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Tuesday FTB: An anticlimactic end to the Taylor Hall trade rumours – Pension Plan Puppets

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Well that didn’t last long. The Arizona Coyotes have officially won the 2019 Taylor Hall sweepstakes!

The Coyotes are currently first in the Pacific, and acquiring Hall certainly implies that they think that this year could be Their Year™, especially as Hall is apparently not looking to sign a contract right now (his agent, Darren Ferris, is not known for his fondness of signing contracts mid-season, as Leafs fans are all painfully aware). They’re currently getting by more on goaltending than scoring, but teams have certainly ridden that all the way into the playoffs before. Hall has also been performing well below expectations in New Jersey the last couple of years, so maybe the change of scenery will do him some good (and if not, hey, the Coyotes can at least look forward to getting a first overall as a compensation prize. That’s how his witchcraft works, right?).

Either way, as a fan of a team that isn’t in their division, I wish them all the best! Except for on February 11, 2020, when I wish them only the worst.

I leave you with this spectacular quote from the man himself:

ICYMI

Another roster shuffle ahead of tonight’s game as the Leafs call up Timothy Liljegren and Martin Marincin:

Interested in learning more about the Marlies new head coach? Didn’t even realize they’d gotten one? Don’t worry, Katya’s got you covered:

Elsewhere

Maple Leafs Hot Stove takes a look at the Leafs’ defense:

Dom Luszczyszyn breaks down five reasons to be optimistic about Keefe’s version of the Toronto Maple Leafs:

Anthony Duclair has been having a great time in Ottawa, which is perfect if you’re someone who loves to see Tortorella proven wrong, but is less ideal if you were, say, hypothetically, a fan of a team in the same division as the Senators who is fighting them for a playoff spot right now.

Can’t win them all I guess.

In another exciting episode of “how will the NHL enforce the rules today”, the FlyersJoel Farabee has been suspended for three games:

The Blackhawks have suspended their assistant coach, Marc Crawford, until January 2, 2020, following accusations of physical and verbal abuse by former players. The team and the coach both put out statements:

And finally,

The Leafs made their annual visit to SickKids yesterday…

…and a new Leafs blueprint!

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Happy gameday everyone!

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Auston Matthews, Frederik Andersen return to Toronto Maple Leafs practice on Sunday – TSN

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TORONTO — The undermanned Maple Leafs got both Auston Matthews (wrist) and Frederik Andersen (lower body) back at practice on Sunday in Edmonton, a positive sign they could return from injury during Toronto’s current five-game road trip.

But the Leafs also showed in Saturday’s dominant 4-0 win over the Oilers that even without those players in the lineup, they can still find ways to win. And that remains the expectation ahead of Monday’s second of three meetings with Edmonton this week, for which Matthews and Andersen are still game-time decisions.

“We’re being real here: We had a great game, and it was good, but the puck is going to drop again tomorrow night,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe on a Zoom call following Sunday’s practice. “The scoreboard is going to be back to zeros and you’ve got to be able to do it again. We didn’t come here just to get one win, so we’ve got to continue to refocus and get better as we get through this road trip.”

Matthews was sidelined for Saturday’s contest after re-aggravating a hand injury that forced him out of Toronto’s previous meeting against Edmonton on Jan. 22. He was limited in Sunday’s practice and did not skate on a regular line or participate in all the reps, but Keefe would not rule him out as a possibility for Monday.

Andersen hasn’t played for Toronto in nearly a week, missing their last three games with a lower-body problem that surfaced following the Leafs’ 5-2 victory over Montreal on Feb. 20. Michael Hutchinson stepped in for two tilts against Calgary last week, going 1-1-0, and then Jack Campbell returned from his own lower-body injury to backstop Toronto to its first shutout of the season in Saturday’s win. 

Campbell was also absent from Sunday’s practice, something Keefe chalked up to managing the goaltender post-injury. But Campbell did look a little shaken up following a collision late in Saturday’s game with Oilers’ forward Tyler Ennis, and Keefe was not prepared on Sunday to name a starter for Monday.

“Between Campbell and Fred and their situations, we’ve got a lot of things to sort through here that I don’t suspect will get sorted out until tomorrow,” Keefe said. “It’s not looking [like Andersen will be available] if we’re being honest, but with his injury, basically where we’re at here now is just waiting for him to be comfortable. Today, he was on the ice for the better part of an hour, and took lots of shots, so we’re essentially just waiting for him to feel comfortable.”

However the Leafs’ lineup pans out, they’re anticipating a serious pushback from Edmonton’s top players. Connor McDavid was held to one shot on goal and finished minus-three in Saturday’s loss, and Leon Draisaitl was also held at bay with three shots on goal. 

It helped that for just the second time all season, Toronto didn’t take a single penalty in the game, giving the Oilers no opportunity to run wild with the extra man. And the Leafs managed to score on their lone power play opportunity, breaking out of their recent 0-for-11 funk.

The Leafs also got top performances from their best players, with both John Tavares and Mitch Marner producing two-point nights and William Nylander scoring his third goal in two games.  Having collected 32 points to date, Marner now sits just two points behind Draisaitl for third-most in the NHL. Despite being off the score sheet on Saturday, McDavid still paces all skaters with 40 points this season, and Keefe is sure Edmonton’s captain will be looking for more come Monday. 

“I think we have to continue to have that level of commitment defensively when the puck changes hands,” Keefe said of shutting down the Oilers’ best. “I think we did our part yesterday, but sometimes your best players are going to have an off night. Those guys have had a lot of nights where they’ve been on and you’ve got to manage that as best you can as a team. We’re expecting them to be more like themselves tomorrow, and we’ve got to be prepared to be even better.”

Learning to adapt on the fly has become a big part of this season for the Leafs, especially in navigating all their recent injuries. Along with Campbell, Andersen and Matthews all dealing with issues, Joe Thornton, Jake Muzzin and Zach Hyman have all missed time in the last week and Wayne Simmonds remains out with a broken wrist. 

On some occasions – like Saturday’s win over the second place team in the North Division – Toronto has stepped up and proven its mettle in the face of those hardships. At other times – like last week’s 3-0 loss to Calgary – the Leafs admitted to poorly handling adversity. Keefe believes his group is more suited to being the former though.

“I think [winning without Matthews and Andersen] certainly should do a lot for us, and I think some of that confidence was earned even earlier in the season,” Keefe claimed. “It wasn’t the first time we’ve played without Auston and not the first time we played against the Oilers without Auston. We know that Edmonton’s going to have that push and there’s certainly things that we can continue to do better throughout the game and we talked about some of those things here before practice, and then got on the ice and and worked at them.”​

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'Totally unacceptable': U.S. secretary of state calls on China to free Two Michaels – National Post

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Antony Blinken told CBC that he has been advocating for the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in talks with Chinese counterparts

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Top politicians in the United States and Canada sounded off on China on the weekend, condemning the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and signalling plans to co-operate in securing the release of the two Canadians.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the detentions “totally unacceptable,” in an interview with CBC News aired on Sunday.

“Using people, human beings, as pawns for political purposes, it is totally unacceptable conduct by any country,” said Blinken, who met virtually with Canadian officials on Friday as part of a round of talks last week between the Canadian federal government and U.S. President Joe Biden’s new administration.

Kovrig and Spavor, known in Canada as the two Michaels, have been detained in China on espionage charges since December 2018. Canadian officials have decried their detention as political retribution or “hostage diplomacy” by China, since their arrests came shortly after the RCMP detained Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive with Chinese telecom giant Huawei, on an extradition request from the United States.

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Using people, human beings, as pawns for political purposes, it is totally unacceptable conduct by any country

“We stand strongly with Canada when it comes to the need to see the two Michaels released immediately and unconditionally,” Blinken told CBC. “We will continue to stand with Canada on that. I’ve made that clear in my own conversations with Chinese counterparts and we look forward to the day when they’re able to return home.”

Blinken’s comments on the matter echoed those of Biden, who pledged to help bring back the two Canadians during his summit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week.

“Human beings are not bartering chips,” Biden said. “We’re going to work together until we get their safe return.”

But it’s not clear exactly how the two nations will achieve that.

“These are processes that are ongoing,” Trudeau told a news conference on Friday. “The United States is taking their role in this very seriously and we look forward to working with them on bringing the two Michaels home as soon as possible.”

Blinken has repeatedly declined to comment on questions about whether the U.S. is considering a so-called deferred prosecution agreement — a form of plea deal that could allow Meng to return to China in return for an admission of wrongdoing.

Last week, a Justice Department spokesman confirmed to The Canadian Press that prosecutors were continuing to seek Meng’s extradition to the U.S., where she is facing fraud charges.

  1. U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, appearing via video conference call, give closing remarks at the end of their virtual bilateral meeting from the White House, February 23, 2021.

    Trudeau’s swipe at Trump in call with Biden: ‘U.S. leadership has been sorely missed over the past years’

  2. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about the detention by China of Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, on July 1, 2020, in Washington. U.S. intervention in the extradition proceedings against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou could be one way to bring about their freedom.

    China, Canada or U.S. could each bring about Two Michaels’ freedom, says Kovrig’s wife

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In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press that aired on Sunday, Trudeau said Canada will honour its extradition treaty, accusing China of using “trumped-up” charges “to try and pressure us to release” Meng.

“The relationship with China in Canada is deeply coloured by the fact that they have arbitrarily detained two Canadian citizens, simply because we lived up to an extradition treaty with the United States,” he said in the pre-taped interview.

“They, shortly afterwards, arrested two Canadian citizens on national security trumped-up charges and have detained them for about 800 days and counting now, in an attempt to try and pressure us to release the executive. We, of course, are a country of the rule of law. We will not do that. We live by our treaties and live by the rule of law.”

We, of course, are a country of the rule of law. We will not do that. We live by our treaties and live by the rule of law

Trudeau said his talks with Biden were “very positive in us working together to try and resolve this situation and hold China to account.”

After his meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau on Friday, Blinken praised the Canadian government’s work on snuffing out politically motivated imprisonment around the globe, by getting countries to sign onto its Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention.

The declaration, a project initiated by former foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne, is from a coalition of more than 50 countries opposed to the state-sponsored political detention of foreign nationals.

“Obviously we have to focus on bringing the two Michaels home, but more broadly we have to work together to establish a basic norm in international conduct that this is simply unacceptable,” Blinken told CBC on Sunday. “That takes time. It takes effort — it takes sustained effort.”

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Over the weekend, Michael Kovrig’s wife, Vina Nadjibulla, told Global News that she hopes the government will “seize this moment” and convert the fresh U.S. support into action.

“What I took away from that is that President Biden has compassion for the unjust suffering that our Michael and Michael Spavor are going through, as well as that he understands that Canada has been paying a really high price since it accepted the extradition request from the U.S. two years ago,” she said.

Asked how her husband was doing, Nadjibulla said she has received letters from him and noted “he is staying mentally strong.”

“His situation is so incredibly, unspeakably difficult and he continues to stay focused on what he can control,” she said.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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Toronto Raptors' game against Chicago postponed due to COVID-19 cases – CTV Toronto

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NEW YORK —
The Toronto Raptors’ COVID-19 troubles have worsened.

The NBA called off Toronto’s game against the visiting Chicago Bulls on Sunday night due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The league said the Raptors are dealing with positive test results, and combined with contact tracing issues, won’t have the league-required eight players available for the game.

The Raptors were missing head coach Nick Nurse, five members of his staff and star forward Pascal Siakam for Friday’s victory over Houston. Assistant Sergio Scariolo stepped in to coach the team to a 122-111 win.

The Raptors had largely managed to dodge the global pandemic in an NBA season reeling from COVID-19 cases. This is Toronto’s first game rescheduled due to COVID-19, but the 30th this season league-wide. Prior to Sunday, the Raptors had been one of just four teams with no game postponements.

The Raptors had 14 players available on Friday, and played 12. Siakam was the only Raptor player listed on Saturday’s injury report as out due to health and safety protocols, suggesting the results and contact tracing investigations from Saturday showed either positive tests or exposure to individuals who had positive results.

The names of players or staff members affected were not revealed.

Players and staff are tested twice daily.

Because of Canada’s border regulations around COVID-19, and health and safety measures in Toronto, the Raptors are playing their home games out of Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla.

The Raptors’ next game, at least for now, is Tuesday against Detroit. Toronto then plays Boston in the team’s final game before the NBA all-star break.

With files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021.

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