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Leafs vs. Lottery teams, Botterill vs. Mayers, and Nylander’s all-star bid: Leaflets

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
Another busy week in Leafs land and fans are collectively holding their breath waiting for the William Nylander extension. I debated whether or not I’d cover that in this post but there really isn’t anything else I’d be adding to my belief is the Leafs should get this done ASAP, they should have done it in the summer, and Nylander’s contract being resolved puts Toronto in a much better spot to deal with Marner’s contract this summer. Oh yeah and he’s an elite talent and eight more years of Nylander is a blessing, I should probably mention that too.
Anyways… onto the other stuff…

Leafs vs. Lottery teams

The Anaheim Ducks nearly defeated the Leafs. They rode a 50 save shutout into the late third period before the Leafs managed to tie the game and win in overtime. Oddly enough this is a success story when you consider the struggles the Leafs have had against teams like the Blue Jackets, the Blackhawks, and in previous seasons, the Coyotes. Bad teams get good results against the Leafs and that’s why looking at the next two games against the San Jose Sharks, who haven’t won in 10 games, seems like a curse rather good fortune.
I’ve come down to a few reasons for why this seems to occur. The first is that these teams acknowledge their skill gap to the Leafs beforehand and come up with a game plan around limiting offence through conservative play that also restricts the Leafs shooting lanes. The goaltender knows where Toronto is going to be shooting from and it isn’t too difficult to develop rebound control strategy against the Leafs forwards either.
The other reason is the Leafs seem to bounce back and forth between not respecting their opponent and showing too much respect for their opponent. Against Columbus we’ve seen the Leafs play an incredibly loose game and try to coast by on skill. To some extent that is also what they did against the Ducks and felt they could throw as much at the goaltender as possible and come out victorious (they were right, for what it’s worth.) On the other side of things, we’ve seen the Leafs sit back against teams like the Blackhawks, Canadiens, or Senators at time this season and try to line match against them and hold back from dictating the pace of the game. This hasn’t gone well either as opponents are given too much room and the Leafs defence/goaltending situation doesn’t suit any attempts to sit back.
As much as possible the Leafs need to find the balance of playing their game regardless of opponent and this week’s game against the Kings could very well be the blueprint of that. The Kings might not be a lottery team but if you are looking for a game that should define the identity of the Leafs (an offensive driven game where Toronto were the pressure was constantly on) that was it.

Hartman vs. Perfetti/Mayers vs. Boterill

I have a firm belief that if Sam Cosentino is enthusiastically agreeing with you, there is a strong chance that you are wrong. That would be the case for Jamal Mayers as he debated Jennifer Botterill over Hartman’s cross check on Perfetti in response to Brendan Dillion’s hit on Kirll Kaprizov.
We’ve seen the debate numerous times come up with the Leafs where star players have been targeted and there has been no response from the Toronto lineup, and there is absolutely a frustration that goes on with fans, the team, and coaches as a result of that, so I’m going to start by conceding that Jamal Mayers does have a point about not letting stuff go. Jennifer Botterill has played in enough Canada vs. US games to also know that no one let’s go of this stuff too.
Where things become absurd is the frothing at the mouth lust for revenge that Hartman demonstrated and Mayers is supporting. The whole you put our guy in the hospital, so we’ll put your guy in the morgue is endorsing some of hockey’s worst moments like the Todd Bertuzzi attack on Steve Moore and McSorley’s attack on Donald Brashear. Responding to a suspension-worthy play with another one seems to be committing to hurting your team twice as well. Potentially you’ve already lost one player to injury for the game or at least they are playing at less than 100% and now you are taking yourself out of the game and probably leaving your team killing off an extended powerplay in the process. It’s dumb.
I’m all for team’s shadowing the offending player or a star player and making sure they get hit every time they touch the puck as a means of showing that you haven’t forgotten what has happened. And there is nothing wrong with making a player or that player’s teammate has to fight their earlier offence as well. Fights might not be reasonable, illegal, or particularly safe either, but at least the parties involved know what is coming.
It was strange to see that when Botterill presented Mayers with the hypothetical of having his kid involved with a situation where he was being dangerously targeted for the actions of one of his teammates, Mayers decided to go full bravado rather than concede that Botterill’s point around one player’s safety has implications on every player’s safety and it was a cringeworthy moment to see such a ringing endorsement for the worst of hockey being shared on national television.
At the end of the day this is entertainment and a game, asking players not to intentionally harm each other shouldn’t be a controversial opinion.

William Nylander will be an All-Star

I’ll admit to being disappointed that William Nylander wasn’t named to the All-Star team in the NHL’s first pass at naming players to the team. Nylander has not only been the Leafs most consistent player this season, but he was arguably their most consistent player last year as well as their best playoff performer. His play this year has earned him a near two minute bump up in icetime per night and he’s now even seeing penalty killing time. He’s grown a lot and astonishingly he has never been an All-Star. Nylander deserved his moment.
That being said I get why the NHL was insistent on getting Matthews in. They always had him pegged for an All-Star Game captain and this was their path to getting him locked into that role early. It’s not as if a 30 goal in 35 game season also doesn’t warrant selection either but given that Matthews is the face of the Maple Leafs and the game is in Toronto and the NHL has a desire to attract high-profile celebrity captains, Matthews is the path to getting all of that.
As for Nylander, he is a virtual lock to get in to one of the remaining 12 spots, either through the fans vote or through the NHL naming him as an injury substitution for a player who can’t attend the game. There won’t be any shortage of Leafs players on that call list, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Morgan Rielly at the event as well, if not others.

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