Mats Sundin reminisces on his time in Toronto, Mike Babcock pays his respects to Bryan Murray, Frederik Gauthier discusses his grueling rehab, and more in the links.
Former Leafs Captain Mats Sundin on The Jeff Blair Show (Fan 590)
Mats Sundin, former captain of the Maple Leafs, joined The Jeff Blair Show with Joey Vendetta to talk about his career with the Leafs, the legacy he’s left behind, being on Legends Row and what that means to him, and a recent vacation he took with former teammate Tie Domi.
I spent 13 years in Toronto, and the best part of my career, obviously. When I come to Toronto, I really see it as my home. What a pleasure to play [there]. The whole city even all of Canada cares about how the franchise is doing. Also, being the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs — what a huge honour.
You look at some of the years we had, and we really had great teams. In ’04, I think we broke the regular season record for points in a season and we had a game-winning streak that was over 13 or 14 games. We had some great teams.
Mike Babcock reminisces about Bryan Murray hiring him into NHL (Sportsnet)
Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock discussed a couple of his good Bryan Murray memories, including how he got him his first NHL job.
Well, he gave me my first job. I have lots of fine memories of Bryan and his family. Bryan was a great, great man. A good hockey man and a better person. You know, he’s a former McGill guy, so I knew him a little bit. When I was coaching in Cincinnati and he had been fired in Florida, he came in and we had a few beers one night. Next thing you know, he’s coaching in Anaheim and I’m coaching the farm team. In the end, he called me one day when I was in Detroit watching a playoff game in ’02. He said, “Why don’t you come in here tomorrow and be impressive?” I assumed that meant for the job. Myself and my family — we have a lot to be thankful to Bryan for.
NHL Top 25 under 25: Auston Matthews brings the hype to Toronto at No. 2 (SBN)
more than the big numbers in the box score, Matthews fueled an immediate turnaround of the Maple Leafs into a playoff team. They finished fifth in the league in goals per game, and pushed the top-seeded Capitals to six games in the first round of the postseason. Now the Maple Leafs are on the cusp of a bright future led by Matthews, Marner, and William Nylander, who form arguably the most exciting young core in hockey. And Matthews is the centerpiece — a top-line center who generates shots like crazy and will give you 35-plus goals each year.
What’s left for the Toronto Maple Leafs to do this offseason? (MLHS)
Regardless of the timing of the Ozhiganov pursuit, with Polak (as of now) and Hunwick gone and Hainsey, Rosen and Borgman added, the Leafs haven’t necessarily improved their defence from last year in terms of proven NHL depth; in fact, they currently stand to enter the season with six defencemen with NHL experience compared to seven plus Nikita Zaitsev — who was considered a lock to be an NHL regular in some capacity — at this time last year. The right side of the depth chart needs some extra padding, and there are a limited number of obvious solutions available barring a “JVR for top 4 D” trade materializing in the next couple of weeks/months that serves to slot everyone in more comfortably.
Leafs adapting Babcock’s 40-second shift mentality (TSN)
What’s really interesting is how, on an individual basis, the players who span both the Carlyle and Babcock eras – van Riemsdyk, Rielly, Kadri, Bozak, and so on – have seen dramatic reductions in average shift length. The only player who has seen any sort of uptick was Gardiner in 2016-17, and even then that number is still down from the last Carlyle season. At aggregate, the Leafs are darn close to that 40-second shift number across all game states.
Josh Leivo – Toronto Maple Leafs 2017-18 Player Preview (MLHS)
Leivo’s recent interview with the Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby suggested that the organization was never in doubt about protecting him in the expansion draft and that Leafs brass indicated to him in their April exit meeting that he would be back for 2017 training camp (he was also given the offseason assignment of improving his skating). Unfortunately for Leivo, the Leafs’ depth chart situation up front has only gotten more complicated and crowded with the Leafs’ addition of veteran scorer Patrick Marleau while returning all of their top nine forwards from last year as of this writing.
Leaf prospect Gauthier takes comeback a step at a time (Toronto Star)
“I had to learn how to walk again, slowly building some strength in my leg, trying to get the muscle right,” said Gauthier. “It felt weird to walk again. I didn’t really know how to walk at first.” Walking, and building muscle strength, led to running. Running led to skating. “I was a little bit worried,” said Gauthier. “But they told me skating is easier than running. It was.” While there’s no timetable for Gauthier’s return to game form, the best guess is November, six months after the injury.
Kapanen set to challenge for full-time duty with Maple Leafs (Toronto Sun)
“Last year was last year,” said the Kuopio, Finland, native. “This is a new year and I just start from the same spot as everyone else. It’s going to be a tough camp, but I’ll be ready for it. Anything can happen, but I just want to stay healthy this year and be a better player.”
Leafs ‘can’t be content’ with last year’s success: van Riemsdyk (Toronto Sun)
“We had guys who played great last year,” the 28-year-old left winger conceded Tuesday as he joined the team’s summer workouts, “but when you lose in the playoffs, you have to improve. You can’t be content because things are always changing. If you get content, then you’re not looking far enough ahead about what we can do as a whole and you don’t keep taking those steps forward.”
Top 25 Under 25: #7 Timothy Liljegren (PPP)
Eighteen-year-old defencemen rarely make the NHL following their draft year, and Liljegren could use a year or two to fine-tune his game, improve his decision making, and develop physically. Nevertheless, ranking #7 on this list is quite impressive for a player of his age, and he came out ahead of an established NHL player in Connor Carrick thanks to his scoring upside.
The 411 on Igor Ozhiganov, Russian defenceman connected to Leafs (Sportsnet)
Scouts will note Ozhiganov’s shot from the point. The eight goals he scored in the KHL last season won’t jump off the page at you, but it was enough to finish tied for 13th in goals among defencemen. Ozhiganov showed off his big shot at the KHL All-Star Game last season, winning the hardest shot competition. He’s not quite on Shea Weber’s level, but his blast was clocked at 159.47 kilometres per hour — or 99 miles per hour. Had he participated in the NHL’s hardest shot last season, Ozhiganov would only have been beaten by Weber and Patrik Laine.
Kapanen knows he’s not a lock to make Leafs’ roster (Toronto Star)
Kapanen’s speed is his strength, and the Marlies took advantage of it by converting him to a penalty killer last season. That means his best chance at an NHL job — at least early in his career — is as a third-liner or fourth-liner, as a checker. “It’s always tough, especially now,” said Kapanen. “We’ve got a good group of guys and a lot of prospects that want to play. It’s going to be a challenge.”