YakovMironov's Leaflets: April 18th - Just say "No-Zak"

Jon Steitzer
April 18 2013 10:38AM

Leaflets is a weekly rundown of thoughts and notes on the Leafs by Jon Steitzer that will usually appear on Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @YakovMironov

JUST SAY NO-ZAK

Darren Dreger stated yesterday that Tyler Bozak is seeking five million dollars a season. A player who is a disappointment at $1.5 million wants more? In the NHL this seems right, but I’d hope this is enough to finally punch his ticket out of town. Rather than go into the comparables (SkinnyPPPhish has done that here) or into how Bozak isn’t very good (Hockey Analysis has that here) I’d like to focus on the alternatives to not bringing Bozak back.

First consider who is available and what their price and term would be relative to Bozak’s potential $5 million.

Player

Age

2012-13 Cap Hit

Ribeiro, Mike

33

$5,000,000

McDonald, Andy

35

$4,700,000

Roy, Derek

29

$4,000,000

Zubrus, Dainius

34

$3,400,000

Weiss, Stephen

30

$3,100,000

( numbers from Capgeek.com )

None of these names are exciting, and all of these players are older (and in some cases significantly older) than Bozak, but without argument they are all more capable a filling in a top six role than Bozak and it’s likely that only Weiss and Ribeiro could also be in that $5m range that Bozak is seeking.

-Ribeiro is a much more dynamic playmaker, he adds speed, and if we’re framing him in a positive light, he draws a lot of penalties.

-Andy McDonald is older, injury prone and will essentially see the lineup as much Connolly did last year, but he has some familiarity with Carlyle and has thrived as an offensive catalyst in defense first systems.

-Derek Roy has been on a decline in the past two seasons and may not offer any significant upgrade over Bozak, while I’d prefer taking a short term flyer on Roy over committing to Bozak it’s hard to imagine that he’d be considered.

-Dainius Zubrus is the most intriguing name on the list, not so much for his actual ability, but because he is the option to add some size to the top six that the Leafs have prioritized for so long. He’s likely one of the cheaper options as well, and could be a cap casualty if Clarkson re-signs in New Jersey.

-Stephen Weiss is potentially the favourite on this list since there’s some belief that he’d be capable of so much more if he ever had a chance to play outside of Florida. He has a somewhat scary injury history, but the fact that he’s a true number one center with a few years left, and his two way abilities would compliment what the Leafs already have in the system makes him a favourite alternative.

Speaking of alternatives that make sense, what’s the harm of letting Bozak walk without replacement? Both Grabovski and Kadri are more talented than him; McClement is capable of holding down the third line, and Colborne and other Marlies depth can fill the need on the fourth line. Don Cherry might even get his wish and see the return of Mike Zigomanis.

There are very few reasons to consider Bozak for anything more than $2.5 million a season, but I still have no confidence that the Maple Leafs organization sees it the same way. There seems to be some level of fear that Phil Kessel is not adult enough to be able to play hockey without his bestie.

If that is the case, consider this. Phil Kessel could make between $7-8m a season after next year. If you are also paying Bozak $5m (about $3m over his true value) you are essentially paying Kessel $10-11m a season. While I think Kessel is a fantastic hockey player I’m of the opinion that too much has been paid to one player in that situation. It’s better to let Bozak walk this summer and proceed with Kessel from there.

 

 

LIMITING LUPUL

It’s up for debate whether or not Lupul returning on Tuesday night was the right decision as Lupul continues to recover from a concussion. While the organization has a history of players returning early, and not being transparent about the extent of injuries, this seems to be as much on the player as the team.

What we with Lupul’s return was the knowledge that is ready and willing to play. What we saw was that he is not performing at the same level as when he left, albeit this was blurred significantly by the across the board poor play of the Leafs in Washington.

With Lupul being as fragile as he is, and the significance of his injury I’d hope the Leafs choose to limit him the upcoming games, the same way I’d hope the same for Reimer. The Leafs will find the points they need to clinch a playoff berth in the upcoming games, and it shouldn’t come at the cost of injury of players necessary for playoff success.

Carl Gunnarsson seems to be temporarily shutdown, and this is a good decision as it is allowing Gardiner to play a significant role alongside Phaneuf, with Reimer sitting Scrivens will not be completely rusty if needed in the playoffs, so why not keep Lupul out and use it as an opportunity to find Frattin or Colborne 15+ minutes of top six ice time a night?

 

 

CLASSIC NHL

When the NHL introduced something as universally well received as the Winter Classic I think we all knew it was only a matter of time before they found a way to completely destroy it.

Enter the Stadium Series.

I mean if the Winter Classic is special, than the Stadium Series will be six times more special, right?

From a fans point of view, attending these events is strictly about saying you were there for something that was considered a rare treat for your team. You can’t see the ice, you’re overpaying for your ticket, and (with the exception of the LA game) you will be freezing your ass off while having copious amounts of limited availability merchandise flung in your face. Sounds like a blast.

As a one off event this was something special for TV. It was an honour that your team was chosen, the 24/7 build up generated additional hype and gave incredible personal insight into your team, and now we have a product that has been watered down to the extent that it features a Canucks/Senators matchup. HOT RIVALRY ALERT!

Jokes about the hideousness of the Canucks Heritage Classic jerseys aside, what the fuck is the league doing? My cynical nature believes this is an attempt to generate revenue that may be lost from the lack of an All-Star game next season and a means to cover off any revenue losses that could occur from the Olympic shutdown. I’m sure what they’ll find is that Canadians and national coverage of a Rangers/Devils game outside won’t get much attention after fans have already sat through three previous outdoor games this season. I’d expect these games will not have ratings on par with the single Winter Classic game (around 2 million viewers in the US) and instead will have viewership similar to the Heritage Classic had in the US (around 600k).

 

 

 

PHANEUF FOR NORRIS ‘13

The seems to be some momentum gaining for the idea of Dion Phaneuf being a Norris candidate, and frankly I think Michael Stephens at MLHS has made a pretty solid case for it (he used fancy stats), but I can’t help but think the case for Dion will never creep into the mainstream.

The fact of the matter is when it comes to awards there seems to be a blind spot around Toronto. The same media who talk about what a terrible team is in front of James Reimer won’t connect the dots for his Vezina Consideration.

After years of articles written about how awful the Leafs penalty kill is I doubt Jay McClement will receive more than one or two votes for the Selke.

Phaneuf falls into this same group, he unfortunately he’s too far behind Subban in the defensive scoring race, Letang’s point per game pace is too impressive, and then there’s the disengaged voter who wrote down Weber or Chara on their ballot before the season even started.

The name I’ve purposely avoided mentioning until now is Ryan Suter, a player I legitimately can see winning the Norris, and for the right reasons. Like Phaneuf he has provided a strong offensive contribution (he’s ahead of Phaneuf), he’s played in front of goaltender who is good, but not regarded as one of the best (though at least Backstrom is getting some Vezina considerations), he’s part of a team that very few expected to make the playoffs [ed note--depending on who you talked to] and he’s essentially doing all the heavy lifting on the blueline.

It’s amazing that so many have seen the case for Suter, but are blind to the same qualities in Phaneuf.  Maybe it’s because the worst parts of the Maple Leafs fan base still can’t see his value and at times have felt the need to call in to sports radio stations calling for him to be scratched or bought out. No matter what the reasoning it certainly seems that people are watching hockey wrong.

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I used to wear hats all the time, but I seldom do anymore. Twitter: @yakovmironov Blog: www.yakovmironov.com
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#1 millzy09
April 18 2013, 12:05PM
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Great piece. I think we're on the same page.

I always thought Bozak would be better suited as a 3rd line checker but he can at the very least be a fill in if the top 2 centres get injured. Good shorthanded and on the draw. Obviously he's not going to be happy to re-sign at 3, which is the max I'd give him.

I hate when teams bring players back the second they feel better after concussions. It's pointless for a guy that's signed for the next 5 years - perhaps protect your investment. Give him the final 3 games of the regular season to get ready for the playoffs.

Phaneuf will never beeen seen as a Norris candidate until he wins the defensive scoring race. Everyone is too caught up in pointing out his mistakes than to see the big picture. I'm not here to say he's perfect, and sometimes I'm ready to lose it when I see some of his oblivious defensive plays, but if you watch Karlsson, Letang or Subban (guys everyone is quick to give the Norris to) they make countless gaffs. You're absolutely right, "people are watching hockey wrong".

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#2 leaferfan
April 18 2013, 12:05PM
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Re. Phanuef vs Suter, the way I see it Suter is carrying Brodin. Phaneuf has never shown himself able to carry anyone be it Holzer, Kostka, Gardiner. And Gunnarson holds his own as a defender. In that sense, I agree with those that feel Suter is a better dman because he makes young rookie players around him (Brodin) better. This is something that Phaneuf has never shown he is capable of and for me is what limits him being an elite defensive talent.

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#3 Killawatt
April 18 2013, 12:41PM
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Ribeiro interests me. I like his mojo, and clearly the guy can set up scorers. He would be an upgrade on Bozak, I don't think you can argue that.

But he is also looking for a long term deal which is where it might get tricky. He already publicly stated he wants some stability for his family. Is it logical that he will be looking for a 4 year deal with a limited no trade clause? I don't know that Toronto would make that kind of commitment. I feel like Nonis is more patient than that and would rather wait for a trade possibility further down the road.

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#4 Cam Charron
April 18 2013, 03:33PM
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leaferfan wrote:

Re. Phanuef vs Suter, the way I see it Suter is carrying Brodin. Phaneuf has never shown himself able to carry anyone be it Holzer, Kostka, Gardiner. And Gunnarson holds his own as a defender. In that sense, I agree with those that feel Suter is a better dman because he makes young rookie players around him (Brodin) better. This is something that Phaneuf has never shown he is capable of and for me is what limits him being an elite defensive talent.

Hmm... Jonas Brodin was a 10th overall pick.

Korbinian Holzer was six and a half years into his pro career before he played a regular NHL shift. Mike Kostka went undrafted and is a career minor-leaguer.

Jake Gardiner and Dion Phaneuf have been nails lately.

Do you even WATCH the games???

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#5 jasken
April 18 2013, 04:48PM
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The fact I dont care for any stats and still say with the shortened season its hard not to look at Phaneuf as possibly in running for Norris. People really dont know much about hockey when saying he's not. Total iron horse and this year it actually shows on the score card in point production and in the win column for the leafs. People really need to give credit where its due. Leafs are 3rd in Penalty Kill he is a BIG part of it. Not much else to say.

Nice article.

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#6 Rusty
April 20 2013, 05:03AM
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Ha ha ha. Phaneuf for the Norris really gave me a chuckle this morning.

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