LEAFS ROUNDTABLE: THE D

Justin Fisher
November 29 2013 03:06PM

 

It's becoming more and more apparent that the Leafs aren't the perfect team that none of us imagined they'd be. If you're Dave Nonis, who's the one player you target to right the ship, and what do you offer up to get him?
 
That's right! A trade proposal roundtable! Fun!!!

STEVE DANGLE

I wanna start by saying this trade proposal roundtable was my idea, so if you think it sucks, it's because I suck.

Here's the Leafs' problem: They need to improve on defence. I heard one pundit laughing on the radio because people were talking about how the Leafs have "too many" defencemen and can trade one. He was basically saying that's impossible because the Leafs' defence still stinks. Fair point, but it's not the quantity of defencemen that plagues the Leafs, it's the quality. Paul Ranger? I think he'll shape up by the end of the season, but how much? Mark Fraser? He's better when healthy, but he sure as hell shouldn't be Cody Franson's defence partner.
 
The other problem? The Leafs can stand on a street corner and go "We need a good defenceman!" and almost every other team in the league will shout back "Join the club!" 
 
I wonder what a guy like T.J. Brodie or Kris Russell in Calgary would cost. They've been decent defencemen on a Flames team that everyone thought would finish last. Is there somebody in the Leafs organization Burke would like with him in Calgary? Who would that player even be? A lot of people point to Nikolai Kulemin as a forward the Leafs have with trade value, but for all his scoring troubles, he's a great defensive player. If anything, I'd like to see Kulemin dealt to a team that would actually appreciate him. The Penguins? Well their defence is pretty bad right now. The Ducks? Ben Lovejoy would be awesome.
 
I don't have an answer. I'm hoping Dave Nonis does. After all, he makes way more than I do.

CAM CHARRON

The problem the Leafs have is that they don't have an awful lot of room to make moves, and even less room to make mistakes, in their current salary cap situation. The team has $42-million committed to next season, with just two defencemen locked up and raises likely coming for James Reimer, Jake Gardiner and Cody Franson (still think he'll turn his play around), plus whatever long-term deal they're going to give Dion Phaneuf. 

The other problem is that you can't really add players if they won't fit the system. I admit I don't know the type of player that succeeds in a Carlyle system. The forwards are too low on exits and the defencemen are too conservative. If there's a player the team could really, really use, I'd suggest John-Michael Liles. The cost to acquire such a player is low, and he'd add nothing to the Leafs salary cap situation.
 
It's not like Paul Ranger or Mark Fraser have magical traits that keep them in the lineup. Neither are right-handed shots, which was the excuse for keeping Mike Kostka around last season. Liles definitely isn't worth his cap hit, but as long as the team has to pay it, why not spend it on the gamble that Liles still has something to contribute at the NHL-level?

JUSTIN FISHER

I'm stumped. More than anything, I believe the Leafs' current defenders just need to be better and more aggressive in clearing the puck. If I was to go out a get a new guy though, it'd have to be a shutdown-type defender - someone like the Los Angeles Kings' Willie Mitchell. He's old as heck, but he's on the last year of his contract and he's still a serviceable stay-at-home-and-watch-the-kids kind of guy. The issue there is that I doubt that L.A. are itching to get rid of him, and that Willie carries a $3.5M cap hit that the Leafs simply can't afford right now. It'd have to be a dollar-for-dollar move, and I just don't see how that shakes down.
 
So where do you go from there? What steady defensive-defenceman even available this time of year? Luke Schen? Hahaha, yeah, no. And I can't justify going out and getting another offensively-minded defender. With Phaneuf, Rielly, Franson and Gardiner currently in the lineup, it seems redundant to do so.
 
The more I think about it, the more I think Cam might be on to something with Liles. Maybe a small shake-up using internal pieces might set things right, or at least improve them a little bit. And just so Steve doesn't get mopey, Ben Lovejoy isn't that bad an idea either. 

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Justin Fisher is The Leafs Nation's Managing Editor. After the game, he's a handsome vigilante who fights crime and frequents late night food trucks.
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#1 Nasty Nazem
November 29 2013, 04:16PM
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Too bad they didn't go after Jay Bouwmeester last year because that's one that can legitimately impact and improve Leafs defense right now. I have no idea why they didn't go after him last year either.

They'll have a tough time getting any help around the league since teams almost never trade good defensemen. I don't know, I guess try giving whoever is the best Marlie best defensemen a shot? You can trade for some bottom pairing defensemen but what are the chances they will be that much better than Ranger/Frasor/Reilly? They should probably look at changing some of their system/breakouts and see if that helps.

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#2 Matt
November 29 2013, 05:38PM
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Send Mason Raymond back to Vancouver for Chris Tanev (lol)

Seriously though, Nonis shouldn't have jerked Gillis around so much last year, because Tanev would probably be a great fit in Toronto - he's cheap, he's shown he can be the #2 guy on a top shutdown pairing (with Dan Hamhuis), he doesn't have much offensive upside but he's a defensive rock, and he's young. The Leafs would have to give up something good to get him though, and I doubt Gillis will answer Nonis's calls anyway.

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#3 Back in Black
November 30 2013, 08:20AM
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The Leafs can't fix the problem by rotating in another 4-6 defender. They need to add from the top; someone like Christian Ehrhoff. Not likely, though, considering that they don't have a surplus of young talent to offer.

I think the defender who best fits Carlyle's system is Jake Gardiner, who can skate rather than pass the puck out of his own and and easily join any counter-attack. So it makes sense that he should be benched from time to time to make room for Mark Fraser.

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#4 Phrankie
November 30 2013, 12:12PM
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Is trading the coach an option?

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