Well, that didn’t take long! After back-to-back losses to crucial conference competition Kyle Dubas wastes NO time in pulling the trigger to alleviate two issues in the current Leafs team. On paper, he’s hit another home run (or two!).
Talk about hitting the nail on the head. So many people were looking at Michael Hutchinson and suggesting that the Leafs would need to massively cut through their active roster and/or prospect pool to get in someone like Georgiev to replace him, but no one thought a sensible move for Jack Campbell would be on the cards.
Where Dubas showed patience with this move is in his treatment of Hutchinson since Sheldon Keefe had taken over. The firing of Mike Babcock was an emphatic slam on the reset button. This alleviated a ton of pressure on the likes of Mitch Marner, Tyson Barrie, and William Nylander, but also Hutchinson, who had a very prominent atrocious start to the year.
Since Keefe came in, Hutchinson went 4-4 in games he appeared in, including three relief appearances that were all chalked up losses when he entered, other than the Florida game this week. As a starter, he was 4-1 and looked to be the right man for the job, on the whole.
Where Dubas was swift in his decision to make a trade was by pulling the trigger post-New York loss. Hutchinson took the third period off against Florida in a must-win game and he couldn’t come up with a save against the Rangers when the team needed him. With Anderson sidelined and a Friday-Saturday back-to-back coming up this weekend, it was now or never. The Leafs aren’t out of the playoff hunt in the slightest and Dubas’ move for Campbell ensures this.
Campbell joins the Leafs having played in 20 games this season, posting an 8-10-2 record on the awful Kings this season. Despite the team’s play, he still posted a 2.85 GAA and a 0.900 S% this season. At 27-years old, Campbell seemingly passed up the likes of Jonathan Quick in LA, who the Kings are committed to, so was delt to acquire assets in a rebuild. It’s a big upgrade for the Leafs, who have a goalie, now, who will act as a solid backup while actually pushing Anderson for games down the stretch.
An olive branch to those who want more grit, truculence, and abject violence in this Leafs team. After watching Zach Hyman get served by Jacob Trouba and John Tavares try his bet to get physical at the end of the Rangers game, Kyle Clifford is a welcomed addition to this Leafs team which is far more “speed and skill” than it is “physical and violent.”
This graphic from TSN’s First Up with Lansberg and Colaiacovo tells the tale pretty well. Kyle Clifford brings the physical edge to the bottom unit the Leafs have needed for quite some time. He’ll keep the opponents on their toes like a Ryan Reeves or Zach Kassian, he’ll chip in with some offensive talent, and he’ll provide a different element to team play.
As mentioned, he can add some offense, albeit in a limited sense. This season, Clifford has scored six goals and added eight assists in 52 games. This isn’t ‘Rocket Richard’ level of production, but it makes the addition of a bruiser, not a net loss when it comes to offensive production, too.
Dubas patiently allowed Trevor Moore to come back from his lengthy concussion layoff and gave him five games to make an impact. Moore failed to score and had a -2 rating over this stretch, matching his slumping season where he’s scored just three goals and two assists this year.
Moore is a hard worker, small, skilled forward who is destined for a role on the bottom-six, with upside to move up the lineup in a pinch. Unfortunately for him, the Leafs have many players who fit this model and also have Jeremy Bracco and Nick Robertson who look to fill this position in the future. Dubas’ decision to move on from Moore at an instant to get Clifford in the deal shows his willingness to overlook history and fond feelings to improve the team, while also sending Moore back to California, where he’s from, to ease the move as a silver lining.
Overall, the Leafs received a better backup goalie with the potential to sign him for future seasons and added a physical, player-protecting enforcer all for the cost of Trevor Moore, San Jose’s 3rd round pick, and a conditional third-round pick. Great value for the price paid. Kyle Dubas has done it again, bolstered the team early to gel the players, increase their impact with more time left in the season, and operating prior to the trade market being set near the deadline. Another home run for the GM.