Five Questions with a Toronto Maple Leafs blogger

The Toronto Maple Leafs are coming to Nashville on Monday, and "PPP" from SB Nation's Toronto affiliate Pension Plan Puppets was willing to answer some questions for me regarding the Leafs, their year thus far, and Phil Kessel.

Follow after the jump where we discuss perception of the Preds, possible trading options, and the big reason for the Leafs' dismal season...

1. The Maple Leafs sit near the bottom of the East. What, in your estimation, would fix a team that seems to have pieces to the puzzle but no answers?
 
Goaltending. The season got off to a horrible start when Gustavsson had his heart problems. Vesa Toskala played horribly (as he has all year since then) and a big part of the gap that exists now between the Leafs and the fight for the last playoff spot originated then.
 
Bedding in two new defenders that were trying too hard to earn their entire contracts on every shift has caused chaos in the d-corps which hasn't helped either.
 
2. The trade deadline will be here soon, and the Leafs are likely to be sellers. Who's on the block?

Everyone. The Leafs have 12 UFAs and 11 RFAs this summer. Burke will finally get to complete crafting this team in his desired image. If players that are identified as possible pieces of the future do not want to sign contracts commensurate with that role they will be moved. Burke did it with Antropov and Moore and this year the best bets to bring in useful assets are Matt Stajan, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Lee Stempniak.
 
3. The Predators were participants in the Phil Kessel derby. Had they acquired him, what would they have gotten?

 A work in progress. He has tremendous speed, good hands, a great release, and he's an underrated passer. He also backchecks much more than you would have been led to believe.
 
However, he's still struggling to put it together consistently in part because the opposition is finding it so easy to key in on him. It doesn't help that the rest of the team's forwards are in such a massive funk.

4. Who, outside of Kessel, should Predator fans beware on Monday?

Uhh...Nikolai Kulemin's looked pretty dangerous of late. He's taken some time to bed into the NHL but he seems to be realising that he is pretty strong, pretty fast, and has a very good wrist shot. You'll notice him most often wreaking havoc on the forecheck.

Tyler Bozak was just called up and he scored a filthy goal against Philadelphia. He's had a rough run this late (major knee surgery, rehab over the summer, H1N1 costing him 12 pounds) but he has pretty good hands and decent speed.
 
Other guys that could cause some problems depending on how they feel: Niklas Hagman, Jason Blake, and Matt Stajan.

5. How does Toronto perceive the Nashville Predators?
 
Obviously, we get a lot of "Predators Bankrupt/On The Move" news. The vast, vast majority of the coverage here centres around that topic. The only other time we got a lot of Nashville news was when the team was looking for a GM and David Poile was talked about as an option.

We don't read much about Barry Trotz's incredible record, the work being done to grow the game in Nashville, or Poile's insane ability to draft defencemen (or identify talent overall) except through sites like On The Forecheck.

It was in my RSS Reader for a long time and having it join SBN was a big day. Keep up the good work and it's great to see the site growing.


Many thanks to PPP for taking the time to talk to me. Hopefully a good crowd turns out Monday night to see one of the more storied franchises in NHL history.
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