For much of the first half, the Leafs continued to show they were among the best offensive and skating teams in the NHL. Lack of team defense and puck possession however, had raised enough concern in management to fire head coach and former NHL’er Randy Carlyle mid-season. It seemed ill-timed to many, including myself. But can you really blame them? They were hoping for a spark, a new perspective from the bench, or perhaps just one game where the reliance of hot goaltending is not an issue. Ironically, for all the wrong reasons, this may be the best decision they could have made.
Fast forward one month, and the Leafs have gone 1-7-1 after the dismissal of Carlyle. A shake up on the bench clearly has done nothing but further stall progress in the playoff hunt, but opened up some doors in the sales market as the trade deadline approaches.
We all should know that with the financial commitment to Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson will be nearly impossible for the team to sign going forward. As a young offensive minded defenseman who is not a liability defensively and hits everything in sight, he will command a fairly large dollar on the market in the off-season. It does however create an interesting trading piece for the team to pick up prospects or draft picks, and the rumors are already starting to swirl.
With the seasonal managerial refusal to perform a complete rebuild, there is usually little to look forward to beyond mediocrity. Be that as it may, this year has a remarkably deep draft, and the Maple Leafs are literally gaining full percentage points in the chance to pick a McDavid, Eichel, or at least a valuable piece. At this pace, they might just finish with greater than 10% chance to win the hometown phenom. I’ll take those odds.