Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Time To Play The Blame Game

The Toronto Maple Leafs season came to an end on April 23rd to the hands of the Boston Bruins…in a game 7 in Boston…again. The Leafs just can’t get enough of Boston’s Chowdah. 

Yet another disappointing end to a Maple Leafs season that started out with expectations of a Stanley Cup.

Before I go on, I just wanted to mention that this article is going to be more focused on how the Leafs lost and what they should do to fix it for the 2019-2020 season.

What Caused The Downfall

Let’s talk about this 7 game war that was Leafs vs Bruins. Unlike the two previous times these 2 teams have met (2013 and 2018) the Leafs were actually the better team throughout. The Leafs should have won this series, but it’s the Stanley Cup Playoffs and what should happen usually doesn’t. There are many factors into why the Leafs could never get over the hump but there are a couple that were more prominent than the others.

Special Teams

Special teams, probably the most deprecating factor in this series for Toronto. The Maple Leafs penalty kill was horrendous all series long and couldn’t seem to buy a kill against a lethal Boston power-play. The blame for the Leafs abysmal penalty kill falls on the shoulders of the coaching staff who we’ll talk about later. The Maple Leafs power-play couldn’t catch a break either. Going against a very well oiled Boston penalty kill, they were an awful 3 for 16 in the series.

Ice Time

The second issue in this series for the Maple Leafs was the ice time. In game 7, while trailing for practically the whole game, Auston Matthews was only on the ice for 18 minutes. That’s absurd. You can not try to roll four lines while trailing in game 7. It’s a stubborn move by a stubborn coach that refuses to accept the new analytical side of hockey. Giving 40 year old Patrick Marleau more minutes than John Tavares, Mitch Marner or Matthews with 5 minutes left while trailing by 1 goal in game 6 was an awful coaching decision. The decision to give Marleau a ton of ice time in game 6 probably cost them that game too. It’s hard to accept it, but Mike Babcock and his staff cost the team the series.

Nazem Kadri

Embed from Getty Images

That being said I think a lot of the blame this series could fall onto the shoulders of one Maple Leafs player. Nazem Kadri.

His decision to cross check Boston’s Jake Debrusk was a selfish move. With Kadri out of the lineup, they were down a centreman. They were short on depth. Given how tight the series was, Kadri would have been pivotal in games 3 through 7. This is the second year in a row Kadri has been suspended in a playoff series against Boston. If Kadri wants to stay in Toronto, he needs to work on discipline. 

What Should Happen Now?

The question is how do the Toronto Maple Leafs move forward. What steps do they take to ensure success next season?

If I were running the show, I would fire either Mike Babcock, Jim Hiller (assistant coach) or D.J Smith (assistant coach). At least one of the Maple Leafs coaches needs to go.

The player management in this series was awful and it’s been this way for the past 4 years since Babcock took over. I don’t think Babcock is going to get fired, but the assistants should and will. That being said if Babcock does go and gets replaced presumably by the Toronto Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe, I wouldn’t be opposed to it.  

Some of the players on the team are going to have to leave. Jake Gardiner is going to leave in free agency. Dubas will try to trade Marleau, Connor Brown and Nikita Zaitsev to clear space to re-sign Marner, Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen.

After a loss like that in the first round, there will be some changes. But, I have confidence in Dubas and his management staff. They’ll make the necessary moves to improve this hockey team.

This team is very young and I know it may seem like the sky is falling in Leaf Land, but it really isn’t. If you are a Leafs fan, all you can do is look forward to next year, forget about this wasted season, and most of all never stop beleafing.   

stats from hockey-reference.com and NHL.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

    

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Mid-Season Report Cards

As we start the back half of the NHL season, now is the perfect time to assess all of the Toronto Maple Leafs players first half performance.

All players who played a game in the first 49 games will be given a grade from A-F except for Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl for lack of games played.

Frederik Andersen: A+

Is there anything more we could have asked for from Frederik Andersen? Cause I can’t think of anything. He has an unreal .923 save percentage and is third in the NHL in wins. The only thing that has gone wrong for Andersen was a groin injury that kind of sent the Leafs on their recent skid, which just proves how valuable he has been to this team. He has easily been this teams MVP so far.

Mitch Marner: A+

The beautiful thing about Mitch Marner is this isn’t it. There is no way that Marner has hit his ceiling at only 21 years old, and yet he is leading a top team in the league in points. This year he has 62 points in 49 games, this is the fastest he’s reached the 60 point mark and the 20 goal mark. Mitch has been this teams best offensive player, which is why every team in the league is going to offer sheet him.

Embed from Getty Images

Morgan Rielly: A+

I don’t think anyone expected this out of Mo. We all knew he had potential to be a top 4 defenceman but we didn’t know he would end up being a number 1 defenceman in the Norris conversation. Truly one of the best performances by a Maple Leafs defenceman since the 70’s.

John Tavares: A

This may be the best season that John Tavares has ever had. Yes the John Tavares has had some incredible seasons, he once finishing second in NHL scoring. But the only reason I’m not giving him the + is because most of his goals Matt Martin could have scored.

Auston Matthews: A

What a start. Auston Matthews put up 10 goals in his first 11 games and other than the injury and the bad month of January he has been unbelievable. Once again the only reason there’s no plus is the month of January which has been bad for everyone including Matthews who only put up 2 goals in 10 games far from the month of October.

Embed from Getty Images

Kasperi Kapanen: B+

Kasperi Kapanen has been one of the leafs best wingers this season. He was a great replacement for William Nylander during his absence and is on pace for a 30 goal season, that is something no one could have predicted.

Travis Dermott: B

I love Travis Dermott. He has been the second best defenceman on this team for a year or two now and he’s far away from his ceiling. He is going to be a good defenceman for a long time for the blue and white.

Andreas Johnsson: B

Aside from a very rocky start that had Johnsson not being a roster regular he has been great. Johnsson has been moved all over the lineup and he has never looked bad. He has 10 goals and 10 assists and there is no sign of stopping so far.

Zach Hyman: B

This kid has been working his bags off since he made the NHL. He is one of the only players with true old school grit and it pays off. He has been stapled to a star player his entire Leafs career and he never fails to show up and work hard.

Nazem Kadri: B-

This has been such a strange year for Kadri . He’s either been scoring on a Wayne Gretzky like pace or he’s scoring on a Nikita Zaitsev type pace. The reason why he’s so low is because the bad stretches have been much longer than the good stretches.

Jake Gardiner: B-

Gardiner has been a controversial topic in leafs nation. You either love Gardiner and what he bring to the Leafs or you hate him and what he brings to the Leafs. I love Jake but some of the mistakes are too big to ignore so that’s why he’s a B-.

Connor Brown: B-

He hasn’t been the most noticeable player on the leafs this year but he has worked hard. He has just as many points as Zach Hyman (18) he’s just not looked as good, so Zach’s a B and he’s a B-.

Trevor Moore: B-

Moore has only played 7 games this year but he has looked amazing. Moore is fast, he works so hard and he immediately makes the 4th line much better. In fact in 33 games without Moore Frederick Gauthier has 0 goals, in 7 games with Moore he has 2 goals.

Garret Sparks: B-

Despite what people are saying Garret “Auto L” Sparks has been pretty good this year. A 6-2-1 record is very good and exactly what teams want in a backup goalie.

Patrick Marleau: C+

I know he’s the resident dad and everyone loves him but boy Marleau has looked invisible sometimes. Babcock has tried him with Matthews so many times this season and they’ve never looked that good. But with all of that said he is still contributing a fair amount (11 goals, 11 assists). Hopefully he turns into playoff Marleau by April.

William Nylander: C+

I am in Nylander’s corner 100% of the time but facts are hard to argue with. Nylander has looked better than some players ahead of him on this list, but he can be an A-A+ player so that’s why he is so low cause I know he can do better. To be fair we saw a glimpse of old Nylander against Washington when he notched 3 assists.

Embed from Getty Images

Tyler Ennis: C+

Ennis has either looked really good or you forget he even played that night. I have loved Ennis’ game when he is on. Just like Moore he makes the 4th line way better and he brings speed and skill to this team.

Michael Hutchinson: C+

I thought Hutch played well in his time here. The only problem is that the team playing in front of him was awful so we didn’t win a lot of the games he played.

Par Lindholm: C

I’ve actually really liked Lindholm’s play so far, it’s just the production hasn’t been there and neither has he in some games this year. To be fair this is exactly what I expected out of him when the announced the signing.

Igor Ozhiganov: C

Oz has had his moments but overall he has been bad most of the time he’s played this year. The only bright spot this year is that he is tied with Auston Matthews in goals since Christmas.

Frederik Gauthier: C-

Gauthier has looked way better this season. The fact that he is still getting a C- should show you how bad Gauthier was in previous years. Glad to see he is finally becoming an “Elite 3rd liner”.

Embed from Getty Images

Martin Marincin: C-

Every time I’ve watched Marnincin this year I always think he’s doing really well… until he touches the puck. He has been an alright 7th defenceman but we could and should improve and move on from Marincin.

Ron Hainsey: D 

Oh boy, Ron Hainsey has been really bad this year. He can’t make a lead pass for his life and he doesn’t know what he’s doing when he’s in his own end unless he’s on the penalty kill. Thank god his contract is up unlike the worst player on the Leafs so far.

Nikita Zaitsev: D-

Where should I start with Zaitsev? Is it the play in his own end that has cost us I don’t know how many goals this season? Or is it the inability to contribute anything offensively since he stepped on the ice in October? To make matters much worse he is signed on for the next 6 seasons at 4.5 M a year. Word is Dubas is looking to deal Zaitsev and that would be a huge relief on the cap and on my eyes every Leafs game.

stats from NHL.com, hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

What Should The Toronto Maple Leafs Give Up For Alex Pietrangelo?

Ever since Nick Kypreos of Rogers Sportsnet mentioned the Toronto Maple Leafs being potential suitors for Alex Pietrangelo, there has been a lot of speculation in across Leafs Nation about who Kyle Dubas should give up in a trade.

Embed from Getty Images

In this post, I will be examine possible trades that would be fair for both, the St. Louis Blues and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Trade Option #1

St. Louis trades Alex Pietrangelo to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto trades a 1st round pick, 2nd round pick, Nikita Zaitsev and Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson to St. Louis.

This deal would be a steal for St. Louis. Getting a young star like Kapanen or Johnsson plus Zaitsev and two decent picks would be an outstanding return. It’s be a great haul as Doug Armstrong, the general manager of the Blues would be trading a defenseman who has two years left on a contract for players with upside. It would easily improve the future of the Blues.

As for Toronto? It just doesn’t make sense to trade away a major contributor like Kapanen or Johnsson when you don’t have a viable replacement for either of them. The clear winner of this trade would be the Blues.

Trade Option #2

St. Louis trades Alex Pietrangelo to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto trades a 1st round pick, 2nd round pick, Timothy Liljegren and Nikita Zaitsev to St. Louis.

I don’t hate this deal. Rasmus Sandin has proven to be a better player than Timothy Liljegren and will crack the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup before him.

As for Zaitsev? He’s got an awful contract. Zaitsev is on the books for the next five seasons. I’m not sure I can stomach having Zaitsev on the team for the next five years. Getting rid of his contract is something should be near the top of Dubas’ priority list. I know Pietrangelo makes more than Zaitsev but only for this season and next.

This a fairly even trade for both teams. While I don’t love Zaitsev, he does have a lot of upside. Liljegren also has upside and could be solid top 4 defenseman. All-in-all, the Blues will acquire a pretty good package.

In terms of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pietrangelo could very well be the piece that pushes them to the top of the pack. All this team is missing is a top right-handed defenseman and Pietrangelo is exactly that.

Recap

If this trade is going to happen the Toronto Maple Leafs should refrain from trading any roster forwards, which I know will be very difficult considering what St Louis is asking for. Kapanen and Johnsson are a big part of the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Trading them for a defenseman with 1.5 years left on his deal would be a bad idea.

If you are a fan of the St. Louis Blues, the package consisting of Zaitsev and Liljegren would be a good haul. However if St. Louis is determined on acquiring a forward, then these two teams don’t match up together.

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler