Three crucial games are on the schedule for the Maple Leafs this week, but it’s what happens off the ice that could chart the course of what the club does before the trade deadline.
Defenceman Morgan Rielly, out of the lineup since Jan. 12 when he suffered a broken foot against the Florida Panthers, is slated to have another appointment with doctors late in the week to assess how he is recovering. Based on that meeting, general manager Kyle Dubas should have a clearer idea as to how serious he will be in pursuit of a defenceman before the National Hockey League’s deadline hits on Feb. 24.
The original prognosis on Rielly was that he would miss at least eight weeks, which would put him out of the lineup until some time around mid-March. If it’s determined that Rielly could be out longer, perhaps until the end of the regular season, the player would stay on long-term injured reserve.
With Ilya Mikheyev (wrist) and Cody Ceci (ankle) in a similar position, Dubas would have the money to acquire a defenceman, provided there is certainty that Rielly, Mikheyev and Ceci would stay on LTIR until the regular season ends. With no salary cap implications in the playoffs, any of the three, if not all, could return to the lineup.
The Leafs have enough on their plate on the ice, beginning the week in third place in the Atlantic Division, two points up on the Panthers, who have two games in hand.
Home games against the Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars, on Tuesday and Thursday respectively, will be followed by a date on Saturday in Ottawa against the Senators that starts a three-game trip.
What would be best for the Leafs, likely in a playoff race until the final week of the season, would be to get Rielly back as soon as possible. If Dubas — who indicated last week that Rielly’s appointment will be this Friday — makes a trade for a defenceman, there is little chance he would get one of Rielly’s calibre.
Youngsters Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren have performed admirably, but the Leafs need Rielly for the playoff push, even if the original diagnosis of eight weeks is correct.
“We’re playing hard, but that’s a huge loss for us,” Tyson Barrie said. “He is, in my opinion, one of the best defencemen in the league and it hurts to have him out.”
If Dubas decides to stand pat, Sandin and Liljegren will have to shine.
“We have a bright future with those two kids,” Leafs captain John Tavares said on Saturday after playing in his 800th career NHL game. “Especially the meaningful games we are playing right now and how important each and every shift is, they’re stepping up and playing great.”
Two games are an awfully small sample size to judge what a player potentially can add, but it’s apparent the Leafs have in Jack Campbell a goaltender who brings the kind of temperament required to be a strong backup.
Campbell’s first two games in a Leafs uniform resulted in three of a possible four points, and after each outing, the 28-year-old was on point.
The word on Campbell when the Leafs acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings last Wednesday, along with burly forward Kyle Clifford, was the club was getting a genuinely good person who will be a pillar in the dressing room.
Again, it’s early, but that idea is bearing out in what Campbell has been saying.
“I felt great,” Campbell said after starting twice in a 24-hour span, the first time he had done so in the NHL. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity to get back in there.
“For me, I’m on my game when I’m not thinking so much and it’s nice to be able to to get some rhythm going. I know Freddy (Andersen) will be healthy, whenever that is, and I know he’s going to play great down the stretch. It’s my job to be ready whenever my number is called.”
Fatigue was not an issue for Campbell after he made 26 saves against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday and then 28 against the Montreal Canadiens.
“There’s a little taste to what some No. 1s go through,” Campbell said of the back-to-back starts. “It’s about battling for your teammates and that’s what drove me (Saturday), was just forget about how I feel and whether I’ve ever done it. I just know this team needed two points. We got one … and we’ll get two points next time.”
Campbell had been perfect until a point shot by Canadiens defenceman Marco Scandella got past him with under three minutes to play.
“I just made one small little error,” Campbell said. “I was trying to stay a little bigger (and failing to keep his stick on the ice). I’ll fix it and I know I’ll be even better next game.”
Campbell is under contract through the 2021-22 season. That has to make Leafs Nation happy.
NICK TICKS ALONG
As Auston Matthews closes in on 50 goals — he needs 10 in the Leafs’ final 26 games to reach the milestone — prospect Nick Robertson continues to fill the net with the Peterborough Petes.
Robertson, the Leafs’ second-round pick last year, has been scoring at an eye-opening rate and is approaching an Ontario Hockey League record.
Robertson has scored at least one goal in 14 consecutive games, bringing him to 42 goals in 37 games this season.
The OHL record for most consecutive games with at least one goal is 19, set by the Petes’ Mike Ricci in 1988 and tied by Alex DeBrincat of the Erie Otters in 2017.
When the Leafs chose Robertson 53rd overall last June in Vancouver, the feeling in some corners was that Toronto got a steal. Robertson, whose shot and accuracy already would be the envy of many players across the NHL, is proving that notion correct.
It’s safe to assume Robertson would have hit 50 goals a while ago had he not missed a total of 16 games, first because of a finger injury and then because of his participation with the United States at the world junior championship in the Czech Republic.
When Robertson signed an entry-level contract with the Leafs last fall, he eschewed insisting on performance bonuses, figuring it could eventually help him get to the NHL quicker considering the salary-cap constraints Toronto faces.
“Signing for a little less would help me in the fact that, theoretically, if they were to call me up, it wouldn’t affect their cap (as much),” Robertson told us recently. “Right now, I don’t really care about how much the first contract is or how much the second one is. It was just good for me to sign and it gave me confidence and it has worked out so far.”
The Leafs return to practice on Monday after having Sunday off, and we should have a better idea whether Andersen (neck) will be able to play on Tuesday against the Coyotes. The Leafs are hopeful that another day away from the rink gave forward William Nylander, who missed the past two games because he was sick, the time he needed to get healthy … Given a chance to have a do-over, Barrie wouldn’t have taken a shot off the rush on Canadiens goalie Carey Price in overtime on Saturday night. Price made a relatively easy save, re-directing the puck with his blocker to Nick Suzuki. The Canadiens forward wheeled up ice on a breakaway and Montreal scored seconds later when Ilya Kovalchuk buried Suzuki’s rebound for a 2-1 win. “I shouldn’t have shot it,” Barrie said. “Probably should have pulled up and waited for something better to present itself. It was a perfect scenario for them.” … Campbell’s initial impression of Tavares: “What a leader. I’ve been with a couple of awesome captains, Jamie Benn (in Dallas) and Anze Kopitar (in Los Angeles) and I love those guys. J.T. brings that. He says some great stuff and he backs up everything. It’s only been a couple of days for me with him so I won’t elaborate too much but it’s just an honour to play with him.” … Mason Marchment scored his sixth goal in three games on Sunday to help the Toronto Marlies beat the visiting Laval Rocket 5-2. Egor Korshkov, Kristians Rubins, Matt Read and Pontus Aberg also scored for the Marlies, who won for the second time in as many games. Toronto goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo made 25 saves.
Rafael Nadal announces he will not be playing at the Canadian Open
Nadal cited that the reason to abandon the Canadian Open was a result of an abundance of caution regarding injury concerns.
“From the vacation days and my subsequent return to training, everything has gone well these weeks. Four days ago, I also started training my serve and yesterday, after training, I had a little discomfort that was still there today.
We have decided not to travel to Montreal and continue with the training sessions without forcing ourselves. I sincerely thank the tournament director, Eugene, and his entire team for the understanding and support they have always shown me, and today was no exception.
I hope to play again in Montreal, a tournament that I love and that I have won five times in front of an audience that has always welcomed me with great affection. I have no choice but to be prudent at this point and think about health,” said the Spaniard.
Last month, Nadal was forced to withdraw from his Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has also withdrawn from the Canadian Open as his status as unvaccinated against COVID-19 means he cannot enter the country.
Djokovic is also unlikely to play at the US Open after organizers said they would respect the American government rules over travel for unvaccinated players as the United States (US) requires non-citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter.
“Per the Grand Slam Rule Book, all eligible players are automatically entered into the men’s and women’s singles main draw fields based on ranking 42 days prior to the first Monday of the event.
The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the US government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-US citizens,” read a statement from the US Open which is set to take place in New York from the 29th of August to the 11th of September, 2022.
Nevertheless, Novak Djokovic will be joining Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to play for Team Europe in the Laver Cup.
The event, which pits six European players against six from Team World over three days, will take place in London between 23 and 25 September 2022.
“It’s the only (event) where you play in a team with guys you are normally competing against. To be joining Rafa, Roger and Andy, three of my biggest all-time rivals, it’s going to be a truly unique moment in the history of our sport,” said Djokovic.
Canada beats Sweden to claim gold in Hlinka Gretzky Cup – Sportsnet.ca
RED DEER, Alta. — Canada scored early and often and also stayed out of the penalty box en route to a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal final of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Tanner Howe, Ethan Gauthier, Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager scored for the Canadians, who held period leads of 2-1 and 3-1 at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday. Riley Heidt also chipped in with two assists for the champions.
Hugo Pettersson scored for Sweden, who were outshot 36-26. Each team received eight minutes in penalties.
Canada had beaten Sweden 3-0 on Aug. 3.
“Three weeks ago, we put this roster together and I felt right away this was a tight group,” said head coach Stephane Julien. “It’s not easy when you have this much talent, but everyone accepted their role and I’m so happy for them.”
The win is Canada’s first gold medal since 2018, the last time this tournament was held in Canada.
“I’m so happy for this group,” added Julien. “They haven’t had it easy in their careers the last two years with the pandemic, but now they have this, a gold medal and something they are going to remember for the rest of their career.”
Canada advanced to the final with a 4-1 win over Finland, while Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2. Finland beat Czechia 3-1 in Saturday’s bronze-medal final.
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will shift to Europe in 2023, returning to Breclav and Piestany, Czechia for the first time since 2021.
Hockey Canada’s board chair Michael Brind’Amour steps down
CALGARY — The chair of Hockey Canada’s board of directors has resigned.
Michael Brind’Amour has stepped down effective immediately, Hockey Canada said Saturday in a statement.
The organization is under intense scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault allegations against members of previous men’s junior teams.
“I have listened carefully and intently to the comments of Canadians about the culture of our sport and our organization, and about our actions and leadership,” Brind’Amour said in the statement. “I understand that the actions we have taken in recent weeks are part of the solution.
“My final term ends in November 2022, and I know that there is no need to wait for a new era. Immediate action is essential to address the important challenges facing our organization and our sport, which our Action Plan works to accomplish.
“I would not be able to see this renewal through.”
Brind’Amour was elected board chair in 2018.
The federal government froze Hockey Canada’s funding after it was revealed the organization had quietly settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by members of the 2018 men’s junior team at Hockey Canada gala in London, Ont., that year.
Since then, Hockey Canada has said members of the 2003 junior team are under investigation for alleged sexual assault in Nova Scotia.
Canada’s sports minister Pascale St-Onge is withholding funds until she’s satisfied Hockey Canada meets her conditions, which were a financial audit of the organization, producing the recommendations of a third-party law firm review and an action plan for change, as well as signing onto the office of the new sports integrity commissioner.
Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player and victim rights advocate, was among those calling for Hockey Canada leadership to step down.
Brind’Amour is the first to do so.
“We’re starting to see cracks in the fortress, and that’s how the light gets in,” St-Onge said Saturday in Niagara Falls, Ont., where she met with provincial and territorial sports leaders on the eve of the Canada Games.
“Canadians have sent a clear message to Hockey Canada that real leadership change is needed and this is at all levels within the organization.
“I agree also with Michael Brind’Amour’s statement today . . . that there is no need to wait for a new era and immediate action is essential.
“I still believe, as many do, that more diversity is needed to address the culture of silence and toxic masculinity within the organization and the sport.”
Brind’Amour’s resignation also follows Hockey Canada’s appointment Thursday of former Canadian Supreme Court judge Thomas Cromwell to review the governance of the country’s governing body of hockey.
The review is expected to provide interim recommendations before Hockey Canada’s annual general meeting in November.
Brind’Amour said he leaves confident that Cromwell taking on that work “will help us make the changes that are needed. I am confident the recommendations will guide the organization into a future of desired change.”
Also, Canada’s 13 provincial hockey federations requested earlier this week an “extraordinary meeting” with the embattled national body.
Led by Hockey Quebec, the 10 provincial and three territorial associations want more information on the handling of the sexual assault allegations.
Hockey Canada had maintained a fund drawing on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.
The organization has stated it will no longer use its “national equity fund” to settle sexual assault claims.
The provincial and territorial hockey associations have threatened to withhold payment without answers.
“It’s not my job to speak on behalf of the Ontario Hockey Federation,” Ontario minister of tourism, culture and sport Neil Lumsden said at Saturday’s news conference.
“But it is as (St-Onge) said, it is our jobs to eliminate unacceptable behaviour of any kind in sport. Our job, and as we’ve spent a lot of time talking about, is to find ways to do that and to do it in the right way.”
Hockey Canada’s board of directors will meet in the coming days to determine next steps following Brind’Amour’s resignation, and appoint an interim chair, the organization said in its statement.
The next board election is scheduled for November’s annual general meeting.
“The board needs to reassess whether the people that are on the directors board are the right people to implement that change,” St-Onge said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2022.
The Canadian Press
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