Why do so many people just blame Mike Babcock for ice-times during games, when so much of that is dictated by DJ Smith and Jim Hiller? Or maybe the more appropriate question is: how much blame for this do you put directly on Babcock, and how much do you think is the fault of Smith and Hiller in-game decisions?—Auston Matthews

Justin Bourne did address this in a recent Athletic article, and it’s fair to say some of the blame, if blame there is, is not on him.  At the same time, the biggest concerns people seem to have are a) the overuse of Leo Komarov and b) the fact Roman Polak plays at all (worth noting Polak’s 5v5 ice time is not actually that high.)  Babcock puts Komarov on the Kadri line, and Babcock puts Polak in the lineup, so in those cases, it really is primarily him.

Since I recently discovered how good curried mayo is on stuff like sweet potato fries and many other foods, what types of culinary things have you learned about and enjoy?—Mike Brown’s Moustache

I’m a deeply unimpressive person as a foodie, but one thing: I am floored that more people don’t talk about how good quality samosas are.  They’re unbelievable.  It’s a miracle in our midst and no one is discussing it enough.

Out of the RHD’s in your article, who is A) your dream-hearteyes-probably-never-happen pick, who is your choice as the best realistic option, and who would you avoid like the plague?—I Am Rad Boss

Including both East and West:

a) Drew Doughty makes this team a contender immediately.

b) Radko Gudas, God help me.

c) Erik Gudbranson.  Seriously don’t, Lou.

Who (aside from Rush) would you pick to replace Kid Rock at the ASG?—I Am Rad Boss

I’m going outside the box a little because they’re instrumental, but Explosions In The Sky are the all-time greatest soundtrack to epic sports events and I can attest they’re great live.  The kick-in in “Greet Death” (48 seconds in) is what I’d want playing over the epic Stanley Cup Finals montage of my career.  You know, if I had one.

Why is the NHL?—clrkaitken

Christ knows.  I already pontificated on the Kid Rock thing, but one other angle:

Say I’m a completely amoral corporate drone seeking only to do whatever will work to the profit of the league.  Why is the answer Kid Rock?  Why would you not pick someone who isn’t going to piss off a big chunk of your audience for likely negligible gain?  Even if you don’t care about his behavior on its own account, it’s a bizarre choice.

At this point in the season, given the current standings, the performance as of late, and the likelihood of the roster not getting a major in-season upgrade, what would constitute a successful end to the season for you? What do you think it would be for the management and coaching team?—Goldenhawk99

The easy thing to say is to win a playoff series, but Boston right now looks like a serious contender, and losing respectably to them—we’re still only two years out of last place—wouldn’t necessarily be an embarrassment.  What I want is for the Big Three to all take steps in the latter part of the year, and for Gardiner-Zaitsev to begin to look like a functional second pairing.  If they can do that, that will give me more hope for next season and for a big summer to try and get serious about going for it.

Imagine that the Leafs’ front office’s analytical models and strategies someday blow way past everything we’ve ever seen in the public domain. What would that look like to us peons? Has that already happened? If we judge their choices based on our hopefully someday outdated tech, are we gonna notice when they get smart? Or will we be too busy with the parade(s).—Kad Chilger

I would think that you would have a mix between decisions that lined up with our plebian understanding and decisions that did not, but that would lead to excellent results.  Things like Corsi, while they have clear limitations, do mean something, and as much as proprietary analytics may have moved past them, I still don’t believe a bad Corsi team is going to be a good team in general.

Between you and me, while I’m sure the Leafs have a lot of magic tricks I’m unaware of, I don’t think the analytics folks are making the final calls for the Leafs, so I’m not sure how much we can infer about the analytics they may have from our front office’s behavior.

I recall this was a big thing when discovered many years ago, but, for some reason it is recently being widely talked about in Trek fan circles again. In The Next Generation, there were several subtle hints and clues spread across a number of episodes that there were dolphins aboard the ship that were actual members of the crew. For example, one episode has a background announcement which refers to a part of the ship as “Cetacean Ops.” Another episode a person is overheard saying “you should go see the dolphins”.

Assuming a method for communication had been established that allowed dolphins to make an actual contribution to operations of the Enterprise, and they were not there as something like zoo animals, or for research purposes, what do you think they would be doing? What tasks would dolphins complete on the Enterprise-D? Would they go on an away mission? Perhaps to investigate things in an ocean on another planet and communicate with other sea creatures? Could they perhaps do very advanced tasks related to science and math with the appropriate interface by then? Would they also do mundane tasks like plotting courses and crew evaluations? What would happen to the dolphins if the ship went into battle? Is there a dolphin escape pod? I need your thoughts on this!—Species 1967

So we have a lot to address here.  If dolphins are bona fide members of the crew, that means that dolphins as a species have to have evolved to a considerably higher level of intelligence than they possess in the present day.  Dolphins are very smart animals, but they’re not a patch on humans, despite the excellence of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Star Trek: TNG takes place c. 2364, so three and a half centuries from our current benighted age.  The arc of natural evolutionary development required to raise dolphins to a human or superhuman intelligence level would take much, much longer than 346 years, which in evo terms is the blink of an eye.  We have to conclude, then, that the dolphins were specifically engineered, presumably by the Federation, and that the expenditure of this level of effort on this specific species had to be because the dolphins served some specific purpose that humans were not able to fulfill.  Otherwise, why bother?

So, the dolphins have to be there for some sort of ocean-related purpose, to get to places where it is either difficult or inadvisable for humans to go assisted by marine technology. My guess is the dolphins are there so that the Federation can explore aquatic worlds without damaging sea life with machines.  Of course, while they’re not doing that, the Cetacean Ops are handy to do all sorts of other work, but that’s their main job.

TL;DR: they’re there to talk to jellyfish.

Why do people from other cities in Canada hate Toronto so much when it’s clearly the #1 best city in the country?—Exit Steve Left


In a videogame, what was the longest you’ve ever been stuck by a boss or event that you couldn’t get past?—Mr Smithy

When I was about eight or nine, I was stuck in a particular dungeon of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening because I could not for the life of me figure out a particular goddamn clue.  The clue (found elsewhere in the dungeon; I didn’t even figure out what it was related to) was “First, defeat the imprisoned Pols Voice; last, Strafos...”

I did not know what any of these were, but there was another room in the dungeon with three enemies. One of them was walled off until you moved a block to let it out; this was the imprisoned Pols Voice, not that it was labeled (WHY WOULD IT BE CALLED A POLS VOICE?  IT DOESN’T TALK.)  You had to kill it first and then kill the other two enemies in order (one of which was “Strafos”), and then a secret door would open.  Because Strafos (also not labelled) always attacked me on the way into the room, I always killed Strafos first out of self-defence.  And so I never found the door, and I was stuck.  FOR FUCKING MONTHS.

I’m still upset about this.

How do you even write anymore? How does anyone?—Ghost of Bohonos

You have to ride the wave as your muse bids you.  If you’re pissed off, then you write something pissed off; if you just want to make fun of the opposition because that’s all you’re up for, then do that.  Writing is a channeling exercise, is the best I can offer.

Second coaching question: what is your opinion on Komarov’s usage/Matthews’ non-usage? Do you think Babs and the staff have lost it completely? Are they trying to pump and dump Leo? Has sports science taken over and they’re trying to San Antonio Spurs their way into a super strong final 20 games and playoff push?—Auston Matthews

Leo Komarov is playing a bunch because there is a particular job--two-way winger on the shutdown line, as well as penalty killer—that Mike Babcock does not believe he has a better alternative for.  Whether he’s right, I don’t know, and whether that’s worth the zero offence that Komarov now provides, I doubt, but I at least follow the reasoning.

Auston Matthews, I strongly suspect, will get a big bump in ice-time in the playoffs, as he did last year, so yeah, I think that part of it is sports science at work, or at least, is a rest idea.

To celebrate Breaking Bad’s 10th anniversary of its debut on January 20th, did you ever watch the show? If so, has there been a better-constructed and executed TV show in the ten years since?—Auston Matthews

I watched a couple of episodes and didn’t get into it.  I recognize this is sacrilege but I have to either like the characters or the show has to have entertaining dialogue, and Breaking Bad hit neither button for me.  I’ve heard most of the plot of the series through pop culture osmosis now and I don’t think I’m going to pursue it.  Sorry :(

I’m not the most dedicated TV watcher, but the best show I’ve seen in the past decade is Season 1 of True Detective, which I think is legitimately separate from the crap Season 2 (different story, different plot, different cast.)

Knowing what we do now, if they redid each of the last 10 or so drafts (so up to the JVR draft), where do you think the 1st rounders who are currently Leafs would go? Would they be taken higher? Lower? Stay the same?—Exit Steve Left

This is an interesting one.  Steve always has challenging questions.

The Leafs have nine players who were drafted in the first round since 2007. So let’s start.

  • 2007: James van Riemsdyk was originally picked 2nd; I think now he drops to 7th.  Ahead of him are Patrick Kane, Jamie Benn, P.K. Subban, Logan Couture, Max Pacioretty, and Jakub Voracek.
  • 2008: Jake Gardiner was originally picked 17th; I would have him 9th now.  I pick him after Steven Stamkos, Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, Jordan Eberle, Roman Josi, John Carlson, and Derek Stepan.
  • 2009: Nazem Kadri went 7th, and I’d probably keep him there.  Five of the six guys before him would be the same, too: John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Matt Duchene, and Brayden Schenn are all still ahead of him, though the last two not by much.  Kadri moves ahead of Evander Kane, but Ryan O’Reilly jumps them both.
  • 2012: Morgan Rielly went 5th, and he moves up one slot to 4th.  This was an absolute garbage draft for forwards, by the way; Connor Brown probably makes the top 20 in a redraft.  Anyway, this time around, I take Hampus Lindholm, Filip Forsberg, and Andrei Vasilevskiy before Mo (I’m arguably making a homer pick taking Rielly over Jacob Trouba, but whatever.)
  • 2013: Frederik Gauthier went 21st.  You know, as sad as that is, it’s not like he was an unbelievable reach; we’d love to have gotten Brett Pesce or Burakovsky instead, but my approximate guess is that I would likely still pick Gauthier by the middle of the second round, and I don’t think he’s an NHL player.
  • 2014: William Nylander went 8th, and Kasperi Kapanen went 22nd.  I think I take William 4th now, behind Aaron Ekblad, Leon Draisaitl, and David Pastrnak.  Kapanen might sneak up a couple of spots but he doesn’t move all that much; about as many busts are ahead of him as guys who have risen past him (like Brayden Point and Victor Arvidsson.)
  • 2015: Mitch Marner went 4th, and I’m bumping him to 6th.  Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Zach Werenski, Ivan Provorov, and Mathew Barzal go ahead of him now.
  • 2016: Auston Matthews went 1st, and he quite easily goes 1st again./

Based on your extensive experience with the CWHL, and now having seen Alex Carpenter in action – if CWHL trades functioned like NHL trades, please explain what she would be worth to an opposing team. (CWHL rosters and what stats are available are on their website but if necessary you can refer to any players other than Carpenter by role.) If you wish to include picks, note that this past year the last round in which all 7 teams picked was round 12).—Nafio

Now I charge forward in ignorance!

Carpenter, so far as I can gather, is definitely a quality first-line offensive centre, and that means she is worth her weight in gold.  She finished second in the NWHL in points last season, and first in assists, and she and her teammate Brianna Decker were pretty much head and shoulders above the rest of the leaderboard.  As far as I can gather, Alex Carpenter is the kind of player you don’t give up in a trade unless you’re not currently trying to win, but rather to build for the future.

So: for starters, you have to get a first-round pick back—for this hypothetical I’m assuming the what-if includes the CWHL draft mimicking the NHL draft, and thus the team is unrestricted in its choice of player.  If in addition to the first-rounder you were to get some young player on the way up (NCAA hotshot, maybe?), you might be able to make your peace with trading Carpenter, despite the short-term pain.  Since this is a development move, it’s not exactly critical that the player you get back be of any particular type so much as that she needs to be high-end.  You want first line, first pairing, or starting goalie potential.

So: pick and a prospect.  If you aren’t rebuilding, Carpenter looks to me like the kind of player you hang onto, but what do I know?  I’m not USA Hockey.

What type of beer/brand of beer best represents each Maple Leaf? for example McDavid could be Coors Light, “the silver bullet” since he’s as fast as a bullet out on the ice.—Fishingfreak 99

I’ll settle for doing six players, since this mailbag is already 3200 words (!) and I still have more questions.

Connor Brown is Rickard’s Red.  I assume this is obvious.

Auston Matthews is Guinness.  He’s thicc and substantial and the pride of a nation.

William Nylander is Hoegaarden, because I like Hoegaarden and this is my list and I can do what I want.

Frederik Gauthier is Labatt Blue.  He’s just sort of there and you’ll settle for him in a pinch.

Roman Polak is some obscure Czech beer that’s like 14% strength and tastes like an oil spill.

Mitch Marner is soda water because no one believes he’s legal drinking age.

Is there any side effects we should be aware of from using PPP on a daily basis?—Dan of the North

Look, if it lasts four hours, contact your doctor.

More seriously, when you talk to Leaf fans in everyday life, you get reminded a bunch that we’re a pretty specific, nerdy segment of the fanbase.  That’s the big one.

If STL offered a 1 for 1 trade of Nylander for Parayko, do you accept?—thistypeofthinking

Oh man, you’re hurting me here.  But yes.  I do.  It’s possible that blows up on me, but the Leafs can afford to lose a playmaking winger to get a first-pair RHD.  If Nylander turns out to be a first-line calibre C, and he might, well....that’s gonna sting.

Which of the following scenarios do you choose in order to increase the likelihood for multiple Stanley Cups for the Leafs (none of the players listed remain in the organization after the limit stated and salary is not a consideration though potential injury is):

  1. 3 years of peak Bobby Orr
  2. 4 years of peak Terry Sawchuk (or Martin Brodeur/Patrick Roy if you prefer a more “modern style” goalie)
  3. 5 years of peak Gordie Howe
  4. 2 years of peak Wayne Gretzky but he also gets called when he high sticks people in key playoff games

The rest of the roster remains the same except the lowest depth player on the active NHL roster is replaced at that position by the new star. No other trades can be made during the specified timelines and all injuries/retirements must be filled internally with depth from the Marlies/Solar Bears.--Slick Will

This is an interesting premise, but I think the answer is the one that jumps out when you look at it.  Wayne Gretzky is too good to be denied.  Middling team with good offence + Gretzky becomes best offence in the NHL, and you can’t turn that down, even granted it’s a shorter timespan.  I had to think about Bobby Orr though.

What are your top 3 and bottom 3 movies and video games of 2017, and what is it that makes them so good or bad?—emjaymj

The only video game I’ve played in the past year is NHL 18, so I’ll have to do movies.  And I see movies at random, so the sample is a bit mixed.

  1. Baby Driver—This movie is so much fun I don’t even mind that Ansel Elgort is not especially good at delivering dialogue, and he’s the protagonist.
  2. Atomic Blonde—just a stylish damn movie.  Really good.
  3. Logan—I kind of think they should be banned from making superhero movies for like the next ten years, but this one worked mostly by not seeming all that superhero-y for long stretches.  Some really effective scenes.

Honourable mention goes to The Post.  Hey, I don’t only watch action flicks, you know.  Sometimes.

The worst three is harder, since I didn’t really see three movies I hated, so I’m going to cheat a bit here and name three movies that were, for whatever reason, a bit disappointing:

  1. The Last Jedi—look, I hate to be like this, but I know what it looks like when a plot is jigged together on the fly.  To be clear, I’m not dinging it for having too many plot holes OMG; the problem isn’t realism, it’s just kind of ambling, occasionally directionless, and a bit incoherent.  Very cool visuals, some fun lines and characters, but I think in a couple of years (like with The Force Awakens) everyone will admit it was kind of meh.
  2. Murder On The Orient Express—It’s hard to shoot a mystery where most of the people seeing it probably know the plot twist, but I think Kenneth Branagh just kind of resigned himself to that and settled for having a bunch of very talented actors and left it at that.  I’m a sucker for these kind of mysteries, I just wanted it to be better.
  3. The Dark Tower—I didn’t even see it.  I was going to and then I heard what they did to it and was filled with rage.  The series is probably unfilmable, but damn, you have one of the grandest plot arcs and two dynamite leads, and...you cram it into one novel and focus on a supporting character.  Great.

You are given the ability to Freaky Friday (but for a week) into someone rich and powerful, but who is essentially a selfish asshole. Nobody specific, just your stereotypical Wall Street/Bay Street super-rich guy who got that way through questionable practices and is just generally not very moral.

You are told that you will have the ability to affect your own life, long term, because you can use the time to transfer money/gain knowledge through being that person. You could basically set yourself, your family, and your descendants, up for a loong time (while partially or wholly screwing the asshole over). You could also use being that person to help those in need (in addition to yourself).

However, you are also made aware of the fact that this horrible person will be in your body for a week. This means they will be living your life and probably not in a good/respectful way. They have the potential to destroy your relationship with loved ones and/or your career. You will be reminded that if you have children or a significant other, they will be able to interact with these people who will think they are you. There is nothing preventing them from finding out anything you do as them publicly (donate a big sum of money), since they’re quasi-famous.

You are forbidden from contacting the person directly (or any of your own loved ones, coworkers, etc). This isn’t just a rule but controlled by an actual supernatural force that will simply prevent any communication from happening (phone will disconnect, emails will disappear, there will be traffic, etc) so that’s not an answer. Plus, the person lives far away.

You have to start immediately so there is no time to put any plans in place.

Would you do it?

If you don’t do it, how did you come to that decision in terms of your weighing the pros vs cons? If you do it, how do you go about maximizing the pros while limiting the cons?—Shield

No.  I’m not desperate enough to get rich to cede control over my body and life, and to be honest, while I might think the selfish asshole deserved to be robbed, I still don’t like the idea of committing a massive theft.  I’M AN HONEST BLOGGER FOR AN HONEST WAGE.

If you were forced to watch one sci fi series for the rest of your life but you couldn’t pick anything Star Wars or Star Trek based, what would you choose and why is it Babylon 5?—JaredFromLondon

I’ve never seen a sci-fi TV series more than the odd episode :( So I must regret I am not competent to answer the question.  A lot of people I know have raved about Battlestar Galactica, so gun to my head, maybe I roll the dice on that.  Or I try this Babylon 5 of which you speak.  What happened to the first four Babylons?  Did they get sloppy with them?

Thanks to everyone who contributed!