Author Archives: Leafs Lounge
It’s been quite a ride, but unfortunately it has to come to an end. We started this podcast three years ago as three Ryerson University students (who didn’t even know each other) with a passion for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Fast forward and this show grew steadily and we have to thank each and every one of you who listened to us. So here it is, the final show ever of the Leafs Lounge podcast, featuring special guest, TSN Insider Darren Dreger.
You can hear our interview with Dreger at 35:10
We revisit the expansion draft discussion from last year and discuss which Leafs players we would protect and which we would expose. We also analyze the recent play of Jake Gardiner after being paired with Connor Carrick.
We debate Frank Corrado’s place on this roster and whether it is time to trade James van Riemsdyk for an established top 4 defenceman. We also discuss the Seth Griffith roster move and tee up James Reimer’s return to the ACC.
This is the first and only political episode of Leafs Lounge but because of its significance, we briefly recap our thoughts on the U.S. election. There is some Leafs talk too, beginning around the 17:15 mark, about the play of the Leafs rookies and their defencemen in the past week, as well as the coaching decisions by Mike Babcock. Let’s make the Maple Leafs great again!
On this episode we discuss Nazem Kadri’s impact on the Leafs and what he has to do to continue being effective. We also break down the Leafs defence issues and take a look at some of the similarities between the Chicago Cubs and the Maple Leafs, since this podcast was recorded on the day of Game 7 of the World Series.
On the first episode of the podcast for the 2016-17 season, we discuss the positives of this Leafs team, despite so many negative storylines early on. We predict how many points and goals Matthews and Nylander will finish with and what changes the Leafs should make to their lines.
To help us make sense of the craziness of the NHL Draft, Free Agent Signings, Trades and Leafs Development Camp, we bring in Steve Dangle from Sportsnet on episode 2 of the Leafs Lounge Offseason Roundtable. Our hosts David and Aaron also discuss the depth chart of the Toronto Marlies and Maple Leafs and preview what the opening night rosters might look like this coming season. If you like the video make sure to give it a thumbs up!
By: Aaron Greenfield
After discussion of nearly two years, the excitement and drama died down in an instant. Steven Stamkos announced he would be returning to Tampa Bay for eight years. As tempting as it was for Toronto to sign him, the Maple Leafs will benefit by not signing him to an irresponsible contract that would likely have cost the team down the road.
The Leafs organization has a history of giving out big contracts to players underserving of them. For a while in the pre-lockout era, it was to veterans, some bound for the Hall of Fame, who were in the twilight of their careers, looking for one last dash for a Stanley Cup. That Cup never came and those contracts ended up hurting the team in the long run. Then post-lockout, the Leafs tried to fix their drafting or managerial woes by signing players with experience in the league, but again, were a fraction of what they used to be once they donned the blue and white. Oftentimes, these signings were miscalculations of player ability versus age and player decline. The Leafs are building up a strong core from within and bringing in a big name like Stamkos, who would have commanded a bigger contract than what he signed in Tampa Bay, may have disrupted their ability to stay competitive in the long run.
On June 24, the Leafs selected Auston Matthews as the first selection in the 2016 NHL draft. He is pegged as a potential number 1 centre and is likely able to step in immediately and completely change the course of this franchise. After recently locking up Nazem Kadri to a longterm deal the Leafs are essentially set down the middle for when they plan to start contending for a playoff spot and beyond in two to three years. The Leafs also have Mitch Marner and William Nylander patiently waiting and preparing for regular NHL duty, both of whom have experience playing centre through junior (Nylander is more suited to play centre in the NHL, and did last season in his brief call-up). With a potential 3rd centre in that mix, there is little to no need to go out and spend on a free agent centre, regardless of who that free agent is. When this management group made their initial pitch to the fans, it was that this rebuild would be done by drafting, developing and making smart, calculated moves. So far, they have stayed on course. Now that their toughest test of controlling the urge to make an irresponsible signing is out of the way (thanks in part to Steve Yzerman and Stamkos), the Leafs can continue on their path.
If the Leafs want to be competitive for a while, and keep their core as well as have the money to pay for depth, a Stamkos deal would have been costly. By the time the Leafs truly are Stanley Cup contenders, players like Matthews, Marner and Nylander, arguably some of the most important players to the Leafs core will all need new contracts and depending on their success in the league through those first few years, it isn’t hard to imagine them commanding $5-7 million deals each. That, coupled with all the other contracts to their defense (Rielly will need a new deal two years after that) and depth, will make a GM awfully nervous. Chicago, for example, has done a masterful job at staying competitive despite matching eight year, $10.5 million per season deals for Kane and Toews. They recognized that with a core they mostly drafted and developed, they could remain competitive by rotating depth pieces and limit high spending on free agents. When they won their first Cup, most of their core was on very cap-friendly contracts. As these players got older and their contracts expired, they were paid handsomely, however, as seen from the 2016 Playoffs, their depth suffered from lack of cap room and they could not escape the first round. The Leafs could follow a similar process and potentially get to a stage one day with the pieces they have, where they compete for multiple Stanley Cups. But these core players too will need new contracts and with a big $10 million+ contract given to Stamkos, someone important to the core would eventually be forced out (similar to Saad, Shaw and others on the Blackhawks).
Stamkos is unquestionably talented and can change the look of a franchise completely. He has done a remarkable job with the Lightning in helping them become Cup contenders year after year. The Leafs, a team that suddenly has built up somewhat of a strength at centre, can now spend their remaining money elsewhere such as on defense or just stay idle and save that cap space until two to three years down the road when they need a player to push them over the top into a serious contender. Had Stamkos in fact left the Lightning and pursued another franchise like Toronto, it would be exciting at first but it would have meant the Leafs would be signing a player preparing for a decline in production.
According to Tulsky, the scoring rate at 5-on-5 per 60 minutes peaks just before age 25, then enters a steady decline. For the 26-year-old Stamkos, the saving grace is he is a powerplay specialist and one of the best players in the league at scoring with a man up. He has perfected the slap shot from the faceoff circle, thus explaining why nearly 35% of his career goals have been scored on the powerplay. A second article hosted on the SB Nation site explains that most players, even extremely skilled players, hit a decline in powerplay goals and shooting percentage by age 30. Had Stamkos signed a max deal in Toronto, he would be four years into his seven-year deal when he hits age 30 and will enter some sort of production decline. While he may put up similar stats to what he has done throughout his career in those first four years, by the time the Leafs would have expected to be annual playoff contenders, his decline would begin to take charge, the worst time for this to happen to a prized free agent signing. As seen through the past few Stanley Cup Finals, with parity at its highest, sometimes all it takes is for one team’s offense to go cold at the wrong time for another team to win the Cup. If Stamkos is not able to score at the same rate as he used to and enters cold streaks more frequently, the Leafs would therefore be burned by signing him and have to wait another three seasons before his contract would be up again, when the star centre is 33 years old. Now, as explained in the Tulsky article, the production drop off isn’t as rapid as I make it out to be here in this article. And elite players such as Stamkos oftentimes are outliers and face a slower decline than the average NHL player. However, every player is different and even elite players can still enter a decline at an early age.
One can argue that valuing Stamkos over some of the other centres in the Leafs organization is a move that could have been done. This would mean Stamkos would have slotted into the number one centre position with Matthews at number two, and Kadri either sliding to number three, or is traded to upgrade another position. Stamkos has made it clear he wants to be put in a prominent role and he wants to be a centre, and not a winger. Therefore with this scenario, it is likely that newly re-signed Nazem Kadri could have been the odd man out and be shipped off, which I have a hard believing the Leafs brass would be willing to do. Regardless, it is a decision the Leafs no longer have to worry about.
Lastly, it can’t be ignored that Stamkos has suffered a serious injury as well as blood clots. The devastating broken leg that kept the Markham native out of the Olympics was tough and despite the remarkably quick recovery, it is unknown the long term effects of that knee break. Many experts say the blood clot that Stamkos suffered from was one that most players recover from completely (including his teammate Andrei Vasilevskiy). However, the fact he suffered from it at all is enough to raise some red flags.
As many reporters who cover the team have noted, the Leafs management should and will be disappointed with Steven Stamkos’ decision. The Leafs organization would have found a way to make it work to make the ‘Hometown Boy’ the face of his hometown franchise. It would have been very exciting to sign such a big name free agent, who has put up elite level scoring numbers through his career. However, the Leafs have a lot of exciting players already that can make a serious impact in the league which some fans lose sight of because they haven’t truly made their mark in the NHL yet. Steven Stamkos has many good years ahead of him and has an excellent shot to win a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay for the next five years. While it may be disappointing to some fans at first, the end result of a competitive Maple Leafs team for a longer period of time thanks to a well-managed salary cap is well worth the trade-off.
The NHL offseason is heating up but the Leafs Lounge podcast has concluded for the Summer. Enter a new segment to Leafs Lounge: the Offseason Roundtable, a video podcast series providing the latest news and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs through the NHL offseason. Here is episode 1, on Las Vegas, a preview of the draft, the Frederik Andersen trade/signing and even a few stories on running into former members of the Leafs organization. If you like the video make sure to give it a thumbs up!
By: Geoffrey Martlin
James Van Riemsdyk is a 30 goal scorer with a cap hit of $4.25 million over the next 2 years. He was on pace for 59 points and a 30 goal year last season on a consistently bad team before getting injured and he could garner an attractive price this offseason from cap crunching teams who want to win now.
The cap is only being raised $1.6 million because of the struggling Canadian Dollar and because of this many teams aren’t likely to spend a lot of money. In comes JVR, a player with a reasonable cap hit for a top-6 left winger. Read Article