The Leafs Really Aren’t That Bad & is Babcock Coming? by Jamie Gilcig JAN 29, 2015

jg2CFN – I’m not a Corsi kinda guy, and probably not a Fenwicker either.  When I created some of the stat systems I used for the Habs back in the late 90’s; some of which still aren’t being used today my  philosophy is that coming up with new terms for things that have already occurred really isn’t accomplishing much.

For stats to be used as tools they need to be indicators of future probably results.

We know for example if you shoot and score more than you’re shot upon and scored on you should win more games.   We know that guys that score more generally are better than guys who score less.  Goalies that have a higher save percentage and give up fewer goals are better than those that don’t.

Scouts and hockey people “know” things from devoting their lives to the sport.   Stat guys can come up with knowledge without even watching a game.  I know I can, but we can never replace hockey people. At our best though we can assist and enhance what they’re thinking is and save them time and resources.   We can give them that edge.

When I was working for the Habs I would be asked about certain players.  I’d crunch them and give them information that generally backed up what they already knew.   That extra bit of security gave them some extra confidence in some of their decisions and sometimes extra information.      That can be a powerful too.

We recently watched Toronto live through the Brian Burke era.   That was a hot mess with multiple coach firings.

Toronto though took a weird turn.  They hired Brendan Shanahan to run their show, but Mr. Shanahan has literally no record of success in running a NHL team, especially the one that has as much attention and dollars to spend as the Leafs do.   It’s an utter shame to spend to the cap limit or near it and not get into the play offs, never mind not be a contender.   The Leaf Nation surely deserves better.

Mr. Shanahan retained Dave Nonis as GM.  Not sure why as Mr. Nonis has really never proven himself as a successful GM.   The contracts doled out under his tenure have been questionable. His quote about not worrying about Dave Clarkson’s future years on his long term near untradeable contract scary in this cap age.

All that being said the Leaf’s do have a lot of talent on their roster, more so than many teams ahead of them in the standings as I write this.

Again, sometimes there are master plans and things don’t seem apparent.  What we know is that the longer that Wings coach Mike Babcock doesn’t resign with the Wings the greater the chance that the Leafs have of breaking the bank and retaining his services.   Maybe with a Patrick Roy type arrangement where the coach has an extra title and say in the roster?

While the odds are against Babcock coaching the Leafs next season, at least at this point, clearly there needs to be a change if the team can move forward.  If you’ve identified an issue you have to address it.

Kadri and Bozak as your top 2 centers not good enough?  Well you need a solution.   Speaking of which, here are the top 8 teams in the NHL at Center.   Anaheim Getzlaf & Kesler.   Nashville Ribeiro & Wilson. Islanders Tavares & Strome. Detroit Zetterberg & Datsyuk. Tampa Bay Stamkos & Filppula. Montreal Plekanec & Desharnais/Galchenyuk. St. Louis Backes & Stasny. Pittsburgh Crosby & Malkin.

So we can see that area needing an upgrade.    Top four wingers for the Leafs, Kessel, Van Riemsdyk, Lupul, & Clarkson.    That’s actually pretty good, especially when Lupul is healthy.

Anaheim; Perry, Maroon, Silfverberg, Beleskey.   Nashville; Forsberg, Neal, Smith, and um, erm…   Islanders; Okposo (now hurt) Nelson, Bailey, and Kulemin.   Detroit; Franzen, Nyquist, Tatar, and Abdelkader.   Montreal; Pacioretty, Gallagher, Sekac, and Desharnais/Parenteau.  St. Louis; Oshie, Steen, Tarasenko, and Schwartz. Pittsburgh; Perron, Kunitz, Hornqvist, and Bennett.      Arguably the Leafs are in the middle of this pack.

Top 4 D.  Leafs Phaneuf, Franson, Gardiner, and Polak. Anaheim; Linholm, Vatanen, Beauchemin, & Fowler. Nashville; Weber, Josi, Jones, and Ellis.   Islanders; Boychuk, Leddy, Hickey, and Hamonic.  Detroit; Kronwall, DeKeyser, Quincy, and Ericsson. Montreal; Subban, Markov, Gonchar, and Emelin.  St. Louis; Shattenkirk, Pietrangalo, Jackman, and Bouwmeester. Pittsburgh; Letang, Martin, Depres, and Ehrhoff.

There are three teams in this group with worse top 4 D than the Leafs.

Goal tending? Well there is maybe one team the Leafs tandem of Bernier and Reimer are better than and that just might be an arguable point.

Clearly there is room for improvement.  The Leafs are also in cap trouble with this roster with very little wiggle room.   Buzz of moving Phaneuf or Kessler out might help the cap, but frankly would leave gaps in the roster.  The complexities of the cap mean that buying out certain contracts might not be as clear or valuable either.

Right now what Toronto needs most is a horse trader with a clear vision of what he wants for the team.   Is Shanahan that man?  Can he hire one to replace Nonis that is?  Will he get his coach and can they find their #1 centre and the cap space to afford him?

Toronto is 22 in the league out of 30 teams as I write this on a dark January day.   They should be 12th to 15th.

If they can’t sign Franson, and it’s looking like they won’t be able to unless a move is made to get some cap space there is an opportunity to trade him at the deadline for a solid asset, even as a rental player.

Who do you think the Leafs should keep or dump Leaf Nation?  You can post your comments below.

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