August 30 2016 11:52AM
I was thinking about this concept the very day last week when the Maple Leafs released their Rookie Tournament roster for the annual weekend get-together in London, where Toronto's younger players will be joined by those from Ottawa, Pittsburgh, and Montreal.
Now, Auston Matthews won't be there, but he has a pretty reasonable excuse given he's been conscripted into duty for Team North America (along with Leaf Morgan Rielly, and a bevy of other shooters under age 23) at the exact same time. If there was no World Cup, would the Leafs have him in that tournament? Hmm, still not so sure they would. There's a thing called "asset protection" and any remotely minor tweak or hard hit Matthews absorbed at that tournament would be questioned, and perhaps rightly so.
Mitch Marner IS going to play in the tournament at Budweiser Gardens, and he'll not only the most-cheered for Leaf as a former London Knight, but his performance at the tournament, and, of course, in subsequent exhibition games soon after will be highly-scrutinized.
August 24 2016 09:18AM
Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY SPORTS
That sound you heard this week wasn't exactly thunderous in terms of a celebratory UFA signing by the Toronto Maple Leafs -- but it did make many breathe easier, in that Jhonas Enroth stabilizes the backup goaltender position going into this transitional 2016-17 season, behind Fredrik Andersen, signing a rather perfunctory one-year, $750k contract.
This move does a lot of things for the Leafs -- they get a veteran backup, and one that looked quite good in just 13 starts last year in Los Angeles. Yes, the Kings are a pretty damn fine team to play in net for -- and last season, Jonathan Quick led all NHL goalies in starts with a whopping 68. Hey, he didn't even TOUCH Andrew Raycroft's 72 from the ill-fated 2006-07 season, so we'll always have that!
But it's the most intriguing year in a long time to watch the Maple Leafs' goaltenders -- and yet intrigue, not to mention chaos and disorder have really ruled the crease for the Leafs, really ever since the lockout.
August 17 2016 10:06AM
Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY SPORTS
Last summer, I began to talk myself into the Buffalo Sabres, if not making the Eastern Conference playoffs, at least being in that conversation for a good chunk of the season. Yeah, yeah, 30th place team (two years in a row, actually), and if anything, their impending issues didn't show enough in the 48-game shortened season of 2013, where they were a point-per-game team finishing with 48 points exactly.
Yes, a year ago at this time, I had talked myself into numerous "best-case" scenarios for the 2014-15 Sabres. A terrible team, to be sure, for years previous; having won 24 games in regulation time over the prior 164 NHL contests. But there were additions, and maybe more talent was added to the Sabres than this current offseason for the Maple Leafs. We'll see if you agree by the time we're done here.
July 26 2016 08:27AM
Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY SPORTS
With the signing of Auston Matthews by the Toronto Maple Leafs making it official, it's only a matter of time before he's in a Maple Leafs uniform and attempting to meet early expectations, once the regular season pucks begin dropping.
But something unique and relatively rare is happening in the same city Matthews will call home, and I'm a bit curious as to why it's not been a bigger "sell" so far.
July 09 2016 11:15AM
We've already learned in this modern-day NHL to plug your ears and start chanting as loud as possible when others describe any particular NHL contract or player as "impossible to trade." We know that isn't true. Chris Pronger's deal was traded last summer, and he was weeks away from making a Hockey Hall of Fame induction speech. David Clarkson was traded by the Maple Leafs to Columbus for a player never expecting to place skate-on-ice in competitive fashion ever again. We'll always be surprised by some trades, but we should never be shocked. Whether always smart or not, NHL general managers are more creative, at least, than any of us think.