TORONTO (Feb. 3) — I received a largely unexpected call on Friday from a long–time media contact in Ottawa. A person with whom I had routinely made acquiescence in the press box at the Canadian Tire Centre (and elsewhere around the National Hockey League) during my years covering the Maple Leafs for The FAN–590. “How nice to hear from you,” I warbled. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
My friend quickly cut to the chase: “With the right package, the Leafs could grab Erik Karlsson before the (Feb. 26) trade deadline,” he said. “I’m telling you there’s little chance [Senators’ owner Eugene] Melnyk will sign him to a ‘career’ extension. The only hope is confirmation of the new arena–project at LeBreton Flats (near downtown Ottawa). But, even in a best–case scenario, construction wouldn’t start until April of next year (2019). On the ice, the Senators are a mess. It’s the right time for a rival general manager to pounce.”
This, of course, is only one man’s opinion and Lou Lamoriello isn’t in the habit of going postal at the trade deadline. But, my friend has been around NHL circles for many years, with a few broken stories to his credit.
“So, what would it take for the Leafs to pull it off?” I asked.
“Well, they’d have to start with [Mitch] Marner and young [Travis] Dermott, their best blue line prospect,” came the reply. “Throw in another medium–range prospect, or a draft pick, and [Senators’ GM Pierre] Dorion would listen. I guarantee you. Everyone in this organization is feeling heat right now.”
WOULD THE LEAFS BE BOLD ENOUGH TO PULL OFF A BLOCKBUSTER TRADE WITH OTTAWA, UNITING FELLOW–SWEDES ERIK KARLSSON AND WILLIAM NYLANDER (29)? SUCH A DEAL WOULD BE THE BIGGEST HERE IN TORONTO IN MORE THAN A QUARTER–CENTURY. MARK BLINCH GETTY IMAGES
The Senators, unquestionably, have been the NHL’s biggest disappointment in 2017–18. After nearly making it to the Stanley Cup final last spring, they sit 29th in the overall standings, ahead of only Buffalo and Arizona. Imagine the greenbacks one could have earned had he placed a pre–season bet that the expansion Vegas Golden Knights would be 31 points up on Ottawa in early–February. A six–game losing streak ended on Thursday night, at the Canadian Tire Centre, with a 2–1 victory against Anaheim — Karlsson scoring at 0:32 of overtime. Much like his team, Karlsson is having a sub–par season (by career standards) with 34 points in 44 games. Barring a late eruption, he isn’t likely to close in on his best–season point totals: 82, 78, 74 and 71. From a skill perspective, he is, however, among the top half–dozen skaters in the NHL and would spectacularly engorge the Leafs’ biggest deficit of the past 40 years: a Norris Trophy–caliber defenseman.
Whether or not Lamoriello has the urgency and appetite — or the stones — to pull off such a blockbuster is another question. His best trade as Leafs GM occurred in the relative calm of summer: acquiring goalie Frederik Andersen from the Ducks on June 20, 2016 for first and second–round draft picks. Trading for Karlsson would dwarf any deal the Leafs have made since Cliff Fletcher purloined Doug Gilmour from Calgary more than 26 years ago. It would also lift Toronto alongside (or ahead of) any of the Stanley Cup contenders this season; imagine Karlsson and Morgan Rielly as Nos. 1 and 2 on the blue line depth chart.
Karlsson, 27, has one year left on his contract (and $6.5–million cap hit) with Ottawa; he can file for unrestricted free agency after next season. He would instantly become the most–talented puck–moving defenseman with the Leafs since fellow–Swede Borje Salming in the mid–to–late–70’s.
DEJA VU, ONE YEAR LATER…
As my friend, Gare Joyce, reminds readers in his wonderful, new book (above), it was on Super Bowl Weekend last season that the Maple Leafs went into Boston “nearly deadlocked” in the Atlantic Division standings. One year later? Same place. Same deficit in the division. It’s Toronto at Boston tonight (7 p.m. EST) on Hockey Night In Canada… the biggest game of the season, thus far, for both teams. Last year, the Bruins led the Maple Leafs by three points and Toronto had five games–in–hand. In a wild, back–and–forth struggle, the Leafs coughed up a 3–1 lead but prevailed, 6–5, on a late–regulation–time goal by James van Riemsdyk.
Tonight, it’s the Bruins with games–in–hand (four) and again a three–point lead over third–place Toronto; the Leafs cutting into Boston’s margin this week with four consecutive wins (the past two by shut–out). Ultimately at stake (it would appear) is home–ice advantage in an opening–round playoff series — the first between Toronto and Boston since 2013. But, there’s lots of hockey to be played between now and April.
Gare Joyce is a splendid writer and author. Among his 11 books are biographies of Sidney Crosby and Bobby Hull. His current offering chronicles the Maple Leafs’ bounce–back season of 2016–17, during which rookies Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner contributed to a 26–point rise in the standings and the club’s first playoff berth in a full, 82–game season since 2003–04. YOUNG LEAFS: The Making of a New Hockey History is available here: http://bit.ly/2FJ6SeC. And, here: http://amzn.to/2nAyyLO.
THE SOLUTION IS EASY
Here’s a perfect way to end the firestorm over goaltender interference: Go back to making it un–reviewable. Stay with the call on the ice and live with the judgment in closest proximity to the play — as did the NHL, quite reasonably, until the 2015–16 season. Only since the advent of video review has there been league–wide turmoil. The reason is simple — one form of perception (by the referee) becomes multiple forms of perception (involving NHL Operations at the “war room” in Toronto). As such, there really is no right or wrong; merely an often–troublesome consensus resulting from the manner in which different sets of eyes determine a play. Why, then, not return to making the referee’s call final? The NHL has, by many lengths, the best officials in the world. The human element dictates both the on–ice call and the video ruling. Neither is fail–safe. There was far–less controversy before goaltender interference became subject to video review.
The 2015 amendment has merely (and inevitably) caused aggravation.
YUP, IT’S FEBRUARY 3rd (again)…
You likely won’t notice much of a current–day (or prior) resemblance between former Leafs winger Dave (Tiger) Williams (left) and yours truly (right). But, we do share today as a birthday. The Tiger, of course, is significantly older than me… actually, quite a bit older… well, kind of older… okay, he’s got me by a measly five years. The truculent one is 64 today. I’ll let you mathematical wizards guess my age.
50 YEARS AGO THIS WEEKEND
Feb. 3 and 4, 1968, saw the Maple Leafs in Pennsylvania for an expansion doubleheader with the Pittsburgh Penguins (Saturday) and Philadelphia Flyers (Sunday); the latter being Toronto’s first–ever visit to the Spectrum. Typically, the 1967–68 Leafs — defending Stanley Cup champion — foundered against the new clubs that comprised the NHL’s West Division. A 3–3 draw in Pittsburgh was followed by a 4–1 loss at Philadelphia. Here, from the scrapbook collection of Paul Patskou, are the game stories in the old Toronto Telegram, written by Paul Dulmage:
79 YEARS AGO at Maple Leaf Gardens
As part of my collection are programs from virtually every year of hockey (1931–1999) at Maple Leaf Gardens. In this issue — a Toronto–Detroit game on Jan. 28, 1939 — I’ve posted images (primarily) from the advertisements of the era. Notice the prices… and the at–home services that are long–since in the past. The Maple Leafs hammered the Red Wings, 6–0, with Turk Broda recording one of his eight shutouts in the 1938–39 season. Coached by Dick Irvin Sr., Toronto (19–20–9 in 48 games) was building toward its first dynasty — Stanley Cup titles (under new coach Hap Day) in 1942–45–47–48–49 and 1951. Enjoy:
NOTHING QUITE LIKE THAT “TIRED FEELING”, HUH GUYS?
Howard, I too think Toronto must keep their big 3 of Matthews, Nylander and Marner and also Liljegren and Andersen. As many Leaf fans know, we are only in Year 2 of the rebuild. It is time to make a 3 for 1 or a couple of 2 for 1 deals to shed some contracts but NOT including the names above. We have $15-20M coming off the books at end of the year which is the time that Lou and Shanahan can put a bigger stamp on the Roster for the next two years. My feeling is they will wait to see what FA’s are available, snag one or more and then trades will be made in the Summer.
Remember, just a couple of years back this team had 69 points and finished last. Kadri with 45 points led the team in scoring followed by P.A. Parenteau. Yeesh.
Stay patient and stay with “The Plan” put out by Mgmt.
Nay, nay! Don’t see it happening. Would hate that trade if it did. Karlsson is not the answer, never very good defensively and even less so since his injury. Now if they could get Doughty out of LA…or, maybe, OEL out of Arizona…
This word “pedigree” always gets thrown around when talking about certain players. That might be relevant when talking about Secretariat, but not human beings. It’s just an excuse to overpay.
To me Karlson has lost more then a step. He’s only looked the same periodically since his achilles was cut. Time and time again I’ve read how badly the Leafs need to keep the puck out of their net. That they need a “shutdown” defenceman then the names that get mentioned are anything BUT shutdown types. As far as I’m concerned, and given this team’s past tendancies, you DO NOT trade away prospects like Marner never mind Dermott and draft picks as well. If the Leafs make a deal like this and it backfires it won’t be the fans of media paying the price for it. They are always the ones who find a way to criticize the same trade they where all for in the beginning. This is becoming a broken record. Ain’t happening.
It would be nice to see a puck moving defense-man who can skate like the wind and get the puck out of the defensive zone and up the ice.
Karlsson has the right pedigree but he’s part of the reason why Ottawa is in the dumper this year. Same with OEL. in Phoenix. If the leafs have to give up top shelf talent & picks then I trust that Lou is going to be getting an amazing return back.
I like how Edmonton asked Coffey to come back to teach the kids how to play defense. Would love it if Bab’s could get Lidstrom to come teach the kids in Toronto how to move the puck like he did. I saw alot of Detroit games and I never saw a guy who made moving the puck from the defensive zone to the offensive zone easier. It’s suppose to be hard, but somehow he just willed it up there without breaking a sweat and looking like Mr. GQ.
Now I don’t know for sure if this column is serious or not because I have seen a few of your practical jokes designed to scare die-hard Leaf fans before.
Anyway as a life long Leaf fan who has seen the Leafs win four Cups I think Marner, Dermott and a pick would rank right up there with the worst trades the Leafs have ever made. From Kurvers and Kordic to Rask and Kessel.
Living in Ottawa I watch pretty much every Sens game as well. Karlsson has not recovered from major surgery last summer and has lost a step. Where he used to make mistakes and recover from them because of his speed now his mistakes are more than often resulting in goals. He is -24 in 45 games played. The fact is he was never good playing defence but he provided offence. Rielly is 23 and Dermott is 21, Lilgren is 19 so to me getting Karlsson is would be really bad, but you can see why the Sens would do it.
Karlsson was reported throwing numbers like $10 million so there is no way he can get that money in Ottawa.
Leafs fans think this is crazy, but what’s more valuable to Toronto – Marner/Dermott/prospect or Karlsson? Assuming Karlsson would agree to a long-term deal, he’s both the answer for right now and the future. The Leafs don’t need more young scorers – they need a top-flight defender. I think if you dangled this package in front of the Sens, they’d be sorely tempted.