Leaflets: Giordano signing is a great start, defensive offer sheets, and what’s next for Simmonds

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Leaflets post so rather than just simply doing one, I’ve decided to commit to this as a regular Monday thing going forward. Consider Leaflets a small dose of my correct bad opinions for you to get mad at. It seemed like it was going to be a quiet long weekend, but much to delight of everyone, Kyle Dubas showed he was hard at work getting a former Norris Trophy winner back at a bargain price, so let’s start there.
The Giordano signing is impossible to hate
I immediately regret that assessment, as there is a pocket of Leafs fans outraged over Jason Spezza being around at all despite making league minimum and still putting together stretches of productive hockey. I am confident someone while emerge to teach us why Mark Giordano at two years for $800k AAV is bad, but for now let’s focus on all the reasons it’s good including when we last saw Mark Giordano a few weeks ago he still seemed like a perfectly capable middle pairing, or stellar bottom pairing option for the blueline.
So first off, this is a player at the end of his career signaling to his teammates that he believes the Leafs provide him the best opportunity …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs did make progress, but it was still not good enough

It has been almost a week since it happened and it sometimes doesn’t feel real that the same outcome occurred yet again.
The Leafs have now played in 10 games with a chance to close out a playoff series and have failed to do just that. They have also played in five consecutive winner-take-all games and have lost all of them, becoming the first team to do so in the history of the NHL/MLB/NBA. The odds of this occurring are so rare (0.0036%) that they were more likely to accidentally win a series than lose five straight in this manner.
Being 18 years from their last series win, we are left with questions as to what went wrong and why the best Leafs team on paper couldn’t finish the job. Compared to last year, the stars were not the reason why this series was lost. This is especially true in Game 7 as all of the core four pieces played excellent hockey and could only get one goal past Andrei Vasilevskiy (it should have been two but that’s a whole other story).
After the Leafs blew a 3-1 series lead to the Canadiens in an embarrassing fashion, I wrote about the need for the Leafs to make a big change because whatever it was that they were doing wasn’t going to cut it if they were to take the next step in their evolution. While we are sitting here waiting for the Leafs to win their first postseason series since 2004, there are both reasons to feel optimistic about their future and frustrated that nothing has changed. It’s a much better outcome than how things went a season prior which is what led us to this …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

Bluelines: Is tonight the night for the Leafs?

It’s been 18 years since the Leafs have won a round. I know this because anytime our Twitter account shares something remotely positive about the Leafs we receive a flurry of uninspired responses from around hockey twitter reminding us of exactly this fact.
Maybe, just maybe, tonight is different.
IT’S GONNA HAPPEN!!! vs. emotional hedging
Tonight the bigger payout comes from Beleafing, The Moneyline for Toronto is +115, while Tampa is paying at -136. Tonight I’m choosing to believe in Toronto if for no other reason than when I woke up this morning it felt like things are going to be different (this is always great reasoning for how to put your money down. Be better than me.)
Spezza dragging the Leafs kicking in screaming into the second round
Last game Spezza did his best to motivate the Leafs, this time he might decide to take matters into his own hands more directly. Betting on Spezza to pick up a goal pays at +650.
Leafs have been slow out the gate
At no point in my years of following the Leafs have they ever chosen to do things the easy way. Given their slow starts in the past couple of games, I’m considering going with another rocky start and taking advantage of the +850 payout on th …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Determining the optimal Leafs defensive pairings using WOWYs

Since the return of Jake Muzzin to the Leafs lineup it seems that the Leafs have been undergoing an attempt to optimize their blueline for the playoffs and with nine games remaining it’s likely we’ll see a number of unique pairings that haven’t been considered before a couple of dress rehearsals with the likely duos.
While there are flaws to WOWYs, some of which include minimal context and smaller sample sizes, I decided to take a look at what seems like they’d be the top 5v5 pairings moving forward for the Leafs. Starting with TJ Brodie, who plays the most 5v5 for the Leafs, I’ve paired the top minute defenders with their best statistical partner.
T.J. Brodie
With
TOI With
CA/60
CF% With
GA/60
GF% With
HDCA/60
HDCF% With
HDGA/60
HDGF% With
Morgan Rielly
794.63
53.16
52.24
2.49
54.17
11.93
48.87
1.81
44.19
Justin Holl
304.40
49.87
53.23
2.56
51.85
8.48
62.28
1.38
58.82
Jake Muzzin
127.67
53.58
56.82
2.82
40.00
11.28
56.36
1.41
25.00
Rasmus Sandin
33.67
74.85
40.00
3.56
33.33
12.48
30.00
3.56
0.00
Timothy Liljegren
25.97
43.90
53.66
2.31
66.67
13.86
45.45
2.31
0.00
Ilya Lyubushkin
14.23
80.09
45.71
0.00
100.00
21.08
28.57
0.00
100.00
Mark Giordano
10.22
46.98
57.89
0.00
100.00
11.75
33.33
0.00
100.00
Pair with Holl. The eye test has been awfully cruel to Justin Holl this season. At times it seems he’s facing the opposite direction, and at a complete loss for who to cover when playing in the high danger areas of the Leafs zone. Despite these negative perceptions of him, a number of the Leafs defensemen either played their best hockey with him on the ice with them, or close to it.
Holl’s WOWYs:
With
Position
TOI With
CA/60
CF% With
GA/60
GF% With
HDCA/60
HDCF% With
HDGA/60
HDGF% With
Jake Muzzin
D
449.70
59.37
50.11
3.34
41.86
11.21
54.35
1.60
47.83
TJ Brodie
D
304.40
49.87
53.23
2.56
51.85
8.48
62.28
1.38
58.82
Rasmus Sandin
D
132.80
52.86
52.44
1.81
66.67
9.49
58.82
1.36
57.14
Morgan Rielly
D
40.77
48.57
68.27
2.94
77.78
13.25
57.14
1.47
83.33
Mark Giordano
D
38.72
55.79
50.00
6.20
33.33
7.75
54.55
4.65
40.00
Maybe this Simpson’s quote applies to Justin Holl: “I think Smithers picked me because of my motivational skills. Everyone says they have to work a lot harder when I’m around.”
Whatever the reason, playing Holl with Brodie makes sense, and it’s not surprising that Keefe had been trying that more and more prior to the return of Jake Muzzin.
Morgan Rielly
With
TOI With
CA/60
CF% With
GA/60
GF% With
HDCA/60
HDCF% With
HDGA/60
HDGF% With
TJ Brodie
794.63
53.16
52.24
2.49
54.17
11.93
48.87
1.81
44.19
Ilya Lyubushkin
172.50
56.35
51.35
3.13
50.00
9.74
58.21
1.04
50.00
Timothy Liljegren
130.15
55.32
59.60 …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

This is the most playoff ready team of the Matthews era for the Leafs

It’s been 17 years since the Maple Leafs last won a playoff series, but could this finally be the year they do it?
Well, maybe. It’s really 50/50 to be exact.
Ever since Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner joined the organization, the team’s goal has been to bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto. However, the first round has gotten in their way five times (if you count the qualifying round in 2020).
Toronto has pushed to the maximum amount of games in a series each year, except for their first playoff berth of the Matthews era against the Washington Capitals back in 2017.
Three 4-3 losses — two against the Boston Bruins — one against the Montreal Canadiens where Toronto was up 3-1 in the series. I’m sure you remember that one most clearly.
This year, though, the Maple Leafs look like a more playoff-ready team. They acquired Mark Giordano and Colin Blackwell on deadline day while also getting Ilya Lyubushkin a few weeks earlier. Each of those transactions has improved the team a lot on the back-end, and I’d say has made them more confident heading into the post-season.
On defence in particular, the Maple Leafs are deeper than ever. Toronto could have a top pairing of Morgan Rielly and Lyubushkin, a second pairing o …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs meet the challenge of physical Bruins but lose three players to injury

BOSTON – It had been 889 days since the Toronto Maple Leafs last visited TD Garden, but it was as tough a place to play as they remembered.
Even though the Boston Bruins didn’t hurt them in the standings, their physicality took its toll on the Leafs.
The Maple Leafs defeated the Bruins 6-4 on Tuesday and while they managed to hang on for an important win in a heated race atop the Atlantic Division, they lost three players to injury.
Petr Mrazek suffered his third groin injury of the season early in the period. It’s unclear the exact moment the goaltender was hurt, but after what appeared to be a routine save, he motioned to the bench and began to stretch his legs. When the faceoff came back to his own end on the next play, he was unable to continue and immediately left to the dressing room.
“We don’t know the severity of it and we’ll get a greater sense of what the situation is in the coming days,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Franchise Hockey Manager 8 predicts the rest of Rasmus Sandin’s career

It has been quite some time since I last did a career simulation focusing on a Leaf, with the most recent one being Jack Campbell. After putting the series on hold for three months, the desire to do another one came back recently and I was eager to give this another go.
Back in February, I tweeted a poll asking people which Leaf they wanted to see next as the focus for my next career sim using Franchise Hockey Manager 8. As you can tell by the title of this post, Rasmus Sandin was the undisputed winner and he will be the subject of my latest simulation.
Sandin has impressed and made significant progress since being taken 29th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry draft. Barely halfway through his second pro-season, he got called up to the Leafs and has more or less remained a fixture with the team despite a lack of playing time in 2021. His first full season has shown lots of promise and growing pains that are typical of a 22-year-old, and now will likely be missing significant time due to a knee injury. It’s clear that he will remain an integral piece in the organization for years to come, but what lies in store for him? That’s where FHM 8 comes in.
If this is your first time reading one of these, this is my tenth post where I use a video game to get an idea as to how careers will pan out. I should preface by saying that you should not take the results of this simulation as biblical proof of what lies ahead for Sandin, but the hope is you have fun going on this long journey with me. The previous nine entries are linked below if you want to catch up or to read after this one:
Mitch Marner career sim
William Nylander career sim
Auston Matthews career sim
Frederik Andersen career sim
What if Alexis …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

Leaflets: Some Leafs trade deadline targets, goaltending, and the KHL

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Leaflets post, so here’s another attempt at turning a bunch of my half-thoughts into a full post. The fact that I’m running a fever should add to my tendency to err on the side of hot takes. In the spirit of that, it’s time to get weird with it.
Revisiting some old Miles Wood appreciation
I’m sure if I took the time to look back there wouldn’t be any shortage of mentions of Miles Wood from me and some of the other writers on this site last trade deadline and throughout the offseason of Wood being a great fit for Toronto.
Wood was New Jersey’s next Blake Coleman to unleash on the world, and in a perfect world for them, they’d probably be trying to land a first for him heading into the trade deadline. The fact that Miles Wood hasn’t played all year has probably hurt that but he was a 17 goal scorer in 55 games last season shouldn’t erase all interest in him.

While the Devils won’t get their first, I wonder if they’d be open to more of a hockey trade and take on someone like Travis Dermott in exchange for Wood. Or whether a mid-round 2023 pick is enough to rent a player who hasn’t played all year. Wood could be a way of the Leafs addressing their second-line winger need in an affordable way while using their “one bullet” on a top-tier defenseman.
The best defense is a good defensive forward
One of the things that has been noticeably improved this season is the contribution of Leafs forwards in their own zone. Arguably the Leafs’ defensemen haven’t improved much defensively, the Leafs’ goaltending recently has been on par with the worst of Frederik Andersen last season …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

How I’d fix NHL All-Star weekend

For the first time since 2020, there will be an NHL All-Star game to look forward to this weekend.
With Las Vegas being the host of the festivities this year, there have been two new events added to the skills competition. That only means more fun.
The first event is called “Fountain Face-Off” which will be played on the Fountains of Bellagio. Players will have to take boats to the rink at the centre of the fountain. Once arrived, they will be timed to see who can put pucks into five targets the fastest.
                                            Photo of the event

The second event is called “Las Vegas NHL 21 in ’22” and it’s basically blackjack with a hockey element. A full deck of cards will be hanging and each player will need to hit them to get a hand of 21, in the least amount of shots.
Along with those two events will be the others, which we’ve seen before. The hardest shot, save-streak, accuracy challenge, and the skills portion.
But I’m happy to acknowledge that for the first time since 2016, the breakaway challenge has returned.
Once again, the skills competition will be fun to watch.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of excitement in the skills competition already, but having the breakaway challenge back will be fitting, especially in a building like T-Mobile Arena.
It’s essentially the NHL’s slam dunk competition.
While all of that is exciting news for everyone involved, there’s still things that I’d like to see changed in the future. And no, it doesn’t involve any changes to the events.
Change to the way players are picked
There are some question marks when you look at the format of how players are selected to be in the All-Star Game. The first question I have is why does there need to be a player from …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Acquiring William Lagesson for free would be wonderful, but the Leafs aren’t the only team that should be interested

It seems like it’s been forever since there was someone worthwhile on waivers. The reality of COVID and the value of depth, mixed with taxi squads has made it so players you wouldn’t normally touch with a ten foot pole are getting claimed, and worthwhile depth players are finally being treated as a commodity. That is except for the Oilers, who remain one of the great mysteries of hockey, and despite having chronic blueline issues decided they should waive one of their statistically best defensemen yesterday.

Edmonton Oilers place defenceman William Lagesson on waivers https://t.co/Zm87oTgy6o
— Oilersnation.com, Oily Since ‘07 (@OilersNation) January 18, 2022

Presumably today the Oilers and their fans will be too focused on the pissy-ness status of Leon Draisaitl to care that one of their best defenders is going to play somewhere else as of 2pm, but they should probably care a little based on some of the information below…

EDM waived Lagesson…but he has great underlyings, albeit in a small sample. Any reason for this Oiler fans? pic.twitter.com/Xqn0Pfg8bx
— Kent Wilson (@Kent_Wilson) January 18, 2022

With an acknowledgement that Lagesson’s minutes are pillow soft compared to Darnell Nurse, it’s interesting to see that Lagesson is at the top of the Oilers defensemen in both xGF%, and CF%. He’s only played 10 games, and hasn’t played a lot in the games he’s been in, but he’s certainly been a bright spot compared the murderer’s row of dead cap space in Keith, Ceci, and Barrie.
Now, I really like Lagesson. Just this weekend I was trying to make a case for trading for him…
The Maple Leafs don’t need a top four defenseman, they need a top four defenseman who can defend

Lagesson is a cheap ($725k) option that is either going to be a RFA this summer, …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation