Maple Leafs (Repurposed) Mailbag

Kevin McGran writes for the Toronto Star. Every week, he gets tens of letters from irate Leafs fans asking him questions ranging from the hilarious to the insane – with the odd thoughtful one thrown in for good measure.  What I like to do – since no one asks me anything – is steal his mailbag and answer the questions he chooses to publish.

I just like to throw out another perspective and have a little fun while I’m at it, but this isn’t meant as an insult to Mr. McGran,so make sure you read his answers too.  He may be the professional, but I include 100% more Technotronic with my answers, so…..

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QUESTION: Greetings Kevin  James, 

Given that there is becoming a significant focus on the effects of repeated concussions of hockey players would it be reasonable to assume that those playing the game and having been made to understand the negative effects of the same, are consciously (or unconsciously) altering their approach to how they play the game?

It would seem to me that some instinct for self-preservation would have to be in those that play the game.


Doug from B-ford

ANSWER: Dear Doug,

I don’t know. It’s not unreasonable to think that, but I also think it might be hard to play a good game at the level required in the NHL if you’re too concerned about being injured. Hockey is essentially a cage-match played by giants on ice that is as hard as concrete, at high speeds while carrying giant sticks, wearing two razor blades and having five guys trying to kill you at all times.  I figure if you play hockey you have to be fairly resigned to getting injured at some point.

If anything, the game might actually be more dangerous since they removed obstruction. Defensmen used to be able to hold up the forechecking forwards, but now they can fly in at top speed. This, however, would need to be vetted as it only seems like and it may not be true.

QUESTION: Hi Kevin, Tanner,

I’d like to start off by saying I enjoy your coverage of the Leafs. They’re going through a tough time right now and you’re fair, matter of fact about it as well as insightful when it calls for it… Which I appreciate. Also, thank you for providing an alternative platform to ask a question in the Twitter age!

After reading an article from another media source, I’ve finally been driven to comment on the madness that is the coverage of the Blue and White.

It’s long been said that some players don’t want the attention that playing Toronto brings. It’s now getting to the point that’d you’d have to be crazy or way over paid to sign as a free agent or not to have Toronto on your list of teams you can’t be traded to.

This article talks about Leafs being listed in the top 5 teams on no trade lists because of the media frenzy.

Originally on, Craig Custance makes a great point about too many reporters covering the same thing and trying to find an angle. That’s how we get phone calls to players Mom’s, asking someone if they feel they are uncoachable or a coach killer, and asking Morgan Rielly about being the only untouchable on the team. While everyone tries to come up with the next headline with a probing question, the players must be going mental…. I know I would.

The team’s best player is a gifted but streaky offensive talent not known for his defence. He’s also a cancer survivor and I don’t think anyone who hasn’t gone through something like that can really understand what kind of impact that can have you, especially on someone so young. He’s not a player who loves the spotlight or even enjoys it. But rather than change their tact some your colleagues just hammer away, day after day, and expect a different result… I believe that is the definition of insanity.

My guess (as an outsider) is that the best way to deal with Phil when he’s running cold is to give him some space, allow him to snap out of it, and chat with him afterwards looking back on it. There are only so many times that one can answer “well, I’m still getting chance, eventually they’ll start going in”. There’s also only so many times a fan can see the interview, hear the audio clip, and read the quote.

I think it’s clear we as fans are ready for change, ready for the team to be built correctly vs rushed. I think what’s being missed is that we are ready for a change in how the team is covered too. If a team is ever going to be successful in this market, the insanity need to end!

My fear in this rebuild is that many in the media will get frustrated covering a loosing team long before the fans do, create angst and pressure to fix things sooner, potentially ruining the development of players like Rielly.

Which leads me my questions…

How can we as fans make it known to your bosses and those that drive the coverage that we’ve had enough of the negativity and bitterness that comes out in some of the coverage, and that we feel that the media has a part in building a winning team and positive atmosphere in Toronto (outside of booing reporters or throwing the sports section on the editors front lawn)?

I think we need more of a “We’re all in this together” approach instead of the current practice of trying to hold players accountable on a daily basis (that’s what coaches are for). My guess is that everyone was a little envious of Franson and Santorelli who were heading out of town.

Secondly, what do you think coverage will be like as the team goes through the scorch the earth rebuild? Will the team be given the chance to build for the next 3 – 5 years or will the pressure mount by November when the team hasn’t turned it around by then? Will there still be 30ish reporters after practice or will things get toned down a bit?

Lastly, I’ve been curious for a while what it would be like to look at some of the articles in the archives from around the end of Gilmour’s days as a Leaf. He’s remembered so fondly as a great captain but I’ve wondered if the sentiment of the day matches people’s memories.

Thanks again Kevin for taking our questions and giving us a calm perspective in the mayhem.

-Sean O’Halloran

Phil Kessel Toronto
Toronto is not very loyal to the hometown team, the Maple Leafs (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

ANSWER: Dear Sean,

That is crazy talk. If I hear you right, what you want is less accountability and more fluff-coverage? And your idea to decrease the media coverage is to support them by reading and interacting with them?  OK then.

For the record, anyone who doesn’t want to play for the Leafs should be politely told to go play in traffic. Josh Gorges, Brad Richards – hey ya geezers, don’t do us any favours! One can only wish Robidas was so choosy.  As for the media, if it bugs a player, he should suck it up and face up to the fact that his “job” is a joke compared to what most people do for a living and get over himself.

OOOOOhh the media is so hard on poor little Phil.  I am pretty sure you care more than he does.

I don’t even think there’s any negativity or bitterness: if the team sucks, the reporters get to do their job. Big deal.  If anything, you could argue the media has been too soft on – if not the players – the management. The media is just a big excuse, the real reason people put the Leafs in their no-trade requests is because the Leafs suck, have sucked and there is only small percentage chance that they won’t continue to suck.



Born in 1975, I have dutifully been a die hard Leafs fan.I can rhyme out past jersey numbers like ex-girlfriends phone numbers ..Iafrate 33, Vaive 22, Frycer 14, Derlago 19, Courtnall 9, Kordic 27, Borje 21, Leeman 11. I’ve travelled to watch the Leafs in Carolina, Philly, NY, and Florida, spending embarrassing sums of cash to watch my Team fail. I feared for my life in Philly wearing my blue and white in the upper rafters of a playoff series. The sad reality today is that I’ve never felt this disconnected to OUR team. I ask myself constantly, am I not a good fan? Isn’t part of being a fan paying your dues and not jumping off the bandwagon? Aren’t you supposed to stick with your team through thick and thin? Angrily defend your team to all Leaf-haters? Here is the sad fact, I don’t have the energy anymore. This team has pushed me over the edge. I’m numb. Indifferent. I now find myself forgetting about Leaf games. Even worse, when I accidentally stumbled upon on the Leafs game this week, when they were playing the Panthers, and noticed they were winning 1-0, instead of being happy, I got mad! How deranged is that? I thought to myself, how dare they try to win now after they have sucked this long. Can’t they even tank properly? How did this fiasco happen to such a good city of loyal fans? I’m now a bitter Leaf fan. Where do I go from here? Talk some sense into me. Hold my hand and tell me it’s going to be all right. Lie to me and tell me a Stanley Cup parade will one day march up Yonge Street! For my kids sake!

Disgruntled fan – AG


Hey man, it’s just a game. Put in as much time or as little as you want to. The worse they are, the better it will feel when they win.  I myself don’t let it get to me; even now I am enjoying watching Kadri and Rielly get top minutes and seeing the team begin the process of changing its ways. I was far more frustrated when they tried to sign Bolland, extended Randy Carlyle and attempted to make an ill-advised run to 9th.  I am actually pretty happy to be a Leafs fan right now.  Although, if they weren’t owned by a couple of insidious profiteering corporations bent on total world domination, I would be a lot more comfortable with my fandom.

But just a tip, in general, not to this specific reader: Stop calling it a “proper” rebuild or talk about doing it “the right way” because there are a ton of ways to build a hockey team. If Burke had of just made a few tweaks to his philosophy: such as not acquiring players to help the team win in March, or if Nonis had kept Grabovski and moved Bozak, as well as others, at deadlines past for assets, if the team had of been more creative or aggressive in its search for a high-end partner for Dion, if they hadn’t completely botched the compliance buy-out situation or traded eight of the last nine second round picks, we might not be having this conversation – the team might be competitive – possibly even elite – and they still wouldn’t have done it the “right” way.


Morgan Rielly
(Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)


Hey Slippin’ JImmy Kevin,

I would have thought either of the Leaf goalies could steal a game here and there despite the lack of team defence. I’m not sure either goalie measures up. Also 20 games with no production from your best players tells me that either they tanked or aren’t as good as the Leafs think. Tells me you aren’t going to win a Cup with the Kessels, Van Riemsdyk, Lupul, etc. Your thoughts?



ANSWER: Hey remember when the Leafs were on a ten-game winning streak despite being one of the worst possession teams in the NHL? Well that was because the Leafs were receiving Hart Trophy style goaltending. How quickly we forget.  When they went through that scoring drought later on, their shooting percentage was about half of the all-time worst team has ever done over a season and they were missing one-third of their top-nine and their best – or at least most used – defesenmen.

The Leafs are not a good team and it has very little to do with goaltending.  As for your question about those players winning a Cup, why couldn’t they? The Leafs have sucked in spite of those guys, not because of them.  To write them off as “being unable to win” is the worst kind of assumptive fallacy-based thinking possible.  You’re better than that Ken.

QUESTION: Is it possible for the media to ask Leaf players what the players think the media could do to help make the Toronto market more fun for them? And more desirable for other players to want to come to T.O. Maybe there could be a limit on the number of reporters at meetings like there is a limit on taxis in the city? Maybe other boundaries could be set for reporters? Media pressure is part of the problem. Can media solve its own problem?

Greg W

ANSWER: Forget the media for a second. Think about what it implies if you are right (which you are certainly not): that it is the players fault they are a losing team.  That, right there, is your problem. Can you please state for the record when the last time the Leafs were expected to perform at a high standard and failed to? I am pretty sure  absolutely positive that the Leafs are a bad team because they have been mismanaged by people who are terrible at their jobs.

It is not Phil Kessel’s fault that the his GM forced the team to play not just one, but many games in which Polak, Holzer and Robidas all suited up at the same time.  Phil Kessel didn’t ice a team with Nazem Kadri and no other NHL centres capable of playing above the third line. He didn’t sign David Clarkson, pick Carlye to coach, buy-out Grabovski, put the team in a cap-bind or…… You get it.


Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly has earned the trust of head coach Peter Horachek. [photo: Amy Irvin]

QUESTION: How does Nashville get a team in first place and we are rebuilding again!

John K

ANSWER:  They won the most games, we mismanged virtually an entire rosters worth of assets over the course of five or six years. It’s not rocket science.


Why do fans continue to attend Leaf games, when players display this “could care less” effort?

Cam Sambourne

ANSWER: Because attending an NHL game is a blast? Because even if the team loses you still get to see Kadri, Gardiner, Rielly and the chance of a bench-clearing brawl?  I have attended one game since the Leafs acquired Kessel and only because I got free tickets. I can’t afford a game, but I would love to go to one.  If I could afford it, I’d buy seasons tickets right now.  I would pay to attend a mid-week game against Carolina, if I could.

I have a better question for you, Cam: why do people think they can gauge a players effort their living room? I guarantee you Kessel doesn’t look too differently, in reality, in games where he scores a hat-trick and games where he doesn’t score any.

Honestly, the players are trying their asses off, more so than normal, probably, given the state of the team and the way this season has gone. Face it, fans only think guys are trying when they score, hit or come back after they get injured. The team sucks, the players do what they can. Korbinian Holzer can only get you so far.

QUESTION: Hey Kevin.  Jim, 

Long time reader, first time question.

Even though the Leafs season is in the garbage, I still find myself searching the rosters of opposing teams on game day. If I find an ex-Leaf, I search to see what we got for him and how the trade panned out. A classic exercise in futility.

Here is my question:

Back in 2010, we traded Jimmy Hayes (a 2008- 60th pick) for a second rounder, who turned out to be (suspended Marlie) Brad Ross. Not really a blockbuster trade, but please tell me how the thinking went with Leafs brass on that one. Hayes looks like he is having a good season, whereas Mr. Ross will have to carry the shame of being the second Marlie suspended for a banned substance this year.

Thanks for your time.

ANSWER:  I would guess they saw an opportunity to draft a player they liked at the cost of a player they didn’t. You aren’t always gonna nail those trades, but what can you do?  Ross is younger than Hayes and he could still pan out, and if not, it’s not like they traded a draft pick that went on to be Tyler Seguin, Scott Niedermayer or anything truly embarrassing.

QUESTION: Do you see any Leaf players who were traded or (most likely will be traded by deadline) pulling a Glen Wesley? That is, gets traded to a playoff team and then comes right back to the Leafs the next year, just like Glen Wesley did to the Leafs, playing in the playoffs and then returning back to Carolina in the offseason, ultimately giving Carolina draft picks and then getting their player back. My friends and I call this, “pulling a Glen Wesley.” I am surprised more teams do not do this actually.

Justin P

ANSWER: I don’t see that happening. I think it only happens when a player is a UFA on a non-playoff team and the player in question is like an all-time great, or at least a mainstay, of the franchise in question.

Plus, while Winnik and Santorelli were nice value signings, much of what makes them so desirable goes out the window the second you sign them to contracts that triple their current deals.

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

QUESTION: Assuming the Leafs do not win the draft lottery, is there much difference in talent available between picking fifth and, say, ninth? I will continue to cheer for losses (again!) but don’t have much information on the top 10 draft picks.

Also, what is the contract status of Panik and Holland?

Thanks and regards

Tony Bibbings

 ANSWER: I think the best way to think about the draft is in odds. If you pick first you have really high odds and if you pick second, they’re slightly lower and so on and so forth.  How much better is 9th than 4th?  Who knows, at best its a crap-shoot since you’re guessing on players who are, in the vast majority of cases, only marginally better than each other.  Then, there is the entire psychological factor: almost every kid picked is talented enough to make the NHL, but emotional and mental factors, not to mention dedication, how they handle media, family, relationships, money, team-mates etc. will all go along way in determining their future success.
At a certain point, talent can only take you so far, unless you’re one of the incredibly rare freaks who is talented enough to succeed when you feel like it – like an Alexei Kovalev, if his reputation is fair.
All you really do is get better odds, and this can be proven by looking at any old draft – sometimes you pick first and get Chris Phillips (good player, but you’d want a better #1) and sometimes you get Kopitar at 12 or PK Subban in the second round.  My advice would be to just try to draft as much as possible and not be too concerned about where exactly you’re drafting, although, clearly, higher is better.
As for McDavid and Eichel, they are supposedly going to both be Crosbyesque, but that’s a ton of pressure. No doubt in five years we’ll be talking about how Strome or whoever “came out of nowhere” to be the best player in the draft.  Or not, that’s why it’s fun to watch.
Thanks for reading.