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 31 2016 07:30AM
Leafs fans are certainly no stranger to the hype surrounding Auston Matthews. We know he's an amazing, big, skilled forward with a great shot and fantastic hockey sense. I'm sure many of you have seen the fantastic work done by Reddit user ImHuge in creating Auston Matthews' extended highlights for each of the 10 games Matthews played for Team USA at the World Hockey Championships this year. Though the young American team placed fourth, Matthews had a great showing at the tournament, finishing fourth in tournament goal scoring (6 goals and 3 assists in 10GP) and tied for the team lead in points.
ImHuge's extended highlights were unique in the sense that they focused on not only Matthew's obvious point-producing skill, but his offensive and defensive contributions and playmaking abilities. Taking a careful look at these highlights will help give Leafs fans deeper insight into the player their team will (presumably) be drafting in June- and this is exactly what I intend to do.
May 30 2016 08:42PM
What a great first game of the Stanley Cup Finals we've seen so far! Clearly, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks are the types of teams that the Leafs aspire to be in the long run. Full of talent, fuelled by a bit of luck, but mostly with a long-term plan centred around consistent success.
Truly it's a great way to spend a Monday night. Wait, Monday?
*looks at clock* *swears*
Hey! It's time for another mailbag.
May 30 2016 10:55AM
Yesterday, Mitch Marner capped off one of the single greatest seasons in the history of junior hockey. He finished second in OHL scoring, won the league MVP award, dominated the playoffs, won that MVP, dominated the Memorial Cup, won that MVP, and won the CHL MVP award to top it all off.
He's the third player in history to sweep all of the MVP awards, the second youngest to do so, and the first to do it in 16 years. At times, he looked like he was using the games as practices, defeating his opponents at 80, 70, 60% intensity because anything further would have been embarrassing.
But it won't last. At 5'11, Mitch Marner is too small to play in the NHL.
May 30 2016 08:30AM
On May 27 TSN published an article arguing that the NHL and CHL should modify their transfer agreement to allow "exceptional" drafted CHL players to play in the AHL, which they currently can not do until their 20-year-old season. The focus of the article is on Mitch Marner, who just finished tearing up the Memorial Cup with the London Knights. Gary Lawless, writing of Marner for TSN, says:
He may not, however, be ready for the NHL. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 164 pounds, it’s quite possible Marner will need some time in the AHL to adjust to the pro game. But that’s not available to him next season.
. . .
Marner, almost all would agree, would be best off adjusting to the challenges of the pro game in the AHL.
Size is a frequent theme in discussions of Marner. Despite the way he continues to put up huge numbers in the OHL, many people believe Marner will struggle in the NHL because he is smaller than most NHLers. I think that line of thinking is wrong. While no one can predict the future with certainty, all of the available evidence suggests that Marner will be able to jump into the NHL next season and contribute at a reasonably high level.