Will the Blue Jays sign Brett Gardner?

At any point before yesterday, had you told me that the Blue Jays were interested in acquiring Brett Gardner, I would have said you were crazy.

However, this is apparently the case according to New York Yankees beat writer, Erik Boland. Which begs the question, why?

Among the teams interested in Brett Gardner: the Blue Jays. But word around the game is Gardner is still waiting to see if the Yankees will make an offer
— Erik Boland (@eboland11) March 22, 2022

What does Gardner offer:
The 38-year-old outfielder was drafted in the 2005 draft and has spent his entire career in the Yankee organization. Gardner made his MLB debut in 2008, back when I was 10 years old. Interestingly, I think I was a Phillies fan at the time, I was weird.
With the bat:
Anyway, he’s slashed .256/.342/.740 (I used OPS at the end, by the way) in over 6000 plate appearances in his career. Obviously, the outfielder is 38, meaning that the speed he once had is no longer a tool in his game. However, he does still get on base, as he slashed .222/.326/.689 in 2021. The season prior, he had an on base percentage of .354, his OBP in his career.
His career high in home runs actually came in the 2019 season, where he hit 28 in his 550 plate appearances. While he’s only hit 15 in the past two seasons, or 619 plate appearances, he still has some pop left despite his age.
His career walk rate stands at 10.6%, but he surpassed that in 2021, walking 13% of the time. In the COVID shortened season, it was  a career high 16.5%. However, his strikeout rate has also increased in the past two seasons, as he struck out 22.2% …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

The Maple Leafs still unsure of what comes next for Jake Muzzin

Yesterday Sheldon Keefe provided a bit of a non-update on Jake Muzzin, which certainly fits with the uncertainty of the Leafs surrounding the trade deadline. Will Muzzin be returning? Will he be returning in a month? After the playoffs? Will the Leafs have his LTIR salary cap space to work with? No answers are forthcoming and it seems likely that there will be a lack of clarity right up until the trade deadline.

Sheldon Keefe didn’t have much of an update on Jake Muzzin, who spent approx. 40 getting worked hard conditioning-wise by #Leafs skills development coach Denver Manderson. pic.twitter.com/TRyLjXUvvb
— David Alter (@dalter) March 10, 2022

From Keefe:
“I don’t think the nature of his injury is something you can put a timeline on. It’s just really how he feels. The fact that he continues to skate and workout everyday, we’re really encouraged by. But in terms of time, that will be up to him and the medical team.”
So that’s not exactly concrete and if you take the Leafs at Dubas’ word, the Leafs will be functioning off the $2M of cap space they can muster through demotions to the Marlies rather than tapping into the $5.6M of relief the Leafs would receive through keeping Muzzin on the LTIR. When you look at the Leafs’ needs, and the growing pressure to make a goaltender part of those needs there is understandably some frustration about taking the honest approach of bringing Muzzin back when he’s ready.
Related: The Jake Muzzin Situation
So the LTIR approach with Muzzin would certainly be the easiest to understand approach for how the Leafs would maneuver any excess spending between the trade deadline and the end of the season. That ignores …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Don’t count on the Maple Leafs drafting in the first round this year

Yesterday TSN released their updated trade bait board and two Leafs’ assets made the list. Travis Dermott just barely snuck onto the list at 49th out of 50 and the Leafs’ 1st round pick came in at #17 on the list. There is no mention of if this is the Leafs 2022 1st, their 2023 1st, or for that matter their 2025 1st, but it seems likely they are looking at either the 2022 or 2023 options.
So how does that sit with you? This is absolutely a competitive window that the Leafs and they should be seeing what can be done to put them over the top. Dealing a pick means not only maintaining the current roster and adding to its depth but also maintaining the current prospects they have in the system who would be ready to contribute sooner than what the Leafs might get with a draftee likely to be in taken in the latter part of the 1st round.
In 2020, Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic equated each draft spot to a Game Score Value Added based on the first seven seasons of players taken in that draft slot. The range that the Leafs would be drafting in would carry a value of somewhere between 3-4 GSVA. Now if you divide that GSVA by the seven seasons, you’re looking at a player with a seasonal average of GSVA of 0.4-0.6. Certainly an oversimplification there, but that wouldn’t be unlike getting seven seasons of Justin Holl. The winning the lottery element of the draft certainly has an appea …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Grading the Leafs forwards at the halfway point of the season

Yesterday we started our assessment of how the Leafs players have been doing. I think generally we can say things have been going pretty darn good too. Today we’ll continue the grading, but if you want to take a look back at what’s been done so far, here you go:
Grading the Maple Leafs at the halfway point of the season

As I mentioned yesterday, there was a bit of grading of a curve:
A bit about our grading. These grades are not just mine. The entire TLN crew had a chance to weigh in and the most response reflects the feelings of the group, while any comments are my own unless otherwise attributed.
We absolutely graded on a curve here, as we are grading each player against our expectations for that player. So if you think Muzzin has still been a better player than Liljegren, remember the expectations for Muzzin were likely that he is the strongest part of the Leafs shutdown pairing, while the expectations for Liljegren were that he proved he belongs in the NHL.
Now that we’ve covered that off, here are the TLN grades of the Leafs forwards:
The A’s
Auston Matthews is the first of three players that received A’s across the board from our rankers. It’s probably not surprising that Auston is up there, as he is one of the best players in the game today and is very much in the Rocket Richard race once again. Combining the fact that Auston has added a lot more a physical element to his game, has upped his defensive responsibility once again, and has more frequently put the team on his back and carried them to success is how Auston is exceeding expectations that are incredibly high.
Michael Bunting is another player who received straight As for from our group. It would have been nice if Bunting came in as a bottom line muckraker who could chip in the occasional point, it would have been nice to see him on third l …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Leafs’ Latest: Jake Muzzin unavailable for New York trip after suffering concussion

After a day full of snow yesterday, in which the Maple Leafs still held practice, they take one final day to prepare for their two games in New York.
Toronto is coming off a road trip that saw them give up a few leads, but still come out with four points from four games. When you look back at the Maple Leafs’ recent play, there’s things to be happy about. But, other teams in the Atlantic Division are playing just as good, or better.
Sheldon Keefe understands that and wants that to be the focus going forward,
“We’re 7-2-1 in our last 10 games, but over that span, we’ve actually lost ground on Boston,” said Keefe after Monday’s practice. “That’s just the nature of the way the division has gone. Obviously, Florida and Tampa don’t lose very often. We’ve been fortunate to stay up with them, but despite the fact that there’s a lot of season left, you can’t take days off, can’t take nights off. That’s why it was frustrating that we gave up those points on the road like we did, whether it was giving up a lead, or giving up two points in Arizona. Those are tough points. Those are things that you have to be ab …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Team Canada Women’s Team announced for the Olympics at Beijing 2022

Yesterday, the “Team Canada” Olympics Twitter page announced the 23 women who will represent the nation in Beijing.
The women get ready to avenge their loss to the rival Americans, who they lost 3-2 against in the Gold medal game in the 2018 Winter Olympics, winning the Silver. The Canadians had been on a Gold-winning streak since 2002, four years of Gold in a row, until the Americans broke that combo.
Team Canada will bring 13 returning players this year, with 10 fresh faces to round out the team. Principal returnees are forwards Marie-Philippe Poulin and Rebecca Johnston, who are both returning for their fourth Olympics and seeking their third Gold medals.
Here is the full team for this quadrennial competition:
GoaltendersKristen Campbell (Brandon, MB)Ann-Renée Desbiens (La Malbaie, QC)Emerance Maschmeyer (Bruderheim, AB)
DefenceErin Ambrose (Keswick, ON)Ashton Bell (Deloraine, MB)Renata Fast (Burlington, ON)Jocelyne Larocque (Ste. Anne, MB)Ella Shelton (Ingersoll, ON)Claire Thompson (Toronto, ON)Micah Zandee-Hart (Saanichton, BC)
ForwardsEmily Clark (Saskatoon, SK)Mélodie Daoust (Valleyfield, QC)Sarah Fillier (Georgetown, ON)Brianne Jenner (Oakville, ON)Rebecca Johnston (Sudbury, ON)Emma Maltais (Burlington, ON)Sarah Nurse (Hamilton, ON)Marie-Philip Poulin (Beauceville, QC)Jamie Lee Rattray (Kanata, ON)Jillian Saulnier (Halifax, NS)Natalie Spooner (Scarborough, ON)Laura Stacey (Kleinburg, ON)Blayre Turnbull (Stellarton, NS)
(Thanks to eliteprospects.com for all of the player profiles, and to olympic.ca for the player list)
With only 6 players from the GTA, the Olympic team certainly isn’t taking cues from the Maple Leafs on how to build a hockey team. Perhaps that’s for the best, as much as we love the players that have come home in Toronto…
After leading Canada in scoring in the previous Olympics, Melodie Daoust is back on the team again, and will certainly play an important role, and being the MVP in the 2021 World Championships.
In between Daoust topping Canada’s scoring charts, it was Natalie Spooner who led the team in the 2019 World Championships, where Canada failed to make the final round and only secured Bronze, with Finland losing to USA in the final.
But as you saw, Canada won the tournament last year, so they’re in a good position to win again in the Olympics.
On the back end, one of the major returnees is veteran Jocelyn Larocque, who has been the focal point of Canada’s defense post-Vancouver in 2010.
Gearing up for the Olympics, Larocque …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

Which Leafs are going to break out in 2022?

Yesterday we ran some of our 2022 predictions. Predictably the predictions focused on whether or not the Leafs could make it out of the first round of the playoffs. I left the question too open, that’s on me.
Today we’ll get more specific with our predictions and we’ll talk about which Leaf is primed for a breakout year in 2022.
Nick Barden
Ilya Mikheyev. I think with him coming back from injury and the Leafs with a lot of good players challenging for spots, he’s going to come in with a chip on his shoulder. I truly believe (and hope) it’s Mikheyev.
Joseph Zita
Ondrej Kase
Michael Mazzei
Petr Mrazek
Roxanne Khasow
Justin Holl
Nick Richard
He has proven to be a valuable member of the team since day one but we have really seen Ondrej Kase start to step up as of late. He has been a key member on the Leafs’ shutdown line while playing a key role on the penalty kill but has managed one of the highest shots on goal totals on the team despite limited time on the powerplay or in the top-six to this point. There is clearly more offense in …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

News from the Rink: Simmonds, Spezza, Kerfoot all return to Leafs practice

Kyle Dubas said yesterday that if Jason Spezza, Wayne Simmonds, and Alexander Kerfoot pass their cardiac screenings, they’d be back at Leafs practice.
It looks like the three players have left COVID protocols.

Players participating in Dec. 27 practice:
Forwards: Anderson, Bunting, Clifford, Engvall, Kaše, Kerfoot, Marner, Matthews, Ritchie, Seney, Simmonds, Spezza, Steeves, Tavares
Defencemen: Biega, Dahlström, Hellickson, Holl, Král, Liljegren
Goalies: Scott, Woll
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) December 27, 2021

Matt Hellickson is the latest Marlies player to be practicing with the Leafs. The Leafs’ AHL affiliate has been hit hard by COVID-19 having 24 players and five staff members test positive for the virus.
Hellickson is on an AHL contract, but the NHL has reportedly given the Leafs special permission to have him practice with the team.
Leafs lines at practice
Here’s how the lines shaped up today with Spezza, Simmonds, and Kerfoot all returning to practice.

#Leafs lines at practice Dec. 27/21
Bunting-Matthews-MarnerKerfoot-Tavares-KaseClifford-Engvall-AndersonRitchie-Spezza-SimmondsExtra: Seney-Steeves
Kral-LiljegrenDahlstrom-HolllHellickson-Biega
WollScottD’Agostini (practice goalie)
— David Alter (@dalter) December 27, 2021

The first line has stayed the same as yesterday. With Kerfoot returning to practice, he slots in with John Tavares and Ondrej Kase. The third line consisting of Kyle Clifford, Pierre Engvall, and Joey Anderson stays …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Why the Blue Jays were right to invest in José Berríos long-term

Yesterday morning the Blue Jays signed José Berríos to a seven year contract worth $131 million dollars. This is the largest deal the Blue Jays have given to a pitcher in club history and shows that Berríos, who was acquired from the Minnesota Twins at the trade deadline, was well worth the cost of acquisition.

For the Blue Jays getting this deal done now makes a ton of sense. Berríos dazzled in his debut for the Blue Jays, and in 12 starts for the club down the stretch, he pitched to a 3.58 ERA with a 3.28 FIP. Berríos from all reports seems like a player with a good character and makeup. Something the Blue Jays clearly value highly. Berríos fit in right away and showed a willingness to make adjustments when things weren’t going well.
In an era of big velocity and high spin rate, Berríos doesn’t really have either. His primary pitch is the curveball which has a spin rate of 2338 rpm, which was middle of the pack last season, per Baseball Savant. His fastball velocity of 94.1mph, while slightly above league average, is hardly blowing anyone away these days. What Berríos does is mirror his pitches extremely well, so …

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Author: Paul Berthelot / Blue Jays Nation

Marlies Mailbag: Which of the defencemen has stood out most?

It feels like yesterday that the Marlies started their season, and I began my quest on following this team for real. Yes, I did technically do that last year, but not to the extent where I am now. I’m going to practices, every home game and just trying to talk to every player possible.
I wanted to do a mailbag series because I know people have a lot of questions.
Here at TLN, we do put out a weekly update on the Marlies’ season, but I know some of you might want to know about specific players, and that’s what I’m going to try and bring here. I’m not too sure how often I will be doing this, but I will try as best as I can to get one or two every month.
But without further ado, let’s answer some Marlies questions.

should josh ho sang be on the maple leafs
— Please Do Not Get Mad At Me Online (@notabunchofcats) October 30, 2021

This is a question almost everyone has, and it’s understandable. The 25-year-old has five goals in his first six games with the Marlies. He’s doing an incredible job.
I, personally, don’ …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation