Kukla's Korner

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Category: Toronto-Maple-Leafs

Waiting On The Core In Toronto

from Damein Cox at the Toronto Star,

Nathan MacKinnon is now 26 years old, and was drafted in 2013. Victor Hedman, the unusually talented big man who dominates the Tampa Bay defence, was drafted in 2009 and was 29 years old when the Lightning captured the “summer bubble” title in 2020. The Leafs obviously are hoping that Mitch Marner (now 25, drafted in 2015) and Auston Matthews (24, drafted in 2016) are getting to the same point in their careers as those players, but there’s no guarantee.

Instead, showing that not all seven-game, first-round playoff losses are created equal, this off-season seems mostly about the Leafs not necessarily improving themselves, but making sure they don’t get worse.

Not exactly exciting, right? But in a salary cap league in which big trades involving star players are mostly a thing of the past, that’s the way it is for most teams.

You can always hope another club makes a big mistake that benefits your team. Colorado certainly feels that way about how they acquired Nazem Kadri from Toronto. Tampa still can’t believe it got Mikhail Sergachev from Montreal for Jonathan Drouin. Or you can hope that money and/or cap woes motivate teams to dump good talent, like Minnesota recently did with Kevin Fiala. Arizona is apparently trying to get its payroll as low as it can go as it prepares to further embarrass the NHL by playing out of a 5,000-seat arena, so maybe some team will land talented defenceman Jakob Chychrun for some combination of prospects and picks.

Teams in Toronto’s division are making moves. Boston hired Jim Montgomery to coach, and Detroit did the same with Derek Lalonde. Montreal, with the first pick in the draft, will get a big-name prospect this week, and Ottawa will continue to try to chart its future in the post-Eugene Melnyk era.

The Leafs, meanwhile, have bumped Jason Spezza from the fourth line to the front office, signed Mark Giordano and Timothy Liljegren to very affordable contracts and fired their goaltending coach. Ilya Mikheyev has apparently been deemed unaffordable, and there’s some concern Rasmus Sandin could be an offer-sheet target.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink

The Big Winner Was Auston Matthews, But

from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,

He was fully deserving of the awards and it adds to a rather impressive trophy case that includes the rookie of the year, two Rocket Richard trophies, and now a Hart and a Lindsay, the largest individual trophies in the sport.

Matthews entered the NHL in 2016 — and in six seasons, no one has scored more goals than him. Not Alex Ovechkin. Not Leon Draisaitl. Not McDavid.

He is the ultimate goal scorer and, individually, as a regular-season player, there isn’t much Matthews hasn’t accomplished. But this being playoff time, between games of the Stanley Cup final, he is handed his newest trophies, the first Hart for a Maple Leaf in most of our lives, the first Lindsay ever, and it is almost contradictory to applaud his regular season while sneering ever slightly at another run of playoff series left unfinished.

Nine times in the past five years Matthews’ Leafs have been in position to advance to the second round of the playoffs. Nine times the Leafs have lost a potential clinching game — twice against Tampa this year; three times against Montreal last year; once against Columbus in the bubble of 2020; three times against Boston in 2019 and 2018.

He has yet to pull a McDavid or a Nathan MacKinnon or a Makar, grabbing and willing his team to victory. He has yet to win something on his own other than awards.

In the nine clinching playoff games, Matthews, the unmatched goal scorer, has scored just twice.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Fixing The Rangers And The Lightning Are Back

from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,

Listen, we all understood how arduous the task would be for the Rangers to dethrone the two-time defending Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final, even when the Blueshirts took the first two games of the series at the Garden.

But the caliber of the opposition and the degree of difficulty of this challenge does not line up with the Rangers’ response here in Games 3 and 4. It isn’t that they lost twice, it isn’t even that they failed to score a five-on-five goal in 120:00 after recording eight in the first 101:21 of the series.

It is that the club’s level of desperation did not seem close to matching Tampa Bay’s. And if the Rangers are going to be able to do this, their level of commitment and desire needs an exponential increase.


from John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times,

This is what patience looks like. This is what trust looks like.

It is unhappy, but never exasperated. It is frustrated, but never panics. It is a hockey team that can look slow and befuddled at the start of a series, and then calmly reverse its fortunes in 48 hours.

Say hello to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

They weren’t quite facing the abyss in the Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers, but they were close enough to feel a cool breeze at their backs. They responded by winning a thriller in Game 3, and then romping to a 4-1 victory in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

Just like that, the series is tied and is now a best-of-three affair.


Filed in: NHL Teams, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Jason Spezza Announces His Retirement

from the Toronto Maple Learfs,

Statement from Jason Spezza:

"I love hockey. Since the age of three, I've been lucky enough to live out my dream and do what I love for so many years," said Spezza. "I eat, sleep, dream hockey and it's always been there for me. There are too many people to thank individually but I'm forever grateful and indebted to the Ottawa Senators, Dallas Stars, Toronto Maple Leafs and Hockey Canada for their support and belief in me as a player and person. To my teammates, coaches, support staff, trainers and equipment staff - a heartful thank you for everything. Through countless hours at the rink - whether on the ice or with those behind the scenes - I have been so fortunate to have forged friendships for life.

Hockey has been my life's work and to be able to come home to Toronto and bookend my playing career where it started was incredible. To the fans - in Ottawa, Dallas, Toronto and across the league - your impact on the game is immeasurable. I'll never be able to replicate that feeling of stepping onto the ice to the roar of the crowd, but it is something I'll always remember. Thank you.

Looking forward, I'm very grateful to the Leafs for the amazing opportunity to transition into this new role. It enables me to continue to follow my passion; learn and live new experiences within the game I love.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Mark Giordano Takes A Pay Cut

from Luke Fox of Sportsnet,

During those heady days following the trade deadline, when the Toronto Maple Leafs’ defence corps was in the throes of an instant boost from its newest and oldest recruit, coach Sheldon Keefe considered the best aspect of Mark Giordano’s game.

“He puts out fires,” Keefe concluded of the wily, steady veteran and seamless fit.

Well, another long, handwringing, cap-crunching summer in Leafland hadn’t yet reached a week old, and there was Giordano wielding a fire extinguisher, hosing down a balance sheet that has glowing embers everywhere you look.

By taking a severe hometown discount Sunday and signing a two-year, $1.6-million extension, Giordano left general manager Kyle Dubas “thrilled.”


Filed in: NHL Teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Two More Years For Mark Giordano In Toronto

via the Toronto Maple Leafs,

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that the hockey club has signed defenceman Mark Giordano to a two-year contract extension. The average annual value of the contract is $800,000.

Filed in: NHL Teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Mitch Marner Okay After Carjacking

from Sportsnet,

The Maple Leafs confirmed the news in a statement Tuesday morning.

"We can confirm Mitch Marner was the unfortunate victim of a carjacking in Etobicoke on Monday evening. He was unharmed in the incident and the Club & Mitch are thankful for Toronto Police Services’ support. Anyone with information is asked to reach out to Toronto Police Services," the statement reads. "TPS has asked that neither Mitch or the Club comment any further on the details of the incident as this is an ongoing investigation."

Toronto Police tweeted about a man being robbed of his Range Rover on Monday at 7:46 p.m. ET in the southwest portion of the city.

more, 2 guns and a knife were involved...

Marner was not made available to the media today, but Auston Matthews was.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink

All Don Cherry

from Joe Warmngton o the Toronto Sun,

Grapes on a comeback to Hockey Night in Canada?

While “I do miss Coach’s Corner and going down there on Saturday nights,” it’s unlikely because “the truth is people are afraid of me.” He said with today’s TV, “you have to get along with people, and you say the right thing,” and “I don’t.”

That’s why so many people watched. What Cherry brought has not been replaced. People in sports bars don’t turn up the volume anymore during the first intermission.

Grapes on possibility of he and Ron MacLean patching things up?

Cherry said while he doesn’t harbour any animosity, “I don’t think I could ever forget, though. I don’t think we will ever be friends again.”

more, including the state of the Leafs...

Filed in: NHL Teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL Media, Hockey Broadcasting, CBC HNIC, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Now What Toronto?

from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,

This is eight seasons for Shanahan on the job, with his hand-picked general manager Kyle Dubas and the GM’s hand-picked coach Sheldon Keefe. In sports, that’s a lifetime on the job. In those eight seasons, six of them in the playoffs, one of them bottoming out which brought them, Auston Matthews, they are one of just five teams in the NHL to not have won a playoff series in that time.

Toronto. New Jersey, Detroit. Los Angeles. Seattle. This is the company the Leafs now find themselves among. New Jersey won a bunch of Stanley Cups years ago. The Red Wings had an amazing run of championships and near championships. The Kings won two just before Shanahan was hired. As also-ran go, the Leafs are in their own territory....

A team with an owner would be firing somebody this week because that’s what owners tend to do. They act emotionally. They hear fans. They don’t always do the right thing.

And sometimes an owner says to his president, you have to fire your general manager, and the president says no. And the owner counters with, okay, then I’m firing you.

And maybe the owner is firing the GM. And maybe that means the coach is going too.

The difficulty in all this is that Shanahan has positioned the Leafs to succeed, except when it matters most. Dubas has done some fine work, only the teams he has built haven’t won a thing. Keefe has an amazing regular-season record as coach, but a .421 record in the post-season.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Afternoon Line- Sheldon Keefe

Filed in: NHL Teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com



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