Leafs Have HUGE Decisions to Make. HOCKEY CRUNCH by Jamie Gilcig

May 16, 2023 – Breathe. It wasn’t the worst of years for Leafnation. You guys made it to the second round of the playoffs with a flawed team design.

The old adage say if you do things the same way why expect a different result? Going into the season yours truly wrote that the D was the biggest concern, and the team still didn’t have a true power forward, nevermind two. Edmonton for example have Evander Kane and to some extent Zach Hyman.

Toronto? Michael Bunting? Not really. A power forward isn’t a goon or enforcer. They have the ability to play on one of top six, and special teams. They need to fight, intimidate, protect, and be a physical presence. Evander Kane is a good example. Tom Wilson at times too. Josh Anderson in Mtl is a power forward.

Now it’s easy to armchair it. I, like, most of you reading, are not privy of the private machinations of the Leafs. Not all GMs get final word on hockey decisions, but this essentially has been Kyle Dubas team.

In this final year of his contract he basically rolled the dice on the same team that had dissipointed the last several seasons.

He made some good pick ups in O’Reilly, Acciari, and bringing home Luke Schenn. And they had an impact. The core of the Leafs played well during the play offs too. It’s hard to look at their stats and complain.

Does Toronto keep the Dubas and Shanahan combo together? From media reports Shanny may be in trouble. If he truly relied on Dubas for this team then this is on him. If he pushed Dubas this may be on him too.

Not sure why Dubas would realize he has a flawed structure only now? The biggest flaw in keeping him was the decision to not break up the core prior to this season.

The question though is who would you replace him with? Would they have a better solution or do a better job.

Situation sometimes dictates resolution.

Does the core stick? Well this starts with Auston. Does he want to stay? End result is if the answer is yes it’s time to move John Tavares which would be very hard if Management isn’t tough. If the team could resign Matthews, and trade Tavares, it would become Auston’s team, and he’s at an age where it work for a new five year plan. Trading Tavares would mean the team could resign O’Reilly, and Nylander….if they finally get rid of Brodie and his $5M cap hit.

While easier said than done, making these changes would cement the core and leave the GM some wiggle room to find a power forward, or two. The team needs toughness, and there’s very little of it available in the UFA market so that means trade time or Knies fast tracking his development.

Other than Morgan Rielly and McCabe the team D is a hot mess. Gio is pretty much done. I’m not sure even as a 3rd d pairing. That leaves a lot of moving minor pieces. Signing Schenn would make a lot of sense as would resigning Gustaffson to man that second PP unit.

Whoever is in the Toronto net will need help. The D corp is the biggest challenge facing whoever is GM moving forward once the core is fixed.

And if Matthews doesn’t want to stay the team’s yield from trading him should fill a lot of holes, but if Auston goes then it’s time to rebuild as the age and cap hits just don’t fit with this roster and the status quo will simply mean a longer reboot or rebuild.