Maple Leafs Mail-Bag

Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)
Toronto Maple Leafs #1 center Nazem Kadri (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

Here’s how it works: You write your questions to Kevin McGran, he answers them and then I hi-jack the whole thing and answer them myself.  Why? Because he picks questions that I think he thinks represent the tone and feelings of Leafs Nation as a whole – and he answers them as if they are good questions from smart people.  I myself like to think we can take the level of discourse up a few notches.

Here goes:

QUESTION: The problem with this Leaf team comes down to answering the question how did this player (David Clarkson) end up on the roster? Now really. What went into the decision making process? Who was involved in the decision, and what influenced their thinking? And why did they believe he was worth that much money? Why did they even offer that much? In my opinion, Clarkson does not deserve his pay, and should have never received the contract in the first place. This contract pollutes all future negotiations within the club, and it sends the wrong message to existing and future players, who know they are more talented than him. This needs to be fixed as soon as possible. This type of contract should be bestowed on a very talented player. Instead of getting rid of others, if I was running the club, I would get rid of those involved in pushing for his signing. Do you know who pushed for his signing?

-Karl Schempp

ANSWER: I agree this contract alone should be enough to get Dave Nonis fired. And Dave Nonis will be fired. My working theory is that they don’t want to release him to the wild before the deadline and draft since he knows everything the Leafs have planned going forward – think about it: you’d hide your cards in a meaningless hand of poker and this is the big-leagues.  I can’t find one single person who thinks Nonis is anything but the GM in name only at this time.  And everything he’s done – from signing Clarkson and Bozak to buying-out Grabovski has been horrible.

QUESTION: How serious do you think the Leafs are in their negotiations with Franson, Kadri and Bernier? Given their need to re-make the roster, cap issues, and track record of bad contracts, shouldn’t they be very, very cautious about giving out more contracts that handicap a rebuild? None of the three have shown enough evidence of being a player you build a team around. Better to replace them with available and affordable players like Winnik and others until they demonstrate their worth. Montreal is a great example of this with Price and Subban.

-Barry Porozni

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
People forget how bad the team was and how good Bernier was during the season’s earlier successes. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

ANSWER: You can’t just never sign anyone ever again because your current GM signed all the wrong guys and gave out some bad deals.  Obviously Kadri is a number one centre and the Leafs are going to resign him.  Bernier is a talented goalie and it isn’t fair to judge him on this team that has played horrible defensively – they should also re-sing him.  In fact, back when the Leafs were winning ten in a row and making the Playoffs, he deserved consideration for major awards, since he was leading one of the worst possession teams in the NHL to the playoffs.  His play has fallen off – ironically – as the Leafs’ defense has improved, but he’s still a keeper in my opinion.  I like Franson too and I’d do everything to keep him, but the other two are higher priorities.

I also feel like pointing out by waiting until he “proved himself” MTL overpaid massively for Subban compared to what they could have got him for.  Also, Winnik is a nice player but how exactly does he replace a scoring centre, a defenseman or a goalie? Also, what “evidence” are you looking for? There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Kadri is indeed a player you build around.  What you actually mean is that based on his reputation and current point total (despite never playing on the first PP unit) you wouldn’t think so.

QUESTION: Who, in your opinion, was or is the greatest Leaf of all time?

-Judd H

ANSWER: Mats Sundin. Although I am the president of the Aki Berg Fan Club.

QUESTION: So, if the Leafs decide Bernier is not a No. 1 going forward, and they already see Reimer as a backup, what’s the No. 1 goalie plan? The only UFA even in the vicinity of being a No.1 is Antii Niemmi, and that just feels like a terrible fit for this team. Really, who has a true No. 1 sitting around on the bench that they want to unload? Or which awful team has a No. 1 they’d willingly unload? And what boatload of players/picks would the Leafs have to send out for a true No. 1 netminder even if one existed?

ANSWER: The idea of a “true” number 1 is so stupid. We have virtually unlimited evidence that outside of maybe two or three or five goalies in any generation that the position is so volatile as to not be worth fretting over.  In most cases, not all, but most, goalies play to the level of their team and their performance is in no way predictable year-to-year.  Bernier has talent and that’s enough.  If the Leafs ever put a winning team in front of him, he’s more than capable.  Might even win a Vezina or two and/or be out of the NHL in five years. You simply can’t know with goalies. There are a lot of smart people who think Quick is massively overrated.  Chicago, Detroit, LA, Pittsburgh…….I could go on……but these teams have all won and or competed with guys who weren’t “true #1s” whatever that is.

-Stephen, Boston, MA

Trade Bait
You just don’t give up on a kid with this level of talent  (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

QUESTION: What is your take on the jersey throwing we have seen happening at the ACC (and other arenas like we saw in an AHL game with the Bulldogs and Marlies in Hamilton)? Here is my take on it: Is it disrespectful to this organization? Yes. But is this team/organization a joke to its fans? Yes. All I am saying is that (aside from corporate seat giveaways) people pay A LOT of money to come see this team play. A family of four who sits in an average seat at the ACC for a Leafs game is looking at spending around $600 for tickets, plus parking/transit, overpriced food and beverages, and you may be looking at around $700-$800 for a family of 4 to see a Leafs game. I would like to think that one of the persons who threw a jersey on the ice was in a similar situation like that. That is, he looks up at the scoreboard, sees his team badly being outplayed, and thinks to himself, “Why did I pay all this money for this crap?!” You have to remember here, a fan who tosses his jersey onto the ice is someone who is done with the Leafs FOR LIFE! I have no problem with a fan tossing his jersey on the ice. Would I do it? No. But can I understand the frustration? You bet. Lets not forget that fans are allowed to toss hats on the ice for a hat-trick, which in my opinion negates the argument of protecting the players for their safety. Some teams even allow dead sea creatures on the ice as a tradition (Detroit and Octopus). All in all, when MLSE decided to ban these few people FOR LIFE from the ACC for doing this, I thought that was way too harsh and in my eyes this is an attempt from a greedy corporation who doesn’t want people to see how bad its product truly is. If anything, this has made me hate MLSE even more. And I don’t think I am alone on this. End rant.

Justin Pashkovsky

ANSWER: While I am loathe to knock anyone for an act of civil-disobedience or protest, most jersey tossers seem to be insincere media seeking losers. The team owes you nothing other than an NHL game. Win or lose, that’s what you get. Stop being drama queens and go away.  Your example is ludicrous. If you can afford to go to a Leafs in any capacity you don’t get to act like your throwing your hard earned money away and not getting value back – it’s frivolous entertainment and if the money matters that much, you shoulda spent it on groceries.

QUESTION: Time to think out of the box. According to NHL skills contest Phil Kessel is fastest skater on team. Definite sniper.

What’s needed?

A fast skater to play with Kessel a set up man who can carry the puck and dipsy doodle.

How about taking Morgan Rielly, a defensive nightmare on defence and putting him on a forward position with Kessel?

Rielly is fast can handle the puck well and a good set up man. Yes I know the knock is he can not finish as a goal scorer, but with his puck handling ability and speed he could set up Kessel all night.

Maybe Clarkson, too. His job: Go to the front and stay there.

Carey Miller

Morgan Rielly was a home run pick last year (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Morgan Rielly will  never be moved to centre. Let’s never speak of it again.  (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

ANSWER: This takes mail-bag stupidity to a whole new level.  By Zeus’s Beard! I am just stunned at this. This isn’t outside the box. This is lighting the box on fire and forgetting to get outside of it first.

QUESTION: Given that Dave Nonis will most likely be fired (and quite possibly replaced by Mark Hunter) why doesn’t Shanahan make this move now? In the next month, Nonis is going to be making trades that will impact the future of this team, so if he isn’t going to be around come draft time, why would they want to trust him with this responsibility?

Alan Hart

ANSWER: I don’t believe for a second that Nonis is allowed to independently make a trade at this point. I wondered the same thing, until my friends at the Leafs Hub suggested keeping him around till at least after the draft to protect organizational secrets.  That’s the best theory I’ve heard.

QUESTION: There is no question the Leafs need to trade; Phaneuf, Kessel, JVR, Gardiner and Kadri if they are going to turn this team around for the future. But why is nobody in Toronto writing about the lack of depth, toughness and heart on this team? You bring up ORR and maybe another young banger and actually roll 4 lines….and you will see an immediate improvement. As Nick Kypreos said yesterday, the Leafs can’t answer the bell and “push back” because they don’t have anyone to do it with. Its a whole team of passengers. I have been watching this team for a very long time and this is the weakest, wimpiest most heartless team I have ever seen. Where is SHANAHAN? “We’ll see what they are made of…..?” Where has he been for the last few months and did he not see what happened to them the last 8 years, especially the last 4 as they collapsed over and over? Fire Nonis and Shanahan……….for going into the season with this team and expecting a different result when the core is the same. How is the new coach going into each game with the same lineup and STILL not ROLLING a FOURTH LINE of BANGERS and expecting to win???

Truly a professional disgrace. And for entertainment …..just incredibly BORING HOCKEY……..people spend their hard earned money and their hard earned time to be Entertained and Represented by players with Pride and Heart……………….Kessel for Monaghan and start the re-build….I think Toronto sports writers are missing the bigger point: The Leafs are no longer representing their fans. They are a disgrace and we want a re-build, we want trades, we want a coach that will try something different to win and see’s a place for toughness……..

McCabe

ANSWER: I know want to apologize to the person who suggested making a defenseman into a centre. Because compared to this, that is a noble prize worthy demonstration of intelligence.  One of the best things the Leafs ever did was get rid of their useless enforcers.  The fact that they are not a good team has more to do with the fact that they have exactly one NHL centre and no #1  defenseman – at least until Rielly becomes that.

It has literally nothing to do with Colton Orr.  Also, you said “there is no question” but there actually is.  In fact, trading Kadri or Gardiner would be asinine. Probably not a great idea to panic and trade Kessel either, although I’ve heard some good arguments for that one at least

 

Thanks for reading, don’t forget to read the real answers at thestar.com