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TLN Monday Mailbag: May 29th

I love spite tours. You know, when a top player moves teams and immediately finds success? My all time favourite spite tour has to be Marian Hossa’s when he went from a cursed player who couldn’t win to an underrated core piece on a modern dynasty.

This year’s Stanley Cup Finals is a double dip in spite. Phil Kessel going for back-to-back, or PK Subban getting instant gratification. It’s fantastic. I want the Leafs to have a spite tour. They should sign a player or two with some spite on their shoulders, or trade for some spite. Quality talent, of course, but spiteful talent.

I just wanted to get that out of the way before Game 1. Here’s a mailbag.

Hard to say for sure. He’d probably be a better fit on that line that Zach Hyman is; he might not be quite as good at forechecking and displacement, but he’s come a long way in that regard. He’s also got better natural puck skills as well, which would help him bury a few more of those opportunities that Hyman couldn’t (this, of course, is of no disrespect to Zach, who I think has a place on this team and arguably on that line).

I don’t think a 20/20 season, a slight uptick from what Connor Brown put up on the Kadri line, would be out of the question. Maybe even more if he catches his groove on the skilled side of the game fast enough. I’m also not rushing to put him there, though; balance is good and if he makes it so the fourth line can trade blows with other teams’ middle six, that’s fantastic too.

You have to imagine it would still be Morgan Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev. The Rielly/Gardiner debate will last forever, but I think those who use it to pull down Rielly don’t give enough consideration to the fact he played much of the year coming off a rough leg injury, and that his pairing was given disproportionally tough assignments.

I don’t think swapping the two around fixes the pairing’s issue. Spreading the matchups might, though, if only to better rest the top two for when they need it.

Of course, if the opportunity to add a top end, offensively-leaning defencemen were to arise, you go for it.

I’m not quite sure. I get what he brings to the team and I’m not going to sit here and tell you that he can’t contribute or that he should never play another game in Toronto. But it’s no secret that Matt Martin’s contract is far from favourable, and with that in mind, I can’t see Las Vegas giving him much of a look. His strongest asset right now is how he’s helped acclimate the team’s young players, and the Golden Knights will be almost entirely mid aged to veteran aged for the first few years. To them he’d simply be a forechecker who doesn’t score very much but can drop the gloves a bit, and those guys practically grow on trees in the annual UFA pools.

I’d expose him and fully expect him to be back next year.

Almost assuredly looking at a full season with the Marlies. He’s going to be a heck of a player (we’ll talk about him in more detail later in the week), but getting him adjusted to the pro game would be a good idea. Not to mention, the big club has an abudnance of talent in his position already.

Probably so. I’m not a huge fan of the fact they extended him when it did because it makes their expansion plans pretty clear, but I think the Leafs have learned that he’s not much of an option for them up front and that they’ll need a better fourth line centre moving forward.

The good news is that AHL Ben Smith contributes much more, scoring at about a 30 goal a season pace in his career down there. He’ll probably be a very capable top-six centre for the Marlies next year, splitting the main centre responsibilities with Adam Brooks.

  • Gary Empey

    Jim Rutherford threatens to bring back the enforcers/goons. He had this to say about dirty hits.

    What was once only a matter of hooking and obstruction has now become a dangerous game of hurting these star players enough without being suspended too long. Players such as Patrick Kane, Conor McDavid and Carey Price get dangerously attacked by other players in the hope of injuring them for a long time.

    The Penguins have decided that enough was enough following multiple complaints ignored by the NHL.

    “I hear year after year how the league and everyone loves how the Penguins play. They play pure hockey and they skate.’ Well, now it’s going to have to change and I feel bad about it, but it’s the only way we can do it. We’re going to have to get one or two guys…and some of these games that should be just good hockey games will turn into a sh!t show. We’ll go right back to where we were in the ’70s and it’s really a shame.”

    • Derian Hatcher

      This is an interesting comment by Rutherford. I watched the James Neal crosscheck that was the second penalty on the same play, putting the Preds down 2 men for 2 minutes. I thought it was definately a cross check. However, IMO that same cross check (or worse) was given multiple times by the Ducks agains the Oilers and the Preds and no call. That is my frustration. If it’s a penalty – call it. The refs seem to be trying the “manage” the game. Incredibly frustrating.

  • Gary Empey

    Re- “If Kapanen gets a full season with Matthews and Nylander”…. It leads to the question of, do Matthews and Nylanders stats diminish as Kapanen scores the goals?

  • Gary Empey

    Re- “justification can be given if Martin is protected”… Leaf fans are living in fantasy land if they think their is little or no value in protecting Martin. Martin is no bully. As for Martin’s contract what makes him worth more money than the average tough guy in the league. Martin is smart. He doesn’t take instigator penalties, 5 minute majors for charging, slashing and boarding. He has NHL speed. He is a good forechecker and will stand in front of the net to screen the goalie if his mates are good enough to get in the offensive zone. If you read what Jim Rutherford has stated recently one can see the GM’s are really concerned about deliberate attempts to injure star players. He has had enough and plans to fight fire with fire. The questioner mentions Rychel and Jeff in the past has mentioned Clune as a cheaper option. Both of the guys when given the opportunity to play for the big club in their very first game, were tossed, they took major penalties and game misconducts. Rychel as third man in defending Kadri and Clune simply checking a guy from behind into the boards. Even having a player of Martin’s skills is no guaranty some opposing players feel injuring a star player is a good play for their team. It is some deterrent. Everyone understands that hockey is a rough sport and injuries will occur. The real answer is the NHL needs to come down hard on players that deliberately try to injure another one. As a Leaf fan I can see we now have quite a few star players that will definitely be targets. Last year I seen a big knee on Matthews that was designed to take him out for a long time. Every game I saw Marner shaking his arm after someone tried to break in with a slash.

    • Gary Empey

      I should have added it certainly is a fair question and there are sound reasons for going either way. If Martin was exposed and taken in the draft then financially the Leafs would be ahead of the game. They would be selling Martin to Vegas for $16 million. If you subtract the $2.5 million the Leafs paid him for last year work, their net gain is $13.5 million.

    • Kanuunankuula

      Why does Vegas need an enforcer? They’re not going to have a superstar to protect. Their forwards are going to be mediocre. They’re going to be older, and not need a “team dad”. Why would George McPhee take a 4th liner when he can take a young forward or a young D, with some potential? I think the fantasy land is where he’s claimed.

      • Gary Empey

        Vegas doesn’t need an enforcer. It is Pittsburgh’s GM Jim Rutherford, that is threatening to hire a couple of goons so other players quit trying to deliberately injure his guys. You are right. George McPHee will not likely be drafting any 4th line players. He is more likely to draft 1st line players like Leipsic and have them play a checking role on the 4th line. Maybe he won’t ice a 4th line because he doesn’t have any 4th line players. The NHL has designed this expansion draft so Vegas can end up a mediocre team like the Coyotes for the next 12 years, having the successful NHL teams bail them out financially.

  • Gary Empey

    Re- “I’m not a huge fan of the fact they extended him when it did because it makes their expansion plans pretty clear” When did you plan to extend him? What if you left it to close to the expansion draft and Smith decided to move on. You would of ended up forced to expose another regular like Komarov.