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Mailbag: What to do with Mrázek and surviving as a tiny person in a dishwasher

All that and more in this edition of the mailbag.

Chicago Blackhawks v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

Welcome to the mailbag! As always, I got a massive quantity of questions, and for this I thank you all. Let’s roll.

There have been a few incidents of this, but really what I’ve noticed, to an agonizing degree, is Jake Muzzin making puck-moving errors. He’s not great at it and he’s a bit unfortunate in how much has gone in against him, but there have been several goals this year where they really were just primarily Muzzin’s fault. For a defenceman of his stature that’s a tough decline. Anyway, goals subsequent to turnovers do have a way of making everyone be out of position (because they may have been in the right position until very recently.)

It’s a combination of what they need to do and how they need to do it. I think winning one round and putting up a respectable showing in the second round—keeping in mind there’s a pretty good chance that second round would be against Florida, Tampa Bay, or Boston—would be enough to save them. If they fall in the first round or get totally embarrassed in the second, I think Kyle Dubas is going to get fired.

You probably tie a draft pick to Petr Mrázek and ship him off to a good home. There are moving parts here (Mrázek playing well down the stretch means it costs less to move him, Campbell having playoff success would raise his price etc.), but I think that’ll be the primary transaction.

He may have only played six minutes most nights. But they were unforgettable minutes.

[Scene: A bucolic farm. An old but sturdy barn shows signs of a new coat of paint, and several children are arguing the rules of baseball on a homemade diamond out front. Two men lean over the bannister on the veranda.]

CROSBY: So your answer’s final.

DONK: I’m too old for that stuff, Sid. It’s a young man’s game.

CROSBY: Hey, who are you calling old?

[The two friends share a laugh as the children scream horrible obscenities at each other.]

CROSBY: Well, I just thought I’d ask. Thought you might miss it.

DONK: Do I miss it? Do I miss getting called up because the Penguins always have like eleven guys out to “joint tenderness”? Do I miss getting fed pucks like a baby bird by two generational centres? Do I miss producing 47 points before getting paid $3M a year by the Buffalo Sabres and then scoring way less because they played me with like, Vladimir Sobotka?

CROSBY: Do you?

[Donk does not respond. Out in the field, the children are accusing each other of using human growth hormone to hit more home runs.]

CROSBY: Well, if you change your mind, we got a new contract, new jersey, new everything ready. A fresh start. A new name, even. [He leaves a few papers on the railing, then claps Donk’s shoulder.] See you around, buddy.

DONK: Maybe in the summer.

[Crosby smiles, then heads back inside. Almost unwillingly, Donk’s eyes pass to the Standard Player Contract, and the name on the top: Evan Rodrigues.]

I think if the Leafs lose this time, even if they lose well, Kyle Dubas gets fired. I’m not saying I’d fire him; I’m saying that Toronto’s expectations are too high and their stars too well-paid to stomach any more losses. There is zero tolerance for moral victories in this fanbase any longer, and while I could be wrong, I don’t expect there to be much patience for them in the front office.

Depends what “hindsight” means. If I know the Leafs aren’t going to win a round in the first three years of the contract, then I definitely don’t do it because the point of the NHL is to win in the playoffs. I might as well roll the dice on some alternative option and see if it does me any better, rather than settle for nothing in the best years of the contract and hope for more out of the back half.

If all I know is how Tavares has aged up to this point? Yes, I still sign him. Depressed and demoralized though I am, I still believe in building around stars, and Tavares has been a star for us. He continues to play very well and thus far has shown no real sign of decline. I also like that he chose to come home and play for this city, after I spent most of my life watching hometown stars either not sign here or turn out to be David Clarkson.

Unfortunately the obvious cure is as far out of your control as the disease. We’re not going to stop being pessimistic until the Leafs give us some playoff success to believe in. It’s as simple as that. You can’t reason your way out of pessimism when the end of every year has rewarded a pessimistic outlook.

For sports fandom in general: the benefits of it are mostly not that the team wins, they’re community, relief from boredom, and hope. If at some point those benefits aren’t enough to outweigh the misery of the Leafs going down in the first period to the Arizona Coyotes, then it’s okay to take a break. The Leafs will still be here if you decide to come back.

Oh, gosh, it’d be fun. But no, they shouldn’t. Sorry.

This is an interesting one. As I read it: if Jack Campbell is able to play, he wins, but the standard for allowing him to play is the same as a normal goalie. If he can’t play, I have to play a non-pro.

I take that in a heartbeat. I play Campbell often enough to guarantee the team a playoff spot (three games out of five the rest of the way will do it) and punt on the other games. I don’t care about more than making the playoffs because seeding doesn’t really matter; if I have Jack, I win, and if I don’t, my chances are miniscule anyway. After that, it’s Campbell every playoff game until we win or he can’t play. Stay healthy, Soup.

This is a really interesting question that I cannot answer fully; I can’t find a robust way to search for it. However, I did play around with the wonderful site Natural Stat Trick, which goes back to 2007, and this is my best guess.

The Winnipeg Jets swept the Edmonton Oilers last spring despite only leading for 20 minutes and 52 seconds across the whole series.

  • They took the lead in the third period of Game 1 (led for the last 10:46)
  • They won Game 2 by a 1-0 score in overtime (never led before winning)
  • They won Game 3 by a 5-4 score in overtime (never led before winning)
  • They won Game 4 by a 4-3 score in triple overtime (led for two brief stretches adding up to 10:06)

Perhaps conscious of how lucky they were to win Round 1 in this fashion, the Jets did not lead at all (!) en route to getting swept by the Habs in Round 2.

The 2021 Jets have, by far, the least time spent leading in the playoffs of any team to win at least one full round since 2007. However, it’s possible I missed a team over this time stretch that led very little while winning a round and then led a lot more in other rounds. Still, I suspect the Jets are the answer to the question for the last 15 years, at least.

The thing about the Kerfoot/McCann saga is that it was Seattle choosing between Kerfoot and McCann, not Toronto. The Leafs were choosing between protecting the two of them and protecting Justin Holl. Unfortunately, after a pretty rough year for Holl and a massive shooting heater for McCann (he’s already set a career high in goals, with 15) I doubt anyone feels too great about that.

Second question: The Leafs should want to go for it this season, and yes, I think if the deal is good Dubas will move another first. I’m not sure whether or not he’ll do it for a rental; a Jake Muzzin-esque trade would be more to his taste, I imagine. But who? Well, other people asked that, so I’ll address it a little later on.

I know very little about football, but the big reason for the Leafs’ drought was the horrific ownership of Harold Ballard, which rendered the team non-competitive for basically the whole time he was majority owner (1972-1990). As I understand it, Jerry Jones has pissed off a great many people as owner/GM, but he also won three championships early in his tenure and the team has at least sometimes been decent since. The heart of the Leafs’ misery was the nearly two decades where they were never even close to the contending tier of the NHL. Despite what people will tell you, they’ve been up and down, sometimes good and sometimes bad, in the three decades since.

So if whoever succeeds Jerry Jones is utterly destructive in a way he hasn’t been, then yeah, maybe the Cowboys will end up in a similar spot.

No, we’re a city of rule followers at heart. But also, the parade is going to be outside.

This is a very broad topic, but I’ll give one answer suggested by Hardev: New Jersey Devils defenceman Damon Severson. He’s good, he’s 27, he shoots right, he’s under contract for another year after this one at $4.167M. I don’t know if the Devils want to give him up (they probably shouldn’t) but they suck right now and they might not be able to fix that before he turns UFA. Slotting him in and dealing out Justin Holl would be a nice upgrade. The Devils, if they were to do this, would want a first and a prospect, I reckon.

I’d be surprised. Muzzin is having a tough year and I don’t think he returns you much in a trade given his age and his injury history. I think the Leafs would sooner hope for some kind of return to form than unload him.

Honestly the most likely ending to the Leafs’ season from where I’m sitting is that they draw a very good team in Round 1, play well but not well enough, and lose. By no means is it guaranteed; it’s just very believable.

This is very close. For the record, that’s:

Group A

Ondřej Kaše (1x$1.25M, expires RFA)
Michael Bunting (2x$950K)
Nick Ritchie (2x$2.5M)

Group B

Zach Hyman (1x$2.25M)
Joe Thornton (1x$700K)
Jimmy Vesey (1x$900K)

I think both Kaše and Bunting are positive assets with cost control, while Ritchie is basically dead weight. I love Zach Hyman and consider him a better all-around winger than either Kaše or Bunting, but you only get him for one year in this scenario. Thornton I don’t think was really of much use beyond beard hair and a few nice passes early in the season; Vesey achieved nothing.

So: Group B has the best overall player and Group A has the worst contract. However, Group A has three cheap, useful years under contract plus whatever value Kase’s RFA rights have; Group B has one cheap, useful year and two replacement-level forwards. If you split Nick Ritchie’s excess salary between Kaše and Bunting, you’re still fine with both contracts, I think.

I think I would narrowly take Group A, mostly because of the second year of Michael Bunting at $850K. I would understand people choosing the other way around, though. Good question!

They shouldn’t be super excited about it, but I’m a little less down on this than Michael is. Mrázek has played four games in between injuries. No, they haven’t gone well, but they’re four games for a guy who’s played 304 others in his NHL career, and who has mostly looked like a decent 1B through that timespan. Now, I do think there’s a pretty good chance Mrázek does have to get turfed in the summer so Jack can get his money, and if the second half of the year goes like the first one did, that’s going to be expensive. But I think the rest of this season Mrázek will settle in a bit. I hope so.

They would work as a line because they’re too good not to work, but I don’t think they would work well enough that I want to do it, because it weakens the rest of the roster. Matthews can carry two ordinary middle-six wingers, but the fact that he can doesn’t mean he ought to, and I think there are diminishing returns with a Nylander-Tavares-Marner line because none of them is that outstanding a forechecker and because there is only one puck. To emphasize: they would definitely be good. I just don’t think there’s much added value for the team as a whole.

When the blog name has come up I’ve actually been one of the voices arguing to keep the old one. I’m a traditionalist at heart.

Is there a hole in the snow Doug Ford could dig himself into that he could never get out of?—Kidkawartha

There is basically no disaster of which I would consider Doug Ford incapable.

I’m going to be an optimist here and say Matthews is a Leaf on an enormous third contract. I do fear him walking, especially if the team continues to be stuck at zero rounds won in his tenure; for the record, though, I’m a hell of a lot more worried about him going to Los Angeles, New York, or Miami (i.e. the Panthers) than I am about him going to Arizona, a wasteland of a franchise that may get relocated by then anyway. Matthews seems to me like a big-stage, big-city kind of guy; he wants to go somewhere major and be a star. The Panthers might not quite seem that way in hockey, but they’re in very good shape for the future and, uh, don’t look now, but they might be poised to beat us in the playoffs this year.

But where is McDavid, you ask? I think he’s out of Edmonton if they don’t get their shit together; they’ve still got a long time to do it, but they’ve pissed away plenty of years already, so who knows? If Matthews is gone I would expect the Leafs to throw a bank at him, but since I have Matthews staying in Toronto, I’ll guess McDavid is off to Detroit. They’re maturing well and should be in prime contention years by then, and Steve Yzerman looks like he knows what he’s doing. The Wings just have to hope McDavid’s experiences with Ken Holland haven’t soured him on anything the guy touched.

I think they were slippers. God bless him.

I refuse to answer this question statistically. Yes. He will. Win it for Geoff’s grandpa, guys.

I don’t see any scenario where I don’t drown long before the washing machine announces the completion of its task with a cheery sequence of beeps. The enormous (to me) wet clothes would crush me down into the water within seconds, and then that’s that.

The dishwasher therefore wins by default. A drying cycle would, admittedly, be pretty rough if that’s included, but I can at least conceive of surviving the washing cycle by climbing up as high as I can early on and hiding in a bowl or something.

No! Jesus.

We were Richie Rich before, and we’re Richie Rich now.

Buzz Flibbet is a complementary player at heart and does not take his lower status personally. He works hard, says the right things, collects his pay, drives home in a sensible car, and has tender, romantic sex with his spouse. It’s a good life.

Dubas is one of the most progressive GMs in the NHL. He is also less free from traditional habits than that adjective would imply; he likes acquiring players he knows from previous experience or who go through organizations he knows well, and he has made gestures towards traditionalism in the past (Kyle Clifford is a good example of both.) Still, he’s built a skill-heavy team that does well in advanced metrics and we know he pays attention to them, and I don’t think that’s a given. So back to the top: he is progressive, by NHL standards.

Given the option of only getting a top 6 forward or a top 4 dman, which one would you prefer them to add, and how high calibre of a prospect would you give up for that option?—thehumourisironic

Top 4 defenceman. I mentioned Severson above and I am increasingly enamored of the idea. I consider Sandin as having graduated at this point, so I would probably consider giving up any prospect other than Nick Robertson, in whom I still believe. That said, if I’m giving up Rodion Amirov, Topi Niemelä, or Matthew Knies, I want the pick price to go down by comparison; I would put a first with a lesser prospect, or a second with one of these, but I don’t want to pony up a first and one of the better prospects.

(There were a couple of questions along these lines, so please consider this my answer to them. I want a second-pairing RD with useful term above one year, and I will pay a first and a prospect to get it.)

How much does the fear created by your outsized successes and continued record of high achievement cause self-doubt that may stand in your way of leading in every sense of the word and implementing a clear vision for the future, compelled by the mission and values of your organization?—I Am Rad Boss

I have learned that, as a high-achiever, I am especially prone to feelings of anxiety in spite of my lengthy list of immensely impressive accomplishments. However, when I remember that human beings are not widgets or cryptocurrency, I am inspired to invest in people as a true leader.

Which board games do you feel are best enjoyed by the following Leafs, and why:

  • Auston Matthews
  • William Nylander
  • Ilya Mikheyev
  • Morgan Rielly
  • Jake Muzzin
  • Michael Hutchinson

—McCauleysSelke

Matthews: Pictionary. I don’t know, man, I just feel like he has visual flair.

Nylander: Connect Four. And he’s weirdly good at it.

Ilya Mikheyev: Duck Hunt. “That’s not a board game”, you say? Mikheyev picks up the Duck Hunt laser gun and fires it anyway.

Morgan Rielly: I feel like Rielly is secretly pretty shrewd at Settlers of Catan. He doesn’t make a big deal out of it, but he knows his way around the hexagons.

Jake Muzzin: Backgammon. He’s old-school.

Michael Hutchinson: Trivial Pursuit. Everybody loves it even though he’s not very good.

What’s your favourite musical album in a genre that you generally don’t like or listen to? What’s your least favourite album that you feel you should like based on your other favourite albums, but don’t?—Borjed To Death

Favourite in a genre I don’t really listen to: Leon Vynehall does a lot of house/techno stuff, and I’m normally not huge on that, but his Music for the Uninvited is a great album. Relaxed enough to work as background, but with a sneaky amount going on when you focus in and really listen through headphones. Have a listen.

Should like, but don’t: A ton of hipster-y people like me adore Lonerism by Tame Impala, and...it’s fine? It has one legit good song (Elephant) and then a bunch of mid-level 60s soft psychedelia, which sounds well-crafted but not very inspired. It mostly seems like nostalgia for better records than itself.

When Kyle Dubas eventually writes his Chayka style Sportico article a couple years after leaving the Leafs, what movie could be used to best represent the theme/tone of what he writes?—shinson93

Dubas will be more honest about having made mistakes, because he always has been up to now, and he’ll also be subtler at giving non-answers that sound like answers. I think an under-acknowledged facet of Dubas’ public face is that he’s good at sounding like he’s saying more meaningful things than he is. He peppers in very occasional real tidbits in a whole lot of well-articulated PR, and it makes the whole performance seem more genuine. I’m not knocking this, by the way; you have to manage the media as a Leafs’ GM or they’re going to eat you alive.

So: let’s pick a movie with smooth dialogue and perhaps not a ton of substance. Jerry Maguire works, and hey, Dubas was already an agent for a bit.

If you ran the league with a classic iron fist, what are the first three things you would do?

Assuming Gary, Bill and George have already been fired into the sun before you got there.—Rickap

  1. Larger nets. I want goals.
  2. 3v3 OT is ten minutes.
  3. No head hits. If the point of contact is the head then you can’t throw the hit. No more dancing around.

We’d have to find out how strong my iron fist was pretty soon with these changes, but hey.

What are the Leafs going to do with Josh Ho-Sang?—SergeiBuriesIt

It’ll depend how the rest of this season goes for him and for the Toronto Marlies, but my guess is he plays out the year in the AHL and next year he gets a two-way deal with a meaningful AHL salary. He comes into training camp next year with a chance at an NHL job.

Let’s say you are telepathic and have an opportunity right now to read the thoughts of one of the following Leafs-connected people for each of these two following items: insights on the Leafs current strategy—management or on ice game; and insights about their personal life. You can pick the same for both, or pick a different one for each? Who would be your pick or picks?

  • Kyle Dubas
  • Sheldon Keefe
  • Auston Matthews
  • John Tavares
  • William Nylander
  • Mitch Marner
  • Morgan Rielly

Species

I absolutely want to pick Kyle Dubas’ brain. I’d be curious how he truly feels about the team he’s assembled, what he was hoping for, what he plans next etc. I’d also want to know how he feels about that famous Kadri for Barrie and Kerfoot deal; he obviously isn’t going to say so while Kerfoot is still on the team, but I’d guess he considers it a mistake the way most of us now do.

I don’t care too much about the personal lives of players beyond wanting them not to do anything terrible, but I would be a little curious to know whether William Nylander really does just float through life with the pleasantness he appears to. He just seems like he has a nice time with things. I admire that.

Depending on the month of the season, what’s the perfect cocktail for watching a Leafs game on TV?—JerseyLeaf

I’m more into beer than cocktails, although I could go for a jokey answer on this and find a cocktail called a Spring Depression or something. Instead I’ll go for an actual recommendation for watching hockey in January: Monty’s Aged Rye Ale. It has a bit of a firewood tinge to it, so it’s definitely not going to be everyone’s favourite, but it’s very good as a beer to drink slowly and enjoy in the winter. (If the Leafs are getting smoked you may want something you can chug.)

Rank the worst Canadian media reporters - like Simmons, Cox, Feschuk, Matheson etc. I don’t know many of the non-Toronto ones, and you may not either, so this may not answerable.—jeffgm

Oh, Jeff, you may rest assured terrible media reporting is a point of personal interest for me. There are three basic pillars of bad hockey media:

  • The quality of the hockey reporting is vapid, cliched, meaningless, and/or dumb
  • They have sold out utterly to the entity they cover
  • They seem like assholes

Different reporters score differently on the three measures. For example, Simmons does not report very well and does not seem very nice, but I don’t think he’s sold out to MLSE and he doesn’t really max out on the other two scales enough to rank here. I don’t have a great knowledge of other Canadian markets, especially the French-language Habs coverage, but here are my worst three, counting down to the worst:

3. Jack Todd: Most sports reporters pride themselves on impartiality; “no cheering in the press box.” Jack Todd is angrier if Auston Matthews got on a highlight reel than if you’d egged his house. I seriously think he’s a bigger, or at least a more furious, fan of the Habs than I am of the Leafs. Rabid fandom doesn’t make anyone a good analyst (he isn’t), nor does it especially improve Todd’s already charmless demeanour.

2. Michael Traikos: Lots of veteran sports reporters have a bad time on Twitter. Twitter is a rapidly-shifting game of Takes and Ladders that rewards quick soundbites better than it does long-form, thoughtful analysis. However, Michael Traikos has a bad time on Twitter because he has incredibly dumb opinions and then is a real asshole about them. His recent adventures have included picking the Blackhawks as a contender last summer, railing against adults who wear bike helmets (?), carping for the reinstatement of disgraced coach Joel Quenneville, and many more. Just being wrong about hockey is one thing (although, you know, it’s not ideal for a hockey reporter to do all the time), but Traikos is a real multi-sport athlete of bad takes. I was very close to having him first.

1. Mark Spector: Spec, as he’s lovingly called, scores high on all three metrics, though I’m sure he would be upset to be evaluated with anything called a metric. The Edmonton media are infamously the worst in hockey, but they are not all created equal; Jim Matheson is not the best analyst but mostly seems like a nice guy outside of hockey, whereas David Staples can’t properly be held to normal standards after his tragic misinterpretation of a sink as a urinal. Spector will always—always—go to the mattresses defending Oilers management, gloating over their temporary successes and blaming their less temporary failures on various secondary players. This blame has a curious way of settling on non-Canadian players in particular. (I have linked a tweet with the screenshots since Sportsnet edited Spector’s article to sound less xenophobic after publication, but I can confirm the pictures show what it originally said.) Spector is the worst of how hockey is covered in this country: he’s not good at it, he holds the wrong people to account for bad reasons, and he’s a jerk. He was also once President of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Make of that what you will.

Who wins the Stanley Cup first?
(a) Connor McDavid
(b) Leon Draisaitl
(c) They win a cup together, or
(d) Neither win
—Keep Austin Weird

I’ll start by knocking out one option: I wouldn’t bet on c). The Oilers are mediocre, and they are not showing signs of improving. Maybe McDavid and Draisaitl will want to play together when/if they leave Edmonton, but I doubt it, because they’ll both be very expensive free agents and they’ll both presumably want to go to a good team that already has some players worth money. Unless they do the rare Parise/Suter thing, they’re splitting up.

Connor McDavid is the best player on Earth. However, that’s also a reason why the Oilers won’t trade him if they have the remotest choice. Unless he actively threatens to hold out, I don’t see them trading him until he’s maybe two years from free agency and they admit they’re not going to win in those two years. Draisaitl, by contrast, gets to UFA status a year earlier, and don’t look now, but he might be in the beginning stages of the famous Edmonton Media Scapegoating Treatment. I think Draisaitl has a much better chance of getting out of Edmonton in the next few years, and thus he has a better chance of picking a real contender. If he just chooses to get paid a whack of money to be the best player for a middling franchise, though, his chances sink back past McDavid’s.

I’m very tempted to say neither of them will do it, or that when they do it’ll be as cheap Old Guys Without A Cup in their mid-30s. However, I will say Draisaitl based on his potential head start.

Thanks to everyone who contributed!