NHL Trade Rumors: Is John-Michael Liles Fit to Become a Maple Leaf?

Matt WisemanCorrespondent IIIFebruary 27, 2011

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 14:  John Michael Liles #4 of the Colorado Avalanche takes a shot against the Calgary Flames at the Pepsi Center on February 14, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Flames defeated the Avalanche 9-1.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The NHL trade deadline is only one day away, and although Brian Burke has already pulled the trigger on a number of deals, Leafs Nation is eager for more.

The rumor mill continues to churn out the possibility of the Leafs landing John-Michael Liles from the Colorado Avalanche. But would the offensive-defenseman be a good fit for the Leafs going forward?

Reports suggest that Liles would prefer to remain with the Avalanche, but this has yet to stop his name from popping up in trade speculation, especially considering Colorado’s most recent slide in the Western Conference standings.

The Avalanche play Sunday night in Anaheim. Heading into the game with the Ducks, they have lost 11 games in their past 12 contests, and morale around the locker room seems to be a bit low.

“It's never easy, but at the same time, it's part of the business,” Liles told the Denver Post. “That's kind of how it is. I can't control it, I can't do anything about it. It'd be a lot nicer if we were sitting in a playoff position right now, but we're on the outside looking in, so I just have to keep battling and do what I can do, that's it.”

Although the 30-year-old defenseman is playing for a struggling hockey club, he has already surpassed his career high in points and has become an offensive threat in the NHL from the backend.

In 62 games, Liles has amassed six goals and 35 assists, numbers that would see him become the top point producer on Toronto’s defensive core. However, his defensive game is a bit worrisome.   

At 5’10" and 185 pounds, Liles has a small frame that makes him susceptible to strong forechecking. As a result, the scouting report suggests that he is prone to turnovers. A trait that is certainly unwelcomed in Leafs Nation.  

So, are the Maple Leafs in a position to sacrifice a little defense in return for offense from the blue line?

To give Liles some credit, he has a plus/minus rating of -6. Not great, but far from atrocious considering the recent decline of his hockey club. Also, the Leafs have interest in his offensive abilities alone. So it’s fair to suggest that Liles would play the majority of minutes in offense-high situations (i.e. PP not PK).  

If this is the case, the question becomes, do the Leafs require offense from the backend?

The absence of Tomas Kaberle would suggest that the Leafs are in need of an offensive-defenseman. However, the Buds continue to play strong as of late, and offensive production from the backend has actually gone up since the departure of Kaberle—not down.

As always, the final decision rests with Burke. But such thoughts as are posed in this article will no doubt be on the minds of Leafs brass until 3 p.m., Monday afternoon.

For my money, I think Liles would be a welcomed addition to the Leafs, ideally replacing the likes of Brett Lebda—but will the asking price be too high?

We shall soon find out.


Follow me on Twitter @that_hockey_guy