Monday Mailbag: You All Have A Lot of Questions About D Edition

It’s that awkward time when we are about the furthest point from when we’ve last seen hockey to the point when hockey comes back. It’s an unsettling time filled with barbecues, beaches, and brews, and I don’t care for it at all. I long for the days of yelling at my TV in isolation while my child wonders why Daddy doesn’t want to play. Hockey come back! Or don’t. I really don’t care. Anyway, the requisite introduction paragraph is complete and your questions will be answered.

Short answer: no

Slightly longer answer: I’ll admit to never liking Zaitsev and having a general buyer beware attitude towards all European signings. I’m sure my distaste for Zaitsev is magnified by his terrible contract, but let’s get past all my angry thoughts and look at what the expectations for Zaitsev should be.

Zaitsev is a perfectly acceptable 5th defenseman on a good hockey team, and the Leafs are a good hockey team. A sheltered Zaitsev on a third pairing could yield results that we can all enjoy and his skill set is good enough that you don’t mind seeing him on the second unit of either special teams either. If Zaitsev is the puck mover/carrier who accompanies Marincin, Hainsey, or Borgman on the third pairing, I think I’d warm up to him quickly while still hating his contract.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

It seems like Kyle Dubas has taken away a lot of Mike Babcock’s “low risk” comfort food over the offseason by shuffling out guys like Polak and Komarov, and since Hainsey is definitely what Babcock would identify as a low risk hockey player, it’s difficult to see him moving on. I’d hate to see him in the top four with Rielly again, given Hainsey’s steady decline on last season went on, but I can see him as part of a group of 5 defensemen who regularly rotate into 3 roster spots, with Rielly, Gardiner, and Dermott occupying the only locked in roles.

That being said, if I’m Kyle Dubas I see whether there is any kind of a market for Hainsey, because of the reasons you mentioned. The depth is already there with LHD and maybe someone is looking for veteran depth. It’s also entirely possible that the Leafs might eat half the contract to give Hainsey a bit more value.

Back to the short answer: It’s a good idea, but he probably sticks around.

They are close in age, height, weight, both shoot right, come from the same country, and finished their KHL careers with CSKA Moscow. That’s probably the end of similarities. For all my criticisms of Zaitsev, he seems to be the more complete player and Ozhiganov seems to be more of the traditional stay at home defender (read: would have been good before 2006). It’s hard to say what to expect from him because it is probably going to come down to how much the Leafs want that skill set in their lineup.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

My guess is that Ozhiganov is a Marlie. He might get a shot at being more at some point, and he might be curious enough about his chances in North America that he sticks around for another year or two after this one. He’s a lottery ticket where the jackpot seems to be a 6/7 D on the Leafs, and that’s pretty underwhelming.

Don’t trust Hockeymen.

So let’s say the Leafs have traded for Panarin, that’s awesome. He’s really good. The problem with fitting him in to the lineup means I have to guess at what the Leafs would have traded for him, and that’s a bit more difficult. It’s also difficult to figure out how the Leafs re-sign him after this year. For argument’s sake let’s say the Leafs give up Gardiner, Korshkov, and a 1st to get him. Don’t get hung up on if this is an over/underpayment to you because I don’t confess to know what the needs are for the Blue Jackets, and swapping talented expiring contracts seems reasonable, and Korshkov and 1st definitely seems like it covers off the talent gap, even if it is a winger for D, and Hall for Larsson has taught us that wingers carry no value.

Anyway, here’s the stacked lineup you wanted to see


sorry Josh Leivo, better luck next year.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Might as well do the defense too:

Rielly- Hainsey
Dermott- Carrick
Marincin- Zaitsev


That defense looks decidedly less good.

If this is directed at TLN, this is probably the first time we’ve been accused of not loving Jake Gardiner enough

If this is directed at Leafs fans in general, it’s probably because Gardiner makes memorable mistakes, doesn’t defend in his own zone in the traditional clearly bodies in front of the net/fight in the corners/shot blocking way. He also had an absolutely horrific game seven that people are right to be upset with him over, even if he is a good defenseman.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

If I’m speaking my personal truths on Jake Gardiner, I have to say that I really like him. I’m amazed that he manages to make the wrong decision every time there’s an odd man rush against him, but I really like him. Of course that doesn’t mean that I’m not against trading him as I’m encouraged by what the Leafs have going in their defensive pipeline and committing to Gardiner’s salary for the next 7 or 8 years after this one doesn’t hold a lot of appeal for me.

I guess it’s safe to say it will always be complicated with Jake Gardiner.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.