Are the Maple Leafs too OK with running it back next season?

Are the Maple Leafs too OK with running it back next season?

The Toronto Maple Leafs are keeping things more or less the same. And that’s their choice to do so.
But following another opening-round exit, the team stressed confidence and belief in their group, even if that comes at the cost of hubris.
Following a bitter upset against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, there was a strong sentiment among those who follow the club that anything less than getting past the first round was be deemed unacceptable and that changes would likely occur.
Well, it happened again, albeit with a better effort against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
But it still happened.
Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan stood on the stage for his season-ending media availability on Tuesday sitting alongside general manager Kyle Dubas. He quickly endorsed his GM, the man he first hired to be an assistant GM back in the summer of 2014, and head coach Sheldon Keefe.
”We’re not going to make changes simply for the sake of making changes,” Shanahan said.
He continued to express his disappointment for his team failing to win a round in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year. While Dubas talked about the stri …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Matthews and Marner provide offence as Maple Leafs flip the script on Lightning in dominant performance to take Game 1

For all the fear of how bad things could get for the Toronto Maple Leafs and how good the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning are supposed to be, Game 1 felt like two teams that swapped roles on Monday.
Auston Matthews scored twice, Mitch Marner also potted his first playoff goal in 19 games as the Maple Leafs dominated the Lightning 5-0 to win the opening game of their first-round playoffs series
Much like the Maple Leafs’ difficult start to the regular season, the group had to deal with some adversity early on. After TJ Brodie took a hooking penalty just 2:13 into the game, the Leafs made short work of Tampa’s early power play opportunity. Just a few minutes later, Kyle Clifford was ejected from the game for boarding Tampa’s Ross Colton from behind.
It could have got real ugly from there. But it was the Lightning who looked out of sorts.
“I just loved that we didn’t get down,” Matthews said. “I heard somebody on the bench say ‘let’s use this as momentum’ and that’s exactly what the guys did out there,”
Tampa managed to set up their power play just one time during the five-minute opportunity as Toronto kept interrupting their opponents’ zone entries and the game appear …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Raptors Game Tonight: Raptors vs 76ers Odds, Starting Lineup, Injury Report, Predictions, TV Channel for Apr. 7

Raptors Game Tonight: Raptors vs 76ers Odds, Starting Lineup, Injury Report, Predictions, TV Channel for Apr. 7

The Toronto Raptors can take things just a bit easier over the next few days, as they have officially clinched a postseason spot. The latest Raptors odds don’t have them positioned to keep up their winning ways against a team they could square off against in the playoffs. The Philadelphia 76ers currently occupy the No. […]
Raptors Game Tonight: Raptors vs 76ers Odds, Starting Lineup, Injury Report, Predictions, TV Channel for Apr. 7 – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

American League Preview: The Baltimore Orioles put up a 253-455 record over five seasons and finally have a good farm system

It’s funny to take a look at how things have gone for the Blue Jays and Orioles since they met in the American League Wild Card Game in 2016.

The Blue Jays missed out on the playoffs last season despite winning 91 games and are coming into this season as legitimate contenders. Meanwhile, the Orioles now are where the Blue Jays were in 2019, a team with a great farm system and zero playoff aspirations.
Both teams took a step back in 2017 and finished well out of the post-season picture. The Blue Jays went from winning 76 games in 2017 to winning 73 in 2018, while the Orioles imploded from 75 wins to just 47 wins over the course of a year.
Baltimore blew it up during the 2018 season, trading away Manny Machado, Kevin Gausman, Zack Britton, and Jonathan Schoop, which led to them drafting first overall the following summer. Toronto’s blow-up started in 2018 when Josh Donaldson was dealt to Cleveland and continued into 2019 when J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez, and Marcus Stroman were traded away.
Toronto and Baltimore were both terrible in 2019, but the key difference was that the Blue Jays boasted one of baseball’s best farm systems by that time while the Orioles were just in the middle of the pack.
The Blue Jays earnestly started trying to win ahead of the 2020 season when they signed Hyun Jin Ryu in fre …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Maple Leafs expect Petr Mrazek to be humbled by waivers experience and need a ‘full reset’ from his goaltender

Petr Mrazek knows things haven’t gone well for him this season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender’s rough first year with the club hit a new low Sunday when he was placed on waivers and perhaps further when the veteran went unclaimed the following day.
“Obviously different than being traded and stuff like that, so you never know what can happen, Mrazek said following practice on Tuesday. “The hockey career can change in a minute to go to different teams. I’m happy I’m here and I can show the rest of the year what I can do.”
On Monday, Leafs GM Kyle Dubas explained that he made the move to clear up some space under the salary cap. And while that is true, Mrazek’s underperformance this season allowed for that decision to become simple due to his poor performance.
“It’s a bit of a shock to a player, an established NHL player that goes on waivers. That, in itself, is a shock, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “And then he clears waivers it should be even more of a shock that you haven’t been nearly good enough.”
The 30-year-old signed a three-year contract worth $11.4 million last summer and was slated to work with incumbent starter Jack Campbell as a tandem …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Some new lines and new gear at the Maple Leafs practice

Things are a bit shaken up this morning at Leafs’ practice as we’re seeing some new forward lines and defensive pairings today.

New-look Leafs lines and D:
Bunting — Matthews — MarnerRobertson — Tavares — NylanderMikheyev — Kampf — Engvall/KaseKerfoot — Spezza — Simmonds
Rielly — LiljegrenBrodie — HollDermott — Lyubushkin
*Rasmus Sandin is not practising
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) March 4, 2022

The Leafs giving Nick Robertson in the top six is the first thing we’ll touch on here. Given the style of Robertson’s game and the Leafs’ need to find a suitable 2LW this makes some sense. Whether or not this is the best move for John Tavares who is struggling with his own goal production, or whether this is turning the second line into a defensive black hole remains to be seen. It’s likely that Kerfoot will still be taking some shifts with that line as well given there will be some desire to shelter Robertson. It doesn’t hurt to try this out (again), but temper expectations.
The next thing of note is the return of Ondrej Kase to the Leafs practice, and that’s making for a crowded third line. If Kase is good to go, that means either Engvall or Mikheyev need to be bumped, and most likely it will be Engvall. That could mean that either Engvall or Simmonds sit if Kase is healthy enough to play, and of course, that could mean Engvall is on the fourth line.
While we’re looking at these lines, it’s hard not to feel good about that being the Leafs fourth line and having someone like Simmonds or Engvall e …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The five players you’ll meet in trade deadline hell

One of the things that always amazes me about the trade deadline is that people look at a team that is doing really well and come up with the worst type of player as the guy who can put them over the top? “You know what the Tampa Bay Lightning needs to build a dynasty?” “No, who?” “A young Doug Houda.” It’s painful to me and often ignores the idea that the team in question may have been successful all season long because they’ve actively avoided putting Kris Russell clones (or worse, the actual Kris Russell) in their lineup.
Still, it seems year after year people give into the cliched need for certain player archetypes, and the myth of the player who excels at playoff hockey is reborn. As a result, we spend the next couple of months living in fear that it will be our team’s GM who thinks that there is a magical switch that makes Ben Chiarot relevant again each May.
I’m not going to pretend that playoff hockey isn’t more intense and that the psychology of players change when there is finally something on the line, but it also seems like teams like the success …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Ilya Mikheyev’s next contract shouldn’t be much of a worry for the Maple Leafs because it probably won’t be with Toronto

We should just be able to enjoy nice things, and at this exact moment, Ilya Mikheyev is a nice thing for Leafs. His return from injury has seen him pick up 4 goals (5 points) in 5 games. He’s playing 16 minutes a night, and he’s still one of the fastest players in the game. Yes, it sure is good to have Ilya Mikheyev, right now. And yes, as I wrote this yesterday I knew that Mikheyev would be good for a big night in Vegas.
Niceties out of the way, we are also talking about a pending unrestricted free agent, and when it comes to players like that, inevitably we need to discuss how much it costs to keep them. I’m not really sure that is the case with Mikheyev though, as there really isn’t a path to keeping him beyond this season.
While Jonas Siegel of The Athletic explored at great length the cost of keeping Mikheyev, and the value you brings to the team, the realities of the Mikheyev situation can really be boiled down to a much more simplistic argument. The Leafs will have cheap forward options available, and they have too many other priority players to sign.
Too many other priority players to sign
Assuming the salary cap still gets its bump up to $82.5M from $81.5M this season, that leaves Toronto with around $7.25M to spend over th …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

This Raptors-Timberwolves trade sends Chris Boucher to Minnesota

This Raptors-Timberwolves trade sends Chris Boucher to Minnesota

The Toronto Raptors were expecting big things from Chris Boucher this season, but he has taken some major steps in the wrong direction. Boucher has seen his shot-blocking skills evaporate while he struggles to find the offensive consistency that made him a valued commodity last year. The Raptors are starting to slide down in the […]
This Raptors-Timberwolves trade sends Chris Boucher to Minnesota – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Raptors’ Malachi Flynn is looking like a rare Masai Ujiri draft misstep

Raptors’ Malachi Flynn is looking like a rare Masai Ujiri draft misstep

To put things mildly, the Toronto Raptors haven’t seen Malachi Flynn provide them with a ton of production this season. While he has been given a nice diet of minutes this season, that’s only because Toronto is struggling with depth issues due to injuries. The San Diego State product is looking more like a miss […]
Raptors’ Malachi Flynn is looking like a rare Masai Ujiri draft misstep – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ