Leafs News & Notes: Matthews and Andersen nearing return, Nylander held out of practice, Dermott ready for retribution?

The Leafs are riding high after Jack Campbell and Michael Hutchinson helped lead the team to back to back shutouts over Connor McDavid and company in the last couple of games, and they’ve done so without Auston Matthews in the lineup as well. Tuesday’s practice, however, brought with it some optimism that reinforcements for an already formidable squad could be on the way sooner rather than later.
Matthews has been skating for the last few days but Tuesday’s practice was the first time that he was back skating in his regular place between Mitch Marner and Joe Thornton as part of the main practice group. He is still questionable to return for Wednesday’s matchup but returning to full practice is an encouraging step in his recovery.

Auston Matthews on how his hand/wrist is doing:
“It’s feeling a lot better. Day by day it’s progressed. The plan is to see how it feels tomorrow and go from there.”
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) March 2, 2021

According to head coach Sheldon Keefe, Matthews has been battling with an injury to his hand/wrist area for most of the season but it was aggravated further in last Wednesday’s overtime …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

High-impact players not named Francisco Lindor that the Blue Jays could acquire

We know the Blue Jays are looking to add a “super high impact player” this off-season and we know Cleveland is going to trade star shortstop Francisco Lindor. On paper, it’s a perfect match. Lindor is an impact player on both sides of the ball, the Blue Jays front office knows him very well from their time in Cleveland and Rogers has the money to give Lindor the massive contract extension he’s looking for. 

As great as it would be to get Lindor, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. You need other options in case something falls through. So here are other high-impact players the Blue Jays could target this off-season.
Free Agents  
Trevor Bauer
The National League Cy Young award winner is coming off of a remarkable season in which he had a 1.73 ERA and 2.5 WAR in 73.0 innings. He struck out 36% of batters he faced and walked just 6.1%. He’s a high strikeout arm having posted double-digit strikeouts per nine in each of the last four seasons. He’s also been durable having made at least 25 starts and throwing 150.0 innings every season from 2014-19.
As with Lindor, there is the obvious Cleveland connection. …

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Author: Paul Berthelot / Blue Jays Nation

What to expect from Kasperi Kapanen this summer

Expectations were high for Kasperi Kapanen coming into 2019-2020, fresh off his first 20 goal season in the NHL and armed with a shiny new contract.
With Zach Hyman still on the shelf through training camp and the beginning of the season, Kapanen was given an opportunity to fill a top six role on his off wing. He struggled to produce early on with just 2 goals through his first 10 games and never looked comfortable on the left side, eventually returning to his natural wing on some variation of the Leafs third line.
Kapanen’s season reached a turning point in early February when he was made a healthy scratch for what the team said was a matter of “internal accountability.”

Reason for Kasperi Kapanen scratch: “internal accountability.”
— Justin Cuthbert (@jccuthbert) February 2, 2020

Upon his return to the lineup, Kapanen brought a newfound tenacity to his game and looked like a player who had something to prove.
Despite an up and down season, both on and off the ice, he is still a very important part of this Leafs forward group as they get set to do battle with Columbus.
By The Numbers
After scoring 20 goals in …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

Toronto Raptors: Top three Kyle Lowry games of 2019-20

Kyle Lowry continues to perform at a high level as the leader and point guard of the Toronto Raptors. What are his top three performances from the season so far? With the 2019-20 NBA season shockingly suspended indefinitely due to the spread of the coronavirus disease, it has become anyone’s guess as to when the […]
Toronto Raptors: Top three Kyle Lowry games of 2019-20 – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Aditya Chandran / Raptors HQ

The best headshots from Blue Jays spring training photo day

For most of us, the joy of photo day ended back in high school. But for professional athletes, the never-ending gift known as player photo day lives on. Every spring training, players parade themselves into a storage room lined with a coloured background and pose awkwardly in front of the camera.
By now, some of these players know what they’ve signed up for and treat photo day like any other spring training exercise, while others put some thought and care into their photo day poses.
The Blue Jays had their official spring training photo day last week and these are some standouts from the photo session.

Funny, that’s actually a fifty-foot hall redwood that’s been whittled down into a baseball bat for Vladdy.

Hyun-Jin Ryu looks like he’s enjoying his brand new uniform, albeit the colour scheme isn’t that much different from the Dodgers’ home whites.

Bo Bichette has perfected the “blue steel” look.

Cavan Biggio already has his album cover photo ready for his sophomore album: “Plate Recognition 2: Electric Bugaloo”.

Phillippe Aumont looks like he’s seen some stuff.

Teoscar Hernandez is elated …

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Author: Ian Hunter / Blue Jays Nation

Rachel Doerrie’s 5 Things to Watch For vs Colorado

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the Mile High City tonight for game two of the Sheldon Keefe Era. Between the return of Tyson Barrie to the Leafs first game after practising under Keefe, there is a lot to watch for in this evening’s game.
Here are five things to watch for:
1) The Return of Tyson Barrie and Alex Kerfoot
Tyson Barrie and Alex Kerfoot return to Denver for the first time since being traded to the Leafs. Barrie admitted going into Denver without a goal would’ve weighed heavily on his mind. Well, he got the monkey off his back in Arizona, and he’s got to be feeling good about his game right now.
Kerfoot returned to the Leafs lineup after dental surgery on Thursday and I would think he’s pretty fired up to play against his old team, too. I’d expect some sort of video tribute by the Avs in the first commercial break — both may be in the starting lineup — and it may get emotional for a few seconds.
With Barrie’s new lease on the rest of the season, I’d expect him to activate more in the rush and create more …

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Author: Rachel Doerrie / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs Pregame #2: Five things to watch for against the BJs

Riding that high of an opening night win, the Leafs are taking their act on the road for the Blue Jackets home opener in Columbus. While it would be easy to point out that this is a very stripped down Blue Jackets team with little hope for the future, it’s also still a team with Zach Werenski and Seth Jones on the blueline, so perhaps that will be the interesting challenge.
I had to double check and apparently Joonas Korpisalo IS in fact their opening night starter, so I greet that with both a “Yikes”, and a sense of optimism and worry. The optimism comes from the fact he’s very new to the starting role, is a career .907 Sv% goaltender, with two years removed from being about .900. The worry comes from the fact that history shows this is the kind of situation the Leafs routinely fail to take advantage of and Korpisalo was highly touted at one point and there’s always the chance he’s chosen tonight to break out.
What’s really confusing is how I picked the Blue Jackets to make the playoffs, but you’ve read my writing. You know I’m an idiot.

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Well, it’s finally over. What can we make of 2019?

The Blue Jays finished the 2019 season on a high note this weekend, winning their final two games on Saturday and Sunday in front of modest-sized-but-enthusiastic crowds. About 25,000 fans came out to watch this Jays squad glide out their regular season, earning back-to-back wins against a hungover Rays squad to ensure the franchise didn’t set a new single-season low for wins in the post-expansion-years era.

It’s certainly a far cry from three and four years ago when the Dome was loaded with fans backing the club as they geared up for playoff runs. Those 2015 and 2016 teams feel like a lifetime ago at this point. Still, it didn’t have the same exhausted relief vibe that the previous two finales did. The 2017 and 2018 teams were a slog to follow as they carried the burden of unrealistic hopes and expectations. This team, as bad as it was, made things interesting.
So, what can we make of 2019?
Back in March, we put out an optimistic, pessimistic, and a realistic outlook heading into the season. The conclusion of my realistic expectations post was that we didn’t have to have any expectations and that was a good thing. I figured that just embracing …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Is it time to take the leap?

Animosity towards the Cleveland Boys is at an all-time high right now. Given how turbulent Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins’ relationship with the fanbase has been since their arrival back in late-2015, that’s really saying something.

Despite performances from the organization’s future core in Vlad Jr, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Lourdes Gurriel, fans were pushed over the edge by this year’s fire sale at the trade deadline. Firing off Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, the final major connections to the 2015 and 2016 runs, gave the impression that the Blue Jays are nowhere near even trying to be competitive.
Atkins preached the importance of those trades for helping to add to a massive pile of depth the organization has in the minor leagues. Unsurprisingly, fans didn’t echo Atkins’ glee over the advent of turning 12 years of control into 42 years of control.
On Thursday, Mark Shapiro made an hour-long availability to media in order to do some damage control and remind the fanbase of the front office’s long-term vision. There are plenty of breakdowns to read about what Shapiro said (here, here, here, and here), but the major thing to take away from this talk was around …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

The Raptors won the title and the Leafs are quietly shopping Garret Sparks, who is to say which is better

Last night was a high point that Toronto sports hasn’t seen since “Touch’em all Joe” and while I am not much of a basketball fan, I certainly appreciate the excitement for the sports fans of Toronto who are long overdue for some happiness.
If you are exclusively a Leafs fan, you’re getting served up a little bit of happiness today as well…

Hearing from a few sources that the Maple Leafs have quietly been shopping Garret Sparks. The backup goalie, 25, has one year left on his deal paying him $750k.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 14, 2019
That’s right, the Sparks era seems to be coming to a close. That’s really the opposite of a surprise since the team sent him away at the start of the playoffs to work on his game, and based on the fact that he’s being shopped, I’m guessing that intense ten day boot camp didn’t inspire the Leafs decision makers.
The first thing that’s worth noting is that there isn’t going to be much of a return on Sparks. Teams aren’t beating down the doors for 25 year old backups who don’t have the confidence of …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation