TLN Roundtable: Are You Concerned?

article_390bc57e-e628-4b13-9147-cbd20d7e545a

With a big trade and a big contract for a goalie, a draft that saw the team take a number of over-agers, and a free agency that’s seen the team prioritize toughness, the Leafs have had one hell of a polarizing off-season.

In today’s roundtable we revisit the summer that’s been once more, with a look at the front office and what our writers make of management moving forward.

So, today’s question is: on a scale of not at all to Dave Nonis, how concerned are you about the Leafs front office moving forward?

RYAN HOBART

For me, it’s difficult to relate to previous management regimes. I’ve never had this level of faith before. Relative to personal experience, I feel like my amps are set to eleven. However, there are still small issues that are arising, particularly lately. I’m not really losing faith, but just finding increasing reasons to question it. Overall, I’m still very excited for the future of this franchise, but the seemingly increasing hunt for toughness is reminiscent of the quest for “leadership” that followed the 2012-13 playoffs.  The future is bright, unquestionably, so I’m giving them a “concern” rating of “amount of chemtrails in the air” out of Dave Nonis.

RYAN FANCEY

I’m definitely closer to “not at all” than Dave Nonis on the scale of concern about this front office, mainly because I think whichever way they lean in their approach will create a competitive team. That said, I do think there are some front office politics that will play out before Lou hands off the keys to the top role, and as a result the Leafs will lose some talented minds. But that was always going to be the case, and it happens to any team who creates a stable of respected hockey voices. I won’t hide from the fact I’m definitely questioning this group more now, as this summer has produced eyebrow-raising move or two, but overall I still have faith in Shanahan as an incredibly smart shot-caller, and as long as he’s around I’ll likely see promise in the overall direction of the club. Everything large scale still has to go through him. If, over the next year or so, they start doing things that mess with the younger core pieces instead of just insulating them, and make bigger decisions based on out-dated priorities, I’ll probably move that slider up to the Nonis end of things. I doubt that’s going to happen. This is going to be a very telling year coming up, both on the ice and off.

KATY TEARLE

^ Like Fancey up there, I’m also a lot closer to the “not at all” level of concern than the “Dave Nonis” level of concern. Partially because I’m running on what a friend of mine calls ‘Defeatist Optimism’: No matter what Lou, Shanahan, Dubas, and Hunter do… the Leafs can’t possibly finish any worse than they did last year. We still have Gardiner, Rielly, Komarov, JVR, and Kadri still in play, as well as all our best prospects. I’m throwing in a bit of actual optimism for Brandon Prust. He’s not an outstanding player, by any means, but I do want to see him succeed, and a two-way contract (a REALLY cheap one) in Toronto could probably do that.However. I have been giving some of the front office moves a bit of the side-eye over the summer, and I’m not going to jump on the ‘Lou Has A Plan’ Train with blind faith. Some of those moves looked pretty sketch. If it turns out they work, and Lou did have a plan? Sweet. I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong. If not? Well. At least we have Matthews.

KEEGAN TREMBLAY

Concern Level: Low
I think it’s fair to say there have been questionable moves made this off-season but these transactions have taken place while still keeping our top 20 prospects intact. In that same vein, we still have Rielly, Gardiner, Kadri, JVR and Komarov. Ultimately, aside from acquiring a good goaltender in Frederik Andersen and promptly inking him to a five year deal, none of the moves made this off-season really affect the Leafs’ core.
Even if Brandon Prust exceeds expectations in his professional tryout and steals a roster spot from Hyman, Leipsic or Soshnikov, he’ll likely only play 40 games over the course of the season between healthy scratches. Stealing games from the kids wouldn’t be ideal but I think we’re very far away from Nonis land.

JEFF VEILLETTE

As much as I talk about never blindly trusting a sports front office, and as much as I micro-analyze just about every decision the team makes with the odd criticism along the way, I genuinely still think very highly of the big picture.In the span of two years, the Leafs have taken a below-average prospect pool and turned it into the absolute best in the game. An organization that craved a blue chip prospect now has three of them, with a few others who could be fringe sleepers. They may have added a couple that I’m not sold on, but I can’t think of a time in modern Leaf history that was more intriguing from a youth standpoint.The present looks much better too. Most of the cap weight has been lifted, with the leftovers fading away by the end of this season or next. I may not like every lineup choice that Mike Babcock makes, but the team is playing hockey that is modern to the eyeballs and to the stat sheet, and they’re developing a flavour of toughness that is closer to resilience than distractive aggression. Most of the big holes in the lineup have been solved, and I’m particularly optimistic for the improvements made on the right defensive side and in goal.There’s still work to be done, don’t get me wrong, and there are still ways that I personally feel they could do things a bit better. But the grass is the greenest it’s been in my own memory, and for the most part, front office seems to be making decisions with the team in mind more so than themselves as individuals.

What do you think? How concerned are you about the Leafs front office moving forward? Let us know in the comments!

  • Stan Smith

    I actually like where the Leafs are right now because of some of the decisions, and additions that were made this season. In a 12 month period starting June 2015 they added oodles of talent, culminating with the pick of Matthews. My biggest worry was that with all the undersized players they had, that would simply get run over by teams like The LA Kings. This summer they have made moves to assure that wouldn’t happen.

    The only two moves I question would be signing Andersen to the contract they did, and inviting Prust to a PTO. Dealing for Andersen was not a bad move, but the big contract might be a little premature. With Prust, unless the goal here is to ultimately sign him to an AHL contract, it appears Clune could use some help in that area with the Marlies, Prust does not seem to fit the role of tough guy that can still play minutes.

    My only other comment is that you could have set this whole topic up without singling out Nonis. In the past decade the Leafs have a string of GMs that have made numerous questionable decisions. I’m not sure Nonis was any worse.

  • Stan Smith

    I have never been a real proponent of Lou’s “my way or the highway” approach especially in the mindset of changing a front office over. This gives a lot of control to a guy that is past the “best before date”. But I will say that Babcock last year said that his team was not going to get pushed around so this year they tried to address that and put the tough guys in the same age as their skill guys last year, Now they have a well rounded talented group all the same age moving forward. Now they need to continue to supplement this group of talent with new upcoming talent.

  • Harte of a Lion

    Unlike Stan Smith, I think Nonis tops the list of Worst Leafs GM, at least in this century.

    As for being concerned, I have some trepidation about the well-being of guys such as Marner, Nylander and even Matthews. There’s no doubt that top prospects are always on the radar of opposition goons. The NHL is still a Neandarthal league when it comes to winning and dominance. So those guys and a few others, I presume, will be getting their bells rung in the first half of the season.

    I’m not a huge fan of Brandon Prust, but perhaps they’ll ned him for that first half, just to keep the kids a little safer.

    That said, I realize I’m just being a long-suffering, paranoid Leafs fan who is hard-pressed to see all the positives. And believe me, there are a lot of them – Matthew, Marner, Nyander, Soshnikov, Zaitsev, Brown, Lindberg, Leipsic, et al.

    I look for a break-out year from Kadri, a resurgent JvR and Reilly threatening to become an All-Star.

  • Trevor5555

    Im very comfortable with the Leafs front office moves from the time Shanahan took control to today. In about 6 months he purged 12 scouts and brought in 8 new scouts keeping our best guys. He purged and streamlined the front office hiring Dubas, Hunter, Pridham, Lamoriello while keeping a few long serving and respected managers. He also hired a world class coaching staff, highly respected skills development staff and added some hockey R&D people and analysts.

    This resulted in a totally reshaped player development system that really seems to be improving the quality of players produced in that system.

    Having a great development program is one thing but you need quality players and prospects to develop and the professional and amateur scouts and managers have done a great job over the last 2 years in finding good players to develop at the junior, AHL and NHL levels.

    In two years the Leafs added about 30-40 prospects with decent NHL potential. 10-15 of them appear to have the chance to be real impact players in the NHL in the next 2 years. Toronto aquired more high end prospects in the 2 full years under Shanahan’s group than the JFJ, Burke and Nonis years combined.

    As such im very optimistic regarding Shanahan & Co. direction. They even managed to unburden themselves of 3 huge long term deals. Adding Andersen, Enroth, Zaitsev, Carrick, Martin and Polak in addition to Matthews and the graduation of prospects will make this team very competitive and the wildcard should be a goal thats realistic.

  • glgbill

    As long as the front office prioritizes the development of Kyle Dubas (just as with our young on ice talent), we’ll be tracking appropriately. But if Kyle is lost in a shake-up because Lou can’t let go of power, things will be off the rails. More than adding a bit of toughness, the marginalization of Dubas in recent months is the real concern here…

  • Stan Smith

    I liked Burke, Nonis and Carlyle and was concerned when Shannahan stepped in and seemed to hop onto the analytics bandwagon. I really didn’t like how he left Nonis and Carlyle in but stripped them of all the power giving you all more fodder for these types of slights against them. When Kessel was traded by Dubas for a bag of pucks my level of concerned reached Dubas level (see what I did there?). Frankly, I thought we may be in big trouble with a kid in charge of grown-up business.

    It’s hard to fail at failing however, and Shanny, Horachek and the stats boys did pretty well at that to land us that crop of under-sized skilled players led by Mitch Marner and, again, although I started to feel some optimism watching the kid do his magic on the ice, I remained worried about a team of small, young, players getting pushed around.

    In come Lou and Babcock to correct that – a few solid trades and signings later the ‘toughness’ issue is being addressed and the kids now have a goon each to protect them and all have a goalie to stop the puck.

    I am ecstatic with the direction this team is going in and am really looking forward to the situation unfolding over the next few seasons.

    I hope that, as Lou passes the torch, Dubas is not left as the man in charge or, if he is, has learned to let go of his analytics obsession enough to continue on the path the winners (Shanny, Lou, Babcock and Hunter) have laid out. The kid is ok as a supporting player – in charge of the analytics side of things – but having him in charge of the whole thing worries me.

    As of now we are in great shape. We have the best front office in the league and the best crop of prospects in the league. Our goalies are unproven but Lou has never picked a wrong/bad goalie yet so I’m not worried. What’s there to not be excited about?

  • Gary Empey

    How could anyone in their right mind be concerned about our front office. They have been nothing short of brilliant. Last year at this time the consensus was the Leafs were 3 to 5 years away from making the playoffs. For the last two years, every young player the Leafs have drafted and acquired through trades has above average speed. (other than Lurch at 101) The Leafs will be the fastest team in the NHL in the very near future. Not just a few speedy guys. Speed throughout the whole 23 man roster. Speed on the Marlies, and more speed on our junior, college, and European guys. By Christmas time look for opposing coaches begging their players to backcheck and not take and penalties against the Leafs. The Leafs are shaping up to have a deadly powerplay. Not only will the Leafs make the playoffs this year but nobody will want to face them (and Babcock’s black book), in the first round. Even if someone beats us in the first round they will have nothing left in the tank.

    Leaf management are not saying it out loud but if you look closer at the moves they have been making (or not making),they have playoffs written all over them. That may be the reason some of the younger guys are having trouble understanding what the Leafs are up to. It has been a long time since they have seen a real playoff team in Toronto.

    I am not saying Stanley Cup this year, but with the guys we have in the pipeline it is not that far down the road.

    Lastly – Professional Tryout Offers(PTO). Why is anyone concerned about these? Lots of teams are and will be bringing in more of them. For a hockey team there is nothing to lose by having a look. Most of them never make the cut.

    • Stan Smith

      If I may just add onto your last point everyone freaking out about PTOs:
      Last year, the Leafs had 4 PTOs at camp. Can you guess all 4?

      They were: Devin Setoguchi, Curtis Glencross, Mark Fraser, and Brad Boyes.

      3 guys who didn’t even make the roster, and one who was in and out of the lineup last year.

      As well, the year prior to that, the Leafs brought in a veteran defencemen with the goal of shoring up their back end for the upcoming season. Although he was eventually released due to injury, he did not impress either. That players name was Henrik Talinder.

      I would be very confident saying that Brandon Prust will NOT be on the Toronto Maple Leafs opening night roster.

      • Gary Empey

        I am only vaguely aware of Prust. I have no idea if he is a good skater, can play the penalty kill, etc. I didn’t even know Montreal traded him. Like you, I can’t see him cracking this year’s top nine. Not with the quality we have there. Hell I think our fourth line is going to be a real threat to score and are going to get a lot more minutes than we are used to seeing. Still fair play to him if he thinks he can earn a spot.

      • Gary Empey

        My favourite hockey quote of the summer comes from the youngest GM in the NHL……

        ” If you can’t carry the puck out of your own end, you’re fukced. “

  • Gary Empey

    Re – All those writers and commenters saying ” I am concerned the Leafs are reverting to Old Time Hockey”

    It is not Leaf management that is thinking in the past. It is you guys who are stuck in a time warp. You still think our best three players will be on the so called 1st line. Our next best three on the second line. Third line for checking. From you I keep hearing “Kadri is playing tougher minutes.” The prospect’s ceiling is: ” Top six bottom six” “Where have you been. There is no more top six, bottom six. It is top nine that could play on any line. Today’s first line is only the first line on the ice. Didn’t you just see Pittsburgh skate away with a Stanley Cup by rolling 3 lines with star power on all three. This is not completely new. It has been evolving for a few years now. Babcock has been one of the leaders in this style of coaching. Shanahan was the leader in bringing back the smaller, speedier, highly skilled players. (google the “The Shanahan Summit,” from 2004/2005. Those smaller guys were pushed completely out of hockey at the junior level.

    The Leafs have assembled the best management team in hockey.

    I can’t wait for the axe to fall in Montreal…… “tabarnak”

    Don’t forget the Storming of the Bastille. Those guys can get agitated real fast.

    The hottest idem in Quebec hobby shops are miniature guillotines.

  • CMpuck

    Lou is the frustrating one, love the rest. By no means do I hate Lou, just not sure he’s the best compliment to the rest of the staff’s vision.

    If the bar is set at Nonis though? That’s not much of a standard.

  • Gary Empey

    Speaking of the commenters on SPORTSNET. I thought I was reading the closing script on Walton Family the other day. Everyone wishing each other the best of luck with their new trades and free agent signings.

    I am thinking of trolling them by telling them over here at Leafs Nation we have been running a CANADA’S BIGGEST SPORTS CRY-BABIES competition.

    It is now down to the two finalist.

    The Oilers vs the Flames……

    The Habs having already secured the bronze metal.

  • Gary Empey

    I am 64 years old and remember well our last cup. Look at our history since.(total misdirection or no direction). They appear to be doing exactly what they said they would do, so lets see in two years were we are. As loyal leaf fans I can tell you that you will be thrilled for the fist time in a long time!(Dale Hunter is one of the very best I have ever seen at recognizing young talent.

    Coop