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TLN Monday Mailbag – March 20th

I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback about our fancy new redesign, and that’s hardly a shock: everything works the way it should for a reader, after years of being close but not quite. For the writers, though? It’s even better! We can get work done anywhere now! I’m typing this mailbag out on a tablet in the lobby of an office while waiting to meet with a friend. What a time to be alive. Anyway, that doesn’t matter to you, but the answers to these five questions might.

A lot is made about Toronto’s lack of depth in the centre spot, but I wonder if there’s really much reason to feel that way. There isn’t as much in the pipeline, but a lot of that is because it’s the position where they have the most long-term security. Auston Matthews is going to be a Leaf for a long time. Nazem Kadri is signed for peanuts until the apocalypse. William Nylander will eventually convert to centre, and Toronto can make some decisions on Tyler Bozak and Brian Boyle in due time. 

The idea of depth at this stage of the build is to have replacements for when interchangeable pieces move on, but three of Toronto’s four slots are filled with core players who they control the destiny of for the next half decade. Their potential hole is on the fourth line, and given Mike Babcock’s love for a fourth liners fourth line, you can easily get one of those guys every summer until a long-shot pick hits the jackpot. My hopes lie in Adam “Prairie Jesus” Brooks, as many know, but we’ll have to see how that turns out.

There’s a case to be made to go both directions. On one hand, every dollar of cap space is going to matter in the next two years, where they’ll be able to squeak as much talent into as little of a budget as possible, allowing them to take a couple of serious swings at the Stanley Cup. On the other hand, if you can get Brown signed to a long term deal like the one mentioned, you’re likely to have a prime asset to flip for more futures in a few years when you are up against the end.

When people talk about “it’s just $1 million more” sacrifices, these are the right ones to be doing. In this case, you’re hedging current openings to make a long term investment, presumably saving more than a million on his value in the back three years. Personally, I’d take that chance, especially if the Leafs can clear out a depth veteran or two in the coming months.

Kasperi Kapanen has wholeheartedly exceeded my expectations. I was skeptical of his ability to turn it up a notch, given his history of not really dominating at any level, but he’s been stellar on both ends on the ice for the Marlies this year and seems more mentally committed than he’s ever been.

On the other side of things, as much as I didn’t see Antoine Bibeau as someone ready to finally break out, I definitely didn’t expect him to be the in the discussion for the worst starting goaltender in the AHL this year. But we’ll save that for its own post.

Morgan Reilly is still good. I think its important that the idea of him being infallible has gone away and it’s good that we’re getting to a point that his mistakes aren’t always excusable. Pressure is good for growth, and I’m glad he finally has some being put on him.

On the other hand, a lot of his struggles seem to be attached to the Leafs having horrible puck luck when he’s on the ice, and the fact that he gets all the tough minutes and most of his minutes happen to be the tough ones. Combine that with having to rush back from his leg injury, and it’s no shock that we’re seeing a slightly blemished version of the Mo we all expected to see this year.

I still think there’s a bit of room for him to grow and that if the Leafs ever decide to balance out the assignments, he’ll look great again.

The Leafs Are Actually Good. Don’t let the shootouts and coughed up leads distract you from the fact that they lead games way more than they trail them, that their best players are ripping up the league, and that they’re in the top half to top tier in most underlying metrics. The season is a roller coaster, but being in a roller coaster situation in late March is way more than most gave them credit for.

I still think that I’ll be seeing you at Game 3.

  • JB#1

    Are the comments still being done through Disqus?

    I miss the ability to see my previous comments and who, if anyone, has replied to them just by clicking on the “cloud” icon that used to appear beside my login name.

    • Gary Empey

      The site is no longer using Disqus. I am not sure if it is coming back. I used to check my email to find out if anyone replied. I didn’t realize there was a cloud icon. I hope it comes back or at least some sort of email notification. Sometimes we get into interesting in-depth conversations that require some back and forth points of view.