Lack of Killer Instinct and affirming the belief in the Leafs were the management talking points

In many ways, the availability of Keefe, Shanahan, and Dubas sounded really good as it happened. Considering that the Leafs lost in the first round for the fourth straight time on Kyle Dubas’ watch, 3rd on Sheldon Keefe’s, and for the 6th straight time in the Shanahan era, the group was very quick to dodge any discussion of history. Considering how much the core of this team has been around too, the avoidance of any discussion of failure did leave a sour taste in my mouth, but with the acknowledgment that they are largely correct when they say they’ve got a strong group.
That’s my takeaway, here are some thoughts on some of the other key issues they touched on…

Keefe: “I felt that we stepped up in key moments; the work toward next season has already begun. The believe in our group is as strong as it has ever been.”
— David Alter (@dalter) May 17, 2022

When you look at a season that had the Leafs finish fourth in the league in standings, it’s very easy to see where the belief is coming from. This is a strong group, this is a group that just needs some adjustments to find a way to win, but at the same time, there is something going fundamentally wrong that needs to be addressed. When you consider this season’s loss to Tampa, no one would have batted an eye if they had made it in previous years. This year was entirely about the cumulative pain of the past six years. If you consider the fact …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Rating the Maple Leafs moves on Trade Deadline Eve

Kyle Dubas was a busy man. He’s earned himself a nice dinner. Whether he made all the moves he should, and if he made the right moves, we’ll explore that later, but a busy day deserves a treat. And tomorrow, while it seems should be a bit slower, probably shouldn’t be completely quiet either.
So let’s look at Dubas’ moves throughout the day.
Nick Robertson demoted to the Marlies:
The small salary cap assistance, along with the empty roster space was essential to making the rest of the day work. With the Leafs bringing in two players on NHL contracts, and only sending one out, something had to give, and that means Robertson is a Marlie again for the time being. If Muzzin is going to remain on the LTIR for a while, it’s very possible we see him again soon. There’s no reason to rate this move, so we’ll start off pass/fail, and give it a pass.
Harri Säteri signed to a 1 year, $750k deal:
The Leafs need a goaltender, and going with an NHL goaltender means trading assets and trying to make something work around the league. That can be tricky, especially with the Leafs’ salary cap situation, so buying a goaltender that has excelled in the KHL for the past three seasons, and led the Finnish …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Ben Chiarot is who you trade for if you didn’t learn a thing from the Foligno situation

Sheldon Keefe and Kyle Dubas do a lot of talking about how the Leafs keep on learning, and if there is anything to the rumours that the Leafs are interested in Ben Chiarot, the Leafs’ front office is in desperate need of some remedial classes.
Last year the Leafs decided to throw away a first-round pick and a couple of fourth-round picks on Nick Foligno, a player who by most measures wasn’t particularly good. In fact, in addition to that, he was injured at the time. He cost a lot more than the cap space the Leafs had and were so stuck on bringing in this third-line winger, they brokered salary retention through an additional team. They did all of this while Taylor Hall was available. (I don’t know if Taylor Hall was the answer, but he would have certainly made the absence of John Tavares more manageable and wouldn’t have spent half the series hurt because he was rushed back from an injury so he could be traded.
Yes, there are a lot of reasons to still be bitter about the Nick Foligno trade, but last season there was still some benefit of the doubt being given to the Leafs front office that they had a …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

News from the Rink: Simmonds, Spezza, Kerfoot all return to Leafs practice

Kyle Dubas said yesterday that if Jason Spezza, Wayne Simmonds, and Alexander Kerfoot pass their cardiac screenings, they’d be back at Leafs practice.
It looks like the three players have left COVID protocols.

Players participating in Dec. 27 practice:
Forwards: Anderson, Bunting, Clifford, Engvall, Kaše, Kerfoot, Marner, Matthews, Ritchie, Seney, Simmonds, Spezza, Steeves, Tavares
Defencemen: Biega, Dahlström, Hellickson, Holl, Král, Liljegren
Goalies: Scott, Woll
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) December 27, 2021

Matt Hellickson is the latest Marlies player to be practicing with the Leafs. The Leafs’ AHL affiliate has been hit hard by COVID-19 having 24 players and five staff members test positive for the virus.
Hellickson is on an AHL contract, but the NHL has reportedly given the Leafs special permission to have him practice with the team.
Leafs lines at practice
Here’s how the lines shaped up today with Spezza, Simmonds, and Kerfoot all returning to practice.

#Leafs lines at practice Dec. 27/21
Bunting-Matthews-MarnerKerfoot-Tavares-KaseClifford-Engvall-AndersonRitchie-Spezza-SimmondsExtra: Seney-Steeves
Kral-LiljegrenDahlstrom-HolllHellickson-Biega
WollScottD’Agostini (practice goalie)
— David Alter (@dalter) December 27, 2021

The first line has stayed the same as yesterday. With Kerfoot returning to practice, he slots in with John Tavares and Ondrej Kase. The third line consisting of Kyle Clifford, Pierre Engvall, and Joey Anderson stays …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

NHL postpones Wednesday’s Leafs vs. Penguins game

This afternoon, Leafs GM, Kyle Dubas, said that Toronto might be two players short for Wednesday’s game vs. Pittsburgh.
A couple of hours later, the NHL has now postponed that game.

Wednesday’s game vs. Pittsburgh has been postponed. https://t.co/Y0Q7tG1a5C
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 27, 2021

Earlier this afternoon, Dubas also said that Wayne Simmonds, Jason Spezza and Alexander Kerfoot could return to practice on Monday if their cardiac screenings go well.
As of right now, @Jack Campbell, @Petr Mrazek, @Jake Muzzin, @Morgan Rielly, @Rasmus Sandin, TJ Brodie, @Travis Dermott, @William Nylander, @Ilya Mikheyev, and @David Kampf are still in COVID protocols. Spezza, Simmonds, and Kerfoot remain there as well until they’re available for practice.
Toronto’s next game is now on New Years Day against Ottawa at 7 PM ET.

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Leafs entering camp with something to prove

Toronto Maple Leafs hockey is back.
Kyle Dubas, Sheldon Keefe, and select players from the team spoke with the media today. Among the things said, players gave their thoughts on the season ahead and the belief they have in each other as a group. Players also said they’re taking this season one day at a time instead of gazing too far into the future.
The first person to address the media was Dubas. Most of what he discussed was the disappointment from last season. The Leafs GM said that while players should look back on the loss, it may also be an opportunity to move forward.

Kyle Dubas says adversity is what brings out of the best in Sheldon Keefe. Leafs gonna need that trait to be transferable.
— Justin Cuthbert (@jccuthbert) September 22, 2021

We all remember last season. This Leafs team was one that we thought could have a lot of success. Although in the end, it didn’t happen, these moments are some that define the future. Teams need adversity to be better, and with the results in the past, this should help them grow to become stronger.
Dubas even addressed his future with the organization and whether he …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Mikheyev wants out and for some reason the Leafs aren’t on board

Kyle Dubas believes in this group, even the players that don’t have any interest in being part of the group anymore.
Earlier this evening Elliotte Friedman came out of hibernation and gave us a few insider tidbits, including this nugget about Ilya Mikheyev:
According to several sources, Toronto winger Ilya Mikheyev asked for a trade following the 2020-21 season. But, what is important to the story is that the Maple Leafs made it clear they do not want to accommodate this request. With Zach Hyman and Joe Thornton gone from the left wing, the organization told Mikheyev it considers him a key part of their team and are counting on him to have a big year.
This issue from Mikheyev’s point of view is ice time, and that’s kind of a bizarre stance to take when he struggled to produce offensively last season. His opportunities to produce were somewhat limited as he was tethered players like Alexander Kerfoot and Pierre Engvall, who like himself aren’t likely to generate offence without a proper catalyst. And while Friedman cites Hyman (who should have always been ahead of Mikheyev in the lineup), and Thornton (who Mikheyev should rightly be …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Betting on Kerfoot is likely the best option for the Leafs

When Kyle Dubas said he believes in the Leafs roster, we should probably take him at his word. The fact that Kyle Dubas traded for Jared McCann in hopes that he’d either be the replacement for Kerfoot or (what actually happened) that he’d be the bait in order to keep Alexander Kerfoot probably proves that he wants to give it another go with this group.
As someone who has spent the better part of the last two years trying to trade Alex Kerfoot, I’ve now moved past denial and reached acceptance that Kerfoot will be a Leaf next season. It’s September. The Leafs are essentially capped out, and unless one of the GM’s around the league is a secret admirer of Kerfoot, there’s no reason to believe that Alex is going to be on the move. There would have been several points over the past couple of months where a deal would have made sense, but at this point unless Toronto has been sitting on a true hockey trade all summer, it seems that he’ll play.
The first couple of paragraphs so far probably have the tone of Kerfoot being a bad player, …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Ondřej was the Kaše that they gave us: Leafs sign him to 1 year deal

It seems that this summer Kyle Dubas has decided that if he’s gonna be damned, he’s gonna be damned for doing things the way he wants to do things. He’s gone with Greyhounds. He’s gone with underappreciated or miscast players, and now he’s moved onto statistical darlings…

Ondrej Kase signs a one-year contract with #leafs worth $1.25M.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 31, 2021

Ondrej Kase, long adored for excelling at driving the play forward, Kaše has had his injury troubles throughout his career, and was limited to just three games last season, and hasn’t really played anywhere near a full season in his career. The right wing from the Czech Republic is 6’0 tall, and 190 lbs, and could line up with countryman David Kampf on the Leafs 3rd line this season, when healthy. When Kaše isn’t healthy, he creates an opportunity for players like Brooks, Robertson, and Anderson to dip their toes into the lineup as well, so he’s a reasonable risk to take, especially since he’s only 25.

As you can see from the chart above, Kase is pretty darn good in all situations, and if William Nylander is going to be …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The great goalie shuffle of 2021 and the possible Leafs targets

Kyle Dubas has identified finding a goaltender as his top need in the offseason. That need has then been re-identified by everyone who covers the Leafs. Who am I to say it’s wrong? (It’s kinda wrong, but also kinda right.)
Of course the Leafs won’t be alone in their search for goaltending, with Frank Seravalli estimating that at least a quarter of the league is looking to seriously address the position. This is somewhat of a farce given that most of the goaltenders available are players in the same situation as Leafs fans view Frederik Andersen to be in. The goaltender isn’t cutting it and it’s time to move on from them. The Braden Holtby, Martin Jones, and Mikko Koskinen options are basically taking another teams rotten goaltender via trade. A borderline buyout candidate who wouldn’t deliver much in net. With a 50% salary retention, these might represent the opportunity for the Leafs to add a goaltender with a cheaper cap hit, possible pick up an asset or unload some salary, and then cross our fingers that their previous bad situation can be corrected by the Leafs, a team that definitely has a track record …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation