Welcome to a new segment, where we collect bad takes, dismantle arguments and dispel myths being circulated in sports publications and social media about the Toronto Maple Leafs.
#3. ‘The fix is in! The draft lottery is definitely rigged for Toronto.’
The outcome of the NHL’s draft lottery was chaotic hilarity or unmitigated disaster depending on who you ask, but there’s a poetic justice in an extremely-flawed draft format going just about as bad as it possibly could.
Having a mystery team win the Alexis Lafreniere lottery predictably set Twitter on fire, with some folks warming up their takes on the burning embers:
Since the Leafs are incapable of doing it themselves, the NHL is doing it for them. The fix is in and they’ll get this kid. But they’ll still screw things up. https://t.co/l8Lvo39eiF
— Norris McDonald (@NorrisMcDonald2) June 27, 2020
I do not mean to pick on Norris here, but I have seen a lot of this type of comment since the outcome was revealed. People are terrified of the Leafs being good in the first place, but giving them a 12.5% chance of landing Lafreniere if they lose the play-in round? That’s pure nightmare fuel for the rest of the league.
(Side note: how justifiably mad should Detroit fans be that the play-in losers have just a 6% less chance than they did at getting the number one pick?)
We hear this sort of favouritism thing all the time, but I’m having a hard time remembering a time when the Leafs were advantaged by the NHL?
- Was it when we lost the Connor McDavid lottery by one ball?
- Was it being in the bottom half of the league in powerplay opportunities year after year?
- Was it the maddeningly inconsistent refereeing in the Boston series these last two years?
- Was it the broken playoff format that forces us to go through Tampa or Boston in the first round?
- Was it when the NHL commissioner said about this playoff format: “We think the format we have works extremely well … unless you’re a Leafs fan.”
Yes, we won the Auston Matthews lottery in 2016 but do some people think the league just said “nah, too obvious” for the McDavid lottery the year before?
None of this is meant to infer that the league is anti-Leafs, but for those who believe the league favours Toronto: where is your evidence?
These draft lotteries are overseen by consulting and auditing firms, who run the lottery and prepare the cards that Bill Daly presents on live television. Plus, the league posts video of the draw on their website every year, in a startling level of transparency for them.
Saying the league favours Toronto is just lazy.
#2. ‘Trade William Nylander to Buffalo for Rasmus Ristolainen and their first round pick’
Thanks to Damien Cox for this gem:
William Nylander for Rasmus Ristolainen and Buffalo’s No. 1 pick. Just an idea.
— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) June 28, 2020
Could Rasmus Ristolainen just get traded already so we can stop hearing about the Leafs acquiring him?
The idea that a team with management as analytically-inclined as the Leafs would have any interest in a player with some of the worst underlying numbers of any defenceman over the last 3-4 seasons is out to lunch. I get that he’s right-handed and very tall, but so was Cody Franson.
You also have to think about fit. Ristolainen is well known for his powerplay prowess and booming shot. In fact, of the 50 highest-scoring defenceman since 2016, Ristolainen has the fourth-highest share of his points to have come from the powerplay:
If Ristolainen were to come to the Leafs, it’s unlikely he would supplant Morgan Rielly on the team’s first powerplay unit, so right off the bat you’re taking away from him one of the only things he’s shown to be good at, aside from getting decked by ghosts.
But none of that is even the craziest part of this proposal! STOP. TRADING. WILLIAM. NYLANDER.
In a hard salary cap world, getting the most value out of your contracts is of paramount importance. St. Louis just won the cup with no one making over $7.5 million, Pietrangelo putting on a Norris-worthy performance for a cool $6.5 million, and a 25-year-old rookie goaltender on a league minimum salary. Value contracts are, well, valuable!
Nylander was on a 37-goal, 71-point pace this season before The Pause. At a nice $6.9 million that level of performance is well worth the price tag. A case could easily be made that Nylander provides the best bang-for-the-buck of the Leafs’ Big Four (Matthews, Tavares, Marner, Nylander), so he should be far down the list of contracts we should be looking to deal.
Yes, the Leafs are in a bit of a cap predicament with a flattened salary cap, but they should be saving salary in places where they can replicate production/performance at a lower cost, and I don’t think you’re going to find many available 70-point players for less than what Nylander is making.
Plus one Rasmus is enough.
#1. ‘Steve Simmons was justified in reporting that Auston Matthews has Coronavirus!’
Sports gossip columnist Steve Simmons has been (justifiably) getting beaten up on social media over the last week for violating Auston Matthews’ right to medical privacy after reporting the Leafs superstar had contracted COVID-19 while spending the regular season pause in his home state of Arizona. While the noted hot dog story fabricator was clearly excited to have unearthed such a “POSTMEDIA EXCLUSIVE”, we saw him grow increasingly irate this week about how the story was not getting traction in mainstream channels. The utter silence heard from the more respected corners of hockey media was deafening, as those with even a modicum of integrity understood that just because you technically can violate someone’s medical privacy, that doesn’t mean you should.
A combination of sensing the need for damage control and not realizing the best way to get out of a hole is to stop digging resulted in the below puff piece written by fellow Postmedia scribe Ed Willes:
— Province Sports (@provincesports) June 23, 2020
In the article, Willes bemoans conspiratorially about why the story went unreported among mainstream sports media outlets and how “the lines between teams and the people who report on them have been blurred beyond recognition”. He launches into a rant about player access and how information on teams is being served up in a “diluted” form.
In reality, however, it’s not about cozying up to teams in exchange for access or favours. It’s about having editorial standards and journalistic ethics. Colour me unsurprised that a couple of Sun Media writers may not fully grasp this.
Speaking of not grasping a concept, Willes spends almost 900 words using this series of events as his springboard into a tirade about media access and the insidiousness of this give-and-take relationship with teams without ever addressing the main reason why Simmons’ article is so problematic: a person’s medical details should not be disseminated without their consent. If Simmons and Willes cannot at least acknowledge the legitimate questions being raised around the ethicality of breaching this consent, then we know everything we need to know about how low they’ll go for a scoop.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to suggest new topics to cover in this column by contacting @MNorman87 on Twitter.