Canadian teams will be well-represented in Tuesday’s NHL draft lottery.
Hey, we have to find something nice to say as the Montreal Canadiens are the only team north of the border to make the playoffs. The other six Canadian cities are among the top 10 teams vying to win the lottery and earn the right to select first overall.
Below you’ll see a listing for the 14 non-playoff teams and their chances to select first overall in the June 27-28 draft in Philadelphia. Most interesting is the likely outcome column which shows the varying percentage chances your favorite team will place.
For those of you keeping score, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks have just handed the keys to their kingdoms to two men who have – just a second while we add it up – um, zero experience at their new positions.
So in hiring Brendan Shanahan as their president and Trevor Linden as their president of hockey operations, the Leafs and Canucks have accomplished absolutely nothing to this point aside from winning the news conference. And if that was the intention here, to try to assuage the fan base by hiring a big-name personality, it runs the risk of providing them with nothing more than more of the same. Read more
As Brendan Shanahan settles into his new role as president of the Maple Leafs, he’ll have many issues to examine: the Leafs’ cookie-cutter in-game entertainment, for instance; or the deafening volume of the speakers facing press row. But there’s one topic that ought to take priority over all others – and it’s not the employment status of Toronto’s current coach or GM.
It’s drafting and development, an area in which the Leafs have been woefully lacking for as long as anyone can remember. If anything is going to provide meaningful change in the years to come, it’s better results from their group of talent evaluators and groomers.
If you view Toronto’s draft history/results through the prism of THN’s annual Future Watch edition, the reality becomes all the more painful. Let’s look back over the past decade and see where the Leafs’ collection of prospects have ranked every year. (And remember, each issue’s rankings are a result of consultations with a large group of NHL GMs and scouts.) Read more
Colorado did the unthinkable last night – no, not beating Vancouver; that was very thinkable. What the Avs did do was pass the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Central Division. These are the same Avs whom we predicted would not even make the playoffs in our summer Yearbook and if you look at the advanced stats, shouldn’t be in the playoff picture right now.
On one level the Avs have been lucky – but you have to be good to be lucky and Colorado is good. Coach Patrick Roy – a Jack Adams candidate in his rookie year, to be sure – admitted as such last night. As noted by NHL.com reporter Kevin Woodley, Roy was well aware how poorly the Avalanche has fared in puck possession metrics. Colorado ranks 25th in the league when it comes to Corsi, the measure of all shots directed towards the opponent’s net (including blocked and missed attempts) versus those against. But as Roy pointed out, they’ve also got Semyon Varlamov, one of the best goaltenders in the NHL and that’s how they have managed to stay on top. Sure, the Avs have been playing with fire, but they’ve locked up a good post-season slot and didn’t get burned. And the playoffs are all about having a hot goaltender, so for now, no harm no foul.
The Toronto Maple Leafs season began with optimism, but ended up being crushed under the weight of new-age statistics that were against them the whole time. Even last season, proponents of hockey analytics feverishly pointed out shortcomings on the roster that weren’t immediately convincing as Toronto was one game away from knocking Boston out of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Today, no one believes this team isn’t broken and in need of new inspiration. There’s no one who doesn’t believe this team needs to adjust its hockey business practice by doing things such as being more open to modern ideas and treating the draft with greater delicacy.
And it seems the Maple Leafs franchise will get just that type of infusion in a high place. Damien Cox of the Toronto Star reports Brendan Shanahan will leave the NHL as early as Friday and join the Toronto, most likely as president. Read more
Multiple reports that top Maple Leafs executive Tim Leiweke has reached out to NHL chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan for a high-ranking management role with the team should be hugely encouraging for Leafs fans nursing their wounds after another disastrous season. If the Hockey Hall-of-Famer has any interest in moving back to his hometown, ownership needs to move heaven and earth to make it happen, because he’s exactly the type of dynamic, modern-minded executive who could thrive with this team.
Like anyone they add to the mix, Shanahan wouldn’t be a guarantor a Stanley Cup arrives in a hurry. It will still take years to build the Leafs into a consistent championship threat, and the 45-year-old will face a learning curve as all rookie management members do. If he becomes GM, skeptics will point to the fact he has no experience in that role and question whether he can do the job under the microscope and incredible pressure of Toronto.
However, Shanahan has accumulated a different type of experience in his four-and-a-half years working out of the NHL’s New York City head office. In his current role as vice-president of player safety, he is in contact with all 30 GMs and watches as much, if not more hockey than any of them. He is a consensus-seeker who understands how the game is policed at the league level and has a reputation for fairness. He would have to negotiate his way through the corporate jungle that is MLSE, but he wouldn’t be signing up with the Leafs to have strings attached to him. Leiweke would have to give him full autonomy on hockey moves – the kind Shanahan’s friend and former teammate Steve Yzerman has with the Tampa Bay Lightning – and if Leiweke is talking to Shanahan, he knows that’s how it would need to be. Read more
Since Air Canada Centre opened in February of 1999, the arena has hosted just 44 NHL playoff games – and only three since 2004. In keeping with that abysmal tradition, there will be no post-season hockey to enjoy this spring in Toronto; the Maple Leafs are out of the playoffs for the eighth time in the past nine seasons, leaving their fans despondent and Bon Jovi concert promoters thrilled at the possibility of more open dates for shows.
But picture the same scenario playing out, only with the Leafs chock-full of dynamic young players who are now ready to contribute in a significant fashion. That’s what should’ve happened immediately after the 2004-05 lockout season, but for too long Leafs fans have been told – either by former GM Brian Burke explicitly, or by ownership’s actions implicitly – that Torontonians have no appetite for a long-term rebuild. Instead, the franchise made a t-shirt cannon for money, and aimed it at whichever high-profile free agent du jour came along in the hope they could arrive at their final destination faster than they otherwise would have.
Whether it was Jason Blake in 2007, Mike Komisarek in 2009, or David Clarkson last summer, the Leafs have succumbed to temptation at virtually every turn and wound up regretting it almost immediately thereafter. The ability to write checks to paper over their structural issues has stunted their growth on the drafting and development front, even after Burke arrived in 2008 and drastically bulked up their scouting staff. They’re not totally bereft of young talent, but THN’s 2014 Future Watch edition ranked them 29th out of 30 teams. That is as unacceptable as any on-ice disaster their fans have seen this season. Read more
The Toronto Maple Leafs playoff hopes are hanging by a thread. That prompted Toronto Sun columnists to speculate about the club’s off-season roster moves.
Terry Koshan notes center Dave Bolland reportedly sought a seven-or eight-year deal worth upward of $40 million before contract talks broke off in February. Given that the Leafs inked David Clarkson to a seven-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $5.25 million last summer, Bolland could seek a similar deal.
If Bolland becomes a free agent in July, Koshan claims there’s talk the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers will pursue the 30-year-old center. Koshan’s colleague Steve Simmons believes the Leafs should re-sign Bolland even at the risk of overpaying him.
Koshan also reports defenseman Cody Franson could be shopped this summer. Simmons, meanwhile, thinks there will be a lot of interest in former Leafs winger Leo Komarov, who signed with the Kontinental League’s Moscow Dynamo last summer. The Leafs could try to bring him back, but Simmons claims the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning could be among those pursuing the 27-year-old in this summer’s free agent market.