Monday Mailbag: Special Assignment

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Based on Lou Lamorellio’s rules about high jersey numbers and staying away from Twitter dot com, the following roster players are safe from his eventual wrath: Stephane Robidas, Richard Panik, James Reimer. I’m pretty sure Robidas is too old to use technology, Panik is nervous about his English, and heaven forbid that Reimer sees someone use naughty language on his phone.

Congratulations to those three for making the cut. Everybody else, watch your back. New signings, be cautious. 

@nrandreycharles asked: any thoughts on potential Leafs d-pairings? Dion perhaps moved to 2nd pairing? Who sits?

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, Mike Babcock thinks very highly of Dion Phaneuf and will give him every opportunity to succeed on this team as long as he competes for his role and doesn’t play entirely awful. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Morgan Rielly paired with him, given his fantastic play last year and his ability to balance Phaneuf out via excellent skating ability. A return to a Gardiner-Phaneuf pairing is possible too, if Babcock feels that their issues were systematic and not in actual ability.

Beyond the first pair, the rest will probably be decided come training camp.

@ahurst11 asked: Would you trade JVR and for what? Who graduates from the marlies after next season?

I’d definitely consider trading James Van Riemsdyk; I suggested during the draft that it would be wise to put him up in an offer for New Jersey’s sixth overall pick. His contract is fantastic, one that you don’t want to give up easily, but if there’s a high-end prospect out there that you can get as a centrepiece in a return, its something the team should at least consider.

As for Marlies graduations, it’s almost assuredly going to be the last AHL year for both Connor Brown and William Nylander. Both could conceivably play in the NHL this year, but it’s best to over-ripen them and make room for them to play in an NHL role that suits them. Beyond those two, the year’s play is going to dictate the route that they take.

@HatTrickMatty asked: What is the most underrated change the Leafs made going into next season?

As crazy as it sounds, the reasons that everybody is skeptical of Lou Lamoriello and Jacques Lemaire are the reasons that you should be most excited. They’re definitely old-school hockey minds, but they were also forward-thinking in their peaks. You don’t need to know how to read a war-on-ice chart to be progressive, and I don’t think they’ll stall the thought process of the other members of management; their differing perspectives, if anything, will create wisdom of the crowds.

@Rutty91 asked: Who will be the surprise star for the Leafs this year?

I don’t know about star, but I could see Peter Holland becoming a bigger “face” for the team throughout the year. Babcock will probably re-shuffle the centre responsibilities rather quickly, and offer him more general ice time, particularly special teams. His local roots will also lead to him being marketed more, from a pure PR perspective.

@Synsensa asked: Do you feel Kyle Dubas has the skills necessary to become a “known name” of the NHL GM community after some experience?

People often forget that Dubas is more than a numbers cruncher; he’s been scouting since his early teens and has a keen eye for the game from a visual standpoint as well. His rapid growth in the industry has put him on people’s radar since well before the Leafs hired him, and has he begins to add more responsibilities to his role, teams will definitely take him increasingly more seriously. If anything, I’d be concerned that a team might try to poach him before the Leafs are ready; which, I think, is why Lamoriello was chosen as “the guy” in the meantime. He’ll add some perspective and experience to Dubas’ repertoire and likely transition into a new role or retirement.