Why The Leafs Are Doing It Right

It’s less than a week til the NHL trade deadline and I’m wondering how many of the current Toronto Maple Leafs will still be on the roster when the clock strikes 3 p.m. Eastern on February 29th, 2016. Up to this point we’ve seen the former Captain Dion Phaneuf go to Ottawa, Shawn Matthias traded to Colorado and Roman Polak and Nick Spaling going to San Jose.
Former General Manager of the New York Rangers Neil Smith said on the NHL Network that “you wanna do something to help your club” at the trading deadline and it looks like Lou Lamoriello is trying to do that. He may have started a little early but why wait? If you have the ability to get back what you want, take it while you can get it.
The most important thing that the Leafs are getting back in these deals are a. draft picks and b. expiring contracts. This wasn’t going to be the year that the Leafs were going to compete with the Blackhawks, Capitals and Stars of the NHL world, this was something we all had to accept that going into the season.
While Lamoriello isn’t making the same splash on the club like Alex Anthopoulos did with the Toronto Blue Jays during the Major League Baseball playoffs in 2015, his deals to bring in Troy Tulowitzki, LaTroy Hawkins, David Price and Ben Revere helped to breathe life into a club that was missing a couple of pieces. The Jays would go on to win the American League East and come within a couple of games of the ALCS crown losing to the eventual MLB champion Kansas City Royals.
But this isn’t Alex Anthopoulos’ Maple Leafs is it? Lou’s Maple Leafs are going to trade everything in order to build for the future rather than win now. This is what Maple Leafs fans have deserved for years thanks to Lou: a wholesale wheel and deal. Give the kids a chance to see what they can do and at the same time bring in draft picks to build for the future. There’s going to be growing pains but if this is done right this club will be built for the long haul, remember how the Devils won under Lou?
It has to be built around a solid core of young players and looking at the group in the American Hockey League, the Marlies are playing some amazing hockey this year. They are running away with the AHL sitting atop the North Division with a record of 40-9-4 with 84 points. There’s some really talented kids playing there: 19 year old center William Nylander has 42 points in 34 games, 22 year old winger Joshua Leivo has 38 points through 38 games (2 goals in 6 games with the big club), 21 year old center Brendan Leipsic has 37 points in 49 games (1 goal in 1 game with the Leafs), 22 year old winger Nikita Soshnikov has 25 points in 47 games and 19 year old Kasperi Kapanen has 20 points in 29 games (he scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Russia in the 2016 World Junior Championship on a hell of a move). Plus we can’t forget Tobias Lindberg who came over from Ottawa in the Phaneuf trade, he was one of the key parts of the deal and many see him as a “can’t miss” prospect.
Now that Lou is making moves, you can no doubt bet some of these guys are going to be coming up to the big club to get some NHL experience. If nothing else coach Mike Babcock will get a chance to see how the young guns respond to the speed and adversity of the next level. The Leafs will get a chance to play those young guys against some decent competition in the form of the Capitals, Lightning (three times), Panthers (twice), Islanders, Red Wings (twice) and Predators not to mention the Ducks or Bruins. There will be plenty to test the squad on and see how they handle teams fighting for playoff spots while learning how to handle the NHL game.
While we watch the young players grow we have to keep in mind that they are learning and we have to give this organization time to build. Lou is stockpiling draft picks and working on getting young blue chip prospects that will be the foundation of this Maple Leafs team for many many years to come. It’s not always going to be pretty but we know that Rome wasn’t built in a day. We have to hang in there Leafs fans, this is what we’ve needed for years, now it’s finally coming along.

Blowout On Broadway

I thought maybe after seeing the Rangers come back from a 3-1 deficit to hand the Caps a loss in Game 7 of their series that they would be rest for the Finals. Maybe they were ready for Game 1 of the Finals but not Game 2. I wasn’t ready for a 6-2 defeat and neither were they, my cable provider wasn’t either, they cut out the game mid-way through the third so I did not have the privilege of seeing the sixth goal get scored, I’m sure it was dandy.

Tampa is quite an interesting study. Their team is built on height. It all starts in the back with 6’7″ Ben Bishop in goal, defenseman Andrej Sustr (6’7″), Victor Hedman (6’6″), Braydon Coyle (6’5″) and there’s forward Brian Boyle 6’7″. There are quite a few defenseman over six feet as well, it’s like Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman decided to find all the tall guys and put them on the ice. It’s an interesting strategy if that’s really what it’s all about.

I will say that if you play Tampa Bay with the Rangers on NHL 15 on Xbox One, they seem to be the Blueshirts’ kryptonite. It’s amazing how such an offense and defensive powered team can be shut down by Tampa but can run over just about every other team in the game. I’m not saying this is scientific by any means, it just seems coincidental considering I played Tampa a few times earlier in the day and found them difficult to beat.

There’s an interesting Henrik Lundqvist stat that needs to be addressed as well: in his playoff career he is 5-12 in Game 2 of he Ranger’s playoff series. Let’s break that down further:
Game 1 11-8
Game 2 5-12
Game 3 9-9
Game 4 10-8
Game 5 6-9
Game 6 5-5
Game 7 6-1

It looks like the King comes out of the box strong and then takes the foot off the gas. The third game could go either way, the fourth he mostly bounces back and wins, Game 5 is probably not so good followed by him losing out the series. You are going to have to get to him early. If Tampa is to win this series they can’t take it to seven games and John Cooper is going to have to know that. Side note on John Cooper, he coached the Norfolk Admirals to an American Hockey League championship and won the Calder Cup during the 2011-2012 season.

Obviously the Rangers were dominated in every aspect of the game on Monday night. They had no answer for how to shut down Tyler Johnson, no answer for how to beat Ben Bishop on the power play, no answer for how to kill penalties and the score showed it. I questioned the Rangers after their series with the Penguins and after the comeback series victory against the Caps I thought maybe they had figured it out but they are going to have to rediscover themselves. If they can’t get goals from guys like Nash or St Louis or more power play goals it’s going to be a really long series and a long summer waiting for the next season. I hate to say this but I think the Lightning have left the Rangers bloody. I’m hoping they can fight their way back from it but it’s going to take a huge effort to get past such large opponents.