Toronto Maple Leafs: There’s No Rush to Move Stephane Robidas


Toronto Maple Leafs: There’s No Rush to Move Stephane Robidas

I take issue with a recent post from Editor in Leaf that argues the Toronto Maple Leafs should trade Stephane Robidas at the earliest opportunity. It’s easy to say a team should trade this player or that player; it’s difficult to justify why.

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The best argument in the article concerns Robidas’ age and the associated decline in his skill, but this is an essentially hollow argument. If it were that easy to trade an old player, then every team in the NHL would have a roster full of young players at the peak of their careers. Sadly, the world doesn’t work that way – real life isn’t some elaborate version of NHL15.

I can think of three reasons for why the Leafs should keep Robidas or why they aren’t really in a position to trade him today. There’s more to these reasons than the simple notion that Robidas is old (though he is relatively old for a professional hockey player).

Dec 6, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Stephane Robidas (12) with the puck against the Vancouver Canucks at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Canucks 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

First, Robidas was never brought to Toronto as an offensive weapon. He was brought here to broaden the leadership group and take some of the pressure off of Dion Phaneuf. Robidas has 17 years of NHL service under his belt – a fact that can’t be captured in a fancy visual chart, but one that carries value in its own right – which the article doesn’t really address apart from a dismissive pair of comments toward the end.

As the Leafs get younger, this dismissed aspect of Robidas’ resume could become immensely valuable. Youngsters like Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner and Stuart Percy are still in need of guidance. Based on the current roster, Robidas is the best man for the job.

Second, it wasn’t Robidas’ offensive game that proved useful at times for the Leafs last season – Robidas has two seasons to his name where he scored 30 points or more so I don’t get the obsession with his offensive numbers – it was his defensive game. Robidas led the defence in plus-minus at plus-8 and ranked fourth (out of six) in Shots Against (-165) and Unblocked Shots Against (-149) among the team’s defenders who dressed for a minimum of 50 games.

These aren’t great numbers, but they’re understandable numbers on a team that was regularly outshot and outscored. Robidas was only part of this problem – a problem that ran throughout the entire roster – so we should read these numbers with some caution. They speak more to a poor defensive system than a poor defensive player per se. There’s still hope for him.

Third, two years remain on Robidas’ current contract at an annual cap hit of $3 million. This hefty price tag alone will make Robidas difficult to trade. The article alludes to this challenge, correctly referring to Robidas as a bottom-pairing defenceman who’s over paid based on his numerical performance, but it leaves things at that.

Dec 23, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Stephane Robidas (12) skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Maple Leafs shut out the Stars 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

How and when can the Leafs move such a contract? “Soon!” the article argues, but if we’re being realistic, Robidas will probably leave town as a rental player in the final year of his contract à la Tim Gleason. There isn’t enough here to justify a two-year investment by another team. He’s the Leafs’ “problem” for now and the immediate future.

Does any of this make Robidas an irreplaceable member of the present team? No, and I’m not saying the team shouldn’t trade him. My point is that it’ll be harder to trade Robidas than simply saying he should be traded. There’s also some value to keeping him around if you look in the right places. By focusing mainly on his offensive numbers, you over emphasize a part of Robidas’ game that was never really critical in the first place.

What does Robidas bring to the Leafs? Experience and leadership.

What will the Leafs need over the next two seasons? Experience and leadership.

For $3 million a season, Robidas presents the Leafs with an affordable investment and a potentially wise one, too. We’ll know for sure when we see the returns in two years time.

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