Mailbag: Leafs should go all-in on trades, like 2015 Jays


I’ve got a feeling Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is going to empty the cupboard at the trade deadline to get the player or players he wants.

It was the strategy used by Alex Anthopoulos in 2015 with the Blue Jays. A.A. was in his last year as GM of the Jays when he basically sold the farm, dealing 11 pitching prospects and shortstop Jose Reyes to acquire five major leaguers, including perennial all-stars Troy Tulowitzki and David Price.

It worked, in that the Jays made the playoffs for the first time in 22 years — with José Bautista’s bat flip the enduring memory. But they didn’t win it all. A.A.’s stock rose as a fan favourite and gunslinger willing to make deals. He was still replaced by Ross Atkins.

Dubas is kind of in a similar situation. He is largely responsible for the current prospect pool. He is in the last year of his contract. He might as well go for it all. Sell who he needs to sell to get who he needs to get. The limitations of the salary cap are such that it won’t be quite the blockbuster that Anthopoulos pulled off.

Only Brendan Shanahan — team president behind the “tank and get better” Shanaplan — can stand in his way. In theory, he could block trades. But why would he? He wants to win, too.

This team has a choice to make. It can be really good, but not great, for a long time by keeping its pool of talent. Or it can go all-in to win now and deal with the future in the future.

If you have a question, email me at [email protected] and I’ll answer it in the next Mailbag. Now to this one, where we deal with overtime plus-minus (revealing some surprises), Morgan Rielly and Matt Murray.

How many times has Auston Matthews been on the ice when the opposing team has scored in overtime?

— Kenneth R.

I presume you’re only talking about this season, but Matthews has been on the ice for an opposition goal in overtime exactly the same number of times he’s been on the ice when the Leafs have scored in overtime. His overtime plus-minus is a resounding zero, though he did get a lucky plus the other night: coming on for David Kämpf just as Mitch Marner was about to score against the Rangers.

On that note: Rasmus Sandin is a Leafs-worst minus-three in OT heading into Friday, while Timothy Liljegren is a Leafs-best plus-two. Leaguewide, four players (Nico Hischier, Steve Stamkos, Josh Morrissey and Adam Lowry) shared the lead at plus-four, while Jamie Benn and Miro Heiskanen were a league-worst minus-five.

Hi Kevin! Was David Kämpf eligible for an assist on Mitch Marner’s overtime goal against the Rangers? If so, why didn’t he get one? The replay available online picks up after the faceoff, so I’m not sure if something occurred which meant he wouldn’t get one. (I looked up the assist rule and was surprised to see that all a player has to do is touch the puck to get one; they don’t even have to “play” it.)

— Jim D

I went right to the source on this one, the league’s stats department (a very helpful, on-the-ball group of people). This is the answer from the very top:

“The awarding of goals and assists is subject to a rigorous, multi-level review process. Clubs can also appeal for the scoring on a play to be reviewed. Following this process, on the Marner OT goal it was determined that it was correctly scored with just a single assist. There was no clear play on the draw by either centre, so Kämpf was given credit for the faceoff win not because he touched the puck, but because his team gained possession/control when Marner tapped it back to Liljegren. While Kämpf can get credit for the faceoff win despite not having touched the puck, he cannot be given an assist without having done so.”

Matt Murray: Do you agree he will be the playoff goaltender they can lean on in the playoffs? I believe the NHL professionals HAVE HIS NUMBER!

They are scoring goals over his shoulder, up high in most cases and staying away from low shots because they know Murray prioritizes the low zones more often than not.

At this time they must give the net to Ilya Samsonov and it’ll probably give the entire team time to build confidence. This takes a bit of time, but they shouldn’t wait much longer!!

What are your thoughts?

— Steve B.

Well, you don’t seem to agree that Murray will be the guy in the playoffs, so who would I be agreeing with? As things stand, it’s Samsonov’s net. But the playoffs are a long way off still and things can change quickly. If Samsonov should lose, say, 5-1 in Game 1, who would start Game 2?

Hey, Kevin. Love the Mailbag!

I’ve observed that the displays on the boards during televised games are different depending on which camera shot is used (overhead vs. ice level). There’s obviously some electronic trickery involved, but it’s much more sophisticated than projecting logos on the batter’s eye or in foul territory during Jays games. How do they do that?

— Brian C.

Thanks, Brian. I was under the impression most viewers hate the way the board ads now change on TV. It’s above my pay grade to explain, but it’s next-level digital technology. As I understand it, fans see digital (or virtual) ads on the dasherboard (localized to the audience) through the main centre-ice camera. Close-ups and cameras at other angles show the dasherboard ads as they are in the rink.

Many fans (including me) are critical of Morgan Rielly’s often ill-advised pinches and forays into the offensive zone, and the resulting odd-man rushes that often result in high-danger chances the other way. Some characterize him as being a fourth forward.

The Leafs have been trying for a while to find a good fit on LW with the Tavares line. Why not give Rielly a try there for a game or two, once T.J. Brodie returns to action? Where’s the harm? Punch Imlach converted a Norris-winning defenceman into a centre in the 1960s, and Red Kelly was a big part of their Stanley Cup success in the ’60s. If Rielly did fit, then Kyle Dubas’s target at the deadline could be for a top-four D-man, and maybe another winger. What do you think of the Rielly on the wing idea?

He also is looking a bit stale on PP1. He is often barely moving out there. He is not a threat to shoot, and when he does his judgment often seems questionable. The Leafs should be using Rasmus Sandin or maybe Conor Timmins (good shot, terrific passer) on PP1 and relegate Rielly to PP2, in my view.

— Ron A.

You’re not the first, Ron, to suggest Rielly would thrive on the wing. I tend to agree, and don’t understand why it doesn’t happen more often. Brent Burns is the last (I can remember) moving from defence to wing (and back). But the Leafs aren’t going to mess around with their No. 1 defenceman. I agree in time Timmins will be the top choice on the power play. Maybe next year.

Hi, Kevin. Another great article. Thanks for reminding me of the Harold Ballard era many of us had to suffer through, I think, lol. I have not watched the doc yet, but I’ll bet most of it is unfortunately etched in my aging brain. What a buffoon surrounded by useless minions, with the exception of King.

Living on the left coast, I am saddened and angry at the way a hockey lifer and excellent guy was treated by the latest group of dolts calling themselves Canucks management. Maybe Jim Rutherford is still choked about being the sieve he was and letting Bruce Boudreau score his first. It’s a long shot.

I’m glad Sheldon Keefe got my memo about getting the lines back where they belong. Awesome second by the second unit. They still need a tougher winger for that line, and a solid D-man. Thanks again for the time.

— Gerry G.

Yes, I think it was fitting that the Ballard documentary came out when the Canucks were at a managerial lowpoint. That team is the Leafs of the 1980s.


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