Offseason Analysis: TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: 2014-2015 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 30-44-8-68
Home Record: 22-17-2
Away Record: 8-27-6
Shootout Record: 5-5
Playoff Result: Did not make playoffs
Standings: Atlantic Division: 7, Eastern Conference: 15, League: 27
Goals For: 206 (NHL rank: 24)
Goals Against: 257 (NHL rank: 5)
Power Play Percentage: 15.9 percent (NHL rank: 26)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 80.5 percent (NHL rank: 22)
Leading Scorer: Phil Kessel (25-36-61)
 

2015-2016 Outlook:

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the midst of a major rebuild. The franchise will not turn things around overnight, but the team has officially entered rebuild mode. Part of that rebuild involves trading expensive contracts and long-term commitments, as well as acquiring and stockpiling talented prospects for the future. The Maple Leafs have done a decent job so far, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Though the Leafs only have one win so far this season, the team has already put together several impressive efforts, including Saturday’s 52-shot loss to the undefeated Montreal Canadiens. It will certainly be interesting to see what new head coach Mike Babcock can do for the club this year.
 

Next Game: Monday October 26 vs. Arizona, 7:30pm EST
2015-2016 Record: 1-4-2
 

Waivers:
Claimed D Frankie Corrado (Vancouver Canucks)
Waived D T.J. Brennan, D Andrew Campbell, C Sam Carrick, RW Matt Frattin and C Byron Froese
 

Offseason Overview

Trades:

  • F Greg McKegg to Florida for rights to F Zach Hyman and conditional 2017 7th-round pick
  • 2015 4th-round pick (107) and F Brad Ross to Edmonton for D Martin Marincin
  • F Phil Kessel ($1.2 million salary retention), D Tim Erixon, F Tyler Biggs and a conditional draft pick to Pittsburgh for F Nick Spaling, F Kasperi Kapanen, D Scott Harrington, 2016 3rd-round pick and and a conditional draft pick
  • F Jamie Devane to Nashville for the rights to F Taylor Beck
  • 2015 1st-round pick (24) to Philadelphia for 2015 1st-round pick (29) and 2015 2nd-round pick (61)
  • 2015 1st-round pick (29) to Columbus for 2015 2nd-round pick (34) and 3rd-round pick (68)
  • F Carter Verhaeghe, G Christopher Gibson, D Tom Nilsson, F Taylor Beck and D Matthew Finn to the New York Islanders for F Michael Grabner

Re-Signed:

  • F Casey Bailey (2-year deal with AAV* of $912,500)
  • F Andreas Johnson (3-year ELC with AAV* of $750,833)
  • D T.J. Brennan (1-year contract at $675,000)
  • G Jonathan Bernier (2-year deal with AAV* of $4.15 million)
  • D Martin Marincin (1-year contract at $700,000)
  • F Nazem Kadri (1-year contract at $4.1 million)
  • F Richard Panik (1-year contract at $975,000)
  • F Mitch Marner (3-year ELC with AAV* of $925,000)
  • D Travis Dermott (3-year ELC with AAV* of $925,000)
  • D Petter Granberg (1-year contract at $600,000)
  • D Tim Erixon (1-year contract at $600,000)–later traded to PIT
  • F Taylor Beck (1-year contract at $875,000)–later traded to NYI

Free Agents Signed:

  • F Brad Boyes (1-year contract at $700,000)
  • F Shawn Matthias (1-year contract at $2.3 million)
  • F Daniel Winnik (2-year deal with AAV* of $2.25 million)
  • F P.A. Parenteau (1-year contract at $1.5 million)
  • F Mark Arcobello (1-year contract at $1.1 million)
  • D Matt Hunwick (2-year deal with AAV* at $1.2 million)
  • F Byron Froese (2-year deal with AAV* of $575,000)
  • F Curtis Glencross (PTO)–later released
  • F Devin Setoguchi (PTO)–later released

Draft Recap:

  • Round 1 (4) C Mitchell Marner
  • Round 2 (34) D Travis Dermott
  • Round 2 (61) RW Jeremy Bracco
  • Round 3 (65) D Andrew Nielsen
  • Round 3 (68) LW Martins Dzierkals
  • Round 4 (95) D Jesper Lindgren
  • Round 5 (125) LW Dmytro Timashov
  • Round 6 (155) D Stephen Desrocher
  • Round 7 (185) RW Nikita Korostelev

Free Agents Lost:

  • F Zach Sill–Washington
  • D Andrew MacWilliam–Winnipeg
  • D Brendan Mikkelson–Lulea HF (Sweden)
  • F Brad Ross–Iserlohn (DEL-Germany)
  • F Brandon Kozun–Jokerit Helsinki (KHL-Russia)
  • F Trevor Smith–SC Bern (Nat’l League A-Switzerland)
  • F Frazer McLaren–San Jose
  • Joakim Lindstrom–UFA
  • D Eric Knodel–UFA
  • D Kevin Marshall–UFA
  • F Colton Orr–UFA
  • F David Booth–UFA
  • D Eric Brewer–UFA
  • D Troy Bodie–retired

Buyouts:
None

Organizational Changes:

  • Fired general manager Dave Nonis
  • Fired interim coach Peter Horachek
  • Fired assistant coaches Steve Spott, Chris Dennis and Rick St. Croix
  • Named Mike Babcock head coach
  • Named Jim Hiller, D.J. Smith and Andrew Brewer assistant coaches
  • Named Matthew Herring strength and conditioning coach
  • Named Steve Briere goaltending coach
  • Named Lou Lamoriello general manager

 
*AAV=Average Annual Value (cap hit)
 

Significant Moves

Here is an overview of the most significant offseason moves made by the Maple Leafs, and how they will continue to affect the 2015-2016 season:

The Phil Kessel Trade:

Kessel

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Phil Kessel trade was the biggest blockbuster deal of the summer. The Maple Leafs traded the star right winger to Pittsburgh. Though the Leafs were eager to move Kessel, this was a bad deal for the Leafs. Granted, it’s understandable that not many teams were even able to realistically discuss a potential trade involving Kessel because of his $8 million contract, but that doesn’t mean that this trade was the right trade for Toronto.

Phil Kessel is one of the best goal scorers in the entire league. There aren’t many players in the league who are as lethal, and he is a threat every time he touches the puck. Regardless of how Toronto felt about Kessel, they could have and should have gotten more in return for him. The Maple Leafs were able to get prospect Kasperi Kapanen, who was a first-round pick in the 2014 draft. However, the Maple Leafs should have insisted that one of Pittsburgh’s two young defensemen be in the deal. Either one of Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta should have been part of the package coming back to Toronto, and it’s surprising that the deal went through without one of them being involved.

The “conditions” on the conditional draft picks have to do with Pittsburgh’s performance this season. Assuming Pittsburgh makes the playoffs this year, Toronto will receive Pittsburgh’s 2016 1st-round pick in exchange for the Leafs’ 2016 2nd-rounder (originally obtained in the Daniel Winnik trade). If the Penguins miss the playoffs this year, then Toronto would receive Pittsburgh’s 2017 1st-round pick in exchange for Toronto’s 2017 2nd-round pick. If Pittsburgh misses the playoffs for the next two seasons, then Toronto would receive the Penguins’ 2017 2nd-round pick and Toronto would keep its 2nd-rounder. The reason these conditions were set is to offer insurance to Pittsburgh in case their season is a disaster. However, it’s essentially a 1st-round pick for a 2nd-round pick. Even with this upgrade, the trade is still weak for Toronto. Yes, the team cleared around $7 million of cap space (the Leafs retained $1.2 million of Kessel’s salary), and the team was able to get a very talented young prospect in Kapanen, but we are talking about Phil Kessel. Defenseman Scott Harrington is a third pairing defenseman; he is currently playing on the Leafs roster, but he does not have the potential that Pouliot and Maatta do. This trade was a steal by Pittsburgh. Even if Toronto wanted to move Kessel, the team made the move for the sake of it instead of waiting for a better offer that brought equal value to Toronto.
 

Hiring Mike Babcock:

Mike Babcock

via Getty Images

The entire hockey world was eager to learn where former Red Wings’ coach Mike Babcock would land, as many teams were interested. Babcock is considered one of the best coaches in the league after leading the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup victory in 2008, a Stanley Cup appearance in 2009 and 10 seasons of playoff hockey, preserving Detroit’s 24-year streak of making the postseason. His 458 wins as coach of the Red Wings make him the Red Wings’ all-time leader in wins.

Babcock’s announcement that he had signed an 8-year deal worth $50 million to be the head coach of the Maple Leafs surprised many, as Buffalo seemed to be the frontrunners in the Babcock race. The Sharks and Blues were also in the running, and rumors of plenty of other teams having interest were plentiful. In the end, Babcock chose Toronto. He is now the highest-paid coach in NHL history, though the money isn’t an issue for the organization considering Toronto is one of the wealthiest teams in the league. It is still a monster contract, though.

This is huge for the Maple Leafs’ organization. Babcock is easily one of the best coaches in the league, has the respec of almost everyone in the league and has been able to win games despite widespread injuries. His intensity will be appreciated by players and fans alike. Not only did the team hire Babcock as coach but the organization later hired former Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello to be the GM in Toronto. The combination of Mike Babcock, Lou Lamoriello and Leafs president Brendan Shanahan makes for a great team for this daunting rebuild project. It is still too early in the season to know how much of an impact Babcock has made, but the team has certainly seemed more accountable, and the effort has been there on a more consistent basis. Even with Babcock behind the bench, the Leafs will most likely be in contention for Austin Mathews, who will likely be the number-one overall pick in the 2016 draft. Babcock’s effect will not be felt in full force early on, but he has signed on for eight years and will have plenty of time to re-shape the identity of this team.
 

Line Combinations

Here are the line combinations the Maple Leafs used in the team’s most recent game (via LeftWingLock):
 
Forwards
JVR-Kadri-Komarov
Matthias-Arcabello-Boyes
Winnik-Spaling-Lupul
Grabner-Froese-Parenteau

Defensemen
Hunwick-Phaneuf
Harrington-Rielly
Marincin-Polak

Goalies
Bernier
Reimer
 
 

Final Thoughts

The Maple Leafs have made many changes in the organization and on the roster. The team is in complete rebuild mode, but the hires of Mike Babcock and Lou Lamoriello will make the process that much smoother. It may take a few years, but Toronto has a lot of pieces in place that will help turn this franchise around down the road. Kasperi Kapanen, Mitch Marner and William Nylander are only a few of Toronto’s prospects currently developing for the future. The Leafs will likely earn a high draft pick in this year’s draft, and could possibly win the draft lottery. No matter what, Babcock has obviously committed to being patient with a group of players and a team that has struggled tremendously over the past few years. The Maple Leafs are definitely in good hands; it’s only a matter of time before Toronto becomes a perennial playoff threat.
 
 
Featured image credit: Lynne Sladky-AP