Welcome back to NHL Rumours! Each day, Last Word on Hockey takes a look at all the NHL Rumours from around the league. From re-signings to trades and everything in between. Join us as we take a look at everything going on. Today’s NHL Rumours look at the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and New York Islanders.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: Chris Johnston of Sportsnet was on SN960 today and said that he does believe Toronto’s head coach Mike Babcock has a warm seat. However, nothing is imminent as of right now.
Chris Johnston on SN960: “I have to think (Babcock’s seat) is a little bit warm. I don’t certainly think anything is imminent (re: Babcock being fired). It’s not as if he’s coaching for his job tomorrow”
— James (@Account4hockey) November 14, 2019
Analysis: Things are not going very well in Toronto as of right now. They currently sit outside of a playoff spot and have struggled to find consistency at all this year. Some of this has had to do with injuries. Zach Hyman, Travis Dermott, John Tavares and most recently Mitch Marner have all been on the injured reserve at times this season. However, every single team in the NHL deal with injuries. The Colorado Avalanche have seen Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen go to the injured list and they continue to chug along.
The Maple Leafs haven’t just struggled in the standings but their underlying play is very concerning too. Sometimes, a team plays very well but just can’t get a save or doesn’t get bounces going their way. However, Toronto currently sits 23rd in Score-Adjusted xGF%. This means that they are very rarely controlling the quality of chances for and against. This is extremely concerning for a team like Toronto. With the talent on their roster, they should be focusing on dominating the quality of chances that go back and forth. They have the forwards to hang in there with the best of them and 23rd just won’t cut it.
This is where criticism falls on Babcock. Mike Babcock has been very clear in the past when he says he wants them to play more defensive. The defensive structure he wants may be taking away from this team’s true ability upfront and it is costing them games. In what is an incredibly close Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, the Leafs can’t afford that. Babcock isn’t under fire from management just yet, but he will need to turn things around soon if he wants it to stay that way.
Rumour: The Vancouver Canucks recently placed Micheal Ferland on injured reserve. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was on SN650 and mentioned that there were lots of teams interested in Ferland this summer but understood the risk of signing him.
.@FriedgeHNIC: There was a lot of interest in Ferland. his camp made a pretty smart play & that was holding until they got a 4th year. Lots of teams were weighing it but Canucks made the plunge. I don’t believe for a second he was damaged goods, but everyone understood the risk
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) November 13, 2019
Analysis: Ferland hasn’t played 80 games in a season yet in his career. The injury concerns are certainly valid, although most of them haven’t kept him out long-term. While there is no talk of moving him or anything like that, it is interesting to note that there were lots of options for Ferland out there. The Canucks will be up near the cap as their young players keep coming up to paydays. Eventually, they will need to think about clearing space.
This is much further down the road but it is still interesting to note right now. The Canucks have had a shocking start to the season and have had very strong analytics to back it up. Both quality and quantity have gone in their favour and they look like they have two very good goalies to back them up. Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko have both been solid and that should be very encouraging for Vancouver fans. This is a team that is in a relatively weak division. There is competition, but not too many teams are very scary. This Vancouver team could try and make some noise this season.
Down the road, however, keep an eye on Ferland if Vancouver ever needs cap space. He may be a more popular name in NHL Rumours as his contract goes on.
New York Islanders
Rumour: The Atheltic’s Pierre LeBrun took a look at what is happening between the New York Islanders and star forward Mathew Barzal. Mentioning that talks have begun but nothing serious has gotten started yet.
Analysis: LeBrun mentioned that General Manager Lou Lamoriello may not want to truly get into talks until the season is over to avoid distractions. Barzal likely won’t have any issues with this as his stock should only go up further and further. He has 16 points in 17 games and is the start of this team. The Islanders went on a 10 game win streak already this season and it has put them in a very good spot going forward. If they play even slightly above .500 hockey they should put themselves in a spot to make playoffs. Anything above that and they will be looking for the division lead.
However, getting Barzal locked down long-term will be an absolute priority this summer for New York. He is the face of the franchise and is the building piece as this team moves forward. By all accounts, Barzal loves New York so there shouldn’t be too many issues getting a contract done. It will just come down to what term Barzal may want and what cap hit the team feels comfortable at. Barzal is one of the most skilled forwards in the league and his overall game only gets better each year. Isles fans will rejoice when he is re-signed, but they are likely more than OK with waiting.
That’s all for NHL Rumours, tune in tomorrow for more!