Saturday, May 23, 2015
Authors Posts by Mislav Jantoljak

Mislav Jantoljak

246 POSTS 0 COMMENTS
Hi there, I'm Mislav, a hockey writer from Croatia. My weird hockey journey includes the Maple Leafs Hot Stove, covering the Kontinental Hockey League as a Managing Editor at KHL.hr and doing a piece for the Hockey News that one time. This is me on hockey and stuff in between. Enjoy your stay!

Photo: OHL Images

There you have it folks, the Edmonton Oilers will make their third consecutive first overall pick at the June Entry Draft in Pittsburgh. We’re all red with rage (especially that Columbus fan) and rightfully so, but the real question here is – what are the draft implications for the Leafs?

They say monetary bills stick to each other and that money falls into money. The rich get richer and the poor have to wait to see who the rich will draft. Provided the Leafs don’t move up, if the rich draft a forward, how will that impact our chances of drafting Galchenyuk?

A valid question. It’s possible that the Oilers in fact trade that pick and move down to pick one of either Matthew Dumba or Ryan Murray, although it’s fairly early to make that assumption. What we know for sure is that the NHL once again rewarded a franchise for failing to improve, even after two first overall draft selections in a row.

If they do pick at the one spot and presumably take Yakupov, it could severely damage our chances to draft Galchenyuk. Imagine if you will, a strutting Tambellini. He goes up on the draft floor and says: “We are proud (they aren’t really) to select Nail Yakupov from the Sarnia Sting.” Of course, this could then mean that Galchenyuk will be gone by the time the Leafs’ pick rolls around given we are at the five-spot and all other teams ahead of the Blue and White are equally looking for future impact forwards.

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Brian Burke

Photo Credit: thestar.com

Let’s face it. We’ve all knew it at the beginning of the season. The best bet for the Leafs was on us being a bubble team. That doesn’t exactly say – confidence. We knew coming in that we probably needed some things to click for us to make the show and when those things didn’t click Leafs Nation got mad. But, let’s run through that last sentence again. Things needed to click for us to make the postseason. That doesn’t mean things WILL click and we WILL make the postseason.

Fact is, we weren’t a good enough hockey club to make it, because in the end, we didn’t make it. There was a lot of stuff missing so here’s my take on what Burke needs to do to make this team a competitive hockey club once again.

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Photo Credit: Sportsnet.ca

The biggest hockey matchup in the world has rarely had less on the line in terms of competitive importance. Draft implications could be counted as significant, but they add little to the overall fan satisfaction as far this game is concerned.

A long and frustrating season has come to an end, but each and every time this happens Leafs Nation feels a big loss. To this writer, a win against the eternal rival would be a fitting end to an already weird season. You never expect a truck to climb back after falling from a cliff.

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Photo Credit: windsorstar.com

In what is the fourth and final meeting between the two teams, Tampa will visit the ACC in an effort to get Steven Stamkos 60 goals. In similar fashion, I do hope that in our remaining two games Phil Kessel manages to score 40, which still probably wouldn’t silence his critics.

Like Don Cherry mentioned and Brian Burke insinuated, players from Ontario do have that added incentive to play well in front of their family and friends so it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if we saw that mark cracked tonight. The Markham native has one goal in three games against the Leafs this season, however.

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Photo Credit: thestar.com

The final game of the season series between the Leafs and the Sabres is upon us. For those of us who thought this game would be more meaningful (at the middle of the regular season), well, I guess the joke is on us.

Actually, the game is meaningful to the Sabres, who are chasing the Capitals after their last night’s loss against Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s also relevant to the Leafs because of the draft lottery – that much is obvious.

Each team won all their home games in the season series and the Sabres will likely want to continue that trend in tonight’s game. Given all our injuries and recent form, I wouldn’t advise betting against it.

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Photo Credit: CBC.ca

The Maple Leafs host the Sabres who are playing on back to back nights. By that account, and under normal circumstances, this is a game the Leafs should be able to win. Unfortunately, these are anything but normal circumstances.

Key injuries, bad form and lack of compete has shattered the Leafs’ home record in recent month. Given Buffalo’s recent run of form, calling this a difficult encounter is an understatement. Buffalo lost to Pittsburgh last night, which is all fine and dandy, but the Penguins have a “slightly” better team, one that had to bounce back from back to back defeats at the hands of the Islanders.

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Photo Credit: premierlife.ca

Tonight, the Leafs host the Flyers in an attempt to avoid a season series sweep. We all remember what happened last time these two teams met. Claude Giroux scored a beautiful shootout goal worth two points for the Flyers.

Now that the playoffs are officially out of the picture, Carlyle and the rest of Leafs’ staff will be using the final five games of the regular season to evaluate the roster. After an effort on home ice like Tuesday night’s against the Hurricanes, the expectation will be a more competitive showing in front of the paying Leafs fans tonight. One problem, tonight’s opponent is actually good.

The Leafs have only beat one playoff team since February 2nd, the seventh-placed Ottawa Senators, who with any luck will stumble over their final five games and fall out of the top eight.

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Photo Credit: petrtitarenko.com

Photo Credit: petrtitarenko.com

Now that we pretty much agreed that tanking is the way to go (had to drag this writer in chains and he’s still not at peace with it), let’s try to examine how much Leafs Nation really needs that high end first round pick/player.

When you take tanking out of the equation (and if you’re like me, you have to, because it’s not like you’re going to stop watching this team) you realize that watching the current day Edmonton Oilers really seems more fun than watching the current day Maple Leafs. The amount of sheer young talent and hope for the future makes games exciting, makes fans watch even though they are losing games. Watching Taylor Hall fly down the wing, Eberle’s quick hands or an 8 point night by Sam Gagner beats watching basically the same result with no such talent on the roster.

Boxscore

1. I love the Leafs, I’ll probably never stop loving the Leafs. That said, for me to believe in a group of players, they have to show up. This group of players had a lot of chances to show up, they didn’t. As a fan, I can deal with almost anything – just don’t play without heart. Leafs Nation doesn’t deserve you playing without heart. I love the Leafs, and believe in the Leafs rebuild, but I don’t believe in this particular group. We’re a young team, a developing team, but there are issues beyond that. Changes in personnel need to be made.

We have pieces but if those pieces have no one to learn from, no one to show them how to consistently perform in this league, you can’t fault them for failing. Injuries aside, everything is pretty clear. Leafs being a bubble team, not a good enough team to make this year’s playoffs, isn’t news.

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Photo Credit: heraldsun.com

The Hurricanes will visit the ACC tonight in a game which could potentially have huge ramifications on our draft pick. Both teams have collected 75 points in the 76 games played.

This is the fourth and final meeting between these two teams. All three previous games were one goal games which saw Carolina grab the game winner in two of the three.

The Leafs will be looking to grab a win in the ACC for the first time in seven weeks (yes, it really has been that long). That’s good news for Tank Nation, as the Leafs play host to Philadelphia and Buffalo after tonight to complete a four-game homestand and play their final game at the ACC against Tampa Bay next week.

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Photo Credit: CBC.ca

The Maple Leafs are hosting the New York Rangers in what is their fourth and final meeting this year. Surprisingly, our boys have a positive record against the Rangers this season.

The Leafs have won the last two games against the New York outfit, having outscored them by a 8-7 margin. The Rangers managed one win, a shutout victory (3-0) on January 14th when they visited the ACC.

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Photo Credit: nydailynews.com

Tonight, the Leafs visit New Jersey. The Devils are a team that doesn’t really have a chance to move up or down in the standings, having cemented 6th place 5 points ahead of Ottawa and 5 points below Philadelphia.

These teams faced each other 3 times this season. The Devils had more success having won two of those games. However, the Leafs won on November 2nd which was the last of the three meetings. The goal differential stands at 11-10 in favor of the Leafs.

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Photo Credit: images.ctv.ca

The boys are hosting the Islanders tonight in what is a back to back game right after yesterday’s debacle. The Leafs have really put themselves into a can’t-win situation now. They fail to even compete with the Bruins, get laughed off the ice after getting tuned up for eight goals, and now face a team competing with them in the tank battle. Beat the Isles and get reprimanded for only beating the easy out and ruining the draft pick; lose again and many will want the whole team blown up.

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Photo Credit: usatoday.com

Tonight, the Leafs are guests in the TD Garden. The Boston Bruins have been a dominant force against our team this season and are threatening to sweep the season series. That doesn’t exactly tell the whole story either. Boston has scored at least four goals in all five games against Toronto, and outscored the Leafs by a combined 28-10 margin in that period.

To top it off, the Bruins will be looking to take a stronger claim to the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference as Ottawa is giving them a run for their money in recent weeks. While this all might sound depressing, we have to remember that the Leafs are coming into this one with two straight victories in which the team gave up only two goals…. which can also be depressing if you’re hoping for that lottery draft pick.

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Photo Credit: CBC.ca

Tonight, the Leafs and the Sens duke it out in the final Battle of Ontario for the 2011-12 season. This is the sixth meeting of the two rivals with the Leafs winning three of the five games until this juncture.

The goal differential stands at 17 to 16 in favor of the Leafs. The momentum however, is clearly blowing wind in the sales of the Ottawa Senators. Credit where its due, it’s remarkable that the team has taken first place in the Northeast Division and second seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins have games in hand so Ottawa will have that extra motivation to keep pushing.

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Photo Credit: tampabay.com

Tonight, the Leafs are visiting the Tampa Bay Lightning. Steven Stamkos is the first player to break the 50 goal barrier this year, so fearing his impact in tonight’s game is natural for all Leaf onlookers.

This is the third of four meetings between the two teams, with the Leafs getting two decisive victories in the first two encounters. During that span, the Leafs scored fourteen and allowed only four goals against. Let’s hope we face a similar scenario tonight. Tank Nation meanwhile will be keenly aware that the Leafs, after a Habs win last night, are one point out of last in the Conference and therefore one off of the third overall draft choice.