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Category: Toronto-Maple-Leafs

Imagine The Leafs Missing The Playoffs

from Michael Traikos of the National Post,

What does a successful season look like for the Toronto Maple Leafs?

How about an unsuccessful one?

Two days into training camp, the latter is once again starting to pick up some steam. After all, the Leafs have major question marks in net. Two of their top-six defencemen are already out with injuries, while another is in a contract holdout. And based on the betting odds, both their general manager and head coach appear to be on borrowed time.

Forget about failing in the first round. Is there a chance that Toronto, which has qualified for the post-season for six straight years, might miss out on the playoffs entirely?

That might sound unrealistic — if not unfathomable —  after the year the Leafs had last season, having finished with the fourth-best record in the NHL, with Auston Matthews leading the league in goals and Mitch Marner ranking 10th overall in points. Then again, a lot has changed since then. Not so much with Toronto, but rather with the teams around them.

With non-playoff teams, such as Ottawa, Detroit and possibly Buffalo, are all expected to make a major push for a playoff spot, the already tough Atlantic Division just got a whole lot tougher. Toronto, along with Florida, Tampa Bay and Boston, is still considered one of the favourites to grab one of the top-3 seeds. But a lot still has to go right for the Leafs to get into the playoffs. Or rather, a lot can’t go wrong.

And this year, there’s a lot that can go wrong.

continued

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A Focused Kyle Dubas

from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,

Kyle Dubas doesn’t sound like a man on the hot seat.

In a rare, wide-ranging conversation on the eve of the opening of Maple Leafs training camp, Dubas comes across as composed and confident — believing in his hockey team that has so many questions; excited, like most of us, for the start of a new season and all that is about to unfold.

He isn’t consumed with winning a single round of the Stanley Cup playoffs the way so much of Toronto is after repeated post-season disappointments that have plagued this franchise for far too many years. This is his fifth season as general manager, his ninth year with the club — and some wonder if there will be a next year for him with his contract set to expire. But the team has grown by 15 points in his first four years — just not enough when it matters most in April or May.

“You want to win every year, that’s why you do these jobs,” said Dubas, the married father of two, no longer a kid GM. He turns 37 in November.

“You’re at that point where that’s our goal. To win. Not just win a round. Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup. Not to win a series, it’s to win the whole thing. That’s what we focus on.

continued

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Auston Matthews Staying Positive

from the CP at Sportsnet,

Auston Matthews believes those deep, painful battle scars of past playoff failures will eventually — finally — pay dividends.

The Maple Leafs star centre, in truth, has little choice.

Toronto suffered through another bitter first-round disappointment last spring, falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games after taking a 3-2 lead in the series.

But that loss, at least on some level, felt different both inside and outside Toronto's locker room.

Unlike their soul-crushing collapse up 3-1 against the underdog Montreal Canadiens in 2021 or consecutive seven-game defeats to the Boston Bruins in 2019 and 2020, the Leafs didn't wilt in going toe-to-toe with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions in a matchup consisting of razor-thin margins.

"It's still disappointing with the same result," Matthews said Friday at the NHL/NHLPA player media tour just outside Las Vegas. "But I think there's a lot of things that you can take — a lot of positives — from it and move forward.

"You can't live in the past."

continued

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You Knew This Was Coming

from Damien Cox at the Toronto Star,

Stamkos decided Tampa Bay was a much better place for his talents, and that decision has paid off with two Stanley Cup rings. Tavares came for $77 million (U.S.) only to quickly be usurped as the saviour-in-waiting by Auston Matthews, and probably Mitch Marner, too.

That, however, only makes the Kane speculation that much more intriguing as he enters the final season of his long-term contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. He would, in theory, be MLSE’s hockey version of Kawhi Leonard, the player from a championship team who could help a team that could never get very far in the playoffs get over the hump.

As a superbly talented player, he would also theoretically demonstrate to Matthews that the team will continue to keep him surrounded by top-drawer talent. As well, following the departure of two elite American players from Calgary this summer, this might be a way for the Leafs to prove they are different, particularly if they could keep the Arizona-born Matthews and the Buffalo-born Kane around for years to come.

So there’s lots here to gnaw on, and the gnawing has truly begun in earnest. There have been “reports” that the Leafs and Hawks have already discussed Kane. As well, former NHLer Paul Bissonnette, now the star of the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast, has loudly staked his reputation on his belief that Kane will be a Leaf this season.

more

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Goalie Talk In Edmonton And Toronto

from David Staples of the Edmonton Journal,

1. It’s entertaining to think that the loss and suffering of the Leafs might be to the benefit of the Oilers. But, in the end,  that’s just a side show. The real issue is a) whether Campbell is indeed coming to Edmonton b) what will be the term and cap hit and c) how might he be expected to perform as an Oiler.

2. On the first question, Friedman sums it up nicely, with the hockey world now expecting Campbell to end up in Edmonton. Here he will be lining alongside former Leafs like Zach Hyman and Cody Ceci. Both Hyman and Ceci made a huge splash in Edmonton in their first season. Hyman had his best year as an NHLer and came up huge for the Oilers in the playoffs. Ceci, who was little loved in Toronto, aced it for the Oil, working his way up until he was the team’s best d-man in the final months of the season and the playoffs, and all that on an NHL-average salary. His contract represented one of the best value propositions in the entire NHL.

3. On the second question, we hear an awful lot about five years of term at $5 million a season. Campbell is surely worth that high priced bet over two or three years, but things could go sideways if Stuart Skinner develops fast and exceeds Campbell’s play in the net. How will the Oilers find the money to pay for both goalies? This is why some in Toronto are OK with the Leafs going with Murray even if he’s an inferior bet for next season. His contract is up in two years, so the Leafs won’t be locked in long term like the Oilers will be with Campbell.

more

from Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun,

Continue Reading »

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Evening Line -Steve Simmons

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The Toronto Maple Leafs Acquire Matt Murray

via the Toronto Maple Leafs,

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that the hockey club has acquired goaltender Matt Murray, a third-round selection in the 2023 NHL Draft and a seventh-round selection in the 2024 NHL Draft from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for future considerations. Ottawa will retain 25% of Murray's salary as part of the trade.

Murray, 28, has appeared in 246 regular season games with Ottawa (2020-21 to 2021-22) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (2015-16 to 2019-2020) over the course of his seven-year NHL career, posting a record of 132-78-22 with a 2.77 goals-against average, a .911 save percentage and 14 shutouts.

In the playoffs, the Thunder Bay, Ontario native owns a record of 29-21 with a 2.18 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and six shutouts. Murray was a part of the Penguins Stanley Cup championship teams in 2016 and 2017.

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A Goalie Or Two Needed In Toronto

from Michael Traikos of the National Post,

The Colorado Avalanche proved that you can win a Stanley Cup with a 32-year-old former minor-league journeyman in net. But what are the chances you can win a championship with a couple of backups who have combined for less than 20 NHL games?

It’s something Kyle Dubas doesn’t want to find out.

And yet, when it comes to landing a No. 1 goalie, the Toronto Maple Leafs GM currently finds himself without a seat in what has become a fierce game of musical chairs.

“It seems a little similar to last year,” said Dubas. “You change the names and the teams a little bit, but a team or a goalie may be left without a spot — or a spot that either the team or the goaltender doesn’t desire much.”

continued

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Toronto Trades Petr Mrazek To Chicago

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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.

more

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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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