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Are the Leafs trading for a defender or looking within? – Pension Plan Puppets

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After the loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night, the Maple Leafs executed a trade that had obviously been in the works for some time. The thing they didn’t do, then or the next day, is resolve their roster issues on defence. The trade was an attempt to address all the things wrong with the Leafs that aren’t defencemen.

Meanwhile, Cody Ceci, assumed by more than a few people to be all the things wrong with the Leafs that are defencemen, suffered what seems to be a high ankle sprain and left the game.

On Thursday, Dubas simply said Ceci would be out for a while, and that he was going on IR. However Cap Friendly reports that the Leafs actually sent Kasimir Kaskisuo to the AHL to reduce the roster. The Leafs currently have three goalies, six healthy defenders and 13 forwards. Not the usual arrangement.

In net, the Marlies are currently making do with Joseph Woll plus the Growlers’ starter, and all three teams in the organization play games this evening, so some more reshuffling is expected today. The goalie situation will settle out like water seeking its level after a flood, and will likely start with the Growlers getting their man back. The rest will depend on Frederik Andersen’s health, but the defenceman issue is thornier.

The Defence Roster

Technically, for a home game, the Leafs don’t need to do anything. They have this set of defenders:

Jake MuzzinJustin Holl
Travis DermottTyson Barrie
Rasmus SandinMartin Marincin

Sandin takes the second unit power play duties, and Barrie, of course, is on the first unit, and they play most of the minutes. Muzzin and Holl do the bulk of the penalty kill, but Dermott and Ceci were big additions. Ceci, in particular, is always on the ice with the goalie pulled late in games.

In the game vs the Rangers, Sandin played 6:25 of his 14:04 five-on-five minutes with Ceci, and 4:07 with Barrie, and the adjustment to jobshare that second pair LD spot between Sandin and Dermott has already been in place for a few games.

It’s simple enough to replace Ceci’s penalty kill time with Marincin, and to just keep the rest of the current structure the same. But that’s not necessarily the medium-term plan of choice.

Timothy Liljegren

You want Timothy Liljegren in the NHL, and so, in a way, do I. I can make the case against it as well.

Currently Liljegren is really cooking in the AHL. Last season was a bit of a learning experience for him; if you recall, Liljegren had a delayed development arc because he was ill in his draft year and barely played. He has always been exceptional for a player his age in the AHL, but in the 2018-2019 AHL season, Liljegren was tasked with working on his defending to the exclusion of most other concerns.

This season, and in particular now that he is the undisputed best prospect on the team, he is simply the horse they ride in all situations. He is, I feel compelled to remind everyone, including myself, not yet 21. And he’s the top pairing and a half defender on an AHL team, and that team is going to be in deep, deep trouble without him. Which shouldn’t actually be a concern here, but it’s a measure of his value.

If you like points, you’ll like his. He is one shy of doubling his total from last year where he had 15 in 43 games. He’s at five goals and 24 assists in 38 games, and that’s split into 0.27 even-strength, primary points per game played and 0.21 power-play, primary points per game played (Pick224). His Goals For % at even-strength is 53%, and while we don’t know how many minutes he plays, it’s most of them. Usually AHL defenders don’t play every game, but he and Teemu Kivihalme come close with 38 and 40 out of 44 respectively.

The case for leaving Liljegern in the AHL is simple: that’s a development environment where he gets to be the backbone of the team. He’s not getting that in the NHL.

The case for bringing him up, and actually playing him this time is that he’d be in the NHL. And the Leafs would clearly know what they have in him more fully.

Other Choices

Teemu Kivihalme

After Liljegren, Kivihalme the most relied on defender, and if he shot right, I think he’d be on the Leafs by warmups tonight. His strength is skating, puck-carrying and speed, and that’s not different enough from Liljegren to make him the more likely extra player if the Leafs are really looking for a player to get in games and not sit in the pressbox.

If they do want a pressbox/practice extra, Kivihalme is busy developing his game along with Liljegren, and all the reasons not to call up the youngest prospect left on the Marlies apply to Kivihalme.

Jordan Schmaltz

As the Marlies season has worn on, they’ve lost a lot of games, and no one has been called up to actually take a roster spot, some of the early shine has worn off this summer’s signings. Schmaltz, who has a handful of NHL games spread over three years looked like a tweener in training camp. Now, even though he shoots right, he looks like someone who isn’t getting the call.

He’s got some offensive power, and a few points to prove it, but he can’t come close to knocking Liljegren off the top pair in the AHL, and he hasn’t got a defensive game to make him a good depth/PK option.

Ben Harpur

Harpur can PK in the AHL because he is tall and he has a long stick. That’s really it, and no one is pretending otherwise these days.

Kevin Gravel

Gravel was called up for one Leafs practice and then sent back to the Marlies where he didn’t play. He’s a left-shooter, has played only 11 games this season and might not be actually healthy enough. If he is healthy enough, he’d be an ideal pressbox/practice player.

Trade?

This is more a medium-term question than one about what the Leafs should do today, while they’re facing a back-to-back with several roster changes to make. But you never know, a deal could be in the works still.

At Thursday’s press conference, Kyle Dubas revealed that Morgan Rielly will have a medical evaluation in about 10 days, and they’ll have a better idea of his likely return date then. That’s conveniently before the trade deadline, so the Leafs will have time to act if Rielly (and his cap hit) will be off the books through to the start of the playoffs.

In the interim, Cody Ceci (and his cap hit) are on IR, which indicates a shorter-term stay off the roster than Rielly’s. That can always change, of course, and Dreger is reporting he’ll be out at least a month. But the conspiracy theories about teams lying about injuries and players going along with it fail to take into account the history of grievances filed over injury disputes in the past. Jared Cowen, Dustin Byfuglien, and perhaps Brent Seabrook did not all go away quietly. Although, I do notice, they all eventually went away.

In other words, Ceci will be on IR or LTIR while he’s actually hurt, and I don’t think this is a plot, plan or scheme to get him off the roster. Particularly not when the list of choices to replace him isn’t very grandiose.

But, if Rielly is going to miss enough time — and I believe the Leafs likely have a good idea about this now — then they may well make a deal. As Dubas has said repeatedly, and reiterated on Thursday, he wants a defender with some term. He’s not making a short-term deal. He’s not even necessarily making a medium-term deal. He wants another bona fide, top-four defender for the next x number of years where x is greater than one. And making that deal might not rely solely on how the Leafs are sitting in the standings.

The Lears are right in the fight for a playoff spot. Would it have been nice to have beaten the Panthers or the Rangers or even both? Yes! But is wasn’t the death knell on the season that they lost those games. The Leafs are not fooling themselves in thinking that they have a chance. They have a legitimately good chance. It’s just not a sure thing. And if that reinforces Dubas’s already solid tendency to not be a short-term thinker, then that’s good.

We’ll find out later today what their choices are for tonight’s game against the Ducks. I am not betting that Josh Manson crosses over to our dressing room, though.

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Jays (Finally) Win One – Bluebird Banter

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Jays 6 Orioles 1

It is about time.

This is just a space holder for the recap, my tennis went long.

Ross Stripling was amazing. Just 1 hit allowed in 6.1. He threw 72 pitches and was in control.

And the offence finally broke through for 6 runs in the 8th (imagine the Hallaluah chorus playing here). And George Springer got his 1000th hit.

Life is good again.

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Here are the Raptors games you don’t want to miss in the 2022-23 season – Sportsnet.ca

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The Toronto Raptors will open their 2022-23 NBA season on Oct. 19 at Scotiabank Arena. Their regular season will conclude on April 9 at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Here are some things to highlight in the Raptors’ schedule this season.

Facing off against familiar foes

As has become customary, former beloved Raptors — especially those from the 2019 championship team — are likely to receive heroes’ welcomes upon their return to Toronto. If you’re looking to join in on the festivities, here’s a list of notable players and their arrivals back at Scotiabank Arena:

Demar DeRozan: In his second season with the Chicago Bulls, DeRozan is scheduled to pay two visits to Toronto: First on Nov. 6, and then on Feb. 28.

Serge Ibaka: Now with the Milwaukee Bucks, Ibaka is slated to return to Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 4 and the season finale on April 9.

Kawhi Leonard: The 2019 Finals MVP missed all of last season recovering from a partial tear in his right knee. He will, hopefully, be available when his Los Angeles Clippers come to town on Dec. 27.

Kyle Lowry: The return to Toronto for perhaps the most beloved Raptor of all time, and his Miami Heat, will be on Nov. 16 and March 28.

Norman Powell: Now a member of the Clippers, Powell will be accompanying Leonard when Los Angeles visits Toronto on Dec. 27.

Jonas Valanciunas: The well-liked New Orleans Pelicans centre and his team will be visiting on Feb. 23.

January could prove to be a pivotal month

Looking at each individual month of the schedule, January stands out since it features both the longest homestand the team will enjoy as well as the start of its longest road trip.

For six games and 11 days between Jan. 4 and Jan. 14, the Raptors will play in the friendly confines of Scotiabank Arena as they look to kick off the new year with some wind in their sails. The Raptors will face Milwaukee, New York, Portland, Charlotte twice (but not on a back-to-back) and then Atlanta during that period.

Beginning on Jan. 25 and then lasting seven games and 12 days until Feb. 5, the Raptors will be on their longest road swing of the season with stops in Sacramento, Golden State, Portland, Phoenix, Utah, Houston and Memphis.

The contests against Golden State and Portland will be back-to-backs and are one of 12 back-to-back sets the team will play this season (two fewer than last season).

Given the scheduling quirks in January, it could be important month as a means for the Raptors to rack up wins during the homestand and test themselves out on the road still with plenty of runway until the post-season.

Other games of note

Here’s a quick list of other notable games to keep an eye on:

Nov. 23/Dec. 16 — versus Brooklyn: It’s unclear if Kevin Durant will still be a member of the Brooklyn Nets when they make their trips up north, but if he is, that will surely be a scene at Scotiabank Arena.

Nov. 26 — versus Dallas: The NBA’s brightest young star, Luka Doncic, and his Dallas Mavericks are coming to town early in the season. As a bonus, Canadian national team stud Dwight Powell also plays for Dallas.

Dec. 5 — versus Boston: The eighth annual Giants of Africa Game celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela.

Dec. 7 — versus Los Angeles Lakers: LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers make their annual visit to Toronto.

Dec. 18 — versus Golden State: Canadian Andrew Wiggins and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors make their only trip to the Six.

Dec. 29 — versus Memphis: Raptors fans will be in for a treat as high-flying point guard Ja Morant will make his only trip to Toronto, but more importantly, Canadians Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke will be playing on home soil once again.

Jan. 6/Jan. 22 — versus New York: R.J. Barrett and the New York Knicks will be in Toronto in January.

Jan. 8 — versus Portland: Dame time is well and good, but the real attraction with this match is the opportunity to see London, Ont., native Shaedon Sharpe live. The most mysterious pick in the 2022 draft, no one really knows what kind of player he may be.

Feb. 10 — versus Utah: Canada’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker and the Utah Jazz will take on the Raptors in Toronto.

March 14 — versus Denver: Two-time defending MVP Nikola Jokic and Canadian star guard Jamal Murray will be in town with the Denver Nuggets to take on the Raptors.

March 16 — versus Oklahoma City: A game after hosting Murray, the Raptors will invite in another of Canada’s best in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort when they face off against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

March 22 — versus Indiana: With three Canadians on the Indiana Pacers roster (Oshae Brissett and rookies Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard), this Wednesday night in March should be a special one at Scotiabank Arena.

March 24 — versus Detroit: Canadian veterans Kelly Olynyk and Cory Joseph feature on this young, exciting Detroit Pistons team, but the storyline that will likely be on Raptors fans’ minds when the Pistons visit will be if Dwane Casey will, once again, get the best of his former team.

U.S. national television games

Lastly, for those who care about this kind of thing, the Raptors announced they will be on U.S. national television four times (twice on ESPN and twice on TNT). Additionally, Toronto will play on NBATV five times this season.

The Raptors will appear on two more U.S. national television games than last season.

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Czechia pulls off major upset over U.S., advances to WJC semifinal vs. Canada – Sportsnet.ca

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Czechia completed a 4-2 upset win over the previously unbeaten United States on Wednesday to punch its ticket to the semifinal of the 2022 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton.

After the United States’ Logan Cooley opened the scoring just over 12 minutes into the game, Czechia responded with three straight tallies to take control of the contest against the defending champs.

Jan Mysak, Petr Hauser, Matyas Sapovaliv and Jiri Kulich all scored for Czechia. Kulich also recorded two assists.

Matthew Berard of the U.S. was assessed a five-minute major and a match penalty for slew-footing early in the third period. Czechia was unable to capitalize on the man advantage.

Later in the third, Czechia’s Stanislav Svozil received a five-minute major and a match penalty of his own after initiating a knee-on-knee hit with Cooley. The third-overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft would remain in the game after the collision.

The U.S. capitalized on the man advantage courtesy of Carter Mazur to cut the deficit to 3-2. Kulich would later add an empty netter

Luke Hughes of the U.S. sustained an apparent lower-body injury early in the first period, he would exit the game and return for the start of the second frame.

Czechia is set to play Canada in Thursday’s semifinals. Sweden plays Finland in the other semi.

Czechia, which hasn’t won a medal at the event since 2005 when it captured bronze, went 1-0-1-2 in the round-robin stage.

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