BJN Radio – Ep. 72: Picking the Blue Jays’ MVP for April, taking a look around the American League East, and more!

That was certainly a much better April than the one we saw last year.

The Blue Jays are 15-8 after their first month (though it was an abbreviated one) and they’ve managed to have all of this success despite some key injuries and the bats not being at their best.
We took a look at the series win over the Houston Astros and talked about George Springer dominating his former team, Kevin Gausman’s continued brilliance, and some optimism that Bo Bichette might soon turn a corner. After that, we talked about who Toronto’s Most Valuable Player has been early on and then took a spin around the American League East and looked at how baseball’s deepest division is doing so far.
Finally, we previewed the upcoming series against the Yankees, who are riding a nine-game winning streak. While the Yankees are undoubtedly a good team, a lot of their success has come against weak opponents, so this series in Toronto will be a test for them.
You can listen to the episode here…

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

The Maple Leafs have become a tougher team to play against

The Maple Leafs are a lot tougher than last season, period.
Looking at the potential matchups for Toronto in the first round, it’s either the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both teams have been a tough team for the Maple Leafs in the past, but not so much anymore.
There was a lot of discussion about Thursday’s game against Tampa and it had a lot of fans wondering whether Toronto could keep up physically in a seven-game series. I, personally, didn’t feel like the Maple Leafs were pushed around at all.

Blackwell goes for Paul pic.twitter.com/IcD7QUnn5z
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) April 22, 2022

Whenever there were scrums, plenty of players from Toronto weren’t afraid to step in. There was one instance where Wayne Simmonds and Pat Maroon dropped the gloves and the Lightning player ended up not wanting much of a part in the fisticuffs.

Wayne Simmonds and Pat Maroon drop em pic.twitter.com/c5InwQuDmy
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) April 22, 2022

I believe that when you look at the physical battle the Maple Leafs are going to face, you have to wonder how much they’re going to throw their own weight around. There will be players like Mark Giordano, Ilya Lyubushkin, Jake Muzzin, Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Clifford, Auston Matthews, Michael Bunting, and even Mitch Marner using physicality to their advantage.
Marner, in particular, has eight games this season where he’s thrown three or more hits. The 24-year-old has more 3+ hit games this season than he’s had in his previous five year’s combined.
If you can get him throwing the body along with putting up career point totals in the playoffs, another head is added to the monster that is Toronto.
When looking at the Maple Leafs team as a whole, you have the tough, physical players. But the team also has guys who can outmuscle and outbattle the opposing team for the puck and positioning. Some of those players include John Tavares, Pierre Engvall, David Kampf, Ilya Mikheyev, Morgan Rielly, an …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Raptors Game Tonight: Raptors vs Heat Odds, Starting Lineup, Injury Report, Predictions, TV Channel for Apr. 3

Raptors Game Tonight: Raptors vs Heat Odds, Starting Lineup, Injury Report, Predictions, TV Channel for Apr. 3

This is more than just a garden variety Toronto Raptors home game. This represents Kyle Lowry’s first game in Toronto as a member of the visiting team. The most recent Raptors odds have them to pull off their sixth straight win against one of their most iconic players ever. This game is as important for […]
Raptors Game Tonight: Raptors vs Heat Odds, Starting Lineup, Injury Report, Predictions, TV Channel for Apr. 3 – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Leafs looking to get physical with the Jets

Is there anything better than a revenge game against Winnipeg?
Yes. Many things. It largely sucks whenever we give the Jets a second thought, but following the last meeting, there is likely some unsettled business between the two teams.
The timing of this grudge match comes at both a good and bad time. Having Muzzin unavailable for it, and the Leafs potentially either sitting Lyubushkin and Holl or playing them at less than 100% certainly isn’t ideal, but the Leafs having to play a greasy team following Boston, and being able to continue to ramp up their team toughness in advance of the playoffs is certainly something we should want to see.
It’s probably worth taking a look at where the Leafs are sitting from a team toughness perspective, starting with the most questionable of measures, hits.
Player
Position
GP
TOI/GP
Hits/60
Hits Taken/60
HiT Dif/60
Kristians Rubins
D
3
11.75
20.43
10.21
10.22
Brett Seney
L
2
7.02
12.83
12.83
0.00
Ilya Lyubushkin
D
17
16.06
12.08
8.57
3.51
Kyle Clifford
L
14
8.54
12.04
16.06
-4.02
Nick Ritchie
L
33
11.99
11.98
6.37
5.61
Colin Blackwell
C
4
10.08
11.91
8.93
2.98
Alex Biega
D
2
13.12
11.44
4.57
6.87
Wayne Simmonds
R
60
9.45
11.32
6.35
4.97
Kirill Semyonov
C
3
10.04
7.97
3.98
3.99
Michael Amadio
C
3
9.16
6.55
2.18
4.37
Rasmus Sandin
D
51
16.96
6.10
6.94
-0.84
Nicholas Robertson
L
9
10.01
5.99
9.32
-3.33
Jake Muzzin
D
41
21.01
5.85
7.11
-1.26
Justin Holl
D
55
20.46
5.28
7.89
-2.61
Mark Giordano
D
4
20.20
5.20
6.68
-1.48
Timothy Liljegren
D
48
16.02
4.68
8.04
-3.36
Travis Dermott
D
43
14.72
4.08
4.27
-0.19
David Kampf
C
66
15.04
3.87
4.96
-1.09
Joey Anderson
R
4
7.79
3.85
9.63
-5.78
Michael Bunting
L
66
15.62
3.78
4.66
-0.88
Pierre Engvall
L
62
12.77
3.71
7.28
-3.57
Alexander Kerfoot
C
66
15.22
3.58
7.29
-3.71
John Tavares
C
65
18.04
3.53
3.84
-0.31
Ilya Mikheyev
R
37
14.88
3.05
4.03
-0.98
Auston Matthews
C
61
20.46
2.64
4.23
-1.59
Alex Steeves
C
3
7.97
2.51
5.02
-2.51
Ondrej Kase
R
50
13.98
2.49
5.32
-2.83
Morgan Rielly
D
66
23.99
2.46
3.75
-1.29
Mitchell Marner
R
57
20.77
2.38
2.53
-0.15
Jason Spezza
C
60
10.87
2.02
3.04
-1.02
TJ Brodie
D
66
21.48
1.57
5.21
-3.64
William Nylander
R
66
18.25
0.75
3.44
-2.69
Carl Dahlstrom
D
1
12.50
0.00
14.40
-14.40
data from Natural Stat Trick, greyed out means not on the current roster
Certainly, hits aren’t the full story. For instance take Ondrej Kase, who plays an incredibly hard game, going to tough parts of the ice, and doesn’t back away from any chippiness. His numbers being on the lower side certainly don’t account for his style of play. On the other side of things, you have players like Kyle Clifford who fit the adage of you can only get credit for a hit when you don’t have the puck. His overall benefit to team toughness is questionable. From what we can see the additions of Lyubushkin and Blackwell improve the Leafs on the hitting front, and even Mark Giordano is on the more aggressive side of the curve for the Leafs.
What we’ve seen recently is that players like Mitch Marner are more engaged p …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Top prospects Orelvis Martinez and Gabriel Moreno among the 15 Blue Jays sent to minor-league camp

With Opening Day less than two weeks away, the Blue Jays have started to make some cuts.

The team sent 15 players down to minor-league camp on Monday. Eight of them are 40-man roster players who were optioned and the other seven are non-roster invitees.
Optioned: Hagen Danner, Bowden Francis, Thomas Hatch, Leo Jimenez, Anthony Kay, Otto Lopez, Gabriel Moreno, Josh Palacios.
Reassigned: Chris Bec, Maximo Castillo, Adrian Hernandez, Casey Lawrence, Orelvis Martinez, Fitz Stadler, Chavez Young.
The headliners here, of course, are Orelvis Martinez and Gabriel Moreno, who currently rank as the organization’s top prospects on most lists.
Martinez was incredibly impressive during Grapefruit play, going 4-for-13 with a pair of dingers, while Moreno hasn’t yet seen any game action because of a visa issue. Since he’s only 20 years old and isn’t on the 40-man, there was never any chance that Martinez would crack the Blue Jays, but since Moreno was added to the roster over the winter ahead of the Rule 5 Draft, there was some thought he could steal a spot.
The Blue Jays will likely roll with three catchers (Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, and Alejandro Kirk), so Moreno will get plenty of time behind the plate for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons off the hop. Martinez’s spring showing was so good that he could start the sea …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Rumours Update: Leafs had trade with Chicago for Fleury and Hagel that fell through

We’re less than 48 hours away from the NHL trade deadline and things have gotten very spicy more recently.
The Maple Leafs are reportedly looking for a goalie, defenceman, and a forward, which would help bolster their team. And according to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Kyle Dubas had a trade with Chicago lined up, but it fell through.

Here’s a deal that didn’t happen. Chicago and Toronto discussed Hagel and Fleury to the Leafs for Mrazek, Matthew Knies and 1st round picks. Never reached a stage where Fleury was asked officially to waive. Toronto declined based on the futures involved…1/2
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 19, 2022

Toronto sees promise in Woll and Kallgren and most definitely, Jack Campbell. It was a massive ask on the futures and potentially a portion of those futures can be used on shoring up Toronto’s D. Turns out…Chicago got a huge return for Hagel from Tampa Bay.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 19, 2022

The Tampa Bay Lightning were the team that struck a deal with Chicago for Brandon Hagel. Tampa sent two first-round picks along with two young forwards to the Blackhawks.
It seems smart for Dubas and the Maple Leafs to do this since Matthew Knies rose to become one of the top prospects in their system. Dreger said Toronto was going to give up multiple first-round picks in exchange, which would’ve been a bad decision.
In the end, the trade just didn’t work out and both teams went their separate ways.
After reading this tweet, it looks like the Maple Leafs will not be looking for a goaltender anymore. Erik Källgren’s two wins and .963 save percentage has allowed for some breathing room in Toronto and they could roll with him until Jack Campbell returns from injury.
If that’s the case and Tor …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Rumour Update: Friedman reporting Leafs interest in Lindholm, Motte, and…Chara?

We’re fewer than five days away from the trade deadline, and tonight is probably the last written 32 Thoughts from Elliotte Friedman before all hell breaks loose. Thankfully Elliotte doesn’t disappoint and gives us a number of Leafs’ thoughts to further reflect on.
4. Toronto GM Kyle Dubas continues to indicate he does not want to trade his top prospects for a rental. And, he does not want to move the team’s first-round draft choice for the third time in four years. We’ll see how the Chiarot deal adjusts the market. I believe Lindholm is the Maple Leafs’ top target, although they’ve also taken long looks at Giordano, Philadelphia’s Justin Braun, Dallas’s John Klingberg and San Jose’s Jacob Middleton. Travis Dermott and Justin Holl have been on the market for months, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dermott is given a fresh start, regardless of what else happens in the next few days.
So there are a lot of takeaways in this thought. It’s nice to have the reassurances that Kyle Dubas isn’t ready to sacrifice the future for the present if he doesn’t have to. The catch to that way of thinking is that probably erases Hampus Lindholm from the list of possibilities. At least in theory.
That theory is immediately thrown out by Lindholm being listed as a top target for the Leafs. Of the players listed, Lindholm is having the worst statist …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Assessing the Leafs’ trade chips ahead of the deadline

The trade deadline is now less than two weeks away and not only are the Leafs expected to be buyers, but they also have multiple needs to address before then.
Most of the discussion has been centered around which players the Leafs might be able to bring into the fold before March 21st but nothing comes without a price. The Leafs may not have a top-five or even top-10 prospect pool and they’ve traded away their fair share of picks in recent years but they have also drafted well and managed to maintain some valuable trade capital.
As management continues to work the phones and fans dream about potential big-time additions to the roster, let’s take a look at what the Leafs could offer up in an effort to solidify their lineup.
Tier One
The Leafs’ most valuable trade chips are also the pieces they will be most hesitant to include in a trade. If the Leafs do end up moving on from one of these assets, it will most likely be for an impact acquisition with term remaining on their contract rather than a traditional rental.
Matthew …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

Leafs give Kyle Clifford and Carl Dahlstrom contract extensions

Less than 24 hours after an impressive win over the Kraken, the Leafs took care of business by signing two depth pieces to new deals for the immediate future.

We’ve signed Kyle Clifford to a two-year contract extension and defenceman Carl Dahlström to a one-year, two-way contract extension. #LeafsForever
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 9, 2022

Kyle Clifford’s two-year contract carries an AAV of $762K through the 2023-24 campaign, while Carl Dahlstrom has a two-way deal for next season at the league minimum of $750K. These two signings help solidify the depth both at forward and defence and cross off two pending free agents for the summer.
Clifford is in his second stint with the Leafs after originally arriving in the trade that brought in Jack Campbell. The 31-year-old has since split time between the Leafs are Marlies, registering two assists in 10 NHL games and three goals in eight AHL games.
Meanwhile, Dahlstrom has spent the majority of the season in the AHL save for a one-game stint with the top club (in which he played limited minutes against the Islanders in January). In 36 games played, the defenceman has recorded 13 assists.
While today’s signings take care of maintaining the depth for the next two seasons, Kyle Dubas still has plenty of work to do as the March 21st trade deadline approaches.
More from The Leafs Nation:
Maple Leafs aim to clear traffic in front of the net as goalies look for confidence
Leafs Prospect Roundup: Nick Robertson on the board, Curtis Douglas’ big game, Pavel Gogolev demoted
Ranking the Maple Leafs’ alternate jerseys from worst to best


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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

Should Raptors pass or pursue 3 LA Clippers trade targets?

Should Raptors pass or pursue 3 LA Clippers trade targets?

The Toronto Raptors appear to be closer than ever to trading away Goran Dragic, as they will likely look to use the Slovenian veteran in order to improve their bench. One team that could be a potential buyer is the Los Angeles Clippers, who are struggling for offensive consistency without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. […]
Should Raptors pass or pursue 3 LA Clippers trade targets? – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ