The likeness of Teeder Kennedy will be the first Toronto Maple Leafs legend coming off the granite bench, but who’s next?
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment announced the touchstone team monument project ‘Legend’s Row’ this week saying two other players will have their likenesses join Kennedy this season and up to 10 or 11 total by the time the NHL team celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2017. The statues will be on or coming off a 30-foot granite player bench just outside the Air Canada Centre.
If the Maple Leafs were going to select and announce statues of the honored Maple Leafs starting from the head of the class, it would unfold in an order close to how THN’s The Top 100 Players of All-Time established it in 1997. An esteemed panel of 50 hockey historians and experts determined that order. Here is where players most associated with the Maple Leafs ranked on that list.
It all makes sense now.
Retain coach Randy Carlyle and GM Dave Nonis after missing playoffs and posting horrible possession numbers.
Bringing in young, possession-oriented assistant GM Kyle Dubas as an understudy.
Sign a defenseman fresh off two broken legs in one year, and add many plucky veterans on tradable, one-year deals.
Lastly, get KISS Leaf jerseys before a Tuesday concert in Toronto.
Brendan Shanahan’s plan is clear now: this is a rebuild, a tank-job for Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. It wasn’t a sure thing until KISS happened. Any team associating its jersey with the most overrated rock band in history has nowhere to go but down, right?
In their years as Toronto Maple Leafs teammates, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin became close friends – and now that they’re playing for the New York Islanders, they’re showing their sense of humor for a great cause.
In this brief video, Kulemin accepts the “ice bucket challenge” – part of a campaign to raise awareness about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – by dumping a pail of freezing water over his head. But when he’s done…well, watch the video and see what happens: Read more
The NHL has always been a pressure-packed league, but from year-to-year, some teams face more pressure than others. Which franchises are going to be dealing with an especially hot seat once the 2014-15 season begins? These five:
5. Washington Capitals. When the Caps missed the playoffs last year and owner Ted Leonsis cleaned house on the management side, some observers expected them to go the same route with their underachieving roster. They did no such thing, and instead doubled down with two high-priced free agent acquisitions (defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen). Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee they’ll even make the playoffs in the mediocre Metropolitan division. And if they fall on their faces again and miss the post-season for the second straight year – the first time that will have happened since 2005-07 – what will ownership’s response be then?
4. San Jose Sharks. Sports has a long tradition of identifying underdogs – i.e., teams not expected to do well because they’re lacking in depth or talent – but the Sharks are now officially overdogs: a team not expected to do well despite having all kinds of depth and talent. San Jose GM Doug Wilson’s criticism of his group of players after last spring’s playoff collapse against the Kings should have everyone walking on eggshells as soon as training camp begins, but any kind of serious stumble during the season could lead to major changes. Read more
First, Fenwick Close. Then, the world.
We saw it two weeks ago when the Toronto Maple Leafs named Kyle Dubas assistant GM. Last week, it was the New Jersey Devils’ turn, as they hired Sunny Mehta. Statistician Eric Tulsky also works for a mystery NHL team. Today, as Bob McKenzie reported, Edmonton struck with Tyler Dellow.
A significant chunk of the hockey population likely said “Huh? Who’s that?” upon hearing each of those news nuggets. A minority, albeit a growing minority, went the other way, with a full nerd-gasm.
Those friends who texted you things like “OMG DELLOW, F— YES” are the advanced stat community, celebrating the fact four of their own have now penetrated the NHL.
Dubas is to front offices what Doogie Howser was to medicine, a 28-year-old prodigy (16 in teen doctor years) whose love of baseball statistics spilled over into his hockey analysis. Mehta is a former pro poker player with a strong online presence as an Oilers blogger.
Dellow, who has worked as a lawyer, is one of the strongest voices in the advanced statistic world. He’s best known for using the team he cheered for, the Oilers, as the main subject of his studies. He was often scathing, but he was groundbreaking in his use of the new metrics like Corsi. His site, mc79hockey.com, has been shut down, at least for the time being.
The Toronto Maple Leafs recently avoided salary arbitration with defenseman Jake Gardiner and goaltender James Reimer. Gardiner re-signed a five-year, $20.25-million contract, while Reimer inked a two-year, $4.6-million deal.
Both players were frequently mentioned in trade rumors last season. While their new deals suggest the Leafs won’t be peddling either player soon, it’s done little to fully dampen trade speculation.
Gardiner’s new deal indicates the Maple Leafs see him as part of their defense corps for the long term, but his new contract lacks a no-trade clause. Should he continue to struggle under coach Randy Carlyle, trade rumors will continue to dog the 24-year-old blueliner.
For decades, anyone who has questioned the usefulness of fighting in hockey has heard the phrase “you never played the game, so you wouldn’t understand” thrown at them. Of course, the idea anyone needs to have been an NHL player to comment on fighting is bogus – are former politicians the only people who are allowed to comment on politics? – but, for the sake of the following argument, let’s say that’s true and only NHLers are permitted to talk about fighting’s place in the sport. How do fight fetishists reply to the comments new Canucks president Trevor Linden made to Vancouver’s Team 1040 Radio yesterday?
If you missed it, Linden co-hosted the show and was asked about his stance on fighting in hockey. Dimitri Filipovic of CanucksArmy.com transcribed them:
“I think that our game is such a great one,” Linden said. “It’s built around speed, and skill, and hard-hitting, not unlike the NFL. Can you imagine an NFL game where a linebacker puts a good lick on a running back and the linemen get in there and drop their helmets and start bareknuckle punching each other in the face? It seems rather odd. And you can see why there are some fans in the States that have a tough time with that. They say, ‘I watch the NFL on Sundays and they hit hard, play hard, and pop up after hits and run back in the huddle’. That’s part of the game.
“Hockey has a different culture, of course. I think there are a lot of fans that don’t care for the needless fighting. The staged, ‘I’m supposed to fight, you’re supposed to fight, so let’s fight. We’re not really mad at each other, but that’s our job’ type of thing. I tend to agree with it. I think the NHL moving forward – whether it be a Steve Yzerman or various others – have come out and had significant stances (against that).” Read more
Late Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Jake Gardiner came to an agreement on a five-year extension with a $4.05 million cap hit as reported by Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.
This past season, Gardiner was in the rumor mill often as trade bait for Toronto to potentially land the No. 1 center they’d covet. After the season, it was speculated he and the team would work towards a short-term bridge contract, kind of like the one P.K. Subban signed with Montreal two years ago. But with the obvious cultural and strategic changes going on in Toronto’s head office, it shouldn’t surprise us that the team deviated from its old patterns.
If all goes according to plan, these surprisingly good moves will become less and less surprising.
If Gardiner hits the peak of his potential, he will become an elite and swift puck-moving blueliner, the kind you need to succeed in a league that is starting to put a premium on possession. But even if his development flattens, his natural skill set is valued in the NHL – and he doesn’t have a no-trade clause attached to this deal (just sayin’).
And though we’ve caught glimpses of Gardiner’s huge upside (especially this past season) his numbers haven’t yet flourished on such a poor team. The 24-year-old’s corsi for percentage at even strength last year was a rather low 46.4 percent, but it was still the highest on Toronto’s roster. His 10 goals and 31 points topped his full-season totals from 2011-12 – and 19 of those points came in the final 41 games, when Gardiner was playing some of his best NHL hockey yet. He was second only to Dion Phaneuf in average ice time per game.
What the Leafs are betting on with this five-year pact is that there’s plenty more to come from Gardiner and he’ll grow into a contract that will look like a steal by the end of it as he matures and the cap ceiling rises. They also bought one of his UFA years, which could be extremely valuable by Gardiner’s age 27 season. Seems like a good bet for a terrible team to make – the latest in a trend that should have Leafs fans excited. Read more