Be it coach Randy Carlyle, GM Dave Nonis, or one of many players, the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to need to make some changes. Rumor Roundup looks at the Leafs’ options going forward.
After the Toronto Maple Leafs were humbled 6-2 by the NHL’s worst team, the Buffalo Sabres, and followed it up with a humiliating 9-2 loss to the Nashville Predators, the calls for change from Leafs Nation are growing louder. In some cases, they reached banshee-like proportions.
The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons believes how Leafs president Brendan Shanahan addresses this situation will say much about Shanahan’s managerial style going forward. He could fire coach Randy Carlyle or GM Dave Nonis. Perhaps both. Maybe neither. So far, he appears willing to stand pat.
Even if Carlyle got the axe, who would replace him? Former Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is an option. The Leafs are also rumored to have interest in Detroit Red Wings bench boss Mike Babcock, who’s in the final season of his contract. Alas, Babcock won’t be available until the off-season, assuming he doesn’t re-sign with the Wings.
The Leafs could replace Carlyle and promote one of his assistant coaches or look elsewhere for an interim until the summer, then make a full-court press for Babcock. However, if he becomes available next summer there will be several suitors who’ll give the Leafs a run for their money.
Whoever the Leafs hire must find a way to improve the Leafs horrible puck-possession and defensive numbers. They’re currently 25th overall in Corsi-for and Fenwick-for percentages, while giving up the fourth-highest shots-against per game.
Another option is the trade route, but there’s no quick-fix solutions here. CBS Sports’ Adam Gretz observes the Leafs lack depth throughout the roster. He feels their most marketable players – Phil Kessel, James van Reimsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner and Cody Franson – are those they shouldn’t trade, as they’re either in their prime or could be key components for a rebuilding roster.
NHL insider Darren Dreger appeared on TSN 1050 to discuss possible trade options. He claims there were teams interested in Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf during the off-season but didn’t know if anyone has done so since the season began. He ultimately doesn’t see the Leafs getting a return worth moving Phaneuf. Dreger also suggests it may be time to move winger Joffrey Lupul.
The Edmonton Journal’s Jonathan Willis suggests a swap of backups between the Leafs and Oilers, in which the Leafs ship James Reimer to Edmonton for Viktor Fasth. Willis feels both goalies need a fresh start, and feels Reimer could be a good candidate to compete for the starter’s job with the Oilers while Fasth would make an affordable backup for the Leafs.
In reality, however, there’s no magical early-season trade which can right the floundering Leafs ship and save the season. If they trade away their best players they won’t get equal value in return, plus it’s very difficult to move high-salaried players at this point in the season.
If the Leafs can find any takers for Phaneuf’s $7-million annual cap hit, they won’t have a big-minute blueliner to take his place. Lupul’s injury history hurts his trade value. Reimer for Fasth is really just rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship.
The best bet to save the season is a coaching change, but it remains to be seen if Shanahan and his bosses feel the same way. As for significant roster moves, they’ll have to wait until the March trade deadline at the earliest, and then only if the Leafs are out of playoff contention by then. Such moves could signal a major rebuild on the horizon.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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