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Mailbag: Villains and the Kessel Trade

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All that and more in this week’s mailbag.

Washington Capitals v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Why do most people pronounce ‘February’ without the first ‘r’? Is it similar to how ‘Wednesday’ is pronounced with the ‘d’ and ‘n’ reversed?—Mr Smithy

Honestly I think people have a bit of a hard time with the r-sounds that are so close together, separated only by a vowel sound. Sometimes people do a similar thing with library. You’re probably used to both words by now, but when I was in law school people called our school library the “lawbrary.” Say that out loud. Doesn’t it feel kind of weird?

Which is the correct pronunciation – is it Tomas Kaberl-ah or is it Kaberl-ay?.—Mike Brown’s Moustache

I think the latter is closer? At least, so Elite Prospects tells me. I always grew up with “Kaberlay” so the other one sounds weird to me.

So if the Sens rumours are accurate, it sounds like whoever is willing to take on the most of their Bobby Ryan salary commitment is going to take home Erik Karlsson. Would you make that team be the Leafs? I get Ottawa Senators fans would probably hate that. But the Quebec City Senators fans won’t really care too much.—Petersversion

I’m looking at this from a pre-trade deadline perspective, since that’s when the question was asked, so this assumes I’m getting at least two playoff runs with EK.

At what additional price, is the question? Because the Ryan contract is fucking awful. Seriously. I love Erik Karlsson and view him as a franchise-calibre player, and if you offer me him and the Ryan salary dump in exchange for middling prospects and picks and so on, I do it. If he offers me Ryan at 50% retained and Karlsson in exchange for the Leafs’ best prospects—say Liljegren, Kapanen, and a 1st—I do that too, easy.

But Pierre Dorion, really, ought to be demanding a player like Nylander or Marner. If I have to give one of them up in addition to eating a stupid cap hit on Bobby Ryan? Nah, fuck it. I know that’s a certain amount of endowment bias there but I’m just not having it.

What is the quickest way to ruin a team: bad ownership (too cheap/involved with the hockey operations, Eugene Melnyk for example), bad management ( can break this down into bad scouting, bad salary cap management/poor contracts, shitty trades, (Peter Charielli in Edmonton has done all 3 as an example)), or bad coaching (crap system/not getting players to commit or however you’d phrase it).—Fishingfreak99

Former PPP writer clrkaitken answered this in the original thread, and his answer was essentially the same as the one I would give. So I will quote him:

“The closer the source is to the ice, the quicker the problems manifest. The higher up the organization you go, the longer the problem persists.

So if you have a bad coach, that will cause immediate issues with your team but it’s fixable. If you have bad management that won’t cause problems as immediately as bad coaching but will create a problem that’s harder to overcome, and if you have bad ownership you might take a while for this to become a problem but it will eventually be a very difficult thing to overcome.”

If the price tag of trading for Erik Karlsson is taking Bobby Ryan as well, with all other things being equal (picks and prospects included in the package), how much salary retention is necessary for you to consider pulling the trigger?—Mapleson

I said this above, but it really depends very much on what the “all things being equal” is (or would have been.) If Ryan is at 50% retained and I’m not giving up a significant roster player, the Sens can have pretty much their pick of the Leafs’ prospects as far as I’m concerned. I’m not taking on the whole Ryan contract unless the return is pretty mediocre for Ottawa, and I suspect Ottawa discovered at the trade deadline that at least a few GMs felt this way too.

If the Leafs had never landed Freddie Andersen with the pick that came back from Kessel (and that pick fizzled into something not spectacular), and you had the ability to undo the Kessel trade, would you do it? Why/why not?

Side question… does it still chap your ass that the Leafs had to retain salary to move Kessel out?—The Constant Gardiner

This is a tricky question!

I hated the Phil Kessel trade at the time. I have mellowed on it somewhat, but I still don’t like it from the stance of where we were when it was made. However, subsequent to the Phil Kessel trade, we acquired Auston Matthews, and Auston Matthews outweighs pretty much everything in significance. In the position of making the trade in 2015, you have to consider the difference Phil Kessel makes in your lottery odds (like 7% or something). In the position of going back to undo it, you have to meddle with the timeline knowing we did get Matthews. I am not doing that for all the tea in China. So the Kessel trade stands.

I don’t love that we retained salary. I probably worry a little more than I need to about cap space, but I think there’ll be a point in the next few years where we wish we had another $1.2M in room to do business with. But is it the end of the world? Nah. It’s not the end of the world.

Would you rather have your eyes moved to the side of your head (right above your ears)

OR

Would you rather have your knees bend the opposite way?—Crazyliver

The latter. Walking in a weird-ass fashion is better than whatever the hell fish-vision I’d wind up with.

Presumably by the time this mailbag goes up the Olympic hockey tournament will be over. Do you think the NHL and IOC/IIHF will ever make up and have NHL players again, or do the issues of potential injuries, schedule disruptions, insurance costs and the like make it too difficult? Also, I’ve seen it suggested that the IOC turn hockey into an age-restricted event, which I think is similar to what they do for soccer (under-23 with three over-age exceptions). Not sure how that will work in a sport where NHL careers start at 18, but would you like to see the rules change going forward?—Goldenhawk99

I think the Olympics will only have NHL players again if the World Cup fizzles (the 2016 edition was not a roaring success.) If two essentially villainous entities are going to get together, both have to be convinced it’s way more to their benefit than not doing it. The NHL will have to be convinced it can’t do just as well without the Olympics.

Honestly, I just want it to be a best-on-best tournament. Period. The 2010 tournament remains one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. You can think of fun alternatives, but nothing compares. Besides, we already have the World Juniors which serve sort of the same purpose as an elite youth tournament.

Which Marvel or DC villain would you sign to be the Leafs next top RHD, and would you be looking to limit their term or their actual dollars during contract negotiations?—I Am Rad Boss

There were so many good answers in this threat. Deadshot was a popular answer, as he never misses, and I think he’s pretty excellent. Can a defenceman score 50 goals? Let’s find out! I would want to lock him up for term, he seems irreplaceable.

Another option I considered was Kilgrave, from Jessica Jones. Mind control is a powerful weapon; all he has to do as the last man back is mutter “shoot it wide” and our goals against are going to disappear. However, he also might mind-control the team into trying to kill me, and I think during the negotiation process I would be lucky not to wind up paying him $100M for 100 years. So let’s stick with Deadshot.

Who would you rather play in round 1: Boston or Tampa?—Kronzor

Boston. I think we have a chance, but are underdogs, against either team. However, the Leafs are probably better than Boston most of the time when the Bergeron line is not on the ice, and the Leafs are sometimes (not always) capable of surviving against Bergeron if the Kadri line is clicking. There’s a path there, and it’s not a cakewalk, but it is doable.

We wouldn’t be hopeless against Tampa, but they’re likely going to have at least one elite defenceman on the ice for 85% of the game, and their scoring depth is better than Boston’s. The Leafs’ ability to score in bunches may not overcome that.

What is the best realistic line up for the leafs next year? Please break down by lines.

PS. if it somehow includes Polak I will never read an article on this site again!—Blind Eye Ty

Best realistic is interesting, because you can distinguish between the best lineup they can realistically put on the ice next year or the one with the best long-term decision-making. Anyway: I decided to shell out for John Carlson as our RHD; I treated John Tavares as not realistically available.

Hyman - Matthews - Kapanen

Marleau - Kadri - Marner

JVR - Nylander - Johnsson

Komarov - Plekanec - Brown

Rielly - Carlson

Gardiner - Zaitsev

Dermott - Hainsey

Andersen

Sparks

This is financially viable for next season—I paid JVR $6.5M, Nylander $6M, Carlson $6.5M, and Plekanec $2M, which I think is at least close to believable—but it pretty much guarantees you’re going to need to dispose of Marleau the following year, and it’s going to make future additions tough. Still, it should make for a very deep lineup with a lot of scoring punch. I’m putting Johnsson in a bit of an awkward spot playing off-wing, but I think he’ll adjust and manage on that line, and I prefer having him there over Connor Brown.

If you don’t like splitting Matthews and Nylander, you might try Aaltonen as an offensive 3C of sorts. That’s a dicier proposition, though.

Given Florida’s history of hilariously bad trades, you are able to fleece them on a deal horribly (like, Martin + Leivo + Pick for one of the following gems). You are able to choose either:

A) Alexander Barkov, with the assumption that Babs will use him as a true shut-down/scoring centre in the 3 slot, or

B) Aaron Ekblad, to be our magical mystery #1 RHD to play alongside Morgan Rielly.

Who do you choose, and why?—cagedmercury

Barkov. I would rather be elite at centre and roll the deadliest forward lineup imaginable, and trust that our defence can manage well enough to survive. Aaron Ekblad is tempting, but that deal is expensive (he costs you an extra $1.6M over Barkov, for one thing) and...I’m not totally sure he’s the superstar RHD everyone likes to think. His results against tough comp this year have been a little less than awe-inspiring, and in his earlier years he benefited from playing with the hugely underrated Brian Campbell. He’s not at all bad, and I’d love to have him, but given the expense on that contract and how awesome Barkov is, I go with the centre.

What’s your favourite Pokemon? Why?—Kad Chilger

I have actually had this question previously, but am happy to answer it again: Gengar. I enjoy his goofy-ass grin and his weird shape, but he’s also an absolute killer in-game and very versatile. Three physical immunities, excellent special attack, a wide movepool—he can do it all. Ghosts are king.

How much Swedes could a Melnyk chuck if a Melnyk could chuck Swedes?—brigstew

He’d chuck as much Swedes as his bank account needs, if a Melnyk could chuck Swedes.

If the team with the first overall pick this year is willing to trade it away, what would you be willing to offer for it? Also, do you think trading for the #1 pick is worth it compared to trading for a top 10 pick instead?—LeafsFan709

The first overall is usually worth a hell of a lot more than pretty much anything outside the top three, and this year especially it looks like the first overall pick towers above the rest. If I were more aggressive with prospects I would probably be willing to shell out pretty spectacularly for it, and yet...I just can’t help the little voice in the back of my head that’s wary of drafting defencemen. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t pay heavily for the first overall pick and I wouldn’t pick anyone but Rasmus Dahlin, but...I wouldn’t move the Big Three, Kadri, Rielly, or Andersen to do it. Pretty much anyone else is on the table, though, in combinations. It’s very possible I will look silly for being this cautious before long.

For a top ten pick, meh. I get less interested as soon as it’s a second overall, although Svechnikov seems dope, and the value of the pick drops off sharply after that (although I find Zadina really fascinating.) By the time we get to tenth overall I’m not dealing Liljegren straight up for it.

Could God make a net so big that even Leo could hit it?—GreatKingRat

Lately, it doesn’t feel like it. :(

How bad is Gardiner at killing penalties? Is he:

a) Bad in a statistically demonstrable way;

b) Visibly bad;

c) Bad in ways that only the coaching staff who work with him in practice can truly understand?—Back In Black

It’s really hard to say, because he barely does it! Put it this way: Ron Hainsey has spent three times as many minutes 4v5 this season as Jake Gardiner has in the last three seasons put together.

Over those last three seasons, Gardiner’s 4v5 stats look to be pretty good—he’s the second-best of the eight Leafs defencemen who have killed penalties for at least 70 minutes in both expected goals against and in expected shots against, though again, he’s killed way fewer than anyone else on the list. (The first-place guy is Dion Phaneuf, if you’re wondering.) This season his results aren’t so hot, but again, the sample there is tiny.

Visibly bad? I’m inferring a little here, because I can’t remember Gardiner doing anything that memorable on the PK, but from his play generally you can see why he would worry a coach a little. He doesn’t really physically engage with people to the extent some other defencemen do. More importantly, Gardiner has a way of making hyper-aggressive decisions with the puck that turn out sometimes brilliantly, sometimes badly. When on the PK, his offensive gifts (which are legitimately incredible) are muted. I won’t go all the way to saying he can’t do it or is bad at it, but I think people do a thing where they recognize Jake is awesome at EV (true) and automatically assume he’s awesome at PK (I am not sure.)

So, well, I leave some room for what the coaches are discerning in practice.

You have just been made head of the IOC, and after a large debate and voting process, it has been decided that instead of having a different host city every year, there will now be one site that will be the permanent location of the Olympic Games. It is your job to pick a location. Where do you choose?

The location can either be in an existing city, or creating a new location somewhere. Let’s say you can have one location for the Summer Olympics and one for the Winter Olympics (or you can have them both in the same place, it’s your job not mine).—Exit Steve Left

The Winter Olympics are in Vancouver and the Summer Olympics are in Los Angeles. Both cities have succeeded in hosting before, both have a lot of the facilities already present, and both are in countries that can plausibly afford to host them. I don’t want to put a quadrennial circus somewhere that would really struggle with it financially.

For the Vancouver thing, it has the added benefit to me personally of putting the games a reasonable time zone to watch hockey from Toronto. Hockey is the only Olympic sport I care about at all. To be honest, they shouldn’t have let me run the IOC.

If Babcock was the GM of the Leafs and they had a good coach, everyone else in the front office remains the same, does he build a good team? Does he fall too in love with Weber and other “good pros”? Babcock GM has fascinated me today.—Bruceki

This is a really fascinating question, and I wish I could give a more certain answer. Babcock has never personally built an NHL or Olympic team, he’s just been a member of brain trusts that did those things. I get the strong impression, though, that he’s very influential in Toronto. I can’t help thinking that the team Babcock would build would be a lot like the team Lou and co. have built. I definitely get the impression that the Marleau and Polak signings, and the trades for Boyle and Plekanec, were exactly the kind of things Babcock would have done if he had sole control.

Would he build a good team? If he had good pieces to start from. You really have to get star pieces through the draft or you have to lift them from another team before they’re correctly valued, which is tricky if the other team is smart. If you give Babcock a core of Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Rielly, I bet he builds a team much like this one. Without those, I don’t know what he does, but I know he’d have a hell of a hard time.

Malkin?—Ghost of Bohonos

WHY I OUGHTTA

What’s the most famous colour?—NotARealOne

I thought about this for way too long. Blue. The most famous colour is blue.

Every Disney villain (let’s go with feature films by Disney Animation and Pixar, so from Snow White to Coco) is entered in a Hunger Games Battle Royale-like competition. Who do you bet on to win, and who do you bet on to go out first?—Exit Steve Left

Several people said “Cruella DeVil” for goes out first, and I think those people are correct. Cruella is entertainingly psychotic, but her motivating impulse is kind of stupid and her plans aren’t very good. Scar isn’t strong, but he’s crafty as hell.

As for who you bet on to win: ultimately Hades. There were many arguments made different ways, but Hades is immortal; he gets flushed into the River Styx in the movie Hercules, but I don’t think he is or can be killed. Add that to his God-like powers and I think he’s a clear favourite.

Would you rather:

The Leafs become a dynasty. They win 5 cups in the next 8 years and are smart about how they do it. At the end of the 10 year cycle, they’re a good team with a decent prospect pool for a team that hasn’t had a top-15 pick in a decade. However, you are not allowed to watch any games on TV, in person, or attend any team events or celebrations like parades. You can watch brief highlight packs on TV only (not online where you can pick and choose), and no game in an hour or game in 6 type things. You are allowed read recaps and discuss things online like this site. You missed the fuck out on a lot, but the team is in good shape at the end of the 10 years so there’s a chance something great could happen again that you’re allowed to witness (note: you still can’t go back and watch the games from the dynasty period, ever).

The Leafs win one Stanley Cup in the next 5 years, however, they struggle to win another for 5 more but fail. In the latter 5 years, they overpay UFAs and make bad trades, giving away futures in an attempt to stay competitive. At the end of the 10 year cycle of this hypothetical they are in dire straights. You are allowed to watch all the games and everything but there’s no dynasty, and there’s no guarantee they’ll be competitive again for a looong time.

You have to pick one.—Shield

This made me meditate a bunch on fandom.

Why are we fans of a team? It gives us something to do, and a shared activity to get passionate about. The idea of a fanbase is that we have a shared passion. If I couldn’t engage with the team meaningfully I would simply stop caring, and that would include interacting on this site or anywhere else. At that point, I would be valuing the extreme happiness of one group of fans over all the rest of the fans in the world, on the sole basis that I used to be one. It’s a bit like doing something to make your brother happy, on the condition that he stops being your brother and you no longer have any real connection to him.

So yeah, y’all get one Cup. Hey, it’s better than nothing.

What Olympians would you consider signing for Leafs? How much salary and what bonuses if they are over 35?—Mapleson

I’m assuming this is a realism-based scenario and I can’t sign, say, Kirill Kaprizov or Rasmus Dahiln. Once you add that caveat, none of them. I wouldn’t want to pay what I think Ilya Kovalchuk will cost this summer and I wouldn’t want anyone else.