Maple Leafs Lounge: Marner, Hakstol and the Montreal Canadiens

Despite not having any on-ice action to talk about, the writers who cover the Toronto Maple Leafs are still busy covering the team. As a result, we virtually gather in the Maple Leafs Lounge each week to discuss stories we’ve written, ideas we have and other news and rumours around the team.

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Yours truly had to suck it up this week and start the show with a heartfelt apology. We also discussed the changes in the organization and the ongoing chat about trading Mitch Marner.

Dear Corey Perry, I’m Sorry

On December 30, 2020, I wrote an article titled: Maple Leafs Were Right to Pass on Corey Perry. I listed reasons that he wouldn’t fit in Toronto. It looked like I was right when the Montreal Canadiens put the veteran winger on waivers to start the season. Perry didn’t make me eat my words during the regular season, then the playoffs began. I was wrong. Corey Perry is precisely the kind of guy the Maple Leafs needed last season and needs this offseason.

Corey Perry Montreal Canadiens
Corey Perry, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

My colleagues were not too rough on me. Peter Baracchini pointed out Toronto got their gritty veteran when they signed Wayne Simmonds. Alex Hobson agreed, “as for looking back at the offseason when Perry signed with the Habs and the Leafs signed Simmonds, I think that is really a hindsight thing, honestly. If the Leafs swapped positions here, and Simmonds was doing what Perry is doing in the playoffs, and Perry had fizzled out in Toronto, then we would be saying Leafs should’ve signed Simmonds.”

Can Maple Leaf Fans Cheer for Montreal?

The idea of cheering for a rival is ridiculous. However, Maple Leaf fans who live in Canada find themselves in an awkward spot. The Montreal Canadiens are Canada’s last hope for the Stanley Cup. All three writers could not bring themselves to cheer for the rival Habs but can understand why some fans are getting behind them. I have more on this story in a separate article.

Changes within the Organization

There will be a new coach behind the bench next season. Dave Hakstol, an assistant coach in Toronto for the last two years, was named the first coach of the Seattle Kraken. The trio of writers found the hiring a bit of a surprise. Hakstol has held an NHL head coaching position once before. He was with the Philadelphia Flyers from 2015-2018, where he amassed a 134-101-42 record.

“When he was with the Leafs, I would say he was okay,” explained Hobson, “but the Leafs’ penalty kill for the last two years that they had him, it’s kind of been hovering around the 20th in the League mark. So I’m not saying he is the worst coach in the world; at the same time, I’m not sure he would’ve been my pick.”

The Maple Leafs created a new position, the Senior Director of Minor League Operations and then filled it by hiring Ryan Hardy. The 35-year-old was the general manager of the Chicago Steel in the USHL and had served as an NHL scout. He’ll now oversee both the Toronto Marlies and the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers.

“This is an excellent pick-up for the Maple Leafs,” said Baracchini. “Given how the USHL has grown into a really solid development league, for prospects heading into the NHL draft, Ryan Hardy has done a phenomenal job evaluating and selecting the talent for 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds. Just this year, the Chicago Steel won the USHL championship.”

Mitch Marner Trade Return

The day after the Maple Leafs were ousted from the playoffs, the front office ensured the core four would be back next season. But that hasn’t calmed the chatter around trading a few pieces, including Mitch Marner. This is highly unlikely to happen. However, we discussed what Toronto would get in return for Marner.

Baracchini said Marner is not a sniper, he is a playmaker, and there is a market for him. “It’s got to be above and beyond. It has to be an elite talent for elite talent,” that said, Baracchini thinks there could be a different deal. “Something where you could get a first-round pick, a solid prospect and a roster player as a potential deal for Mitch.”

Jack Eichel Buffalo Sabres
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Hobson suggested Jack Eichel, but doesn’t want to see a trade happen. “We’ve seen in the past the Leafs don’t get the good end of the stick when they give up on a young player. More often than not, they get the short end of the stick, actually. So I think the Leafs would be making a mistake if they traded Mitch Marner in this off-season.”

It is doubtful the Toronto brass goes back on their statements about keeping the core four together. However, 31 other teams could change their mind, and they have a long offseason to contemplate the 2021-22 roster. That’s why you have to come back to the Hockey Writers to stay informed about the team and the chatter surrounding it. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter our username is @MapleLeafsTHW.

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