Samsonov opens up, scratches, Bieber to the All-Star game, and a new MLSE CEO: Leafs News and Notes

Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Jon Steitzer
6 months ago
It seems that every corner of the Leafs organization has something going on with it today. The corporate office, the events staff, hockey ops department, and of course, the players. We’ll dive into some of the news surrounding the team.

Samsonov opens up about being waived

You can always count on Ilya Samsonov to be honest to a fault and while nothing here is going to have people leaping at the idea of rushing Samsonov back into a game and by no means should anyone assume that a week off completely fixed what has been ailing him this season, it certainly sounds like Samsonov is back in the environment that he thinks will help him the most and if the Maple Leafs are going to get him on track, his buy-in to the process will be required.
That being said, there is still the small matter of the back-to-backs on Saturday and Sunday and at this point the Leafs don’t seem too eager to play Martin Jones in both games again. With Hildeby playing on Friday for the Marlies, it does feel like he is the planned starter for the Leafs on Sunday. I’m not sure anyone can completely rule out Samsonov (or Jones) at this point, but with the Leafs insistent on getting Hildeby into the Friday game to see where he’s at, he certainly seems like the plan.
As for what Samsonov’s timeline could look like, Toronto has another set of back-to-backs next weekend on the 20th and 21st and after two weeks back with the Leafs that could be the planned start for Ilya.

Update on the Leafs scratches

Despite a strong night against the Sharks on Tuesday night, Nick Robertson returns to the press box. And despite Mark Giordano not being at the Leafs practice yesterday, neither William Lagesson or Conor Timmins are brought back into the fold.
When it comes to the defence I think Sheldon Keefe isn’t wrong to see what he can get out of the McCabe/Benoit pairing, which has only really seen struggling California teams at this point. There is also the fact that Giordano and Liljegren is a pairing that allows for Liljegren to take a regular shift with a consistent partner rather than being bounced around the lineup for extra icetime. There might not be a huge difference between Giordano and Lagesson at this point in Giordano’s career, but it is a partner that Liljegren has played with more and a defenceman that Sheldon Keefe has more trust in.
With back-to-back games this weekend it is entirely possible that we see Keefe go with some fresh legs against Detroit and it seems like an easy decision to sit Giordano for that game and also to possibly take advantage of an 11F/7D approach.
As for Nick Robertson not playing, that seems like more of a mystery but Keefe has always favoured a more defensive driven lineup on the road and Robertson not playing against the Islanders fits with his script.

Biebs at the All-Star Game confirmed(-ish)

Love him or hate him, Justin Bieber is a bigger star than the NHL typically gets to work with at any of their events, so this is a big get for the Maple Leafs. It seems a tad obvious that with Auston Matthews as an All-Star captain and the league going with Celebrity co-captains that the two besties will be paired up for that.
Beyond that low hanging fruit speculation who knows if there is a plan for him to perform or compete in the skills competition or any of the other things that would certainly grow the event’s audience.

Meet the new boss…

I’m not sure how much the MLSE CEO position factors into anything too specific to the Maple Leafs. Up until now Brendan Shanahan has been the buffer between the corporate side that likely hasn’t been too thrilled about early playoff exits and inflated LTIR costs and allowed the Hockey Ops department to do its thing. It is Steve Simmons of all people that leads me to believe there could be a bit more of a hands on approach coming the Leafs way though:
Simmons identifying someone as a big personality definitely stands out. And the comparison to Tim Leiweke immediately makes me speculate that the status quo is going out the window. With Brendan Shanahan’s contract also set to expire in 2025, there is a strong chance that Pelley is going to want his person in charge of overseeing the Maple Leafs and if Brendan Shanahan isn’t endearing himself to Pelley quickly or has a playoff outcome that warrants his continued presence, I’d wager that is the biggest change that comes of this and that would obviously have some ripple effects as well.
Pelley is best known for negotiating the current Canadian NHL broadcast rights deal that we are living in but he’s been a past employee of both Rogers and Bell, as well as the boss of the Argos pre-MLSE, so there is a lot of familiarity here and likely a lot of trust from the board.
Just another thing to consider as the Leafs enter the second half of their season.

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