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Category: Toronto-Maple-Leafs

An ‘Ordinary’ Looking Auston Matthews

from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,

There is an inherent pressure that goes along with signing a giant contract in any sport. Some players need time to adjust. Some players feel the pressure. You sign the big deal and instantly expectations change. For the first time, really, in Auston Matthews’ time in Toronto, there is some wondering about who is he is and what he can become. There have been too many uninspired shifts this season, on Wednesday night, too many shifts where he’s barely noticeable. Late in the Avs game, Matthews finally got going. He had one good chance to score, set up another chance and was open in scoring position and not spotted by Morgan Rielly on another....

This is a difficult time for hockey in Toronto. The Leafs have made their coaching change. On Wednesday, they abandoned their goaltending rotation, mostly out of desperation, and Frederik Andersen was brilliant in defeat. This is a tense time for general manager Kyle Dubas. This is his team, Matthews is his No. 1 player.

And the player he has chosen to invest in most heavily mirrors his team, looking rather ordinary.

Looking nothing like a player who is supposed to move mountains.

more, the Leafs lost 3-1 to the Avs...

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  Tags: auston+matthews

Toronto Is In Need Of A Backup Goalie

from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,

What Kyle Dubas needed most on his 34th birthday was a backup goaltender who can win a game.

Any game.

This was Michael Hutchinson’s sixth start of this still young season. This should be his last. Or his last for a while. He is 0-for-6 in the win column. 0-for-October. 0-for-November. Oh no, for his part of this irregular season.

He has started six times and his number is 644-556. That’s not his social security number. Each digit represents the number of goals he has given up in each starts. There are no threes in there. There are no twos. There are no zeros.

This can’t continue.


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

Toronto Talk

from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,

A few NHL cities have this habit of trashing the reputation of a player, a coach or a GM when they leave town. Boston is notable in this regard, with the departures of Phil Kessel and Dougie Hamilton the most glaring examples in recent years of this proclivity to not just wave farewell but to also make sure someone’s reputation is besmirched on the way out.

Toronto can be like this now and then, and we’re seeing a bit of it right now with Mike Babcock. There are those who wish to demonstrate that Babcock isn’t just a bad coach, but also truly a bad person. Evil, really. A thoroughly awful man. Somebody Adam Schiff should really be investigating.

It’s unnecessary to put the boots to the man when he’s down. But it’s interesting to wonder why he never acquired widespread affection in the public and the media around here during his four-and-a-half years....

For Keefe, this week offers just about the ideal menu for the rookie coach to get off to a blazing start. First, there are two full days of practice to get his systems in place, followed by a game in Detroit on Wednesday against the hapless Red Wings, currently the worst team in the NHL.

The Wings have only won four of 12 at home so far, and have allowed the most goals in the league while scoring only 59 times themselves. Only two teams have fewer goals.

So that Wednesday game is perfect situation for Keefe to start with three straight wins. 


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

Video- Alex Kerfoot Suspended Two Games



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  Tags: alex+kerfoot

Mike Babcock’s Way Of Coaching

from Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun,

Babcock long has taken a bashing on Twitter from former NHL player Mike Commodore, who has major issues with the way the coach treated him in Detroit.

A series of measured tweets on Saturday by former NHL defenceman Mark Fraser defended Commodore, with Fraser saying that based on his conversations and stories related to him “95%” of Babcock’s players “can’t say a good thing about” him. Fraser also tweeted that Babcock “used his power to turn teammates against each other.”

One tale was related to us in the past few days that is said to have occurred in the 2016-17 season, during the annual fathers trip.

Babcock was alleged to have asked one of the Leafs’ rookies to list the players on the team from hardest-working to those who, in the eyes of the rookie, didn’t have a strong work ethic. The rookie did so, not wanting to upset his coach, but was taken aback when Babcock told the players who had been listed at the bottom.

When Babcock scratched veteran Jason Spezza for the regular-season opener, a decision that was unnecessary and disrespectful, we received an e-mail from a long-time NHL observer wondering why Babcock would deliberately embarrass Spezza.

more on the Leafs...

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  Tags: mike+babcock

Video- A Hearing For Alex Kerfoot On Monday


Watch the hit below.

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  Tags: alex+kerfoot

On The Leafs, Devils And More

from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,

- Mike Babcock, whose last eight teams in Detroit and Toronto combined to win one playoff series, ultimately lost his job behind the Maple Leafs bench because he refused to coach the roster he was given while instead pining for the one he wanted.

It is not only clear, but crystal, that MLSE president Brendan Shanahan, the man both behind and in front of the franchise curtain, expects the progressive and largely analytics-driven world view of the organization that has permeated every step of the operation to manifest itself on the ice, as well....

- ... If the Flames knew they could sign Hall to an extension, would they move Johnny Gaudreau (five goals, 18 assists, 23 points in 25 games and with a cap hit of $6.75 million per through 2021-22) for the pending free agent?

Would the Devils make that deal, or would Shero seek a more traditional rental return (first-rounder, prospect, et al) for No. 9?

- So if the NHL is forever fiddling with rules in order to promote offense, is it not time for a carryover power play to begin with an offensive zone faceoff rather than the traditional period-opening draw at the center dot?

Why, yes. Yes it is.

more on each of the first two topics plus other notes...

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Afternoon Line- Kevin Paul Dupont

The Leafs, let us not forget, had DNQ’d for 9 of 10 postseasons prior to Babcock’s arrival. They had morphed into Canada’s version of the pre-Mike Ilitch Dead Wings. To date, they still haven’t won a playoff round since 2004. A full generation of Leafs fans, among the most avid in the Original 31, now have lived without the sweet springtime intoxication of a Cup run in Southern Ontario.

-Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe where you can read more on this topic plus others like this...

As for the Fleury’s stop, quickly labeled on the Internet as the “Superman Save,’’ yes, it was stupendous. An absolute must-see on YouTube. But at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, it also served as yet another reminder how equipment innovations — specifically the lightweight leg pads, in this case — have diminished dramatically the ability for shooters to score. The game has grown simply too far weighted toward the goalies.

The light, streamlined leg pads have been in vogue for 30-plus years. So many fans of the current game don’t recall the days, well into the 1980s, when tenders wore heavy leather pads stuffed with animal hair (be it horse, deer, or otherwise). Those old pads absorbed sweat and ice shavings, adding weight and restricting mobility.

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

Mike Babcock’s Next Move Plus More Hockey Topics

from Luke Fox of Sportsnet,

A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. Sheldon Keefe gave us the freedom to let our skill take over this week’s column.

1. My gut response regarding the future of Mike Babcock was something along the lines of: “Oh, he’ll be back in the NHL in no time. Coaching is in his blood. Regardless of if he lost the Maple Leafs room after four years, some GMs won’t be able to resist all those rings and medallions.”

Digging a little deeper, Babcock’s whopper of a contract — his record-setting $5.875 million annual salary is guaranteed through June 30, 2023 — stands as quite the roadblock.

The NHL’s priciest bench buyout is getting paid more to not coach than anyone in the NHL is getting paid to coach (Florida’s Joel Quenneville is the runner-up at $5.25 million).

We’re not quite into Roberto “My Contract Sucks” Luongo territory here, but escaping the outstanding debt owed to Babcock will be tricky business for MLSE.

I rang up Neil Glasberg of PBI Sports & Entertainment. He’s a professional negotiator and personal-brand manager who represents 40-plus coaches (but not Babcock) at the NHL and AHL levels.

Ten times he’s facilitated a coach’s contract swap from one GM to another, perhaps most memorably John Tortorella’s from Vancouver to Columbus.

NHL coach-employment agreements include a “right of offset,” a rule that forbids double-dipping of any sort.

continued plus more topics...

Filed in: NHL Teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: mike+babcock

All Is Well In Toronto, At Least For A Night

from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,

It was almost as if Sheldon Keefe flipped a light switch.

Not even 30 hours after replacing Mike Babcock — and after no practices, one morning skate, one morning meeting and only modest instruction — Keefe stepped behind the Toronto Maple Leafs bench and watched the team deliver its most complete performance of this roller-coast season.

If this was a preview of what’s to come, we may soon be asking Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas what took so long.

It’s only one game, of course, and there’s some obvious danger in reading too much into Thursday’s 3-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. But this was a feeling as much as a result. The Leafs were told by Keefe to be bold with the puck and they responded by putting the Coyotes in chase mode for most of the night.

"I just think a little bit more freedom," said Auston Matthews, when asked why they looked so much better. "We weren’t really just giving up the puck. I thought if something wasn’t there, we’d just kind of come back and hang on to it and we’d all come up and support each other and we didn’t have guys all over the place.


Watch the game highlights below.

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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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