Saturday, January 07, 2017


So the holidays have come and gone, and so has my Violet.  I put her on a plane to Germany on the 19th of December, and her plan is to stay there for A WHOLE DANG YEAR.  I'm sad she's away, and I'm also pretty jealous, but we both knew that this was in the cards right from day one, and it's tremendous that she's expanding her world, so no sense bitching about it, right?

Christmas was lovely, spent at the lake of course, it was quiet and lazy and delicious, and I did a little expanding of my own, and of course the holidays were far too short, as is tradition, and I rang in the new year with beautiful people in a beautiful place; late in the game the host realised that way more people were attending his party than would fit in his house, so he commandeered the old community hall attached to the library in Waskesiu, and we shared food and drinks and music and dancing, and I didn't even wake up with a hangover, truly a christmas miracle.

Now on to the Leafs, who as of last night had squeaked into a playoff spot by beating the lowly Devils 4-2; the Buds poured in 4 goals over the space of 6 minutes in the 1st, and then gave up a couple late goals to NJ late in the 3rd, just to make things interesting.  They've also closed a 9-point gap on the Senators over the last month, and all of a sudden the last-place team from a year ago looks like a real threat to qualify for the post-season.  Yeah yeah, plan the parade and all that, but the twitter comedians who have (rightly) spent the last decade or so bagging on the Leafs are starting to sound a wee bit nervous.  We're still half a season away, and I think Tampa Bay gets their ship righted, and if the Bruins start to score they'll be trouble, but I think Ottawa slides a bit and the Flyers have dropped 5 straight, so if I were a betting man (which I am) I'd be picking the Buds for some post-season excitement this year.

This brings me to something that's been niggling at me for a while.  The last couple weeks, the rumours of JVR's imminent departure have ramped up, ad the prevailing wisdom seems to be that the Leafs are going to flip him and his tasty contract for some help on the blueline.  Now the Leafs absolutely do need help on the back end, the top 4 is great but that 3rd pairing of Polak and Hunwick is just getting caved in most nights, and if one of Gardiner or Reilly or Zaitsev misses any time this group is in deep shit, but trading JVR right now makes no sense for multiple reasons.  First, as I already mentioned, this team legitimately has the opportunity to make the playoffs, and JVR is an offensive stud.  Second, as already mentioned, he's on a great contract that doesn't expire for another year and a half.  Third, trade him to who?  The Vegas Knights expansion draft is looming this off-season, so any team that brings in JVR would have to protect him, which means exposing somebody else.  There aren't many teams who 1)are willing to trade a top D-man  2)have the cap space  3)have a protection slot free.  I'm just a dumb guy, but I don't see how a JVR trade makes sense for anybody.

My gut tells me that there will be tons of moves this off-season as teams try to minimise their expansion-draft losses, and the Leafs are in a unique position: they don't have ENOUGH GUYS worth protecting.  Assuming you protect 7F-3D-1G, what forwards do the Leafs keep?  Kadri, JVR, Bozak...maybe Komarov?  Everybody else is either exempt (all the rookies) or not worth protecting (looking at you, Ben Smith.  You too, Matt Martin).  Same deal on the back end; Zaitsev is exempt, and after Gardiner and Reilly, who else is worth protecting?  Meanwhile, the Ducks have too many good defencemen, and the Lighting are going to lose a top-6 forward, and if you offer those teams a top prospect or draft-exempt NHLer, you gotta think they jump at the chance to not lose those assets for I don't want to jinx it, but let's just say that you add Cam Fowler and Tyler Johnson to the Leafs for next season, are they not legitimate Cup contenders?  Truly this is an exciting time to be a Leafs fan, and that hasn't been true for a long, long time.