Leafs: Be Careful With JVR

TORONTO (Oct. 29) — His name is bandied about haphazardly, as if the Leafs have a ready–made clone.

Trade conjecture involving James van Riemsdyk does not emanate from a source within the team; Lou Lamoriello would strangle any–such person. It is, however, very much “out there” amid cyberspace… involving media and fans. And, it’s a grievous miscalculation. The prevailing opinion? That JVR is “expendable”, given the youth and skill the Maple Leafs are developing up front. You’d think van Riemsdyk is closing in on his 40th birthday when, in fact, he is merely 27 and just now entering his prime years in the National Hockey League. Clearly, JVR would fetch a decent return and maybe provide the Toronto blue–line with added depth. But, the Leafs must be very careful before pulling the trigger on any–such move.

Again, there isn’t a shred of evidence that Lamoriello has even thought about trading van Riemsdyk. It is, however, an increasingly popular theme among observers of the Blue and White. I have twice read that JVR can be unloaded once Nikita Soshnikov recovers sufficiently from a hamstring injury. Soshnikov, 23, has started the season with the American Hockey League Toronto Marlies, scoring once in five games. In 11 matches with the Leafs a year ago, he tallied twice and appeared to have a nose for the net. But, the sample–size was not nearly big enough to conclude that Soshnikov can replace van Riemsdyk on the roster.

In fact, the notion — at this point — is somewhat preposterous.

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JAMES van RIEMSDYK WAS IN ROBERTO LUONGO’S GRILL FOR MUCH OF THURSDAY NIGHT’S WIN.

Though JVR will never be a finalist for the Selke Trophy, he is an accomplished big–league forward with 453 games and 140 goals on his NHL resume. His willingness to stake out territory in front of the opposition net cannot be minimized, for no other player on the Leafs — and relatively few, league–wide — offers such gallantry. In Thursday’s 3–2 conquest of Florida at the Air Canada Centre, van Riemsdyk worked marvelously on a line with Tyler Bozak and rookie Mitch Marner (he has four goals in seven early–season games).

While blocking a shot in San Jose last Jan. 9, JVR sustained a non–displaced fracture of his left foot. On Feb. 25, the Leafs reported he suffered a “set–back” in his rehab and would miss the remainder of the season. People have recovered more rapidly from organ transplants. It was purely a “tanking” measure on behalf of the club. JVR and Joffrey Lupul were shuffled to the sideline on the same afternoon; the Maple Leafs met their goal of finishing dead–last in the overall standings and chose Auston Matthews No. 1 in the NHL draft.

Prior to his “debilitating” fracture, van Riemsdyk had missed only two of 210 games in a Toronto jersey, both during the 2013–14 schedule. He has seasons of 30 and 27 goals with the Leafs and is capable of hitting 40 with the right combination of luck and line–mates. This is not a player you trade because of apparent “depth” at left–wing. Rather, JVR is of caliber to move forward with into playoff (and Stanley Cup) contention.

Those that flippantly suggest he is expendable are way off the mark.

50 YEARS AGO TONIGHT
BOBBY ORR AT THE GARDENS

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Hard to believe it was on this date in 1966 — also a Saturday — that Bobby Orr played his first game at Maple Leaf Gardens for the Boston Bruins; his fourth, overall, in the NHL. Orr had been a frequent visitor to the Gardens while starring with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey Association and had once been “lent” to the junior Toronto Marlboros for an exhibition match against the Russians. He arrived in our town a half–century ago tonight as the most–touted rookie in modern NHL annals… and justified every plaudit.

Above and below are the line–ups from Oct. 29, 1966 at Maple Leaf Gardens. My ol’ pal Bruce Hood was the referee. Bruce Gamble (Toronto) and Eddie Johnston were the goalies. I have the program bound into a book of a dozen–such items from the ’66–67 Leafs season, as Toronto would win its 13th (and most recent) Stanley Cup championship. Orr appeared twice at the Gardens in an injury–plagued rookie campaign.

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OTHER HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PROGRAM…

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THE NHL’s 50th SEASON WOULD BE THE LAST OF THE SIX–TEAM ERA. IN 1967–68, IT DOUBLED TO 12 CLUBS, ADDING CALIFORNIA (OAKLAND), LOS ANGELES, MINNESOTA, PHILADELPHIA, PITTSBURGH AND ST. LOUIS. THE GARDENS’ PROGRAMS IN ’66–67 FEATURED REPORTS ON ALL THE NEW ENTRIES.

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IN 1966–67, THE GARDENS UNVEILED THE DARK–GREEN, DIGITAL SCORE–CLOCK IT WOULD FEATURE ABOVE CENTER–ICE UNTIL 1982. CHIEF AMONG THOSE CONSTRUCTING THE NEW DEVICE WAS PAUL MORRIS (BELOW), ALSO THE ICONIC PUBLIC–ADDRESS VOICE OF THE ARENA.

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BOBBY ORR WAS AT THE TOP OF EVERY “NEW–FACE” ARTICLE IN ’66–67.

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FROM THE NOV. 5, 1966 ISSUE OF THE HOCKEY NEWS, THE OCT. 29 LEAFS–BRUINS SUMMARY.

EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

7 comments on “Leafs: Be Careful With JVR

  1. He looks comfortable now but will he in two years? You’re correct that there is no evidence that JVR can’t put up big numbers in coming years. However, there is none that he can either and the general league trend is he won’t. JVR is a solid second line player in the NHL. He has hit 30 goals once and 60 points once most often being in the 20-25 goals 45-50 point range, solid second line production. If he can be the catalyst towards getting a good top 4 young dman then he is certainly a price I would be willing to pay. Just to clarify JVR has always been my favourite player on the Leafs next to James Reimer but the NHL is ruthless and I want to see my beloved Leafs in a serious cup run. Not only that but the cap crunch is going to be serious in 3 years. Mathews, Marner and Nylander are going to be in the 5.5 to 6.5 range per year. With Kadri, Reilly and Andersen already at 5+ per year that is a lot of dough. That makes JVR the best most expendable chip they have to play and to me his value is only going to get less from this point on. Maximize him now and reap the benefits 2-3 years from now when they should be serious cup contenders.

    Anyways thanks for the response and I hope you have a nice day.

  2. Actually there are numerous studies which suggest that a players primes years are from 24-27. Players usually start to see a 10% drop in production starting in their 28th year. Once a player hits 30 the dropoff becomes much more pronounced. This actually would be the best time to move JVR if the Leafs wish to maximize his return. The Leafs are still a year or two away from being perennial playoff teams let alone cup contenders. JVR will not be around when the Leafs become seriously good. If he is he will be a serious drag on the salary cap getting paid too much for not enough production.

    1. Guess it’s time for the Penguins to move Crosby. The Caps, Ovechkin. That 32-year-old bum, Joe Pavelski, in San Jose. Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Brett Burns are clearly over the hill. Thanks for your “numerous studies.”

      1. Ah but the guys you mentioned are the best guys on the team and truly elite, among the best in the league at their positions. JVR isn’t even the best on the team right now let alone in 2 years and he certainly isn’t an elite player although he is very good. JVR has two years left on an excellent contract. When he resigns he is going to be wanting a fairly big raise on what he is getting paid right now. Do you want to be paying a 30+ diminishing player big dollars when the true best players on the team are all coming up for new contracts at the same time?

        My point was that the Leafs have already got the best years of JVR at a fantastic rate. Now is the time to move him and not let sentimentality screw you over down the road. But I guess if you want to compare JVR to Crosby and Ovechkin then he is certainly worth paying big dollars too. As I said in the last post the Leafs aren’t ready to win now, that’s at least 2 years away. How good will JVR be in 2 years and will he be worth the 5.5 per year he will be looking for? I think a cautionary tale might be the big money Dave Nonis paid for Joffry Lupul. How’s that working out for the Leafs.

        1. Point is, players can succeed well beyond 27 and 28 years of age. There is no evidence, as we speak, that JVR cannot be among them. Obviously, the Leafs won’t blow their brains out on a new contract. But, now is not the time to move him. He looks very comfortable with Bozak and Marner.

  3. Have to say IMO that any talk of trading JVR must be fueled by the ingestion of illegal substances.

    Makes zero sense to do it at this stage. Even if you got one top D man for him, that’s still only one D man. Team needs more than that to move forward. Better to grow team together and JVR is a part of that growth (as long as salary cap issues can be addressed, they are looming for this team in a few years)

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