A glimmer of the offense returns against Dallas with Kadri.

Kadri hadn't been scoring much lately but in the last 2 games netted 3 big goals as Toronto won both games. Last year Kadri scored 30 goals and was a huge part of their offensive surge. Toronto showed some size issues but countered with their opportunistic play. Dallas (10 -1 in last 11 home games) played well but Toronto could have had at least 6 goals, continually breaking up plays mid ice then countering quickly. While Dallas carried much of the play backup McElhinney made 2 key saves(39 in total) while Kadri scored twice. It was a battle of styles. The young, quick offense against the reliable defense and speed won. Babcock deserves some credit as he exploited Dallas' weakness. At every instance Toronto raced for the puck or intercepted plays, breaking out quickly while only Sequin managed to counter with a goal for Dallas. In the end Toronto showed some killer instinct even having a goal disallowed by Connor Brown when the ref whistled play over on a loose puck. Toronto was outplayed but in this matchup their speed proved too much as the Leafs take a 4 to 1 win in Dallas into the AllStar break. Is the offense returning ? At the very least, let us hope Kadri is back to his old form as he has been sorely missed the last 20 games or so.

Fans want to rate Hunter's record ?

 He hasn't been with us long but already Leaf fans are questioning Hunter's draft record. I think it is a touch early but let us examine the standard. As I recall, the GM Dave Holland of powerful Detroit once said   " You want to draft 2 or 3 players per year." Let us first assume a bust is a player who will never play in the NHL with any significance unless he is a first rounder, in which case the standard becomes a top 9 forward, a top 4 defenseman or a starting NHL goalie. The average prospect must be given 3 to 4 years to mature and develop and it is often longer with defensemen and goaltenders. As such, it is too early to clearly judge Hunter and his work but let us give it a try. He started his legacy at the 2015 NHL draft, where the rumours were Hunter and Babcock disagreed on Marner versus much vaunted defenseman such as Hannifin, Provorov and Werenski. As history shows Hunter was GM of the London Knights and covered in sweat and consternation took Marner that day due to being convinced he had an NHL star player and that like his older brother,  Marner might have a growth spurt upto 6ft 2 inches. Marner became an NHL player one year later but never grew much. Hunter then traded the next first round pick Konecny to Philly and turned it into Dermott, Bracco and Dzerkials. Later in the draft he took Timashov who is progressing in the AHL with the Marlies but is a darkhorse prospect. Dermott is Toronto's top defensive player in the AHL and is seeing time in the NHL at present. He has played well and looks to develop into a top 4 defensive dman who can skate, pass and hit with some flair for offense. So in 2015, Hunter came up with Marner and Dermott, a success. Hunter also took small but skilled forward Jeremy Bracco who was snubbed by WJC Team USA. He is getting more comfortable in the AHL as the season progresses but it is hard to see how he will squeak into the Leaf line up due to size and a plethora of  skilled wingers in the Leaf system.

  Fast forward to 2016. The last place team, wait for it... won the lottery ! The Leafs had a hole at centre since the departure of Sundin. The race was down to an American Auston Mathews and a huge scoring winger Patrick Laine from Finland. Hunter made the right choice for Toronto but likely had orders to take Mathews from high above. He then surprised by taking Korshkov an overaged big, skating Russian winger who had been passed over in other drafts as the first pick in the 2nd round. The reports are he may one day help replace the likes of JVR but at this time he needs to show his game in North America as is rumoured that he will do so next year. Hunter then took Swedish winger Grundstrom, who to me looks a perfect top 6/9 banging in your face, scoring winger who could play with Mathews down the line. Next was an American goalie named Woll. Woll played for the US at the World Junior Championships in 2017 and played well but was hammered on badly in a loss making some wonder about his number one abilities at the NHL level. In the 3rd he also took big skating defenseman Greenway from College. Greenway missed much of this season with personal issues.
In the 4th round, Hunter took  centre Adam Brooks a smallish, high point WHL center with leadership tags on him. Brooks is currently playing with the AHL Toronto Marlies, slowly adapting to playing against men.

  Finally in 2017, with the parting of the Red Sea, top prospect Timothy Liljegren got mono. and bounced from team to team in Sweden falling to 17th overall. The Swedish defenseman has adapted quickly as an 18 year old in the AHL and played as a top 3 defenseman on Sweden's WJC silver team which starred Dahlin, this years top prospect. He accounted himself well and is still progressing with the Marlies with 1 goal 9 assists for 10 pts. in 19 games. At this time many consider him one of the top 10 prospects owned by an NHL team. The second pick was Rasanen a 6ft 7 inch, Finnish defenseman  playing in the OHL . Rasanen is garnering comparisons to gulp... Chris Pronger! He was invited to play for Finland at the WJC but didn't play much. Currently he is contributing offensively at the OHL level and provides a booming shot from the point. As many big men , he needs to grow into his frame and work on his skating to make the NHL.

  In the 3 years Hunter has been leading the draft in Toronto he has taken : Marner,Dermott,Mathews,Grundstrom,Liljegren who are players who I feel strongly either are or will play in the NHL making contributions of significance. There is a good chance Korshkov and/ or Rasanen will play at the NHL level but it is too early since neither is at the AHL level yet. Hunter has some long odders in Bracco, Brooks, Woll, Timashov but other than that nothing yet to point at in the later rounds. No Connor Brown or Andreas Johnsson hiding in there. Hunter has gone from smallish,skill upfront(2015) to size and defense(2016,2017), using later picks to take goalies such as Scott in the 4th round last year. I think Hunter has found 6 NHL players in his first 3 drafts. His darkhorses are there but haven't shown enough to get prospect analyzers excited. Hunter may also have had some influence from upstairs on draft philopshy in certain years such as drafting size, big defensemen etc. Hunter has fulfilled the minimum requirements while having high picks but his later round drafting looks soft at this time. Given he has provided Toronto with Mathews, Marner, Liljegren, Dermott as well as Grundstrom, Rasanen. I have to give him a grade of B provided Korshkov or even Bracco makes the NHL. At year 3 it is hard to accurately judge Hunter's work, especially compared to the work of Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay but he has provided a stream of prospects so far, while opting to use late rounders on goalies and big defenseman who take much longer to develop. If Korshkov does score 20 goals one day and just a single darkhorse pick pans out from these 3 drafts then history will remember Hunter well, as his critics will always point to that one Parayko who slipped by him and every other GM.  We await Korshkov and Rasanen to hand in any final grades. Even Lou said " five years" and in a way that is the true standard.

With the announcement of Kyle Dubas as new GM , on May 21st 2018  Hunter has moved on leaving Marner as his mark. Thanks Mark best of luck.

Leaf fans ask is this the year to go for it ?

  With the trade deadline looming and 3 of our vets entering UFA this summer, many fans are asking do we go for it now ? The answer lies in how Lou and the management see this team. Can the likes of JVR, Bozak and Komorov offer the playoff leadership this young team needs to win a round or more? Or does Lou get something for them now and continue "The build" ?

  First, let us consider that this team already seems to be on a collision course with arch nemesis Boston, who are playing very well these days. At the same time Florida and Detroit are unlikely to catch Toronto if they play .500 from here on in. It can't be said Toronto has played well this year as some of their offense has dried up and they still need help on defense. Luckily though the Leafs are in the Atlantic. Last year Lou traded a second to get rental Dan Boyle from Tampa Bay, and of course he has 2 second round picks(one from SJ) in this summer's draft. On the one hand we have strong willed Babcock who will want success now, something far less likely if we lose JVR or Bozak. Unless Lou gets a "Knock your socks off!"  type of deal, he won't be a seller, much to the chagrin of the "asset management" fans we now have in abundance in Toronto. I'm one but realize big trades rarely happen at TD and rarely produce fruit as the players have trouble adjusting in such a short span of time. Lou likes to start early on his trades as he did when he dumped Phaneuff into Ottawa's hands, a problem they are still trying to deal with themselves. The most likely outcome is Lou will try and get a reasonable rental and keep his vets. After all, all of them could be resigned, as JVR is rumoured to be open to. Don't expect any big news from Toronto this TD. They know this team won't win it all but they don't want to see their 3 UFA vets walk after exiting in the first round of the playoffs either. The Leafs aren't in a good position to trade their first rounders yet as the system still has gaps such as Centre depth and Goal. The compromise ? Add a vet defenseman and see what the team can do. If they lose in the first, maybe it is time to move on and give younger guys like Kapanen, Gauthier, Soshnikov and perhaps Johnsson their chance. Youth served Toronto well last year. The focus will be on gaining playoff experience and winning a round and that means adding not subtracting this TD, albeit judiciously. It is a gamble to play the vets and risk them walking for nothing but getting the kids some valuable playoff experience will be the priority with this management group.