Thoughts on the Leafs forwards heading into the playoffs

It seems like stretches without hockey are a rarity. In a lot of ways, with the weather improving, it’s quite welcome. In other ways I just want the season to hurry up and end so we can get on with the playoffs already. This seems to be heightened by the fact that the Leafs can clinch their playoff spot as soon as tomorrow night, as Toronto requires just one more win and one more Vancouver loss to make it happen. If the Leafs top Montreal and Ottawa does a favour for Toronto, we get the “x” next to the Leafs name. If not, Thursday night offers a pretty good opportunity given that the Leafs play against the Canucks. You’d also hope that Leafs come out playing like they have something to prove against Vancouver after their unfortunate showing against the Canucks as they returned from their COVID outbreak.
Here are a few other thoughts that are still rattling around in my head.
Simmonds and Thornton are showing their value
Much has been made of the tougher Leafs over the past two games. Maybe they just really like beating up on the Jets or maybe they are preparing themselves …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Thornton fined for his interference hit on Perreault

Lately it seems like Joe Thornton has been adjusting his style of play to fit with his likely bottom six deployment for the reminder of the season and into the playoffs. With that he’s add a bit of chippiness to his game, that is generally welcome, but crossed a line Thursday night in Winnipeg and received a fine of $3,017.24 for it.

Toronto’s Joe Thornton has been fined $3,017.24, the maximum allowable under the CBA, for Interference on Winnipeg’s Mathieu Perreault.
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) April 23, 2021

Thornton likely to be hearing from @NHLPlayerSafety for this late, high hit on Perreault which sends him to the locker room. Given two minutes for interference. pic.twitter.com/TkQz5Kl4Cd
— NHL Safety Watch (@NHLSafetyWatch) April 23, 2021

The fact that Perreault had no reason to expect a hit coming and of course Perreault’s history of head injuries make the hit concerning, but the good news was that Perreault was able to return to game.
Both teams played hard, physical games and it should make for an interesting Saturday night matchup tomorrow. And while our official statement is we don’t condone reckless hits, the fact that Galchenyuk, Foligno, Thornton, and Simmonds were …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Finding a spot in the lineup for Nick Foligno

The question of where Nick Foligno plays seems like it would have been a lot harder to answer before Alex Edler went knee hunting on Zach Hyman, so the easy answer seems to be, he’ll go where Hyman was, and that’s that.
Well, if you are happy with that answer, thanks for reading, please click on a few ads on your way out.
If you are looking for a more detailed exploration that probably leads you around to a similar conclusion, strap in. We’re going for it.
First, it’s important to note that today is the last day of Foligno’s quarantine from the Leafs. He will not be in the lineup against the Canucks, but he is a virtual lock to be in against the Jets on Thursday. That first game might even be a bit of a tease as the Leafs could be easing him back in to playing after his quarantine and his injury that kept him out of his final games for Columbus. In short, don’t count on him riding shotgun with Matthews and Marner…yet.
Heading into Sunday’s game against the Canucks, the Leafs were rolling
Galchenyuk-Matthews-Marner
Robertson-Tavares-Nylander
Mikheyev-Kerfoot-Hyman


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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Leafs look to snap their losing streak with another game against the Canucks

It seems like every time I tell someone (or write in a pre-game) that I’m not too bothered by a couple Leafs losses, the team decides to pull a “hold my beer” and double down. So yeah, the Leafs are in a bit of a slump – to put it mildly. But the bright side, I guess, is that they’ve managed to steal a few points out of these losses.
It was only a matter of time before Jack Campbell regressed a bit. His start this season was ridiculously impressive, and completely unsustainable. He’s also been bearing a heavy burden, suddenly a starter after coming off injury. Now, Sunday’s game was weird. There was that late Leafs goal that was definitely a goal but wasn’t counted as a goal, so the game went to OT where the Leafs lost. While the team could have played better, Campbell included, it wasn’t exactly some blowout loss, either.
Putting that aside, Sunday’s game also saw this hit on Zach Hyman:

Breaking News: #Canucks Alex Edler has been suspended 2 games for kneeing #LeafsForever Zach Hyman. pic.twitter.com/vwvHlI92wh
— Hockey Hound (@HockeyHoundShow) April 19, 2021

Alex Edler was ejected …

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Author: Mer / The Leafs Nation

The Curious case of Benjamin Hutton and what he brings to the Leafs

It seems like Ben Hutton becoming a Leaf has been a long time in the making. Hutton has always been one of those defensive defensemen that avoids scrutiny from the numbers crunchers by being a solid shot suppressor, and one that actually plays minutes. In fact, over his six year NHL career, Hutton averages just under 20 minutes a night at 19:48, and he’s been playing 18:31 on average this season as well.

Looking at Ben Hutton, in all situations over the past couple of years, he’s excelled. Last season he was in the 55th percentile of all skaters, and this year numbers have slid marginally, but still show him to be a capable third pairing defender. While Hutton isn’t an overly physical player, he’s not lacking in that ability, and given his defensive, and penalty killing usage, he’ll certainly be a shot blocker on the point.
One of the things that certainly stands out from the numbers on Hutton is that he is certainly underpaid in comparison to what he does, and that’s a big reason why he was targeted for the Leafs. Toronto’s blueline has enjoyed an incredible run of health this year (*knocks …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Grading the Leafs trade deadline

Grading the Leafs trade deadline

It’s seems like only yesterday it was the trade deadline. And now that we’ve had a mountain of time to reflect back on it, and consider the performances of the players who have shuffled around the league, it’s time to grade the Leafs on the same scale that restaurants select their meat on. Fun. The question was simple, how would you grade the Leafs trade deadline?
Filipe Dimas:
B+
The team absolutely improved, there’s no question about that. Did they improve enough to vault themselves from contenders to cup favourites? Probably not, but it doesn’t seem like the opportunity to do so was there.
When the most desired trade piece was a controversial player who has scored only two goals this season, you can’t fault Dubas and the management team for not making a true blockbuster trade.
The Leafs are grittier, more experienced, and better at keeping the puck out of the net than they were two days ago, which is as much as anyone could have asked for.
While some people may be disappointed that Dubas didn’t pull a magic trick to add Taylor Hall, Jack Eichel and Mecha-Hasek from the Sabres …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Alex Kerfoot is not a salary dump, but a trade asset

It seems like the Leafs are going to go to great lengths to make sure that they can keep their whole lineup together and add still add at the deadline (or before) through waiting for their cap space to align perfectly, and deal prospects or picks to get what they want. If their trade partner is willing to retain 50% of the salary the Leafs are nearing the point where adding a player with a near $4M cap hit is possible. Still they may want to do more than that, go bigger than that, and in those situations salary will need to come off the roster and the most likely salary to be shipped out is Alex Kerfoot.
In the past the Leafs have always had a bad contract that they needed to dump, and with the exception of this last year of Frederik Andersen, that bad contract doesn’t really seem to exist on the Leafs, the problem is that of the non-core players there doesn’t really seem to be any significant salary attached to a player beyond the $3.5M attached to Alex Kerfoot.
Once you get past the fact that Alex Kerfoot is not Nazem Kadri, it becomes …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Arizona Coyotes seem like ideal sellers for the buyer Leafs

If there seems to be one consistent thing about the Arizona Coyotes, they always seem to have an interesting collection of pieces, but none of them ever seem to fit together. Or they are broken. No one does injuries quite like the Coyotes do, and that’s probably their greatest undoing, besides ownership, management, coaching, etc, but health definitely seems like it’s in the top four. While this continues to be bad for Arizona hockey fans (is it plural? I never know), it has the potential to be good for the Leafs, who should be interested in a few of the players on the Coyotes.
Here are five options worth considering from the Coyotes:
1. Conor Garland
The fact that Garland is available, or at least teams are asking about him is interesting. He’s certainly priced right for Arizona at the moment, but all that changes in a few months when he’s an arbitration eligible restricted free agent. He’s certainly been performing for Arizona, his 25 points in 30 games is good enough to lead the team, and his 9 goals put him behind only Clayton Keller’s 10 for the team lead there too.
So that’s why this tidbit …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Our customizable consolidated 2021 NHL Entry Draft Ranking dashboard

It seems strange to talk about the draft for a few reasons. The first is that this is a Leafs blog, and the Leafs are sitting at the top of the league. They are going to be picking late in the first and the player they draft isn’t going to be a focus for a number of years. This isn’t the decade of darkness where the first round pick was what pulled us in off the ledge from after a torturous season. Or in the case of the post Kessel trade years, it was salt in the wound as we saw Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton get selected with the Leafs pick. Frankly the pick isn’t that important anymore because we are no longer searching for the faces of the franchise, the draft has already gifted us Rielly, Nylander, Marner, and, of course, Matthews.
The other reason it seems a little strange is that no one at this point has any idea of if or when the 2021 draft will take place. There is talk of it being pushed back until December, or potentially a double draft next summer. As such there hasn’t been a lot of …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Morgan Rielly and Toronto’s complicated relationship with offensive defensemen

It seems with Tyson Barrie gone there is another offensive defenseman drawing heat from Leafs fans in the early days of the season, and it’s Morgan Rielly. We’ll start with an acknowledgement that Morgan Rielly’s stats have been pretty crappy this year. Rielly has the lowest xG% of any Leafs defender, and for a player who is more offensively driven, the fact that he only has one primary point to his name is a bit bothersome as well. In contrast to those numbers it should be acknowledged that once again the Leafs are asking Rielly to start the year with a new defensive partner, and one that plays a significantly different style than his previous one. Is that enough of an excuse, for some of you yes, for others no, and that’s why it’s always complicated when it comes to Toronto and offensive defensemen.
Larry Murphy is definitely the name that sticks out the most when discussing defensemen with high offensive acumen, but liabilities in their own zone. Murphy didn’t have the benefit of playing in an era where underlying shot statistics existed and as such was much more of a hard case than …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation