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Monday Mailbag: Best Answers Ever Edition

And that folk’s is why you are stuck with me answering the mailbag today. It’s just that simple. No more dance around the issues with soft answers, you are getting the real truth in each and every answer today. So strap yourself in for the most important you will read today.

Let’s start here because people really seem to like Martin Marincin. A player who is decidedly “not bad” and honestly could have been a reliable bottom pairing player for the Leafs this past season.

First will address whether he’s better than Lidstrom. If the measure for being better is being discussed more often, than yes. I’m pretty sure more time has been spent discussing Marincin over the past couple of seasons than was ever spent discussing Lidstrom over his career. The two players both excel in playing a low profile, level headed game, it’s just one of them did it a bit better than the other. I’m not normally one for rankings, so you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t do that here.

However, I do have some additional thoughts on Marincin, the first being that he has done an excellent job of illustrating the gap between AHL talent and NHL talent. Martin Marincin is walking around defenders to score highlight reel goals. The same guy who has 3 goals in 177 NHL games. Maybe don’t get so excited about what he does in the AHL. This offer is also valid for Garret Sparks. All this does is show that they probably belong in the NHL, but doesn’t mean they’ll star there.

My second point on Marincin is that while he should play in the NHL, it’s probably not going to be with the Leafs. Babcock has shown little interest in using him, and while I don’t always agree with Babcock’s roster deicision’s I’ll do my best to not get worked up over the bottom pairing as long as it doesn’t include Roman Polak. Marincin was sent down so the Leafs could get a good look at Borgman, someone who showed a lot of promise and could be back in the bottom pairing this season. It’s okay to let Marincin walk when the Leafs can at least take comfort in depth on the left side of their blueline with Rielly, Gardiner, Dermott, Borgman.

Finally, his numbers are fantastic, and not just when he plays against weaker competition. Marincin has excelled at all aspects of defense that don’t involve moving his feet. If he has added that aspect to his game, I’m prepared to feel worse about saying he’s not worth getting worked up about.

My favourite part of the draft order is that it is set up that most incompetent teams get to pick first, and that is pretty much a guarantee that good teams will always find a way to end up with someone better than they deserve. The Leafs are no longer the incompetent team, and with the Liljegren pick last year, it seems that they could be the capable team that drafts the guys who fall in the first round.

As for the question, there has been talk about the Canadiens reaching for a center instead of taking the best player available, but that isn’t going to translate into much for the Leafs. The Leafs need to count on the teams right before them screwing up, and it’s tough to say what teams like the Wild will do now that they’ve got a general manager who won’t necessarily take the Minnesota High School Player of the Year.

The Leafs need about 10 teams to whiff to get a shot at a top player, and there are only so many picks belonging to Florida, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Ottawa. There are wild card factors like not knowing what some of the newer GMs will do, and there seems to be a belief that everyone is trying to trade down.

If a player starts sliding and the price of moving up is at an all-time low, I’d like to see the Leafs take advantage of that.

Marlies watchers have led me to believe that Aaltonen can do anything he wants, he just needs a chance to do it. Personally, I’d be curious to see him in net, but think Leafs Nation would suffer a collective heart attack if there was another barrier put between Sparks and the end of the Leafs bench (even though Pickard is the far better NHL option.)

I’ll go with Aaltonen as 7D, because I think he’d be an interesting player to carry as a special teams defender. Bringing him up to speed on defense would potentially allow for him to join the powerplay as a 5th forward, something which more teams need to at least consider for one of their units, and again he’d essentially be a 3rd forward on the penalty kill, something that teams also refuse to consider for reasons I’ve never fully understood. Why is it that only defensemen can maintain a box shape and ice pucks? My love of three forward penalty kills will be a topic for the summer, I’m sure, but for now I will say that Aaltonen seems like an ideal utility player to add to the Leafs next season, I’m just not ready to save him a spot in the lineup.

As someone who enjoys trades a lot, I have many thoughts on this subject. Trades are fun. Sports are supposed to be fun. And trades always lead to interesting #discourse.

If I’m going with the low hanging fruit options, both Carrick and Leivo were part of the roster, and it seems clear Babcock has no interest in either one of them. They aren’t going to bring in much return, but they are both as good as gone. Hopefully both wind up in the Western Conference because I think both have the ability to make us regret that they aren’t around.

Mike Babcock stopped playing Matt Martin and it’s hard to imagine that he’s a Kyle Dubas favourite, so I’d assume as soon as his signing bonus is paid on July 1st, he’ll be gone too. Wouldn’t it be great if Tom Wilson and Ryan Reaves created a market for a guy like Martin?

I’d also assume that McElhinney will get offered around as well, and with a strong season while working light duty, there could be a team looking for a guy like him. Remember, somehow Al Montoya was worth a 4th and Antti Niemi managed to get re-signed.

Anyways, those are the boring roster moves and they will probably happen. The bigger question is with the core. Connor Brown is young, cheap, and has a couple seasons of decent numbers behind him. He could be an important piece of whatever the Leafs try to do this summer. Kapanen could also be a player that teams covet and could be the requirement for the Leafs upgrading the right side of their blueline. Additionally, I wouldn’t rule out looking at something involving Nikita Zaitsev, who is a big contract commitment for a new GM to live with, and because of his expiring contract, and the Leafs improving left blueline situation, I’ll say Gardiner could be on the move, if Dubas is feeling extra bold.

Reality is the cap going up is probably going to make GMs even more risk averse than usual ,and things like moving Gardiner and Zaitsev will be unnecessary.

As someone who would like to make hating the Leafs RD situation his fulltime job, I’d like to say that I want exactly this. I am extremely excited about Liljegren and want to watch him on the Leafs as soon as possible. I also like that the Leafs organization doesn’t have much interest in the over-ripening model Detroit used, and believe that Liljegren could take a role on the Leafs soon rather than later.

Right now it seems very possible that Liljegren can establish himself as the third best RD in the organization and take the role, but that’s part of the problem. Kyle Dubas needs to make this at least a little challenging for Liljegren and make it so he has to beat out someone for the role. Right now the players ahead of him are Zaitsev and Hainsey, and with Hainsey being a left shot, it’s really only Zaitsev. Connor Carrick could (should) be back, and that would be another barrier, along with Igor Ozhiganov, who I can’t bring myself to care about yet (although I was the same way about Borgman and can admit I was wrong there). I can make a case Liljegren in the Leafs top four on opening night right now, and I want to transition that to believing he’ll be the first callup from the Marlies next season. I’m interested in how the Leafs get there.

I like to believe it’s hiding the lineup card from Mike Babcock, but since The Nation Network is an Edmonton based company I’m assuming the fist is this Wendel Clark uppercut.

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