Connect with us

Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs Notebook: The All-Decade Leafs team, Injury Bug Strikes, Shopping Jeremy Bracco – Maple Leafs Hot Stove

Published

 on


The Toronto Maple Leafs have had mixed results over the past few days, picking up three out of four points but losing two keys players to injury.

We’ll get to the current edition of the team a little later, though.

Firstly, I hope the holidays have been kind to everyone so far. As the decade comes to a close, it feels almost obligatory to put together an all-decade Toronto Maple Leafs roster.

It hasn’t been a banner ten years for the organization. For those of you that stuck with on this site through the terrible times: Thank you. For those that have joined us as the team has returned to prominence: Make yourself at home.

I’ll write out the full roster shortly, but some quick things that I prioritized in putting it together: Longevity and productivity were by far the most important factors for me. I also looked at statistics from the 2009-10 season onward. You generally should play on the team for an extended period of time if you’re going to be recognized as an all-decade player. I also put some thought into players who had big moments for the team. There were very few, but we might as well cherish the legitimately great Leafs moments over the decade.

Below, I have some further notes and explanations for my choices. Without further ado, here is my all-decade Toronto Maple Leafs lineup:

Forwards
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul – Nazem Kadri – Mitch Marner
Nikolai Kulemin – Auston Matthews – William Nylander
Leo Komarov – Mikhail Grabovski – Connor Brown

Defense
Morgan Rielly – Jake Gardiner
Carl Gunnarsson – Dion Phaneuf
Ron Hainsey – Cody Franson

Goaltenders
Frederik Andersen
James Reimer

Here are my explanations for you to consider before you tell me how wrong I am.

Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak were first and second on the team in points this decade. James van Riemsdyk was fourth (Nazem Kadri was third, so he got the 2C slot). The JVR – Bozak – Kessel line was also one of the most entertaining and high-powered lines in the league for a good season and a half. The team played pure firewagon hockey and they probably set the tone in that regard, but they were also super fun to watch.

Below is one of my favourite goals of the decade. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had Bozak played in that fateful Game 7.

[embedded content]

Joffrey Lupul was sixth on the team in goals this decade. It seems silly to think about now, but many fans wanted him to be captain at one time. It’s a shame he couldn’t remain healthy, but he could play and he made things happen on the ice. Any number of his goals could make this list, but everyone probably remembers this one:

[embedded content]

Mitch Marner needs no introduction or explanation — he’s sixth in team points over the decade, and for my money, generally speaking, he has been their best player over the past few seasons. Elliotte Friedman recently called him the heartbeat of the team; I’d be hard-pressed to argue with that.

For the third line, Auston Matthews is another inclusion that should need no explanation. His four-goal performance was one of the moments of the decade. If you didn’t feel hope for the first time in years as a Leafs fan on that night, you’re a lost cause.

William Nylander is 10th in the organization for points in the decade. Prior to Matthews and Marner, he was really the first young player that represented renewed hope in the organization.

Only four forwards played more than Nikolai Kulemin in the decade — he was an everything player for the team (one of my personal favourites). The MacArthur – Grabovski – Kulemin line was extremely fun. He gets points for this, too:

[embedded content]

Right behind Kulemin in ice time for the decade is Leo Komarov. Prime Uncle Leo was a treat to watch. He was only a mid-30s points scorer, but he hit everything that moved, drew penalties, killed penalties, drove opponents crazy, and he was just a difference-maker who did a bit of everything here.

Mikhail Grabovski should get in for his Boston game below alone. Grabo had a number of great moments in Toronto — one that I recall fondly is his overtime winner in Montreal. I still wonder what would have happened had the Leafs not bought him out.

Connor Brown is included base on this goal alone. I shouldn’t have to tell anyone here what this meant:

[embedded content]

On defense, Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner are tops in total ice time and points among Leafs defensemen. It’s very cut and dry. They also have the longevity card — they suffered through the lean years and stuck around for the good years. Gardiner was a lightning rod here, but he deserves this recognition.

While Dion Phaneuf was captain, he was behind Rielly and Gardiner in ice time and points, and I just couldn’t look past it. This hit almost moved him to the top pairing alone, though:

[embedded content]

For a good chunk of Phaneuf’s Toronto time here, his partner was Carl Gunnarsson. I loved Gunnarsson – he just a dependable defensemen who was steady and knew how to move the puck. I was extremely happy for him when he won the Cup in St. Louis (along with Bozak). Gunnarsson was one of the only dependable top-four defensemen this organization had over the decade — sad but true.

Rounding out the third pairing was difficult. I ended up selecting two defensemen that each played on the top pairing at points. Only Rielly, Gardiner and Phaneuf outscored Cody Franson among defensemen in the decade. I appreciated what Ron Hainsey brought as a veteran, and I don’t think his partnering with Rielly was insignificant in his development into an offensive powerhouse. Nikita Zaitsev played over 1,000 more minutes, but I gave the nod to Hainsey there. This interview helped his cause, too:

In net, Frederik Andersen is the best goalie this organization has had since Ed Belfour — full stop. James Reimer was spectacular in helping the Leafs break their near-decade-long playoff drought. There isn’t anyone else that comes close to those two.

That’s my all-decade team. Onto the current one.


Notes

– Last season, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner played 114 minutes of even-strength time together and were outscored by three. Their expected goals percentage was 44.71% and their corsi together was 52.65%. This season, they have played 120 minutes together at even strength and have outscored the opposition by 10. Their expected goals percentage is 72.73% and their corsi is over 57%. The biggest difference seems to be the circumstances in which they are playing together — and I don’t mean who they are playing against or where they are starting. Last season, they were seemingly put together at random and if they didn’t play well together after a game or so, they were broken up. Sometimes they would only be united for a period at a time. That’s a lot of pressure and expectation to light it up instantly.

What we are seeing now is an extended look, and they are starting to dominate. Against the Rangers, in particular, they had a number of dominant shifts cycling it in the offensive zone and creating sustained pressure. Against Carolina, Matthews, of course, had the ridiculous 360 pass and he had another like that in New Jersey on a breakout. How can you expect those plays to magically happen if they are together for the first time in a random period and are ice cold to each other as linemates? The chemistry is forming and it is paying dividends.

– Great play by Tyson Barrie on the Leafs’ third goal of the night against the Rangers to pull the puck and get a good shot off. He has that little toe drag while walking the line down pat, it seems. In his last eight games, he has eight points and 23 shots on net. The offensive production and confidence is coming back. On the flip side, on back to back nights, he played a 2v1 rush by moving his stick out of the way of the passing lane, leaving a relatively easy pass that led to goals. Your one job as a defenseman on a 2v1 is to block the pass. That’s it. That’s all you can do. For it to happen once in a while – it happens, and everyone gets fooled. But on back-to-back nights?

– I know the Leafs are experimenting with ways of resting Frederik Andersen — specifically, giving him practices off — and we shall see how he responds to it over the stretch. His game against the Rangers was one of his worst in a while, but it was also his first game back from the holidays, so it was an abnormal circumstance overall.

– I looked at this twice just to be sure, but the two power-play goals Zach Hyman has scored this season are the first two of his career. Against the Devils, he had a classic rebound power-play goal that you love to see. As strictly a net-front guy, he can play in that role and it serves a nice reward for a player who does so many good things all over the ice.

Morgan Rielly is now goalless in 27 games and he’s starting to appear frustrated a little bit. He scored 20 last year shooting 9%. So far, he is shooting 2.8% this season. Only once in his career has he shot under 3% — his rookie season. It doesn’t help that he’s off the top power-play unit, either. He had 10 shots on goal against the Rangers, but with under five minutes left, he was found with a pass on the backside of the play in the offensive zone and neglected to rip a puck on net, electing to pass instead. It did look like he would have a chance at a goal if he shot it immediately. In overtime, on a similar play, he did shoot it, it didn’t go in, and the Rangers scored shortly after. It just seems like one of those runs for Rielly right now.


Quotes

“There is not a lot to like about our game today, obviously. But it is December 27th here and we got two points on the road, so we will take it and get on the plane, recognizing that we have to get a lot better tomorrow.”

– Sheldon Keefe, after the Devils game

The Leafs were so far behind when Sheldon Keefe took over that their current run is borderline season-saving. That can’t be understated. However, while watching them play, I often can’t help but think it’s not going to set them up for success long-term if they keep playing like this.

“He sets a tone for us in a lot of ways and a lot of different areas. So, yeah, [playing two periods on a broken foot] speaks highly about who he is and his character.”

– 
John Tavares on losing Jake Muzzin to a broken foot

If we’re honest, this is also an opportunity for the Leafs to see what life is like without Muzzin, who is a pending free agent.

“You just had a three-day break. you’re at home, you’re eating a lot of food, you’re gaining a couple of pounds.”

– Mitch Marner on coming back from the break

I actually thought their legs were there, generally speaking. Now their discipline (and by this, I mean positioning, not taking penalties) and team defense on the other hand…


Tweets of the Week

The most important thing here is Mikheyev having a speedy recovery. This is such an unfortunate injury and it really hurts the Leafs. Mikheyev looked like he was moving into the top six full-time, which really helped their depth and settled the lines down (no more Kapanen in the top six!). The team is not exactly flush with left wing options and Andreas Johnsson is already hurt. Mikheyev was also an integral part of the rapidly-improving penalty killing. They won’t be able to easily replace him.

I mean, yeah — I’m not sure what the Leafs can realistically expect to fetch for players like this. If they turn water into wine, all the power to them.

Man, what a pretty rough decade of hockey for the Leafs. I don’t think it was quite 80s-level bad, but it was bad. Much like that 80s pain, though, it should lead to some great things. Technically, it has already started – the Leafs set a franchise record in points in 2017-18.


5 Things I Think I’d Do

1.  With Ilya Mikheyev out, I think the player I’d most like to see get an opportunity with the NHL club is Mason Marchment. The reason is simple: I just think he offers something different to the team. He’s big, physical, and he has a bit of a mean streak. Ideally, this team adds a wrinkle to their forward group and if Marchment pans out, they are pretty well set up front unless they want to add a versatile, veteran fourth-line center who can actually kill penalties and play defense. I thought Marchment was all but ready last season and then he got hurt. Similarly, I thought Egor Korshkov was knocking on the door this season, but he’s currently hurt.

2.  I think it makes zero sense to negotiate a new contract Ilya Mikheyev while he is hurt, which the team can technically start to do on January 1. He was playing really well at the time of injury and his stock could not be higher. It is a cruel business, but any return from injury will likely result in a decline in play, and this is a difficult injury to return from. The Leafs aren’t exactly in a position to be throwing around money, either. He’s a nice player and it sounds harsh, but that’s how it goes. He’s also a restricted free agent, not a UFA. What’s the rush?

3.  I think this is a big opportunity for Travis Dermott to show something and an important time in his career. He has been a mixed bag, to put it nicely, so far this season, and if he is going to challenge for the top four this year, this is his chance to do it. Other than when the team is losing and his ice time rises as the team makes an offensive push, he hasn’t been trusted with notable minutes. Their top four isn’t exactly strong or difficult to work your way into, either. A lot of people are high on Dermott and the team has an opportunity to completely redo their defense this upcoming summer should they choose to do so. If Dermott wants to be penciled into a big role there, this is a time to make a claim.

4.  I think shopping Jeremy Bracco makes sense. The Leafs are loaded on the right, and I don’t see any value in having him on the fourth line. I think soft, scoring fourth lines make sense when you lack scoring at the top end of the roster, but what we are seeing with the Leafs is that they load up their top lines with ice time and just need their fourth line to create some energy and take a responsible shift every so often — to maybe change the flow of the game. Bracco isn’t going to do that. If he has any value whatsoever, cash it in.

5.  I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and also remind everyone to please not drink and drive. Have fun and stay safe out there.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Sports

UK government approves US$5.33 billion sale of Chelsea to LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly

Published

 on

London, United Kingdom (UK)- The UK government has formally approved the sale of Chelsea FC for US$5.33 billion to Todd Boehly, the co-owner of the LA Dodgers and Clearlake Capital, a Californian private equity firm.

As a result, this now brings Roman Abramovich’s 19-year ownership of Chelsea, in which the club has won 21 trophies including five Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues to an end.

“Late last night the UK government reached a position where we could issue a licence that permits the sale of Chelsea. Following the sanctioning of Roman Abramovich, the government has worked hard to ensure Chelsea has been able to continue to play football, but we have always been clear that the long-term future of the club could only be secured under a new owner.

Following extensive work, we are now satisfied that the full proceeds of the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or any other sanctioned individual. We will now begin the process of ensuring the proceeds of the sale are used for humanitarian causes in Ukraine, supporting victims of the war.

In addition, the steps today will secure the future of this important cultural asset and protect fans and the wider football community. We have been in discussions with relevant international partners for the necessary licences required and we thank them for all their cooperation,” read a statement from the government.

The UK government sanctioned Abramovich on March 10, 2022, due to suspected links with Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

This in turn led to several restrictions on the club such as the ability to buy or sell players and negotiate new contracts with players. However, due to the recent developments all of that is all about to change, a boost for Chelsea manager, Thomas Tuchel, as he prepares for the 2022/23 season after finishing third and qualifying for next year’s Champions League in the 2021/22 season.

Continue Reading

Sports

Blues' head coach Craig Berube addresses Nazem Kadri threats: 'It's not a good thing' – The Athletic

Published

 on


St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube denounced social media threats made toward Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri Wednesday, days after the coach said he had ‘no comment‘ when he was first asked about them Monday.

“I’m not on social media. I was aware of a threat made to Nazem, not the racist stuff,” Berube told the media Wednesday. “In no way is it acceptable by the St. Louis Blues or anybody else for him to have to go through that. Being a Native American myself, I’ve heard it all, I’ve been around it.

“It’s not a good thing. So I just wanted to get that out there that there’s no room for it anywhere.”

Kadri was subjected to racist comments and threats on social media following a collision with Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington during Game 3 of the Blues-Avalanche second-round series. Following the game, Binnington threw a water bottle at Kadri as the Avs forward was being interviewed by TNT.

In Game 4, Kadri scored a hat-trick en route to a 6-3 Avalanche win over the Blues. Colorado can eliminate St. Louis Wednesday night in Game 5 with a victory.

(Top photo: Scott Rovak / NHLI via Getty Images)

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Sports

Instigator call the turning point in Rangers’ Game 4 win over Hurricanes – Sportsnet.ca

Published

 on


Yep. They picked up right where they left off.

Game 3 between the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes ended with tensions high and there was some obvious carryover into Tuesday’s Game 4 at Madison Square Garden that saw the Blue Shirts even the series with a 4-1 victory.

Whistles were few and far in between during a frenetic first half of the opening period as both teams traded chances. The Rangers controlled much of the high-paced action and eventually began winning more puck battles than the Hurricanes.

Then the key turning point of Game 4 occurred.

Jacob Trouba absolutely walloped Max Domi near the penalty boxes with a hard hit at the 11:38 mark.

Steven Lorentz was in the vicinity when the open-ice hit was delivered. Instead of merely taking Trouba’s number, Lorentz immediately came to the defence of his teammate and dropped the mitts with Trouba in a rare playoff scrap.

Trouba unquestionably contacted Domi’s head, just as the Hurricanes’ forward’s feet were sliding out from beneath him mind you, yet the officials deemed it a clean hit.

The sequence resulted in an instigator call on Lorentz.

Carolina’s bench, plus head coach Rod Brind’Amour, were visibly upset when Trouba only received five for fighting.

Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant told the broadcast at the first intermission “it was a great hit” before adding “Domi had his head down a little bit.”

Domi, of course, was involved in the rough stuff at the end of that heated Game 3 over the weekend.

The instigator call certainly seemed to affect the Hurricanes on the penalty kill and the Rangers capitalized with Lorentz in his team’s locker room as part of the 2-5-10 he was assessed.

Carolina was relatively sloppy while a man down and a turnover in their own end led to a missed opportunity to clear the zone. That led to Adam Fox patiently making a cross-ice saucer pass to Andrew Copp who neatly slide the puck to Frank Vatrano and the winger beat Antti Raanta low glove to open the scoring.

Brind’Amour, while wanting his players to be more disciplined, was fairly subdued in his post-game comments. He did mention he thought Trouba should’ve been given a cross-checking minor for getting his stick up on Lorentz prior to the brief punch-up.

“We’re not out there to catch guys (with their heads down) or play stupid or anything like that,” Copp said of Trouba’s hit after the game. “We’re just trying to finish our checks when we’re there and play physical when we can and make smart decisions. At the end of the day, them taking the two minutes changed the course of the game. … It’s not headhunting at all. It’s a good hit and their response warranted a penalty.”

Copp added his second assist of the period moments later when Fox, who leapfrogged Cale Makar for the active post-season lead in points among blueliners, tipped in his fourth of the playoffs on a Ryan Lindgren shot.

Lindgren, who has been excellent for the Rangers since returning to the lineup, was named the second star thanks to his two-assist night. Copp and Vatrano, both acquired in March trades, were named first and third stars of the game, respectively.

While there’s plenty of blame to go around on the Carolina side of the equation, Raanta’s performance is not why the series is even as it shifts back to PNC Arena.

Raanta did allow four goals on 28 shots, sure, however he also made a handful of highlight-reel saves to keep his team in it.

Alexis Lafreniere and Artemi Panarin were both separately stopped by Raanta on breakaway backhand deke attempts and he flashed the leather on Chris Kreider, yet his best of the night was against Mika Zibanejad.

The bigger concern for Carolina continued to be the lacklustre power play. It was only 5-for-43 in the playoffs prior to Game 4 where the issues persisted.

Carolina didn’t have trouble entering the zone when a man up. It’s just they couldn’t do much beyond moving the puck around the perimeter once the zone was established.

Their first man advantage of Game 4 occurred midway through the second period although the best scoring chance and only shot on goal during that PP was generated by the Rangers.

Brind’Amour’s group couldn’t get anything going with Lafreniere in the box serving a goalie interference minor early in the final frame either and they finished the night 0-for-2.

The Hurricanes were down by three goals heading into the third period and to say putting three behind Ilya Shesterkin in a single period is a tall task would be an understatement.

The soon-to-be Vezina Trophy winner had his shutout bid ended by Teuvo Teravainen in the third but that’s all Carolina could muster.

Brind’Amour didn’t even bother pulling his goalie in the final few minutes with the score 4-1.

There was some more pushing and shoving at the final horn with Ryan Reeves giving Domi the business – which was likely more fallout from the Game 3 rough stuff – but nothing escalated further.

The Hurricanes are winless on the road this post-season but perfect at home so they’ll appreciate Game 5 is scheduled for Thursday in Raleigh, N.C.

This series is now officially a best-of-three.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending