Vladdy breaks out of his slump, Nate Pearson goes back to Triple-A, Oakland relocation talk, and more!

Quite a bit happened yesterday so let’s go through all of it…

Before Tuesday’s series-opener in Atlanta, our good pal Paul wrote that Vlad Jr. was going through his first slump of the 2021 season, highlighted by a 6-for-27 showing with no homers over the team’s six-game strip through Oakland and Houston. Paul noted that opposing pitchers had started pounding Vladdy low in the zone resulting in a bunch of balls getting drilled on the ground.
On Tuesday, Vlad went 3-for-5 with a game-tying home run and another clutch game-tying single. The ball that he hit out of the park off of Bryse Wilson, who was cruising, was located in the lower half of the zone, which is a good sign that Vladdy has made the proper adjustment to break out of this cold snap.

OPLAKATA PO pic.twitter.com/dwqKbM0sZo
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) May 12, 2021

The Blue Jays ended up winning thanks to a three-run rally in the eighth inning, in which Teoscar Hernandez hit a rare bases-loaded infield single that drove in a run and Cavan Biggio drew a bases-loaded walk. Also key to the win was a strong start from Robbie Ray, which featured …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays 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

Raptors: Clutch shooting gives Toronto win over T-Wolves in old-school slugfest

Raptors: Clutch shooting gives Toronto win over T-Wolves in old-school slugfest

The Toronto Raptors were the talk of the NBA world yesterday, as they absolutely slammed Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Needing to take home a win against a poor Minnesota Timberwolves team, a gassed Raptors team gave them their best shot on the second night of a back-to-back. Fresh off the second night of […]
Raptors: Clutch shooting gives Toronto win over T-Wolves in old-school slugfest – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Nickeem Khan / Raptors HQ

Leafs without Matthews tonight, and Thornton to miss a month

Yesterday it seemed like it was just going to be a maintenance day for Auston Matthews. He was a little sore when he took the ice for practice, left early, and rather than reshuffling the lines, Adam Brooks took his place between Jimmy Vesey and Mitch Marner. The fact that Marner hadn’t been shuffled onto either the Tavares or Kerfoot line kept me calm for the past twenty four hours. This morning it’s hitting a bit different…

Sheldon Keefe confirms Auston Matthews it OUT tonight for #Leafs vs. Oilers. Upper body soreness. Day-to-day.
Joe Thornton has a rib fracture, will miss at least a month.
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) January 22, 2021

Now in a 56 game season there will be injuries, and rather than Matthews playing and aggravating what’s causing the soreness, taking a game or two to recover doesn’t seem like the end of the world. It would be nice to see an honest matchup between McDavid and Matthews after the boring outing on Wednesday night, but luckily we’ll get seven more opportunities this year.
It will be interesting to see what the Leafs new lines look like tonight, but my guess is we see Marner …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

All-Canadian Preview: The Montreal Canadiens are a wild-card

The Canadian Division is a sandwich.

As I said yesterday, it’s a clear bet that the Ottawa Senators wind up at the bottom of the group, and I also think it’s reasonable to assume that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the team to beat. Between them, though? That’s anyone’s guess.
The biggest wild-card of those middle five teams is the Montreal Canadiens.
What happened last season…
31-31-9 (71 points), 5th in Atlantic Division 
Goals For: 212 (18th of 31), Goals Against: 221 (23rd of 31)
10-3-2 vs Canadian opponents
2-0-0 vs CGY, 0-2-0 vs EDM, 3-0-1 vs OTT, 3-0-0 vs TOR, 1-0-1 vs VAN, 1-1-0 vs WPG
The Habs were the definition of mediocre last season.
They posted a 31-31-9 record, finished in the middle of the pack in terms of goals scored, and finished in the bottom third of the league in goals against. They had a bunch of good-not-great players produce at a good-not-great level and their star, Carey Price, wasn’t the elite goaltender they needed him to be in the regular season.
Despite being nowhere near a playoff spot when the league got paused due to COVID-19 in …

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Author: Cam Lewis / The Leafs Nation

Taking a look at who will make the Leafs

Taking a look at who will make the Leafs

The Leafs training camp official opened yesterday, and we now know the 40 players in attendance.

The 2021 squad pic.twitter.com/wUafNd8Nke
— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) January 3, 2021

Today is the first day the Leafs hit the ice, and while there are some interesting camp battles and roster spots up for grab. The fact that the Leafs will have a taxi squad in addition to their core roster means that most of these players will be sticking with the Leafs for the season. Given that the Leafs can have six players on the taxi squad, we’ll assume they will. And given that the Leafs can afford to have can either a 21 or 22 player roster (most likely 21), we’ll assume that as well and 27 of these 40 players won’t be heading to the Marlies.
Here’s the situation by position.
Forwards (23 invites)
Locks: Matthews, Tavares, Marner, Nylander, Hyman, Kerfoot, Thornton, Simmonds, Mikheyev, Spezza
The locks are essentially the core forwards mixed in with the veterans who took steep discounts in order to play for the Leafs that it would be cruel to leave out in the cold. Mikheyev and Kerfoot are decidedly NHL players even if they don’t 100% fit the …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Charlie Montoyo is probably the Blue Jays’ best bet to win a major award this year

The Gold Glove finalists were released yesterday so it’s time to start thinking about Awards Season.

Lourdes Gurriel was the only Blue Jay nominated for a Gold Glove, which isn’t particularly surprising given the fact that the team wasn’t exactly, ya know, good on the defensive side of the game.
As I mentioned yesterday, Gurriel is a bit of a headscratcher for a Gold Glove but so are many, many other selections. Managers had to vote on the top fielders in their respective leagues even though they didn’t get to see two-thirds of the teams this season. As a result, a player like Gurriel who makes highlight-reel grabs and guns guys out at home will warrant attention.
Will Gurriel win the Gold Glove? Probably not. Kyle Tucker has the best defensive metrics of the three while Alex Gordon is the nice, easy, lazy choice because he’s already won seven times. I imagine a few managers just said fuck it and made Gordon their pick because of his history.
Anyways, are there any other Blue Jays who could take home a major award this season? For major awards, I’m talking Most Valuable Player, Rookie of …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Artur Akhtyamov… Better than Yaroslav Askarov?

In the 2020 NHL Entry draft completed yesterday, a healthy number of goalies were selected, with 20 of the 216 players being netminders. That’s 9.2% percent of the selections, while they represent 10% of your dressed roster in each NHL game. The Leafs chose one of those 20, in Artur Akhtyamov, a Russian comrade to the only goalie selected in the first round, Yaroslav Askarov.
It’s healthy to pose the question whether Akhtyamov could surprise and end up better than Askarov in the end. After all, goalies are voodoo, and plenty of other highly drafted goalies have not worked out as expected, our own Jack Campbell being near the top of that list. However, it’d be ridiculous to say, with any element of credibility, that Akhtyamov will be better than Askarov.

still can’t believe Nashville reached for Askarov at 11 when Artur Akhtyamov was available
— BOOby cappucino (@bobbycappucino) October 8, 2020

Whoops! (I did not “eat the onion” as they say, I know Bobby is being facetious. He’s the best at it).
All kidding aside, if it were possible to know that, obviously the draft positions would look a lot different. That doesn’t take the possibility out of the question though.
In Askarov …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

Both Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker “love it in Toronto [Buffalo???]”

I mentioned yesterday how the Blue Jays’ largest, most glaring issue this off-season is the team’s starting pitching depth.

Hyun Jin Ryu is the team’s ace but there isn’t much, if any, certainty after that. And, to be honest, Ryu himself isn’t even all that much of a certainty given his history with injuries. Nate Pearson will hopefully take a step forward, Tanner Roark will ideally not be totally useless, and somebody from the group of T.J. Zeuch, Tom Hatch, Anthony Kay, Trent Thornton, and Julian Merryweather will ideally grab a starting spot and run with it.
That’s a lot of ideally and not a lot of that will absolutely happen. So, long story short, the Blue Jays need to find some starting pitching depth this off-season.
Maybe some of those starters are already here?
According to Pete Walker, Taijuan Walker and Robbie Ray, two of Toronto’s trade deadline additions who are set to hit free agency, both loved it in Toronto.

Pete Walker: Robbie loves it in Toronto and Taijuan loves it in Toronto. You hope that helps moving forward in potential negotiations. #BlueJays #BaseballCentral
— Alex Seixeiro (@alexfan590) October 6, 2020

I assume this …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

A sixth-inning meltdown costs the Blue Jays a winnable game

I wrote yesterday that it’s critical for the Blue Jays to do well during this stretch of games against bad teams over the next couple of weeks because the schedule gets much more difficult in September.

On Tuesday, the Jays had a prime chance to start their series with the Red Sox off on a positive note. Boston had a struggling rookie starter on the mound but Toronto failed to capitalize, leading to an incredibly frustrating loss.
Things worth mentioning…

Things started off really well as the Jays kicked Kyle Hart around for four runs in the first inning. It looked like it was going to be a laugher in the second inning when the Jays loaded the bases with just one out but a Vlad Jr. double play ended the inning and cost the team a huge inning. That would eventually come back to haunt them because as bad as Boston has been this year, they can still hit.
Before I get into the meltdown, I’ll mention the infuriating strike zone last night. Hart was all over the grid, but got the benefit of the doubt from the home plate umpire, who called strikes …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation