New year, same old story

Jim Lang
July 13 2014 10:30AM

   pig


Between the end of June and early July a number of teams around the NHL made some significant moves. Whether it was a big trade or a major free agent signing, teams were not shy about making some bold moves to improve their team.

The Leafs were not one of them.


Oh sure, the Leafs made some moves to tinker with the roster. But they didn’t make a single move that you could honestly call “significant”.

What Nonis did was slap some fancy lipstick on the proverbial pig and try to sell it as the “Maple Leafs 2.0”.

The Leafs keep trotting out the same old pig with some shiny new lipstick and we are all supposed to be impressed.

That being said, this is what I liked and didn’t like about what team “Shana-Nonis” (Copyright Leafs Nation) did the last few weeks.

What was good


Drafting William Nylander.

Hey, any player with hair that good can’t be all that bad. The bottom line is that he has the potential to be for the Leafs up front what Morgan Rielly is on defence; a core player for years to come. But barring the mother of all training camps Leafs fans won’t be able to chant “Nylander” at the ACC for a few years.  

Promoting Steve Spott from the Marlies to be one of Randy Carlyle’s new assistant coaches.

Hopefully the promotion of Spott will mean better production from Kadri and a bounce-back year for Clarkson. Then again, Clarkson doesn’t have to do much to qualify for a “bounce-back” year.

NOT paying Dave Bolland $27.5 million dollars over five years!

I mean seriously, have some G.M.’s lost their freaking mind?

The return of super-pest Leo Komarov.

On vacation in PEI I ran into a huge Leafs fan. He feels the return of Komarov will mean a return to the post-season for the Leafs. While that is a bit of a stretch, it is always nice to see card carrying members of the Leafs nation in other parts of the country. I am looking forward to the day that Komarov “accidentally” falls into Carey Price and the result is a line-brawl at the Bell Centre. The sanctimonious Montreal press corps will wet their pants at the sight of Komarov falling into Price. That alone will make his signing worthwhile.

What was bad

Well, the Leafs still don’t have a number one centre and they still need another top four defenceman.

That is a very bad thing for a team desperately trying to get back into the playoffs, let alone become a consistent force in the Eastern Conference.

What changes?

 Not a whole lot.

Carlyle is still the coach, Phaneuf  is still the Leafs number one defenceman and David Clarkson is still in Toronto.

This was a typical Leafs off-season. The team goes out and acquires a combination of aging defencemen (Robidas), good depth players (Komarov and Santorelli) and then everyone tries to over-hype the significance of all of their moves.

“Hey everybody, Mike Santorelli has solid possession numbers. Our problems are over!”

“C’mon guys, Roman Polak is a right-handed shooting D-man, our problems in our own end are over!”

The bottom line for "Shana-Nonis" is the team still doesn’t have enough talent to compete with the big boys in the NHL over the course of 82 games. The Leafs still don’t have a stud at centre and they still don’t have an elite defenceman.

What next?

                                                   

That is a great question. If this team struggles early then “Shana-Nonis” might decide to drop the hammer on Carlyle and promote Spott as the new Head Coach. As of right now it is still too early to tell what "Shana-Nonis" will do with Carlyle. 

Shanahan is far from perfect but even he must see the root of the problem with the Leafs roster. It is a problem that has troubled the Leafs for years. The Leafs continue to take third and fourth line talent and try to spin them as first and second line talent.

Truly good teams (The LA Kings for example) don't do things like that.

Over-all Grade

The off-season wasn’t a total disaster for the Leafs. But the absence of the Leafs two most important needs fall on the shoulders of management.

Final Off-Season Grade: C +

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A graduate of Humber College Jim started his radio career at CKBB in Barrie back in 1987. Between 2001 and 2010 Jim was a reporter and anchor at Rogers Sportsnet. During that time he was a traveling beat reporter for the Leafs and also covered the Raptors, Blue Jays, Argos, the Stanley Cup play-offs, five Super Bowls and the Grey Cup. Most recently Jim was the co-host of the morning show at Sportsnet 590 The Fan. Jim also writes a regular blog and is the author of an E-Book about the daily routines of NHL super-stars called the "Mental Game". Jim can currently be heard weekdays between 6AM to 10AM on 105.9FM The Region (Based in Markham and heard in York Region and the north end of the city). Jim still plays hockey (Mediocre at best)and was once knocked on his butt by Ron Ellis in a charity hockey game. (I totally deserved it)
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#1 David
July 13 2014, 10:59AM
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The thing is I'm pretty sure we have a top line centre. If Kadri can get 50 points with Raymond and Lupul, imagine what he could get with Kessel and JVR. And even if he isn't, he's still young and can grow into that guy. Why get a first like centre if you have an almost sure one in a year or two, if not already.

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#2 Zac
July 13 2014, 10:59AM
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I truly think that the only way to add a number one centre and a top two defencemen is through the draft. Otherwise we will need to make a significant trade involving roaster players , prospects and draft picks.

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#3 mitch
July 13 2014, 11:31AM
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I agree with the kadri comment. let him grow into that spot, he's great player. also what would we have to give up for a stud centre, our whole team? i like this off season, not trading youth for quick solutions is all i ask. and at least there trying to solve last years problems and not getting a winger and a goaltender again.

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#4 John Lofranco
July 13 2014, 12:00PM
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What LA has done is convince 2nd and 3rd line talent to play 3rd and 4th line minutes. Why fill the bottom of the roster with "role" players when you can put out fast, skilled guys against the other team's 4th lines and spend all the time in their zone?

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#5 WesternDP
July 13 2014, 12:42PM
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I think you could be more positive, just based on who is gone and the ending of some problems

Jerred Smithson and his zero points in 18 Leaf games is not even part of the Marlies for a call up.

Jay McClement is gone. Carlyle can't play him 17 minutes a game anymore. Over 81 games, he had just 10 points. His shooting percetage was just 6%. In contrast, Santorelli probably gets over 30 points this year.

The additions of Santorelli, Komorov and Kontiola means the bottom six is filled and we will probably never see Colton Orr and zero points in 54 games again.

Super slow, Tim Gleason is gone and in comes a faster, meaner Roman Polak. That seems a clear upgrade.

No Tyler Biggs style draft choice. They took the most skilled guy in the draft in William Nylander. Again that seems like progress and maybe like Morgan Reilly, Nylander arrives ahead of schedule in a year.

As a non CHL player they can play Nylander on the Marlies and bring him up to the Leafs when it seems appropriate, which may accelerate his progress. You can't do that with a CHL player.

Dave Farish, Randy Carlyle's best friend is gone and replaced by Steve Spott, the player friendly Marlie coach. On they same day, Shanahan talks about places for Marlies.

That has to be positive for player development and it means Carlyle is on a tight leash with Spott, his heir apparent as part of the staff. Carlyle can't endlessly play ineffective veterans anymore. Those Marlie kids are going to get a chance.

Plus, they didn't do anything stupid, like signing Bolland.

I would be willing to give the Leafs a solid B.

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#6 Adam
July 13 2014, 01:21PM
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@WesternDP

Agree with a ton of what you're saying DP! But also feel they could have been bolder and more effective without giving up the farm. They missed out on signing some great options like Stralman and a few others who could have been had (if they want to play here) for a reasonable amount and who are far more skilled than what we picked up. They also could have done a bit more on the trade side of things (I think they may have more coming in this area before the season starts). Personally I don't believe the Frattin trade was good asset management as we have other kids like him ready to come up and I liked Jerry! He has great work ethic and I think could have contributed at this level. Because of these reasons I'd be more likely to give them a C+. Nothing damning was done this offseason but that's not enough for anything above a mediocre grade like a C+ in my eyes

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#7 Gardiner-Reilly
July 13 2014, 02:00PM
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You could definitely be more positive. There was no way the Leafs were moving Clarkson, getting a number 1 defense man, or getting a number 1 center. The only thing I disagree with from what they did was re-sign Carlyle to a two year extension. Only way the Leafs are getting a number 1 center or d-man is through the draft unless you thought Stastny is a number 1 center (which he isn't). Other than that, the best thing they did was not get anybody expensive on July 1st such as Vanek or Bolland who are certainly not worth the money they got.

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#8 WesternDP
July 13 2014, 02:25PM
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Adam wrote:

Agree with a ton of what you're saying DP! But also feel they could have been bolder and more effective without giving up the farm. They missed out on signing some great options like Stralman and a few others who could have been had (if they want to play here) for a reasonable amount and who are far more skilled than what we picked up. They also could have done a bit more on the trade side of things (I think they may have more coming in this area before the season starts). Personally I don't believe the Frattin trade was good asset management as we have other kids like him ready to come up and I liked Jerry! He has great work ethic and I think could have contributed at this level. Because of these reasons I'd be more likely to give them a C+. Nothing damning was done this offseason but that's not enough for anything above a mediocre grade like a C+ in my eyes

I liked Stralman, we never should have let him go.

But Tampa Bay paid alot of money! 22.5 million...4.5 for 5 years for 13 points in the past season.

Based upon Brian Boyle's comments and others, the Leafs would probably had to pay more...maybe 25 million over 5 years. I'm not comfortable with that.

To my mind Stralman and that money and term doesn't fit with the youth and talent of the defensemen on the Leafs and the Marlies...because Stralman could be replaced/unnecessary so soon.

Gardiner could finally put everything together and go to the next level, he has the talent. Reilly could take it up a notch. Either Granberg or maybe Percy could break through. They would all still be relatively cheap...not 5 million. Reilly, Granberg and Percy could still be on entry level contracts. That's why the additions of Robidas and Polak seem quite good. At three and two years left respectively, they match the expected approximate arrival/progress of young Leaf defensive talent. In two or three years Finn and Tom Nilson could also be in the mix.

Frattin... I am ok with. Maybe we just bought him for cheap. Some guys just fit in certain cities. Frattin was friends with tons of Leafs. Kadri...Gardiner and him are really tight. Gardiner and Reilly actually live in Frattin's Toronto condo. I think being away from that familiar environment hurt Frattin's progress. I am penciling him in for a rebound year...about 15 goals or more.

I liked D'Amigo, but I think Frattin will score more this year. Maybe we get D'Amigo back in a year for a draft pick.

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#9 Bruce
July 13 2014, 03:32PM
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The Leafs certainly can not get a failing grade because they made not a single bad signing unlike years past. I don't mind slow, methodical, incremental growth - heck we've waited this long - as long as each move is a positive. I believe Shanahan's presence is already paying off. Yes, nothing huge has happened yet in terms of signings or trades but I'm confident when it does, the Leafs will take another big step forward. One thing that doesn't get mentioned is the possibility of Bernier having long term groin issues that could very well shorten his career. If I'm the Leafs I would already be scouring for a talented young back up and relieve us of disgruntled Reimer whose stock has dropped not just with his play, but with his attitude.

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#10 leaferfan
July 13 2014, 03:45PM
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I give you a C+ on this piece.

Maybe if you had offered some constructive criticisms like how Nonis should have traded Clarkson for Kopitar and Orr for Doughty this off season then I would have given you an A+.

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#11 leaferfan
July 13 2014, 03:45PM
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I give you a C+ on this piece.

Maybe if you had offered some constructive criticisms like how Nonis should have traded Clarkson for Kopitar and Orr for Doughty this off season then I would have given you an A+.

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#12 @ammarhussain96
July 13 2014, 05:09PM
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"But barring the mother of all training camps Leafs fans won’t be able to chant “Nylander” at the ACC for a few years."

I'm not in touch with whats going on in the camp, will we/can we get an article on how the prospects are in the camp?

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