1. So things are not exactly going well right now in Leafs Nation. It's generally assumed that Randy Carlyle won't last the offseason—do you think he's the only one to go? What other changes are necessary for the Leafs to improve next season?
I do not think that Randy Carlyle will be the only front office person to go. Dave Nonis has 4 years left on the 5 year extension he got in the summer (which was beyond stupid), so he's safe for at least one more year. I think Claude Loiselle, the supposed cap guru for the Leafs, could get fired because the Leafs entered the 2013 offseason in great shape capwise and are now screwed with the deals handed to Clarkson, Bozak, and the Tim Gleason trade.
Other changes necessary to improve the Leafs next season would be letting Dave Bolland walk, singing a legit 1C UFA like Paul Stastny, and signing a minute-munching dman to lighten Dion Phaneuf's load.
2. Why is James Reimer so maligned by some of the Leafs media despite being a good goaltender, and why does Jonathan Bernier escape without suffering the same thing?
Reimer gets dumped on because of Game 7. That's the sole reason. 3 goals late in the period to send it to OT and now Reimer can do no good. Of course this line of reasoning is stupid because Reimer stole games 5 and 6 for the Leafs. It's the same reason people were dumping on Roberto Luongo back in 2011. Goalie gets no goal support for the whole series and has a bad Game 7 and now the series loss is on him.
Bernier gets a pass because he's the hot new girl in class. He's got pedigree (meaningless), is a Cup winner (didn't play a single second in the 2012 playoffs), and got that nice contract from Nonis despite never earning it. Now don't get me wrong, Bernier has been great this season, but Reimer was better last year and goalie's in the NHL are very inconstant from year to year, only problem is that the MSM and Leafs management don't know it.
3. Calgary's been playing pretty well recently and the Leafs will undoubtedly be trying hard to break the streak. What will it take for the Flames to make it nine losses in a row?
A trained seal behind the bench. Randy Carlyle is the easiest person in the NHL to out-coach. He let's opposing teams dictate line matchups regardless of who has last change, and makes no attempt to get his top lines sheltered minutes, often throwing out Phil Kessel for Dzone faceoffs and Jay McClement for Ozone ones. All the Flames need to do is realize that the Leafs breakout system is either a) off the glass and out, leading to an easy regroup for the opposing team, or b) long stretch pass to the far blue line from inside their own zone. Take away these two options (not hard) and the Flames will be spending the majority of the time in the Leafs' end. Then it's just a matter of time.
4. What's the Leafs' biggest strength, despite the struggles?
The Leafs biggest strength is the ability to just blow a game open with a quick spurt of speed and skill. This is a crappy team with amazing game breakers on it. It has more than a handful of players who can go coast-to-coast in the blink of an eye and score: Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, James van Riemsdyk, Jake Gardiner, and Morgan Rielly. Problem is that they spend far too much time in their own zone, so these coast-to-coast happenings are few and far between. Oh, and goaltending. The Leafs have great goaltending (thought it's currently coming down to Earth from its astronomical heights it was at at the beginning of the season).
5. I've only seen a few Leafs games this season, but I was impressed by Nazem Kadri. How has his season been? Will he stay a Leaf beyond his two-year contract?
Nazem Kadri is the most shit upon 50+ point player in the NHL today. If you score 50+ points (0.6+ ppg) in a full NHL season, you’re a legit first line talent, because there’s only ~100 of these guys every season. (Right now, Kadri is 87th among NHL forwards by ppg with 50+ games played.) However if you’re a 0.6+ ppg player for the Toronto Maple Leafs a season after being a 1.0 ppg player, and you once had your AHL coach call you fat, and you once had a local newspaper run a front page picture of you with a pacifier in your mouth, and you are constantly having your work ethic questioned, and you are a player who succeeds through skill instead of strength in a town that for some reason values a lunchpail work ethic above all else for its sports heroes despite being the most white collar city in the country, and you’re a Muslim without some white bread name, then you get absolutely shit on because the Toronto Maple Leafs are never allowed to have nice things because they’re always fucking breaking them. Fuck this city, fuck the media, fuck the fans, and fuck the management who runs the Maple Leafs.
What was the question again? Oh yeah, Kadri’s had a great year according to any unbiased metric you want to judge him with and I think the Leafs are going to trade him away for some "hard working" plugger who plays better "defense".
Thanks to Colin @SkinnyPPPhish for answering our questions. Be sure to buy him and any other Leafs fan you know a drink if the Flames win tonight. Check out Pension Plan Puppets for more Leafy goodness!