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.
June 27 2016 05:43PM
There is no easily-identifiable title for THAT player, is there? Not exactly, "Mr. Irrelevant" from the NFL Draft. Whoever the final 7th round pick is every year, has that title forced upon him by the media, and if he even makes it to his team's main training camp in late July, he's forced to acknowledge such in every print/TV/radio interview for the rest of that preseason.
But the Leafs had the distinction this year of having that near-1st round pick, and, yes, barring trades, it's often owned by the worst team in hockey. Let's face it -- that 31st pick is usually far better off being chosen by a struggling team than a roster rich with excellent players already, and a stocked farm system. But this was no ordinary 31st selection, was it? Instead of taking an 18-year old CHL player or a USHL player committed to a U.S. college program, the Leafs took a player turning 20 years of age next month, who was teammates his rookie year with former NHLers Jiri Novotny, Geoff Platt, and Staffan Kronwall. No, not exactly All-Stars, but the Leafs must have been intrigued by the fact Yegor Korshkov has played in a "men's league" for two seasons. Though the offensive numbers do anything but dazzle, 15 points in 69 games (counting this past spring's playoffs), Toronto must be banking on him earning more minutes in the KHL next season, and seeing what the potential is. 31st is simply too high to be drafting players you'd never expect to play in the NHL, although some do and some don't, and I thought it'd be interesting to chart that out since the turn of the 21st Century. And here we go:
June 15 2016 12:00PM
Look, it was bound to happen. You know it and I know it -- Randy Carlyle just wasn't going out like that. Although it would appear to many that Ron Wilson DID go out, um, "like that"; meaning being a somewhat disgraced head coach of an under-nourished yet strangely bloated Toronto Maple Leafs team that seemed to have hit the skids, with nowhere to sink in the standings but down.
Now, often, coaches are fired in the hopes that the team in question will rebound, show new signs of life, and ascend to new heights. The 2014-15 Toronto Maple Leafs squad will be utilized by hockey historians for decades to come as a team that saw fit not to come together and be all in and push for a postseason spot, quite on the contrary, but more on that in a bit.
May 31 2016 12:47PM
A week or so ago, we decided to run through some of the more successful (and less than) exploits of fan-favourite ex-Leafs attempting to win a Stanley Cup with other teams here. Not that they gave up (in most cases, they didn't) on the concept of doing so in Toronto, but as the last 50 years have demonstrated, neither it (or, kinda, St. Louis) are the cities that will be fruitful if you're eager for that Cup ring. Yes, the Blues went to three straight Finals but went 0-12 in those endeavours, getting swept twice by Montreal, and once by Boston (yes, "Flying/Celebrating Bobby Orr Picture"). The Western Conference then truly was the Junior Varsity of the NHL. We wiped the slate clean of 1970s/1980s Maple Leafs, as, for every success story like Lanny McDonald in Calgary in 1989, there were Leafs greats like Darryl Sittler and Rick Vaive, who never got any closer to a Cup challenge than they already had been as Leafs. Plenty of Leafs can say they've gone as far as a Conference Final or league semi-finals before the geographic split in 1981-82, but few have gone the distance to win the prize. But some have, and we start with one such case.
May 25 2016 11:15AM
It's only May, and yet it's been, to put it mildly, a terrible, awful, no-good, very bad year if you're a music fan. Though over the Christmas season, the oft-troubled Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots passed away while on tour, while the iconic Motorhead frontman Lemmy died of an "extremely aggressive cancer" just three days before New Year's Eve. Maybe neither death was utterly unexpected. Weiland had off-and-on drug troubles for what seemed like two decades, and Lemmy had lived a very, very hard life with booze and pills, and cancer only enveloped and overwhelmed him without him having the strength or disposition to fight it much at that point.
But then January came, and the terrible hits to our memories, teen years and even the adult phase for some of us kept coming and walloping us. David Bowie on January 10th. Glenn Frey on January 17th. Maurice White. Phife Dawg. Last month, Prince may have hit the global community hardest of the bunch.
And then yesterday.