Leafs Roster Preview- Roman Polak

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In hindsight I am now looking to the Roman Polak trade with
a sense of satisfaction. Sure, the Leafs gave up a far better defenseman in
order to acquire a right handed shot. Sure, it doesn’t matter which hand Polak
uses because you don’t want to see him handling the puck, and sure it seems
somewhat foolish that the Leafs retained a portion of Gunnarsson’s salary and
threw in a 4th round pick in order to get the deal completed, but it doesn’t
change the fact that there was a silver lining. This deal was likely the
beginning of the end of the Nonis regime.

Now, none of that actually has anything to do with Roman
Polak the hockey player, except for the fact he shoots right and is a below
average puck handler. With Polak that old guard Leafs management team landed
what they covet most, a stay at home defenseman who will block shots, kill
penalties, and get the puck to the line but not out. Sure he’s an upgrade on
Mark Fraser, Tim Gleason, and Ryan O’Byrne, but it doesn’t change the fact that
the Leafs have continually sought out the absolute wrong type of player
compared to what they actually need.



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So, it doesn’t look like Polak is coming in and fixing that
whole pesky “get ridiculously outshot” problem the Leafs had last season.
Instead he’s more of a guy who celebrates being away from the puck. Last season
Polak led Blues defenseman in hits (151) and blocked shots (131), both numbers
are actually lower than what Gunnarsson had in case you wanted to reflect on
how insane real time stats are.

Polak averaged 17:20 TOI/G last year, which made him the 5th
used defenseman (his average TOI would have placed him 7th on the
Leafs D behind Paul Ranger). He was virtually tied for the lead in short handed
time on ice with Barrett Jackman (2:17 SHTOI/G) and saw a grand total of 58
seconds of powerplay time over the course of the season, which isn’t out of
line with what you’d expect for a guy with 13 points on the season. It’s also
worth noting that the 28 year old has seen his average ice time decline every
year since he was a 22 year old playing over 21 minutes a night. 


A couple of other things that are worth noting, compared to
last year’s Leafs Polak was on ice for a relatively low number of events and
with a Corsi Rel of -5.2 it seems to be reasonable to have doubts about him
handling an increased workload well. 

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Also, Roman Polak’s most frequent defensive partners were
Jordan Leopold, Ian Cole and Barrett Jackman, so you can assume he was fairly
sheltered as he rarely saw time with Pietrangelo or Bouwmeester, but at least
had perceived value in his own zone compared to guys like Cole or Shattenkirk.  


Those Lapierre and Reaves numbers have me terrified for if Polak is ever on the ice at the same time as Colton Orr. 


Where Roman Polak fits into the Leafs lineup I can’t even
begin to fathom. What we know for sure is that the Gardiner/Franson pairing
left a lot to be desired, so potentially Polak will be the stay at home anchor
attached to Jake. It certainly seems like a stretch to pair Polak with Phaneuf,
but it seems equally ridiculous to put Franson or Robidas in that top pairing
too. Realistically it’s going to Polak paired with Rielly or Gardiner, with my
preference probably being Gardiner.

It’s also a question if Polak can hold his job for the
season when the Marlies should be able to produce at least a couple of players
capable of challenging for bottom pairing minutes on the Leafs. If Nilsson,
Granberg, or Percy are capable of stepping up we could see Polak on the outside
looking in.

If we’re shifting gears to things to be optimistic about
with Polak we can point to the fact that he’s a physical presence on the ice to
offset the smaller, speedy defensemen like Rielly, and Gardiner. He’s a Ken
Hitchcock penalty killer, so as long as he doesn’t unlearn what he did in St.
Louis he should help control rebounds and know how to move the puck away from
the front of the net.

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For all the criticisms of Polak, he’ll likely be the fastest
option the Leafs have on the right side compared to the surgically
reconstructed Stephane Robidas, and the terminally slow Cody Franson (now with
100% more knee problems!) and that might be enough to find modest value in him.



He’s a level 80 Paladin.

For fantasy advice, head on over to DailyFaceoff.com, and make sure to check out their 2014-15 Fantasy Hockey Draft Kit. The draft kit is free and has over 100 pages of projections and analysis, so if you have a draft or two coming up this week, you’ll definitely want to give it a read. 

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At least he doesn’t like David Clarkson.


Dion Phaneuf

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Colton Orr

Joffrey Lupul

Petri Kontiola

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Leo Komarov

Phil “The Phil” Kessel

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Nazem Kadri

Peter Holland

Jake Gardiner

Matt Frattin

Cody Franson

David Clarkson

Tyler Bozak

David Booth

Troy Bodie

Jonathan Bernier 

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  • not_SorjeBalming

    I think that Roman Polak’s back hair has back hair!!

    Besides that insight, I also think he will prove to be more than just a pylon who only gets it to the line and not out. I like what I see so far this pre season with his play…except that game with 3 penalties of course..

  • CMpuck

    Reminds me of Hal Gill, already made into a whipping boy before he laced up and everyone looking to whatever play he made that justified their genius insight.

    Funny Gill had a great career everywhere but Toronto…

    Polak is the only guy that will be physical on the blueline, not everyone can be an overrated wuss like Gunnersson.

  • CMpuck

    decent on the pk, TERRIBLE at es, takes STUPID penalties at GOD AWFUL times, absolutely no puck handling skills (similar to granberg), physical but can actually skate for such a big man. this trade was horrendous for the leafs and all i can think about is that 3 penalty hat trick in his first preseason game but i’ll just be optimistic and pray for the best. this can go 50/50. at least gunnarsson will do well in st.louis *tears*

    • Kanuunankuula

      I think the moneypuck addtions (Booth, Winnik, Santorelli) are pretty decent moves. Signing Gards was good. Signing Kessel long term for pretty cheap was pretty good.

      • Kanuunankuula

        bottom depth signings and personnel changes for the most part minus carlyle/nonis were good. still horrendous defence. still no #1 defensive pair/shut down defenceman.

  • Kanuunankuula

    I think Nonis has made moves that when he made them
    I thought were good moves but they just dont seem to work out.
    Clarkson when we signed him I thought was a good signing but now I wish he would of signed with Edmonton.
    Clarkson’s decision making seems totally flawed.
    Perhaps a little more “brain in head” then “heart on sleeve” would help.

    Booth is injured and only looked so so at camp, same as Santorelli only Winnik has looked good in camp but he was brought in for his defensive acumen.

    I dont see where our secondary scoring is going to come from now that the top line is back together again (though at times the top line have looked great).

    Holland needs to be on a line with offensive players to be effective, he should be on a line with Lupil and Kadri on the second line. This is the only solution I can see as viable.

    I see a minor trade or two in near future, though we need a forward and a defense man.

    One bright spot is that both Reimer and Bernier look solid.

    With all our injuries it could allow some unexpected players to step up.

    Our role players Komorov , Kozun and Winnik should upgrade our penalty killing, and we have good sharp shooters for the shoot out that could steal some points.

    With so many moving parts on the Leafs it is difficult to get a solid read on this team.

  • STAN

    I would submit that even the Kessel and Phaneuf signings were poor. And here’s why.

    Phaneuf is clearly getting a little slower each season and his puck skills suck and even though Burke-Nonis anointed him their stud, he’s not a stud and never has been. Even math-challenged Flames GM Darryl Sutter understood this. So $7M per for seven seasons is insane.

    Kessel will likely play in all 82 games, or close, so he’s a bit like the Blue Jays Mark Beuhrle – he’ll always give you starts, but he’s far too streaky for my liking and faded in the last dozen games in March-April when the Leafs needed him most. Perhaps $8M will look like a bargain two seasons from now, but he’ll still have five seasons left.

    Clarkson’s deal needs no further criticism. We all know it was ill-advised and there’s never been ANY confirmation that the Oilers. Clarkson will be paid a million dollars more than JvR this season.

    Robidas is old and injury prone, yet gets $9M in guaranteed money. Then there’s was Tim Gleason, Mike Komisarek (Nonis was Burke’s right-hand man on that one), allowing Clark MacArthur to leave with NO return; spending MLSE (and fans) money on Grabowski instead of trading him, T-J Brennan could well have a solid season for the Islanders after leading the Marlies last season.

    Booth has barely been visible in pre-season and Winnik is a classic journeyman. I like Santorelli, who showed some flashes last season with the Canucks. But who knows?

    Overall Nonis gets a D. The only two GMs who’ve made worse moves are Paul Holmgren and Garth Snow. How any of them still has an NHL job is beyond me.

    • not_SorjeBalming

      Agree with your analysis on Dion, but from there you lose me. Kessel is nothing like mark buerhle, thats an assinine comparison. Kessel is a top 5 winger in the nhl, a truly elite player. Buerhle is a consistently unremarkable pitcher who’s not even one of the top 100 pitchers in the MLB.

      Robidas is not injury prone. Since 2004 he’s appeared in 90% of all regular season games for his team. He had a terrible year last year injury wise, theres no doubt. But to call him injury prone shows your either not very familiar with him as a player or youre just willfully ignoring evidence to form a narrative.

      Allowing Clarke Macarthur to leave was hardly a poor decision. Ottawa paid him 3.5M a season for two years and he ended up putting up similiar production to mason raymond who got 1M.

      Also, not sure how you can blame Nonis for the Komisarek move yet not give him credit for the JVR, Phaneuf, gardiner/lupul trades. Was he not Burkie’s right hand man for those moves too?

  • not_SorjeBalming

    I don’t know how anyone can think the Leafs would be better off without our best defenseman and our top goal scorer.

    I heard Oilers offered more money to Clarkson then
    the Leafs and Clarkson was considered the most desirable free agent available when the Leafs signed him.

    Leafs paid Phaneuf market value, no other defensemen close to his skill set was available at the time.
    And only one defenseman anywhere close has been available since C Ehrhoff.

    Because the Leafs finished poorly last year we have been able to draft Nylander who is a potential number one center the Leafs have been looking for since Sundin. And I would submit this is the only way the Leafs could obtain such a good prospect.
    1st line centers and #1 or #2 defenseman are just not available any other way except to draft them anymore.
    Maybe one day Reilly and Gardener will be #1 and #2
    in the line up but I still think it will be some time before they pass Phaneuf on the depth chart.

  • Jerkball

    A couple of observations about the leafs. You have to give M.L.S.E. credit for squeezing blood out of a stone as the leafs have played 7 exhibition games while a lot of teams have played 4 or 5. Yep the leafs will get as much reevnue as possible.

    The second observation which you won’t get from the new groupie analytic boy wonders is that once again the leafs are near the top in playing back to back games for any team in the league. Stats have shown a lot of teams have trouble winning the second game. But once again the Air Canada center must be filled every night, man how they love leap year. This desire to force the leafs into a very tough schedule of back to backs or 4 games in 5 nights probably costs them 5 or 6 points, yep those valuable points that would have gotten them into the playoffs a few times in the past decade. But always remember for the owners being number one with Steve Forbes is all that counts.

    • Jerkball

      i dont know, LA has 3 teams playing outta staple centre plus west coast travel lag and they managed. Probably cause of their internal fancy stats dept. Ditto for Chicago.

      • Benjamin

        The key to my comment is that the leafs play the most back to back games than any other team in their eastern conference. The Kings, Hawks could play a gazillion games back to back and it doesn’t have an affect on the leaf point total. But while the leafs play their annual 17 to 18 back to back and some other team in the eastern conference plays 12 or 13 back to back it makes a huge difference. Like I said the analytic geeks won’t upset their masters showing that the leafs lose valuable points with this type of schedule every year.

  • Jerkball

    The extra cost of 4th rd. pick plus retaining salary stings a little however i reserve judgement. Lets hope for the sake of the team he becomes what gleason showed during his first few games with the leafs. We need a mean sob who picks his spots with controlled aggression ensuring a painfully unpleasant visit every time u come near our net. I wonder what polak vs grunnrs fancy stat comparison by conference looks like. this would give us a truer picture of what to expect. reality is we play in the much weaker east.

  • Benjamin

    I’m not thrilled about the trade either but does anyone else think that Gunner may not be the player he once was? I think it deserves recognition that he’s had hip issues for like a year and a half now and still isn’t recovered from off season surgery. I’m just going to play the ‘wait and see’ game to find out what we really gave up in this deal.

    And, you know, if the Leaf’s rolled pairings like these I think I could get behind the trade anyways:

    ES pairings:
    Phaneuf – Gardiner |
    Robidas – Franson |
    Polak – Reilly

    PP pairings:
    Phaneuf – Gardiner |
    Franson – Reilly

    PK pairings:
    Polak – Robidas |
    Phaneuf – Gardiner

    I don’t think its crazy to like Phaneuf – Gardiner more than Phaneuf – Gunner at ES, and the idea of Polak eating heavy minutes on the 1st PK unit makes sense to me.

  • not_SorjeBalming

    Needed a beast to clear the front of the net when all those pesky Bruins start buzzing around. Polak is that guy.
    So many people over-rate Gunnerson. Soft as a marshmallow.