The Maple Leafs have changed who they are at the trade deadline
SEATTLE — Kyle Dubas’ cellphone didn’t appear to depart his ear early on Tuesday afternoon.
Whereas gamers buzzed about in the aftermath of their first apply with Jake McCabe and Sam Lafferty, questioning aloud about all the trade exercise, the Maple Leafs GM executed three separate transactions, together with one accomplished whereas these gamers have been nonetheless on the ice practising.
In: Luke Schenn, Erik Gustafsson, and a first-round choose.
Out: Rasmus Sandin and Pierre Engvall.
All advised, the Leafs have injected six new gamers into their lineup over the final couple of weeks.
What’s simply missed in the flurry of motion is the connective tissue of all the offers. The Leafs entrance workplace tried, particularly, to tweak the id and character of the group for the playoffs, in order that when the strain rises this Leafs crew will lastly recover from the hump — and never, as in previous playoffs, wilt when the second will get largest.
The Leafs have changed who they are at the trade deadline.
“I believe each man we’ve introduced in is a man that we’ve bought nice confidence (in) that when the temperature rises they’re gonna proceed to push and proceed to play and proceed to be themselves,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe stated.
Competitiveness was admittedly a high precedence for Dubas. From McCabe and Lafferty to Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari and Schenn (Gustafsson brings different components), the Leafs focused gamers who have been scrappy, full of fireside and push-back.
O’Reilly is the final big-game participant.
As Dubas stated earlier than the offers for Schenn and Gustafsson, “That’s been the purpose right here (with these trades), one thing we really feel like in these large moments that we’ve wanted and possibly we’ve lacked just a little little bit of.”
They didn’t have sufficient of that final spring when they failed to shut out Tampa in Sport 6 (or 7) or the 12 months earlier than that when they didn’t drop an inferior Montreal crew with a 3-1 sequence lead.
Extra battle in the large moments was required, and never simply from the Leafs’ greatest gamers (although extra was required from these guys as nicely and shall be once more this spring). It wanted to permeate all through the lineup.
“I believe Kyle’s regarded at our crew and has been actually trustworthy about it in making an attempt to determine ways in which we are able to get higher and he’s been aggressive with it,” Keefe stated. “I don’t assume there’s any doubt that we’ve improved in our depth and our competitiveness at each ahead and defence.”
“And that’s what you wish to have as a crew.”
Right here’s how Auston Matthews described his new teammate, who will be part of a pairing with T.J. Brodie when the Leafs face the Oilers on Wednesday night time: “He’s gonna give his all each sport, a man that you really want in your crew, you wish to go to battle with.
Added Matthews of his one-time teammate with Crew USA: “He undoubtedly doesn’t provide you with something at no cost. He’s a competitor.”
McCabe noticed his job like this: “Make life arduous on the different crew’s high gamers. Simply do no matter it takes to win each night time. Block photographs. Do no matter it takes.”
The Leafs are hoping he can replicate these Jake Muzzin-like elements later this spring.
“He’s bought an edge to his sport,” Lafferty, his former Chicago teammate, stated.
(Jamie Sabau / USA Right now)
So too does Lafferty. He’s a man that different groups will really feel in video games, whether or not it’s due to his wheels, tenacity, or body-crashing methods.
He doesn’t tread frivolously.
“The factor that basically stands out is his velocity,” Keefe stated. “He’s proper up there with the quickest gamers in the league, so he will get on high of you actually shortly each methods — whether or not that’s on the forecheck or monitoring coming again, getting in behind defencemen to generate some offence.”
“And, “Keefe added crucially, “he’s a really aggressive man, so once you’ve bought velocity mixed with competitiveness the approach that he has it, I believe it’s a man that may actually make an impression on his shifts.”
The Leafs removed a ahead in Engvall who generally (typically?) lacked that aggressive ingredient, somebody who didn’t rise in the large moments. He finishes his Leafs tenure with zero targets in 17 playoff video games.
Keefe may nicely drop Alex Kerfoot, small however aggressive, into Engvall’s previous spot alongside David Kämpf and Calle Järnkrok. He may additionally give both Lafferty or Acciari a glance there as nicely.
Keefe was excited by the optionality he had on the again finish as nicely, with one man in Schenn, a two-time Stanley Cup champ, who is as “aggressive and bodily as there’s in the league” and one other in Gustafsson who can assist in the puck-moving and offensive departments.
“Between these guys, you’ve simply bought two guys that basically improve our depth on defence and they do it in another way,” he stated. “However each deliver worth of their strengths.”
(Marie Sorvin / USA Right now)
That’s the different factor about this deadline for Dubas and the Leafs: They’ve turn into deeper and in addition malleable in a approach they weren’t earlier than.
Tampa appeared to have extra in each departments — competitiveness and lineup versatility — earlier than these trades and final season particularly.
The Leafs added extra centres — Acciari, Lafferty, O’Reilly — and dimensions on D.
The solely actual locks on the defence proper now determine to be McCabe, Brodie, Morgan Rielly, and Mark Giordano.
If Keefe seems like he wants a bit extra pop bodily towards the Lightning in the playoffs, he can substitute Justin Holl or Timothy Liljegren with Schenn. If puck-moving is a matter, he can drop Gustafsson into the lineup.
Like Brodie, McCabe can be in a position to play each side.
Although he stated the teaching employees views McCabe as a left-side defender for now, Keefe deliberate to talk to McCabe about his consolation on the proper. Simply having the possibility, as the Leafs coach has seen with Brodie, is massively useful.
“A man who’s keen to do it and settle for it and has expertise and success doing it and feels assured doing it’s a good asset to have for positive,” Keefe stated.
Sandin by no means had an issue in the competitiveness division. It’s his dimension and energy that made him a vulnerability in the postseason and why the prospect of him being traded is one thing I’ve lengthy (and much more just lately) questioned about.
McCabe made him expendable, not simply this season however into the future. That the Leafs turned him right into a first-round choose (the place he was taken in 2018, Dubas’ first draft choose as Leafs GM) is a win.
McCabe and Lafferty landed in Seattle after Monday’s trade round 5 o’clock. They rocked out to Bruce Springsteen with the remainder of the Leafs (together with administration) for 3 hours that night time. The bonding started instantly.
“It’s loopy man. That man simply retains going,” McCabe stated of Springsteen. “Three hours straight it felt like. Simply guitar after guitar and this man wasn’t even sweating, simply ripping on the market. It was superior.”
The Leafs have no larger Springsteen fan than Dubas.
He’s tried to tweak his crew like this earlier than, however by no means to this diploma and by no means this efficiently (or so it might seem). Typically ignored about his Leafs tenure is the diploma to which he’s been keen to adapt and evolve based mostly on outcomes.
His crew had a vulnerability. He noticed that once more final spring. He’s now addressed it in hopes of discovering a greater outcome.
(Prime picture of Luke Schenn: Derek Cain / Getty Pictures)