It was locker clear out day in Toronto Thursday morning, which means the coaches and players are available to talk about the disappointment of not getting the job done.
Randy Carlyle and Dave Nonis also spoke. I’ll focus more on Nonis because ultimately, he’s the guy who runs the team and makes the final decisions. Nonis is a very reserved talker and is as conservative with words as he is as a manager—it’s rare he’ll open up or deviate from the script.
Here are Nonis’ thoughts on Phil Kessel, the Meltdown, his strategy and what they’ll do going into the draft:
On James Reimer
At this point he’ll be back as No. 1, he did a very good job for us. His mental makeup, or mental strength was something maybe people questioned last year and I think that it’s clear that a lot of his issues a year ago we’re based upon his health. When we needed quality goaltending for the most part, and I would say this for every goaltender, no one’s going to hit it 100% of the time, James was very good and I don’t think anyone can point to goaltending as an issue for our team.
When will somebody in the organization come out and say “James is our number one guy”?
On Phil Kessel
First of all I think this is the best stretch of hockey Phil Kessel’s ever played. I told him that yesterday, I know Phil is a very proud guy, I’m not sure everyone in this room gets a feel for him because he’s not, um, uh, gregarious I would say with you all the time but he’s a good person and he cares and I don’t think there’s a person on our team that was more devastated than Phil. His play on both sides of the puck, again, is as good as it’s ever been, and he’s in my mind one of the top players in the league.
Will we look to extend Phil? Again, he has a year left on his contract. There is no urgency in getting him signed to an extension but Phil Kessel’s going to be a good player in this league for a long time. If there’s a deal that make sense for both of us it seems there’s no question to bring him back for an extended period.
I’m not sure the right way to extend a player and keep his value low is by talking openly about how Kessel’s play in the franchise’s first playoff appearance in nine years was the best it’s ever been, on both sides of the puck.
So perhaps now isn’t the time for Kessel, but it’s clear after Kessel’s play this year and the strides he made as a playmaker that he’s the guy the Leafs need to lock up and try to build around again.
On Tyler Bozak
If there is a contract that makes sense for us that makes for Tyler we’ll sign him, but it’s not a situation where we have to sign Tyler Bozak, because there are numbers that make sense for the team and numbers that make sense for Bozie. I believe that if the player wants to stay with the team, you find a way to make it happen. “I’ve had success with UFAs that have played out the string and getting them re-signed”.
One thing that’s interesting about Nonis is how, both times he’s become a general manager, he’s let the team assembled by Brian Burke for the most part play out the year before making too many changes.
It sounds from Nonis’ quotes that he isn’t particularly interested in bringing Bozak back, and I can’t really blame him.
On “exceeding expectations” in a small sample of games
I think it’s a pretty big sample… for us I think we can compare against every other team in the league based on this season. I don’t think we “exceeded expectations”, maybe we did in the marketplace but I don’t think we did internally but I think we did play up to them, though.
This explanation is problematic. While 48 games seems like a big sample, and there’s very little shuffling of playoff teams between games 48 and 82 in any regular season, the output from the Leafs did not match the input. The Leafs management team is, suffice to say, not particularly well up on the analytical side of the game like other NHL teams. It doesn’t take an advanced knowledge of Corsi to get that the Leafs won more games than they should have, and that 48 games will not show the whole picture.
There were a lot of PDO outliers this season (if you don’t follow, click through for my explanation of PDO), and the Leafs were one of them. Early in the year, Eric T. from NHLNumbers posted this graph:
Between Games 48 an 82, there’s more time for the outliers to dip closer to the mean. New Jersey, Carolina and the New York Rangers were all on one extent on the wrong side of percentages this season. Toronto, Anaheim and Columbus weren’t.
On buying players out
We’re not in a position where we have to shed money, which some teams clearly are, and there’s going to be two ways for teams to do that. One is going to be compliance buyouts, and the other is going to be to move bodies. I would expect that the weeks leading up to the draft are going to be fairly busy and I think the draft itself will be fairly busy. It usually is for player movement but I think you could see some bigger movement this year because of the cap situation.
This is the first time since the cap came in that the cap’s gone down. And every time teams look like they may have to move bodies, revenues skyrocketed, and teams were saved, and this is the first time where as a league we’re going to have to adjust to a lower cap.>
If the Leafs buy out Mike Komisarek, it’s certain that the funds will be better used somewhere else. I’m not sure that the Leafs can get a player as good as John-Michael Liles is they buy him out. I’ll have a look at Liles’ ability in the coming days, and all the other buyout targets for the Leafs.
On the meltdown and whether it needs to be addressed as an organization
No. What happened was disappointing, if we play that game 100 times I don’t think it happens again. The notion that there was 10 bad minutes is just not true. If you watch that game over again, I think they had two or three shots from the time they scored that second goal to the time under two minutes.
“It doesn’t diminish the improvement we made over the course of the year. It doesn’t take away from the seven games we played which I think were excellent. I think that was a fantastic series, and not to take anything away from the Boston Bruins, we played an excellent hockey team and played very well against them. It could have gone either way.”
The Leafs played much better in the playoffs than they did in the regular season, and they played well enough to win two games they lost: Games 4 and 7, and the Bruins probably should have won Game 5. The other three games had results indicative of the play.
But with the Leafs holding leads, especially late in the game, here are the number of shots and scoring chances they gave up from 11 minutes to go in the third:
Game 2: Shots 2-9, Chances 1-3
Game 5: Shots 1-10, Chances 1-2
Game 6: Shots 2-8, Chances 1-3
Game 7: 1-11, Chances 1-3
Like Nonis said, the Leafs allowed “one shot (plus six others)” between the second and third Bruins goals in the seventh game, but the way they defended the lead in Game 7 was no different from the way they defended the Boston onslaught in Games 2, 5 and 6.
I’m happy if the Leafs treat the ending of Game 7 as they would the end of any other game. It was unlucky, and even more unlucky because it happened in Game 7 of a playoff series. Move on.
On the trade deadline, and moves the Leafs could have made
The trade deadline… if you look at the players available that possibly could have helped us, there was a pretty high price paid for those players, and they were paid by teams—not to say we didn’t feel we had a chance—but they were paid by teams that were looking to put their stamp on another Cup.
Were there deals out there looking back now that maybe we could have considered? Yeah. I’ll be honest with you. I’m not going to name the player now because I can’t because he’s under contract, but there’s simple things that possibly players on waivers that if you’re looking back now that probably could have helped us. That’s the same every year.
We talk as a group… I talked with Randy about this when certain players were available and a lot of coaches are asking for help, ‘get me this guy, get me that guy, this player could help us’ I could tell you that it never happened this year, it was more the other way where maybe we talk about a player and Randy would say ‘we can’t take that kid out of the lineup’ or ‘we can’t take a certain player because they’ve given us whatever they’ve had.’
I’ve written before that I’ve suspected this is more “Randy’s” group than it is Nonis’. Carlyle had a big hand in the Jay McClement signing and I suspect that the move to bring Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren in as regulars was a Carlyle thing.
There’s also this:
Nonis also said Randy Carlyle sometimes advocated to keep existing players in the lineup, as opposed to making change. Reimer was one.
— SeanFitz_Gerald (@SeanFitz_Gerald) May 16, 2013
The player that they could have moved for that Nonis can’t discuss… he unfortunately didn’t give a lot of clues as to who it is. Who did the Leafs miss on waivers? Well, there was Jussi Jokinen, but he ended up being traded and the Hurricanes retained some salary. Kaspars Daugavins was on waivers the same day and is more useful than a guy like McLaren.
There was not a lot of movement though and other than Jason Pominville and Marian Gaborik, most trades made were for players who aren’t exactly noteworthy, on expiring contracts.
Ryan O’Byrne ain’t winning anybody a championship on his own.
On the draft and offseason strategy
I don’t have any issue at all with moving players or picks for players that can help us. The one thing I don’t want to get into is moving young players and high picks for older players. Our team isn’t at that level or that stage right now it doesn’t make any sense to do that.
We’re prepared for all scenarios… we’ll look to move up if there’s something there that we think can help us. At 21 in this draft, the way this season’s gone, to be honest I haven’t seen a lot of the players, but our scouts are content that we’ll get a pretty good prospect at that position. So to spend a lot to move up three spots doesn’t make a lot of sense, If you’re going to move up, you’re probably going to want to jump up a lot higher than that.
I’ll just make an observation here: at Vancouver’s presser, the names and statuses of players were brought up by reporters digging for angles. I didn’t hear Clarke MacArthur’s name once.