Crystal Ball: Should the Leafs consider trading Giguere (and three other questions)?
Good morning and apologies for the radio silence yesterday. I trust you had a nice weekend, despite the 2-0 loss to Montreal.
What else can you do, right? The Habs run a tight defensive ship. They capitalize on mistakes. And they have Carey Price in net, a guy playing with so much poise that even his pencil-thin mustache screams: "I have enough confidence right now to steal your wife."
Next time, Montreal. Next time!
It's hard to believe but the One Quarter point of the season is nearly upon us. So in advance of tonight's home game against Dallas, and in lieu of a more sensible post, here are four questions I've been asking myself since the Montreal game ended:
Question 1: Should the Leafs consider trading J.S. Giguere?
Don't misunderstand. I have enormous respect for Jiggy's accomplishments, talent, work ethic and leadership. He's a great goalie. He has an ideal temperament. If I had a son, I'd want him to be just like this guy.
That said, let's explore this question with cold-blooded reason.
Is Jonas "Goose" Gustavsson ready to be a No. 1 starter in this league? Do the Leafs have long-term depth in net with Goose, James Reimer and Jussi Rynnas? If you answer "yes" to those two questions, even reluctantly, then I think we need to at least ask a third one: Is Giguere expendable?
The Leafs need help scoring. They need a power forward or point-a-game center or both. And in an era of reduced transactions, at a time when player movement hinges on positional desperation and/or cap management, a veteran goaltender is still one of the best currencies in the trade market.
Increasingly, this Leafs' goaltending situation reminds me of the 92-93 season. Like Giguere, that team had a de facto No. 1 vet with a Cup pedigree in Grant Fuhr. Like Goose, they had a promising up-and-comer in Felix Potvin.
But at some point around Christmas, coach Pat Burns told management he believed the promising up-and-comer could get the job done. He believed it was time for The Cat to purr on a nightly basis.
So Fuhr was traded to Buffalo in February 1993 and, as you recall, the Leafs received a fellow by the name of Dave Andreychuk.
In other words: Exactly the kind of player they need today.
Question 2: Should Colton Orr dress for every game?
Again, I need to predicate this with a "don't misunderstand." Enforcing just might be the most thankless job in hockey. You earn a living by trading punches with another man in front of thousands of screaming spectators?
But here's the thing: Fighting isn't what it used to be.
I remember a time when there was at least one scrap per game. Some teams had two, even three policemen. These guys didn't score goals or shut-down opposition stars. They beat the living daylights out of each other.
Those days are mostly gone.
Some teams don't even have a designated tough guy anymore. So, yes, while there will be nights when Orr's muscle and intimidation are surely needed, there will be other nights when his spot in the line-up could go to someone else.
In the new NHL, dressing an enforcer strictly out of antiquated impulse seems more like a bad habit than a good way to pursue a berth in the playoffs. It would be one thing if the Leafs were able to rollout three lines that consistently contributed to the box score. But right now, they simply can't afford to have a skater play six or seven minutes a night when they are in dire need of scoring and improving their special teams.
Question 3: Should Nazem Kadri be considered a playmaker instead of a sniper?
Let's assume Kadri is here to stay for a while. Let's also assume he's going to play somewhere on the top two lines while he's here.
The question becomes this: Would there be considerably less pressure on his 20-year-old shoulders if he stopped fretting about scoring goals himself? That is, would Kadri actually contribute more if the unspoken need to bag highlight reel goals was replaced with a simple focus on, say, passing the puck?
In his four games with the Leafs, Kadri is averaging 19:13 minutes in ice time. But he's only managed an average of 1.5 shots per game. What he is doing quite admirably is finding open men, which is why he has three assists. He's also winning face-offs – on Saturday, he was the only Leaf to not lose a majority of his draws.
What would happen if everybody, including Kadri, stopped casting him in the role of goal scorer? What if his real offensive asset, at this point in time, is not so much burying the puck as it is finding places for his teammates to dig?
Question 4: Should the Leafs start dictating play?
You know what's interesting about the season thus far? With the exception of five or six games, the Leafs have allowed their opponents to set the tone and determine what kind of game gets played.
The problem, of course, is the Leafs are 2-8-1 when the other team scores first. And when their opponents control the play early on, the Leafs tend to get flustered and stop skating or start panicking and misfiring on chances. The 156 shots they've missed at home ranks near the bottom of the league. They've also given the puck away 221 times, which is rock bottom.
This young Leafs squad, possibly more than any other team right now, needs to get off to a good start each night. To do this, they need to stop worrying about what the other team may or may not do and start dictating play.
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