Maple Leafs Thoughts 10/2/2013


Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Each week Elliotte Friedman posts his excellent “30 Thoughts” piece regarding the goings on in the NHL. We’ll dig through all 30 of his tidbits and lay down all of the Maple Leafs related news for your perusal, along with our reactions, which next to Friedman’s commentary will look like a string of feeble mutterings. For this week’s full 30 Thoughts, go here.

1. A few years ago, I had a conversation with a couple of GMs about signing players to long-term deals. They agreed on three things: the player must be durable, a self-starter and someone you don’t have worry about, on or off the ice. Kessel is one of 15 players who hasn’t missed a game the last three seasons. That durability is critical.

2. As for the other two, those were legit questions when Kessel was in Boston, which is why the Bruins traded him. He’s matured. He’s not a leader in the classic sense of the word, but he is always prepared to play and competes hard. What we see publicly barely scratches the surface of who he really is. He is perfect for a nutty market like Toronto because he knows how to seclude himself from it.

I’ve always thought that Kessel had a lot more personality than he shows in interviews, mostly because why in the world would you ever want to show personality when you have imbeciles like Steve Simmons and Damien Cox to criticize you over your most minute shortcomings.

No one can deny that Kessel is both durable, and a competitor. He has been one of the best players in the NHL since he joined the Leafs 4 seasons ago, and if you think he isn’t deserving of the contract he got hockey probably isn’t your strong suit.

3. Kessel has an interesting “hybrid” type of protection in his contract. He cannot be waived or “loaned” (google Cristobal Huet) to another team. But, he will be asked every year to provide a list of eight teams he can be traded to. Apparently, his agency (Newport Sports Management) did similar language with Tyler Bozak and David Clarkson, although Kessel’s is a little stronger.

With the way the Leafs have flippantly sent veterans to the minors not because of effectiveness, but due to almost immediate buyer’s remorse for the ridiculous contracts they’ve handed out, it’s no surprise that agents would look to get this type of protection when signing a contract with the Leafs.

17. One former Duck smiled when he heard Randy Carlyle planned to give James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier one game each in Toronto’s back-to-back that opens the season. Apparently, that is a basic move in Carlyle’s playbook. “He is starting the competition right away. He will make his goaltending decisions with only one interest in mind: who he thinks gives him the best chance to win.”

18. Carlyle does, however, like playing more than one guy. Only once in his coaching career has a goalie played 60 games — Jean-Sebastien Giguere in Carlyle’s first Anaheim season. Also, there would be occasions where the starter would not find out until the morning of the game.

I would be quite content if James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier each ended up with 41 starts this season if it means that the Leafs are going to get 82 quality starts in goal. I could care less about someone being anointed the number 1 goalie, the only thing that should matter is giving the team the best possible chance to win.

19. I see Carlyle. I see Jake Gardiner. I hear what they say about each other and think, “Well, 50 per cent of all marriages do end in divorce.”

Oh god please no. If the Leafs trade Gardiner I promise that he will win a Norris. It’s destiny. He’s far too skilled to trade away because our idiot coach doesn’t like him. Seriously please don’t let this happen.

Actually, now that we have Phil under contract, if someone will take Bozak along with Gardiner, I’m all in.

20. At some point, the Maple Leafs are going to have to ask themselves if it would help their cap situation to eat some of John-Michael Liles‘s salary in a trade with another team. The thing they must be careful with is a club can only do this with three players per season. They are now at two, taking small amounts of Ben Scrivens‘s and Matt Frattin‘s contracts. Doing it with Liles locks them in.

Things can change a lot over the course of a season, but the only player I can see the Leafs trading and eating any salary this season is Liles, so to me the point is moot. I truly believe that John-Michael Liles should be playing with the Maple Leafs right now and is simply a victim of Dave Nonis’ inept cap management.

This conversation should have never happened, as Liles should have been bought out instead of Mikhail Grabovksi (he of 3 goals and 1 assist on opening night). Alas, Randy Carlyle apparently can’t recognize talent when it quite literally is skating under his nose, so here we are.