Weighing rolling four lines vs. three lines plus specialists for the Leafs

We’ve just passed the quarter of the season mark, there is a lot of hockey left, why are you making a case for a shorter bench?
One of the better parts of the season has been what Spezza and Simmonds have done on the fourth line, why would you take that away?
These are my primary arguments for no matter what seems like the better approach in the long run, in the short term the idea of sticking with rolling four lines at 5v5 makes a lot of sense. That being said, the season is long, and eventually playoff races will heat up, and there will come a time when the Leafs need to be a bit more focused about how they deploy their players, and under Sheldon Keefe, the fourth line does still find around 10 minutes of icetime a night at 5v5.
When it comes to 5v5, the Leafs peak usage is with Auston Matthews playing 16:37 a night since the beginning of last season. Marner is the only other player averaging over 15 minutes, and regular fourth liners like Simmonds and Spezza are at the other end of the scale still playing around 9 minutes a night of 5v5. The …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

TLN Trivia: Where do these 2020/21 Leafs play this season?

Now over a month into the 2021/22 season, we’ve finally settled into the season on hand. With around 15 games played for each team across the NHL, we’ve had time to familiarize ourselves with the new faces in new places all across the league.
Or at least, so we think.
Over on NBA on TNT, they begin each season by testing Charles Barkley’s knowledge of the offseason with a little game by the name of Who He Play For? They name five players that changed teams over the summer and see if Barkley can correctly name the team that he plays for.

So let’s begin TLN Trivia this season with our own Who He Play For? Instea, d of taking random players from across the league, your task today is to correctly guess which team each departed player from the 2020/21 Toronto Maple Leafs roster now plays for this season.
There are 16 total players that played at least one game for the Leafs in 2020/21 that are no longer in the organization. Can you name where each player now currently plays?
Be sure to share your results with us on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below. Please note you …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

Marlies and Me: Meet promising young forward, Alex Steeves

Throughout the last few weeks, we’ve discussed the great stories of Josh Ho-Sang and Joseph Woll, but there’s a new player in town.
That man is Alex Steeves.
After suffering a shoulder injury during the Leafs’ development camp, the 21-year-old entered Marlies training camp injured. Throughout Marlies camp, Steeves was one of two players wearing a red jersey.
He stepped onto the ice last Tuesday dawning a white jersey, which meant his return was evident.
And it was.

“When I get back on the ice in competition, I want to dominate.”
—Alex Steeves
— Nick Barden (@nickbarden) October 26, 2021

Before the Marlies had Steeves in the lineup, they took on the Laval Rocket. They lost that game 5-0. Although the score suggests one thing, Toronto was able to battle and come out with positives.
It started with Alex Biega receiving a five-minute penalty and game misconduct due to a check to the head. Later in the game, they lost Teemu Kivihalme to what looked like a similar injury to Nick Robertson.
Understandably, this game was over early on.
Toronto would then play Belleville on Friday and Saturday, and with a brand new face. That’s right, Steeves was in the …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Burning Question: Will the Leafs make it beyond the first round this year?

Over the course of the past couple of weeks we’ve been running some Burning Questions posts on this site, trying to deal with some of the big questions surrounding the Leafs. The one big burning question that has always been left looming is the one that has a lot of fans willing to completely throwaway or ignore the regular season and focus entirely on the postseason, and that question is “Is this the year the Leafs finally make it out of the first round?”
We’ll start with the fact that it’s impossible to know for sure. Law of averages say that a team as good as the Leafs will eventually have something break their way instead of things going against them, and they’ll get there. I can appreciate that appeal to the math of it. The problem with math though is that it ignores the fact that it’s the Leafs we’re talking about. They’ve always been able to find new spectacular ways to have things fall apart on them. No other team blows a 4-1 lead in a game seven, no other team loses to an emergency backup goaltender that they employ, no …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

TLN Top 20 Leafs: #3 William Nylander

As we’ve approached the top four of our player rankings, it should probably come as no surprise who numbers 1-4 are. But, I’m sure many are shocked at the order, particularly William Nylander getting ranked above John Tavares for #3. After all, the center position is an important one, and Tavares is one of the best second line centers in the league.
But, Nylander has also come a long way over these past few years after he’d fallen out of favour with plenty of Leafs fans with his contract holdout and then disappointing return in 2018-19. Since then, he’s taken massive strides, scoring 31 goals in 2019-20, and following it up with a 27 goal pace in the shortened 2021 season, as well as a huge showing in the playoffs with five goals in seven games.
Much like Tavares, Nylander’s rankings were all over the place, some coming as high as second, and some as low as fifth. While I may be a huge Nylander fan, even I didn’t have him second, but actually right where he ranks at third. For me, it came down to the fact that a lot of the underlying numbers actually showed that …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

It all comes down to Game 162

The Blue Jays need to win on Sunday.

I mean, we’ve known all along that Toronto needs to pull off a sweep against the Baltimore Orioles this weekend in order to make the playoffs, but, now it’s a literal must-win situation. No matter what New York, Boston, or Seattle does, the Blue Jays will be out of the picture with a loss on Sunday.
The Blue Jays have done their job thus far. They squeezed out a needlessly stressful win on Friday night and then they handed out a shit-kicking on Saturday afternoon to put their record at 90-71 on the season. The Yankees have dropped both of their games against the Rays and the Red Sox have won both of their games against the Nationals, so they sit at 91-70 each.
Tomorrow we have…
Hyun Jin Ryu vs Bruce Zimmermann. We haven’t seen Zimmermann yet this season but he has a 4.66 ERA over the course of 13 outings and his peripherals (7.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 5.22 FIP) are even worse than what his boxcars indicate. The Blue Jays should hit this guy, and they might need to because we have no idea what to expect from Ryu. After a stint …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Morgan Rielly’s contract remains at the top of the Leafs to-do list

Morgan Rielly’s contract remains at the top of the Leafs to-do list

We’ve made it through August. Finally. The darkest month for hockey content is over and by next week we’ll have prospect camps, the following week we’ll be treated to rookie tournaments, and soon training camps will open. NHL hockey is slowly returning.
While the return of hockey and things hockey related to talk about is more than welcome, it does begin to attach a bit of a sense of urgency to some of the things left for the Leafs to address, and right at the top of the list has to be dealing with the contract for Morgan Rielly.
One of the things that has been an ongoing area that Kyle Dubas needs to improve in is addressing the amount of talent that has walked out the door in free agency with no returning asset for the Leafs beyond having a bit more cap space to work with in the offseason.
Kyle Dubas became the GM of the Leafs in May of 2018. That first offseason is a bit more forgivable as it would have been Lou Lamoriello failing to extend James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, but nevertheless it was on Dubas’ watch that JVR and Bozak …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Nate Pearson is back with the Blue Jays (along with some other roster moves)

We’ve got quite a few roster moves here, so buckle up.

Yesterday, the Blue Jays designated Brand Hand for assignment, putting an end to that experiment only one month after acquiring him from the Washington Nationals ahead of the trade deadline.
In eight-and-two-thirds innings as a Blue Jay, Hand allowed seven earned runs on 13 hits and three walks while striking out just five. Digging into his numbers with the Nationals, it seems Hand was one of the pitchers who struggled with MLB’s crackdown of foreign substances and he hasn’t been able to rebound.

Brad Hand since being traded to the Blue Jays: 7.27 ERA in 11 games
Riley Adams since being traded to the Nationals: 1.010 OPS in 19 games https://t.co/sHyZVkSi3G
— Matt Weyrich (@ByMattWeyrich) August 31, 2021

On the other side of that coin, Riley Adams has been killing it for the Nationals. A catching prospect buried on the Blue Jays’ depth chart, Adams has gone 15-for-44 with Washington with two homers and four doubles, though he has a poor 15-to-4 strikeout-to-walk rate.
If Adams continues to hit, this is obviously going to go down as a really, really bad trade for Toronto. Of course, as well as Adams …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Leafs have done a good job of addressing their needs, but still need to improve

Leafs have done a good job of addressing their needs, but still need to improve

We’ve just passed the first 24 hour period of free agency with the Leafs adding anyone new. This lull gives us a little time to assess what’s been done so far. Initially this post was going to be published Saturday morning, but we went back to the drawing board following the Ondrej Kase, and Nick Ritchie additions. Now we can go back to our original questions:
How has Kyle Dubas done so far this offseason? What still needs to be done and who would you target to address it? A handful of our TLN writers weigh-in:
Michael Mazzei:
The Leafs’ additions so far are not the flashiest of names when compared to what else was available on the open market. But considering the team had little cap space to work with, I think Dubas has done alright to begin free agency. Mrazek should work well with Campbell splitting starts throughout the year. Bunting has the potential to be a Hyman replacement and be a pest that has been severely lacking in the top-six. Ho-Sang has a ton of untapped potential that could finally be realized in Toronto. Kampf may just be the shutdown centre the Leafs have been longing …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Hidden Gems and Sleepers await the Leafs in the later rounds of the entry draft

Up until now we’ve done a lot of sugar coating of it, but the reality of the situation is the Leafs only having three picks heading into the entry draft is a mess. While the Leafs still have some decent prospects in their organization, there’s also no questioning the depth isn’t there like it used to be, and pretty much all the eggs are in Rodion Amirov’s basket as far as being a high end talent goes. The Leafs are presently sitting on one pick in the top 100, and that’s not a particularly good way to be.
Last week Nick Richard took a look at possible second round targets:
10 targets for the Leafs with their second round pick

Today we’re going to go dumpster diving in what is considered at best a draft of unknown upside due to limited scouting opportunities this year, and at worst, one of the most shallow drafts in the past decade. Still there are some interesting options available, and let’s get after them…
Marcus Almquist -F

Almquist is a player that my Hunter score liked a lot, but scouts (aside from the good folks of Dobber Prospects) didn’ …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation