BJN Radio – Ep. 78: The 2016 team comparison, Joey Votto’s successful finale in Toronto, and more!

It was another series win that left a sour aftertaste.

As they did with Seattle, the Blue Jays took the first two games against a weak opponent and then came up short with a chance to pull off a sweep.
In the post-Reds series episode of BJN Radio, we gave praise to Hyun Hin Ryu for another good start, questioned whether it was right for Charlie Montoyo to not give Alek Manoah the ninth inning, and looked at Bo Bichette’s low-key hot streak in the month of May. We also talked about the handful of guys who aren’t hitting and wondered how long such cold streaks can possibly continue.
We also talked about Joey Votto playing likely his last game in Toronto, barring a trade, and talked about whether we root for Canadian players when they go up against the Blue Jays.
You can listen to the episode here…

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

ESPN lists the Blue Jays as one of the teams who would make sense for a Juan Soto trade

The Washington Nationals might soon have another superstar heading out the door in free agency.

Back in 2019, Bryce Harper inked a 13-year, $330 million deal to join the Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals wound up winning the World Series the following season while Harper has won an MVP award in Philadelphia.
Next up, Juan Soto is eligible to become a free agent following the 2024 season. The Nationals, who are 12-26 so far this season, tried to ink Soto to a 13-year, $350 million deal, but he declined it and reportedly didn’t find the offer all too impressive.
Over at ESPN, Buster Onley speculated that the Nationals could start to think about the idea of trading Soto this summer. He’s still two full seasons away from hitting free agency but will be due for a big raise this winter as he’s eligible for arbitration for the second time…
At 23 years old, Soto is already a superstar, and there aren’t any comparable examples of hitters of his stature being dealt at such a young age. But rival execs say the Nationals might well be compelled — and motivated — to move Soto this summer.
“If they’re not going to sign him [to a long-term deal], then they’ll need to trade him,” one evaluator said. “The question is: When?”
Olney also noted that the front-office types, which is obviously an incredible vague label, believe that two teams could make sense fo …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Maple Leafs and Kyle Dubas ‘need’ Marlies prospects to compete for NHL roster spots next season

The Maple Leafs had yet another disappointing end to their season, but their future is all the more interesting.
When GM Kyle Dubas addressed the media in his end-of-season availability, he discussed a number of topics. One was finding the next Michael Bunting’s and Ondrej Kase’s for the team, another was regarding a few of the Maple Leafs’ prospects transitioning to the NHL from the Toronto Marlies.
Dubas was asked if he thought he needed more from his Marlies players next season. The Maple Leafs’ GM responded swiftly and said: “Yes, I do. And I expect that we will.”
There were a number of players who stood out with the Marlies over the course of this season — some on AHL deals and others on NHL deals. A few players on AHL contracts even got NHL deals towards the end of the regular season.
“I think not only just the players that are the obvious ones that are higher picks, but also as you look at the bottom of our forward lineup, in particular, guys that may not have as high a profile but can play specific roles and provide specific elements whether it’s speed, physicality, power and presence. So whether that’s a Bobby McMann, Curtis Douglas, Joey Anderso …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

How the Maple Leafs can move on from another first round exit

Well, they did it again. Another first round exit.
Often when the Maple Leafs get eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, there’s plenty of people who like to put on their General Manager hat. They’ll start by saying “Trade this player!” And usually end with “Someone needs to be fired for this mess!”
Every year. After every lost series.
Usually, I would accept this form of reaction. People are upset, and honestly, they have every right to be after yet another first round departure. But this time around for Toronto was different. Very different.
The Maple Leafs went toe-to-toe with the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions. It went to a Game 7 and you could’ve argued that it should be tied after the third period. Fans from each team deserved another stressful overtime, like in Game 6.
As hard as Toronto fought for every inch of that ice, the Lightning fought just as hard, even after losing a key player like Brayden Point.
This isn’t a matter of sitting back and thinking about what’s wrong with this team — nothing is wrong — the Maple Leafs are an incredible team. If they ended up beating the Lightning, I wouldn’t be surp …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Pre-Series Notes: Robbie Ray isn’t scheduled to start for the Mariners as they head to Toronto

Another series loss, this time to the Rays in Tampa, has the Blue Jays at 18-17 for the season.

When you take a step back and look at the big picture, it isn’t all too surprising the Blue Jays have a mediocre record in mid-May given the schedule they’ve had early on. That said, I also wouldn’t blame anybody for being uninspired by this group right now, especially based on how they’ve played against the Yankees and Rays, the teams they’re competing with for the American League East.
Next up, the Blue Jays will face a handful of teams they might be competing with for wild-card spots down the road. They’ll face the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins later in May and will kick things off by hosting the Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners are also off to a disappointing start this year. After bullshitting their way to a 90-72 record due largely to an absurd record in one-run games, but after signing the reigning AL Cy Young winner in the off-season, the Mariners came into 2022 with legitimate playoff aspirations.
So far not as good as Seattle is 16-19 on the season.
Like the Blue Jays, Seattle started off quite well but they’ve gone cold since the start of May. They held an 11-6 record after sweeping the R …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Maple Leafs would be ill-advised to make drastic changes despite yet another first-round exit

Another promising season, another disappointing first-round exit. Coming into this year, a sixth consecutive first-round exit for the Toronto Maple Leafs was all but certain to result in significant organizational changes at the management, coaching, and player levels. And yet, fresh off their Game 7 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, any such drastic changes would be incredibly reactionary and short-sighted.
As silly as it may sound, this first-round loss was not like the previous occasions. They weren’t outcoached like they were against Boston. There wasn’t a lack of effort or belief like there seemed to be against Columbus and especially Montreal. Rather, the Maple Leafs went toe-to-toe against the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, had them against the ropes as no other team has done in the past two playoffs, and narrowly came up short.
The Tampa Bay Lightning had faced elimination just once since the start of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs when the New York Islanders pushed them to seven games in the 2021 Stanley Cup semifinals. Not only were the Leafs the second team to push them to seven, but they are also the only team over the past two playoffs to have the series lead heading into Game 6.
Now, you aren’t in …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs changed a few narratives in their Game 5 win against Tampa, now they have to change the one that matters the most

It was looking like it was going to be another one of those nights. If you are a frequent reader of this site, you know the feeling.
The Toronto Maple Leafs allowed two goals on the first four shots of the game, but erased that deficit with tallies from John Tavares, Morgan Rielly, William Nylander and John Tavares as they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 take a 3-2 series lead in their first-round series.
Through the first four games between these clubs, the team that scored first had gone on to win each game. There were also no lead changes in any of those games.
So when the Lightning scored a pair of early goals from Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, things looked pretty grim for Toronto.
They went into the intermission down 2-0 and were badly outplayed in the first 20 minutes. They were outshot 14–4 and Tampa had a 78 percent of the 5-on-5 score-and-venue adjusted expected goals share of 78 percent per NaturalStatTrick.com.
That’s when Jason Spezza took it upon himself to deliver a speech to players in the dressing room to help lift his team’s spirit.
“More along the words that it wasn’t good enough,” Nylander paraphrased of Spezza’s message. “We just need to get going and battling and skating.”
It wa …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Report from the Rock: Local talent powers Growlers through first playoff series

With all eyes on the NHL playoffs, another team in the Maple Leafs organization has just punched their ticket to the second round.
It was a hard-fought battle that took the full seven games, but the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers ultimately emerged victorious in the opening round of the playoffs against their Canadian rivals from Quebec, the Trois-Rivieres Lions.
“Relieved,” said head coach Eric Wellwood when asked how he was feeling after Game 7. “It was nice to have those nerves again. But yeah, it’s a nice relief. I think the boys deserved that win.”
Home cooking rewards early and often
The series began at home on Friday, April 22, and defenceman Matt Hellickson (who recently re-signed with the Marlies for next season,) got the Growlers’ first goal of the playoffs, assisted by defenceman-turned-forward Riley McCourt.
Trois-Rivieres stormed back and took the lead with two quick goals before the first period ended, but an offensive outburst from the team’s top forward line, including a four-point night from alternate captain and team MVP Zach O’Brien, led the Growlers to a 7-4 victory.
“Every shift in every game means so much,” said O’Brien. “I always try and play well in the regular season as well. But when playoffs start, everyone just wants to elevate their game that much more. And this is why we play, this is the most fun part of the season.”
Wellwood had lots of praise for his team’s MVP after Game 1.
“He ca …

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Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 70: Blue Jays down Astros, getting on the Zack Collins hype train, Jordan Romano’s workload, and more!

Another series, another win for the Blue Jays.

To be honest, it really felt like this was a win-one-and-get-out operation, but the Blue Jays rolled into Houston and took two of three from the Astros, an impressive result given the difficulties they’ve had facing this team in the past.
We recapped all of the good and bad stuff from the series in Houston and then looked ahead to the four-gamer back in Toronto against the Boston Red Sox. We also talked about the possibility that Zack Collins is legit, the struggles of Cavan Biggio and what to do with him, Jordan Romano’s save streak coming to an end, and a whole bunch more.
You can listen to the episode here…

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Jack Campbell is finding his form again at the right time for the Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated another non-playoff team on Tuesday, handily defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 at Scotiabank Arena.
Given the low stakes behind the game with Toronto already securing their playoffs fate and without the services of star forward Auston Matthews, Sheldon Keefe once again put the team’s forward lines in a blender. Combine that with the fact that they didn’t hold a mandatory morning skate after a day off to prioritize rest, it didn’t come as a complete surprise that the Flyers outshot the Leafs 39-28.
But the extra rubber allowed Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell to continue to find his groove, and that’s the biggest takeaway out of Toronto’s victory.
“He was locked in,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said of Campbell. “He was excellent and it was great to see.”
The Leafs goaltender made 37 saves and posted a save percentage .949. The performance came two days after he made 27 of 29 saves in a 4–2 victory against the New York Islanders. It was the first time since victories on Jan. 1 against the Ottawa Senators and Jan. 5 against the Edmonton Oilers that Campbell posted back-to-back save percentages of over .930.
He looked like the goaltender that was unflappable in the first two months of the …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation