Christmas Has Come Early For Some Under Mike Babcock

Dimitri Filipovic
December 23 2015 10:51AM

It's no secret that a patient, long-term approach by the organization meant that this year would be a bridge season of sorts for the team. Still, even while keeping that watchful eye on the future the Leafs have managed to make the most of a couple of side projects under Babcock's tutelage in the present. 

As a convenient byproduct of the respectability and structure he's instilled since taking over, he's also rejuvenated a handful of assets that were either on their way out of the league or were at a low point in their respective careers after having been submarined by previous regimes. Despite not exactly having been blessed with a cupboard full of main roster talent, he's been giving a master class on how to optimize assets by putting them in positions to succeed. 

Going with the Christmas theme, the following players have benefitted the most from making it onto the latter part of Mike Babcock's 'Naughty Or Nice' list. In no particular order..

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2016 Draft-Eligibles to Watch at the World Juniors

Shawn Reis
December 23 2015 09:08AM

With the World Juniors right around the corner, it's about time we start sizing up some of the teams and some of the players.  Today we'll be taking a look not at the Leafs prospects playing in the tournament, but the players that could one day ultimately end up being Leafs prospects.  Let's take a look at the best players in this year's World Juniors eligible for the 2016 draft.


Canada is bringing a young roster to the World Juniors this year.  And yet as young as the team is, there's only one player on the roster that's actually draft-eligible: Val d'Or's Julien Gauthier.  The consensus 7th-best player for the upcoming draft as of right now, there's a lot to like about Gauthier's game.  He's 6"4'.  He has 29 goals in 30 games played in the QMJHL so far this season.  He's got 109 shots on goal in those 30 games.  He's got a strong combination of a myriad of different skills: he gets around the ice well for his size, he can handle the puck, he can dish it off to a teammate if that's the right play to make, and yes, he can really wire it.  All of these factors combine to make Gauthier a likely top ten pick next June, and he'll probably be the second Canadian to have his named called at the draft, just after Sarnia's Jakob Chychrun, who was cut during Canada's selection camp process.

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Leafs Postgame: Howling Defeat

Jeff Veillette
December 23 2015 12:31AM

The Toronto Maple Leafs entered tonight's game looking to hold on to some of the momentum that began their road trip. Fresh off scoring 12 goals in their previous two games and a sudden reincarnation for Jonathan Bernier, the team pointed their sights at the Arizona Coyotes; a team ahead of them in the standings, but not far out of the lottery race themselves. The sixty minutes that ensued were interesting though most of the scoreboard action occurred in a very short stretch of time.

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The Steve Dangle Podcast - Dec. 22, 2015 - bzzhhuuu

Steve Dangle
December 22 2015 11:27PM

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 1.25.12 AM

On this episode the guys talk about Leo Komarov, goalies, jinxes, and gifts, but you can't hear any of it because of Adam's stupid light sabre.

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5 Things: The Consistent Gardiner

Ryan Lambert
December 22 2015 07:52PM

1. Let's have a chat

No one is going to mistake the Toronto Maple Leafs of the last few years for any sort of defensive stalwart. They have some nice players on that blue line, but for the most part, there are serious problems when your best defenseman is arguably Morgan Rielly.

That's not a knock on Rielly, who's clearly good and still growing into his game, but it is a reality. He shouldn't be your No. 1 defenseman if you're an NHL team, full stop.

But defense is the real Name of the Game in the NHL, and that's reflected in the declining goal numbers seen over the last several years. You need guys who can lock down your own zone and also get the puck out of it and across the opposite blue line.

And to that extent, one Maple Leaf defenseman has done that more often and better than anyone else on the roster over the last few years. He is, however, criminally misused both by his old borderline-incompetent coach, and his new one, because there are many fundamental misunderstandings about his game and, unlikely Rielly (who is given plenty of rope because of his age) seems to be heavily criticized every time he or the team has a bad night.

Which, you needn't be reminded, happens a lot for Toronto.

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