It’s time to move Bo Bichette to Second Base

When asked about how I would like to exit this world, I often say surrounded by friends and family, or Blue Jay fans.

Today is the day that I may be eliminated from this early for saying that Bo Bichette needs to be moved from shortstop.
Before you get mad at me, this article is not saying Bo Bichette is a bad player, much to the contrary, actually. His bat will get him all-star votes and he’s still only 24-years-old, meaning that defence could come with experience.
Let’s briefly go back in time:
A few years before my birth, there was a baseball player you may have heard of. His name is Derek Jeter.
Drafted in the first round in the 1992 draft by the Yankees, Jeter went on to have an illustrious career being on a team that won 5 titles. The shortstop was a big part of those teams, as his hitting ability and clutch performance took the Pinstripes over the top.
When it came to Hall of Fame voting, he got in (as he should have), but there was only one vote out of 397 that said no to the “shortstop”. Had this one voter said yes to Jeter, he would have been only the second player ever to be voted in unanimously.
While Jeter should have absolutely been voted into the Hall of Fame, there was one big glaring hole in his game – his defence.
Total Zone is a predecessor to Defensive Runs Saved (which was first tracked in 2002). From 1995-2001, Derek Jeter had a Total Zone …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Maple Leafs new assistant coaches already making impact in the playoffs

When talking about the “move of the offseason”, the discussion almost exclusively goes to the player transactions that occurred. Whether it be a big trade or signing, or a depth move that ended up exceeding expectations, the most impactful move of a team’s season is usually one that affects the actual lineup.
For the 2021/22 Toronto Maple Leafs, this probably still remains true. The addition of Michael Bunting fits into both of the aforementioned categories, while other moves such as the signing of David Kampf or the deadline acquisition of Mark Giordano also have had significant impacts on the Maple Leafs squad.
But two moves that have gone largely unrecognized over the course of this season made their impact felt in an enormous way in Game 1 of Toronto’s first-round series against Tampa Bay: the hiring of Dean Chynoweth and Spencer Carbery.

We’ve hired Dean Chynoweth as an assistant coach. #LeafsForever
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) July 12, 2021

Spencer Carbery is joining the team as an assistant coach. #LeafsForever
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) July 17, 2021

Going back to the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Leafs were a strong even strength team who had dominated the North Division in the regular season. Their biggest weakness? Abysmal special teams.
Toronto entered the postseason as one of the lowest ranking powerplays and penalty kills to make the playoffs. Sure enough, it was exposed in their series against Montreal, going 3/23 on the powerplay for a net 8.7 per cent powerplay when factoring in the Canadiens’ shorthanded marker. On the penalty kill, they were better, only allowing three powerplay goals on 19 opportunities. Yet that gave Montreal the overall advantage in special teams goals in the series and was a key factor in the Leafs’ ultimate loss.
In the offseason, penalty kill coach Dave Hakstol left for Seattle and powerplay coach Manny Malhotra was moved to a less specific role on the staff. Their replacements came in the form of Dean Chynoweth of the Carolina Hurricanes and Spencer Ca …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

After near perfect Game 1, tough lineup decisions loom for Maple Leafs

Game 1 went about as perfect as anyone could have hoped for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not only did they record a decisive 5-0 victory, but Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner got on the scoresheet after disappointing postseasons a year ago, the home crowd was incredible, and they appear to have gotten out of the game without any injuries.
With as successful a Game 1 as it was, it would be tough to fault Sheldon Keefe for running it back for Game 2. And if the 18 skaters that were dressed for Game 1 were Toronto’s best, I would imagine that’s exactly what we would see.
The only issue is that Michael Bunting was not part of that Game 1 squad and though his status for Game 2 remains up in the air, as soon as he is ready he’ll be back in the lineup. If that comes in time for Wednesday’s Game 2, then some tough decisions are ahead for the Maple Leafs.
So what could/should they change?
How a Michael Bunting return impacts the rest of the lineup
If Bunting is available, you would imagine he’ll slot in on the left wing with Matthews and Marner as he has for essentially the entire second half of the season. Though I wouldn’t hate trying a sec …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs vs. Lightning: Who has the advantage on special teams?

What is it they say about unstoppable forces and immovable objects? The round one matchup between the Maple Leafs and Lightning is one between two dominant even-strength teams who tend to control their games at 5v5. Both teams ended the season with results above 50% in advanced metrics like Shot Attempt Share (CF%), Unblocked Shot Attempt Share (FF%), Shot Share (SF%), Goal Share (GF%), and Expected Goal Share (xGF%).
Even strength is going to be a battle where the two teams may play to a split. Where this series may be won, is on special teams.
Powerplay
Toronto
The Leafs finished the 2021-22 season with the league’s top powerplay, clicking at a 27.3% rate that was good for the fourth-best powerplay success rate in the league over the last five seasons. Leading the way was their first unit of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander, and Morgan Rielly, whose fluid, shapeless, and unpredictable powerplay formation twisted opponents in knots. You may be surprised to know that Nylander lead the first unit Leafs in points-per-60 on the powerplay with 7.6 points for every hour on the man advantage, with Matthews coming in at 7.5, Tavares at 6.6, Marner at 6.5, and Rielly at 5.34.
What’s most ironic about the Leafs’ powerplay success this season, …

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Author: Mark Norman / The Leafs Nation

For your consideration: Sheldon Keefe for the Jack Adams

In many ways, I feel greasy about writing this. I generally try to care as little as possible about individual awards, and I’m still not sure what I truly think of Sheldon Keefe as a coach. I think as far as Leafs coaches have gone recently you have to consider him one of the best, there is a true benefit to having a head coach and general manager on the same wavelength, and of course, you can’t argue with results, and the Leafs have certainly achieved under Keefe this season. While it seems odd to still be unsure about a coach with the season Keefe has had, I do in fact believe you have to hand it to him in this situation, and that’s why I feel comfortable saying Keefe deserves strong consideration for the Jack Adams based on the following reasons.
It’s been “smooth sailing” after the first seven games
It’s a bit of an “If my Grandmother had wheels she would have been a bike” type argument, but if the Leafs had fared modestly better in those first seven games, we could be talking about Toronto for the President’s Trophy right now, and the Leafs would be gearing up to play Washington in the first round instea …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Auston Matthews scores 60th goal as Maple Leafs teammates make the case for him to win MVP

Sheldon Keefe was never concerned about Auston Matthews reaching the 60-goal mark.
The Toronto Maple Leafs coach joked that he’s a “round-up kind of guy” and was never going to call him a 58-goal scorer had his star not potted two more goals this season.
But Matthews’ got the job done anyway. He became the first Toronto Maple Leafs player to hit 60 goals in a season with a two-goal performance in a 3-0 victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.
”It was pretty special honestly,” Matthews said after the game. “Just the reception from my teammates, the crowd, I mean, everything. It just kind of sends chills down your bones.”
Heading into the contest, Matthews had been on a season-high five-game goalless drought. In the middle of that span, the forward missed three games with an undisclosed injury. Yet he still became the first player the first American-born player to reach the 60-goal mark and the first player since Steven Stamkos did it with the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2011-12 season.
And he did it in just 73 games.
“Just really happy for him,” Keefe said of Matthews. “ To see him at the top of his game and reach these milestones. It’s outstanding. I’m really happy for him, you can tell he was re …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Adventures of the time-travelling Leafs fan

What I’m about to tell you is incredibly difficult to believe, I know that. But I promise you that, even if you don’t believe me, you’ll enjoy the story I’m about to tell.
On Wednesday, I was shopping at the grocery store that now occupies the former Maple Leafs Garden and, when reaching into the back of a freezer for some cheese-y pierogies, my hand knocked the base of the freezer off and… that’s when I saw it: a time travelling portal.
How I knew it was a time travelling portal is unimportant; all that you need to know is that I stepped through its doors and all of a sudden, I was still in a grocery store, but “Payphone” by Maroon 5 was playing on the radio, and that’s how I knew: I had travelled back in time, to the early 2010’s.
I felt a sense of panic come over me. I went to ask the woman next to me, who was wearing an oversized white shirt and blue cutoff jeans, with wedge sneakers, if she knew what year it was, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t ask her anything I wanted to ask. I couldn’t ask who the Prime Minister was, I couldn’t even ask her about the weather. I stood there like a deer in headlights until the question I needed to ask clicked in my head like a switch: “so, how about those Leafs, eh?”
A short conversation flowed, about how the line of Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak were dominating once again. She clearly was a big fan, like me. The fact that she was talking about a whole different Leafs roster was hard at f …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

Lightning has struck twice. That’s more than enough

There are a lot of reasons to not be excited about the Leafs facing the Lightning in the first round of the playoffs, but one of the least talked about ones is the blue-on-white vs. blue-on-white matchup. Frankly, I get disoriented quickly and think they should take a house league pinny approach to make one of the teams stand out this year.
My biggest gripe aside, there are other issues to be concerned about, like the fact the Lightning are the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions. When the Leafs were losing playoff series against Boston, Boston was the City of Champions, now it seems that Tampa Bay has taken over that moniker as they’ve been dominant across three sports. Maybe it’s the proximity to Tom Brady that continues to trip up the Leafs, but someone is going to have to commit hours of science to that hypothesis to see if I’m right.
If there’s a true dragon to be slain in the playoffs, it’s probably the Tampa Bay Lightning, and while it won’t be easy for anyone, the Maple Leafs are capable of doing it.
Tampa by the numbers

Tampa Bay
Toronto
GP
76
77
Pts
100
108
GF
251 (10th)
298 (2nd)
GA
211 (8th)
236 (19th)
PP%
21.3% (16th)
27.7% (1st)
PK%
81.7% (11th)
83.2% (7th)
CF%
51.17%
53.68%
xGF%
52.93%
55.14%
HDCF%
55.18%
55.42%
HDGF%
50.28%
51.20%
PDO
1.012
1.003
as of April 20th
In a head-to-head matchup here, it’s very easy to feel good about the Leafs situation. There is no Toronto answer for Andrei Vasilevskiy, but in the three games the teams have played this season Toronto has had a 3.67 GF average. Two of those games did see Vasilevskiy put up a .920 save percentage or better. That .846 game is certainly encouraging for the Leafs though.
As for the Lightning, in general, they’ve been in the top quarter or top third of the league in most categories. The power play might be the most surprising shortcoming for the Lightning, and it could come down …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

There are plenty of lineup card battles on the Leafs in the remaining six games

Folks, it’s hard to get excited about lame-duck hockey. This year’s post playoff spot clinch the Leafs have done their best to keep us entertained with milestones. We’ve got Matthews chasing 60 goals, Marner chasing 100 points, each win brings a new best season for the Leafs, each goal or point brings a new best for William Nylander, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that John Tavares can pick up seven points in the next six games to hit 900 points in his career. There’s a lot happening to care about, and there’s also that whole locking down second place in the Atlantic thing too.
While the Leafs are sitting quite pretty and have the potential to be largely drama-free for the next couple of weeks, the reality is there is still a lot to sort out on the lineup card. There is plenty up for grabs, and while there are roster locks (see below) their spot on the lineup card isn’t established and there are still some players who could play their way into an opening night of the playoffs spot in the final few days.
Roster Spot Locks
F
D
G
Auston Matthews
Morgan Rielly
Jack Campbell
John Tavares
TJ Brodie

David Kampf
Mark Giordano

Mitch Marner
Jake Muzzin

William Nylander

Michael Bunting

Alex Kerfoot

Ilya Mikheyev

Pierre Engvall

Things are certainly made a bit more complicated by the fact that the Leafs have Ondrej Kase, Rasmus Sandin, and Petr Mrazek on the LTIR at the moment. None of …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

“Where are they now?”: Prospects traded from the 2019 deadline to the end of 2021

On Sunday evening, I had a Twitter thread about prospects that had been traded since the 2019 trade deadline. This thread popped off, but a lot of Twitter folks were asking if I could go more in depth with these prospects.

That’s what this article will cover. Please note that I’ve excluded players such as T.J Zeuch, Yennesy Diaz, Sean Reid Foley, Hector Perez and Andrew McInvale. These players are either too old for me to consider prospects, or they aren’t good enough to make the majors.
I also won’t be including players from the recent Matt Chapman trade, at least until the trade deadline article.
Also make note that this will be the first in a series of three articles. One will come around the trade deadline and one will come at the end of the season. Not just that, but it’s possible that I’ll also cover the players traded during the 2015 season if you’re interested.
With all that being said, I hope you enjoy this article.
Cal Stevenson:
Along with former all-star Aaron Sanchez (who plays for the Rochester Red Wings) and Joe Biagini (Buffalo Bisons), the then 22-year-old outfielder was traded to the Houston Astros for Derek Fisher.
Stevenson was originally drafted out of community college by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016, but he elected to pursue further education. Two years later, the outfielder was drafted in the 10th round of the 2018 draft out of Arizona by the Blue Jays. 
In his first …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation