In our continuing look at the Toronto Maple Leafs season we continue to break down each player who played at least 20 games for the blue and white. Grades associated with each player are based on how they did in regards to expectations of what they would provide coming into the season as well as player growth and development. With all that being said, here’s the Maple Leafs bottom six forwards.
Raymond was signed to a one year $1-million contract in what was easily the best move Dave Nonis made in the off-season. Raymond put up 45 points this year, making him the Leafs best bargain and one of the better ones in the NHL.
While clearly a big portion of the Leafs secondary scoring, he finish fifth on the Leafs in points and 29th in the NHL for left wingers, Raymond actually showed a surprisingly solid defensive game.
His speed proved a real asset when he was given minutes on the penalty kill.
Now part of what made Raymond such a solid off-season find was the price tag, something that’s bound to go up this off-season. Raymond has never made big money in the NHL, his biggest contract was a one year deal in Vancouver for $2.275-million. As such this off-season is likely to be all about dollar signs. If the Leafs feel he’s worth the price a deal will get done.
But how much do you spend on a third line winger? While Raymond did see some time on the second line this year, due mostly to Clarkson having a horrible year, he really is the third left winger on the depth chart behind Van Riemsdyk and Lupul.
If the Leafs are moving Lupul, Raymond has shown he has the ability to play a bigger role. If not, Raymond could very easily end up somewhere else.
If he does return to the Maple Leafs the important thing will be his contract size and length and whether a position has opened up for him to play a bigger role.
With all that being said, considering he was here on a professional tryout trying to rebuild a career, Raymond played far better than most were expecting, even if he tailed off towards the end of the year.
What do the Maple Leafs do with Dave Bolland? That may be the most important off season decision they’re facing. The problem is we still don’t know who Bolland is. He only played in 23 games and had 12 points, with an outstanding start to the season and a much hampered late return where he clearly wasn’t 100 per cent.
So is Bolland the answer at centre the Leafs have been needing?
Sean McIndoe raises a pretty strong point that Bolland maybe isn’t the answer people seem to think he is.
While Bolland’s injury this year was certainly a strange, or ‘freak’, injury, it does follow the precedent. Since 2009-10, Bolland has played in 234 out of a possible 376 regular season games, or 62 per cent. Bolland is just as injury prone as Lupul has been but Lupul is a five time 20 goal scorer. Bolland’s career high is 19.
He also wasn’t the game changer some seem to think he is. Outside of the Blackhawks first Stanley Cup run in 2009-2010, where he had 16 points in 22 games, Bolland managed only 15 points over the next 28 playoff games. From 2009-2013 Bolland finished 17th, 8th, 7th and 12th on his team in scoring.
So with all of that knowledge, what do the Leafs do with Bolland? Signing Bolland, with Kadri and Bozak pretty much sets the Leafs at centre. It also gives no room for improvement through free agency or trade without moving one of those centres.
Not to mention the outrageous rumours for a Bolland contract. It’s been reported that Bolland is looking for as many as eight years and as much as $40-million. Both of those numbers are completely insane.
You don’t pay a guy who’s scored more than 37 points in his career exactly ONCE $5+ million a year. I mean, not unless his name is David Clarkson.
Clarkson has quite possibly the worst contract in the NHL right now, and anything remotely similar to it for an injury prone Bolland should be grounds for automatic dismissal.
Could the Leafs sign Bolland for less than $4-million a year for a two year deal? Maybe. That deal would certainly make sense.
Could the Leafs replace Bolland with Peter Holland, who while an RFA made only $870-thousand this year? Yes, they can. That deal would save the Leafs millions they could spend elsewhere.
Those tough decisions are the ones that have to be made in the salary cap era. The only reason that Dave Bolland was available from Chicago was because younger guys could do the same job at a cheaper price, allowing them Blackhawks to spend the money elsewhere (they re-signed Bryan Bickell).
Are the Leafs at the same point? It sure looks like it.
Grading Bolland is difficult, as his early season success was followed by a long term injury and then a halfhearted return where he was clearly still hurt. He looked solid at the start of the season and woeful offensively and defensively for his return. There’s also the question of his injury. Bolland was slow before hand, how much more speed has he now lost?
If he has played his last game as a Leaf, it’s worth noting the Leafs gave up a second and two fourth round picks for 23 games of service.
Kulemin finished with 20 points for the blue and white this year, down from last year’s 23. In fact since setting a career high of 57 in 2010-11, Kulemin has regressed every single year offensively. The former 30 goal scorer managed nine this year (which is actually up from seven the two previous years)
So offensively, you’re not getting a lot from Kulemin. While he’s technically the fourth line left winger, he played all over the place this season. At times he played as high as the second line, other times he got buried on the bench.
So what do we know for sure about Kulemin, other than he’s a UFA?
We know he’s got a solid defensive game. Kulemin was selected to the Russian Olympic team for Sochi and it sure wasn’t because of his offense.
He played a mostly shutdown role this year, with McClement serving as his centre more than half his shifts. He was one of the Leafs best defensive forwards this year, as he has been for years.
But he does contribute offensively. Among left wingers Kulemin sat 73rd, ahead of guys like Bryan Bickell, $4-million per year, and Viktor Stalberg, $3-million per year. Compared to them his $2.8-million doesn’t sound so bad.
During the lockout last year, Kulemin played in the KHL for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, where he was a point a game player. It wouldn’t shock anybody to see Magnitogorsk offer him more money than the NHL. It also shouldn’t shock anybody to see Kulemin go home to play for his hometown team.
Something else to notice is that Kulemin took only 81 shots in 70 games. In fact the only other full time Leaf forward to take less shots was Jay McClement.
So Kulemin could still break out offensively at the NHL level. His single great offensive season came with Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski when Kulemin was given a second line role. He’s unlikely to get that here, but other NHL teams may bite on him.
Bodie showed flashes of being the exact player a fourth line needs. He managed 10 points in 47 games and was one of the few Leafs to finish on the plus side in +/-.
Bodie is a in your face, hit you and grind it out style of player, yet took only 26 penalty minutes. Contrast that with Clarkson who plays a similar style. Bodie had one less point in 13 fewer games, on half the shots. Clarkson also managed 93 minutes in penalties.
Bodie is a UFA this year, but is likely to resign. He’s married to the daughter of MLSE president Tim Leiweke and played for just above the league minimum in salary.
At $600-thousand a night, Bodie earned his salary and earned a spot on the Leafs next year.
With zero expectations Bodie showed a tough physical game that can be defensively responsible and low on penalties.
Bodie also showed a real glimmer of offensive talent compared to fellow grinders. He outscored Clarkson and McClement at even strength despite considerable less ice time and less games.
McClement is a prototypical shutdown fourth line centre. There’s just one problem though, he actually isn’t. McClement averaged 14:46 ice time per game, which has him third on the Leafs at centre. That’s above Dave Bolland and well above Bolland injury replacement, Peter Holland.
Nazem Kadri, the number two centre on the team, averaged 17:23 this year. McClement played more than that 23 times this season, most often at the expense of Kadri.
So McClement isn’t the fourth line centre for the Leafs, he’s at least the third and at times the second. Despite all that playing time, he managed only 10 points. He had 17 in 48 games last year.
So how bad is that? McClement was the lowest scoring player in the league to log over 1,000 minutes.
While the inexplicably high minutes given to him by Carlyle aren’t his fault, his poor play is. McClement was not the same man he was the year before on the PK, probably because he was so over played. His defensive game just didn’t measure up to what it had been.
He did have a bright spot though. He was 22nd in the NHL at the faceoff dot at 53.6 per cent, well ahead of the other Leafs.
McClement is a UFA and will be looking for similar money to the $1.5-million he made this year. The stats and his play simply don’t back that up. That being said Carlyle clearly loves him, and if he has any pull with Nonis, McClement could be back as an overpaid fourth line centre next year unless the Leafs find another centre on the scrap heap (easy to do with fourth line centres) or decide to go with Peter Holland in the role (unlikely).
What role does Colton Orr play for the Maple Leafs? Orr played in 54 games for the blue and white where he had zero points. Zero. Not one. So he’s not here for his offense.
Orr was rarely deployed in a defensive situation, mostly because he’s slow and immobile. He averaged 5:23 of ice time per game, so he’s not here for his defense.
He did have 110 penalty minutes, second on the team behind Dion Phaneuf. So he must be a Leaf because of his sandpaper element. He roughs the other team up, makes the Leafs hard to play against, at least for five minutes out of each hour of hockey.
Except that’s not true either. In six out of his 54 games Orr had 83 of his penalty minutes. So he had only 27 minutes of penalties in his other 48 games. That means he’s not a consistent sandpaper element, he just spikes penalty minutes whenever he fights.
So he’s a fighter!
The best answer is, yeah, sort of. Orr had six fights this year in, you guessed it, those six games where his penalty minutes spiked. According to the voting at hockeyfights.com, Orr won exactly one of those fights.
He also fought less than David Clarkson, or Frazer McLaren, who played half the games.
So Orr is a fourth liner who doesn’t score, can’t play defence and fights exactly once every nine games. That’s pretty horrible. Worse when you consider that Colton Orr primarily only plays against other teams fourth lines.
Making matters worse is the emergence of Troy Bodie, who has shown he can score and also fought four times this year, in less games, at less salary.
Orr will be back next year though, he’s got one more year left at $925-thousand unless the Leafs choose to bury him in the minors, which they clearly should.
Holland is a tough case to dissect. Holland had 10 points in 39 games this year while filling in for the injured Dave Bolland. All 10 of his points came in games where he played in over 10 minutes. In the 12 games he played under 10 minutes, he had no points.
So when deployed in at least a third line role, Holland had 10 points in 27 games, good for .37 points per game, or a 30 game pace over the course of a full year.
That’s not bad for a third line centre. Bolland, if he had played a full season, would have been on pace for 43 points.
The problem with measuring all of this is that neither played a full season, or even consistent minutes. If the numbers held true, than keeping Holland as the third line centre over Bolland could save the Leafs as much as $4-million a year and only ‘cost’ them 13 points. That seems like a great situation to save some cash to spend elsewhere.
However that’s if you believe the numbers, which some do not. The indisputable fact though is that Holland is a former first round pick than Nonis stole from Anaheim because they didn’t have a position for him and had cap issues. Nonis should be commended for the move.
Holland also had health issues this year. Carlyle has often lamented how his players didn’t return from injury when he thought they should. Holland was no different, as his case of lace bite landed him in the hospital and he was rarely used afterwards before yo-yoing down to the Marlies and back.
Holland is an RFA so he’ll need to be resigned this off-season.
So it’s hard to give Holland a real grade, due to the limited minutes and role and due to the difference in the roles he was asked to fill.
Ashton did not have a very good year this year. Three assists in 32 games doesn’t impress anybody. More alarming he only had 19 points in 53 AHL games.
He now has 47 NHL games under his belt and all he has to show for it are those three assists. His time in the AHL in Toronto and Norfolk hasn’t wowed anybody for years now.
The former first round pick has failed to put his natural ability together into a useful power forward so far. He’s shown he can play either wing and could excel in crashing the net and causing chaos in the attacking zone. He’s also shown a willingness to drop the gloves, something very important to the current management for the Leafs.
His defensive game has lagged behind and may be what he most needs to improve on in order to get a longer shot.
Ashton is still young, he’s only 23 and still has time to prove himself as an NHLer. He’s also looking at a situation where Nikolai Kulemin is probably not returning and he has a chance to slip into his third line minutes. He’ll have to improve in every aspect though to prove he belongs.
Ashton is also a nRFA, so he’ll new negotiating a new contract this off-season.
Smith played in only 28 games for the Leafs, mostly as an injury replacement early in the year when the Leafs had to call on their AHL depth up the middle. His nine points in those games were solid, especially for the role he was playing.
He’s proven he can score at the AHL level, netting 53 points last year for the Penguins farm team. He is older though at 29, with less than one full season under his belt. To put that into perspective former Leaf Joey Crabb is 31 and has over three times as many NHL games played. Generally if you haven’t made it by this point, you’re not going to.
So with that in mind, Smith proved to be a solid call-up only necessary due to injuries. He was far more competent than Jerred Smithson and came at a league minimum salary. He’s a UFA, so he’ll need to be resigned at the minimum again, but he’s a solid depth player who did well in a limited role for the Leafs.
He’s Colton Orr, only he takes more penalties, contributes the same zero points, and fights more. He had three more fights in half the games. He’s got zero offensive input, he only managed four shots in 27 games, but is $225-thousand cheaper than Orr.
Neither McLaren nor Orr have shown they belong in the NHL. As touched on before, if you want to be a tough sandpaper team you can employ the David Clarkson’s and Troy Bodie’s of the world and do that, while still having some skill.
Considering for quite awhile BOTH McLaren and Orr would play on the same line is asinine and something we’ll look at in our Randy Carlyle evaluation.
For McLaren, he was asked to be defensively responsible and fight. He fought, so I guess he did something right.
D’Amigo played 22 games in this his first NHL season. The former sixth rounder only had three points, like Ashton, but plays a much better defensive game. D’Amigo has shown the ability to contribute to the penalty kill while his time in the AHL has shown he has a solid shot, when he uses it.
While D’Amigo is small for a grinder role, he’s the exact kind of player Toronto embraces. He’s got a tireless work-ethic, both on the ice and off of it. He’s got speed and has no problem taking the body and being a pest.
He plays a game similar to former Leaf Mike Brown, however with a lot less fighting and a lot better defensively.
D’Amigo is young at 23 and will get a chance to prove himself with the Leafs next year. He’s an RFA so he’s another contract Nonis has to work out, but with a cheap price tag he’ll be back. If he can beat out Orr for a fourth line role it would be good for the Leafs.
The following players missed the cut of a minimum 20 games played to be rated: Jerred Smithson (18 games), Josh Leivo (7 games), David Broll (5 games), Jaime Devane (2 games), Greg McKegg (1 game) and Spencer Abbott (1 game)
So that brings to an end our look at the ‘bottom six’, which is actually the bottom eleven, for the Toronto Maple Leafs. You can read about the ‘top six’ here. Up next tomorrow on the Maple Leafs after season report we’ll take a look at the defence.