Ottawa’s pipes are calling, while Leafs are done wilting
Photo: Courtesy Columbus Dispatch
The draft is done and the meat-and-guts of free agency – for the most part – in the National Hockey League is over and out.
Some outstanding storylines emerged from an intense week of study and action. It’s never a dull time, league-wide, so let’s dip our toes in the water and check out the pool temperature.
OTTAWA’S NET GAIN
Yes, the options in net were optimal. For a guy whose job is rumoured to be hanging by a jelly-kneed thread, Pierre Dorion did quite capably.
Joonas Korpisalo (five years, $20 million US) was Pierre’s best bet, and he cashed in. Maybe Dorion works summers the best while under pressure because if he wasn’t under the gun – like in years past – maybe Korpisalo doesn’t get signed and instead it’s the injury-prone Freddy Andersen, or even Jonathan Quick.
Last year Dorion fetched Cam Talbot at the expense of Filip Gustavsson. Early reviews, mid-season reviews and end-of-season reviews tell us one thing: It was a steal for the Minnesota Wild. Gus’s .931 save percentage was in Linus Ullmark territory and that 2.10 goals-against average. Delectable. Talbot’s performance was, to be polite, a bit lesser than.
Korpisalo is 29, a good age for goaltenders, and sports strong numbers as a steady employee of the Columbus Blue Jackets then LA Kings.
Can he be a true No. 1? The next Craig Anderson? Quite possibly. Time backing up an improved, but still questionable defence, will tell all.
Honestly, the other possibilities in the blue paint weren’t as enticing and we don’t see an issue with term or payout.
A pairing of Korpisalo and a steady-and-healed Anton Forsberg gives Ottawa an edge it hasn’t had in a few years.
GIVE IT A REST ALREADY
Ok. You sign the toughest guy in the world at a decent salary and need to tack on an extra year or two on term, and suddenly the sky has fallen?
Toronto Fan, who has been whinging since Auston was a wee baby that the Maple Leafs were wilted lettuce, finally gets his/her sheriff. Not just a sheriff; the Wyatt Earp of sheriffs. The reaction has been less than positive.
‘Can’t play in the playoffs.’ ‘Won’t be a difference-maker.’ ‘Won’t keep the flies off Auston and Mitch.’ ‘Can’t keep up.’
Did the Buds sign Ryan Reaves, or was it Jason Allison?
Reaves can skate. He’s no Toller Cranston but he has pace.
As for not playing in the post-season, Reaves hit the ice for 19 Vegas games in 2020, 12 for the Knights in 2021, 18 for the Rangers in 2022 and all six of Minnesota’s last playoff season.
‘Oh yeah, but how much did he score?’
Doesn’t matter. Reaves’ job wasn’t/hasn’t much to do with setting the world on fire, it’s more about putting fires out.
If you’re truly spiritually arrested enough to believe Reaves and Milan Lucic and Pat Maroon and Tanner Jeannot and Nic Deslauriers and Mike Pezzetta (among others) don’t have a role in “The New NHL,” why do they all have contracts?
Reaves’ impact might indeed be minimal at times but in a Toronto Maple Leafs organization that’s had the stuffing knocked out of it year-after-year, he’s a much-needed addition.
PART II ON THAT . . .
Late Sunday night, new Leaf GM Brad Treliving had accomplished in less than two days what Kyle Dubas could not in his more than four-and-a-half years as leader of the blue-and-white.
Adding Reaves was one thing. Adding Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi was quite another. And just like that, the Dubas fingerprint that created a superb, free-flowing regular season team that crumbled annually under the rigours and facewashes of the playoffs . . . was dust.
Don’t get me wrong here, there’s no guarantee of success. But what there was a guarantee of under Dubas, undoubtedly through his adds of borderline edge with Noel Acciari, Luke Schenn, Sam Lafferty, Jake McCabe, Ilya Lyubushkin, Kyle Clifford and a banged up Nick Foligno was failure. Dubas just didn’t get it.
Bertuzzi replaces Michael Bunting. Bertuzzi is bigger, smarter, nastier and a more effective player. His five goals and 10 points in seven playoff games with Boston shows he plays when it counts. Domi essentially replaces Alex Kerfoot on the roster. Less costly and much more intrusive, Domi can slot in pretty well anywhere and was quite impressive in Dallas’s post-season (13 points in 20 games).
The biggest takeaway here is that Treliving understands to change culture, you gotta change it big time. Bertuzzi and Domi are front-line skaters.
One-year deals? Whatever. Toronto needs to win now.
WINDY CITY, INDEED
Kyle Davidson’s epitaph will eventually read: “Not prone to sitting on his hands.”
Yeah sure he drafted Connor Bedard. No one saw that coming this past week. Right.
Davidson, who started his ‘organizational’ career here in Ottawa with the Senators back in 2009. (It tells me this in Wikipedia. Across Canada my former editors are grimacing) and rose to take over as Chicago’s general manager – full time – in March 2022. Davidson blew up the roster – letting go of Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach and then staples Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Gutsy but necessary as it turns out if you’re in a full rebuild.
The bottoming out provided the right tonic and Bedard conveniently fell into the Hawks’ lap during the draft lottery. The past few days, Davidson laid out his plan – he wasn’t going to throw his new uber-talent to the wolves.
Adding guts and character in Nick Foligno and Corey Perry, then another former ‘first-overaller’ in Taylor Hall, dishes Bedard plenty of veteran support and shoulders to lean on.
Mentorship won’t be lacking in Chicago. Davidson has a plan. It’s a good one.
THOUGHT, SEEN AND HEARD: Thing I’d like to see: You know how they do a “Winners and losers from the first round of the NHL draft” analysis on pretty well every hockey website 30 seconds after the selection process? What if in, say 3-4 years, someone did a “Winners and losers from the first round of the NHL draft of journos who proclaimed 24 hours after the selection process the winners and losers from the first round of the NHL draft?” . . . Free agency? Yes, that too . . . Montreal drafted three(!) goaltenders at the draft. Carey Price empty-nest-syndrome? . . . Habs hit it out of the park last year signing free agent defenceman Arber Xhekaj. Montreal drafted his younger brother, Florian (OHL, Hamilton) this year . . . Nick Bobrov, the Canadiens’ co-director of amateur scouting, had the best line coming out of the draft: “I think we got seven, eight Hall of Famers today.” . . . As much as there’s love here for the Bertuzzi, Domi deals, can’t understand the signing of John Klingberg . . . Talking on change – hello there Tampa Bay . . . Best beards: Brent Burns, Chris Johnston, Radko Gudas, Dan Haggerty, Sergio Romo, Joe Thornton, ‘Cowboy’ Bill Flett, Clubber Lang, The Dude, Gimli, Clark Gillies, Alfie Solomons . . . But give me Brian Wilson for the gold . . . “Fear the beard.”