Thursday, May 28, 2015
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The Fan Blog

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Dylan Strome

The Maple Leafs have been through a lot this past season.  That’s why them picking fourth overall in the upcoming June draft is a sigh of relief for the embattled franchise. It would have been great to pick first, second, or third, but the Buds have to play the hand they’re dealt with. That hand includes two first round picks (No. 4 and No. 24.) and six more in the next rounds.  It’s not a secret that the Maple Leafs are set to undertake a comprehensive rebuilding project, and that the players they’ll pick on draft day are definitely part of their plans. So with that being said, let’s look at the Leafs’ potential picks in the draft, which can help Toronto’s rebuilding process either soon or later.

Among the names at the top of the Leafs’ list is Mitch Marner. Despite standing 5’11” and weighing just 160 pounds, Marner’s small frame still can’t hide the fact that he’s a menace on offense. Marner is a goal-scoring machine, one that finished second in scoring in the recent OHL season with 126 goals. The kid’s just 17 years old so he might add some more size before making his NHL debut. If anything, he’s also been very vocal of his desire to play for the Buds.

Dylan Strome and Noah Hanifin, meanwhile, are two other names that are certainly high on the Leafs’ list. Strome (45 goals) was the only player who scored more goals than Marner did in the previous OHL season. And unlike Marner, Strome has NHL size for a center. He’s a 6’3”, 185-pound skater, who is already getting comparisons to San Jose Sharks’ Joe Thornton. Hanifin, on the other hand, is being considered as the best blue liner in the draft. If the Leafs take the former Boston College defenseman, it’ll be terrific to see him paired with a fellow young stud in Morgan Rielly. At Boston College, Hanifin collected 23 points in 37 games as a freshman.  Anyone from the group of Marner, Strome, and Hanifin is a player many see as making an impact for Toronto soon. It’s not the same assessment, however, most people say about some of the players the Leafs may pick later in the draft.

Take for example Joel Eriksson Ek, who the Leafs may snag as their second pick overall. The Swedish center is still young but his 6’2”, 185-pound frame is great for an 18-year-old. He’s going to be a project, but if he continues to develop, expect him to be considered as a top-line center a few seasons from now. Another possible option for the Leafs is Travis Konecny. Konecny’s only 5’10” and weighs 172 pounds, but the Ottawa 67 center has the intensity and grit that comes along with his great puck control and solid playmaking.  Given his size, though, the Leafs may give him some time before calling him up to the NHL. At the conclusion of the 2015 NHL Playoffs U.S. sportsbooks will look to the NHL Draft to update the odds to win the 2016 Stanley Cup. What will this look like for the Leafs?

 

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(THE CANADIAN PRESS / Darren Calabrese)

It goes without saying that in terms of the standings, the Leafs are now more concerned with the bottom than the top. The 11-game losing streak settled that hash. In fact, that streak of futility improved Toronto’s chances of finishing the regular season with the worst point-total in the standings, and of course, the team’s chances of getting the first overall draft pick. The Leafs, however, have some well-tenured competition in their race to the cellar of the league standings.

Below we’ll look at three teams and their likelihood of out-losing Toronto at the end of the regular season. All three are given an even worse “price” than the Leafs’ +10,000 to win the Stanley Cup (according to this US sportsbook which is at par with all NHL odds-makers at the moment).

Edmonton Oilers
When it comes to losing, the Oilers are at the top of their game. The Oilers are scraping the bottom of almost all basic offensive and defensive statistical categories. This team has two skids that went for at least nine-straight games. Edmonton currently only has 39 points—11 fewer than the Leafs—and it’s not far off to think that they will go through another robust losing streaks before the season ends.

Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres have a fine tank going and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. A distant last in the East, the Sabres have the best odds (20%) to land the top pick, and now they’re also without Tyler Myers. Playing in a relatively tough division only makes it likelier for the Sabres to remain at the bottom from here on out.

Carolina Hurricanes
Of the three teams holding down the bottom of the league standings, the Canes have the best chance of finishing with more points than Toronto. Carolina has seemingly elevated its play lately, playing above .500 hockey since the start of the new year. Of course, this team is bound to string together consecutive setbacks at some point moving forward like the three-straight losses it had right after the All-Star break, but following that up with back-to-back victories only signifies that Carolina is developing some form of consistency.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs were expected to win the Atlantic Division by exactly no one before the 2014-2015 season, and in that respect, prognosticators have been correct through the first couple weeks of the season.

Still, the standings are looking particularly unforgiving for the Leafs heading into their game against Columbus, with five of the top seven teams in the Eastern Conference residing in the division. With under ten games played, the NHL odds found here have the Leafs at +1,500 to win the Atlantic Division.

With that in mind, we’ve broken down a few of the stories that have defined the division so far this season.

Bruised but not forgotten

There are five teams ahead of the Leafs in the division, but perhaps the least surprising amongst them is the Boston Bruins. What perhaps is surprising is that Boston is struggling off the blocks. While normally we’d write this sort of inconsistent start off as a statistical aberration, the loss of both Zdeno Chara and (to a much less significant degree) Toney Krug means the Bruins will be working with a patchwork backend for weeks to come. And with the second-least cap space in the league available for them to plug the gaps with free agents, it could be a long autumn for the Bostonians.

Montreal rising

After turning heads with their run to the Conference Finals last season, the Habs looked ready to contend again this year before the season started, but few were expecting them to be tied for the league lead through 10 games. Montreal has had major contributions from stars and role players alike, but perhaps the most significant has been the play of Carey Price, who after a rocky start (14 goals allowed in first four games) has been ridiculous since (five goals allowed in last four).

Motor city winners

The Red Wings look determined to avoid requiring a late-season desperation run to make the playoffs this year, as they have opened up strong. Again a key story here has been goaltending, as Jimmy Howard has provided an above average save percentage of .928, good for 10th in the league and a dramatic improvement from the .910 he had in 51 games last year.

In all three cases, there is some cause for optimism. The Bruins may not be able to solve a heavily injured defense, Montreal has won 80% of their games despite having just a +1 goal differential, and Detroit will almost certainly lose a couple of their star veterans for significant stretches this year, which will hurt them. Nonetheless, it’s going to be a tough climb for the Leafs in what looks to be an especially tough Atlantic Division in 2014-2015.

 

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After a disappointing end to the season, the Toronto Maples Leafs are looking forward to the future by making some key changes to the team.

The Maple Leafs have had no such luck as other teams who did well earlier on this season, such as the Columbus Blue Jackets, who beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second game of the series.

Similarly, the American Hockey League team, the Toronto Marlies, suffered an unfortunate defeat against the Texas Stars on Monday night, following their previous 5-1 victory against the Stars in game 1 of the Western Conference Final last Friday.

The Marlies had previously been victorious in their first eight playoff games, but it seems they were not enough for the Stars’ Brett Ritchie and Scott Glennie, who each scored twice for Texas.

The future

Now the two teams would be wise to look forward to the future with some important team changes. The Leafs have been plagued by a lot of injuries this season, and should look to their farm teams to sign some talent.

There could be at least three roster openings for the NHL 2014-15 season, and with the Marlies’ successful streak up until their unfortunate defeat on Monday, they soon could see some of their players graduating from the American Hockey League to the National Hockey League.

Peter Holland should be the Maple Leafs’ first choice for next year’s season. Standing at 6”2 and weighing in at 210 lbs, the young centerman should be a lock on the 4th line, which should be flanked by both Carter Ashton and Jerry D’Amigo.

Meanwhile, Jerry D’Amigo has had a very impressive season with the Marlies. A PK specialist, he scored a very respectable 20 goals in the 2013-14 season with the Marlies.

The Stanley Cup

While the dream of the Stanley Cup may be over for the Toronto Maple Leafs this year, tensions are high now as the New York Rangers seek to win back their victory against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6, due to take place on Thursday evening.

The Maple Leafs would do well to take a few tips from the Canadiens’ Rene Bourque, who scored an amazing hat trick in his last game. With so much at stake for game 6, the run up to the playoffs still looks to be exciting, with or without the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Authentic

Andy Arias, better known as @rallycap_andy in the Twitter-verse, is a self-proclaimed “mahoosive sports tweeter and jersey enthusiast/snob.” He agreed to share some tips with the MLHS community on the fine art of spotting authentic jerseys versus knock-offs when considering a purchase.

First and foremost let me say this: I understand. Buying a jersey isn’t cheap and if there is the possibility to save a few bucks of course you’re going to take it. A quick check online at the Maple Leafs Shop and you’ll find out that a replica jersey with your favourite player’s name on the back will cost you around 200 dollars. An authentic? North of 300. You love your Leafs, but paying rent this month sure would be great too. So you Google “Cheap Leafs jerseys” and you get all sorts of options. But how do you know if what you’re looking at is the real deal?

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Brian Burke’s endorsement of Ron Wilson’s work behind the bench this season and his confirmation of Wilson’s return next season sparked some debate in the most recent comments sections. While the “talent vs. coaching” special teams debate is really tough to come to any conclusions on, below MLHS’ Cameron ran some numbers on player performance before, after and under Wilson:

The thing that drives me nuts about Wilson bashers is that they’ve long expected him to spin straw into gold, and when he produces silver, they are still outraged. Take a look at the key players Wilson has had under his command during the first two years of his duty here, and how their production changed (sometimes dramatically), under him versus other coaches. This only takes into account the timeframe after the lockout in the case of players like Antropov, Blake, and so forth:


Goal difference vs. Points – A simple statistical analysis
by MLHS’ Great Dane (written before the weekend games)

There has been some talk on the site lately as to whether or not the playoffs remain in reach for the Maple Leafs despite a less than mediocre record a quarter of the way through the season, a subject Derek Harmsworth broached in his blog “At the Quarter Pole, Leafs Improved, But Is It Enough?” Statistically speaking, is 20, 21 or 24 points at the quarter pole enough to make the playoffs?

What follows is a small regression analysis of goal difference vs. points based on the records of the 30 teams in the NHL before American Thanksgiving.

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    Submitted by Michael Stephens (a.k.a. Baumgartner)

    Playing 16 games in March, the Leafs iced a remarkable squad, going 9 – 5 – 2 in (one of the best records in the Eastern Conference), collecting 20 out of a possible 32 points. Those 20 points represent almost one third of the Leafs season point total, as do their nine wins. Though this speaks more to the season long ineptitude of Hogtown’s heroes, it more recently speaks to their dazzling success: these totals come from just under one-fifth of the total games played in a season. That is perhaps the most promising thing about these young buds looking at next season.

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      Written by Wook

      Unlike many veterans who were forced to pack their bags after many consecutive years of dismal play coupled to lack of passion, people tend to turn a blind eye when it comes to Tomas Kaberle.

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        Submitted by Michael Stephens (a.k.a.  Baumgartner)

        Apparently Sidney Crosby still lives with Mario Lemieux. Anyone else find that weird? Dude, you’re almost 23. You’ve got a Stanley cup ring, an Olympic gold medal, an 8.7 million dollar per year salary (to say nothing of the endorsements). Damn man, move out already. But I digress…

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          Submitted by Michael Stephens (a.k.a. Baumgartner)

          The Toronto Maple Leafs have the League’s worst penalty kill, sporting a 73.0% success rate. They have been shorthanded 252 times this season, surrendering 68 goals. Through 71 games this season, they average 3.5 penalties (252ts/71gp) each night.

          Around January 15th, this vaunted penalty kill was even worse, an abysmal 68.9%. Ron Wilson was smugly talking about how he had to teach his boys how to flip the puck down the ice and out of the zone.

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            Author: B Leaf

            Last season, the Leafs were 10th in scoring (244) and 9th in shots on goal (2,603). There is no major reason why that number should drop other than the loss of Antropov. There are other players who should have better years and help fill his ice time with similar results. On the powerplay, the Leafs were middle of the road at 16th. The Leafs were a respectable 17th in shots allowed (2481), but were a league worst in goals against (286). The PK% was also a league worst. Not all the blame can be placed on the goaltending, but a lot of it can. The collective save percentage for the team was an abysmal .885%.

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              by Darkjester

              Many Leaf fans are counting down the days until Draft Day 2009, when we anticipate that our beloved Leafs will draft the franchise player that will lead the blue and white to the promise land. Some dream of John Tavares after witnessing him lead Team Canada to Gold at the WJC. Others dream about Evander Kane and his amazing hands or Brayden Schenn, who seems to be the Burke archetype we could all potentially revere. What you’re not typically finding on fans’ wish lists is a defenseman, which most aren’t prioritizing due to the fact we have, in some beliefs, eight NHL-caliber d-men. We do lack the type of star player upfront that can potentially compete for the league lead in goals. So I ask the question: is that really what this team needs right now?