What’s the right price to pay for Taylor Hall? Plus, Cap’n Cornelius joins the show to talk about new NHL policies and coaching changes.
Wednesday afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs fired their now former head coach, Mike Babcock, and promoted Sheldon Keefe as the new head coach of the Leafs from his previous head coaching duties with the Toronto Marlies (AHL).
It’s a move that everyone likely saw coming, but this soon? That’s impressive.
Babcock was adamant in his coaching abilities and in his belief in himself as “the greatest coach who ever lived” (paraphrasing, obviously), but could not salvage his hubris when it mattered most– right now.
Toronto is currently 9-10-4 (22 points) on the season, 5th place in the Atlantic Division and outside of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Luckily for the Leafs, the Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-3, 25 points), Philadelphia Flyers (10-7-4, 24 points) and Buffalo Sabres (10-8-3, 23 points) aren’t that far ahead of them in the standings for now.
It’s the perfect time to be bold and make a move if you’re looking to provide a short-term spark that will hopefully re-ignite some cooling embers and launch the Maple Leafs back into playoff contention at the very least– if not Stanley Cup contention, as many have expected for a few years now before Toronto’s General Manager, Kyle Dubas, was forced to spend about $40.489 million on William Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner while somehow forgetting the importance of a defense and a backup goaltender in the process.
For a team that used to employ a coach that notoriously bet on himself and his process for better or worse, well, they’re betting heavily on the salary cap ceiling to make a significant jump by the time a new national TV rights distribution package in the United States is negotiated in 2022.
But that’s a separate discussion entirely.
For now, we’re left in the wake of a post-Babcock Leafs Era and what it means for the Boston Bruins– Toronto’s biggest rival most recently.
The 56-year-old former head coach in Toronto was in his 5th year of an eight-year, $50.000 million contract with the Maple Leafs.
Toronto went 29-42-11 in the 2015-16 season, which led them to drafting Matthews with the 1st overall pick in the 2016 Draft.
The following year, Babcock and the Maple Leafs improved to 40-27-15, qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2013, before losing in six games to the Washington Capitals in the 2017 First Round.
Then history repeated itself as the Leafs went 49-26-7 in the 2017-18 regular season before losing in seven games to Boston in the 2018 First Round.
From there it was a broken record for Toronto– a 46-28-9 effort in 2018-19 led to another First Round matchup with Boston and another Game 7 loss on the road to the Bruins in the 2019 First Round.
This season, through 23 games, the Leafs have six wins in regulation. They have nine total.
Babcock hasn’t won a playoff series since he was still with the Detroit Red Wings in 2013. He hasn’t led a team back to the Stanley Cup Final since losing in 2009 with Detroit in the Red Wings-Penguins rematch from 2008.
He may be “Canada’s Coach”, but he isn’t “Canada’s favorite team’s head coach” anymore.
Enter Keefe, a 39-year-old, from Brampton, Ontario– a short drive from Toronto– emerging as “The Chosen One”.
Hired by Toronto to lead the Marlies on June 8, 2015, Keefe had a respectable first season with Toronto’s AHL affiliate in 2015-16, notching a 54-16-5-1 record (wins-losses-overtime losses-shootout losses, for those of you who aren’t AHL savvy).
Keefe pushed his team all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs (his rookie season as an AHL coach, mind you) before the Marlies succumbed to the Hershey Bears in five games.
In 2016-17, Keefe coached his team to a 42-29-4-1 record and a North Division Final appearance in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs that resulted in a Game 7 loss to the Syracuse Crunch.
That loss didn’t set the Marlies back, but instead motivated Keefe and his team as they marched to a 54-18-2-2 record in 2017-18 and a 2018 Calder Cup Final appearance.
They defeated the Texas Stars in seven games and captured Toronto’s first championship in ice hockey since the NHL’s Maple Leafs raised the Stanley Cup in 1967.
Though it was only the AHL, it proved that something was in the works.
Dubas’ masterplan was coming to fruition as the analytics guru rose to power– taking over as GM of the Maple Leafs with Lou Lamoriello’s departure in the 2018 offseason.
Keefe had followed Dubas from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) to the Maple Leafs organization in 2015, but Babcock stood in the way of his destiny, it seemed.
Babcock was Lamoriello’s choice and fit with Brendan Shanahan’s “Shanaplan”.
Keefe fit with Dubas in the contemporary game, “Shanaplan” be damned.
In 2018-19, Keefe led the Marlies to a 39-24-9-4 record and an Eastern Conference Final appearance for the 2nd year in a row in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Though the Marlies lost to the Charlotte Checkers in six games, one thing was for certain– Keefe had it going in the minor league.
It’s not every day that a coach is able to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in his rookie season, let alone in three of his first four full seasons as an AHL bench boss.
Up until his promotion to the NHL, Keefe amassed a 10-2-2-1 record with the Marlies this season.
They were 1st in the North Division at the time of his departure for the big league.
In 320 career AHL games with the Marlies, Keefe collected a 199-89-22-9 record and a .622 winning percentage in the process– plus one Calder Cup championship in 2018.
So, what does this mean for the Bruins?
A lot when you factor in advantages and disadvantages for each team in the promotion of Keefe from the Marlies to the Leafs.
First, for Toronto, the advantages of having Keefe for a potential playoff matchup with Boston.
The core of Toronto’s current roster (Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman, Morgan Rielly and even Frederik Andersen) has lost in the First Round in at least one of the last three postseasons (Tavares is the only member who hasn’t had to endure three-straight soul crushing First Round departures under Babcock’s reign).
Yes, this may seem bad, but it actually speaks volumes for their playoff experience.
This team is hungry– right from its core– and its fanbase, its front office and its backyard media wants to win sooner rather than later.
Plus, Nylander’s 2nd season in the AHL (although it was only a partial season) overlapped with Keefe’s time behind the bench of the Marlies, so there’s some familiarity between one of the four highest paid players on the Leafs and their head coach.
Additionally, Kapanen, Hyman and others have experience with Keefe and the Marlies’ system.
There’s enough familiarity there for something– potentially something dangerous.
Now for the advantages for Boston.
History is on their side. Boston’s core (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask) has shown its capable of making another Cup run (even with an aging captain and 1-2 centers).
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, remains a constant and in control.
Boston missed the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, but Claude Julien was still their head coach then, so the combination of Cassidy, plus Chara, Bergeron and Krejci’s leadership made for an easier transition into getting the team back into a “top of their game” playoff performer (and eventual Cup contender in 2019).
This isn’t a luxury the Leafs have, where the team’s looking to get back into postseason contention, period, let alone win a series.
Toronto missed the playoffs in their first year with Babcock, but made it for the last three years and lost each year in the First Round.
This leads to Toronto’s disadvantages for another potential postseason meeting with the Bruins.
History is not on Toronto’s side and neither are the statistics.
Yes, Dubas’ 2nd favorite thing in the world– analytics– could get in the way of his 1st favorite thing in the world– bringing the Cup back to the Maple Leafs organization.
As things stand, the Leafs have a greater chance of missing the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs than making them currently.
Toronto– the city, the fans, the players, the front office and the media– wants to win right now. There’s no room for excuses (even if they’re legitimate, like taking one’s time to formulate a defense via prospects or trades and supplementing Andersen in the crease with a legitimate backup goaltender).
But, whereas Cassidy inherited broken pieces in Boston that were addressed and revamped as the team went from outside the playoffs two years in a row to making three consecutive postseason appearances under Cassidy in his head coaching tenure with the B’s– addressing the need for depth down the lineup in the process without the likes of a highly touted free agent acquisition– Keefe and the Leafs have the majority of this season to work on that necessary synergy with a better offense (on paper).
Cassidy was named interim head coach of the Bruins in Feb. 2017. Boston was ousted by the Ottawa Senators in six games in the 2017 First Round and lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the 2018 Second Round prior to their 2019 Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Keefe has Tavares, Matthews and Marner (when healthy) to unleash on any given night and could very well pull a turnaround in one season a la the St. Louis Blues last season (who beat the Bruins in the Final in Game 7 at TD Garden) or the Penguins in 2009 (when Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien midseason and won the Cup) and 2016 (when Mike Sullivan replaced Bylsma midseason and won the Cup).
In that sense, recent history is actually on Toronto’s side.
Boston had some growing pains to go with their dramatic improvement, but the Leafs are built to counteract that pain if Keefe can find a better way to manage it than Babcock did.
As it is, Cassidy is 130-55-27 in 212 games with Boston from 2017-present (good enough for a .613 winning percentage), but 207-128-21-24 in 380 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL) from 2011-16 (.545 winning%).
Babcock was 173-133-45 in 351 games with the Maple Leafs from 2015-19 (.493 winning%).
Keefe gets the final say and has his .622 winning% in 320 games with the Marlies going for him as he steps into the biggest role behind any bench in the National Hockey League.
Playoffs or not, the rest of this season is about to be a wild ride for the Maple Leafs and their fans.
Bruins fans be worried or not.
A bunch of minor trades were made in the last week, the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game rosters were released, as well as the 2019-20 outdoor game schedule. Nick and Connor also discuss the legacy that was the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and the 2019 IIHF World Junior Quarterfinal upsets.
*Editor’s Note: Of course, after recording this week’s episode, the Philadelphia Flyers claimed G Mike McKenna off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.
The Board of Governors meeting gets underway next week involving the Seattle expansion vote, Bill Peters took a puck to the jaw and Rick Middleton and Vic Hadfield are having their numbers retired this week.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes made another trade with each other, Karl Alzner is being Wade Redden’ed, Ron Hextall got ousted as the Philadelphia Flyers GM, the Buffalo Sabres win streak reached double digits and the Winnipeg Jets brought back their Heritage Jerseys.
Nick and Connor also encourage all of Long Island to go to the New York Islanders game at NYCB Live (it’s the Nassau Coliseum) this week and quickly plan a hopeful trip to see Sporting KC play in Atlanta.
Nick and Connor talk Alex Tuch’s extension with the Vegas Golden Knights, superstars Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, as well as Charlie McAvoy extension options, the New York Rangers, Boston’s first line vs. Colorado’s top line and the week’s biggest matchup.
Erik Karlsson finally got traded, NHL 19 came out and our official 2018-19 Pacific Division Season Preview just so happened to be this week too. Nick and Connor place their bets on the San Jose Sharks and more.
It came with little surprise.
Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney had recently remarked that he was comfortable with having eight defenders and looking forward to the new season, but with McQuaid sitting on the books at $2.750 million for the remainder of his contract– more than likely up on the 9th floor of TD Garden as a healthy scratch from night-to-night– a move was coming.
Kampfer has one-year remaining on his contract at $650,000, leaving Boston with about $5.000 million in cap space for the 2018-19 season. That’s certainly plenty of room to make more moves as the trade deadline approaches in the new year and plenty of room to make a serious run at a top pending-UFA in July 2019– let alone cap room to re-sign Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Danton Heinen and more.
So basically, that was the whole point of a McQuaid trade. Be kind to an NHLer who will log minutes on the ice with a different team instead of the 9th floor, clear some cap room in the process, bump some younger guys up on the depth chart and get something in return (rather than let McQuaid go for nothing next July). Kampfer, in the meantime, will likely be sent to Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence– only to be called up in the event of injuries or in case of emergency.
Meanwhile, New York GM Jeff Gorton was able to shore up some veteran presence and valuable locker room intangibles with the addition of McQuaid.
McQuaid, 31, until now, spent his entire nine-year NHL career with Boston since being traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets on May 17, 2007 in exchange for a fifth round pick. That 5th round pick was subsequently traded to the Dallas Stars by the time draft day came around and was used to select Jamie Benn 129th overall.
Originally drafted by Columbus in the second round (55th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, McQuaid has 13-53–66 totals in 462 career NHL games. He broke into the NHL in the 2009-10 season with the Bruins after spending parts of three seasons with the Providence Bruins from 2007-10, appearing in 178 AHL games and amassing eight goals and 26 assists (34 points).
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound defender has appeared in 68 postseason games with three goals and eight assists (11 points) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A 2011 Stanley Cup champion, McQuaid has had at least 100 hits in five of his nine NHL seasons and at least 100 blocked shots in four of his nine seasons.
In 2017-18, he had one goal and three assists (four points) in 38 games for Boston. McQuaid was teammates with current Rangers blueliner, Marc Staal, for all four seasons of his Junior hockey career (2003-07) with the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Kampfer, 29, has appeared in 166 career NHL games for the Bruins, Minnesota Wild, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers. He has 10-16–26 totals and 82 penalty minutes in his career (2010-present).
An Anaheim Ducks fourth round pick (93rd overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Kampfer was traded to Boston on March 2, 2010 in exchange for a conditional fourth round pick (which was flipped to the Carolina Hurricanes and used to select Justin Shugg).
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound defenseman made his NHL debut with the Bruins on December 9, 2010 against the New York Islanders and appeared in 38 games with Boston in 2010-11 en route to their 2011 Stanley Cup victory. Kampfer had a career-high five goals and five assists (10 points) that season and had two assists in 10 games in 2011-12 before being traded to the Wild at the trade deadline in exchange for Greg Zanon.
He went on to spend two seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL) before playing in 73 games with the Florida Panthers from 2014-16, then was traded (along with a conditional pick) to the Rangers on November 8, 2016 for Dylan McIlrath.
In two seasons with New York (2016-18), Kampfer had one goal and two assists in 32 games. He has skated in 249 career AHL games with 27-81–108 totals and played four seasons of college hockey at the University of Michigan from 2006-10.
Early Monday morning in Montreal, the Canadiens shipped off their captain, Max Pacioretty, to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a 2nd round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft originally belonging to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Just how early on Monday in Montreal was it? It was still Sunday night in Las Vegas.
That’s right, the Habs traded their captain and face of the franchise not named Carey Price while East Coast Canadiens fans were sleeping.
At first glance, it seems like the Golden Knights pulled off a landslide of a deal, but there’s no clear-cut trade winner or loser from this one.
Yes, Montreal was stuck between a rock and a hard place in trading Pacioretty, but they managed to get a valuable prospect and a high round draft pick out of it at the end of the day (on top of Tatar who will likely become a roster placeholder until one of the players in the system takes his job during the rebuild).
While Tatar’s 20-14–34 totals in 82 games with the Golden Knights and Detroit Red Wings last season aren’t as attractive as Pacioretty’s five career 60-plus point seasons since entering the NHL in 2008-09, the onus on re-signing Pacioretty for more than just a rental is now on Vegas General Manager George McPhee (which is now accomplished as moments after posting this analysis, the Golden Knights announced a four-year extension for Pacioretty).
Consider a little bit of the weight of the world off the shoulders of Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, given that he’s now no longer responsible for potentially losing Pacioretty for nothing in free agency next July.
Yes, Tatar isn’t perfect, but the race to rebuild in Montreal is on. The race to win now in Vegas continues.
This trade has no winners or losers, but rather a symbiotic relationship between two organizations heading in opposite directions. The Golden Knights land a gifted scorer in his prime, while the Canadiens get one of the best prospects in Suzuki for the future– and the future is near.
Pacioretty, 29, has 226 goals and 222 assists (448 points) in 626 career NHL games with Montreal. He was named the 29th captain in franchise history in 2015 and became the seventh Canadiens captain to be traded in the expansion era (since 1967). Pacioretty is also the first Habs captain to be traded since Vincent Damphousse was dealt to the San Jose Sharks on March 23, 1999.
In an injury derailed 2017-18 campaign, Pacioretty had 17-20–37 totals in 64 games. He was originally drafted by Montreal in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He has 10 goals and nine assists (19 points) in 38 career Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Tatar, 27, has 228 career points (119 goals, 109 assists) in 427 career NHL games split between Detroit and Vegas. He has 4-5–9 totals in 25 career postseason appearances, including a goal and an assist in eight games with the Golden Knights in their 2018 Stanley Cup Final run.
He was selected by the Red Wings in the second round (60th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Suzuki, 19, was originally drafted by the Golden Knights in the first round (13th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and appeared in 64 games with the Owen Sound Attack (OHL) in 2017-18. He had 42-58–100 totals last season and recorded 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 11 playoff games for Owen Sound and appeared in one AHL playoff game with the Chicago Wolves.