YakovMironov’s Leaflets: April 12th

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

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While it may seem odd to save someone from the top line, I can’t help but feel James van Riemsdyk may produce at a higher level on a different line. The main reason for this thought stems from the fact that his center (Tyler Bozak) is yet to get a primary assist on any of his goals which has to be one of the more amazing stats of the season.

Kessel 7
Franson 2
Liles 2
Unassisted 2
Steckel 1
Kulemin 1
Phaneuf 1

In fact Bozak has only accumulated six primary assists all season which is pretty embarrassing, and not surprisingly four of them have come on Phil Kessel goals showcasing his limited playmaking abilities.

Kessel 4
Lupul 1
Kulemin 1

Kessel and van Riemsdyk have been in on 18 goals together this season, so it may be a risk to sacrifice that production, but it’s likely that success for JvR would be just as likely with playmakers like Mikhail Grabovski or Nazem Kadri. It seems abundantly clear that Kadri or Grabovski will not be slotted between both JvR and Kessel and a JvR-Kadri-Joffrey Lupul line has the potential to be a 1B option to Kessel. If Kadri doesn’t work out reuniting van Riemsdyk with Grabovski could also yield positive results. 

It was hard to ignore the passing clinic that JvR and Grabovski put on in Overtime on Wednesday night. As for filling van Riemsdyk’s spot on the top line, I have little doubt that either Frattin or MacArthur could have the potential to benefit from Kessel while still going ignored by Bozak who only has eyes for Phil. Once again it may be time for

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Kessel to do the heavy lifting with lesser linemates and all because this organization values faceoff win percentage over everything that happens after the draw.

Scrivens on a Prayer

If Kiprusoff was willing to be a Leaf he’d be here. If Gillis ate a million dollars a season, Luongo would be a Leaf. Thankfully neither of these things happened, but I can’t imagine that some form of veteran goaltender finds his way into Toronto in the off season and Scrivens will be the odd man out. 

The upside in this situation is that the goaltending market should be flooded this summer, and there won’t be any shortage of options, though the quality may still be debateable. Miller and Luongo would be interesting, but a GM who was willing to offer Miikka Kiprusoff an extension is probably also willing to sign Evgeni Nabokov to a multi-year deal.

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The downside seems to be dollars more than anything else. Scrivens isn’t exactly young as he’ll open next season as a 27 year old, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a goaltender with a .921 even strength save percentage and only a $612k cap hit.

The wild card in this is that Reimer may not be healthy enough to ever handle a 60+ game workload, in his career so far that’s been a rarity, and with Scrivens only seeing 30 games so far in the NHL a potential 50/50 workload split may be a lot to put on him. I’d argue they deserve their chance next season and the goaltending question can be revisited after the 2013-14 season. We’re only a year removed from Jonas Gustavsson, two and half from Vesa Toskala so can’t we just enjoy what we have before deciding to blow it up?

Colborne Identity

I get it Carlyle, you like goons, but in the midst of your fist punching love fest can you find time to give Joe Colborne a fair shake at an NHL career? I’m not overly upset (yet) about the five minutes a night treatment that Colborne has been receiving, I suspect it will ramp up as the playoff position is solidified, but it is how he’s being used.

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I can’t think of anything more terrifying than having your future in the hands of Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren. A few minutes of skating around with Tomato Cans hoping not to be pinned down in your own end isn’t the best way of assessing a potential second line centers abilities, ask Grabovski.

What I’d propose is that Colborne take any offensive zone starts that might have been coming to Jay McClement, and possibly the occasional subbed shift for players like Kulemin or Komarov so he could get a small taste of top nine life. I believe on Monday night he saw a shift or two as Grabovski’s replacement, but one minute of productive ice time doesn’t really cut it. 

It’s probably too much to ask, but in a perfect world there would be one less face puncher in the lineup so they could at least put Frattin on the line with him, and he’d get a chance to work with someone he had success with on the Marlies and has almost as much to prove at the moment. 

What kind of post would this be if there wasn’t some acknowledgment of the bizarre coaching of Randy Carlyle? He seems to have adopted some kind of Mike Keenan/John Brophy hybrid approach to the profession, and much like Keenan he won’t be going away quickly because of the cup ring on his finger. While it may seem strange to turn on the coach who is presiding over the Leafs turnaround season, there is little doubt that stars have aligned for him and this success will be difficult to replicate. 

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Issues with Carlyle

  1. If it wasn’t evident before Wednesday night it’s clear as day now, Carlyle has no idea how to use Grabovski. A year removed from being the only passable centre in the lineup, Grabovski can no longer has a role on this team and since Mikhail is one of the few strong possession players the Leafs are officially giving up the idea of doing anything other than chasing after the puck for sixty minutes a night.
  2. He is stunting the development of Jake Gardiner. You can debate whether he is the 3rd, 4th, or 5th most talented defenseman in the Leafs organization, but there is no way he is the 7th (or 8th). He needs to play, not only to develop, but because he’s better than half the guys in the lineup. I don’t understand why his defensive mistakes aren’t as forgivable as Mark Fraser’s or Cody Franson’s, Ryan O’Byrne’s or anyone else’s. I’m confident for every defensive gaffe by Gardiner that someone can point out I can find you three instances where he would have moved the puck out of the zone when it was instead trapped at the point.
  3. I hate rolling three lines with a passion. Let’s completely ignore what Carlyle has chosen to do with the 4th line and leave it at the fact it doesn’t make sense to exhaust your players in a condensed season and it won’t make sense only have three useable lines in playoff games that could potentially carry on to triple overtime. Of course in the playoffs you still want to utilize your top nine a little more, but it would be nice to carry some spare parts in case Lupul’s brain overheats or heaven forbid you want to efficiently line match even when you don’t have the last change. At least we know we’ll have rested Grabovski ready for 1am OT heroics.
  4. I don’t think this style of hockey is sustainable over a full 82 game schedule. After sitting through a couple of Rangers games this week it should be fresh in our heads that a collapsing, shot blocking defensive system can only get you so far even if you have world class goaltending. After looking like world beaters who were picked by many to be Cup Finalists the Rangers have seen their system fall apart despite a roster filled with talented players. And while the fate of one team doesn’t guarantee the demise of another, an overly physical hitting, shot blocking game is going to take its toll injury wise. That and it seems foolish to build a team that doesn’t want to control the puck.

The reality of the situation is Carlyle isn’t going anywhere. He’s under contract, he coached the Leafs to the playoffs, and he still hasn’t had a chance at a full training camp to truly shape his team. The most unfortunate part of this is that it could mean Grabovski and/or Gardiner get dealt over the summer as the team drifts further away from possession hockey and into the Carlyle abyss.

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  • RYNO93

    A+ Fully agree. As was pointed out on twitter recently, we must be the only fan-base that fantasizes about line combos with our own players. Carlyle’s total double standard of ‘holding players accountable’ is tragic, as we watch Bozak, McLaren, Orr and O’Byrne take ice time away from Grabovski, Colbourne, Frattin and Gardiner. Our only hope is that they start next season 0-20 and somehow salvage the season with competent coaching.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Maybe we need to go back to mediocre or middling goaltending so that the seams of the Carlyle system show more clearly? Which poison are we going to drink?

  • jasken

    The problem with people who go by stats and they are unaware that any improvement thats being done until it shows up on sheets.

    Kessel had something needed to be dealt with all you see is a great player no flaws. This were addressed in games.

    Grabo has problems being addressed in games. There are problems. As far as you are concerned there weren’t any.

    Carlyle puts a competitive team out there with no training camp, no preseason, flawed players beyond belief who in your opinion are fine and dont have any.

    Commenting on how a coach should play a player Wilson is the guy to look at connolly, Lombardi, steckle, all veterans 3 count them 3 who could have been on topline, he chose to play Bozak? If you have a problem with Bozak’s play as a result of a pathetic coach’s decision thank him. Carlyle’s hands are tied cause of Wilson.

    Kadri still has a chance to develop properly. Second line at best is where he belongs for now.