As is tradition, the pre-jump paragraph of this week’s mailbag has nothing to do with anything. May as well put it to some use, though, and ask an important question: for those of you that live here, what is “your” Toronto? The perimeter that you feel comfortable in, that if you escape, it may as well be another country? I was thinking about this today on the way to Mastercard Centre to watch Toronto Marles camp, as I once again acknowledged to myself that Etobicoke may as well be Siberia.
As someone who grew up in a more central part of the city, my North/South is vaster than most, but my East/West is narrower. My perimeter, honestly speaking, is probably the full Lake Shore to Steeles on latitude end, but I start to lose grip of reality as soon as you pass Bayview/Sherbourne on the east and Keele, occasionally Jane on the west.
I’m just curious to where others stand on this non-pressing issue.
@MoemanHD asked: How good is Nikita Zaitsev compared to Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner?
It’s hard to make a direct comparison with such limited data on Zaitsev. He’s obviously been very dominant in his KHL tenure and has looked solid in the World Cup and preseason, preseason, but declaring him to be a slam dunk to compete with those bigger names is a prediction that relies on faith as much as it relies on reasonability.
Eyeball wise, he’s very much like Gardiner, but with a right shot. Both love to carry the puck out of the zone, and both perform best when allowed to neutralize their attackers before they enter the defensive zone; something that wasn’t the case under Oleg Znarok at the World Cup for Zaitsev, leading to some iffy looking underlying numbers. There’s a level of physical maturity that you’d expect from a soon to be 25-year-old, and while he’s not a slam dunk to be fantastic, things are looking pretty good in the present.
@a12b4 asked: Will the Ducks trade Hampus Lindholm? If they do, do the Leafs have the pieces needed to acquire him?
The Ducks seem very intent on finding a way to keep him, even if it means moving a contract. If they are in any way wise, they’ll spin back to a team that had some interest in Cam Fowler a few months back and attempt to move him for futures to make the room and reload for whatever comes after this generation of roster players.
As for the Leafs’ involvement, if he hits the market, it’s a tricky one. Lindholm is obscenely good at a young age and a team shouldn’t rule themselves out of a player just because they have depth in a spot. But Toronto already has Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly, not to mention that Martin Marincin seems good enough for a third pair and that there are so many left-handed defencemen in Toronto’s pipeline that will need room to jump into eventually.
Getting Lindholm now would have to mean a bevy of prospects heading to Anaheim, which isn’t a huge crisis, but it also means being ready to move on from one of your present big-two defencemen sooner than later or accepting that you’ll be developing your next generation as commodities, not as core players.
In short, he probably stays, the Leafs would love to have him, but I don’t know if it makes sense.
@ChewieD23 asked: What’s missing from the Leafs? Is it time? Is it another player? What is it?
Time is the fairest answer, no matter how you see the team. If you’re joining me on team “The Leafs are actually already good”, then there isn’t really a ton missing, but the clock has to run out for that to be proven. If you’re still skeptical, you’re probably most skeptical because so many of the kids have next to no NHL experience, and so many of the veteran players just got here.
It’s definitely possible that this group is going to need a bit of time to fully develop and build chemistry, but outside of that, there aren’t any gigantic positional holes. It would be nice to see Toronto pick up a few more right-handed shots on the point, and the fact that their two most talented right wingers are teenagers that have been converted from the centre position is a little interesting as well. Outside of that, though, I think the process has passed the revolutionary stage and entered the evolutionary one.
@JesseKellestine asked: Do you think that William Nylander will move to the centre position permanently at some point?
This one is going to rely more on the depth of the organization moving forward than it will on Nylander’s ability. Mike Babcock spoke last season of how he wanted Nylander to begin his career at the wing to avoid thrusting him into high-responsibility situations while not quite ready for the task but was impressed at how well he handled himself when he ended up having to play there by necessity.
Of course, Auston Matthews is a Toronto Maple Leaf now and it doesn’t seem that Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak are imminently departing. You could theoretically convert one of those two into wingers instead of Nylander, but both are already more familiar with the responsibilities at the NHL level, Bozak’s draw-taking abilities, while non-vital, certainly have some merit, and Kadri would likely be a left winger, the side where the team is already disproportionately loaded.
For now, Nylander’s fate is to stay on the right side until a few natural right wingers make the leap, or until one of Kadri or Bozak move on. Talent-wise, though, he could fill in at a moments notice.
@3rdPeriodSuits asked: What should Auston Matthews wear to the NHL awards?
A blue blazer to match his team and a silver tie to match the trophy the Leafs won a few weeks prior. He should also wear deep cargo pants to stuff his Hart, Art Ross, Rocket Richard, Selke, Lindsay, Calder, and Mark Messier Leadership trophies into.