No deadline moves means Leafs in for summer blockbuster

Kyle Dubas made a few minor league deals on trade deadline day, but with elite help coming to the blueline, the Leafs have all but ensured they’re in for a summer blockbuster to shake up the roster.

Disclaimer: The proposed trade has no substantiation, however seeing as how the Leafs are cap-crunched, this move would help alleviate pressure and spread cap money out, as well. Also, a playoff push and post-season performance could quell all this talk.

To Toronto: Drew Doughty (2m retained), Adrian Kempe

To LA: Mitch Marner, 3rd round pick.

*a third team and deeper draft picks may come into play regarding cap/retained money

Why this trade makes sense for Toronto:

The team is heavily lopsided on top-6 offensive talent. They have also invested wisely in Alex Kerfoot ($3.5m), Kasperi Kapanen ($3.2m), and Andreas Johnsson ($3.4m) to immediately impact their center and wing depth. Mix in Adrian Kempe, a player who brings more skill and physicality to the ice and you have a solid core to make Marner’s loss feel less impactful.

As well, Egor Korshkov, Pierre Engvall, Jeremy Bracco, and the likely re-signed Ilya Mikheyev will all factor into the future of the Leafs winger depth, bringing youth and skill.

Mitch Marner is a generational talent and a hometown kid who has immense skill and vision on the ice. Why would Toronto want to get rid of him? Well, they wouldn’t, but when you include the addition of proven winner and leader (not to mention right-shot D) Drew Doughty, things change.

Doughty brings a lot of what Toronto is lacking on the back end and would be the perfect partner for Morgan Rielly, now and after he signs a long-term extension. He is 30, which gives pause considering his $11m cap hit extends through 2025, but elite defenseman can be serviceable into their mid to late 30s and beyond.

The case for LA:

Defence may win championships, but offence fills the seats. The hockey following in LA is pretty huge and loyal, but after a few seasons of underperforming, playoff-missing hockey hurts a team in a market that has multiple NFL teams, NBA teams, and MLB teams. Bringing a talent like Marner to the West Coast could kick start a rebuild for the Kings in a regressing Pacific division.

With Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter eating up over $11m of caps space and both players sitting at 35-years-old, there could be a pending retirement (likely for Brown over Carter) in the next few seasons which would free up some substantial cap space to make the retention as well as large Marner cap hit fit with total ease.

With Anaheim and San Jose both not looking all too exciting, LA has could springboard forward with the Marner acquisition by sacrificing their captain for his offensive pop. Doughty brings an edge to Toronto, Marner brings excitement to LA. Win-win, right?

Regicide on the menu for desperate Leafs team

With the LA Kings coming to town for a cross-conference matchup in what should be a win for the Leafs, on paper. A win shouldn’t be good enough, though as the Leafs need a massacre.

You want bulletin board material? You got it! Drew Doughty has followed in the footsteps of Alexander Ovechkin in criticizing the Leafs team play ahead of their game against each other. The only difference is that Ovechkin is on a good, playoff team and Doughty is a big fish in a small, gross, slimy, shitty pond.

Here’s what Doughty had to say: “You need to count on every single guy in every situation. Even though you have a scorer like Ovechkin or something like that, when it comes to playoff time you expect him to play defence, you expect him to block shots, you expect him to finish hits”

Groundbreaking stuff here from Doughty. Yes, the Leafs need their players to play hockey for a whole sixty minutes and yes they obviously knew this coming into the game. And, yes Doughty has two Stanley Cups under his belt, but in recent history, Doughty and the Kings have been a doormat to their opposition in the playoffs (1-8 in last two trips to the postseason) or not.

Maybe he’s trying to say he knows this first hand because his team sucks, but regardless the point is silly and it largely falls on the Toronto media who force-feed stars like Doughty or Ovechkin questions to get sound bites out of them.

No-Loss November?

So, the motivation should be there (if it wasn’t already) to show up and shut up the LA Kings. The up and down month of October has the Leafs pegged as a middle of the pack team, and that is completely correct based on their play. The offense hasn’t been clicking, special teams are inconsistent, and team defense needs to improve before this team gets recognized as a legit contender.

November is the perfect time for the team to reassert themselves. They’ve started off the second month of the season with a gritty, adversity filled win over Philadelphia in a marathon shootout. With 17 points from 15 games played the Leafs need to be more consistent. The effort they put forward against Philadelphia could and should be a jumping-off point for this assertion.

The Kings have allowed five or more goals in seven games this season, meaning the opportunity is there for the Leafs to get on a heater and bury this team early and often. Marner had a solid wraparound, Mikheyev is continuing to contribute, Spezza chipped in regardless of his frustrating game, and Kapanen tallied two points in the eventual game. With Rielly also getting an assist top and bottom of the lineup was producing against the Flyers in all situations.

The Leafs’ players need to start believing in their own talent. Not getting cocky, not looking past opponents, but taking chances and making plays that they know they can make. The Kings are a proverbial doormat and if the Leafs flub this opportunity for lack of effort at both ends of the ice it would certainly be time for a change.

The more, the Merrier

The Stanley Cup playoffs have obviously ended for the Maple Leafs, and fans and pundits alike, (including us here at The Rival Sports), have tossed around thoughts and ideas on what should be done this off-season.

The obvious discussion around the buds revolves around the oft-maligned blue line. The lone bright spot of Morgan Rielly is effectively dimmed when surrounded by the heavily criticized supporting cast. Name a defenseman, and people will have a complaint. Roman Polak? Can’t skate, too slow. Ron Hainsey? Too old, also slow. Travis Dermott? Still too young to carry meaningful minutes. Jake? Oh, Jake. Poor Jake.

As my colleague @Alex_The_Rival has already stated, the big fish out there will be Islanders Captain, John Tavares. It seems quite obvious, who wouldn’t want him in their sweater? But there are really only a few realistic chances he’ll have, for different reasons. A lot of teams just simply can’t afford him – boom, eliminated from contention. Who isn’t eliminated? Toronto.

I’m not going to go through the cap stuff, the moving parts, etc, everyone knows that. (If you don’t, know the Leafs can afford him). But one thing I’ve heard recently from an ex-player turned analyst really got me. It was such a “hockey” way of thinking about this stuff. Watching and reading more on the subject since then, it appears this isn’t a unique view.

The reason people are using to explain why John Tavares will never come to Toronto? Being 1B to Auston’s 1A.

I wonder where Malkin keeps his Scarlet ‘B’? Maybe next to his three rings? Does Kane replace his ‘A’ with a ‘B’ just to remind him he’s not the ‘C’? Do his rings care?

There was a funny moment at the All-Star game that was well-documented between Matthews and Doughty, having Auston trying to influence Drew’s next landing spot, (if it changes at all). I mean, I’d consider Drew Doughty a superstar, wouldn’t you? A Norris Trophy winning Stanley Cup champion. In that interaction, did you feel as if Matthews would feel threatened to have a top player play alongside him?

It’s becoming increasingly clear that there’s a new feeling around hockey, that players are less territorial and all they want to do is win. Of course there are still the demands for ice-time, power-play time, etc. But are you going to try and convince me the best players don’t want to play alongside the best players? I’m sorry, but that will just never fly. Unless all those rumour’s I’ve been hearing about Malkin being upset playing on the PP with Sid and Phil are true!
We’ve seen it happen in basketball, soccer, football – players actively recruiting their friends and fellow stars to their teams. Why? Because it’s fun to play with good players. It’s simple, really. Lebron started this wave with Wade/Bosh in Miami, (and again in Cleveland), Durant going to Golden State with Steph, the trio of Russ, Melo and George in OKC.

In the NFL, similar recruiting techniques have been utilized in an effort to get the best alongside.

The NHL has made a sharp turn in recent years to cater more toward a younger, more educated fan. For instance, the phasing out of fighting and focusing more on a faster, higher-scoring game. A small part of that also includes fantasy-mimicking All-Star drafts, something fans do in everyday hockey-conversation. It’s fun to imagine the best players playing together. Why? Because they’re really, really good and they produce and amazing and entertaining product.
Imagine what could happen if they actually had something to play for, like a Stanley Cup. I think they’d enjoy that opportunity very much, and more than likely put they’re ego’s up on the shelf, soon to be accompanied by some sparkly rings.