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What Maple Leafs, Oilers can learn from Cup champion Lightning – Sportsnet.ca

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The Tampa Bay Lightning are the 2020 Stanley Cup champions, and as soon as the clock ticked down to zero in Game 6, social media was aflame with hot takes about what this would mean for hockey’s future.

For those who value analytics, the Lightning winning is yet another check in the column of teams who follow the data being rewarded.

For those who don’t, the Lightning are a big team that has made some of the most impressive scouting choices in the NHL in recent years.

Any time a team wins the Stanley Cup the NHL as a whole tends to copy what they can from the last successful formula. However, I’m not sure how helpful trying to copy a team with two top-two draft picks that turned into superstars, or trying to copy snagging Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point in the second and third rounds, respectively, would be.

The fact is, the Lightning have an embarrassment of riches that has taken them over a decade to put together. Tampa has been a Cup contender since at least the 2013-14 season, when they were unceremoniously swept by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, similar to what happened against the Columbus Blue Jackets last season.

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It’s taken the team seven kicks at the can to get to this point, and while the way the Lightning play is enviable and entertaining, I don’t think playing style is the lesson to take from their victory in 2020.

The first thing I think of when I look back over the history of moves by the Lightning is that they had many opportunities to mess this up, and they continually avoided doing so, instead building on what they already had.

Not every move the Lightning made has been great, but they kept the core together when many other teams would have panicked. Looking back to the sweep the Lightning suffered at the hands of the Blue Jackets last season, when I was tasked with finding out how that happened, I found that many of the assumptions about how that series went were incorrect.

So, what lesson can other teams take from this season’s Stanley Cup champions?

If you have a young team that’s full of talent, played well in the regular season, and by the numbers played well in the playoffs: Do. Not. Panic.

It’s very easy to look at ages and contracts and find reasons why you can’t keep a group together, but the smartest people in the room find a way to keep the group together and add.

Based on these playoffs, which teams have that young talent to build around and, by the numbers, should have had better fates?

Surprisingly, two Canadian teams stand out above the crowd among teams that deserved better during these playoffs, though they do things very differently: Toronto and Edmonton.

Both teams are built around a bevy of players taken in the lottery section of the draft, but while the Leafs are high volume, the Oilers play everything tight to the chest.

Disappointment was palpable for both teams when they failed to get out of the qualification around against teams they absolutely should have beaten, which was an extra bitter pill since they were the chosen host cities for the Western and Eastern bubbles for this post-season, but the path forward for each is unlikely to be as far off as many believe.

Context matters, and because the Blackhawks were an absolutely terrible even strength team this season, I think the Oilers have a much further track to run to get into competitor territory than the Leafs do, but the West is also significantly weaker than the East overall these days, which should help them out.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

The Oilers have lots of work to do to fill out the depth of their roster, and their salary cap situation is tough, but acquiring undervalued and cheap wingers is exactly where a strong analytics department should be able to help you out. Learning from the Lightning in finding players like Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde, or even Jonathan Marchessault (who they lost) is something the Oilers should be able to figure out.

The areas where they desperately need improvement are in controlling passing, which is tough to do when you don’t have depth.

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, have been branded chokers once again, but we need to look at the last four seasons of first round (or qualifying round) exits through the lens of expectations for a moment. Toronto wasn’t the favourite against the Washington Capitals in 2016-17, they weren’t the favourites against the Boston Bruins in 2017-18, or 2018-19. Just because they got close to winning, doesn’t mean those results are underwhelming. They may be disappointing for fans, but this series against Columbus was the first time this team truly failed to meet expectations in the post-season.

That isn’t making excuses for them, it’s just a fact, and it’s all the more difficult to label the Leafs as deeply flawed when you examine how the games flowed at even strength. Almost across the board, the Leafs carried the play, with the one issue against Columbus being that the Leafs got brutalized by the Blue Jackets’ forecheck.

Like the Oilers, the Maple Leafs are up against the cap, making maneuvering a little bit difficult, but their roster is much closer to being in a competitive mode than the Oilers are. They absolutely need to get better at defending opposing forechecks — it was an issue all season long — but how much less of an issue would that have been if Jake Muzzin weren’t injured in Game 2?

The way the Leafs are talked about, it almost sounds like people think their window of competitiveness is about to close, but they have the time to make additions and try slightly different configurations. Overreacting to a disappointing result when it looks like a pattern, despite the fact that it’s the first time the team has actually disappointed, would be the mark of foolish management.

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With the NBA focusing on a 2020-21 start date, where will the Toronto Raptors call home? – Yahoo Canada Shine On

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The NBA is focusing on Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 18) for a start date next season, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Among the issues the league is facing from this unconventional calendar means getting the NBA back on track for normalcy for the 2021-22 season, as in October to June. Before the pandemic shut the NBA down in March, many were openly campaigning to start the season on Christmas Day permanently, largely to avoid conflict with the NFL’s season.” data-reactid=”17″>Among the issues the league is facing from this unconventional calendar means getting the NBA back on track for normalcy for the 2021-22 season, as in October to June. Before the pandemic shut the NBA down in March, many were openly campaigning to start the season on Christmas Day permanently, largely to avoid conflict with the NFL’s season.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The lower ratings for the just-concluded Finals likely put a little bit of realism in the minds of the decision-makers about the viewing habits of the public as well as the appetite for the players to drag their season well into the summer and to the tip of fall.” data-reactid=”18″>The lower ratings for the just-concluded Finals likely put a little bit of realism in the minds of the decision-makers about the viewing habits of the public as well as the appetite for the players to drag their season well into the summer and to the tip of fall.

It hasn’t been decided whether the NBA can implement a full 82-game schedule, especially with an emphasis on getting some level of attendance in areas and upholding the recently-developed standards concerning player rest, cutting down on the back-to-backs and heavy travel.

The focus for next season, primarily, is getting things finished in a reasonable amount of time for the draft, free agency and rest in the summer of 2021 for a traditional mid-October start.

A Christmas Day start is still in play, approximately a three-and-a-half week gap between the two dates, and while some around the league are optimistic a start can occur closer to the Christmas holiday, it feels more pragmatic to foresee a start around Jan. 18, 2021. The league will give teams a two-month notice before the start of the season.

A Board of Governors meeting is slated for this coming Friday, where commissioner Adam Silver will focus on getting next season started on track. The bubble was a success, but Silver has been talking to owners heading into this week’s call, not wanting to bask in the recent history, knowing what’s ahead.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 07: General view during the Canadian national anthem prior to the game between the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on February 7, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Raptors defeated the Pacers 115-106. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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<figcaption class="C($c-fuji-grey-h) Fz(13px) Py(5px) Lh(1.5)" title="When the 2020-21 NBA season starts, the Toronto Raptors will likely not be in Canada. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)” data-reactid=”39″>

When the 2020-21 NBA season starts, the Toronto Raptors will likely not be in Canada. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

<h2 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The Louisville Raptors?” data-reactid=”43″>The Louisville Raptors?

One big focus for next season has been the status of the Toronto Raptors. Due to the United States’ handling of COVID-19, travel into Canada has been banned.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays played their home games in Buffalo, and the Toronto FC of the MLS played its games in East Hartford, Connecticut.” data-reactid=”45″>MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays played their home games in Buffalo, and the Toronto FC of the MLS played its games in East Hartford, Connecticut.

The Raptors face a similar dilemma, and league sources tell Yahoo Sports one alternate location that has been broached is Louisville, Kentucky. Former NBA player and successful businessman Junior Bridgeman has been in contact with the NBA, considering Louisville has the KFC Yum! Center that is NBA-ready.

No decision has been made yet, as it’s on a laundry list of topics to be discussed on the upcoming call, along with the collective bargaining agreement, competitive formats for next season and an update on the social justice coalition.

Louisville wouldn’t be first in line in the event of relocation or expansion; Seattle is. But it seems to be an easier sell to get the Raptors in Louisville for a short period — or even sharing a current NBA market, according to sources.

How this goes with the league’s objectives of getting fans in seats is an interesting proposition if the Raptors would play home games in, say, New York or Chicago, given there’s no natural fan base there.

A league official told Yahoo Sports the same line Silver has been parroting for months now, that the virus will determine so much of the league’s actions. It doesn’t appear likely the virus will slow down enough for Canada to open its borders for frequent international travel anytime soon.

The NBA is appearing to take proactive measures similar to its professional counterparts.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - FEBRUARY 28: Jrue Holiday #11 of the New Orleans Pelicans drives with the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half at the Smoothie King Center on February 28, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - FEBRUARY 28: Jrue Holiday #11 of the New Orleans Pelicans drives with the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half at the Smoothie King Center on February 28, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

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<h2 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Nuggets keeping an eye on Jrue Holiday” data-reactid=”76″>Nuggets keeping an eye on Jrue Holiday

Even though official league business hasn’t begun for next season, it hasn’t stopped teams from discussing parameters for trades.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="One hot name: New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday. According to sources, around 10 teams are inquiring about his services and one team hot after him is the Denver Nuggets, eager to capitalize on their appearance in the West Finals.” data-reactid=”78″>One hot name: New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday. According to sources, around 10 teams are inquiring about his services and one team hot after him is the Denver Nuggets, eager to capitalize on their appearance in the West Finals.

Holiday, an All-Defense performer capable of playing both guard spots, averaged 19.1 points and 6.7 assists for the Pelicans this past season and seemingly could fit in with the Nuggets’ youth and recent experience. He’s under contract for next season with a player option for 2021-22 at $27 million, and many teams believe the Pelicans will be looking to shed some salary going into next season.

So much of what Denver or any team can do depends on what the cap looks like, especially with the Nuggets having $107 million committed for next season, highlighted by max deals to stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.

One executive theorized a sign-and-trade with Jerami Grant could happen, considering he’s expected to decline his player option and enter free agency.

Guard Jahmi'us Ramsey #3 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders stands on the court during the second half of the college basketball game against the Kansas Jayhawks on March 07, 2020 Guard Jahmi'us Ramsey #3 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders stands on the court during the second half of the college basketball game against the Kansas Jayhawks on March 07, 2020

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Texas Tech guard Jahmi’us Ramsey has the chance of becoming a top-five player in the league, according to scouts. (John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

<h2 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="One to watch: Texas Tech’s Jahmi’us Ramsey” data-reactid=”102″>One to watch: Texas Tech’s Jahmi’us Ramsey

Here’s a name some scouts feel will be a top-five player in a few years: Texas Tech shooting guard Jahmi’us Ramsey.

He’s rated as a late first-round pick but one executive who’s high on him feels Ramsey will ultimately be a point guard.

“He’s big [6-foot-4], strong, will get to his spots,” the executive said. “He doesn’t get a lot of love from the analytics folks because he played with a ball-dominant point guard but he’ll wind up being a lead guard.”

Ramsey shot nearly 43% from 3 in his one season at Texas Tech but surprisingly shot just 64% from the free-throw line. He struggled a bit to finish the conference season, which likely contributed to his stock dropping.

But an executive tells Yahoo Sports it’ll all be forgotten soon enough.

“He’ll be better in the NBA for the spacing and the way this game is played,” the executive said. “He’ll end up, when it’s said and done, like Draymond Green, in five years, people will say he’ll be a top-five player in the draft.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="More from Yahoo Sports:” data-reactid=”111″>More from Yahoo Sports:

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With the NBA focusing on a 2020-21 start date, where will the Toronto Raptors call home? – Yahoo Sports

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The NBA is focusing on Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 18) for a start date next season, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Among the issues the league is facing from this unconventional calendar means getting the NBA back on track for normalcy for the 2021-22 season, as in October to June. Before the pandemic shut the NBA down in March, many were openly campaigning to start the season on Christmas Day permanently, largely to avoid conflict with the NFL’s season.” data-reactid=”17″>Among the issues the league is facing from this unconventional calendar means getting the NBA back on track for normalcy for the 2021-22 season, as in October to June. Before the pandemic shut the NBA down in March, many were openly campaigning to start the season on Christmas Day permanently, largely to avoid conflict with the NFL’s season.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The lower ratings for the just-concluded Finals likely put a little bit of realism in the minds of the decision-makers about the viewing habits of the public as well as the appetite for the players to drag their season well into the summer and to the tip of fall.” data-reactid=”22″>The lower ratings for the just-concluded Finals likely put a little bit of realism in the minds of the decision-makers about the viewing habits of the public as well as the appetite for the players to drag their season well into the summer and to the tip of fall.

It hasn’t been decided whether the NBA can implement a full 82-game schedule, especially with an emphasis on getting some level of attendance in areas and upholding the recently-developed standards concerning player rest, cutting down on the back-to-backs and heavy travel.

The focus for next season, primarily, is getting things finished in a reasonable amount of time for the draft, free agency and rest in the summer of 2021 for a traditional mid-October start.

A Christmas Day start is still in play, approximately a three-and-a-half week gap between the two dates, and while some around the league are optimistic a start can occur closer to the Christmas holiday, it feels more pragmatic to foresee a start around Jan. 18, 2021. The league will give teams a two-month notice before the start of the season.

A Board of Governors meeting is slated for this coming Friday, where commissioner Adam Silver will focus on getting next season started on track. The bubble was a success, but Silver has been talking to owners heading into this week’s call, not wanting to bask in the recent history, knowing what’s ahead.

<figcaption class="C($c-fuji-grey-h) Fz(13px) Py(5px) Lh(1.5)" title="When the 2020-21 NBA season starts, the Toronto Raptors will likely not be in Canada. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)” data-reactid=”43″>

When the 2020-21 NBA season starts, the Toronto Raptors will likely not be in Canada. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

<h2 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The Louisville Raptors?” data-reactid=”47″>The Louisville Raptors?

One big focus for next season has been the status of the Toronto Raptors. Due to the United States’ handling of COVID-19, travel into Canada has been banned.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays played their home games in Buffalo, and the Toronto FC of the MLS played its games in East Hartford, Connecticut.” data-reactid=”49″>MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays played their home games in Buffalo, and the Toronto FC of the MLS played its games in East Hartford, Connecticut.

The Raptors face a similar dilemma, and league sources tell Yahoo Sports one alternate location that has been broached is Louisville, Kentucky. Former NBA player and successful businessman Junior Bridgeman has been in contact with the NBA, considering Louisville has the KFC Yum! Center that is NBA-ready.

No decision has been made yet, as it’s on a laundry list of topics to be discussed on the upcoming call, along with the collective bargaining agreement, competitive formats for next season and an update on the social justice coalition.

Louisville wouldn’t be first in line in the event of relocation or expansion; Seattle is. But it seems to be an easier sell to get the Raptors in Louisville for a short period — or even sharing a current NBA market, according to sources.

How this goes with the league’s objectives of getting fans in seats is an interesting proposition if the Raptors would play home games in, say, New York or Chicago, given there’s no natural fan base there.

A league official told Yahoo Sports the same line Silver has been parroting for months now, that the virus will determine so much of the league’s actions. It doesn’t appear likely the virus will slow down enough for Canada to open its borders for frequent international travel anytime soon.

The NBA is appearing to take proactive measures similar to its professional counterparts.

<figcaption class="C($c-fuji-grey-h) Fz(13px) Py(5px) Lh(1.5)" title="The Denver Nuggets are interested in trading for point guard Jrue Holiday. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)” data-reactid=”72″>

The Denver Nuggets are interested in trading for point guard Jrue Holiday. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
<h2 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Nuggets keeping an eye on Jrue Holiday” data-reactid=”80″>Nuggets keeping an eye on Jrue Holiday

Even though official league business hasn’t begun for next season, it hasn’t stopped teams from discussing parameters for trades.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="One hot name: New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday. According to sources, around 10 teams are inquiring about his services and one team hot after him is the Denver Nuggets, eager to capitalize on their appearance in the West Finals.” data-reactid=”82″>One hot name: New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday. According to sources, around 10 teams are inquiring about his services and one team hot after him is the Denver Nuggets, eager to capitalize on their appearance in the West Finals.

Holiday, an All-Defense performer capable of playing both guard spots, averaged 19.1 points and 6.7 assists for the Pelicans this past season and seemingly could fit in with the Nuggets’ youth and recent experience. He’s under contract for next season with a player option for 2021-22 at $27 million, and many teams believe the Pelicans will be looking to shed some salary going into next season.

So much of what Denver or any team can do depends on what the cap looks like, especially with the Nuggets having $107 million committed for next season, highlighted by max deals to stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.

One executive theorized a sign-and-trade with Jerami Grant could happen, considering he’s expected to decline his player option and enter free agency.

Texas Tech guard Jahmi’us Ramsey has the chance of becoming a top-five player in the league, according to scouts. (John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

<h2 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="One to watch: Texas Tech’s Jahmi’us Ramsey” data-reactid=”106″>One to watch: Texas Tech’s Jahmi’us Ramsey

Here’s a name some scouts feel will be a top-five player in a few years: Texas Tech shooting guard Jahmi’us Ramsey.

He’s rated as a late first-round pick but one executive who’s high on him feels Ramsey will ultimately be a point guard.

“He’s big [6-foot-4], strong, will get to his spots,” the executive said. “He doesn’t get a lot of love from the analytics folks because he played with a ball-dominant point guard but he’ll wind up being a lead guard.”

Ramsey shot nearly 43% from 3 in his one season at Texas Tech but surprisingly shot just 64% from the free-throw line. He struggled a bit to finish the conference season, which likely contributed to his stock dropping.

But an executive tells Yahoo Sports it’ll all be forgotten soon enough.

“He’ll be better in the NBA for the spacing and the way this game is played,” the executive said. “He’ll end up, when it’s said and done, like Draymond Green, in five years, people will say he’ll be a top-five player in the draft.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="More from Yahoo Sports:” data-reactid=”115″>More from Yahoo Sports:

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Toronto Maple Leafs: Projecting the 2020-2021 Forward Lines – Editor in Leaf

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TORONTO, ONTARIO – AUGUST 07: John Tavares #91 of the Toronto Maple . (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

Kyle Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs have done an excellent job of filling out their roster. Now, Head Coach Sheldon Keefe and his staff are left with the tough task of determining how to best deploy their forward group.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have added a large group of forwards to fill out their roster, including bringing in Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton, and Jimmy Vesey on cheap 1-year contracts. While the merit of these signings can and have been debated, barring any unexpected moves this will be the group that Keefe and Dubas are rolling with.

It’s more than likely that the lines on Day 1 of the season aren’t the lines that the Leafs will end the year with. Expect Sheldon Keefe to mix and match depending on injury, player performance, and matchup. Dubas has done an excellent job providing the coaching staff with a plethora of options on offense, and the onus is now on them to use that depth and flexibility to compete for a Stanley Cup.

Because of the Leafs salary cap situation, roster flexibility is a priority for Dubas and co., expect players who will not be exposed to waivers to be given the first shot at cracking the roster. (per CapFriendly)

Let’s take a look at what the lineup could look like once things get rolling next season, whenever that may be.

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