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Monday Mailbag: Tuesday Edition

We had a very jam-packed day on our humble website yesterday, and then I got distracted with things in the real world. So, this week, the Monday Mailbag is actually on Tuesday. Sorry for the delay, but let’s try to make up for it by making it a good one:

The fact that the Leafs qualified Justin Holl yesterday is a pretty good sign that they still see some potential for him to hit the NHL ice at some point. It wouldn’t make much sense for them to do so otherwise, even if they like him that much at the AHL level. With that in mind, I’d be unsurprised if he’s their right-handed call up next year, barring several signings in the next few months. As for Nielsen, his road might be a little more jam-packed; even if you assume that Toronto will walk away from Matt Hunwick, they’ve still got at least three regular NHL defencemen ahead of him, Travis Dermott is definitely ahead on the Marlies depth chart, and then he still has to fight through the trio of Calle Rosen, Andreas Borgman, and Rinat Valiev. That’s a lot of lefties to go up against; it wouldn’t surprise me if Nielsen is still a year or so away from getting his cup of coffee.

Definitely still hope for him to be a centre. It’s more of a position of weakness in the organization, Nylander is very capable of filling it, and it would be nice to have each of the big three on their own line to spread the amount of damage they can do to other teams. It might not happen this year, but it’s coming.

Not as worried about it as most seem to be. Having your executives spoken to is pretty standard practice in this industry, especially if they’ve proven themselves to be talented. I don’t think Dubas wants to uproot himself right now; his projects within the organization seem to be rolling along smoothly, he and his wife just had had their first child a few weeks ago, and there’s been speculation that he had a contract up for renewal this year and that he signed on for extra term. Given the upward trajectory of the Leafs, I don’t think he walks away unless he’s significantly wronged by the organization; he’s young enough to have plenty of time to run his own team and the reputation that would be earned by bringing the Leafs to the top, even if he’s not the full-out GM when it happens, would be massive.

I’d still say so. People haven’t been very hyped on him since the Leafs selected him in the 2016 draft, but you have to remember that getting regular ice time in the KHL is already a significant achievement. He seems to be improving, too; he finished tied for fifth in team scoring this year despite missing 40% of the season. At his age, on a Top-5 team in the league, that’s pretty fantastic. There’s still some hope for him yet, is what I’m getting at.

I don’t think that’s the reason they haven’t made moves; I think they’ve tried to make moves but have either backed down as negotiations went into silly season, or they’ve been held back by other negotiating factors. With that said, I’m sure they’ll make their pitch to Shattenkirk; despite what screaming people who have watched him for about four shifts with Brooks Orpik in the playoffs will tell you, he’s a top end defenceman who would fit the team just about perfectly. Finding the right price matters, but they’ll at least try to find it.

Yes and no. All the hype about undersized players being undervalued has created a scarred reputation on the other side of the spectrum. Being a giant isn’t a bad thing; it helps you get in the way of others, you have a longer reach, and you’re naturally more physically intimidating. These things matter so long as you can activate them in your play. But capability matters here; your 6’5 guy needs to be on the team because he’s good, not because he’s 6’5. Hockey is a fast enough game that if your tall guy has the talents of a coke machine, he’ll get skated around. But then you have guys like Zdeno Chara, Victor Hedman, Colton Parayko on defence, Patrik Laine and Blake Wheeler up front, and Brent Burns & Dustin Byfuglien who can do both, that are giants that can play hockey, and are valuable to their teams.

In essence: Be cautious of height. Don’t draft guys who were good because they were bigger than their fellow children. Don’t acquire guys just to add size to your lineup. But if they can play? Sure, why not.

I don’t think so. I think it’s just a matter of maximizing value; it’s possible that Leivo make’s next year’s team, but if they find themselves in a position where they have to cut him, he would be the easiest of himself, Brendan Leipsic (claimed) and Kerby Rychel (exposed but unscathed) to get value for. His hot streak with the Leafs last year probably has teams wondering about his potential, especially in a more traditionally sized frame. I’m as big of a Leipsic fan as anyone, but to speak to the previous point, few teams in the league are going to line up to place bids for a 5’9 player who hasn’t done anything in the NHL yet. Rychel was good in the AHL last year, but not as good as Leivo was in his NHL games.

Predicting Leivo’s future is very difficult, but I think protection came down to maximizing asset value at most.

I wouldn’t bet on it, even if he absolutely rocks in training camp. He’s probably the most likely of players outside the top 2 or 3 to be able to step into an NHL camp and not look out of place, but expect the Leafs to be patient with him. He’ll likely spend at least one more year in the SHL, and as a European based pick, could maybe even play one more year with the Marlies on a slide-deal, similar to what the Leafs did with William Nylander before he turned 20.

  • Jroc

    As a leafs fan in Edmonton I see a lot of parallels with Nylander and draisaitl in the RW/ C debate. Having him at center would be great but unless that means sliding marner up to play with Matthews he is just too valuable on the wing riding shotgun on line 1. If the leafs want to go deep they need a go to line to generate offence against the best defence pairs the league can throw at them. I don’t think Matthews can drag Hyman and brown around the ice and dominate against elite competition

    • Skill2Envy

      In all fairness to Brown, no one has dragged him around the ice so far in his career.

      You can argue he played on the same team as McDavid briefly but he did just fine without him as well.