Know a Writer: James Mirtle

Steve Dangle
July 12 2013 10:10AM

Media has never been more accessible. Once an article, video, or sound bite goes online, it is immediately available for the entire world to consume, debate, and scrutinize. The hockey world is no different.

Writers and reporters make a living off of interviewing hockey players and executives. I wanted to switch things up, and interview the reporters instead.

I asked around, and the first volunteer was James Mirtle of the Globe & Mail. Here’s my interview with a man who covers the Leafs’ beat, and is one of the tallest sports writers going.

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Your monthly "who won the Phil Kessel trade" update

Cam Charron
July 12 2013 08:25AM

The Boston Bruins will have a different-looking first line next season, mostly because it's very unlikely that Jaromir Jagr will be back with the team.

In all seriousness, Hall of Fame writer Kevin Paul Dupont went online to talk about an "updated" version of the Phil Kessel trade, as if it hasn't been long enough that the hockey community as a whole can just move on. Really, it's been four seasons with Kessel in Toronto now and pretty much the only thing that hurt the Leafs is that the three players Boston used with the three picks in the trade were spent on good Ontario boys Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight. One of those draft picks is a regular NHLer right now, and zero of them play regularly for the Bruins.

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Carl Gunnarsson joins Mark Fraser in electing salary arbitration

Cam Charron
July 11 2013 01:06PM

The NHLPA released of 21 names of players that elected salary arbitration over last weekend. On the list is Mark Fraser (but we knew that already) and Carl Gunnarsson. Gunnarsson is a much more important piece to the Toronto Maple Leafs than Fraser, and I don't expect those two parties to make it to arbitration and will likely settle for something longer term.

Many people noted that Karl Alzner's 4-year, $11.2-million deal that was signed earlier this week (which averages out to $2.8-million) was positive for the Leafs. Gunnarsson and Alzner are good comparable players. Despite Alzner's junior hockey reputation, he's sort of established himself as a one-way defenceman, much like Gunnarsson, concentrating on the less expensive but just as valuable defensive aspects of the game.

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Leafs Sign Joe Colborne

Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
July 11 2013 06:31AM

Slowly but surely, the Toronto Maple Leafs are chipping away at their remaining unsigned restricted free agents. Yesterday, Joe Colborne joined the family of players returning to the organization, signing a single year one-way deal that pays him $600,000. 

So.. has he earned it?

As I talked about in an article back in February, Joe Colborne is a case of a player who managed to set expectations high, swiftly crush everybody's hopes, but is rebounding back into original form. Colborne joined the Leafs organization in 2010/11 via the Tomas Kaberle trade, and scored 16 points in his first 20 games with the Toronto Marlies, before notching an assist in his first NHL game. He began the next year by scoring 16 points in 9 games and being named AHL player of the month, but disappointed many by only adding 23 more in the next 56 games.

What wasn't publically known was that Colborne had suffered a wrist injury, severely limiting his ability to disperse the puck and use his reach to get around other players. Granted, you can still blame him; the proper thing to do would have no doubt been to get surgery immediately rather than struggle through it from late November until the Calder Cup Finals in mid-June, but a tangible reason was out there for his failures. But could he recover?

The answer, at first, was not really. He still struggled to heal correctly post-surgery, which was the exclamation point on a poor start to 2012/13. However, Colborne had his wrist "pop" (scar tissue heal) in December. Guess what? It turned out that maybe he wasn't kidding, scoring 19 points in his next 21 games and 36 in his final 43. 

It may not be fair to bring Colborne back up to the "potential star centre" hype again. At this point, that's behind him. But he's still well on his way to being a legitimate NHL player, that can play in both top six and bottom six situations. A contract like this gives him the ability to prove that he's worth keeping on the team moving forward, with a cap hit low enough to have him on the roster whether they want to play him every night or not. It also gives him some guaranteed money. A 2-way that makes you $900,000 in the NHL and $150,000 in the AHL has more potential, but if he plays half a season in each league, he comes out with $525,000. It's the same reason you see so many fringe NHL/AHL vets go to Europe for a little less than NHL league minimum. 

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Forecasting James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier

Cam Charron
July 10 2013 12:25PM

If you're a sports analyst, one of the main problems is confronting the issue of survivorship bias.

In sports, results drive most of the business, even though the results from the previous year don't always impact the results in the next year. Very few teams across sports are willing to be patient and stick to a process that will lead them into making good bets. "Buy low" is generally accepted in the stock market but not in sports. The Toronto Maple Leafs this offseason have bought high on Tyler Bozak and David Clarkson, rather than bought low on Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin.

Say you have two players with a "true talent" of 20 goals per season. The first player got some bad puck luck and scored just 15, while the second got some puck puck, a few extra chances, and scored 25. More often than not, when choosing between the two players, a team will go for the 25-goal scorer, even though the 15-goal scorer would be cheaper and he's just as likely to produce at the same level in the future.

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