Here I am on a Sunday evening fine-tuning a bottle of wine that needs to be finished before it spoils, and I feel like now is the time to talk about some off-season practices. Here we are:
Rumors versus speculation
The main thing that drew me to the online hockey community was having many hours of office work to do and my desire to see the Leafs make moves to improve. I scoured the internet for any indication that Toronto would improve, and that’s how I filled my work day. I continued from there, but I still get the call to research the Leafs rumors and dream about what happens next.
Still, I’d like to think that along the way, I learned the difference between rumors and speculation and learned to treat them differently. I don’t often see this in the social media mess, and it’s often the product of the shitty phone game going on.
Rumors are usually provided by a beat insider or reporter quoting someone in the league sharing what they’ve heard or perhaps what they’re up to. These are quite simple.
Unfortunately, because people like me and many of you are so hungry for rumors and there are countless hours of television and radio to fill and countless articles to write, we are entitled to a good dose of speculation, often from those same insiders who provide us with the rumors and confuse it. Much of the speculation is worth it, given that these insiders often base what comes next on better information than the rest of us, but it’s still not a rumor in the truest sense and we leaves with people having minor meltdowns over the idea of Matt Murray being the next Maple Leafs goaltender.
I’m going to pick up on Chris Johnston’s mention of Murray because it’s a recent and simple example. The connection is there because the Senators are looking to lose pay, as Ottawa usually does. Murray is a product of the Soo Greyhounds, and Dubas certainly has an affinity for going with players he knows, and it’s no secret that the Leafs are on the hunt for a goaltender. Connecting the dots seems reasonable, whatever your opinion of Murray is and was perfectly reasonable speculation. And at no time did Johnston claim to report anything, he used the popular qualifier “I think” that is often omitted from Instagram rumor charts, or radio stations forget to mention in their tweets, along with the link to the audio which allows people to verify that this was speculation, not a report.
Speculation is fun and fills the time between actual news. It adds an insider perspective to the conversation about player movement, but all I’m asking for is a little more context from the folks aggregating it. Believe me, the influence is still there, you don’t need to smear anyone by changing the tone of the information.
Stop saying “they’ll take the best player available”
Draft season is fun in many ways and tedious in many others. I generally find it an exciting time, but it’s true that for the past three years I haven’t followed junior hockey the way I used to and at the best of times was trying to to get what I could get from the coverage of European hockey. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of draft lists littered with hot takes and profile drafts littered with snaps to catch us all up. While I don’t care about these things, they really are invaluable tools because someone has taken at least a little time to figure out what these players have to offer.
Usually, once those draft rosters exist and casual drafts like me have their way, we start hearing about how each team needs to take the best player available. I’ve always found that to be the dumbest statement imaginable given that you’re not going to find agreement on this. Right now, there’s a lot of debate about Logan Cooley vs. Shane Wright and usually there are enough misses on everyone’s list to introduce some consideration beyond the best player available.
The first thing I’m going to assume is that most teams have groups or tiers of players, not just a simple 1-224 roster. When you see teams trading, it’s probably because they feel safe that they’ll get one of their guys. If they wanted a certain player, they would probably take that player. When the Leafs traded to select Rasmus Sandin, he might have been Dubas’ first choice, but there were likely a few other players he would have been happy with as well. Nobody thought Sandin was the best player available at the time, other than Kyle Dubas.
The next thing is that positions and archetypes must be taken into account when determining the best player available. It’s normal to value centers more than wingers, or high-end scores on two-way play, that’s going to create a lot of variance in rankings, and certainly when I’ve done my rankings in the past, I I have a huge bias towards crosses and players with elite speed.
There is also the question of what your organization can develop successfully. Take a look at the Leafs’ record of goaltending development. There’s probably a lot of risk in prioritizing a goaltender over left-handed defenders, which the Leafs have been able to produce much more reliably.
The statement “they will take the best player available” is really stating the obvious and that is that the Leafs will select the highest player on their roster. Well no shit. It’s just that we don’t know that roster, so looking at organizational trends and needs makes a lot more sense than assuming the Leafs print Bob McKenzie’s preliminary roster half an hour before the announcement of the first selection.
Maybe the Leafs better get a goalie before the goalie coach
It goes without saying that the Leafs would like the contribution of an expert from the goaltending organization to help them build their fold for next season. That may be true for backup, the Marlies, and other organizational depths, but maybe Kyle Dubas needs to take the jump on the choke himself and just pick and choose who looks to have the best chances of delivering the highest level of goalkeeping possible. Next, find the goalkeeper coach that matches that primary acquisition.
Maybe there’s even something to be said for that goalkeeper in weighing who they’d like to work with, and that can help set the tone for the organization by shaping their approach to goalkeeping on style. of the starter and putting everyone on the same wavelength.
Although I don’t know the draft, I still feel like I know even less about goalkeepers, but with MLSE’s deep pockets and limitless spending abilities for coaches, maybe it’s more important to get the goalie that the organization as a whole wants first.
That being said, when you look at the history of the Leafs’ goaltending development and it’s pretty much limited to Felix Potvin, Damian Rhodes, and James Reimer as success stories of the last thirty years, maybe- being that the architect is more important than the guy with the hammer, even though the guy with the hammer will be the one who actually has to get things done.
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