The Leafs fended off Ryan Reeves and the Las Vegas Golden Knights to earn their third straight win to stay undefeated in November. And, while Reeves decided to leave the Buds’ stars alone, will and should Kyle Dubas bring in the linked-to enforcer a lot of people think they need?
Kyle Clifford – the enforcer the Leafs ‘need’?
With the LA Kings passing through town the trade rumor popped up – are the Leafs trying to bring in Kyle Clifford to defend their young stars? Maybe it was created simply because the two teams faced off recently, but regardless the link makes sense when you examine the strikes against the Leafs.
Not since Matt Martin have the Leafs had a legitimate fighter on their team, and the younger Leafs players adored him. Martin was close with Mitch Marner above anyone else on the team, and it makes sense – Marner needs the freedom that an enforcer brings to the team to create offense by keeping the opposition in check from debilitating checks or cheap shots. The same goes for Matthews, Nylander, Rielly, Barrie, and realistically every other Leaf on the roster.
Clifford would slot in on the fourth line’s left-wing. This unit is made up of Trevor Moore, Frederick Gauthier, Dmytro Timashov, Jason Spezza, and Nick Shore, meaning that someone will lose their job indefinitely to facilitate another member of the fourth line timeshare. If the Leafs brought him in, it should be mentioned, he wouldn’t be an everyday starter. If Reeves’ Knights are in town -throw him in, if the Bruins are on the schedule next – Clifford starts, but this team build on speed and will keep that mantra alive in games where he isn’t needed.
Statistically speaking, the 28-year-old enforcer had his best offensive season in the NHL last year, RACKING UP 21 points and 96 penalty minutes in his 72 games played. You don’t trade for Clifford’s point production though, you trade for him to add some grit, truculence and to shut up the likes of Brian Burke for five seconds.
Would this be a “loss” for Kyle Dubas?
Many Dubas haters would look at a trade for Clifford as him buckling under fan-pressure and recanting on his beliefs that this Leafs team doesn’t need a physical element. On the contrary, however, I – a loud and proud Kyle Dubas supporter (go Badgers) – think this can and should be spun in a positive light should he pull the trigger on a deal.
Only Siths deal in absolutes and Kyle Dubas opening up to the folly of his current game plan for team selection would show growth and an open mind in a business full of arrogant, uncompromising executives.
If anything, Dubas has shown that he is forward-thinking and on the cutting-edge of new-age NHL ideology. What he needs to now show is that he is still connected to the now, connected to the fans and that he isn’t going to ignore history over the past few playoff runs and try to out-skate physicality.
I’m all for the Leafs being a fast, dynamic team that burns you with speed and relentless effort of grinding you down over the extent of a game. I am also a strong believer that protecting your assets on the ice and policing through players should be adopted by this team. Don’t abandon the makeup of this team, but sacrifice some game time to make your stars feel protected in-game.