Maple Leafs Should Have a Quiet Trade Deadline

I like this Toronto Maple Leafs’ team. And, I’ll offer seven reasons.

Reason One: I think it has a forward core matched by no other team in the NHL – Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares and the oft-forgotten jack of all trades Alex Kerfoot.

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Reason Two: I think the team has the makings of a solid defense with Morgan Rielly, T.J. Brodie, and Jake Muzzin; and, I really like the young up-and-coming talent in Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren. 

Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Reason Three: I like goalie Jack Campbell, and I’m hoping Petr Mrazek can jump in and contribute in a way that helps Campbell survive and prosper. 

Reason Four: I like the new offseason additions the Maple Leafs added – David Kampf, Ondrej Kase, and Michael Bunting. 

Reason Five: I like the team’s toughness – the quiet trade for Kyle Clifford, the strength of Wayne Simmonds, and perhaps even Nick Ritchie during the playoffs when he takes on a more physical role.

Related: Nick Ritchie Could Be the Maple Leafs’ Own Tom Wilson

Reason Six: I like the team’s special team’s improvements. They are first in the power play and very high on the penalty kill. And, except for the occasional brain gaff, they can play solid in team defense.  

Reason Seven: Sheldon Keefe has improved as a coach. He isn’t playing his key forwards as much, and he’s making reasoned choices without the panic we saw when the Maple Leafs lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the bubble two years ago.

The Maple Leafs Need to Stop the Trade Deadline Insanity

I do not believe the Maple Leafs need to reload at the trade deadline. Furthermore, I specifically believe they should not make any trade deadline deals that move out any draft choices or prospects. Instead, I believe they should stand pat with the team they have; and, perhaps, if any trade is to be made, go out and find one more tough, cheap, and experienced defenseman on some team’s scrap heap that won’t take a king’s ransom to bring in. That’s it.

On Saturday, an article written by columnist Damien Cox for the Toronto Star suggested that the Maple Leafs should not make a single trade at the upcoming trade deadline. I might not go that far, because I think one more Zach Bogosian type somewhere could add defensive depth and a mean-spirited attitude that could help the team move forward. (from “The Leafs shouldn’t make a single trade. They have to find out what they’re made of, Damien Cox, Toronto Star, 29/01/22).

Zach Bogosian Tampa Bay Lightning
Zach Bogosian now playing with the Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The name Luke Schenn (now with the Vancouver Canucks) jumps to mind. In a game a few nights ago, when the Winnipeg Jets’ Adam Lowry – all 6-foot-5 of him – took a run at the Canucks’ great young defenseman Quinn Hughes, Schenn stepped up and took Lowry to the ground. He’s the kind of player I’d add. 

A Case for the Maple Leafs Not Even Making a Trade

Cox’s article made a case that it’s time to stop that insanity the Maple Leafs seem to engage in every season. Specifically, he was talking about the frustrating old dance of making just the right move at the trade deadline hoping to find that one “final” piece that would push the Maple Leafs over the top to playoff success. 

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Maple Leafs’ fans know too well the frustration of such failure. Every season the team does just that and every season the team simply falls short. Maybe this is the season to end the pattern. And that’s what Cox wrote in his article. Let the team show what it can do.

It isn’t as if the team didn’t make some good trade deadline moves and it isn’t that the team hasn’t made some mistakes. But none of them worked and, since 2004, the team hasn’t gotten out of the first round as Maple Leafs’ fans know too well. 

Last Season General Manager Kyle Dubas Learned a Lesson

Last season, one of the fans’ favorite whipping boys Kyle Dubas followed the same script and added character player and former high-scoring forward Nick Foligno from the Blue Jackets. To get Foligno, out went a first-round and a fourth-round draft choice. Foligno gave the team next to nothing, and we all know how that story ended.

Nick Foligno Morgan Rielly Mitchell Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Failed Maple Leafs’ trade deadline hope Nick Foligno with Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner
(Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

When I saw Dubas pick up Kyle Clifford from the St. Louis Blues after he was waived through the NHL, the first thing I thought was that Dubas was writing a different script this season. He was already making trade-deadline decisions without doing it at the trade deadline. 

Related: Pittsburgh Penguins’ Kasperi Kapanen Becoming Prime Trade Bait

I believe that Nick Ritchie’s physical reputation and size were aspects of his attraction during the offseason. Dubas re-signed Wayne Simmonds for a reason. He knows that if the Maple Leafs play the Boston Bruins during a playoff round, first Simmonds would be all over Brad Marchand, next it would be Clifford, then up would be Ritchie. Muzzin would no longer be the only option.

Is This the Season to Do Nothing – or Little?

I agree with Cox that this is the year to do nothing – or my caveat would be to do “little.” No prospects or high draft picks out. No expensive rental in.

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs fans hope Jake Muzzin can avoid injury this postseason
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As an interesting part of Cox’s article in the Toronto Star, to see readers’ reaction, the article included a short poll at the end where readers could vote. Those votes were then tabulated. The options and the current vote numbers are below:

#1: I don’t care what they do, just win a playoff round. Please. (32.68% of voters – or 133 voters chose this option)

#2: I’ll leave Kyle Dubas to do his job. I trust he’ll make the right decision.  (25.8% of voters – or 105 voters chose this option)

#3: Stand pat. It’s time to see what this team is made of. (22.11% of voters – or 90 voters chose this option)

#4: Make a trade. Even if it didn’t work out last year, they have to try to improve. (19.41% of voters – or 79 voters chose this option)

I Can’t Even Imagine What Might Happen During any Postseason Run

I have no idea what can happen during any Stanley Cup run. I don’t believe last season’s run was a fair estimation of the team’s ability because Tavares was injured so quickly. I don’t believe last season’s team had the pieces this team has. And I believe the team has better skills, better depth, and a more defined set of roles and expectations.

Related: Maple Leafs Should Pursue Ilya Mikheyev Extension Now

I believe this team has the pieces, and I believe that – more or less – it should be challenged to stay the course. A little tweak on the defense might be helpful, but no panic buying is necessary.

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