Collecting and commenting on the major stories surrounding the Maple Leafs as recounted by friendly members of the mainstream media and bloggers. If you have a story you’d like to have featured, sent me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bit of a rough week for the buds, as their losing streak was pushed to five with a loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. They needed their goalie to steal them a game against Dallas, and the goalie did, so there’s a little bit more optimism in the air Friday morning than yesterday morning.
But we begin the weekly recap with Nazem Kadri’s heavy heart.
James Mirtle wrote a great-slash-heartbreaking “the original Nazem Kadri”. Kadri missed the game against San Jose, officially due to personal reasons, but was quite open about wanting his grandfather remembered. The two were planning on a trip to Lebanon this summer, which is Kadri’s ancestral homeland, despite his grandfather’s illness:
“He was just talking Sunday night – he passed Monday morning – about how excited he was to watch us play San Jose,” Kadri said sombrely as he stood in the Leafs dressing room. “It seemed like every time we played, he’d no longer be sick. He’d just feel so much better and it’d give him a boost of energy. That’s what hits you. He’s not going to be able to watch any more games.”
Kadri says he intends to visit Kferdenis for the first time in honour of his grandfather.
“It’s hard,” he said. “I wanted to keep that promise to him, and I wasn’t able to. I was planning on going with him. That was the whole idea of it. I’ll definitely be back there, but it’s sad that I can’t take him.”
Let’s just say it got a little dusty in the room when I was reading through that, just like when I watched the post-game scrum with Kadri after his two-goal effort against Dallas:
Kadri scored twice on Thursday night in the Maple Leafs’ 3-2 overtime win over Dallas, returning to the lineup after attending the funeral of his grandfather, also named Nazem Kadri.
He dedicated the game to the man he calls “the original” Nazem Kadri.
“I still get choked up talking about it,” said Kadri. “I know he was watching me tonight. I’m happy our team just came out like we wanted to win.” [Toronto Star]
So, good for Naz.
BOZAK BACK TO LTIR
Some late-night news from Chris Johnston over at Sportsnet, who was the first to report that Tyler Bozak has been placed on the long-term injured reserve:
Sportsnet has learned that Tyler Bozak was placed on long-term injured reserve with his oblique strain, which means that he’s unable to return until after Christmas. As a result, Kadri will be called on to centre Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk on a high-powered first line that has essentially carried Toronto’s offence this season.
For a second, let’s ignore the lack of offensive production, questionable defensive ability and the 46% faceoffs rate… is Bozak’s apparent injury-proneness beginning to worry anybody else? He missed the last two regular season games due to a mysterious upper-body injury, was held out of the Leafs’ lineup in Games 6 and 7 against Boston to another mystery injury, and has been sent to the injured reserve twice this year.
If the Leafs put Bozak on LTIR retroactive to December 4, then he’ll be eligible to return December 27th against Buffalo, if I’ve figured it all out correctly.
Kadri has been filling in on the top line for the Leafs while Bozak’s been out this year, but a small part of me still thinks that when Joffrey Lupul returns, Kadri should play with Lupul and David Clarkson, with Peter Holland anchoring the top line. We have a very small sample of Holland with Phil Kessel and the numbers aren’t particularly good or encouraging, but just watching Holland I think he’s defensively responsible enough to let Kessel and James van Riemsdyk run show. They don’t need much offensive help, those two.
THE MAGNIFICENT JOHN-MICHAEL LILES
Friday morning it came out that John-Michael Liles, he of the 13 points in 16 Toronto Marlies games this year, was recalled to the big club. Maybe this was due to the protestations of us Lilesiebers in the TLN roundtable last Friday, but I presume it isn’t.
The #leafs have recalled John-Michael Liles.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) December 6, 2013
This led to immediate criticism, because a Liles call-up obviously means that the Leafs are lending Morgan Rielly to Team Canada to play at the World Juniors. I wouldn’t be too sure, though. The Leafs came around on Korbinian Holzer and Mike Kostka on the top pairing last year, and it’s not like Mark Fraser or Paul Ranger have been better than either of those two working much easier minutes this season.
Optimist I am, this means a scratch for Fraser. I never really got him being sent to the minors. Sure, he’s not worth his contract, but I’d rather have Liles make $3.875-million and play than $2.95-million and not play. He’s among the team’s top six defencemen in the organization and was above even or close to even in Corsi with every D-partner except for Holzer, Fraser and Ryan O’Byrne last season.
“It’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible,” Leafs general manager Dave Nonis said Wednesday. “In the event that he’s not playing regularly, or there’s a change in our roster… I wouldn’t say that he’s off the table. But I wouldn’t say it’s likely.”
Bolding emphasis mine.
Apparently the Leafs have informed Team Canada that Morgan Rielly will be released to play with the National Squad if he isn’t playing regularly with the Leafs at the time of the tournament (December 19 cut off). Trying to predict how Randy Carlyle will deploy his players is a fool’s errand as far as I’m concerned so I won’t even hazard a guess, but it wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all to see Rielly playing 20 minutes a game in this tourney; helping lead the Canadian team while gaining confidence and feeling good about himself after going in and out of the press box with the Leafs wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen. Rielly’s skating on the big rink would be a thing to behold, and there’s little doubt that he would be one of the primary options on the blueline for the team in the event that he’s released.
Tough to disagree with that last bit. Canada has a pretty stacked defence and it’s tough to predict which of the eight going to camp will be cut. If Rielly is brought along, though, I’m guessing that he takes the spot originally belonging to Josh Morrissey, which should make our friends at JetsNation even more miserable.
Probably nothing, but…
Jerry D’Amigo in top line white. No sign of Phil Kessel yet.
— David Alter (@DavidAlter590) December 6, 2013
…wouldn’t surprise me if Phil Kessel gets a maintenance day or two at some point. Something is obviously wrong with his right wrist and he has yet to miss any time. Counting playoffs, he’s played 318 consecutive games with Toronto. Longevity is important, and obviously you’d rather Kessel miss a practice than a game.
Heck, he can miss all the practice he wants. Not a game.