Fan Apprehension Is Misplaced: Leafs Have Great Draft

Where to start when analyzing the fan’s apprehension towards the Leafs and their draft so far?

As one guy on Twitter pointed out “This team has lied and disappointed me for years, why should I believe them now?”

And he has a point, but I choose to think of this almost as an entirely new team: the mistakes of the past can’t be hung on Shanahan, Hunter, Dubas and Babcock.  These guys aren’t just giving the Leafs a fresh start, they are a fresh start themselves. The team might still look relatively like the one that ended the season, but that doesn’t mean it will look like that come September when training camp opens.

Anyways, I figure the best way to do this is to just respond to the objections one-by 0ne:

(Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)
(Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

They Don’t Have a GM!

Well, technically they haven’t anointed anyone with the title, but with Dubas working the phones, Hunter in charge of the draft, Pridham in charge of contracts and Shanahan overseeing it all, it’s not much different than any other front-office in the league.

Fact is, the days of a solo-operation where the team is at the mercy of the whims of one individual are long past. Though most teams do in fact have a GM in place, virtually all of them are operated by a committee of people with specific jobs – even when Brian Burke was in charge of the Leafs, Assistant GM Dave Nonis still negotiated the trades, and someone else did the contracts.

What the Leafs are doing is fine. Sure, they lack experience, but experience is overrated – all it does is make people more comfortable with risk. The fact is, the Leafs are up on the latest stats data, they have two of the most knowledgeable people in the world about junior hockey and it’s not like they’re going to be fleeced just because they’re new.  My guess is that Shanahan eventually just names himself GM and things continue on as they have been.

Why Haven’t They Made Any Trades? 

They acquired Maricin (solid pick-up) and they made some draft pick moves, but people want to know why Kessel, Bozak and co. are  still here.

Interesting that they are upset that their rookie GM(s) isn’t/aren’t rushing into anything. Just because no trade has happened yet, doesn’t mean one won’t – I can see no reason for them to rush and I’m fully confident that by September the rebuild will be in full swing.

Mitch Marner
Mitch Marner: The Magician of the 2015 NHL Draft (OHL Images)

Why’d They Pick Marner?

Many fans seem upset that the Leafs went with the skilled centre (yes, he’s a centre, Hunter said he’ll be asked to play centre next season and that they see him there in the NHL) over the big defenseman, Noah Hanifin.

Not me.

I had them taking Marner all-along. 

Marner may not be the “safe” pick, but he possesses as much potential as anyone outside the top-two in this draft. His ceiling is sky-high. He is an elite offensive player who is excellent at using his smarts to avoid bigger players.

Even if he ends up on the wing (one would like to see the Leafs add a big centre to combine with Kadri) he’s an unbelievable acquisition. He quite literally could be the most skilled player the Leafs have ever drafted.  I know people wanted Strome, but eliminate the size factor and Marner is the obvious choice – he’s that skilled.

And besides, how can you not be excited with a hometown kid who says he “wanted to play for the Leafs my entire life,”?  A  player who “watched 70 game tapes of Patrick Kane,” because he doesn’t just play hockey, he studies it?

Right now, the Leafs have an incredible top-of-the-lineup set of players: Nylander, Marner, Kadri, JVR represent an amazing set of talents.  Add in what they’ll get for Kessel and this team is getting good, quick.

Why Didn’t They Pick More Size?

Come on! Have you even watched the NHL since 2005? The fact is, skill trumps size in today’s NHL where puck-movement and possession are at a premium. Remember the recently fired and much maligned regime? They were obsessed with size.

How’d that work out?

NHL Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL, Hockey
Phil Kessel (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

Why Did They Keep Trading Down?

The Leafs took a page out of the New England Patriot’s draft book on Friday night as they traded down from #24 not once, but twice.  They ended up picking 34th and adding two extra picks.

Now, some people were very upset by this because of the cache a first rounder has.  As TSN writer Travis Yost pointed out earlier in the year, it can be very beneficial to get draft pick packages.

For instance, there’s close to an 80% chance a first-round pick will be an NHL player, and there is a 44% chance a second-rounder will be an NHL player.  However, these percentages are for the entire round – a 24th pick has a lower than 80% chance and a 34th pick has a higher than 44% chance – in reality, especially in a deep draft, the players after the top 15 or so  aren’t separated by very much.

This means that if you can add a late second (slightly lower than 44%) and a early third (slightly higher than the 34% third round average) while only dropping from 24 to 34, you’re drastically improving your odds of finding an NHL player – basically you’re taking a flyer anyways, even with the 24th pick, so why not pick three players when, added together, it’s close to 100% that at least one of them will be an NHL regular.


At the end of the day, I like the Leafs management, I like their tendency to go with skill over size, I love that they played the odds in the draft and increased their chances of getting a great player.  I love that they picked Marner and I think the Maricin trade was also great.

I think the Leafs killed it at the draft. You?

Thanks for reading.