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.
December 22 2015 02:02PM
What's up, Leafs Nation! It's emergency backup goalie Cat here, reporting to you with the Toronto Maple Leafs pre-game from cold, rainy, Phoenix, Arizona.
I know. Life isn't fair for the Leafs.
December 22 2015 01:27PM
December 22 2015 11:03AM
When it comes to the World Junior Championship, it doesn’t take a lot to get most Canadians excited. It is a holiday tradition and something that is far more popular in this country than everywhere else combined. That’s thanks in large part to the marketing done by TSN to turn it into the high point of their annual ratings, but the other significant factor is that every year Canadians go into the tournament believing that they are the favorites to win the tournament. Whether true or not, Canadian hockey fans expect a gold medal and anything else feels like a failure.
That being said, Canada doesn’t win gold nearly as often as it feels. Since the amazing run of five straight that ended in 2009, Canada has won only four medals, with the only gold coming last year on home ice at the Air Canada Centre. The road to a repeat beings on Saturday against the United States, but it is not going to be very easy - this 2016 IIHF U20 tournament is one of the deepest in recent memory. Canada is likely not the favorite to win, and will have a tough road ahead to secure a medal of any color.
Luckily for Leafs fans, this year’s tournament goes well beyond the results for the home country - let's take an in-depth look at the future of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey, and the Leafs prospects that will be taking part in this tournament...
December 22 2015 03:26AM
A lot has been made of the Leafs' presence at the World Juniors this year. I can't blame the masses; the Leafs are sending five prospects, two of which amongst the world's best in William Nylander and Mitch Marner, another blue-chipper in Kasperi Kapanen, an underdog in Dmytro Timashov, and a steady secondary addition to team Canada in Travis Dermott. All five of these guys could end up being NHLers. But what if I told you that there was a year that Leafed at levels beyond comprehension?
Let me take you back to 2003. Specifically, we'll head to team Canada.