With a minute left in the second period against the Los Angeles Kings, a familiar sight for Toronto Maple Leaf fans was taking place as their top line was on the ice and hemmed in their own zone. The Kings would score that shift—albeit a weak goal—against the Leafs three worst possession players at that time in the game (James van Riemsdyk was the highest at 22CF%).
On their first shift of the third period, they got scored on again. For the night, they were the three worst possession forwards on the team. They also combined for two goals for.
There is a well-known saying among hockey executives that goes, “Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make.”
When Brendan Shanahan was hired as President of the Maple Leafs, the venom in the room at his press conference was evident. Fans, media and bloggers wanted blood as the 2013-14 campaign came to a close.
The core had failed in spectacular fashion for a third year in a row, they were full of big money players who have warts to their games, had little cap space, and they were not even in the conversation to acquire any of the big-name centers available....
There isn't an elephant in the room when it comes to the Leafs defense, but the question of what to do is bubbling below the surface.
If you include Stuart Percy in the starting six for next season, the Leafs already have their top-6 group under contract: Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly, Roman Polak, Stephane Robidas and Percy are all signed going into the 2015-2016 season.
The person missing from that group signed next season? Cody Franson, who you can make a pretty strong argument for being the Leafs strongest defenseman this year. He is a free agent.
Still only 28,...
The Toronto Maple Leafs have officially played a quarter of their season, and we are still no closer to figuring out where this team will finish once 82 games is up.
Before the start of the season, we posted our annual season predictions on MLHS and I wrote, in part:
“I can make a case for this team to finish in the top 5 in the East, or the bottom five in the East, and I think both would be reasonably valid. Neither would surprise me. They have great goaltending, a good power play, some depth scoring, and some nice defensemen....
This past weekend, Pat Burns was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame despite no longer being with us. It served as a stark reminder that we should celebrate the hockey world's great individuals while they are still here.
This coincides with the unfortunate announcement last week that Bryan Murray’s cancer has spread to his liver and lungs. He’s in stage 4, and there is no stage 5.
In light of these events, I want to take a few minutes to highlight a great and successful hockey mind before it is too late.
Many people often talk about the old guard of hockey GMs...
The 2013-14 season marked the first time since the 1989-90 campaign that no goalie played more than 65 games.
That was, of course, an Olympic year with a condensed schedule. While I expect we will get at least a few goalies playing 65+ games this season – Cory Schneider has started every game for NJ this season — this might be the start of a trend.
In 2011-12, 10 goalies played 65+ games. Four of them now have good young backups (Niemi-Stalock, Quick-Jones, Pavelec-Hutchinson, Price-Tokarski), Miikka Kiprusoff is out of the league, Cam Ward is being surpassed by his backup, and...
A 3-0 week quieted the “blow it up” talk in Toronto,
but it will inevitably rear its ugly head again.
Rebuilding the team entirely would be the wrong call though.
Shedding some big contracts, however, may not be.
If we use the Pittsburgh Penguins as an example, tanking is a long and arduous process. Pittsburgh drafted Sidney Crosby first overall in 2005, which many people associate with the start of the rebuild. If drafting first overall is start of a rebuild, their rebuild really started in 2003 when they drafted Marc Andre Fleury with the top pick. They ended up winning the Cup in 2009, drafting...
When Kyle Dubas was named GM of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, one of the first things he did was buy every member of the front office a copy of Jonah Keri’s 'The Extra 2%.'
For those of you who have not read the book, it archives the Tampa Bay Rays rise to prominence after a near decade of failure. Baseball Prospectus wrote a review summarizing the plot:
The book’s title refers to Rays owner Stuart Sternberg’s philosophy that rather than attempt to lap the field—an unrealistic goal, given the team’s financial realities and the challenge posed by sharing a division with baseball’s...
Since the 2014-2015 season began, I have been tracking my own internal metrics on Leafs games.
I thought I’d take the time to explain what it is I’m keeping record of and what I am hoping to accomplish by doing so. If you do not care and just want to read notes, quotes and ‘5 Things I think I’d Do,’ just scroll down and skip this part; otherwise, read on to learn more about what we are doing here at MLHS to take things (hopefully) to the next level.
Corey Sznajder’s zone entry and exit work was released over the summer,...
The Maple Leafs were faced with a unique opportunity to keep their top prospect in Toronto playing in the AHL, yet they elected to send him back to Sweden instead.
Since 2005, 14 players drafted in the top 10 have played their draft season across the pond somewhere in Europe or Russia.
There is no exact science to developing prospects and every individual person is, of course, unique. That said, odds are that some AHL time will occur, even if only for a handful of games before graduating to the NHL, provided Nylander becomes the player they hope he can be.
When the media asked who has final say on roster decisions at today's introductory press conference for Brendan Shanahan, there was a pause followed by some laughter shared on the podium between Tim Leiweke, Shanahan, and Dave Nonis.
"I have a boss. It's Brendan. Your boss has the final say -- that's just common sense," Nonis finally said.
And, with that, a changing of the guard has officially begun in Leafs Nation.
Nonis is still the GM in title, but it is clear that this is the Shanahan show now. It remains to be seen if Nonis’ staff will stay in place,...
With the rest of the Leafs season boiling down to a formality, the offseason speculation is about to ramp up to (my guess) unprecedented heights after yet another collapse by this core.
Fingers will begin being pointed at the coach, management, players, fans, media, and whoever else anyone can think of.
There will be blame to be shared among some of those, but one thing that cannot be overlooked, if the Leafs are going to ultimately be successful down the road, is the flawed construction of this roster at forward.
The Leafs went into the season hoping to have two “first lines”...
There is an old saying that a good coach might only help you win an extra handful games over the course of a season, but a bad coach will cause you to lose far more than you should.
Here is the question facing management right now: Did they think this was a playoff team all along, or did they always believe it was going to be an uphill battle to actually make the dance?
If they think the 2013-2014 Maple Leafs were supposed to be a playoff team, they have to start asking some serious questions about what is happening here.
When Tim Leiweke officially took over as President of MLSE on April 2013, the Maple Leafs finally made the playoffs after a long drought, the Raptors were awful and didn’t have a first round pick, and Toronto was pretty well done with TFC.
Boy, how things change in barely a year.
Since then, Leiweke has stepped in and brought one of the supposed brightest young minds in basketball in Masai Ujiri. All Ujiri has done is pull off a string of moves (Andrea Bargnani trade, Rudy Gay trade, Hansborough signing, etc.) that has the Raptors sitting third in an admittedly bad...
Just when things were looking comfortable for the
Leafs, they had to go and make it interesting again.
Really, is there any other way this team operates?
After pulling off a rare feat by taking four of six points on a West Coast swing through Anaheim, San Jose and LA, the Leafs lost to two teams chasing them in the playoff race in their Conference.
By no means could the Leafs have mathematically separated themselves from the Capitals and Wings for good, but they could have distanced themselves to the point of only looking ahead from here on out. Instead, everyone is back...
Alec and I took in the Rotman Sports Industry Conference yesterday, which is of note because the Leafs VP of scouting, Reid Mitchell, was a conference speaker.
Now, personally I can’t handle when these sorts of events happen, the quotes get transcribed word-for-word, and the guy is ripped apart for saying something wrong. I’m not going to do that here.
However, there were two noteworthy things mentioned that stuck out in my mind: The first was Reid Mitchell noting that the majority of the stats the Leafs use are not publicly available or made known. At first he said 100% of...
It's not time to sound the alarm, but the sense of urgency is heightened across Toronto.
The Leafs are still firmly in a playoff spot and, other than Detroit (who has three games in hand on the Leafs, but are also missing Zetterberg and, for the moment, Datsyuk), the 4+ point gap the Leafs have on everyone else is a much tougher hill to climb than it looks because of the “three point era” in the NHL. It's extremely tough to make up ground at this stage of the season in this day and age.
But let's be clear: The Leafs...
Thanks again for all the questions. My apologies if I didn't get to yours.
Part 1 can be found here.
wendelsfist: "What one personnel upgrade or change would you make (trade for a role, call up to replace etc)?"
I assume you mean for the playoff race/run and not next season. At least, that's how I'm going to answer the question.
I don't think there are any defensemen worth the Leafs going after at this point, so that kind of upgrade can wait until the offseason. I'd be most interested in acquiring a really good 10th forward. If someone in the Leafs top 9...
Thanks for all the questions. Part 2 will follow a little later on in the day.
@BrianHuddle: "Where does management need to advance this roster to push it from middling playoff team to contender?"
The positions of defense and center still need improvement, but in terms of advancing the roster I think there are two ways to approach this question.
The first is having patience with this roster and developing the pieces in-house. They can improve in theory by staying the course with the Gardiners, Riellys and Hollands of the organization if they really have their hearts set on growing this young talent...
With the hockey world’s attention firmly fixed on the Olympics, it’s easy to forget that the NHL is quickly approaching a significant date: Trade Deadline Day on March 5th.
The Leafs play three more games before the deadline (at NYI and MTL, before a home game against CBJ), and they have some looming questions facing them. Perhaps the most important of which is this: Has Dave Bolland recovered?
It’s not necessarily a matter of whether he plays well or poorly – he hasn’t played since November 2nd, so he’s going to be rusty — it’s about how he feels. Does it...