January 20 2017 06:45AM
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SPORTS
For a while, we've been discussing the potential for the Leafs to make a substantial move in trade or free agency as they soon find themselves in the thick of the "build" portion of their plan to contend. They have the cap space to do something big, and earlier this week I wrote about whether that might manifest as a run at Kevin Shattenkirk. Rebuilds come at you fast.
Shattenkirk will understandably continue to be the focal point of trade deadline and free agency rumours, as he's perhaps the only one worth giving a damn about in a relatively weak class. And if he's moved prior to the deadline, there's a strong possibility a contract extension (likely on the shorter side) is worked out beforehand. Is that something that might interest the Leafs? It's tough to say. But Shattenkirk seems warm to the idea.
January 18 2017 11:01AM
Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY SPORTS
Without looking at the standings, you'd assume that, even with the Leafs' strong run of late, the St. Louis Blues are still well ahead of them. Even if they can never seem to get it done in the playoffs, the Blues have been a mainstay near the top of the west for what seems like eternity. The reality is that Toronto is actually clipping along at a slightly better points-percentage this season (.595 to .567), and have been a stronger team in terms of driving play as well. It's obviously tough to say how these two clubs will shake out in the final standings, but this sort of rise-and-fall does add some intrigue to the sweepstakes for inarguably the best pending free agent of the 2017 class.
The market for Kevin Shattenkirk is going to be a big part of hockey coverage for the next few months, and there's no reason to believe the Leafs should be excluded from that sort of talk. If anything, they're probably the team most primed for making an offer..
January 17 2017 11:08AM
Photo Credit: Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY SPORTS
Going into the third period of a 2-2 game between the Leafs and Sens, I really didn't know how things would turn out on Saturday night. It's been easy, particularly in recent years, to fall into this feeling of believing the team coming back to tie things up will inevitably finish the job. Maybe Ottawa could. But one thing I did feel confident about was that, heading into that final frame, Toronto wasn't done scoring.
Since dropping a game in regulation against Anaheim on December 19th, the Leafs have only scored fewer than three goals in a game one time - a 3-2 shootout win against Florida. There have been some exciting games along the way, a few quotes about "finding ways to win", and along with all of that some stressful moments for fans, from those blown leads especially. But it appears this is what the Leafs are. They're built to stress you out a little.
January 17 2017 09:15AM
Coming out of this past summer, there was some talk about how the Sabres and Leafs - both young clubs in full-on rebuild mode - could see their eventual peaks at around the same time. The thinking has been that, down the road, these two teams could form a major divisional rivalry as they make their climb into contention.
And that isn't far-fetched. You've got plenty of good storylines going here: Two American franchise cornerstones in Eichel and Matthews, the Nylander brothers eventually facing off against each other, and of course the whole Babcock fiasco from 2015. The potential for this rivalry is certainly there, but as of today the Leafs have gotten out to a nice head start in the race to making real noise in the conference, and they'll want to put that on display tonight in attempting to keep hold of a playoff spot in the east.
January 09 2017 11:26AM
Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY SPORTS
It's probably fair to say that, outside of the big-name trio of draft choices that will make up the core of the Leafs for years to come, the best additions the team has made in the last two years have been that of Zach Hyman and Nikita Zaitsev. I say that mainly because these moves were essentially nothing-for-something: In the case of Hyman, flamed out prospect McKegg was sent to Florida, and for Zaitsev the only cost is cap space. They basically just went out and got these guys with hopes of them becoming strong support pieces, and they're already living up to that billing without question.