Michael Bunting is just what the Leafs need, but they still need to identify where

It feels strange to say that a 26 year old rookie making less than $1M/yr might not be ready for the Leafs top six, and be prepared to meet resistance from making that statement, but here we are. Bunting, who has been very solid with four goals, and seven total points through his first 16 games with the Leafs is doing what could have reasonably been expected of him, but at the same time, I can’t help but wonder if his modest success is coming at the cost of slowing down the Leafs top six.
Earlier in the year it was the case for Nick Ritchie. He simply wasn’t a fit with Tavares and Marner and then Matthews and Marner. As time progressed onward we found ourselves with Michael Bunting seeing time with the Auston Matthews line, and what we’ve seen is a steady cooling off of Bunting’s game as well as a number of question marks around how well Auston has been doing this year. Presumably, this duo isn’t a match, and Bunting could be better off in a sheltered situation alongside Alex Kerfoot, assuming that placing him back at center is an option again.


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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, and Marcus Semien win Silver Slugger Awards

Despite not making the playoffs, Blue Jays’ players continue to win awards for what is the biggest “what-if” season.  After Marcus Semien won the Gold Glove, Vlad Jr. won the Hank Aaron and a bunch of players got nominated for either the MVP, All-MLB, and Cy Young, there are three new award winners.

It was announced that the Jays have three Silver Sluggers: Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Marcus Semien, and Teoscar Hernandez.
This is Teoscar Hernandez’s second straight Silver Slugger award and wow, has he ever developed into a key part of a contending team. Teoscar will become a UFA in 2024, but the Jays should look to sign him well before then.
Vlad was a given. Not much has to be said here except for the fact that the 22-year-old will win an MVP award within the next three years. Vlad is fantastic.
It’s looking as if Semien taking the short-term deal will pay off massively for him. Not only did he win the Silver Slugger, but he also won a Gold Glove, finished third in MVP voting, and had one of the best seasons for a middle infielder in history. The Jays may not be able to re-sign …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

TLN Three Stars: Leafs’ Halloween victory was scarier than it needed to be

The Leafs definitely like making things interesting with little time left eh?
Building on the momentum gained from their win in Chicago on Wednesday and the good news of Rielly’s extension yesterday, the Leafs came out at the start of this game like they were shot out of a cannon. With a new-look defence that was pretty good (Justin Holl may never play again), a Bertuzzi-less Red Wings on the second half of a back-to-back, and an energized John Tavares line, the Leafs scored more than three goals in a game for the first time this season. For their credit, the Red Wings battled back and nearly tied it with mere seconds remaining, but the Leafs held on and won 5-4, picking up a victory in consecutive games for the first time this year.
Before we get to the three stars of the night, I wanna give some stick taps to a couple of players who are not getting stars, but still played great tonight. First of all: Bunting and Spezza for that excellent connection on the power play goal. Sandin and Liljegren showed the makings of an excellent pairing for the team going forward, Sandin in particular was …

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Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation

Santiago Espinal’s unexpected breakout in 2021 has him on the radar for more playing time in the future

After making his major league debut in 2020, the Toronto Blue Jays likely weren’t expecting much from infielder Santiago Espinal heading into this past season, however, the 26-year-old has quickly emerged into a reliable piece for this organization as the 2021-22 off-season nears.
Looking back on his breakout performance from the 2021 season, there’s no question Espinal’s campaign didn’t begin on an encouraging note as he was positioned behind veteran Joe Panik on the team’s depth chart when Opening Day rolled around. As a result, the young infielder’s playing time was limited out of the gate, preventing him from making much of an impact.
Whereas for Panik, the 30-year-old opened the regular season as Toronto’s primary backup infielder, and with Cavan Biggio underperforming along with battling through a neck injury, the 2014 World Series champion occupied a regular role on the diamond early on.
But at this stage of his career, the former San Francisco Giant couldn’t provide much upside, particularly from an offensive standpoint, resulting in some very troubling metrics through the first month of the season – even for his suboptimal hitting standards.
Proving to be largely ineffective at the plate over his first 42 …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation

Toronto Raptors: Chris Boucher ruled out for weeks with finger injury

Toronto Raptors: Chris Boucher ruled out for weeks with finger injury

The Toronto Raptors are making their return to Canada against the Philadelphia 76ers tonight, and with that comes renewed optimism about the success of the team in the 2021-22 season. Power forward Chris Boucher figured to be a big part of the equation when it came to propelling the squad to wins. While he made […]
Toronto Raptors: Chris Boucher ruled out for weeks with finger injury – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Toronto Raptors: 3 potential acquisitions Raps must keep an eye on

Toronto Raptors: 3 potential acquisitions Raps must keep an eye on

The Toronto Raptors appear to be all done making additions this summer, as Masai Ujiri has populated this roster with a handful of players that will be rotation mainstays and players like Isaac Bonga and Freddie Gillespie that are hoping to use their non-guaranteed contracts to make the final roster. However, Ujiri and this front […]
Toronto Raptors: 3 potential acquisitions Raps must keep an eye on – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is peaking at the perfect time of the season

Since making his Major League debut in 2018, generating consistent offensive results has been one of the biggest areas of concern for outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., however, that certainly hasn’t been the case for him recently.
While the 27-year-old displayed flashes of his potential throughout the first half of this season, maintaining his offensive production over an extended period remained a key issue, which largely prevented the bottom third of the Toronto Blue Jays’ lineup from making a significant impact. As a result, the offence struggled to turn over the batting order at times, limiting the number of scoring opportunities for the top half of the lineup.
Though this offence experienced its worst slump of the season during the middle of August, they’ve done an excellent job at recovering since then, and while accomplishing this feat has been a group effort, Gurriel Jr. has been one of the main forces behind this team’s recent hot streak.
Sure, almost every player on the 28-man roster has served a critical role in helping the Blue Jays win 15 of their last 17 games, but from an offensive standpoint, no one has enjoyed a stronger resurgence than the 6’4″ left fielder. Despite still …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation

Raptors: Where does Fred VanVleet rank among East point guards?

Raptors: Where does Fred VanVleet rank among East point guards?

The Toronto Raptors are making a huge change at point guard this season, as the end of the Kyle Lowry era means that Fred VanVleet is in line to succeed him as the team’s point guard following Lowry’s magnificent near-decade at the helm. VanVleet’s 19.6 points and 6.3 assists per game, numbers that are a […]
Raptors: Where does Fred VanVleet rank among East point guards? – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Toronto Raptors disrespected in 2021-22 NBA championship odds

Toronto Raptors disrespected in 2021-22 NBA championship odds

The Toronto Raptors’ odds of making the postseason took a huge hit as soon as they were forced to play in Florida, as the combination of a weakened roster, injury problems, and the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a relocation to Tampa for the season made it almost impossible for the squad to ever get into any […]
Toronto Raptors disrespected in 2021-22 NBA championship odds – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Playoff Preview: What to expect from the Leafs forward group

For the last five years of the Leafs making the postseason, the forwards have always been their strong suit. Between that first wave of young talent in 2016 with Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Hyman, the big fish free agent signing of Tavares in 2018, and the veteran depth of Spezza, Thornton, Simmonds, and Foligno acquired over the last couple seasons, the Leafs have always boasted a strong, deep forward group, highlighted by that high end top six.
This forward group is going to be the key to them winning a playoff series, or even a Stanley Cup. Montreal has a deep lineup of four middle six lines, but it’s their lack of top end talent that the Leafs have that will be key. Edmonton has McDavid and Draisaitl to match that top end talent, but they lack the depth that Toronto has in the bottom six which allows teams to hyperfocus on shutting down that two headed monster on the Oilers.
Having four lines that can generate offense and shut it down defensively (or at least do one of the two very well) is a huge factor to going deep in the playoffs, and that’s been part of the Leafs …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation