Stories of the Year: Auston Matthews chasing 50

When you think about the Leafs’ 2019-20 campaign, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it Mike Babcock making the baffling decision to scratch Jason Spezza on opening night? Or how about that loss to the Penguins, followed by that save from Fleury, followed by Babcock being fired and Sheldon Keefe taking over? Maybe it’s in reference to some young players making an immediate impact. Alternatively, you’re probably thinking of a 42-year-old Zamboni driver who works for the organization.
All of those are worthy contenders of moments that will define that season when we look back on it years down the line. But I feel like I’m leaving something out, can anyone help me out with what I’m forgetting?

Just a reminder that Auston Matthews did this to the Buffalo Sabres 10 months ago.
— Nick Barden (@nickbarden) October 28, 2020

Ah yes, Auston Matthews’ quest to reach the half-century mark for goals was by far one of the most talked-about storylines of the regular season. Seeing how he was one of the few who stayed healthy and played at a high level throughout, him becoming just the fourth player in franchise …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

What to expect from Alexander Kerfoot this summer

The 2019-20 Regular season was a bit of a step back for Kerfoot. His ice time was trending up at the end of 2018-19 with the Avs, he had established his self as a consistent .5 point per game player, and while his ice time remained consistent in 2019-20, his point per game production dipped. Alex couldn’t really hold firmly onto the 3rd line center role, and instead was shuffled up into the top six to play wing. The results didn’t yield any more offense for Kerfoot either, and the one player, Ilya Mikheyev, that he seemed to have some chemistry with, was injured for most of the season and they didn’t get a chance to build on their strong start.
Kerfoot getting a camp in under Keefe before the playoffs will hopefully be beneficial and might determine if he is in fact a fit with the Leafs. Otherwise this summer could be the last we see of Kerfoot, who is very much priced out of Toronto already and there is little doubt the Leafs could benefit from a stronger presence at center on the third line.
By the numbers

So, yeah, it’s …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

What to expect from William Nylander this summer

The 2019-20 season was the year of redemption for William Nylander. The infamous contract stalemate that went right down to the wire soured many on the young swede, his abysmal performance on the ice shortly after signing capped off a disastrous 2018-19 season. At the end of the season, Nylander vowed to comeback next season better than ever.
Even though Covid-19 wiped out the remaining 12 games in the Leafs regular season, I think it is safe to say that William Nylander not only bounced back this season, but also proved many of his haters wrong too with his performance this season.
By the Numbers
After recording a disappointing seven goals and 27 points in 54 games last season, Nylander bounced back in a big way, hitting the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his young career and recording 59 points in 68 games. Pro-rated for an 82-game schedule, Nylander was on pace to record 37 goals and 34 assists for 71 points.
What’s encouraging from this season is that Nylander found his goal-scoring touch again. Last season Nylander was super unlucky, scoring on a mere 5.4% of his shots. This season Nylander scored on 15.7% of his shots, a percentage well above his career norm but …

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Author: Brendan Mori / The Leafs Nation

What to expect from Morgan Rielly this summer?

Morgan Rielly entered the 2019-20 season at an all-time high. Fresh off a career high 20-goal, 72-point season that saw Rielly finish fifth in Norris Trophy voting, I for one was very excited to see what kind of encore performance Rielly would give us this year. Unfortunately, Rielly failed to improve upon or even replicate his performance from last season. Injuries to himself and others on the team, ice-time allocation, a coaching change and more all contributed to Rielly have a down year. Fortunately for Rielly, this extended lay-off has presumably provided Rielly (and others) with ample time to get healthy in time for the NHL’s return to play plan.
By the Numbers

One of the biggest reasons for Rielly’s production nosediving this season is the powerplay. Rielly recorded a pedestrian seven powerplay points this year, compared to 21 the year before. The decrease in powerplay production can be chalked up to Keefe flipping Rielly and Barrie on the powerplay. With the powerplay struggling late into Mike Babcock’s final games as head coach and continuing once Sheldon Keefe took over, something had to be changed and Rielly got the short end of the stick. On …

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Author: Brendan Mori / The Leafs Nation

Introducing “Minnesota Mediocrity” for NHL Playoff Participation

The idea of a 22 or 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs to round out the 2019-20 season has been floated by numerous hockey insiders on social media and radio shows over the last few weeks, as the NHL continues its “no idea is too crazy” approach to continuing play sometime this year.
It’s easy to understand why the league is leaning in this direction: it has now been more than two months since the last time a goaltender interference call has been furiously debated on Twitter. From March 12 to May 15 of last year, 200 regular season and 76 playoff games had been played, and the infamous hand pass game between San Jose and St. Louis in the Western Conference Finals had just played out to the horror of NHL Hockey Ops. That’s a lot of lost gate and broadcast revenue for the league, so recouping some of those losses through more playoff games does make sense on the surface, if you put yourself in the league’s shoes.
But at what cost? At the pause of the season, teams had played between 83-87% of their seasons with the understanding that 16 teams would make the playoffs and 15 teams …

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Author: Mark Norman / The Leafs Nation

Toronto Marlies 2019-20 Season Review

Welcome to the 2019-20 season review for the Toronto Marlies. Today we are going to take a look at the 15th season in franchise history, examining what went right and what went wrong for the Marlies.

Overall, the 2019-20 season for the Marlies was disappointing to say the least. The team was on pace to miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2010-11 season. Between injuries, NHL recalls and coaching changes, the Marlies went through it all this season. With the AHL finally cancelling the remainder of the 2019-20 season on Monday, it’s time to review the year the Marlies had.
If I had to pick one word to describe the 2019-20 Toronto Marlies season, I would probably go with ‘Transition’.
After the Calder Cup victory in 2018 and a surprise playoff run to the Conference Finals in 2019, the transition first started in the offseason. Kyle Dubas, the architect of those last two Marlies playoff runs was promoted to General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Dubas would fill the void he created by hiring Laurence Gillman as his Assistant GM and also GM of the Marlies.

There was a lot of roster turnover …

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Author: Brendan Mori / The Leafs Nation

A Leafs and Sabres playoff series? Sure!

The NHL’s most recent plan to salvage the 2019-20 season reportedly involves having mini-tournaments spread across four different cities, with six teams participating in each one.

The plan, according to Mark Spector at Sportsnet, is the NHL’s fall-back-net if there’s no way that the remainder of the regular season can be played out. In order to maximize fairness among the bubble teams, the league would have the top six teams in each division make the playoffs.
The No. 1 and No. 2 teams in each division would play each other in a three-game series to determine who’s crowned the winner of the division while the No. 3 teams would play the No. 6 teams and the No. 4 teams would face the No. 5 teams to continue playing. The winner of each division’s tournament, presumably, would then meet at another mutual location to play a Final Four style tournament for the Stanley Cup.
So, in this scenario, the Leafs would square off against the No. 6 team in the Atlantic Division, which is… *checks notes* the Buffalo Sabres!
This would put the Leafs in a very nice position to end their playoff series win drought that …

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Author: Cam Lewis / The Leafs Nation

Toronto Raptors: Top five performances from perfect week 15

Week 15  of the 2019-20 NBA season is in the books, and the Toronto Raptors finished with another perfect record, this time going 4-0. Which performances made this week’s top-five list? The last time the Toronto Raptors were dealt a loss was Jan. 12, courtesy the San Antonio Spurs. The champs haven’t lost in close […]
Toronto Raptors: Top five performances from perfect week 15 – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Aditya Chandran / Raptors HQ

Kaskisuo SZN: Maple Leafs Place Michael Hutchinson on Waivers

Through the first month and change of the 2019-20 season, very few goaltenders have struggled quite like Maple Leafs backup Michael Hutchinson.
The 29-year-old former Winnipeg Jets prospect has posted an abysmal .879 save percentage through his first six appearances of the year, averaging nearly 4.5 goals against per game, going 0-4-1 in credited results, and -5.90 Goals Saved Above Average at even strength alone.
The poor start has hardly been his fault alone, but it seems as if the team has finally decided on the fact that Hutchinson is not the answer. So, Hutchinson will be the first to fall on the sword, as the netminder hit waivers on Monday morning in what’s presumably a move meant to give Kasimir Kaskisuo an NHL shot.
Hutchinson was picked up as a reclamation project of sorts from the Florida Panthers last season after he struggled to rediscover his game following a move from the Winnipeg Jets (who had used him as a backup from 2013-2018) that summer.
His five games with Toronto’s NHL lineup last season saw him post a .914 save percentage in all situations, and the team then opted to move into their 2019-20 campaign with him as the …

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Author: Cat Silverman / The Leafs Nation

Babcock and Leafs focusing on lineup flexibility

Just three games into the 2019-20 regular season and there is already a sense of urgency and importance with every single period for this Leafs season. There has not been this level of significance when it comes to the Leafs in what feels like a very long time.
With championship aspirations and a highly-skilled lineup from top to bottom, Toronto is giving it their all to do everything the right way this year.
One of those key aspects that has been identified by players and coaches has been the ability to keep a constant and consistent level of production throughout the lineup. No matter who is on the ice for Toronto, there’s a chance for the team to score a goal and prevent opposing scoring chances.
Most teams in the NHL try to establish this level of overall success, but it’s widely known that the Leafs have more talented depth players than most. And in a recent interview with Jonas Siegel of the Athletic, head coach Mike Babcock discussed his roster’s ability to be fluid.
“Well, you know what’s interesting to me is I think we’re very flexible here. I think we move people around …

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Author: Thomas Williams / The Leafs Nation