The biggest surprises and disappointments of the Leafs season so far

The biggest surprises and disappointments of the Leafs season so far

As we continue the TLN contributors’ walk down memory lane regarding the first half of the Leafs season, we’ve come to one of my favourite topics. Who has been the biggest surprise (usually who did we set the bar exceeding low for) and the biggest disappointment (meet your new scapegoat.)
For the Leafs and their strong first half the surprises have been plentiful, and the disappointments minimal, so keep that in mind as I don’t think anyone is particularly beating up on the disappointments and the team gets a passing grade.
Here are the responses:
Biggest Surprise
Jon Steitzer:
Matt Murray is probably the safest answer here. It seemed like a lot of wishful thinking that he could string together anything resembling even a passable season as a backup and aside from the predictable injury, Murray’s rebound year has been a pleasant surprise.
Mike Westlake:
I would say the biggest surprise this season has been our goaltending. During the majority of our season thus far it has been one of the most consistent (until lately). I was on the bandwagon idea that this team was going to struggle with goaltending issues but that simply hasn’t been the case.
James Reeve:
Justin Holl. He started slow but certainly stood up when injuries really hit the team.
Nick Richard:
Even as someone who has been following Pontus Holmberg for some time and believed he would push for a regular NHL role at some point this season, he has b …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Marner and Matthews heading to splitsville?

Marner and Matthews heading to splitsville?

It is a frequent topic in Leafsland at any point Toronto is down a goal, but a debate that seems to disappear as soon as the Leafs retake the lead. We’ve seen it briefly toyed with in game and Sheldon Keefe has removed Michael Bunting from the trio already, so we figured it’s time to ask the TLN crew: Is it time to split up Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner?
James Reeve
It certainly can’t hurt to try out a few different looks. Sometimes players can become too comfortable and shifting things around can certainly be one way of kick-starting a good run. Putting Marner with Tavares and pairing Nylander and Matthews together would be the way I’d go with it, helping to reinvigorate the top six without doing anything too drastic.
Michael Westlake
If it wasn’t for the recent improvement of play I would say to throw everything in the blender but at this point I think it’s best to be patient. That being said, I think it would be a smart play to swap up the lines throughout the season to see what you could pull off in the playoffs. With how hot Tavares and Marner have been it wouldn’t be the worst decision to try and get them to dominate on the ice together.
Nick Alberga …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Aube-Kubel is another in a series of physical players that couldn’t fit in with the Leafs

Aube-Kubel is another in a series of physical players that couldn’t fit in with the Leafs

I’ll spare you the trip down memory lane to the failed David Clarkson era and the mind-boggling stupidity of paying Matt Martin $2.5M AAV for four years. We can all acknowledge that the Leafs history is riddled with mistakes that only serve to ruin what could still be a pretty good weekend.
Instead, we’ll focus on the recent Keefe-era Leafs and explore how there seems to be a steady decline in outputs from physical forwards the second they put on the blue and white.
Wayne Simmonds serves as Exhibit A here and perhaps the weakest argument as Simmonds did seem capable of playing a role in the Leafs lineup when he arrived. In his first 12 games with the Leafs, Simmonds picked up 5 goals and it was a wrist injury that shut him down.
After that initial season, Simmonds’s time on ice declined sharply. He was still doing what he was brought in to do and that was hit a ton, and fight when he was called upon to do so, but he very much was a fourth liner after his wrist injury and the shifts in the top nine were almost non-existent.
Simmonds’ numbers h …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Which zones do Leafs players thrive in?

It’s been a while since I sat down and did some high school math level analysis of the Leafs, and that’s exactly what I did last night. I was curious about what parts of the rink Leafs players are thriving in and how tilted are the Leafs towards being an offensive team.
I decided to start by putting the 5v5 for and against stats for Corsi, goals, and expected goals into league-wide percentiles (with a minimum of 200 minutes played) and then looking at the trends around the for and against stats while factoring in time on ice to identify any excessive sheltering. (For example, Nic Aube-Kubel had strong defensive numbers, but was heavily sheltered, only playing in the 7th percentile of 5v5 ice time.)
I broke the players into the following groups with the following definitions:
200ft player: They would need to be above the 70th percentile in both for and against stats, as well as being in the 70th percentile for time on ice. Basically, you can’t be a 200-foot player if your coach is afraid to put you out there.
Offensive player: You are in the 70th percen …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

4 Raptors trade targets after missing out on Bojan Bogdanovic

4 Raptors trade targets after missing out on Bojan Bogdanovic

The Toronto Raptors will never turn down the chance to add a player who can help a contending team if they can be acquired without giving up tons of draft capital. With the Utah Jazz shopping Bojan Bogdanovic, there was some speculation that Masai Ujiri had something up his sleeve. That speculation ended Thursday morning, […]
4 Raptors trade targets after missing out on Bojan Bogdanovic – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Putting the Leafs prospects into tiers

After almost a month of counting down the top 20 prospects, looking at the honourable mentions, and the straight up participants, the TLN Prospect Rankings for 2022 came to a close yesterday with Matthew Knies grabbing the number one spot this year. It isn’t without some debate, as Knies’ recent early exit from the World Juniors tournament and going goalless in those five games certainly didn’t gave him a favourable recency bias.
Before going any further I want to thank Nick Richard, Kyle Cushman, and Nick Barden for their tireless work in creating these prospect write-ups. I think they like doing these, but by the time we near the top five it has to start feeling like work, and I appreciate the work they put in. You can find links to all of the profiles on the players below.
Now I have the luxury of coming in and mopping up after all their hard work. Rather than any kind of deep analysis, I get to simply sort the players and put them into tiers based on what their upside looks like, and how close they are to achieving that upside.
The main takeaway from this process is while the Leafs have a fair number of decent, solid prosp …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Day two of free agency and beyond: The Leafs to-do list

One day down, and who knows how many more to go until we find ourselves very much in the dog days of summer where nothing seems to happen. The Leafs were pretty active for the first day of free agency. They added three completely new players (Samsonov, Aube-Kubel, Gaudette), brought back one of their own from Europe (Malgin), and made an AHL signing (Logan Shaw). That’s a fair bit of work for one day, but they were also far from the busiest and are likely far from down.
The Leafs are going into day two with several bubble players on forward, but still a couple of potential needs. They should very much be considered a cheap top-six forward option if they can find one and while Gaudette, Malgin, and Aube-Kubel are all capable of lining up as the 4C, finding a proven center for that role would be a plus.
On the blueline, Dubas spelled it out yesterday by saying they could still use a depth piece, possibly a physical right side option. Right now that seems very much like the role being occupied by Justin Holl, so take that as a sign that he is long for the Leafs wor …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Leaflets: What about Bob(rovsky)?, draft thoughts, and more

This is the week. Big stuff will be going down around the NHL and with the Leafs in need of two goaltenders, Toronto has no choice but to be in the thick of it. Today is the deadline for qualifying offers, it’s the last day to put someone on waivers for buyouts, and we don’t have a Leafs prospects camp roster yet. That’s a lot of stuff to tide us over until free agency opens on Wednesday.
The idea of Sergei Bobrovsky as an option seems less crazy
I don’t know if Florida has made their peace with the idea of sticking it out with Bobrovsky, but with a tough salary cap situation in the sunshine state there is a very real possibility that the Panthers will try to clear what they can with Bobrovsky’s contract. While it’s unlikely that the Panthers will be unloading Bobrovsky within their division, I submit to you that Bobrovsky might not be a bad option for the Leafs as a trade option from the third party involved.
Bobrovsky as a $10M AAV goaltender for 4 years has very little appeal. Bobrovsky if he can be brought down to around $5-6M he starts looking like a suitable option, one that has a better recent track record than M …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs select Nicholas Moldenhauer with the 95th pick in the 2022 NHL Draft

After trading down from the 79th pick and acquiring the 95th and 135th overall picks, the Leafs selected forward Nicholas Moldenhauer from the Chicago Steel of the USHL. There is an obvious connection between the organization and the player as newly appointed assistant general manager Ryan Hardy is the former GM of the Chicago Steel.

With the No. 95 pick in the Draft, the #Leafs select Nicholas Moldenhauer from the Chicago Steel. Obviously the Leafs have tight connections with that team.
— David Alter (@dalter) July 8, 2022

Moldenhauer missed time to begin the season but was a star for the Chicago Steel upon his return, finishing the campaign with 18 goals and 25 assists in just 41 games. He measures in at 5’11” and 170 pounds.
A speedy, hardworking forward who can pull off skilled moves in stride, Moldenhauer possesses a diverse offensive skill set. He sees the ice well and distributes the puck with pace, has the puck skills to beat defenders one-on-one and play through traffic, and has a good sense of anticipation to arrive in scoring positions at the right time to utilize his quality shot. He can sometimes try to do too much but when he utilizes his teammates and plays a give-and-go game, he can be a real offensive driver. There is still a rawness to his overall game but if he can put it all together, Moldenhauer could grow into an effective middle-six NHL forward.

Filthy goal from #2022NHLDraft eligible forward Nicholas Moldenhauer. He missed time to begin the season but has looked good since returning to Chicago’s lineup. pic.twitter.com/FYJdDS5cc1


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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation