How are you handling this break? Well? Poorly? Forgot what hockey is altogether?
With the Leafs not playing until Thursday, this time without Toronto Maple Leafs hockey is a great time to… reflect? Go get your flu shot? Reconnect with your loved ones?
If you’re doing none of the above, read our mailbag responses below.
Did you know who Duncan Kieth was at 23 yrs old ? No ? Interesting. So Morgan Reilly still has 3 years to keep growing. I bring this up because he still makes mistakes but boy is he growing nicely.
— Stumpy OT Winner (@theroadcrowd) November 13, 2017
This isn’t really a question, but yes, Morgan *Rielly has looked quite good this season. 16 points in 19 games, strong possession stats, and passing the eye test well. Norris one day? Best defenceman in Ontario? The sky is the limit for 23-year-old Morgie, having his best season to date.
Do you see Mason Marchment making the team in the future?
— Chris (@CJGAndrews) November 13, 2017
The challenger: Mason Marchment, 22-year old undrafted defender… currently without an NHL contract. Yet to play an NHL game, and currently in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. Through 12 games, Marchment has picked up 11 points with the Marlies, decent enough to turn some heads.
When you think about “high point-totalling AHL defenceman,” does the name TJ Brennan come to mind?
Let’s jump some hoops through the Leafs’ defensive depth chart.
In the “likely here for a while” chart is Nikita Zaitsev, Jake Gardiner* (see below), and Morgan Rielly.
Connor Carrick, Andreas Borgman are question marks for their future, but both are capable NHL defencemen in their own right. Old man on campus Ron Hainsey’s still got another year on his deal after this one.. and then we’ve got prospects Timothy Liljegren, Travis Dermott, Andrew Nielsen…. and let’s not forget the trials and tribulations of the Calle Rosen experience, either!
We won’t pretend to have in-depth knowledge on the intricacies of Marchment’s development, but… it’s a long, long road to be an NHL regular. Will Marchment be able to be deserving of an NHL contract for next year? 12 AHL games probably isn’t enough to make that decision, and right now, the Leafs don’t really need to make it either. They’ve got options.
To answer the original question? Bet on no, but best of luck for Marchment to fight the odds.
— Chris Hadwyn (@Fallenangel14H) November 13, 2017
What was once a crazy question… is slightly less crazy. Jake Gardiner’s game has been down this year (which we’ll get into below), with some hypothesizing it’s all due to his main partner’s struggles – Nikita Zaitsev. Zaitsev’s inability to defend the blueline has been evident this year and last, and playing primarily this year with Gardiner has likely brought down #51’s numbers a little.
If the Leafs really were to consider Jake on the trading block…the only question is, what do you trade him for? Are you going to be getting an upgrade on defence? No? If so, why trade him?
Are you getting a forward? If so, why? Where does he slot into the lineup?
Are you trading a prospect? Isn’t that counterintuitive to the win-now mindset?
If the shoe fits, trade it, but, right now, I’m not really sure if there’s a good fit for a player with nearly two seasons left on his deal.
— Graeme Nishida (@graemenishida91) November 13, 2017
Ah, more talk about Jake! Yes, Jake Gardiner is still good…. but he’s struggling, no doubt. 8 points through 19 games puts him on pace for.. 34 points, which would be his second highest after a career-high 43 last year. But possession-wise, Gardiner’s posting just a 47.77 CF%… easily the lowest mark of his career.
Maybe we’re not having this conversation if Jake Gardiner scored a few more power play goals. Maybe we’re not having this conversation if Jake Gardiner is on a different pairing.
We shouldn’t worry too much about Jake’s mistakes for now… but if they keep up, well, maybe there’s more to it than just “playing with Nikita Zaitsev”.
Do you think it would be wise for Babcock to try Marner with linemates who will most likely be on the team next season to start building chemistry, instead of continuing to play him with 25 & 42, 2 players likely not on team past this season?
— Rob Quadrini (@Rob_Quadrini75) November 13, 2017
Not really. Mike Babcock’s job is, first and foremost, is to win as many hockey games as possible with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and put them in a position to compete for the Stanley Cup.
Let’s say both Tyler Bozak and JVR are gone next year. The most important part of that sentence? Next year. There is always time to develop chemistry in the offseason, through training camp, and through the early months of next season. The Leafs are going to make a run for the Stanley Cup this year, and that’s more important than Mitch Marner’s chemistry next season, bottom line.
You have to choose (for some reason) between Marner at $6M or Nylander at $7M. Same term (let's go with the full 8 years). Who do you choose?
— Adam Stylander (@astewart91) November 13, 2017
Well, if the Leafs ever mess up and have to make that choice, they probably messed up BAD somewhere else. There’s no reason why that will ever be a huge concern for the Leafs… but if it has to happen, well, let’s take a look.
Looking at their rookie seasons last year, the two put up identical 61-point totals. This season? They’ve both got 13 points each. Is the difference between them a million per year? Less likely. There’s obviously other factors, but as we know, point production is the main key that drives contract totals. And right now… they’re just about bang equal over the past season and the start of this one. Based on age, a year more of cost control, and $1 million in cap space… we’re settling with Mitch in this apocalyptic scenario.