Friday, September 13, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Leafs Heading Into the Preseason

The preseason is just two days away for the Toronto Maple Leafs, where no doubt a lot of the questions we've been asking about the roster will begin to be answered.  Ahead of that though, I'd just like to share some of my owns thoughts about the team in something of an informal post.  You've likely all read Elliott Friedman's 30 Thoughts column, so this should be pretty easy for you guys to handle.  Here we go:

-From everything I know about Morgan Rielly (that includes seeing him play a bit more than most other people), I think he's NHL ready.  I'm interested to see if he makes the team and in what kind of role.  If he's going to play 18 minutes a game and play 70+ games, by all means keep him around.  But there's been mention from Randy Carlyle that he could even play just 40 or 50 games and take part in NHL-calibre practises.  If that's the only route for him, I hope he's sent back to junior.  I don't by the way buy the idea that there's nothing left for him to learn or do at the junior level.

-I think that Joe Colborne is an alright hockey player, but I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed with him this year.  Websites like and The Leafs Nation have him as the team's #2 prospect, but I really think he's a 3rd line center at absolute best.  And I'd have no issue with him playing on the fourth line this year, which speaks to how I really think of him.  I just think the possibility of him being a real top six forward has passed.

-Not saying I think this will happen, and I'm not saying its going to happen, but I wonder, could Carl Gunnarsson be traded?  Like I said in my last post, I think its important to have enough cap space for spare players, and whatever Cody Franson's new cap hit is, it likely won't allow for that possibility.  It doesn't seem likely the Leafs would trade Phaneuf, Gardiner, Rielly, or Ranger.  If you sign Franson you'd be committing to him on the roster.  The chance of trading Liles right now is pretty slim.  Guy like Mark Fraser, T.J. Brennan, and Korbinian Holzer wouldn't really provide any sort of cap relief.  And while Carl Gunnarsson has played on the top pair the last couple of seasons, I wonder if the Leafs think highly enough of Jake Gardiner or Paul Ranger to put them in that role.  Gunnarsson would net you a decent asset and allow for roster flexibility after his $3,150,000 cap hit is removed.  Again, I don't expect or necessarily want this to happen, just throwing the idea out there.

-I hope and think Mason Raymond will make the team.  He's an NHL calibre player that can do a little bit of everything.  He's a fantastic skater, his age is ideal (27), he'd likely come pretty cheap, he can kill penalties, and he provides a bit of scoring depth.  That last part is important.  The position that can least cope with an injury mid-season right now would be left wing.  If James van Riemsdyk or Joffrey Lupul get hurt (which is likely to happen at some point), who would jump into the top six to fill that role?  Like I said, I don't have a ton of faith in Joe Colborne.  Jay McClement can play that position but he's not a top six forward.  If you have Mason Raymond, either he or Nikolai Kulemin can slide in and likely be serviceable, while the other one can be effective on the checking line.

-I disagree with the negativity surrounding the idea of Frazer McLaren on the penalty kill.  If it works great, and if it doesn't you don't have to use him there.  What's wrong with experimenting with it?

-On that note, I wouldn't be surprised if we only see one of Orr and McLaren in the lineup on a regular basis this year.  If the Leafs do sign Mason Raymond, or if say Trevor Smith impresses, I can see the bottom six going something like Raymond-Bolland-Kulemin, Colborne-McClement-Orr/McLaren.  Having David Clarkson removes some of the need for that type of player.  Although if Mark Fraser has a tough time getting in the lineup, all bets are off.

-This isn't exactly ground-breaking, especially since they've been practising on a line together so far, but I think we could see Kadri playing with Kessel a lot more this year and in general more of a balancing between his minutes and Bozak's.

-I hope the Leafs find a way to keep Kessel and Phaneuf past this year.  Unless you can magically get a great return for them in trades, the team is better with them than without them.

-I think we'll see some of Jerry D'Amigo, Trevor Smith, Carter Ashton, Stuart Percy, and Petter Granberg this year.

-I don't get the Jesse Blacker hype.

That's it.  I hope you guys don't think I'm a total idiot.

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