Tanner Answers the Maple Leafs Mailbag – Again!

I just can’t help myself.

These mailbags are amazing. As you can imagine, I spend a fair amount of my time talking hockey with people on Twitter and in message boards and these guys still manage to blow my mind. It also gives me an opportunity to discuss a wider range of topics than I normally would.

I myself don’t have the reach or influence of a Kevin McGran, so nobody asks me anything – and why would they? But I have all the answers, so I might as well share.  So kick back while I hijack the mailbag of the Toronto Star in totally unoriginal fashion.  Don’t forget to check the original. 

QUESTION: “As a long time supporter of the TML , I am fed up with the way they play. In the pre-season I watched this team play solid defence and explosive offence. Now I watch them with a not-care attitude. They are being paid to play a game that the majority of hockey-loving Canadians wish they had the talent to play and are paid well for it. In some regards I think too well. I know how the coaches must feel. They are in the pro’s. Therefore they can tell the players what they want. But, they can’t tie up skates and play the game. How do you motivate a guy to play well? I certainly don’t have the answer. We as Canadians will always watch hockey. And most of us will grumble, but, those same grumblers will be there cheering next year with hope and admiration of the same Leafs. Anyhow your welcome to correct my grammar if you choose to share my thoughts. Sincerely Robert Valcourt.

ANSWER: If I’m honest, then this is just an insane rant disguised as a question about motivation.  Rob, my friend, you need to put on some Bob Marley and cool out on a bean-bag chair.  Other than that, I think you should realize that it’s impossible for someone to accurately gauge the extent to which a player is trying or not trying from the comfort of their couch.

In some of the recent games, the team has looked demoralized and sluggish to me. But, and I can’t stress this enough, that is probably because that is what I expect to see and so my brain picks out and remembers every single instance that could be interpreted as a player not trying or looking depressed  – did I subconsciously choose to ignore plays that would contradict this train of thought?  It’s highly likely.  You’re probably doing the same thing too, since (and I only assume here) you are also a human.   I am very confident saying the Leafs current slide has nothing to do with motivation.

(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)


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 four 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. It’s 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 eight years, especially the last four 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 an entertainment industry…..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 Monahan 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 sees a place for toughness.


ANSWER: So you want to trade Kadri, Gardiner, JVR, Kessel and Phaneuf, you think fighting and heart are the team’s biggest problems and you think the Leafs should trade the NHL’s most consistent scorer of the last five years for Sean Monohan?  I honestly don’t even have the heart to make fun of this.  Well actually, it’s more of a time thing – I could literally do 3000 words just on how dumb of a question this is.  Mr. McCabe’s on the Leafs is about as valid as my opinion on Psychics or Neurology.

QUESTION: I own some retail stores for the past 30 years or so.

Some gals that work for us are good at selling, some gals are good at folding and some don’t mind taking out the trash And as long as I don’t make the sales gals take out the trash and the other gals know their roles business has been good.

So why do the Leafs try to make Kessel and a few take out the trash – when sales are their thing? I always think you should work to people’s strengths – and at our end sales are the toughest commodity to find? So we would never try to train as sales girl to fold or take out the trash…anyone can do that?

Thanks, Arch

ANSWER:  Arch, I gotta be honest with you, you’re coming across a bit sexist here. But if I can speak to your point, I must say I disagree. The entire problem with the Leafs has been that they’ve employed this exact philosophy for years. It’s 2015: you can’t call your employees “gals” and your fourth liners don’t have to be grinders. Your first line has to play defense. Everyone has to be as complete a player as possible.  The fact is, when you have two of the highest scoring wingers in the NHL, one of the highest scoring lines actually, and they are so defensively poor that they end up being a negative to your team, then you really have to try a different philosophy.

The exact problem for the Leafs has been that – to borrow your analogy – no one has forced Kessel to take out the trash.

(Steven Christy/OKC Barons)
(Steven Christy/OKC Barons)


I read a fair bit about the Leafs having bad puck luck right now with a relatively low save percentage and very low shooting percentage. I have also read that, on the issue of shooting, total shots and total scoring chances are up. So a couple of questions about this:

1. Are the Leafs simply not good at scoring on shots that other teams are because they haven’t focused on getting those shots for a long time? Are the Leafs forwards simply trained to score on a different shot selection? If so, do you think players like Kessel, who is an amazing scorer, can simply adjust? I guess that’s like asking whether Kessel really is like a Patrick Kane or whether he can really only be a great rush scorer.

2. Are the Leafs goalies simply not great when not getting a lot of shots? I have read some analyses that suggest that with an increase in shots, goalies tend to put up a higher save percentage. Are the Leaf goalies simply not that great when the shot total is lower, maybe because the action isn’t high enough to keep them sharp through the game? If so, do we have the wrong goalies for the type of game the leafs want to play?

Thanks, Brandon

ANSWER:  Yes, the Leafs offensive ineptitude since Horachek took over has been something to behold, and yes it is almost entirely based on luck. To say the Leafs are getting different scoring chances or less rush chances since he took over is absurd. It really is.  Over time, all scoring chances equal out and around 9% of all shots will end up in the net.

The Leafs are not “trained to score” differently from other teams. The amount of shots has nothing to do with the quality of game a goalie has.  More shots equals more puck possession time equals more goals.

It is really just an unfortunate coincidence that the Leafs went cold at the same time that Horachek took over. Horachek’s style will prove to eventually allow just as much scoring as Carlyle’s.  Kessel will still get roughly the same amount of rushes and shot quality will be equal. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous.

People wanted Horachek to magically turn the season around but seem lost to the reality that without a second centre behind Kadri and a defenseman who is a clear-cut number one, the team will always be un-competitive.

What will it take for Nazem Kadri to stick with the Maple Leafs? (bridgetds, Flickr)
 (bridgetds, Flickr)

QUESTION: Kevin, what is up with these Leafs? Who are you going to blame this time? You got rid of the coach to appease a couple of players who didn’t like to work that hard, while I watched the beginning of the season I said this team is playing like it is play offs, they will be burnt out by Christmas, and guess what they are, or were?

My opinion is this: This team doesn’t have to do anything but show up and they all know it, the fans will be there no matter how they play, so my opinion is that it is the fans fault that this Toronto team plays the way they do.

The fact is, this team charges the most for tickets to watch these players.

Regardless of how this team plays, the only one thing that they can count on is the fans to show up to watch their disgraceful attempt at a hockey game

You people have blamed everyone for this teams losing attitude, but my opinion is it belongs to the fans and to the fans alone.

When these stupid fans stop going to the games to watch their display or attempt at just showing up then and only then will this franchise wake up?

The players will know that they have to produce or they may be out of a job, they may not have a team to play for and their pay checks will be in jeopardy, and it will put a lot of people like yourself out of a job.

The province of Ontario is in a spiral down turn, and yet somebody has the money to pay for these tickets, whether it be companies or not. The money that these companies use to buy these over priced tickets could be put to better use for the people that they employ, like a pay raise etc., and i am sure that these under paid employees will not be using their pay check to buy over priced Leaf tickets.

Can you belief this that the Leaf’s have had their fans charged with public mischief for showing any sort of disgust at their play. The fans who have paid their pay checks and the team is turning on these stupid people who show up to watch these pathetic players who only can say (Kessel) in a tired tone of voice, we are trying, are you kidding me with the amount you are being paid and you got the nerve to even show your face on national TV to make a fibula attempt at an excuse as to why you can’t score a goal, perhaps you should make a better attempt while your on the ice

This team has not won anything since 1966. Do you realize how many years ago that is?????, and yet they still have a franchise!!!!!,

When Ballard was there you said he was cheap and refused to pay for the better players, this team has had its share of good players, good goalies, and good coaches, all have been blamed for the teams poor performance,

I say it is the fans fault, when they stop going to the games and supporting this pathetic franchise, only then will the players and the owners wake up to the pathetic state of this organization.

Recently the coach was fired, why was that, because he could not get the players to perform, and why was that, because the players didn’t have to, they knew the fans would support them anyway they played all they have to do is show up, so i say if the fans stop showing up then the team may get a wake up call

Bring in another team into Toronto and lets see how many fans show up at the Leafs game, I bet money on the fact that the arena will be pretty much empty, all except for the boxes that companies buy and give the tickets away, because the people don’t want to watch this poor excuse for a national hockey team

So my question or comment is who will you be blaming next the only people left are the fans, who pay money to watch this?

Thank you for reading this but my family are strong supporters of this team and I think it is pathetic that this organization has not produced a cup in the last 40 years, and not only that, they haven’t even come close it is the team, as a whole that is to blame, their attitude towards the fans, that they don’t have to win, the seats will be full anyway they play, therefore their pay checks will be secure, hit them in the pocket book, maybe then their attitude will change




ANSWER: I now want to write Kevin and ask why he’d print such drivel.  Next to this, McCabe looks like Scotty Bowman.  I guess anyone who’d learn from what other people have to say already knows this, but the Leafs spend a ton of money, they have brought in many, many different kinds of executives, but from Fletcher to Burke to Shanahan no one would have done a thing differently regardless of how much money the franchise makes.

In fact, a better argument could be made attempting to appease fans like Elizabeth and McCabe has been much more detrimental to the Leafs success over the last few decades than the fact the building always sells out.

(John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)
(John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)


Was watching one of the games this week (believe it was TSN) and one of the reporters said something along the lines (please don’t quote me 100%) if the Leafs fall out of the playoff race by more than eight points at this time of the year, the per cent chances of making the playoffs falls to single digits. The Leafs as of Monday January 19th are 7 points back. Let’s assume more or less by this Friday it remains 7 points give or take. Basically to me, this sounds like the season is pretty much done. No more playoffs, yet again. If you are the GM, what do you do leading up to the trade deadline? For me, I try and get rid of some of the big contracts and hope the team finishes in the top 5 draft pick for next year. Hold on to a few names like Reilly, van Riemsdyk and perhaps a few others. I know trades are a lot harder these days with the cap system, but surely something can be done no? This main core group has to go in my opinion.

Regards, Justin

ANSWER: The answer of what to do is simple: You for-sure keep Kadri, Kessel, Rielly, Nylander and Bernier.  You consider – if the price is right and you can add a young-high ceiling player – trading JVR, Phaneuf or Franson.

You then make it your #1 priority to fix the cap problems and get assets for: Winnik, Santrorelli, Polak, Komarov, Bozak, Lupul, Robidas, Clarkson, Booth, Reimer and Holzer.

This is not to say that those players – especially Komarov – aren’t valuable, but that since winning is not a significant priority at this time, you must ditch your role players if they have value then do your best to turn the picks and prospects into blue-chip pieces going forward.

Thanks for reading.