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Saturday FTB: Should the Maple Leafs choose Knies or the mystery box?

The Leafs reportedly want to keep an open spot for Knies

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United States v Czechia: Quarterfinals - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Andy Devlin/ Getty Images

Yesterday, we saw some quotes from Friedman on a radio segment he did, talking about what he thought (or heard?) that the Toronto Maple Leafs would do as far as making a big trade ahead of the deadline. He opened by opining Toronto would focus on getting a defenseman, which makes sense to me even though I’ve wanted better scoring depth since forever ago.

Sandin and Liljegren may be holding down the fort while literally everyone else is hurt on their defense group, but I don’t think any of us want Toronto to go into the playoffs relying on them that much. With the questionable health of Muzzin, you don’t want to risk other playoff injuries decimating your defense group when it matters... something that has happened to Muzzin in multiple playoff runs in years past.

But then Friedman said something that — to me — was pretty weird. Because one of the reasons he appeared to give for why Toronto would focus on trading for a defenseman is because they may not want to trade for a forward and... scare away Matt Knies from signing?

Here’s what Friedman had to say, specifically:

I think that is what they will do: They will say their first option is a D, and the Matthew Knies thing is important. They want Knies to play for them. If he doesn’t think he has a path, there is less of a chance of him playing with them, and he is a left-hand shot.

Now, to me that’s a bizarre thing to think. Was there an obvious spot for Abruzzese last year when he signed, or less of a chance to play? Knies will get at least the same treatment where he’ll get some playing time down the stretch, and if he shows he can hang maybe a spot on the playoff roster too. For Knies, if he wants to sign it’s because he thinks he’s ready and wants to burn a year of his ELC by going pro as soon as his NCAA season is over.

Here’s another blurb from Friedman:

It is an all-in year, but you also have to take care of your prospects. Knies is a steal of a pick for them in terms of what they identified and what they got. He is a guy who had a down year in his draft year, and Toronto didn’t have a first-round pick that year. They took a chance, and it looks like it has a chance to be an upper-deck home run.

So let’s put it to Leafs Nation: what do you want the Maple Leafs to do? Prioritize getting an impact defenseman, or an impact forward? Do you “risk” scaring away Knies this year to get more of an NHL ready impact forward right now in a pretty damn important playoff run? Or do you think Knies is the forward you need and you shore up the defense even more?

Poll

What should the Maple Leafs do at the deadline?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    Prioritize getting another defenseman
    (577 votes)
  • 20%
    Prioritize getting an impact forward with NHL experience
    (209 votes)
  • 21%
    Prioritize erecting a statue of Matt Knies on Legends Row for the impending Stanley Cup run he’s about to carry the Leafs on
    (221 votes)
1007 votes total Vote Now

LINKS FROM THE BRANCHES

Maple Leafs Practice Report: Järnkrok out, Simmonds in | by Katya

At the moment, the Leafs are at 23 men on the roster, including Järnkrok, so with extra forwards on hand, they don’t need to move him to IR. That might change when Brodie is ready to return. There are no cap implications to any of this, and no one is on LTIR, and everyone mentioned is already counting against the cap/LTIR pool.

Mitch Marner on pace to break another long-standing Toronto Maple Leafs record | by TLN

At the time of writing, ahead of Saturday’s tilt with Tampa, Marner has registered 338 career assists in 452 regular season games. This sees him sitting eighth all-time in franchise history, sitting just 11 points behind legendary defenceman Tim Horton in seventh place. Marner will undoubtedly pass Horton this season, perhaps even before the end of the calendar year, but he still sits some way behind the current all-time leader in the category, the late great Börje Salming.

Mitch Marner is a unique player in the NHL – and Maple Leafs history | by The Athletic

Marner was one of only two NHL forwards last season to register at least 90 points and average two minutes on the penalty kill. The other: J.T. Miller. During the points streak, Marner ranks just outside the top 10 NHL forwards in shot blocks and ranks in the top five in takeaways. He’s often turned those takeaways into goals for the Leafs. They’ve won 62 percent of the five-on-five goals when he’s been out there since the streak began on Oct. 27.

Leafs’ Brodie (oblique) to join team on road trip, not expected to play | by TSN

Defenceman T.J. Brodie is slated to join the Toronto Maple Leafs on their two-game road trip but is not expected to play, according to TSN’s Mark Masters. The 32-year-old blueliner has not played since Nov. 11, as he has been sidelined with an oblique injury.

How NHL teams have optimized power-plays to generate more goal scoring | by Justin Bourne

As it stands right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs are having a great year on the power-play, operating with a success rate of just under 25 per cent. Going back to the very early 1980s, their only seasons better or equal to that percentage were last season (better), and in 2017-18 (about equal). So yeah, not bad to have one of their best power-plays in their past 30 years.

What’s strange though, is that a 25 per cent success rate doesn’t get you as far as it used to around the NHL, in the same way that the value of a paycheck is diminished by inflation over time — you eventually need more just to keep pace. Five years ago in 2017-18, Toronto’s 25 per cent success rate was second in the NHL in power-play percentage. This season, they sit 12th at 24.1 per cent (the Minnesota Wild are ninth at exactly 25 per cent).

Hey, speaking of Matt Knies...

Other prospect Ty Voit with a goal and two primary assists last night, extending his lead in points for the whole OHL to seven.

Greb had him a good game as well.

REMINDER: Tonight’s Leafs game will be broadcast on Sportsnet only. CBC and City will be showing Habs vs. Oilers.

Have a great Saturday everyone!