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Mailbag: Tyler Ennis and Drinking Lots of Milk

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All that and more in this edition of the mailbag.

Minnesota Wild v New Jersey Devils Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

3.4 seconds. I assume this already happened and that’s why Auston got that huge lion tattoo.

Subway sandwiches are a perfectly good and enjoyable food for their cost. People hate all over them and then go bonkers to waste money on stuff that tastes worse.

I think you play what you think the best lineup is, rain or shine. Whatever happens with Andreas Johnsson happens, whether you extend him for cheap or trade him. A team in our position should be focused solely on trying to contend, we worry about what to do with the contracts in July. Overthinking Johnsson’s next deal to the point of playing a lesser lineup is missing the forest for the trees.

Yeah I think we have to go with dailies now. We’re so close to finishing our terrible mission.

Morgan Rielly has the leadership and the relative adult quality necessary to survive an evening sitting my beautiful children, Siegfried and Esmeralda. It’s why he should be captain. He won’t overreact when Siegfried wants to practice the bagpipes.

I’m pretty sure if I turned over my children to Travis Dermott they would come back with purple cornrows.

For the purposes of brevity we’re going to focus on the Big Three here.

#1. William Nylander

That Viking beard is coming in in style. William may be losing the hair battle on top of his head but he looks like he could wield an axe any day.

2. Mitch Marner

“But he’s clean-shaven!” you might say. Exactly. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to know your limitations.

3. Auston Matthews

@marnerassistfund

A post shared by Auston Matthews (@auston_matthews) on

If there were some sort of contest to look like a louche college student on holiday in Cabo, this picture would be a competitive entry. Open maroon suit, no tie, no socks, and just the patchiest face foliage. Maybe he just forgot his razor, it might not even be on purpose. Auston, we love you, but you’re not ready for this beard yet.

Not at all. If I were on vacation I would want to stay on vacation. Vacation is God’s ideal state and there is no shame in enjoying it. Also, hockey is a tremendous consolation for enduring Canadian winters, but let’s be real, Canadian winters suck.

The former, 100%. The prospect of a 6’4” duck is terrifying, but being swarmed by a belligerent Lollipop Guild’s worth of mini-enforcers yelling “Our contract was commensurate with value!” would be too much.

I am well, thank you. My cat now mostly doesn’t wake me up before 6:30, this is a big thing.

I think it works, as mentioned above. It’s a big moment. The first successful beard of the Big Three.

Conceivably quite a bit, and yet it’s hard to exactly quantify. We know the Leafs weren’t especially great at defensive zone play last year, but who was responsible for that? I got the impression some of it was a systemic failure to break out; the Leafs would try to help out low, and basically get run around in circles by teams that cycled up from the corner to the points. Teams like Boston and St. Louis would just go round and round and round the zone until they found a path in towards the slot. When the Leafs did try to break out, their forwards would zoom away waiting for a stretch pass. At least some of this, to my amateur’s eye, seemed to be a systemic choice, although I’m sure Mike Babcock was not super happy with how a lot of this worked out. Still, I think that’s going to be the biggest difference-maker.

I didn’t generally get the impression the Leafs’ poor defence was from a lack of effort; it’s hard to get the puck back. Sometimes the Leafs’ Fs would be energetically darting around and seemingly not achieving much. Sometimes the Leafs just needed to do a better job sorting out who they were responsible for in time to get there. Hopefully that will come. They’ll put on a bit more muscle, too. But really we need Mike to earn his money here.

Honestly I don’t think so. It would be interesting, but I don’t see it happening too often at 5v5, even with our super-powered forward group. Mike Babcock isn’t a stick-in-the-mud by any means but I don’t think that would suit his preferred mode of innovation; I can’t remember him doing it with the Leafs prior to now. If he has, someone let me know.

This is an interesting question. Maybe Connor Carrick. He seems entertaining and he knows a lot of stuff. (Obviously the real answer is Kulemin, but I don’t want to get predictable.)

I think Freddie is still the guy unless he totally implodes, his contract will see to that. I may just be reading in my own feelings here, but I think Sparks is very much available if another team is interested. I would bet on Curtis backing up for another year but I wouldn’t sleep on Calvin Pickard, either; I think this is a training camp decision.

My guess is the long-term plan in goal is Freddie until someone steals the job from him. Which I don’t think is imminent, but who knows. To sum up:

Freddie —> Starter

McE —> Backup

Sparks —> Traded

Pickard —> Marlies, for now

I should disclose beforehand that I am an atheist who was raised Catholic, so I can’t really accept any religion. But if I have to pick one, I think Buddhism generally has a humane outlook on life and they talk in a mature way about the nature of human suffering, which is to their credit. I would make a terrible monk, though.

I really wonder about this! I think this is very much a live question, and it’ll be determined in camp.

My lean, if I have to guess, is press box. He doesn’t seem like a natural fit for Mike Babcock’s 4LW, which raises the intriguing question of what we expect to do with him. Maybe he’s a Marlie. But if he can regain some of his old form, well, he was a quite good middle-six player once upon a time.

I think it would work extremely well, but—and this is the fun thing about the current Leafs’ top nine—it is very hard to make a wrong answer. There are a lot of great options.

I do really like Nylander with Matthews, for what it’s worth, because Nylander is a zone entry monster and that does Matthews good. But then, Marner is a genius playmaker, so it’s not like he’s going to be bad with AM34, while I bet Tavares and Nylander score 30 apiece in that setting. It’s just so wonderful.

The latter. Mike Babcock ain’t making an 82-game commitment to anybody, and he sure as hell isn’t making one to Joshua Leivo. I still faintly believe Dubas is going to get us Karlsson, in my heart of hearts. I have the right to dream.

This is a great question and, I regret to say, I honestly don’t know (I’m not sure anyone does.) Separating drafting and development is almost impossible. We don’t get to see the alternate universe where picks are developed differently.

If I have to hazard a guess, I would say a lot of teams are only now really taking development as seriously as they should have at a pre-NHL level. Even now, it seems crazy to me that key drafted prospects are turned over to junior teams that are theoretically totally independent of NHL teams; players in Euro leagues are similarly harder to access. There are more than a few anecdotal stories of teams picking guys and then ignoring them until they turn into something. (Kirill Kaprizov, who the Wild picked in the fifth round in 2015 and who has been dazzling in the KHL as a 20-year-old, mentioned that the team basically ignored him for two years after he was picked.) So if you’re looking prior to the current decade I would lean more heavily on scouting. Now? Let’s hope the Leafs’ new commitment to total development yields dividends.

Oak Leafs is an idea. He is beyond a mere physical form. If that idea would like to store some walnuts for the upcoming winter, that is his business.

I can’t imagine they wouldn’t actually deal him before the 2019 trade deadline. That would be insane. But I think Dorion is aware that the franchise will be devastated (well, more than now) if he doesn’t pull an A-plus asset out of the trade; given the rumours that Tampa Bay and Dallas were the frontrunners, that would mean Mikhail Sergachev, Brayden Point or Miro Heiskanen. I actually don’t blame Dorion for waiting and seeing if he can get that, but soon he’s going to have to ask himself just how long he’s prepared to wait. I could absolutely see him hoping and hoping for the market to pick up and being left dealing Karlsson for two late firsts, a second, and Taylor Raddysh or something in February. And that would be very funny.

I already did my long bit on why we shouldn’t trade Jake Gardiner, so I am deferring to my colleague Annie. “Jake Gardiner: has a nice smile, believes in ghosts, can be called “daddy” both literally and figuratively.” You gotta hold onto guys like that.

What is your favourite memory of Chad Kilger, former Leafs superstar?—Kad Chilger

I remember him most for his (checks notes) 17 goals and 11 assists in the 2005-06 NHL season.

It’s wild how memories fade of this stuff. I could have named every player on that team at one point and told you all sorts of things about their play. Now I can barely remember anything except vague sadness and how good Tomas Kaberle still was.

It seemed like last year it was ok bozak and jvr and komorov are leaving the team after this season so there has got to be space for Leivo then. Now it looks like he’s scrapping with Ennis ( and any marlie who may force their way on to the team in pre season) ,for the final spot on the 4th line. Will he ever catch a break? Also just what is he at this point?—Bobq27

I don’t expect Josh Leivo to get a meaningful chance with the Leafs without multiple injuries. It just doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards. His chance probably comes somewhere else.

As for what he is, he probably doesn’t have meaningful development left in front of him at age 25. But I won’t say for sure that we know what he is because he’s never had real minutes in the NHL for even half a season straight. I think there are teams where Josh Leivo would slot in as a middle-six wing option and score 15-20 goals. Whether he’s more than that, or will ever get the chance to prove it, I don’t know.

Riffing on this rank the front offices summertime fluff piece: For which team is your opinion most outside the norm? Not outside norm’s opinions, obviously, but the most extreme compared to the fans and the general public cited in the story? What do you think you see to rate them higher/lower than everyone else and why?—KatyaKnappe

The Washington Capitals, who were fifth on the list. Winning a Cup washes away all sins, and I don’t really think Brian McClellan has done a bad job, but if they don’t make that comeback against Columbus in Round One there is no way in hell his management team is getting rated fifth in the NHL. McClellan has made some good trades (getting Lars Eller for two picks), bad trades (dealing Marcus Johansson for two picks), good signings (Niskanen) and bad signings (Orpik), some understandable but eventually dangerous extensions (Oshie and Carlson), and some just straight-up bad extensions (Tom Wilson). I think he’s been active and he’s mostly acted in a way consistent with his team’s position, which is more than I can say for, I dunno, Jim Benning. I’d have them closer to 15th.

What are your favorite die hard villains in order from worst to best?—JaredFromLondon

I’ve only seen the first one. So Alan Rickman. I’m sorry, this is one of those cultural touchstones I was juuuust a bit too young for.

What do you expect from Tyler Ennis this season?—pumpedtires

35 GP, 13 points, a legion of fans who are not happy someone else is being played over him at 4LW.

Which prospects will likely be the beneficiary of a we can’t afford to sign everyone cap crunch in 3-5 years from now? Alternatively, which current leafs do you think will be expendable by then?—Bobq27

If you’re asking which prospects will be promoted from in our organization, it’s just whichever draft picks work out. If you’re asking me to narrow it a bit beyond that, left wingers and right defencemen on ELCs—which everyone we drafted this year probably will be in that timeframe if we sign them—are going to be in hefty demand.

If they’re not named Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Rielly, or Tavares, they’re expendable by then. I love Naz and he’s not expendable for a while yet, but we may not be in a position to extend him after his deal runs out four years from now. Beyond that, all the peripheral players who will be in their mid-to-late 20s—Hyman, Brown, Johnsson etc.—are all easy candidates to be gone if they need any kind of raise.

If you could teach every hockey fan one concept, which concept would have the biggest positive impact on hockey fandom?—Alspicer

If a player helps you outshoot and outscore the opposition, they’re a useful player, and if they don’t, they’re not.

There’s a lot going on in that concept, but I think it still counts as one. You’d still get people arguing that fights or huge hit counts or whatever help those things, but at least we might be able to move past the Jake Gardiner argument.

Hi Fulemin, how are you doing?

Also: which podcast was the most fun to make, and which was the least fun? Which caused you the most heated Twitter blowback? (I’m gonna guess Rostolainen-related comments on that one!)—cagedmercury

I am dandy, thank you.

They’ve been more fun as we’ve gone on, I think Arvind and I started to find our groove around January and we started to have a much better rhythm. Our recent one laughing at other teams (Episode 26) was a ton of fun to do, because we’re bad people and mockery is our strong suit.

The feedback on the podcast has actually been pretty positive throughout, I think because the first people that found our pod already liked our stuff and we’re only now really expanding. So I’ll substitute something else: the Matt Martin contract article Arvind and I wrote together when he was signed made a lot of people very mad. I don’t think anything else we’ve done has been so hated.

Do you think there’s a point where Bettman and/or the Board of Governors decides they’ve had enough of what’s going on with Ottawa that they kick Melnyk out of the league and force a sale of the franchise? There have been precedents in other leagues for different reasons: the NBA forced Sterling out of the Clippers because of racist comments, MLB gave Marge Schott a long term suspension from the Reds in the 1990s for similar reasons, and George Steinbrenner was suspended from day-to-day operation of the Yankees from 1990-1993 for paying a gambler to dig up “dirt” on Dave Winfield regarding a lawsuit about a contract stipulation.—Goldenhawk99

I think there’s a point, but the point is probably “Melnyk can’t afford to keep running even the skeleton operation he has now.” Melnyk is certainly capable of reaching that point, but...

My guess is the league would really, really prefer not to have to intervene like this. The Board of Governors also probably doesn’t like the idea of ownership being compelled to sell. Sterling administered a tire fire for decades before he managed to have his ode to racism caught on tape. And I am a little unconvinced that NHL would be more progressive than the NBA on this issue.

Short version: it’s not enough to run a budget team and it’s not enough to run a bad team. From our perspective as fans it seems cataclysmic because of how awful the Sens are going, but I think things would have to get significantly worse before the league forced Melnyk’s hand. They might well be hoping he figures out himself he should go, though.

Option a) a job worth $50,000/year with less than 5min commute time.

Option b) a job worth $100,000/year but with an hour commute time.

Which one do you pick?

If you pick a), at what salary would you start considering b)?

If you pick b), would you still pick it if it were $90k/year? $80k? Where is your line?—Mr Smithy

I really, really value my time. Commuting is a nightmare and I hate it. At the same time, $50,000 is way too much money to turn down.

I think the push point is probably $60,000 vs $50,000 or so, factoring in that less than five minutes almost guarantees that I’m walking to work and I’m saving money on transportation, potentially quite a bit. That said, I have no kids and am of a retiring disposition, so I don’t really need the extra money that much.

Age and “prime” years for a player are important, so I’ve read. It seems like this was a more common topic a few years back when the Leafs were building up, trying to time everyone right for max skill and lowest cap hit. Does being a contender make us look at age differently? This is not a familiar place for Leaf fans to be in, we are used to selling high on players.—Mike Brown’s Moustache

When you’re good you’re more justified in spending money on guys in their 30s, or trading to acquire them. Whatever you think of the Patrick Marleau deal, it makes more sense for the Leafs to do it after making the playoffs than after finishing in the basement.

Beyond that? It might make you a little more eager to lock in cheap depth with a little term instead of more dollars through prime years. I imagine the Leafs were trying to do this with Andreas Johnsson, who took his QO instead. But really, you always want good players at value. The margin for error is just smaller.

Do you think the leafs will look at a 2 year rental defenseman at this year’s deadline, similar to what Tampa did with McDonagh?—thehumourisironic

They might well.

A two-year rental would be a defenceman whose contract expires UFA in summer 2020. You would expect to get one from a team that is bad this season and doesn’t really expect to get better (like the Rangers were this past year.) I have a feeling, if you’ll forgive the speculation, that this question is aimed at Chris Tanev. But the time for the Canucks to trade Chris Tanev was a year or two back. I’m not sure what they’re doing or when they expect to start winning, but I very much fear they think they’re going to be a good team in 2019-2020.

I would keep an eye on names like Jared Spurgeon or Travis Hamonic, if you’re really hoping for this, but again, you need one of those teams to really struggle. Also, acquiring one of them probably guarantees the Leafs are losing either Gardiner or Zaitsev. Which you might be fine with, you just have to factor it into your calculations. My bottom line answer would be this is certainly possible, but you have to wait to see who comes on the market.

For entirely unknown reasons that don’t matter right now, your hockey league has decided that anybody who plays can only wear one (1) piece of equipment (plus helmet/skates of course), and must be entirely nude otherwise. Which piece of equipment do you choose to wear and why?—Exit Steve Left

The answers in the thread for this one were terrific and involved Cooperalls, one-piece body armor, and at one point, a mascot costume.

Assuming that I try to sustain the spirit of the exercise, and I’m assuming we also all get hockey sticks, the only answer is a cup. You gotta have that.

Player X is a current or former Leafs player. He’s a star, a superstar, a fan favorite, a media darling, a cult hero, or some combination of the above. Yet he just… rubs you the wrong way. Everyone else is a fan, but you just can’t get on board. You get why other fans or commentators or whoever love him, but you’ll never be able to really embrace him.

Who is Player X and why?—I Am Rad Boss

This is probably a reach, since he was only really viewed this way in the media and for a short time, but the stuff about Dave Bolland drove me nuts. He had an early hot streak and got hurt, and for several months you would get writers earnestly saying that Dave Bolland’s Leadership was what the Leafs needed. We were close to re-signing him to a deal that would have joined the Clarkson and Phaneuf contracts in the Leaf Cap Hell Pantheon, too, but Dale Tallon saved us.

Dave Bolland finished with 12 points in his Leaf career off a 24% shooting percentage. It was the epitome of the Leafs media a) going apeshit over imaginary leadership fairy dust and b) picking the wrong guy to credit for it. I’m sure Bolland is a great guy, but I was too annoyed at everything surrounding him to like him.

Why do you hate Riley Stotts?

Serious question: who do you predict will jump the most spots up the T25U25 rankings in 2019 compared to 2018. Who do you think will drop the most?—Brigstew

I don’t know who will, but Jeremy Bracco could, he’s positioned so that he has a good balance of talent (i.e. he’s still ranked) and yet he has room to move up. I’m not huge on Bracco but he could absolutely have a great AHL season next year with more opportunity.

I think Calle Rosen is a decent threat to go home to Sweden, at which point he would probably drop off the list entirely. This isn’t out of the question for Andreas Borgman, either, but Rosen seems more likely.

Would you rather swap your hands and feet with each other or eyes and ears?—LeafsFan709

Jesus. I guess the former, I might be able to do some cool stuff at least.

After the Stanley Cup, which hockey trophy is the best looking? This can be an individual award, another league’s trophy, a tournament trophy, your rec league trophy, etc.—Exit Steve Left

This is where my total indifference to all other sports shows me up. I think most trophies, if you have no attachment to their meaning, look kind of silly. I am particularly struck by this trophy for the U.S. Open winner in men’s tennis. Tennis is a good sport, as non-hockey sports go, and the tournament is prestigious. This trophy just makes me think “I’m a little teapot, short and stout...”

This random MLS Superliga Trophy, for a now-defunct tournament, looks cool though.

What style/genre of music has most grown on you in your post-30s adult life that would embarrass your teenage/early 20s Fulemin self?—The Constant Gardiner

Probably older easy-listening music. Chet Baker would have bored me to tears when I was 15 or so. Now my primary life aspiration is to be in a piano bar drinking cognac listening to this stuff.

What’s the best meal to eat out for and why?

I’d go with breakfast. A really good breakfast can set you up for a great day and the inverse is true too—FishingFreak99

I think you’re right about breakfast. I also think if you’re eating out for breakfast that usually means you have at least the morning off, so it’s sort of a package benefit. Dinner is the easiest meal to eat out for, but breakfast is the special occasions eating out meal.

A strange and mysterious rich person with a weird sense of humour offers you $250,000.00 if, for an entire year, you do one of the following:

1) Every single liquid you consume (i.e. drinks), including water, must be mixed with 50% (regular, cold) milk before drinking; or

2) Every single solid you consume (i.e. food), must be soaked in tepid water for 30 minutes before eating (in the state you’re going to eat it in).

Soups are considered food and must be mixed with 50% water (to avoid something like considering tomato soup a liquid/drink and adding milk to make a creamy tomato soup). You also can’t alter the food or prepare it in a certain way before soaking/adding water to make it good afterwards (like making a really over-reduced/seasoned soup/gravy and then “soaking” it in water, or really undercooking noodles/rice/oats or something and then letting the soaking finish the cooking – it has to be as you would eat it BEFORE it gets soaked). The amount of water has to completely cover the food.

So basically you’re going to be drinking cloudy water (and stuff like milk+beer/wine), or eating a lot of super soggy meals. You would get away with just having really milky coffee, but as per the rules it can’t be heated or steamed milk.

Do you do it, and if so, which option do you pick and why (and how would you deal)?—The Shield

I would pick #1. Lots of tea and coffee, and then for alcoholic beverages you’re having a lot of White Russians (Jared in the comments had a similar idea on this.) I wouldn’t say it would be my favourite thing to do, but I could absolutely manage it for $250,000. The food one is worse, it would ruin too many things, whereas several drinks work fine with milk. White Russians. That’s the bottom line.

Thanks to everyone who contributed!