Leafs hitting, Keefe quotes, and re-signing SZN: Leaflets

Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
6 months ago
It’s Christmas Eve and you are reading a Leafs blog. That is true dedication to the team, and you deserve to have your loyalty rewarded someday. In the spirit of having a lot to do around the holiday season this edition of Leaflets is a little shorter than usual so I can get back to my Christmas shopping, but on behalf of everyone at TLN I’ll take a moment to wish you all Happy Holidays and all the best in 2024. Thank you reading our little site.
Here are a few stray thoughts before I start wrapping presents:

The Leafs aren’t the brutes they are made out to be

I was fortunate enough not to catch the Leafs game on Thursday night but that also means that I missed Justin Bourne’s follow up to this tweet. If you look at the mentions, you’ll see that Bourne addresses the fact that the Leafs actually have fewer hits than they did last season as well when they finished near the bottom of the league. You’ll also see that Bourne mentions that hit counts are substantially down league wide, which fits with that first point.
What Bourne doesn’t mention (maybe he did on the broadcast) is that the Leafs are 30th in the league this year with 12.6 Hits/60 when they are on the road. The number is entirely inflated by home hit counts, which could come from Sheldon Keefe getting line matchups that allow him to deploy his physical players timelier than on the road. The Leafs could be facing opponents that are slower and easy to catch at home or simarily facing players they want to hit more, but what seems most likely is that the Scotiabank Arena hit counter is very friendly to the Leafs cause.
Hitting isn’t bullshit but hits are a bullshit stat. And while it is entirely possible that hitting is down league wide do you feel that the Leafs are now one of the tougher teams in the league?

Keefe needs to be better than this

After a tough loss probably the worst thing you can do is stick a microphone is someone’s face. They are going to be pissed and not give you the best answer. In that spirit maybe I need to cut Sheldon Keefe a little slack for his “I don’t have an answer for that” response and expressing his unwillingness to dissect the 9-3 loss to the Sabres.
That was the most goals the Leafs gave up in a game since 2014 and it had to sting, but the “I don’t have an answer for that” response has also come up when questions have been raised about the Leafs frequent bench minors. Sheldon Keefe not knowing isn’t a good look given that he is the head coach and if it is just a way of deflecting from something he doesn’t want to answer, I’d suggest a new tactic or at least adding “but I will find it.”
If Keefe genuinely doesn’t know or care to know what is going on with some of the glaring issues facing the Leafs, that problem needs to be treated as more of a problem.

January 1st re-signing eligibility

We’ll keep this Leaflets relatively short this week but one of the interesting things coming up on the schedule is the eligibility to re-sign the players on the Leafs brought in on one year contracts. That means the Leafs can finally re-up John Klingberg. (I kid.)
Anyways there are some potentially larger decisions that will need to be made on players like Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi, who haven’t been consistent, but might be good enough to warrant bringing back if the Leafs can get them at a better price than they might fetch this summer.
The Leafs also have the option to consider bringing back Noah Gregor, Martin Jones, William Lagesson, Simon Benoit, Max Lajoie, and Dylan Gambrell. There probably is some significant interest in Gregor returning the Leafs but as with most bottom six players who excel the Leafs need to be cautious about how much of a raise they offer and how much term is available to him. He’s been good and deserves another contract but is paying for Noah Gregor better than trying to find the next Noah Gregor? And will someone who has speed as a core part of their game is he a safe bet a few years down the line as well? The Leafs need to be careful about avoiding more David Kampf type contracts on their team and especially avoid Ryan Reaves type contracts so anything that can’t be buried in the minors and has term longer than two years should probably be avoided with the names on this list.
It will be interesting to see how busy Brad Treliving will be to start the new year as there was definitely a lesson learned from sitting on the Nylander contract and GMs should have a newfound sense of urgency about signing players they want to return before they hit the open market.
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