shouldn’t stay as coach?

1. This years defence is one of the worst in the league. For a coach that has the reputation for wanting his team to commit on defence this team has not done that. The amount of shots they have given up is one thing, but the amount of time they spend in their own zone is the more concerning part. So is it the players? Or is it the coach?

In the offseason something will be fixed but do the Leafs want to take a chance on trading a player like Jake Gardiner if that is not the solution?

2. The way he has handled the goalie situation has not been ideal. When you have a 1A, 1B system you cannot let one goalie lose his confidence because if one goalie goes down you need the other one to step up. James Reimer should have been given more of a chance to reclaim his job however Bernier did make that decision harder. What Carlyle should have done was play Reimer when Bernier had a bad outing because the message you send the team is that this is our guy and this is who you have to play your best every night for.

The Leafs have not played their best in front of Reimer and it is surprising given the fact other teams rally around their back up goalie because of the limited opportunities they get. Also they are doing management a disservice by playing bad when Reimer starts because his value drops. Carlyle should have tried to get this team to realize that but I am not sure if he has done that at any point and the “just ok” comments he made did not help the situation whatsoever.

3. I am not sure how many coaches give there 3rd line center more than 20 minutes a game. I am not sure how many teams will keep an enforcer in the lineup and play him only 2 minutes while younger players are busting their butts to crack the NHL. A lot of fans and media personnel have criticized Randy Carlyle for the management of his players and rightfully so. David Clarkson has had a mediocre season yet Randy has played him on the 2nd line at a time where depth scoring has been a problem. Carlyle has not rewarded the players who have demonstrated better play because he is still in favour of having more veterans on this team. Well Randy this team is one of the youngest in the league and you are going to have to get used to that.

4. He plays Jay McClement after the Leafs score a goal and grab momentum……should I say more…….ok he also played McClement when the Leafs were down by a goal. What message does that send to the players who should be out their.

5. Randy has used Phaneuf and Franson as the d-pairing when the Leafs need a goal in the last minute down by one goal instead of Rielly and Gardiner. Again this is Carlyle trusting his veteran players rather than the more creative players who can skate faster than Phaneuf and Franson and frankly Phaneuf and Franson lack the intensity when it comes to trying to get that final goal.

6. Read this Steve Simmons article after the Leafs signed Clarkson and it will make you wonder if Carlyle’s demands were not right. http://www.torontosun.com/2013/07/05/make-no-mistake-these-are-randy-carlyles-maple-leafs

 

My verdict?

Wait until the end of the season and see if they can get through this ordeal because if this team had not gone on this losing streak we wouldn’t be having this discussion. On the other hand the team was getting by with these issues and the coaching staff refused to do anything about it until it was too late. They better be ready to take the blame because saying “we don’t want to criticize a win” is not a justified argument. How do I know? I go to university and I know that when you are just getting by it will come back to haunt you unless you identify the problem and fix it. Either Carlyle cannot find the problem or they refuse to take charge in finding a solution.

See how it goes but it won;t surprise me if Nonis pulls the plug on Carlyle. Now let me just say that if they do consider trading Gardiner and Kadri just remember. Will this team be better with them or without them and what do you expect to get back for them? I highly doubt what you get back Gardiner will be worth it especially because he has been one of the best defencemen in the last few weeks. So if I’m Nonis, I am thinking about the future of the team and not satisfying the coach’s desire for more veterans unless those veterans provide more than Gardiner can.

 

Posted in Toronto Maple Leafs- Hockey | Leave a comment

A Note to Toronto Maple Leafs fans: No excuse for Twitter Misconduct

leafs twitter

Let me just go out and say that I am not implicating every Leafs fans that tweets about the team on Twitter. This is to make people aware of what I deem to be inappropriate. 

Twitter can be a great place for sports fans to interact with one another. It allows people to receive updates on players from reporters, the ability to see what some players do in their spare time and insight from hockey experts.

Twitter also has a negative side to it. The fans who become outraged when it’s team loses, a player is traded or when management makes an unpopular move. A majority of fans will use Twitter to vent out their frustrations and last night’s crucial loss to Montreal was no different. You had the normal “F**k Carlyle”, “we won’t make the playoffs” and the more common one’s this week;”Reimer sucks”, “Reimer can’t make a save”, “we want Bernier back”.

It is not uncommon for fans to be upset, I was not exactly pleased with the outcome of last night’s game and what it meant to the Leafs playoff chances. Understandably Leafs fans are worried about the state of this team who have lost 4 in a row and could be knocked out of the playoffs if they don’t turn their game around.

Usually I try to stay clear of twitter after a game for many reasons. Fans tweet irrational statements that usually spark twitter battles. However I went on twitter before I went to bed and I read people tweeting something I hadn’t seen before. “Not fair to blame April Reimer for the Leafs loss”, “why are people harassing Reimer’s wife?” and I thought to myself, what is going on. Then I read a tweet from The Hockey News writer, Adam Proteau’s.

I tried very hard to find some of these tweets and luckily I saw (@Jeffler) Jeff Veillette’s article this morning (http://theleafsnation.com/2014/3/22/reminder-it-s-a-game-and-these-are-people)  where he included this picture

Image

I could not believe what I saw, it was inexcusable! There is justification for

1. Believing that tweeting to April Reimer will do anything for yourself

2.That calling out James Reimer will help him play better

3. For people to abuse social media to broadcast their frusturation especially with the explicit language and content.

Let’s not forget that twitter is a public website and anything that is said can be used against you. Whether it is in a job interview where an interviewer may pull up your public profile on Twitter and Facebook. Or in cases where people may go too far with their tweets, they open themselves up to potential lawsuits. If you remember, last year Brian Burke was attempting to sue 18 anonymous people who wrote harassing messages on how he fathered the child of a Sportsnet anchor. So don’t think that you are safe just because you are expressing an opinion because it can come back to bite you.

In this case there were members of Leafs Nation who supported Reimer’s wife by calling out those people for their unnecessary comments. Many reporters have blocked people because of their explicit tweets and sadly these are the people that turn a lot of people against Twitter.

If people want to know why Toronto gets its reputation as a pressure cooker, just look at the tweets that come in after a Leafs loss and you will see. David Clarkson has been the poster player for a lot of twitter hate this season but if the Leafs find themselves out of the playoffs, I fear for what Leafs Nation on Twitter will do to Reimer. Let me also remind you that the Twitter was also a distraction for JP Arencibia, the former Blue Jays catcher who got rid of his Twitter account because of the harassing messages he got from fans.

This situation with Reimer should never have gotten to this point and I have a lot of problems with it. I want to bring your attention to a couple of tweets from James Mirtle.

Here is a respectable reporter who understands the pressure that is on the Leafs goalie right now. Why should they have any pressure from fans who write on twitter? How do these same people expect Reimer to play as the No.1 when everyone gave the reins to Bernier as the No.1?

People find it hard to understand that it is not easy to readjust to this added pressure. I honestly don’t think Bernier will be an immediate impact when he comes back (given his injury) and God knows what kind of impact that will have.

Reimer will be traded this summer (unless Bernier has a major collapse) and if I had the name the team that would be the best fit it would be the Calgary Flames.

Brian Burke was the only person who had confidence in Reimer as a starter from the beginning. Even after the injury plagued season he had, Burke refused to go after Roberto Luongo and ultimately put his job on the line for Reimer. And yes I am suggesting that a big reason why Brian Burke was fired was because he refused to trade for Luongo, because he believed that Reimer was the starter for this team.

Don’t believe me? Why did Dave Nonis trade for Jonathan Bernier?

I understand that Bernier wanted to be a starter and he was available, but the Leafs already had a goalie that stood on his head, got them into the playoffs and pushed the Bruins to Game 7.

I do believe that Nonis wanted to have depth at the goalie position but don’t think for a second that when Tim Leiweke started his work at MLSE he didn’t tell Nonis to get Bernier especially with his connection to the LA Kings. Reimer deserves to go to a team that needs a legitimate starter and hopefully Calgary or Vancouver will be that team because they will probably have enough to offer the Leafs.

For now Leafs Nation you are stuck with Reimer and I’m not one to complain because from what I saw in the game against Kings, he still has what it takes to be a number one goalie.

I will argue that to the end even on Twitter and unlike some members of Leafs Nation on Twitter I can do it in a dignified manner.

Posted in Toronto Maple Leafs- Hockey | Leave a comment

SLOW START VS CAPITALS UNACCEPTABLE FOR THE LEAFS

Image

Slow starts are a common trend for the Toronto Maple Leafs. With that being said, the Leafs failed to take advantage of a game which could have given them a  much needed boost but now it has had a significant impact.

Going into Sundays game against the Capitals the Leafs were  6 points ahead of the Capitals in the standings, and with a win they could have been 8 points ahead . If they won yesterday they would still be in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division with a 1 point lead over Montreal who are now 1 point ahead of the Leafs for 2nd place. Tampa Bay is only 1 point behind with 2 games in hand on the Leafs  but I will talk more about this later.

So what went wrong with the Leafs yesterday?

The Capitals have had a lot success on the powerplay which meant that the Leafs had to avoid the penalty box especially with the way the PK has played this season. So what do the Leafs do? They take 2 penalties in the first 8 minutes of the game, the Capitals scored on both powerplays then score another goal to go down 3-0 before the 10 minute mark in the game.

Tell me how many playoff teams allow 3 goals in the first 10 minutes of the game? Not many! Yes the Vancouver Canucks let in 7 goals in the 3rd period, the Ottawa Senators allowed 3 goals in under 4 minutes but the Leafs are much different from those teams.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have no excuse for their poor play. Yes Jonathan Bernier is injured and Dave Bolland has been out since November but the Leafs still have James Reimer, and their top 2 centers (Kadri and Bozak). Would this team be better with Bolland in the lineup? Yes but this team has to be more accountable when it comes to their effort and it cannot find ways to excuse their play.

Special teams have been an issue for the Leafs all season. The penalty kill has been one of the worst in the league, but since returning from the Olympics the powerplay has been poor. If the Leafs want to have any consistency in their play, it starts with a more focused approach to each game. The Leafs had a solid transition game against the Kings which lead to a strong start in the 1st period. They were able to use their skill to get themselves open for chances in the offensive zone.

The effort for their forwards especially the 2nd line of Lupul-Kadri-Clarkson has been poor. Kadri used draw a lot of penalties for the Leafs because he would force the defenders to take penalties but that has not happened a lot lately. Joffrey Lupul needs to use his strength to create more plays in the offensive zone, he has shown an ability to do so but not consistently.

Clarkson needs to turn his game around, he loses the puck too easily and lacks intensity. When teams shut down the Leafs top line the 2nd line has to step up and pick up the slack. Maybe Carlyle should consider putting Holland as a winger on the 2nd line, his puck handling would open up more space for Kadri and Lupul to get more scoring chances.

The 3rd line of Raymond-Kulemin-Bodie should stay together especially with the strong effort they had against the Capitals. Then have  McClemment and Clarkson as the 10th-11th forwards especially with Clarkson’s lackluster play. The Leafs cannot afford to have sub par efforts from it’s forwards and a major shakeup with the 2nd line would be a start in trying to turn this team around.

Another issue that was evident with the Capitals game was the amount of time and space that the Capitals players had with the puck, especially the point men. We have all seen Don Cherry g irate with the Leafs for not covering the points in the playoffs ((http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMGu7fsC_C8)) but he has a point (see what I did there). Many teams will attempt to create their opportunities from the point whether it is cycling the puck or allowing the forwards to pass the puck off to get themselves in a prime scoring location. The Leafs need to do a better job in putting pressure on the point man and force a bad decision with the puck. Here are examples where the Leafs do a better job with that.

Tyler Bozak SH goal vs Bruins playoffs- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNDlJPGam7M

Tyler Bozak SH goal vs Habs opening night- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiCbOzxbUe8

McClement breakaway (no goal) vs Ottawa- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS-OMumkhYA

Obviously the Leafs will not score on every attempt to put pressure on the point men but it would help. Also the Leafs need to try and readjust in their own zone. The Capitals forwards were able to get better positioning  which gave them clear cut chances on net. The best way to fix that is to take away the player’s space to make plays. This is exactly what the Sharks did against the Leafs they did not give the Leafs a lot of time to make plays and if they took too long they would pay for it with a crushing hit. This was something the Leafs did better last year but now the defence does not make any big hits because they are afraid of being caught out of position.

Carlyle said after practice on Monday, that the teams focus needs to be amped up. He said that there were too many times where they had been outplayed early. He said in the last 22 games the 5 losses they have had were a result of their poor starts and this team needs to try and force the play more.

Well what the Leafs tend to do too much is hope that dumping the puck into the zone will result in more scoring chances. The forwards need to skate the puck into the zone and set up the cycle game. Half the time the forwards dump the puck into the zone and there is no forward ready to receiver the puck or outwork the defencemen for the puck and as a result the other team is able to move the puck out easily. The Leafs cannot try and take the easy way out, the long stretch passes only work so many times, and the dump and chase becomes too predictable. They need to make changes especially with this important stretch of games ahead.

The Leafs have 3 straight games against divisional opponents. Detroit on Tuesday, Tampa Bay on Wednesday and Montreal on Saturday. The Leafs need to come out in each of those games with one goal in mind. Making sure that they keep the pressure and intensity through 60 minutes. They cannot let other teams get multiple opportunities early without any zone time. They need to avoid being out shot 10-1 in the first 10 minutes. It is not fair to the goalies who have to stop a swarm of chances early without any response. The Leafs need to be more focused and try to make lives easier for themselves because if the Capitals game said anything it is that the Leafs are unable to to do so.

Posted in Toronto Maple Leafs- Hockey | Leave a comment

Leafs identity clearer after win against Anaheim

Maple Leafs Ducks Hockey-5

It was an eventful night in the NHL. A scary incident involving Rich Peverley which left the hockey world silent and distraught. I give full credit to the Dallas Stars medical staff for their work in this situation and hope that Peverley has a full recovery. In Ottawa, Shea Weber was a one man army, his famous slap shot injured both Craig Anderson and Cody Ceci, however Ottawa was able to comeback from a 3-0 deficit eventually losing 4-3 to Nashville in overtime.

The Vancouver Canucks on the other hand are officially, (in the words of Brian Burke) an eighteen-wheeler that has fallen off a cliff. They were winning 3-0 going into the 3rd period against the Islanders but in an epic collapse they surrendered 7 goals in the 3rd period losing 7-4. If there was a time to panic in Vancouver now would be the time.

How about the Toronto Maple Leafs? They played the first game of their western road trip pulling out an impressive 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks.

What was impressive about this win?

1. They were able to hold a lead in the 3rd period which has been a negative trend for this team since their return from the Olympic break.

2. The Getzlaf-Perry combo was held to only one goal. Boudreau had Getzlaf and Perry play a combined 50:56 TOI (10.92 TOI on the powerplay).

3. Phil Kessel continues to shine with 3 points (1 goal 2 assists) using his speed and skill to lead the attack for the Leafs. He had a breakaway goal where he blew past two defenders and fortunately his shot trickled in. Then he set up Paul Ranger on a 2 on 1 with a beautiful pass.

4. Dion Phaneuf played only 20:03 where he was very effective on both ends of the ice. He lead the team with 8 blocked shots and set up Tyler Bozak’s opening goal.

James Mirtle from the Globe and Mail posted a mini rant on Twitter which I thought was interesting. He argued that Phaneuf is more effective when he spends less time in his own zone. Here is the link to the tweet.

Phaneuf is a capable offensive defencemen and if people want him to showcase his value then you need to take away his time in the defensive zone and try to keep his offensive going.

Players like Weber, Keith, Doughty and Karlsson are more valuable to their teams because they can provide on both ends of the ice but they do not spend too much time in the defensive zone.

5. The forwards are buying into playing more defence. The game against Philadelphia started off strong because the forwards were committed to helping the defence which allowed them to use their speed to counter and create quality scoring chances. Although the Leafs were out shot 44-23 Anaheim had 9 of those shots on 4 powerplay chances. The Leafs did a better job keeping the front of the net clear (only Corey Perry was dominant in front of the net). If there was one play that defined the Leafs strong defensive play it had to be when Getzlaf was on a breakaway and JVR hustled back and stole the puck cleanly from him.

Other notes from the game: Bernier was great again last night cooling down the Ducks attack in the 2nd and 3rd period. Carl Gunnarsson has improved significantly lately (he lead with 23:56 TOI last night), he will have to continue to improve if this team wants to compete in the playoffs and hopefully he is up to the challenge.

What does this say about the Leafs identity? In 4 out of their last 6 games the Leafs have scored the first goal of the game and in those 6 games they are went 3-1-2. All 3 wins have come when they are able to get the first goal because the team that gets the first goal always has the advantage going forward. The Leafs will have to continue their strong starts to the game and keep their defensive play simple because now is when teams will be desperate in trying to get as many points in the standings. Right now the Leafs are 2nd place in the Atlantic and they will try to stay that way going forward.

Posted in Toronto Maple Leafs- Hockey | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Games vs NYI & MTL reveal ugly trend

image

The Toronto Maple Leafs had a chance to get 4 points to start the post-Olympic schedule instead they return home with only 2 points. In both games the Leafs went into the 3rd period down 2-1.

However both games had the exact same ending to them. The Leafs would comeback only to lose the lead and lose the game in overtime. Against the Islanders the defence could not retrieve the puck along the boards setting up Visnovsky’s OT goal. Last night Bernier takes a penalty after Daniel Briere gets in alone on a breakaway in OT forcing the delay of game penalty and Pacioretty’s game winner.

Looking at tweets from last night 4 stuck out to me.

There were some penalty calls made last night late in the 3rd period which had Randy Carlyle fuming at the referees, however as Dion Phaneuf argues you cannot blame the referees because it shows that you cannot own up to your mistakes.

Both tweets by Hayes sum up the problem the Leafs have had all season. They are not able to play a consistent effort over 60 minutes. This is the time where the points in the standings mean a great deal and teams will try to get as many points to move up in the standings. That is why there have been a lot of 3 pt games (games going into OT/SHO), teams want to squeeze every point out of every game.

Let me tell you I don’t like it when players call out their teams but in the case of the goaltenders I see where the frustration comes from. Bernier and Reimer have to bail out the Leafs when they turn the puck over constantly but it is their job to do so. However the Leafs have to be thankful for their outstanding goaltending.

The Leafs were very fortunate that Reimer stood on his head against the Bruins in that series because the Bruins had the Leafs on their heels the whole series. Don’t believe me remember this save that Reimer made on Bergeron?

I have always been a big fan of everything that Reimer has done for this team since he came here. Except for the one season where he dealt with injuries, the Leafs are a more competitive team with him in net.

Bernier has been excellent this season don’t get me wrong but I cannot anoint Bernier the true No.1 until he can do what Reimer did in the playoffs last year and I think Bernier is capable of it. The question to ask is whether the Leaf would be in the same spot if Bernier wasn’t on the team I think they would be in the 2nd wild card spot. However the last 2 games have shown me that Bernier should not criticize his teams too much when it comes to their performance.

Against the Islanders he was not great, The miscue that he had with the puck should have made Carlyle furious but it did not because he started last night. That penalty against the Habs was a panic decision by Bernier to go and play the puck. Looking at the play, Briere could not control the pass so if was more patient the puck would’ve come closer to the net and he could have covered it up or played it away. Instead he made the choice to go and challenge Briere for the puck and taking a penalty which lead to the Pacioretty goal.

However in Bernier’s defence, Briere should not allowed to walk in on a clear cut breakaway in overtime. This speaks volumes to the defensive problems with this team.The Leafs make it too easy for forwards to skate the puck into the zone because they skate back and give them a lot of free space. The forwards are always caught hanging around in the neutral zone waiting for the defence to try and get the puck back. If the forwards put in any effort to help the defence they would have more time on the attack. Instead they are skating around trying to get the puck back letting the other team out shoot them

Randy Carlyle did say that he wants his team to commit to defence and follow what Team Canada did in the Olympics. What Team Canada did well was not skate after the puck rather they read the play and knew where the puck was going and they would take the play away. Teams found it hard to cycle the puck against Canada because they did a good job forcing the other team to make a quick decision with the puck. If the Leafs could try and prevent other teams from cycling the puck easily against them it would make life easier on them.

Listening to Ric Nattress and Gord Stellick last night during the post game show Nattress made a good point about the way that Lupul and Kadri played. He was angry at the fact that both are playing selfishly not passing the puck and not committing to defence . David Clarkson did a great job forechecking against the Montreal defence but when Kadri and Lupul got the puck they would try to deke around everyone instead of cycling the puck. If Lupul and Kadri want to improve they have to try and play like they did in this game.

The Leafs will need to work on playing better in the 1st period by getting their legs going and defending leads in the 3rd period. If they don’t, there are other teams catching up to them in the standings and it won’t be long before they are in danger of falling out of the playoffs.

Posted in Toronto Maple Leafs- Hockey | Leave a comment

Bolland wants a raise, but is he the only one?

It all started with a tweet from Nick Kypreos.

Now the Dave Bolland’s soap opera in Toronto has added a new sub plot. He is a pending UFA this summer looking for pay raise, he is currently making $3.375 million this season but what threw everyone off is the fact that he wants $5million per season for 7/8 years.It is clear is that Bolland wants to stay in Toronto but it doesn’t look like he is willing to take a hometown discount.

Yes the cap is rising from 64,300,000 to 71,100,000 but teams still have to be cautious when they commit to a player who is seeking more term and a higher salary.

David Clarkson was coming off a contract that paid $8 million over 3 years ($2.66 million AAV), and like many hyped UFAs, a team gave Clarkson a pay raise and it was the Toronto Maple Leafs who gave it to him.

Clarkson has had a rocky season missing 19 games (12 games worth of suspensions and 7 on the injured reserve), he has amassed only 4 goals and 6 assist in 39 games. Not exactly the performance for a player that was advertised as one of the top free agents. Clarkson has been able to find some chemistry with Kadri and Lupul and if he can improve his play heading into the playoffs he may be able to salvage part of his season. If not, the contract that pays him $5.25 million a year for seven years will look like another free agent mistake by Toronto

Back to Bolland, he faces a similar situation to Clarkson but Bolland holds an advantage over his fellow teammate. He is a centremen and it is difficult to find a centremen that has the ability to play a 200 foot game like Bolland does. He has 10 points in 15 games this season so Bolland does have the ability to contribute offensively but it’s not certain if he could have kept up with that pace throughout the season.

A player like Bolland will look contracts in order to compare and determine their value going into negotiations. Ryan O’Reilly was signed to an offer sheet forcing the Avalanche to pay an average of $5 million per year for 2 years. Stephen Weiss signed a 5 year contract at $4.9 million per year with the Red Wings. Mike Richards is halfway through a 12 year contract that pays $5.750 million per year.

Other than Stephen Weiss the other players play significant roles in the top 6 forward group on their respective teams. The question with Bolland is what is his value? Is he the top centre on the team? No. If he was the 2C then the Leafs can justify paying him $5 million but that is not the case.

One thing to remember is that the price set out for Bolland is a start for negotiation. There is no doubt that Tyler Bozak wanted more than $5 million and the Leafs were probably firm with their negotiations saying that Bozak still needs to prove that he can be the top centre for this team.

The last centre the Leafs gave $5+ million was Mikhail Grabovski and he was eventually bought out by the Leafs last summer. The Leafs will be very cautious before giving more than $5 million this time to a player that has much uncertainty to his health and role that he can provide. In fairness to Grabovski, his line-mates had a serious drop in production and he did not fit in Randy Carlyle’s style of play. Dave Bolland does fit that mold but at $5 million per year over seven years that is not what the Leafs want to spend on a player that is currently the 3C of this team.

Bolland also has tough competition this summer with; Paul Stastny, Olli Jokinen, David Legwand, Derek Roy, and Mikhail Grabovski on the radar of a lot of teams when free agency starts. Plus Dave Bolland’s tendon injury is going to make teams question his long term health especially if he wants a long term commitment.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will also have to consider other free agency this year as well. Luckily Kessel, Lupul, JVR and Bozak are are contracts that the Leafs don’t have to worry about.

Here are the Leafs UFAs and RFAs (including prospects).

UFA: Bolland, Kulemin, McClemment, Raymond, Smith, Ranger

RFA: Ashton, Franson, Gardiner, Reimer, Holland, D’Amigo, Abbott, T.J. Brennan

If I had to pick the UFAs to keep it would be Bolland, Raymond McClemment and Smith. The Leafs have only 21,680,833 in cap space to work with and if Dave Nonis learned any lesson from last summer it’s that you cannot freely spend when you have important holes on your roster to fill.

Kulemin will probably want a raise so if I’m the Leafs I’m looking for a cheaper replacement or a player on the Marlies to take his spot. McClemment will probably be back because of his role on the penalty kill so Leafs will try to get him at the same salary that he is currently receiving  ($1.5 million). Raymond is not going to come back at $1 million, I can see him pushing for at least $2.5-$3.5 million (comparing to Clarke MacArthur). Trevor Smith can be signed at a reasonable price but he may look for other opportunities or the Leafs will try to get him back to play with the Marlies. I don’t expect Paul Ranger to come back next season for the Leafs but maybe to another team like the Oilers.

When it comes to the RFAs, Franson and Gardiner will be the more important negotiations especially after Franson agreed to take a one year deal this season. Gardiner may be used as trade bait to land a more defensive defensemen but if the Leafs do sign him it will most likely be a bridge contract similar to Nazem Kadri around $2.5 million. Both players have had their ups and downs this season but if they can be a stable 3rd pairing for this team going forward it would be a good idea to lock them up at a reasonable price for the next couple of years.

Ashton will probably resign under $1 million because of his limited NHL play. D’Amigo may be the best option to replace Kulemin next season and he will be a cheaper option, I can’t see him getting more than $1.5 million.

Abbott will probably get bare minimum to continue his development with the Marlies. T.J. Brennan may resign to be an extra defencemen at $800k or to give the Marlies a boost on the blueline.

Then there is Holland and Reimer, two players who have proved that they are NHL capable players but they have not had the opportunity to get any consistent playing time with the Leafs this season.

Reimer may be brought back depending on how confident Nonis with Bernier as the No.1 job.If Reimer is brought back it will be at $2-$2.5 million over 1 or 2 years however it all depends on what the situation is like at the end of the season.

Holland is a player that the Leafs will want to sign to a manageable contract because he can be a valuable trade asset going forward or a player that will replace a UFA like Dave Bolland if they go in that direction. $2 million or less for Holland is reasonable given his limited play this season but he may request a trade so that he can get more playing time.

I encourage you to read James Mirtle’s article because he talks about what the Leafs will likely do at the Trade Deadline and how it will have an effect on their off season plans. (Link below).

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/leafs-beat/mirtle-leafs-have-plenty-of-trade-deadline-decisions-to-make/article17125273/

Judging on the comments from Leafs fans on twitter they will have no problem with Bolland leaving because of his contract demands. Here are some example of tweets.

Let’s just say Bolland better reduce his asking price or Leafs fans will have a new problem to complain about this summer.

 

Posted in Toronto Maple Leafs- Hockey | Leave a comment

Olympics are over, Playoffs are next!

Image

The Toronto Maple Leafs have had the opportunity to get some much needed rest during the Olympic break with the exception of Nikolai Kulemin, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk who participated in the Olympics. Now hopefully this rest will help the Leafs finish the regular season and prepare them for another playoff run.

What is the obvious goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs now? Improve their position in the standings so that they can have a better playoff match up. Right now they currently sit in the first wild card spot where their first round opponents would be the Boston Bruins. Not exactly an ideal position for the Toronto Maple Leafs to be so they will probably want to move past either the Montreal Candiens or the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After the Winter Classic the Toronto Maple Leafs had a bad stretch of games which doubted whether this team is a playoff team. However the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to get contribution from players like; Kulemin, Gleason, Kadri, Bozak, JVR and most importantly Phil Kessel.If Kessel and van Riemsdyk are slow out of the gate it will be up to players like Kadri, Lupul, Clarkson, Raymond to provide some support behind the top line.

A minor issue for management to deal is with Dave Bolland and Trevor Smith who are  ready to return but the Leafs find themselves in a cap crunch ($860k over the cap if Smith and Bolland are activated from LTIR). Sending down Carter Ashton will give the Leafs enough cap space for Bolland not enough for Smith. Smith cannot be sent down to the minors without clearing waivers and there would be a lot of teams waiting to claim Smith.

It is ridiculous for this team to have two enforcers (McLaren-Orr) who cost $1.6 million against the cap, playing an average of 5 minutes a night, yet this team cannot find room for a player that has more offensive upside and bailed out this team when it lost Bozak and Bolland. It will be up to Dave Nonis to find a way to accommodate everyone onto the roster.

Here would be the lines once Kessel and JVR return (Smith and Bodie were in Kessel and JVR’s spots).

Offence

JVR-Bozak-Kessel

Lupul-Kadri-Clarkson

Raymond-Bolland-Kulemin

McLaren-McClement-Orr

Bodie,Smith scratches

Defence

Phaneuf-Gunnarsson

Gleason-Rielly

Gardiner-Franson

Ranger scratch

Bernier-Reimer

Obviously it would make sense to swap Bodie & Smith for McLaren & Orr but it doesn’t look like that will happen. There are also the younger players in the Marlies who deserve a chance to be in the lineup. D’Amigo, Holland and Ashton are players that can provide more than McLaren and Orr but if there are not getting consistent playing time it makes no sense to have them their. So for now they should keep them with the Marlies unless Carlyle plans to give the 4th line 10 minutes a night.

Looking at teams currently in the playoff picture they roll 4 lines consistently and that is something Carlyle does not like to do. I’m going to paraphrase what Randy Carlyle said about Team Canada’s performance at the Olympics. He said that he wanted the Leafs to understand that having a commitment to play good defence can win a championship. However Team Canada didn’t just play good defence; they dominated puck possession by forcing turnovers, they didn’t give the other team space to work in the defensive zone and they were patient with the puck. Don’t forget that Team Canada had the best players in the country playing for them and that is why they could play that system perfectly so don’t criticize the Leafs if they cannot play exactly like Team Canada. For the Toronto Maple Leafs they need to find a way to stay healthy and get themselves into the playoffs.

Posted in Toronto Maple Leafs- Hockey | 2 Comments