Burnsides Monthly Burn For January 2022

And so we come to the end of not just another month but the end of the lamentable year, 2021.

Don’t let the door hit you on the rear end on the way out of town 2021. Good riddance.

Sadly we start 2022 in much the same way we have endured most of the last two years. But if there’s a silver lining it’s perhaps in the way that, hopefully, we appreciate what we do have and the work that is done, often behind the scenes, to keep us moving forward even in the most trying of times.

First responders, healthcare workers, educators, the folks at the grocery store and pharmacy, in the packing plants and distribution centers, hither and yon, the list goes on of people who do much and receive little in the way of fanfare and attention. So, thank you.

In our little corner of the hockey world, thanks to for reading and listening and following along as we do our bit here at DailyFaceoff.com to keep you up to speed on what has been another tumultuous month in the life of the game we love to our core.

So, where were we?

We enjoyed our chat last fall with incoming International Ice Hockey Federation president Luc Tardif shortly after an ugly racial incident in the Ukraine.

Tardif, a native of Trois Rivieres, Quebec who took over for long-time IIHF president Rene Fasel, seemed to hit all the right notes during our conversation. His platform in campaigning to take over for Fasel, who presided for 27 years as IIHF head, included targeting illegal doping, homophobia and racism.

“I think that’s really important to make sure we don’t let enter these kinds of things in our house,” Tardif told DailyFaceoff.com.

But the last week or so has been a catastrophe for Tardif and the IIHF, starting with the IIHF’s decision to cancel a number of top women’s tournaments, including the U-18 Women’s World Championships, while men’s tournaments like the World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Red Deer continued as scheduled.

It was a bad look and Tardif didn’t do himself any favors with a defensive, condescending press release on Tuesday.

Don’t tell people how much the IIHF respects and supports women’s hockey — show it! Don’t put the onus on USA Hockey to come up with a plan to resurrect the Women’s U-18 World Championships, but announce you’re working together with U.S. officials and/or Hockey Canada and other parties who have also expressed a willingness to save the tournament to make it happen.

The IIHF’s woes were compounded Wednesday when they cancelled the WJC after just four positive tests.

The decision reveals a stunning lack of planning by the IIHF and their Canadian hosts, especially as it relates to the threshold for teams to forfeit after positive tests juxtaposed against lax hotel protocols. Given this lack of foresight the tournament seemed doomed from the outset and stands as a colossal failure for the IIHF et al.

Tardif immediately announced they would work to reschedule the ’22 WJC perhaps later in the summer.

Too bad the IIHF’s commitment to women’s hockey didn’t warrant the same kind of response but just a thought, why not run the two tournaments together as a kind of international hockey celebration? Combine resources, television exposure. Imagine the synergy.

Time is already ticking on Tardif to prove he’s the right leader for this organization at this critical time in the game – the whole game; not just the money-making parts of it.

We focus so much on what is lost for the players with the withdrawal of NHL players from the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. And rightly so. They’re the reason to watch. But let’s not forget the management teams and coaching staffs that had committed so much to the preparation of their rosters in anticipation of the ’22 Games.

We were reminded of that in a recent conversation with Nashville head coach John Hynes, who was set to be part of Mike Sullivan’s Team USA coaching staff. Hynes has had lots of international experience over the years with USA Hockey. But he talked about the special honor of being asked to help with the Olympic effort, how it represented a kind of professional pinnacle.

What has always impressed us over the years in covering the NHL at the Olympics has been the ability of players to put aside ego in helping a team come together. It is no different for coaches who normally are in fierce competition with each other during the normal course of an NHL season. I think of Jon Cooper, who would have been head coach of Canada’s ’22 Olympic squad and Canadian assistant Barry Trotz, about their pitched playoff battles the last two seasons. About how they’d put everything aside, sharing all their secrets and ideas in the hopes of getting their team to a gold medal.

“You always get better,” from this kind of process, Hynes said shortly before the NHL’s withdrawal was formally confirmed. “You always get better and you learn so much. Certainly disappointing.”

Indeed.

Oh, and what the hell is Brad Marchand even talking about?

Let NHL players make their choice about the Olympics? They did make their choice, in case Marchand didn’t read the release from the organization to which he belongs, the NHLPA, regarding the NHL’s decision to withdraw from the ’22 Olympics.

By extension, how is there any logic to the notion that NHL players should be ‘loaned’ to their federations for the Olympics and the NHL should just keep plugging along without them? This is not junior hockey. Isn’t the point of having 120 or so NHL players at the Olympics is to have the world’s hockey focus squarely on that event? Otherwise why do it?

As for Marchand’s boo-hooing about the introduction of a taxi squad to try and get through the current NHL season, uhm, that, too, was done with NHLPA approval. And without a full 82-game slate of games this season, what players owe in escrow is going to be even more ugly. Don’t like how your own association is handling this, Brad? Show up at a meeting and petition for a new boss. Or just go back to licking people.

Unlike Marchand, we’re totally over the NHL’s decision to withdraw from the Beijing Olympics. No other way around it. And it’s going to take yeoman work from the NHL and NHLPA to navigate the COVID-19 variants and various health regulations to get a full 2021-22 season, in which is critical to edging back to financial stability.

But if it’s one thing the NHL and NHLPA are good at it’s multi-tasking. So let’s get after producing a true best-on-best World Cup of Hockey as soon as possible as in next winter. Scrap the All-Star weekend which needs some real soul searching about its raison d’etre (hint, it has none) and let’s pull out the stops for best-on-best hockey.

Why not set up two outdoor rinks one for each of two pools of four national teams — or whatever organizers decide is a manageable number — and play the round robin games outdoors? Or play the round robin games indoors and then play the semis and the final outdoors? Blow the roof off.

Have NHL cities bid for them as they would for a draft. And further to our World Cup of Hockey wish list, make the final best-two-out-of-three as it was in the granddaddy of World Cup of Hockey events in 1996, when the U.S. stunned a star-laden Canadian team.

Don’t the players deserve such a carrot? Don’t the fans, bless them, for sticking around through all of this deserve such a treat? Wouldn’t it generate much-needed revenue? Wouldn’t sponsors jump at a chance to be involved? Sure it’s a relatively tight timeline, but if the league can make two impermeable bubbles for a flawless Stanley Cup Playoff and then realign itself and hold another playoff without major incident, this should be a walk in the park. Make it happen.

He’ll never appear on a Hart Trophy ballot, but I’m lobbying for a write-in campaign for master of NHL scheduling Steve Hatze Petros and his team, who must be on an all-time caffeine bender trying to keep ahead of postponements and realigning home games for Canadian teams with the hope of getting players in front of paying fans.

Was talking with a longtime NHL executive not long ago and he wondered aloud why Brian Burke isn’t in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. I wonder the same thing.

Not trying to curry favor with the current president of hockey ops in Pittsburgh, who has not wavered in his now eight-year moratorium on speaking with or about me unless it’s to offer a few disparaging epithets (it’s a long story but happy to share it over a beer). That, frankly, is neither here nor there as it remains a major oversight by the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame’s selection committee that a man who has worked tirelessly to promote the game on a host of levels and who speaks eloquently on inclusivity from north to south and east to west has not been tabbed for induction.

Burke was the GM of Anaheim’s Stanley Cup winner in 2007 and three years later he was the architect of the silver medal-winning team at the Vancouver Olympics, presiding over one of the most dramatic turns in U.S. hockey history. He’s long been involved in various capacities with other international events on behalf of USA Hockey. He’s, for better or worse, larger than life and when one examines the list of past inductees, it’s truly mind-boggling Burke isn’t in there.

And now back to our regularly scheduled column.

Feels like the season is just starting, right? Very strange. So, here are a couple of players we’re wondering if the reset might help as we hopefully gear up for a positive second half of the season.

Taylor Hall.

Such a curious season for Hall, who signed a four-year, $24-million deal with Boston in the offseason.

Seemed like such a nice fit. But Hall’s impact has been negligible, as he’s tied for fifth in team scoring at a pedestrian 14 points. He’s made virtually no impact at even-strength with three goals and four assists and virtually no impact on the power play with five man-advantage points.

Where else is there for him to help out?

The Bruins have played fewer games – 26 at this writing – than any other team, so lots of time to get things on track. But the whole point of signing Hall was to take some of the pressure off Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, but that’s not happening and if it doesn’t happen, it’s going to make qualifying for the playoffs a much more challenging proposition for the Bs.

Philipp Grubauer.

Among starting goaltenders in the NHL, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that has had a more difficult time than Grubauer, who signed a six-year deal with the expansion Seattle Kraken in the offseason worth a tidy $35.4 million.

And while it’s far more complex than just saying ‘oh the goalie sucks,’ Grubauer’s bloated 3.29 GAA, .882 save percentage and his dismal showing in most advanced stats at the break are one of the key reasons Seattle is headed towards draft lottery territory, instead of playing meaningful second-half games, let alone actually qualifying for the playoffs.

Patrik Laine.

Been a roller coaster for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season and it’s been a roller coaster couple of seasons for the Finnish sniper, who has played in only 10 games this season. He had collected 10 points in nine games before succumbing to an oblique injury, for which he missed 19 games, before to the Blue Jackets’ lineup against Nashville last night and scored a goal in 21:57.

He also lost his father recently, adding to the emotional toll. But now the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft appears to be healthy and he’s the kind of difference-maker that could catapult the Blue Jackets back into the wildcard mix if he can stay healthy.

There’s also the no small issue that Laine is a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Laine has lots riding for both himself and the franchise in the coming weeks and months.

Oh, and finally, if the Ontario Hockey League thinks for a moment it dodged a public relations bullet by conveniently announcing that disgraced London Knight Logan Mailloux, a first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens, was being reinstated moments after the news broke that the World Junior Championships were being cancelled, guess again.

There’s a weird thing called the internet and social media. So the cowardly timing of the announcement wasn’t missed by anyone. And shame on the OHL and the London Knights for deciding that 26 games constitutes an indefinite suspension and that it sends the appropriate message to Mailloux, who was charged by Swedish authorities after distributing sexual photos without the consent of a woman he met while playing in Sweden.

More importantly shame on the OHL and the Knights for thinking it sends the appropriate message to anyone else connected to the game, whether it’s a player, fan, mother, sister, anyone. It sends one message only, that as long as you’re a decent player and in this case a first-round NHL draft pick, punishment is a relative term.

Oh for leadership that cares about things that matter other than a few wins and the almighty bottom line.

The post Burnside’s Monthly Burn For January 2022 appeared first on Daily Faceoff.

News from the Rink Rasmus Sandin, Petr Mrzek, and others return to Maple Leafs practice, Saturday game vs. Ottawa in jeopardy

There continues to be more and more Maple Leafs players returning from COVID protocols ahead of their game vs. the Ottawa Senators.

Rasmus Sandin, Petr Mrazek, Ilya Mikheyev, and David Kampf were the four players who returned to practice today. Maple Leafs’ Goaltending coach, Steve Briere, also came out of COVID protocols.

Other additions include Teemu Kivihalme and Chad Krys from the Marlies, who now are on the Maple Leafs’ taxi squad. Toronto has also brought in Ryerson Ram’s defenceman, Gregory DiTomaso.

As of right now, four players remain in protocols; Timothy Liljegren, Jake Muzzin, Morgan Rielly, and William Nylander. The three players who returned to practice today were all placed in COVID protocols on December 21st. Rielly, who was placed on the list on December 23rd, could return Saturday. The others will likely return sometime next week.

Maple Leafs lines at practice

With four players returning to practice, here are how the Maple Leafs’ lines shaped up.

Everything seems like it’s returning to normal. Once Nylander returns, Ondrej Kase will shift down to the third line, in Pierre Engvall’s spot. Then it’s a question of where Engvall might fit. Some might say on the fourth line, while others believe he’s a scratch.

The defence pairings have also changed a bit. With Liljegren going into COVID protocols, Sandin joins TJ Brodie on the top pairing. That’s something we’ve seen before when Rielly was out with an injury, and we might just see it again.

Sandin said he was close to returning from his knee injury when he tested positive for COVID-19. Today, he was just excited to be back out on the ice.

Carl Dahlstrom was sent back down to the Marlies, who play the Belleville Senators tonight. In his spot is Kivihalme, who looks to be healthy now.

He suffered an ankle injury back on October 27th.

The Maple Leafs might want Dahlstrõm in some game action before Saturday’s match against Ottawa, or this could be Kivihalme getting an NHL test come the weekend.

With Mrázek and Jack Campbell both practicing with the team, I assume there’d be an update coming on who starts Saturday.

The Maple Leafs power play also looks like it’s returning to form. Again, once Nylander comes back, Kaše will go to the second unit. I wonder who they move off the second power play once Kaše does return. It could be Mikheyev, but with him returning from injury, I don’t believe it will be him.

QUOTE?

The Ottawa Senators have cancelled their practice today, though, so there might not be a game on Saturday.

Hopefully, everyone is alright, and there won’t be another game moved in the NHL schedule. As of right now, there’s no reason to believe the game on Saturday will be postponed. However, future games may get postponed due to new restrictions within Ontario.

The NHL postponed two of the Maple Leafs’ games next week due to attendance only allowed at 50% capacity. These new restrictions are reportedly going into effect on January 7th, which means Toronto will play their next two games at home. After that, we’ll likely be left asking — “What’s next?”

After their game on Wednesday vs. Edmonton, the Maple Leafs will travel on a four-game road trip (Colorado, Vegas, Arizona, St. Louis) before returning home (vs. New Jersey) on January 17th.

For Saturday, though, the Maple Leafs will play the Ottawa Senators in a half-capacity Scotiabank Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 PM ET.

Jets Kristian Vesalainen clears COVID-19 protocol

Great news everyone, Kristian Vesalainen is back!

On Thursday, the Winnipeg Jets announced that Vesalainen, 22, had exited the National Hockey League’s COVID-19 protocol, allowing him to return to practice.

Vesalainen, who was originally placed in COVID protocol back on Dec. 23, stayed in Winnipeg over the holiday break and is now eligible to appear in Sunday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Unfortunately, teammate Andrew Copp, who also landed on the league’s COVID list before the holiday break, produced positive tests at his home in Michigan. As a result, Canada’s quarantine act prevents him from crossing the border, however, he’s expected to rejoin the club Sunday in Vegas.

Through 26 games this season, Vesalainen has averaged 9:19 minutes of ice-time per night, posting two goals, 31 hits, 25 shots on goal, six blocks and a pair of takeaways.

On a related note, forward Evgeny Svechnikov has continued to make progress in his recovery from an upper-body injury, which saw him practicing in a non-contact jersey Thursday.

Winnipeg is scheduled to resume its season after a two-week hiatus against Vegas on Sunday, starting at 3:00 pm CT.

Beyond the Boxscore Calgary Flames win thrilling first ever game against the Seattle Kraken

Hey folks, it’s been a hot minute since the last time a Flames game was played, and the product the Flames brought back was absolutely entertaining. Maybe not as strong defensively as they would have liked, but the Flames played a strong offensive game and continually pressured the Kraken in their own end. It was back and forth the entire match, including an insane final 5 minutes. In the end Calgary came back with a big win as the season resumes.

CF% – 60.67%, SCF% – 58.72%, HDCF% – 53.24%, xGF% – 58.74%

It’s a Team Game – Seattle had real trouble creating chances, but when they did get some, they were right in the crease. They got some good bounces and timely chances as they pushed Calgary back a little bit at a time. Calgary themselves just outplayed Seattle for longer and more consistent stretches and were the ones in true control of the game for the majority of it.

Corsi King – Andrew Mangiapane (77.13%) and the Blasty Bros, Milan Lucic (76.15%) and Dillon Dubé (70.81%), were an instant hit. They hit hard, don’t back down from any challenge and score goals. It’s a fun line: Breadman and the Blasty Bros.

Corsi Clown – The Flames fourth line of Trevor Lewis (29.61%), Sean Monahan (34.04%), and Brad Richardson (39.30%) were being picked out by Seattle who had last change. They did not respond very well to the challenge tonight themselves. Everyone else was reasonably close to (or over) the 50% cutoff.

Taken By Chance – Once again let’s hear it for Mangiapane (79.04 SCF% // 81.57 HDCF%) who had over 4 high danger scoring chances while allowing 1. Noah Hanifin (65.23% // 77.37%) and Rasmus Andersson (65.23% // 77.37%) were heavy in terms of offensive opportunities created, and Hanifin was rewarded for that at the end of the game with an ENG.

xGF% – This one easily goes to Matthew Tkachuk (92.26 xGF%) with the absolute ridiculous number. His linemates Johnny Gaudreau (60.10%) and Elias Lindholm (66.12%) also posted great numbers, but when Tkachuk was on the ice the puck was in the attacking zone – period.

Game Flow –

As we can see the Flames kind of muddled around to start before taking control of the game for the rest of it. All-in-all this was a decent enough first showing after over two weeks off. Good to see everyone back and playing good hockey.

Game Score – Johnny Gaudreau (4.12 game // 1.64 average) led the way with his 2 goals being a key factor. Matthew Tkachuk’s (3.96 // 1.49) 3 points also drove his game score up high. Nice to see the big man Milan Lucic (2.21 // 1.01) have such a strong game. There were a few players with negative scores, but outside the fourth line none were significant enough to affect the players average score.

Shot Heatmap –

Seattle – that’s pretty bare. They were on the second half of a back-to-back, but even then the actual attacking performance wasn’t very good. Even on a night when they get all the bounces the Kraken still lose – good for Calgary (who deserved the W).

In The Crease – Seattle really didn’t create too much at 5v5 – 1.12 expected goals against for Markstrom. He had two high danger chances and one low danger one beat him. Gio’s goal and the early Jarnkrok goal were tough pills to swallow, but the third goal Seattle scored was just a really nice play. Markstrom still has a small amount of rust to shake off.

Today’s Specials – Well they did get a PP goal, but someone needs to tell the first PP unit to move their feet on the power play. Everyone was standing so still It looked very easy for Seattle to get into passing lanes and prevent any dangerous chances a man up. If their power play was going this one would have never been close.

Player Spotlight – Sean Monahan – He’s back on the fourth line, he’s struggling, and he can’t seem to get himself into 5v5 scoring chances. He’s played with fourth line guys, he’s played with top 6 guys, he’s played with everybody – and yet he still isn’t impacting games to the way his salary dictates he should be able to. It’s a darn shame such a serious injury was able to affect him to this level.

Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –

1) Matthew Tkachuk

2) Johnny Gaudreau

3) Noah Hanifin

The Flames next scheduled game is against the Blackhawks on Tue., Jan. 2 – we’ll wait and see what happens though going forward. Whenever the next game is played you can bet it’ll be covered at FlamesNation and Beyond the Boxscore.

(Stats compiled from Naturalstattrick.com // Game Score from Hockeystatcards.com)

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Potential postponed home games could make Canucks already worrisome January schedule even worse

January will be the Canucks’ biggest test this season.

More specifically, the Canucks have multiple games in the month of January against some of the best teams in the league.

Two games against the Florida Panthers, games against the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, along with Pacific Division matchups against the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers that will be of the utmost importance, highlight the month.

Thus, the month of January was always going to be one of the club’s most difficult of the season.

But now there are reports that the Canucks’ first two home games of January on the 5th and 8th will be rescheduled and that the team will instead play games on the road south of the border; as the NHL attempts to maximize revenue by playing as few games as possible in buildings where local health authorities have instituted capacity limits, such as Rogers Arena.

This, from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

“It’s frustrating,” captain Bo Horvat told CanucksArmy. “Obviously, we want to play in front of our home fans. We want to have last change and want to have that advantage, and it’s frustrating and we’re not gonna be able to do that with the restrictions going on in Canada. It’s going to be a tough month for us coming up with a lot of road games, and again, we’re gonna have to fight through the adversity.”

Nothing has been made official regarding the rescheduling of the Canucks’ first two home games just yet. As it stands, here is how the Canucks’ schedule looks for the month of January:

It’s certainly worth noting that if the Canucks’ first two home games — vs NYI on the 5th and OTT on the 8th — are postponed, their first home game of the month will be on the 21st against the Florida Panthers — three days after the province’s current capacity restrictions are in effect until.

That being said, not only could we see the 50% capacity rule extended beyond the 18th, we could also see British Columbia allow even fewer fans in the building, as other provinces have already done while the Omicron variant of COVID-19 rages on across Canada.

January was already going to be a month where the odds were stacked against the Canucks, but the league choosing to maximize profits at the expense of the Canucks would stack the odds against them even more.

More from David Quadrelli:

Risky Business Running with the Devil

You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight? No? Just Batman? Alright. We be bettin’, fam!

LAST GAME

While Wednesday’s game against St. Louis didn’t go the way we wanted on the scoreboard, I actually did alright for myself in terms of my bets. I kept my risk levels down a touch and it ended up paying off with a night that basically evened out overall.

Player Prop:

David Perron + Connor McDavid to get a point at +105 ✅

Easy Money:

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins over 2.5 shots at +110 ✅

Risky Business:

Zach Hyman to score at +200

Can’t Miss Parlay:

Seattle on the ML and Connor McDavid over 1.5 points for +246

TONIGHT…

Let’s be honest, the New Jersey Devils are a team that the Oilers should beat more often than not and I’m going to bet accordingly. Now, I fully realize this is another opportunity for me to get burned but I don’t think that’s going to happen — I believe. We shall see.

Player Prop:

Leon Draisaitl over 1.5 points at +100

Easy Money:

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins over 2.5 shots at +110

Risky Business:

Connor McDavid over 1.5 goals at +400

Can’t Miss Parlay:

Edmonton on the ML, Vegas on the ML for +149

And there you have it. Now that you know what I’m betting on — I threw one unit down on each bet btw — feel free to hit me up in the comments section to let me know what you’re looking at for tonight’s game.

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QMJHL announces extension of leagues holiday break schedule to resume Jan. 17

Those looking forward to the resumption of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s season are going to have to wait a bit longer.

The QMJHL announced on Thursday that the league will be extending its holiday break. Players will now report back to their teams no later than Jan. 14, with the league planning to resume its schedule on Jan. 17.

The decision was made amid the increase of positive tests for the Omicron variant of COVID-19 across Quebec and the rest of Eastern Canada, although the QMJHL cited teach of the following three reasons as having influence on the league’s decision.

The QMJHL says its goals are to:

  1. Create a safe environment for players and staff;
  2. Support and facilitate their return to school;
  3. Allow them to practice and work out.

The QMJHL has been on its holiday break since Dec. 18. No dates have been announced to makeup games that have already been postponed.

In addition to the health and safety of its players, the QMJHL is also operating with the knowledge that the league will have to contend with attendance restrictions when its season resumes.

Earlier this week, the NHL announced the postponement of nine games that were scheduled to be played in Canadian arenas between Dec. 31 and Jan. 10, due to attendance restrictions.

This came after the Canadiens’ most recent game on Dec. 16 was played without any fans in attendance at Bell Centre. The Canadiens already have their next four home games postponed as well and aren’t schedule to play in Montreal again until Jan. 15.

The post QMJHL announces extension of league’s holiday break; schedule to resume Jan. 17 appeared first on Daily Faceoff.

The Maple Leafs should explore the RHD rental market sooner rather than later

It feel likes a long time since we’ve seen the Leafs play. We probably forget a lot of the small little things about how they play, but one that isn’t likely to slip from the minds of too many Leafs fans is the underwhelming play of Justin Holl.

Even in the strong outing against Edmonton on December 14th, Holl seemed to get caught out of place, made inexcusably sloppy no look passes in front of his net, and generally didn’t move his feet. In the prior season the hustle of Holl was one of his calling cards that earned him the elevated top four responsibility, now partnered with Muzzin, who is also showing some age, Holl could be too big a liability for the Leafs down the stretch and into the playoffs. And before you suggest Travis Dermott as an option, he hasn’t fared much better in arguably softer minutes.

Given the complexities of bringing in a new defenseman and the need for an adjustment period prior to the playoffs, Toronto might be better off acting sooner rather than in exploring the replacement for Holl and/or Dermott, even if that decision comes with a higher price.

In theory, Holl and Dermott might even have some trade value themselves, as the teams that Toronto would likely be dealing with would be trying to unload their rental players. Holl and Dermott each have an additional year on their contract, and particularly in the case of Dermott, at age 25, that could be an appealing acquisition. Both players represent cost controlled defensemen for lottery teams looking to try something new next year, and might have some value in that regard and the kind of team that is in a draft lottery position in December is also possibly a team that believes Justin Holl could rebound next season. In short, the Leafs might be able make this work in something resembling a hockey trade.

That being said, playoff bound teams want to build out their depth. Keeping Holl and Dermott around while adding to the Leafs blueline is probably what Toronto is trying to achieve. On the opposite side of that, the lottery bound teams would probably have the draft pick or middling prospect that allows the team and fanbase to dream bigger than addressing defensive depth for next season.

As for the question of who could be a fit for the Leafs down the stretch, here are a few options:

Colin Miller – Buffalo – $3.875M

At 50% retained, Colin Miller starts looking like a bit of a bargain. He has that Soo Greyhound factor which makes him a favourite for the Dubas/Keefe connection as well, and of the five defensemen on this list he is the one who makes the most sense in a top four role. Miller has been playing around 20 minutes a night this season, and has been averaging 18 minutes a night for his career. He doesn’t require much in the way of sheltering. His defensive strengths on a bad Buffalo team lead me to believe that he could be serviceable with Muzzin on a shutdown pairing.

Mark Pysyk- Buffalo- $900k

Might as well get all of the Sabres out of the way early, and look at Mark Pysyk.

Pysyk is more of a puckmover, than Miller, and doesn’t have the Greyhounds factor going for him, but the soon to be 30 year old Pysyk might be a stronger depth fit for Toronto and at $900k, he doesn’t really require Toronto to give a lot of thought to how to make his contract work.

Pysyk has been playing around 19 minutes a night in the sewer that is the Buffalo Sabres organization, up over seven minutes from what he was playing last season. If Miller can’t work for the Leafs, Pysyk is a pretty good Plan B from the Sabres.

Erik Brannstrom – Ottawa- $863k

There needs to be one youthful option on this list, and Brannstrom makes the most sense. I mean, he’s only 22 and having a hard time making the Senators roster, so there are obviously risks that he can function as a top six option for the Leafs at this point, but Brannstrom has something going for him. Waivers exemption.

Brannstrom could be a decent 8th or 9th D option, even if he’s going to come with an increased price tag for perception that there is still top four potential there.

Scott Mayfield – NY Islanders – $1.45M

If you find yourself missing Zach Bogosian, someone like Scott Mayfield might be one of the better options available. Mayfield has an additional year left on his contract which may or may not be a good thing. And despite Mayfield not being particularly good, there’s a good chance that Lou Lamoriello will see Mayfield as someone who should get him a significant return or believe he should be kept.

Mayfield looks to be a downgrade from Dermott, so if Mayfield is to be considered it would probably be as an addition rather than as a replacement for Holl or Dermott.

Like the previous mentioned defensemen (save for Brannstrom), Mayfield is playing around 20 minutes a night and can handle a second pairing workload.

Ilya Lyubushkin – Arizona – $1.35M

Speaking of Bogosian replacement, here’s Ilya Lyubushkin. There’s really no reason for him to even play with a stick, he’s on the ice to hit, block shots, and play reliable positionable hockey in his own zone. Of course, all of this has come with a bit more sheltering that what was given to Miller, Pysyk, or Mayfield.

No other options on this list have averaged 2-3 hits per game. Though no other option has the play die on their stick to the extent it does with Lyubushkin either.

The Leafs are very much in a situation where they should be looking to add to their blueline, and arguably they need to do more than simply look at the cheapest, easiest options available to them. The Leafs are probably better off making some difficult decisions and taking a run a true top four defenseman rather than settling on the best of the rest, but with that in mind, there’s also nothing wrong with hedging bets and pursuing depth safety nets at the same time, and this group represents that.

Data sourced from Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference, and PuckPedia