Category Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

Leafs versus Bruins: 2018 First Round Series Primer

Before I get started, let’s just get this out of the way:

In 2012-13, Toronto’s top ten in ice-time were: Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, James Van Riemsdyk, Cody Franson, Nikolai Kulemin, Carl Gunnarson, Mike Kostka, Nazem Kadri and Mark Fraser. Of that list only Bozak, JVR and Kadri remain and in completely different roles. It’s been five years. I’m over it. Apparently the trolls aren’t over it.

Regardless of the “4-0 sweeps” brackets filled out by homers from either side, this will be a tough series that will hopefully go seven games and be as entertaining as possible. For anyone trying to make sense of first round battle between the NHL’s 4th and 7th seeds (just how dumb is this playoff bracket format?) I’ll break down the matchup bit-by-bit and try to piece this thing together. Read more

A Christmas Wishlist for the Toronto Sports Fan

A Josh Donaldson Contract Extension

The Bringer of Rain is pretty much all but gone when his contract expires at the end of this season. That is if the Jays don’t trade him first. Considering it is the first time that the 2015 AL MVP will get to test unrestricted free agency, don’t expect Donaldson to come cheap. It has been proven time and time again that signing 30 year-old MVP candidates to mega-contracts just isn’t smart (ex. see Pujols, Albert who is Bad, Very). The Blue Jays just aren’t a team that can afford to eat bad contracts. But, hear me out, give this guy a blank check. On one hand you could potentially have a rapidly declining player that you’re stuck paying $20-30 million annually for seven years, which financially handicaps Toronto’s payroll, sending them into a tailspin of mediocrity. On the other hand Donaldson is the type of stud that can be the best player on a championship team. Banners fly forever baby.

No Blisters in 2018

A healthy Aaron Sanchez would’ve gone a long way in 2017. With Sanchez missing the majority of games last year because of blister problem, the Jays sorely missed their staff ace. Even with Stroman’s breakout campaign, the Jays had to eat up Sahnchez’s lost innings with the nauseating combination of Joe Biagini, Mike Bolsinger, Brett Anderson, and Matt Latos. If Sanchez’s dainty hands can’t hold up this upcoming season then the Jays are probably cooked considering the Yankees and Red Sox already have the division and at least one wild card spot already locked up.

An Eastern Conference Finals Berth

Even though they are one of the NHL’s youngest teams, the clock is starting to tick on this Maple Leafs core. Matthews, Marner and Nylander will see their rookie contracts expire in the next two offseasons and their subsequent raises will take a huge chunk of Toronto’s salary cap. Bozak and JVR are UFAs this summer and it isn’t likely that Toronto can continue to pay Kadri, Komorov and Marleau big money to play secondary roles. Chicago was able to win a Cup in 2010 before having to dump Ladd, Niemi and Byfuglien in their first salary cap purge. In my mind the Leafs have to show some playoff progress this spring with their current roster as good as it is right now. They may have a deep prospect pool but you just can’t pencil in a Kapanen to automatically replace Van Riemsdyk’s production. A 2018 Cup run might feel selfish for a fan so new to playoff hockey but a guy can dream.

Less Roman Polak

Everything bad ever said about Dion Phaneuf (he certainly wasn’t great but I have long been a vocal Dion defender) is actually true about Roman Polak. He is an absolute pylon and liability on the ice. He’s slow, has no offensive inclination to speak of… but boy can he ever move bodies in front of the net! As much as I like the work Babcock has done to turn the team around, his affinity for “the Roman Polak show” is both weird and maddening. I don’t care how they do it, but I need Lou to find a new sixth defenseman.

More Soccer Wins Probably

Not a huge fan of the beautiful game but BMO Field was rocking when TFC stormed their way to the MLS Cup. Who am I to look down on a championship winning team? Especially considering I’m lucky when my teams even make the playoffs. Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco seem like they’d be cool to cheer for. Hopefully they can keep the good times rolling.

An NFL Team

This is a pipe dream seeing as NFL expansion isn’t imminent and there’s no obvious relocation candidates. As one of the CFL’s least attended teams–home games only averaged a capacity of 51.53% with no sellouts–the Grey Cup-champion Argonauts clearly aren’t scratching Toronto’s football itch. The closest NFL team is the Buffalo Bills who haven’t made the playoffs since 1999. Football fans from Southern Ontario either have to latch onto a loser franchise or have to wade into the depths of Bills Mafia at New Era Field to watch the away teams play. Both options are less than ideal. I for one am tired of watching the Bills get pummeled by the Patriots in Week 15 with a potential playoff berth on the line.

Beat Cleveland… Please

Two straight years of losing to the Cavs in the playoffs just won’t cut it anymore. We are now four seasons removed from the “We the North” movement and only have three “Atlantic Division Champions” banners to show for their efforts. I would much rather make the playoffs every year than go back in time and watch Andrea Bargnani disappoint me on a nightly basis. But at a certain point if you aren’t even threatening to win a championship then the whole process seems rather pointless. I love watching the Demar score at will from all over the court (he’s even hitting some threes this year!), Kyle is still a bull dog of a point guard, and it’s fun to watch the seemingly endless amount of young bench contributors step in and play effectively. It would just be cool to at least look like you can hang in with Lebron and the Cavs as opposed to being swatted aside like a bug.

An NBA Christmas Day Game

Regardless of their lack of playoff success, the Raptors have consistently been one of the best teams in the NBA. Yet they get snubbed from the NBA’s prime-time Christmas Day games. Since the end of their breakout 2013-2014 season, here’s how the Raptors regular season win % from 2014 to today matches up with the teams that played on Christmas yesterday:

Golden State Warrior   0.836
Cleveland Cavaliers   0.661

Houston Rockets   0.653
Toronto Raptors   0.646
Boston Celtics   0.594
OKC Thunder   0.593
Washington Wizards   0.554
New Yorks Knicks   0.348
Minnesota Timberwolves   0.346
Los Angeles Lakers   0.270
Philadelphia 76ers   0.254

As of right now Raptors sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 23-8 record with a top 10 offense and defense and one of the NBA’s best benches. They have only ever played one Christmas Day game in franchise history (Vince Carter and co. lost to the Knicks in 2001) due in large part to: a) not playing in a major American media market and b) they don’t have a “marketable” star.

I feel that these two notions are incredibly short-sighted. Toronto is easily the media epicenter of Canada and the inclusion of the Raptors in a Christmas Day game could potentially create a holiday tradition among Canadian hoops fans. I would easily count myself in as someone who would be in the NBA’s target market, but I only ever occasionally tune in to the Christmas Day games if the day hits a lull. If the Raptors are slated for an afternoon game then I am tuning in no questions asked. As for the lack of star-power, I realize that Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry’s names don’t carry the same name as a Porzingas, Westbrook, George, Carmelo, Towns, Embiid, Simmons or Lonzo, but they have been far too good for far too long to be ignored as much as they are South of the border. Toronto needs a Christmas game no later than 2018.

 

2017-18 Bench Life NHL Previews: 13. Toronto Maple Leafs

Part 19 of 31 in our NHL previews where Ballantyne, Burgess and I rank each NHL team 1 through 31 and give you an outlook on their season. Each of our previews will be given to you in order of where we collectively power ranked that team.

Check out our other previews:

#31. Colorado Avalanche , #30. Vegas Golden Knights, #29. Vancouver Canucks, #28. Detroit Red Wings, #27. New Jersey Devils, #26. Arizona Coyotes, #25. Buffalo Sabres, #24. Winnipeg Jets, #23. New York Islanders, #22. Florida Panthers, #21. Los Angeles Kings, #20. Carolina Hurricanes, #19. Philadelphia Flyers, #18. New York Rangers, #17. Calgary Flames, #16. Boston Bruins, #15. Ottawa Senators, #14. San Jose Sharks

2016-17 Recap

Record: 40-27-15 (95 points) 4th in Atlantic (14th)
GPG:
3.05 (5th)
GAPG:
2.85 (22nd)
PP%:
23.8% (2nd)
PK%: 
82.5% (10th)
Corsi For %: 50.1 (14th)

Coming off of a dizzyingly bad 2015-16 season, one that saw the Leafs finish with a league-worst 69 points and Leo Komorov as their only All Star representative, it all paid off when the Leafs locked up the first overall pick in the draft. The selection of Auston Matthews turbo-charged Toronto’s rebuild and the Leafs rocketed up the standings because of revamped young roster. The acquisition of Freddy Andersen in net and contributions from a huge and talented group of rookies went a long way in the Buds jumping up 26 points and grabbing a Wild Card spot.

The Leafs received an unprecedented amount of scoring from their rookies. Matthews led the way with 40 goals, Nylander and Marner each had 61 points, Connor Brown had 17 regular strength goals (Ovechkin finished with 16 last season), Nikita Zaitsev seamlessly stepped into a second pairing role, Hyman showed-off his elite puck-retrieval skills on Matthews’ left wing and Leivo, Soshnikov and Kapanen were very effective in limited action. The future is definitely bright.

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Approaching this Leafs-Capitals Series with 2 mindsets: The Homer vs. The Buzzkill

Embed from Getty Images

The REAL¬†playoffs start tonight and I’m feeling pretty conflicted. While I’m ready to get on the hype train, the Leafs have crushed my spirits at every turn. Being a Toronto sports fan in general has made me a bit of a cynic and at the end of the day I have come to hate that about myself. I’d love to yell at my TV like an idiot, fully-decked out in Leafs gear, but anytime you fly that high the fall is all the¬†more¬†tragic. Read more

PHPA Feature: Andrew Campbell

Excerpt from PHPA Article

“A lot has been made of the young, exciting Toronto Marlies. Run by Maple Leafs Assistant General Manager, Kyle Dubas, the Marlies are flush with dynamic prospects who are being groomed for the NHL, along with a mix of veteran talent. ¬†Last season‚Äôs Marlies were an offensive juggernaut, finishing atop the AHL standings with 114 points, while leading the league with 294 goals. ¬†It should come as no surprise with a roster stacked with young talent such as¬†William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Connor Brown, Brendan Leipsic, and Kasperi Kapanen,just to name a few. ¬†With all of this flash and sizzle, some players are bound to be lost in the shuffle. One name that is not given nearly enough credit, with his calming and steady presence patrolling the blue line, is Marlies captain,¬†Andrew Campbell.

Known to teammates and coaches affectionately as ‚ÄúSoupy‚ÄĚ, Campbell has owned this goofy moniker since his junior days with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). ‚ÄúI‚Äôm unsure of who gave it to me,‚ÄĚ Campbell recalls. ‚ÄúI guess if your name is Campbell in any professional sport you tend to pick up the nickname.‚ÄĚ

**Click here to read full article on the PHPA.com**

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Welcome to the Bench: Andrew Campbell

Born: 5/11/1988 (28 years old) Caledonia ON, Canada
Drafted: 3rd round (74th overall) in 2008 by Los Angeles Kings
Teams: Los Angeles Kings (2013-14), Arizona Coyotes (2014-15)
Position: Defense
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 206 lbs
Shoots: Left
HockeyDB Profile

Andrew Campbell Stats

The Call-Up
Thursday, March 31 the Maple Leafs call up Andrew Campbell, Tobias Lindberg, Kasperi Kapanen and TJ Brennan and sent down Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, Rinat Valiev, and Connor Carrick. Read more

Welcome to the Bench: Freddy the Goat

Born: 4/26/1995 (20 years old) Laval, QC, Canada
Drafted: 1st round (21st overall) in 2013 by Toronto Maple Leafs
Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs (2016)
Position: Center
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 215 lbs
Shoots: Left
HockeyDB Profile

Frederik Gauthier

The Call-Up
March 19, 2016 the Toronto Maple Leafs called up Frederik Gauthier on an emergency basis. Read more

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