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Expectations for Brad Treliving are high one month from the trade deadline

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Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Jon Steitzer
19 days ago
Thanks to the leap year we can’t quite say that it’s four weeks until trade deadline, but today we are one month out from the day that gets billed as one of the craziest on the NHL calendar but then results in us all sitting around for eight hours just to watch Dryden Hunt get traded for Radim Zohorna.
That’s an oversimplification. We are in trade season now and the deadline is just the last minute frenzy for the final scraps. We know that Kyle Dubas was busy leading into the deadline before going silent on the final day, and even noted deadline hater, Brad Treliving, pulled off three small deals, highlighted by the acquisition of Nick Ritchie and Troy Stecher last year, and he’s been good for at least two moves in February or later every in each of the last four seasons for the Flames. He’ll definitely have a more aggressive directive from the Leafs.
Treliving has dealt a first just once in his time as GM. He made the move to bring in Tyler Toffoli who still had plenty of term left on his deal, so that gives a bit of insight into how he treats 1sts. That same year was the closest thing to a load up year during his time in Calgary, as he also traded multiple picks for one Calle Jarnkrok, and a 7th for Ryan Carpenter. That might be the template for what the Leafs expect, or at least what a lot of Leafs fans expect.
Coming into the trade deadline this year is definitely different. This isn’t the team that confidently has 2nd place in the Atlantic locked up by late December. This is going to be an 82-game season determining if the Leafs are a wild card team or seeded in the Atlantic. (Maybe landing in the Metropolitan would be more favourable?) A big win against Dallas and a confidence building streak before the All-Star break help change some perceptions of what the Leafs are. There’s also the excitement about what this team could do with a fully healed Joseph Woll.
There is also something to be said for this team swapping out players like Alex Kerfoot for Max Domi and Bertuzzi being a grittier version of Michael Bunting. The addition and rise of Simon Benoit also make Toronto look more like “playoff hockey team” than previous years and the Leafs could be struggling a bit in the standings to get the results they want in the spring. It seems eerily similar to the Panthers approach last year, but we’ll see if mirroring recent success is a viable strategy.
With Brad Treliving being on record as saying the time for building teams is in the offseason and expressing that Brian Burke-ian adage about how “most GMs make their biggest mistakes at the trade deadline,” there will be more of an appetite to tinker or to build on what he was already trying to do this summer and that likely comes from three places:
  • Treliving wanted to improve the blueline and for some reason he thought that meant adding John Klingberg. That went about as well as expected but to Treliving’s credit his other move of adding Simon Benoit has paid off more than he likely even thought it would. Benoit eliminates the need for a Schenn type defender and with the LTIR space from Klingberg the Leafs can once again search for their Muzzin type defenceman.
  • Treliving wanted to add secondary scoring and it seemed like a reasonable bet that Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi would outscore Michael Bunting and Alex Kerfoot. That has most definitely not been the case and the Leafs could use someone not only capable of scoring but someone who can play third line centre. A centre who can score is a tough order to fill at the deadline and the Leafs would probably be better off focusing on any forward they can get with the cap space left over after bringing in a defenceman.
  • Treliving wanted to toughen up the Leafs and Ryan Reaves was brought in for that. It hasn’t worked out. The Leafs need practical toughness they can trust on the ice and that’s not Reaves. A new player being added to the mix at the bottom of the Leafs lineup seems like a given but definitely not as high a priority.
In a bit of a change this year the Leafs find themselves less limited by their cap space and more by their trade resources. Elliotte Friedman recently reported that Knies, Cowan, and Minten are no-gos for the Leafs, with Minten being the most sought-after target, and Leafs are rightfully hesitant about moving their first round pick. That requires the Leafs 3rd and 4th round picks to do a lot of heavy lifting and shifts the focus to Marlies targets like Topi Niemela, Ryan Tverberg, Alex Steeves, Nick Abruzzese, and William Villeneuve. If the Leafs are planning on making a move of significance without using their 1st round pick that likely means Niemela is involved or the Leafs will be dealing from their roster and either Nick Robertson or Timothy Liljegren could be involved. Both those cases involve the Leafs taking another hit to their areas of needs as Liljegren, while struggling since his return from injury, is still a capable defenceman, and Nick Robertson is one of few bottom six Leafs that has been scoring or attempting to score of late. And both their cap hits are friendly to the Leafs.
The lingering question is whether this task is something suited to Brad Treliving? And I’m not sure there is a completely right answer. For the Leafs to make the most of this season it will require a GM that makes bold in-season moves and trusts the details can be sorted out down the road. That isn’t Treliving. What is Treliving is that he’s a bit more grounded in the consequences of trading away futures who could turn into high impact/low cost entry level contract players. In that way he’s the right guy.
There is also concerns that in Treliving’s short time as the Leafs GM there have been some significant misfires on bringing in Klingberg and Reaves, extending Kampf, and shipping out Lafferty. And at best both Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi are players that you can’t confidently say are either a hit or miss. Treliving’s track record in finding talent has left a lot to be desired (with the notable exception of Simon Benoit) and with greater challenges in season should Leafs fans be nervous about what comes next?
The nice thing is that whatever comes next, we won’t have to wait long to see what it is. With four weeks until the trade deadline, it will all be over with soon (not soon enough for some and I can appreciate that.) The Leafs made their trade for Ryan O’Reilly on Feb 17th last year with a March 3rd deadline, so I guess it’s time to turn notifications on for the Leafs PR account.

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