Whoa, it’s almost March already?! Time flies when you’re having fun, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are a lot of fun. But they’re also extremely concerning, depending on who you ask. Which is everyone, really; we just can’t all agree on the concerns.
Here’s five of them for this week:
— #DangleNavy (@Dangle_Navy) February 26, 2017
I don’t think it would impact their chances much, and if it did, it could even improve them. That’s not to say that the Hunwick-Polak pair has absolutely no use, don’t get me wrong; we’re critical of them on here, but I do get that they’ve contributed to the penalty kill unit and at times have been able to keep the puck out of the net with their style of play.
But at even strength, Babcock only tends to bring them out against weaker opponents in positions where he doesn’t have to rely on them to score a goal. They don’t see a lot of useful even strength time, and because of that, more of the “big” minutes go to Morgan Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev. It’s wearing those two down.
I think Marincin and Marchenko are more capable of making two-way contributions at 5-on-5, and seeing as that’s the bulk of the game, I can’t see why they can’t be at least as good as the pair around right now. Cashing in two veterans who will probably carry an inflated price tag based on this market seems like a no-brainer to me. Who knows if they actually do it, though.
— Rob Johnston (@ReginaLeafs) February 26, 2017
They need to keep the puck as far away from the net as possible. Now, it’s up to you what that means. Is it a bruiser? A blocker? Or just a guy that’s so creative with the puck that he adds more time in the offensive zone to the tally, minimizing the need to play defence? I’m on the latter side of the equation, personally.
I think in that regard, the Leafs have two pairs pretty well settled, and there doesn’t need to be a huge, all encompassing play. If you can find a couple of play drivers sitting on the market at a low cost at 2:55 on Wednesday, go for it. If you can’t, see what the market holds in July. If that fails, pray that Travis Dermott has a good training camp?
I don’t know. There’s a lot of small ways to approach it. Rushing into it will just lead to over-investment; strike when the opportunity is clear.
— Connor (@TheSockDemon) February 26, 2017
As you can see, defence is a common subject on here this week…
I don’t think it does. Carrick’s absence isn’t likely to be a long one, and the Leafs can fall back on a player like Frank Corrado, Justin Holl, or even off-siding Martin Marincin for a day or two if it gets to that point. I don’t know if Polak goes, but they won’t change their mind over not having an obvious Plan B for a single night.
@JeffVeillette Does this “weak draft” thing just mean no obvious superstars in picks 1-10? Rest of draft class as good as it ever was?
— Andrew Norman (@Awn1980) February 27, 2017
Usually, when we talk about a strong draft versus a weak draft, what we really mean is that the top one or two picks aren’t obviously mega-stars like other years. After back to back years of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, followed by Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, it’s no shock we all feel this way now about this year’s group.
That shouldn’t spill over into burning low first rounders and second day picks, though. A good scouting department should still be able to find useful players to select with those selections. If they’re giving them up easier, its because they don’t trust themselves to do much more with the picks than roll the dice.
A team like Toronto or Florida, who seem to have systems and methods going as far as picking at the podium these days, would make a killing by grabbing a bunch of under-valued mid round picks now and cleaning house on the podium. If this is going to be the “cheapest” year in a while to get more rolls of the dice, get the pick count into the double digits again. You may as well.
— Stephen Burridge (@sburridgeottawa) February 27, 2017
Kasperi Kapanen remains out as a result of a leg injury he suffered in mid-January. He’s out of his cast now, but there’s still no publicly known timeline for his recovery.