Mailbag – Wednesday Wonderings

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Just for the laughs, I’ve been loosely tracking advanced stats for my friends’ beer league team in their past few games.Today, they gave up 12 of the first 13 shot attempts in the third period. It was worse than watching the end-of-season Leafs collapse.

I don’t know where I’m going with that statement. They finished off 30-28 in the Corsi Battle tonight, but, I mean, that’s not something that matters to you. There are five questions and responses that might, though, so keep reading!

If the leafs did not get another d-man, who would be the ideal partner for phaneuf? Rielly, Robidas, Gardiner?

I’m thinking that Jake Gardiner plays the role in this upcoming season, and that’s probably the best fit at the moment. Morgan Rielly looks like the real deal, but is still young enough that he should probably be sheltered as he continues to learn. 

Phaneuf needs somebody to lessen his role in one direction – whether it’s offensively or defensively is a wash. He’s great at doing both, but is looked at to do too much of both. Gardiner’s ability to pass, carry, and lead a rush would allow him to be the more offensive minded of the pair, allowing Dion to stay back a bit (getting rid of those “dreaded” pinches). Though I think you’ll see more ice time to the second and third pairings to further lessen fatigue as well.

Why didn’t or why aren’t the Leafs pursue affordable options at bottom 6 centres like Goc or mid pairing wingers like Vrbata?

*looks at roster*

*looks at transaction list*

*looks at you*

*skips question*

What do you think will be the Leafs fourth line?

It’s hard to say right now. The entire bottom six is pretty interchangeable, especially at right wing. If I had to take a random stab at it, however, I’d guess Winnik-Holland-Santorelli. Komarov-Kontiola-Clarkson ends up being the third line, and David Booth surprises and gets the 2RW spot. No real reasoning (we won’t have reason for reasoning until camp), just a stab.

If Steve’s theory of the Leafs building the most attractive team in the league is correct, and assuming we’re keeping Phil Kessel, who do we trade for Landeskog?

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Last season the marlies possessed a player that was the fourth highest scorer in the league and he happened to be a defenceman. He ended up winning the Eddie Shore award and in spite of all this TJ Brennan was never given a shot with the big club and arguably less capable players were. What happened to the talk of “meritocracy” from the lockout shortened season where the best players were given the ice and those that were under performing were given the press box? To add to the oversight (or willful negligence) he wasn’t re-signed this year and was left to go to the islanders as a free agent. Whether he was in the long term plans for the team it seems reasonable to think it would be a good idea to treat him like an asset, sign him, and play or trade him for an asset in return. I’d love to see your take on this as I haven’t seen much on it and I personally think it’s borderline scandalous to let such a player go.

Okay, so you have this guy. He seems to be dominating in the American Hockey League. Easy call up, right? But then your remember that this happened last year too. An under the radar defenceman putting up point per game numbers and surprising everyone. You gave that one a shot with the Leafs, and he was a hot mess.

This guy could be different, or it could be just him reaping the benefits of a system that provides him with a similar percentage of the team’s shots to Alexander Ovechkin. Maybe it’s in the middle. You don’t know. Even still, he’s likely not going to get any higher than your third pairing, and he might put someone slightly worse than him in the press box if he really is all that. The Leafs don’t get much better, but hey, they may have a Marc-Andre Bergeron type! 

Or, you leave him with the development team that he’s been carrying to ensure that they get more playoff games in, which improves all the prospects on the roster. You have him there to teach your prospects new things, to be someone they can lean on.  He’s not too upset because he’s winning and because he knows this scenario gives him a 30 team NHL audition instead of just one. Because if you call him up and he just turns out to be “AHL great”, some team will likely claim him on waivers for themselves.

I really like TJ Brennan, and want him to succeed oh so very badly with the Islanders. But there was more long-term upside in having him be the Marlies’ superstar than to have him try to beat out Paul Ranger for ice time.

  • Jeremy Ian

    “Last season the marlies possessed a player that was the fourth highest scorer in the league and he happened to be a defenceman. He ended up winning the Eddie Shore award and in spite of all this TJ Brennan was never given a shot with the big club and arguably less capable players were.”

    The Leafs screwed this up by being too close to the cap and not jetisoning Orr and McLaren earlier. Both Orr and McLaren would have cleared waivers and if you needed them you could have called them back up without further waiver exposure as under the new CBA, you only have to clear waivers once.

    Granberg was waiver exempt and should have gotten a call up ealier in the season. We saw him stop a few 2 on 1’s in that final game. Maybe if he had done that for a few games earlier in the season, the Leafs could have stopped the slide.

    Once the season was lost, Brennan should have been called up for the last 5-8 games, played until the end of the season and not been sent down to the Marlies until the Leafs season was over. That way they could have avoided exposing him waivers.

    They should have called Brennan up just to see what he looked like at an NHL level. Would he get burned on the third pairing? Would his defensive lapses be any worse than Cody Franson who pinches at the worse times and was a team worst -20? Would Brennan’s sucess on the powerplay make up for it all? What did the Leafs have to lose?

    Sadly we will never know until Brennan is wearing an Islander jersey.

    The sad thing is that he is a left hand shot. He might have been quite ok on the third pairing with the Polak on the right side.

    He might have been fine as that 7th defenseman. With already 326 AHL games, his development would not have been hurt as much by limited ice time, like a younger player.

    We should have given him a chance.

    I have this bad feeling that we are going to really regret this.

    • Gumby

      I agree DP, but I think there’s two reasons why he didn’t get called up:

      1. With Reilly and Gardiner, it would be tough to call up a similar style player (left handed, offensively focused d-man). Granberg as you mentioned above would have been a smart option if they could have called up an extra d-man.

      2. Carlyle. He just wouldn’t have used the guy right, I mean sure he would have been great on the power play but who knows if he would have even seen it. Gardiner and Reilly looked great on it all year and they didn’t get many first pairing minutes even though Franson looked lost at times

    • Jeremy Ian

      I’m with Gumby on the Carlyle factor. Of course, it’s easy to blame him for everything that went wrong, and we often go overboard. But not this time.