Maple Leafs September Mailbag: Part 2

As the NHL season continues to drawer closer, teams are making their final preparations for training camps and beyond. If you’re the Toronto Maple Leafs, that means a few different things. It starts by getting the new coaching staff ready for the upcoming camp. That means dealing with the rookies, players who were on the team last year and new faces who were signed over the summer.

A new twist this year is the addition of so many players coming into camp on PTO’s. Devin Setoguchi, Curtis Glencross, Brad Boyes and former Leaf Mark Fraser will all be in attendance and vying for a spot on the opening night roster and beyond.

Naturally, fans are extremely curious and have a multitude of questions that pertain to the coaching staff, front office and beyond. That spurred the need for a second mailbag segment, where I take three burning questions about the Maple Leafs and give them a concrete answer.

Of the players on the Leafs roster that are likely to have a break out season, who do you see having the greatest impact under coach Mike Babcock? – Timothy Thomas Fifield via Facebook

The addition of Mike Babcock as the head coach has already had a huge ripple effect on the organization as a whole. At the time of his signing, no one thought he was going to come to Toronto. Now that it has happened, he’s ready to put his stamp on the players and their brand of hockey. It’s tough to name just one player I think will have an impact under Babcock.

Personally, I see Nazem Kadri really blossoming into a solid centre. The former Red Wings bench boss has already made it known that he thinks Kadri can be elite this season and that he expects nothing less. With a full off-season of training and the support of the new coach, Kadri has all the tools to make a huge impact this year.

I also think Dion Phaneuf and Morgan Rielly will really benefit under Babcock’s tutelage this year. Phaneuf should be better managed, both on and off the ice. That should lead to a cut down of both mistakes and fatigue as the season wears on. Rielly on the other hand, should take the reins and really showcase how good he can be. The young defender has gotten better in each season he’s played, and this upcoming one will be no exception.

Do you think Phaneuf would be a better contributor without the burden of the captaincy? If so, who should get the ‘C’? – Graham Ingham via Facebook

Dion Phaneuf Leafs
Dion Phaneuf (Rich Kane/Icon SMI)

Dion Phaneuf has been heavily criticized for most of his tenure in Toronto. Whether it’s not being a good leader or simply making  bad brain cramps that lead to scoring chances or goals, he’s had his share of rough nights. On the flip side, Phaneuf has been the best defenseman on the Leafs, despite being mismanaged.

I think that Phaneuf can be an excellent contributor while remaining the captain of the Leafs. Mike Babcock and his coaching staff already have a plan in motion that will help Phaneuf cope with the rigours of his unique position. Let’s say hypothetically that captaincy position is vacated for whatever reason. I don’t believe the Leafs would immediately name a replacement.

It would be up to a one of the players to prove that they can handle the immense responsibility that comes along with that position. A potential front runner may come in the form of Morgan Rielly. The young defender is incredibly impressive on the ice and has the tools and maturity to be a leader in the near future.

How do you think P.A. Parenteau will pan out with more ice time under a better coach? – Alex Hobson via Facebook

P.A. Parenteau has a forgettable season in Montreal last year. He was a healthy scratch at times, he didn’t score at the pace he or the Canadiens wanted and he was misused by Michel Therrien for the majority of the year. Maple Leaf fans would be absolutely thrilled if the former Hab was able to reach the levels that he did back in his days with the Colorado Avalanche and the New York Islanders. That was when he was at his best and was consistently scoring.

I think that yes, Parenteau will have a much better year with Toronto. There are a few reasons behind my thinking. He was mismanaged in Montreal. Under Babcock, he will be held accountable for all mistakes and successes that he has. If he plays well, he will get rewarded. It’s all about showing the effort.

He currently has a chip on his shoulder after signing his one year deal. The writing is on the wall for the aging forward, and he has an excellent chance to turn some heads and prove that he is still a very valuable commodity in the NHL. Under Babcock and company, and with a new way of looking at things, I think the former ninth round pick will have a successful year with the Blue and White.