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Mailbag: On the best Leafs hug, Quidditch being bad, the playoffs, and more

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All that and more in the latest mailbag.

The Muggle Quidditch Crumpet Cup Is Played In London Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Lou is 74 years old, how long do you think he stays with MLSE? Also do you think he would let Dubas have "Du Hast" as a ringtone on a company cell? —Mike Brown’s Moustache

I think Lou stays with the organization for at least the next five years. His contract as GM runs out at the end of next season, but it’s not inconceivable to me the Leafs could extend him if he still feels up to it. The brain trust has thus far seemed to operate quite well, and assuming Hunter and Dubas aren’t desperate for the top job right away, he might spend a little more time in the captain’s chair. Alternatively, if Lou wants to scale things back a bit, he could enjoy a Cliff Fletcher-style advisory role as his plans grow to fruition.

I’m almost certain Lou forces his staff to use a ringtone recorded from a 1970s rotary phone. Dubas will have to wait for the reign of a Millennial GM before he busts out the Rammstein.

Why was it called Mario Kart and not Mario Speedwagon?—Jared From London

[applause]

How are you doing? Is your family well?—Super Maurice

I am good, thank you. My family is in grand shape, psyched for the Leafs’ potential playoff run, except the cat, who seems largely indifferent to sports.

Given the choice between…

A) Having your entire internet browsing history available to everyone to see (friends, family, work colleagues, general public, etc…)

OR

B) Never using the internet again for the rest of your life

Which option would you choose?—Canuck89

The most embarrassing thing in my browsing history would probably be the amount of time I devote to this site. Besides, no Internet would preclude not only blogging all over the place, but also my day job. So A. And for the record, I clicked on that category by accident, okay, they put them altogether under the one menu—

I like Sosh and the Goat despite their relatively poor statistical play and the fact that there may be better options available with the Marlies. Does this make me a bad PPP denizen? Should I be with the Hub?—Alspicer

Not at all! I named myself after Nikolai Kulemin, who is honest and workmanlike, but is on a pretty bad contract at this point and is a third-liner. Sosh has also shown flashes of being able to rise up the lineup, and Gauthier has a great emoji-nickname. You have to follow your heart in these things.

Heads up, though: I don’t think Gauthier is going to be an NHL player. :(

At the stage the rebuild is in, what do you think is the best direction to take with Leaf prospects not currently on the NHL roster: use in trades to make the roster ready to compete for the Cup in the near future, groom them to fill holes in the roster themselves, or some combination of the two?—brigstew

It has to be a combination of the two, of course. You don’t want to totally gut your prospect farm, of course, but at the same time, you probably can’t just sit on your hands and hope to improve. Insofar as there’s a spectrum with this stuff, I probably tend towards more aggressiveness with trades, both because I think the Leafs should be aiming to contend for a Cup within two years and because the Leafs no longer have any untouchable prospects outside the NHL.*

*Untouchable is a word which I’m using to mean “an acceptable trade is extremely unlikely.” Nylander is untouchable; doesn’t mean I’m going to say no if the Oilers offer me McDavid for him, but that probably isn’t going to happen.

Follow up question: what prospects would be best to trade and who would you prefer the Leafs hang onto?—brigstew

Kapanen is almost certainly the Leafs’ best prospect, so I would very much like to keep him, but even then I’m not married to the idea if the price is right. I can’t help but wonder if Nielsen, Brooks, or Bracco are overvalued right now; Nielsen because he’s a huge defenceman with a ton of PP scoring, and Brooks and Bracco because they’ve annihilated junior leagues as older forwards. I don’t think any of these players is valueless, but if someone’s falling in love with them in another front office, well...let’s talk.

—jeffgm

Despite your dastardly efforts to get me to do actual math, this answer is apparently available on Google, and it’s allegedly D. Maybe that’s right, maybe it’s not, whatever, I majored in English.

Is the probability in the question above more then percentage difference in Jake Gardiner and Ben Smith’s Corsi?—jeffgm

No. The above probability is 19%, so I’m assuming you mean in terms of whether the gap between the two is nineteen percentage points. If you use all situations Corsi (which is very unfair to Smith given his special teams usage), he’s only about 18 points back of Gardiner.

Please explain why Quidditch is bullshit.—Arvind

Arvind and I have had strong feelings about this for a long-ass time. Let’s get to it.

Very short version of the rules of Quidditch: there are seven players a side, all flying on magic brooms. Three players (Chasers) are trying to put a fairly normal ball (the Quaffle) through one of three hoops behind the opposing team, like a goal in soccer or hockey. This is worth ten points each time you do it. A goaltender (Keeper) tries to stop them. There are also two Beaters, who are hitting another set of two balls (Bludgers) at the opposing team and trying to obstruct them; these can be thought of as primarily “defensive” players, since they produce no offence themselves. Finally, there’s a Seeker, who is chasing another ball, this one called the Snitch, which flies around of its own volition and is hard to catch. If a Seeker catches the Snitch, his team scores 150 points and the game is concluded. The team with the higher score at the time the Snitch is caught wins.

The first issue is that the Seeker is extremely overpowered. The Seekers are basically playing a loosely connected game vis-a-vis the the other players, but they almost always decide the result. In the matches depicted in the books themselves, the team catching the Snitch almost always wins unless the team behind them is ridiculously overmatched (Bulgaria’s National Team in Book 4, Gryffindor’s suspension-ruined House Team in Book 5.) Imagine if during a hockey game you had one player on each team who could, at any point, score a magic puck worth six goals and immediately end the game. This serves a useful narrative purpose in that it allows the title character, Harry—who is a Seeker—to be orders of magnitude more important than the rest of his team. But if you’re not emotionally invested in one player, it makes the vast majority of the action in the match irrelevant and inconsequential.

Next up, the rules in virtually every Quidditch match are on the verge of breaking down in absurd ways. In one game, Harry and friends gain a massive visibility advantage in a rainstorm thanks to a spell lent by Harry’s friend Hermione, which is admirable in its testament to the power of friendship, but raises huge competitive imbalance issues related to magic use if you think about it for more than a second. In another match (the World Cup Final!), a gang of semi-human mascots attempt to seduce the referee and are prevented by a sport executive kicking said referee in the shins. On a third occasion, an elf sabotages the Bludgers so they try to chase Harry around and maim him. The results in all of these games are upheld as valid, and trust me, this list could be longer.

The final point, raised in the thread by Ghost of Bohonos, is that strategy in the game hasn’t developed to take much advantage of having three axes of movement. Quidditch for the most part is a game played as if it were on a flat surface raised up fifty feet. This seems like a disappointing failure of imagination, although it’s arguably more pronounced in the movies than in the books,

To be honest—and I really enjoyed the Harry Potter books, if you can’t tell—Quidditch is a useful concept that’s only thought through just enough to serve the purposes of the narrative. J.K. Rowling’s said as much; she was thinking of things that would provide social cohesion for the world she was building, and she decided she needed a sport. So it’s basically a bunch of incongruous ideas tried together. Oh well.

Why?—ChrisFromParadise

Brigs already responded to this with “why not”, so I’ll go with “everything is ultimately a causal chain extending back towards the Big Bang, and that is the only unmoved mover.” I dunno, that’s approximately why.

Why is "The Reason" by Hoobastank the greatest song of all time?—ironic username

“The Reason is You”—Wizard of Naz

Sometimes our comment section just does it all.

The Devil of hockey appears before you one day. He says he will give you a choice to make regarding your favourite hockey team, and once the choice is made, it is final and cannot be unmade. He tells you to choose: the Leafs are guaranteed a Stanley Cup next season, but then will be followed by another 50 year drought, OR there is no guaranteed cup, but the Leafs will draft a future 1D in the upcoming draft (so one cup isn’t a given, but there’s the possibility of more than one in the next 50 years).

What say you?—Exit Steve Left

The consensus in the comment section seemed to be option two; basically that a guaranteed win would be no fun to watch for, and that a drought of fifty years would end any reason to watch at all.

I agree with the second part, but not the first. I’m the person who tunes in to watch our juniors clown Kazakhstan 13-0. I glory in the crushing of our enemies. Can you imagine if we drew the Habs on the path to our guaranteed Cup? That would be the funniest thing imaginable. Also, I would lay an enormous bet on the Leafs as of this instant, and make a mint next season.

Still, the fifty years of crap would ruin my hobby for the rest of my life, so that would suck. But a shorter timeline on the drought might make me consider it.

Matthew Good Band or Matthew Good?—DanOfTheNorth

Like any good alt-rock Canadian child, I really liked the Matthew Good Band in their prime, so it’s got to be them. Beautiful Midnight is a great album and I like a fair bit of both Underdogs and Audio of Being. Good has kept having a decent song or two every album since he went solo, though. “Alert Status Red” and “How It Goes” are both good tunes.

After next season the Leafs have some notable forward UFAs (JVR, Bozak, Komarov, Fehr, Lupul). What camp do you align with:

1. Attain playoffs next season and keep the core intact and let these UFAs walk into free agency, though possibly extend key UFAs;

2. Because this team won’t win the cup yet, but are still competitive, then trade away talent for the best deal and fill roster spots with call ups and cheap prove or short term contracts (Jagr, PAP, Gagner, Bickell, Ribeiro) etc.

I don’t think you should accept any result where the team next season is worse than the team this season. I’m in favour of trading JVR for the right price, and it’s possible the team nets out to a better result with him + Bozak traded and replaced internally—if there are corresponding upgrades on defence. If you can’t do that, and it’s not some ridiculous return in futures, then I would say keep the talent you have.

For various reasons, I have no interest in any of those free agents mentioned. I don’t think there’s really any UFA forward I would be all that interested in unless there’s an unusual short-term fit with Joe Thornton. So: be as competitive as possible without sacrificing team quality for the year after next, would be my plan.

How would you rate the quality of the leaf prospect cupboard?

a. Stocked: A few bottles that could rival a vintage petrus and rothschild. Aged cheese, charcuterie as well as bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables

b. Normal: A nice variety of food and beverage items with few able to please the most discriminating of guests

c. Below Average: Boxed wine and a few jumbo sized 6’7" packages of pop tarts along with giant jars of condiments.

d. Bare: A leaking can of beer stinking up the cupboard and a cookie with a bite missing that Kessel left a few years back. Also a receipt from an International food aid organization for assorted pulses that have been held up in Canada customs by Trump because of his fear of the possible explosive gastro-intestinal properties.—jeffgm

I really enjoy the thoroughness of this metaphor. But I have to pick the boring answer, which is B. The Leafs’ prospects aren’t by any means terrible, but now that the Big Three have graduated, they don’t have anyone really spectacular except maybe Kapanen—and even then, he’s not top ten outside the NHL or anything. After him is Leipsic. Beyond that, Nielsen, Dermott, Brooks, Bracco, and Timashov are all still probably in the AHL next year, and none is guaranteed to make the jump to the bigs. It’s fine, and between the above group and Grundstrom/Korshkov, I bet the Leafs will produce a couple of NHLers of some sort. But it’s not stunning.

Which Leaf would give the best hugs? Please show your work.—Baseball Annie

This is a very important question, and there are a number of competitive candidates.

First, let’s look at two of our holy trio: Auston Matthews and William Nylander.

Auston Matthews is normally a fairly reserved and stoic individual off the ice. But it’s clear that that stolid exterior masks a man of deep passions. Look at this photo.

Matthews wants to hug the world in this photo. He wants to take it all in with his lengthy goal-scoring arms. This is the kind of quality emotional content that makes a good embrace, and yet, one worries he may risk hugging too close to the sun, so to speak. An excess of hugging ambition has been a struggle for many a young talent, hugging too hard or too wide. Look at Matthews’ linemate Willie. All right there, big fella. Just you take it easy now.

Nylander does yeoman service here, with the unheralded role of support hugger. Nylander knows what his centre needs: to be supported from the right side with a steady diet of loyalty and/or needle-threading passes. Willie wants what you want. That’s important.

Next up is a team effort.

This is a family. Precocious youngster Mitch Marner is the focal point of this hug, while veterans Jake Gardiner, James van Riemsdyk, and Tyler Bozak round out the embrace with veteran strength and savvy. I think Gardiner is showing particular expertise at the older brother hug. Jake makes sure Mitchy feels appreciated but not too full of himself. Good in the room.

Possible future captain Morgan Rielly shows some unusual flair in the below photo.

Sometimes, in a good hug, you show affection by pretending that the other person is significantly taller than they are. Hello, gigantic defenceman. It is a pleasure to see you once more, gargantuan right wing.

Ultimately, I think it has to go to Kadri. Kadri displays first-class skills in all elements of hugs. One is a clear technical facility with hug dynamics.

A lesser hugger might be overwhelmed by the simultaneous arrival of two partners. Not Kadri, who embraces his teammates with ambidextrous calm. He’s even ready for the late arrival of Joffrey Lupul, whom he welcomes with joyous good temper. There’s more than enough Naz to go around.

At the same time, Naz’s hugging expertise doesn’t mean he neglects the most important element of a good hug: the warmth of friendship. Naz offers his amigo Leo Komarov an extended Titanic-style hug here that could light up a dark room. Now we all feel like we’re flying.

What are Matthews chances of winning the Calder as of right now?

What does Marner have to do in the last 8 games of the season to steal the Calder trophy from both Laine and Matthews?

What about Nylander?—munniec

At time of writing, I’m going to say Matthews is a 40% shot, though I’m going to shamelessly edit this if that changes before this publishes. Marner has to finish at least three points ahead of both Laine and Matthews. Nylander has to finish five, because he’s older, Swedish, has played a few more games, and scores more on the power play, and because no one has talked seriously about him winning it.

Why did JK Rowling ruin a good ending to the Harry Potter series with that dumb epilogue?—Exit Steve Left

My guess is that if you’re a writer who has devoted more than a decade to a particular group of characters, leaving them at age seventeen doesn’t feel that satisfying. You want to put a cap on it and say “now their story is told.” While I think Rowling’s strengths as a writer are in cleverness and linguistic rhythm more than having perfect story structure, she’s very far from the only writer to do this, especially in fantasy. Tolkien wrapped up every character in Lord of the Rings at very great length.

Should the Leafs slip to the WC2 seed and draw Washington in the first round, how many games do you honestly think the Leafs win in that?

(DISCLOSURE: I think they would win one at home and lose in 5; if they can sneak a road win, maybe 6)—FiftyMissionCap

Two. That might seem very optimistic, but I think there’s a lot more parity in the NHL than people credit. The Leafs could easily get swept, but they also have a small but by no means negligible chance of winning the series. Put another way, the Leafs are a slightly above average team, and the Caps are probably going to finish the season having won about two-thirds of their games against the league as a whole, so the Caps winning two-thirds of their games against the Leafs makes a reasonable amount of sense.

Here’s your mandatory Trek question: Which Leafs players would you assign to these classes of Federation starships circa the DS9 era?

*Defiant Class – Equipped with high powered weapons. Designed solely as a combat ship. Average speed. Well armoured and can take a lot of punishment even if shields have failed.

*Galaxy Class – Very large ship designed for multi-purpose missions for science and exploration. Moderately well armed with defensive capabilities being the primary focus. Low manoeuvrability. In battle it often winds up sitting and absorbing much enemy fire as a giant easy target. But it can occasionally get off some good attacks.

*Intrepid Class – An interceptor. Fast and well armed, but designed only for short missions, get in – fight – get out.

*Excelsior Class – Older design with purpose similar to a Galaxy class – slower, and less well armed, but a work horse that sticks around because of a long useful design life and the Admiralty seems to have a special preference for them for some unknown reason.

*Sovereign Class – Fast, heavy fire power, good defensive abilities – top of the line ship—Species 1967

These are always tricky.

Defiant: Matthews. “Average speed” might be selling him a little short, but in terms of both his high-powered offence and his physical durability, he fits the bill.

Galaxy: Brian Boyle! Takes the hard minutes, but can contribute a bit of everything.

Intrepid: Bozak. No defence, only offence, all the way. Also has his share of FOGO shifts—face off, get off.

Excelsior: Komarov. The workhorse par excellence, whom I strongly expect to be protected in the expansion draft.

Sovereign: Gardiner, just because we ought to have a defenceman on here. Good at everything and top-flight.

Rank the Holy Trinity…. in terms of their fashion sense.—Arvind

For brevity, I’ve decided to include one outfit for each of the three.

To start off with, here is Nylander, accompanied by Zach Hyman and Leo Komarov, wearing an actual garbage bag and a backwards red hat.

Now that he’s out of the running, let’s turn to Mitch and Auston. Side by side:

First of all, Mitch. I respect a bold colour choice that doesn’t get carried away with garish patterning. It’s attention-getting without being overdone. The slim fit on the pants suits Marner’s build, even if he looks boyish as ever. I’m also down with the different shade of purple on the tie. However, I’m not a huge fan of the wide tie here, especially since Marner has the perfect build to rock a skinny tie for an overall lean look. Mitch has youthful ambition regarding his fashion choices, and that is all to the good. Young men 17-25 are just in the early stages of learning how to dress like an adult, and that means trying things. Devil’s in the details on this outfit.

Speaking of dressing like an adult, Auston looks like the 28-year-old heir to a business empire. (Your reminder that the young man on the left is several months older than the one on the right.) Everything about this suit exudes conservative formality, with only the pale gold of the tie to add flair. I’m onside with this; it’s an outfit that projects authority, or at least it would with a better tie knot. Unfortunately, this jacket doesn’t really fit Matthews’ broad build, as the lapels seem to be pulled almost diagonal by that straining button. The fact that Auston is able to fill the upper portion of a double-breasted suit as a teenager—a lot of dudes would look like they’re wearing their dad’s clothes—still doesn’t quite make this a comfortable cut, so I reluctantly have to dock points here.

Between these two is a matter of taste: flash versus solidity. I’m going to give the edge to Marner’s exuberant style, while respecting Matthews’ classical fashion. Nylander comes third, which is actually mostly me being jealous of how good looking he is. Finally, I actually don’t know anything at all about fashion, and I have attempted to bullshit my way through this entire answer.

If the Leafs win a Stanley Cup during the Auston Matthews era, should the club hold a supplemental parade in Buffalo in recognition of the city where AM was drafted?—Jersey Left

I think this would only be polite. Mike Babcock can be Grand Marshall.

How is the playoff race looking in the future when you actually answer these? Is Andersen back? Can you share this information with me now and not later? Thanks.—scrambles

I attempted to time travel to answer this question, and I think I may have accidentally ruined world history. If you’re reading this on a laptop in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, I’m sorry.

In a time of immense strain, how do I steel myself to watch a potential postseason run?—Ghost of Bohonos

Best thing to remember: it’s all gravy this year. Every good thing you see is already a team exceeding expectations. Every bad thing is not something you need to worry that much about. Your team is striding towards the future and you’re watching them play with house money, so from an emotional perspective, treat it as pure profit.

1. Does Julian have anything at all to do with this site anymore and if not, why?

2. What is PPP planning to do for Jared’s 10 year anniversary as a member. It’s coming up in ~430 days. Start thinking about it.—Chuck Diesel

  1. Envision Julian the way we do the Queen in the Canadian political system. She’s still there, she’s popular, we’re in touch, she re-tweets our articles. All the same things apply to Julian. At the same time, dude has stepped back from the direct running of the government because (and I feel like this isn’t as obvious from the outside) it’s a hell of a lot of work to do for years on end. So the actual government of his former colony is in the hands of attractive, charismatic locals.
  2. We’re going to attempt to have the most-commented FTB in the history of the site. Everyone will get their own thread, discursing on whatever topic they desire, and we don’t stop adding comments until literally no one can successfully load the webpage.

Thanks to everyone who contributed!