Leafs Could Still Pounce

TORONTO (Aug. 6) — William Nylander emphasized last week he is out for a “long–term” deal coming off entry–level salary restriction, rather than a shorter “bridge” contract. If I were Kyle Dubas, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I would try to assure that Nylander obtains his pact with the Ottawa Senators.

Yes, there is still time for the Leafs to acquire the lone missing piece in their arsenal: a Norris Trophy–winning defenseman to compliment their battalion of forwards. In the comparative tranquility of summer, Dubas should be all over Ottawa counterpart, Pierre Dorion. Were the Maple Leafs to land Karlsson, no team would be better–equipped to challenge for the 2019 Stanley Cup. And, isn’t that the essence of professional sport — to try and win it all? Particularly for a club that hasn’t been to the Cup final in 52 years?

Sure, I’ve written this before. And I’m writing it again for a fundamental reason: to remind you the Leafs will not become champion of the National Hockey League with their roster so–imbalanced between forward and defense. At no time in memory has the club been as well–situated to deal from a position of strength, with a glut of talent up front that includes Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, Nazem Kadri and Patrick Marleau. Trading Nylander’s “long–term” request to Ottawa for at least one year of Karlsson will harm the Leafs in no way. Next summer, Dubas can decide if he wants to offer Karlsson a multi–year extension; by then, perhaps Travis Dermott or Tim Liljegren will prove worthy of NHL deployment at a much–reduced rate. And, Dubas could be contemplating the issue after raising the Stanley Cup in June.


Leaf followers, of course, will continue to argue against a Nylander–for–Karlsson swap, so incurable is their penchant to over–rate assets of the Blue and White. Nylander is on the cusp of becoming another Mike Bossy while Karlsson is an old, broken–down defender with “one good playoff performance” on his ledger. Such is the myopia here in town. In fact, Karlsson is worth Nylander and something else from the Leafs, which will likely scuttle any trade attempt. Dubas, in his rookie season as GM, can probably roll the dice and hope the Maple Leafs out–gun the opposition from October to June. Given, however, that scoring chances almost always originate from behind center–ice, adding Karlsson would be an immeasurable perk. Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner can also move the puck, but not as innately as Karlsson. Or, as smartly from the defensive zone. If Dubas sticks with the current blue–line, the Leafs will again yield the highest number of shots on goal… and Frederik Andersen will again be fried when the playoffs roll around. Rinse. And repeat.

More ominously, the same defense corps will largely neutralize signing Tavares to his $11–million–per–season free agent pact (remember where you heard it). Why act so boldly on July 1… then so timidly when a gaping roster–hole is still evident? Rarely, if ever, is such an impeccable antidote available for trade.

Nor will it be once Tampa Bay, Dallas or Vegas scoops in to land Karlsson.

RONNIE STILL FIGHTING BACK


I’ve been staying in touch via email with former Leafs coach (2008–2012) Ron Wilson, who suffered a stroke on Dec. 6, 2016 that hampered his speech and balance; requiring extensive rehabilitation. It will come as no surprise to any person acquainted with Ron that he has battled resolutely to regain what was lost… and that he continues to enjoy retirement with his wife, children and grandchildren. As you can see in the photo (above) on Ron’s Facebook page from last December, the old coach is looking good at 63 years of age. He even enjoys reading my blogs; odd, given that most of Leafs Nation believes we are still mortal enemies after our memorable dust–up in the Air Canada Centre media lounge nearly a decade ago (Mar. 10, 2009).

If you’ve never seen it — or wish to have another chuckle — here is the exchange… http://bit.ly/2vkgzgA.

NHL GAME–WORN JERSEYS

A photo–history of NHL expansion (1967 to 2017) in game-worn jerseys found on–line:


1967–68 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (HOME)

  
LEFT: 1969–70 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (ROAD) / RIGHT: 1973–74 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (HOME)


1973–74 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (ROAD)


1975–76 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (ROAD)


1978–79 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (HOME)


1967–68 OAKLAND SEALS (HOME)


1968–69 OAKLAND SEALS (ROAD)

  
LEFT: 1971–72 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN SEALS (ROAD) / RIGHT: 1971–72 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN SEALS (HOME)


1975–76 CALIFORNIA SEALS (HOME)


1967–68 ST. LOUIS BLUES (HOME)

 

  
LEFT: 1968–69 MINNESOTA NORTH STARS (HOME) / RIGHT: 1968–69 MINNESOTA NORTH STARS (ROAD)


1967–68 LOS ANGELES KINGS (ROAD)


1968–69 PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (HOME)


1970–71 VANCOUVER CANUCKS (HOME)


1971–72 BUFFALO SABRES (HOME)


1972–73 NEW YORK ISLANDERS (ROAD)


1972–73 ATLANTA FLAMES (ROAD)


1974–75 WASHINGTON CAPITALS (HOME)


1974–75 KANSAS CITY SCOUTS (ROAD)


1976–77 COLORADO ROCKIES (HOME)


1979–80 HARTFORD WHALERS (ROAD)

  
LEFT: 1979–80 QUEBEC NORDIQUES (HOME) / RIGHT: 1979–80 QUEBEC NORDIQUES (ROAD)


1979–80 EDMONTON OILERS (ROAD)


1979–80 WINNIPEG JETS (ROAD)


1991–92 SAN JOSE SHARKS (ROAD)


1992–93 OTTAWA SENATORS (HOME)


1992–93 TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (ROAD)

  
LEFT: 1993–94 ANAHEIM MIGHTY DUCKS (HOME) / RIGHT: 1993–94 ANAHEIM MIGHTY DUCKS (ROAD)


1993–94 FLORIDA PANTHERS (ROAD)


1998–99 NASHVILLE PREDATORS (HOME)


1999–2000 ATLANTA THRASHERS (ROAD)


2006–07 ATLANTA THRASHERS (HOME)


2000-01 COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (ROAD)


2000-01 MINNESOTA WILD (ROAD)


2017–18 VEGAS GOLDEN NIGHTS (HOME)

EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

7 comments on “Leafs Could Still Pounce

  1. Trade William Nylander for Erik Karlsson with the potential of him walking away after ONE season? I must not have read that correctly. OR…is this more trolling of fans by the writer?

  2. Last season the Leafs were the 2nd highest scoring team in the NHL with 277 goals which is 45 more than the Pens winning the Cup in 2016 without a #1 d-man.

    With the addition of Tavares and kids Marner, Matthews and Nylander all a year older it is a given that they will score even more this season.

    The defense should also be improved with Rielly more experienced and Dermott better as well and the fact that Zaitsev never seemed to make a full recovery from his concussion. With a better offence the defense should also have an easier time of it.

    It would make more sense to wait a year and see what they have in Lilgren than give up an elite level player Nylander for Karlsson. They also have Borgman and Rosen who could be 2nd pairing d-men. After 50 years what is the rush? After a year they could sign Karlsson as a UFA but my guess is they won’t need to.

    Dubas said he believes the Leaf defense is better than most people think so maybe he knows what he is talking about and I think he is right. I would also take his plan over what we have seen in the past with so-called hockey genius experts like Burke and JFJ. JFJ traded away the future to try and save his GM position and Burke was old school when the game had changed.

    We don’t even know for sure if Karlsson will ever be 100% again. Last season he was slower and seemed to have problems turning at times. I live in Ottawa so I watch every Sens game and he does not seem to be the player he was before the ankle surgery. Karlsson provides offence but the knock against him is his poor defensve play. Leafs already have lots of offence and in the playoffs they need defense.

    As a life long Leaf fan and watching all the stupid trades and signings over the years I am praying they don’t get stupid again and trade away a 22 year elite skilled exciting Nylander who is still getting better every game for potentially one year of a Karlsson who may never be as good again as he once was.

      1. You are right, I am a Leafs fanatic. My ex company even gave me a really nice Sens jersey which when I mentioned I was pulliing for the Sens against the Ducks. My wife wears it to Sens games now.

        I guess time will tell, I think Tavares will make a difference and I think Karlsson is over rated. So if the Leafs never win the Cup I will buy you a beer next time I am in Toronto. Now I am thinking maybe I should put a limit on that? So if the Leafs don’t win a Cup in five years I buy you a beer but you have to buy me a beer if they win without Karlsson.

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