The NHL Season is quickly approaching, with that in mind we’re going to take a look at who is (likely) to be on the Leafs roster come October 1 in Montreal. Contract numbers via CapGeek.com; Regular Stats via Hockey-reference.com; Nerd stats via behindthenet.ca. For the rest of our Player Previews go here.
John-Michael Liles, No.26, defenseman| 5’10″, 185 LBS | 32-years old.
ToT Approved Nicknames:
None…although the interwebs tell me that some Avs fans used to call him Johnny Hot Pocket which I like a lot.
9 NHL seasons, 7 with Colorado, 621 GP
$3.875-million AAV; through 2015-2016
621 GP 77 Goals 236 Assists 313 Points
32 GP 2 Goals 9 Assists 11 Points
You Oughta Know:
Despite his offensive prowess in the NCAA as a member of the Michigan State Spartans, Liles was not drafted until the 5th round, 159th overeall, at the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, due mainly to his (lack of) size.
In his two seasons as a member of the Maple Leafs, Liles has been a solid member of the blue line. While not to be confused with a shutdown defender, Liles offensive ability more than makes up for any defensive deficiencies that he has. A key to Liles success is being deployed in the proper situations, he is an offensive defenseman that requires offensive opportunity in order to thrive.
With the Leafs current salary cap crunch, Liles contract is a burden that many Leafs fans would like the team to divest of itself. This has led many of those fans to confuse “overpaid” with “not very good”. Liles is a very solid player on the back-end, and when utilized correctly can be an asset to just about any blue line in the NHL.
What to Expect:
With the depth that the Maple Leafs are currently deploying on the blue line, it’s tough to justify having Liles on the payroll, especially with younger, and more dynamic defenseman with similar skills (read: offensive) available to the team in Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson, and Morgan Rielly. Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs, departing with an overpaid, one-dimensional defenseman isn’t exactly an easy thing to do in the salary cap era (especially with this season’s artificially low salary cap).
Liles greatest asset is his ability to quarterback a team’s power play, but with the dearth of offensive defenseman in the Leafs coffers, it would be surprising if Liles were given much time with the man advantage. .
With their defensive depth and salary cap woes, the Leafs will continue to look to move Liles, although it will prove difficult given the exorbitant salary that he was handed by former GM Brian Burke…although Mr. Burke is now running a team over in Alberta that is seriously lacking in NHL talent, so maybe he would like a reunion with one of his more regrettable signings? (Probably not).
Liles will likely be the 6th or 7th defenseman for Toronto until he can be moved (if he can). I just can’t see Liles getting too much power play time ahead of many of the Leafs current blue liners, as long as he is in the line up, Liles will be able to put up points, likely around 8-10 goals and 20-25 assists, although given health and opportunity Liles could definitely produce more.