The Right Way: The Maple Leafs complete franchise makeover is going swimmingly so far

Ken Campbell
William Nylander. (Graig Abel/Getty Images)

The Toronto Marlies are generally treated as the bastard child of the Toronto Maple Leafs, an afterthought in a hockey market where fans call into talk radio and wonder why their NHL team can’t just trade for P.K. Subban, like it’s that easy, or simply snap their fingers and sign Steven Stamkos and John Tavares when they become free agents. Toronto’s AHL franchise plays in a former horse palace, albeit a wonderfully refurbished one that makes for a great viewing experience, and despite being in the AHL’s biggest city and the Center of the Hockey Universe™ where they’re in first place and the NHL team is dead last, you can always get a ticket. Sometimes you might even have to pay for it. But there’s a lot of foot room for patrons since the arena is usually only about two-thirds full.

On this day in early February, however, the Marlies have the rule of the roost. The Maple Leafs are out of town on an extended road trip, so the Marlies take over the big club’s practice facility, a four-pad rink in the west end of the city. At one point during practice, Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe breaks the team into two groups, with one traipsing over to one rink to work exclusively on skill development and the other staying behind to work on systems.

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London Knights sweep OHL championship; look unstoppable

From left: Matthew Tkachuk, Mitch Marner (with Red Tilson Trophy) and Christian Dvorak of London (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Right now, the Brandon Wheat Kings and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies are in control of their respective championships in the WHL and QMJHL, with 3-1 series leads over Seattle and Shawinigan. The Wheaties lost yesterday, the Huskies the day before.

The OHL’s London Knights, on the other hand, haven’t lost a hockey game since the first day of April.

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Rumor Roundup: Canucks, Oilers set to have busy off-seasons in search of winger, blueliner

Loui Eriksson (Getty Images)

It’s been nearly a month since the Vancouver Canucks’ season came to an end. That hasn’t stopped the local media from speculating about the club’s off-season roster plans.

The Vancouver Sun’s Ben Kuzma lists five things he believes the Canucks should and shouldn’t do this summer. Among those they should do is look into the trade status of Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Jonathan Drouin, though Kuzma expects the asking price could be the Canucks first-round pick (fifth overall) in this year’s draft plus a roster player.

He also recommends pursuing Boston Bruins right winger Loui Eriksson or the New York Islanders’ Kyle Okposo via free agency to skate on the Sedin line. That would buy time for younger players, such as Jake Virtanen, to develop. Read more

Babcock, Boudreau and Tippett prove NHL coaches should be all for salary disclosure

Bruce Boudreau (Getty Images)

The recent spate of coach signings has revealed two very clear notions. The first is that, as was the case with the players more than two decades ago, full salary disclosure would do wonders for the salaries of the 30 men behind NHL benches. The second is that all coaches and would-be NHL coaches should send Mike Babcock a Thank You card and box of chocolates.

The Minnesota Wild unveiled Bruce Boudreau as their new coach Tuesday afternoon and are paying him somewhere in the range of $3 million a year. This is the same Bruce Boudreau who was just fired in Anaheim, whose teams have won just five playoff rounds in nine years and can’t seem to win a Game 7 to save their lives. Dave Tippett, who hasn’t been involved in a playoff game in four years, won an organizational power struggle with GM Don Maloney and was rewarded with more responsibility as the executive vice president of the hockey department and a new five-year deal worth $4 million a season.

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Rumor Roundup: Expect Maple Leafs to keep No. 1 pick, and still pursue Stamkos

Steven Stamkos  (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Toronto Maple Leafs winning the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery generated considerable excitement among their long-suffering fans. It’s also sparked speculation over what the Leafs might do with that pick.

It’s assumed the Leafs will retain it and select American center Auston Matthews first overall at next month’s draft. TSN’s Frank Seravalli doesn’t expect the Leafs will shop the pick in hopes of landing a return than can accelerate their rebuilding process. He does anticipate some teams might at least inquire into the possibility.

Throughout this season, some in the media floated the notion of the Arizona Coyotes pursuing the top pick if they didn’t win the draft lottery in order to select local boy Mattews. Coyotes CEO Anthony LeBlanc last month dismissed talk of his club offering up top defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson in an effort to land that pick.

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Let’s snuff out three preposterous Auston Matthews rumors before they spiral out of control

Matt Larkin
Matthews

The Toronto Maple Leafs have won the 2016 NHL draft lottery and will pick No. 1 overall for the first time since they nabbed Wendel Clark in 1985. This is good news for the sport, whether you love or hate the Leafs. It’s the equivalent of a high-profile player landing with the New York Knicks in basketball. When the Leafs choose what they hope is their next – and dare I say first – real superstar, fans can decide for themselves if that rookie is a hero or villain. It makes for a fascinating story either way.

Auston Matthews is the player most experts expect the Toronto Maple Leafs to draft June 24. He ranks No. 1 in THN’s Draft Preview, due out in the next couple weeks, and on virtually every other major publication’s prospect list. And yet, rumors have begun flying around social media predicting something other than the Leafs picking Matthews will happen June 24. That smoke is clickbait, and there’s no fire to accompany it. Let’s extinguish three of the more ridiculous theories circulating in the hockey media landscape at the moment. And, yes, I’m aware that merely discussing them makes this piece clickbait about clickbait. Apologies.

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Down Goes Brown: Five games that could have changed the 2016 draft lottery results

Leon-Draisaitl (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Back in March, we took a look back at five forgotten games from NHL history that, in hindsight, changed the results of a draft lottery. It was a reminder of just how close we came to Patrick Kane as an Oiler, or Vincent Lecavalier as a Canuck. It was meant to be a fun concept, and most fans seemed to enjoy it, with the exception of Capitals fans who saw Alexander Ovechkin photoshopped into a Blue Jackets uniform and immediately had coronaries.

This year, the NHL changed the lottery rules, expanding the process to include three draws instead of just one. And that’s good news for us, because it leaves us with plenty of opportunity to play the “one forgotten game” card with this year’s results. Now that we know what the winning spots in the standings were – that would be 30th, 25th and 27th – we can come up with all sorts of scenarios that would have changed the identity of the teams holding them.

So today, that’s what we’ll do. Granted, given how close the standings were around the key spots, we could pick virtually any game from the season for some of these teams. But that’s no fun. We want something that’s at least vaguely memorable, since it makes it more entertaining to point back and say “We didn’t realize it at the time, but that game changed everything.”

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Expected No. 1 pick Auston Matthews is a potential superstar for the Maple Leafs, just not next season

Auston Matthews (Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Leafs Nation erupted on Saturday night, and for good reason. They won the draft lottery and will have the right to select first in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

It’s been a long while since they got a win this big. This one wasn’t on the ice, that’ll have to wait a little longer, but it was perhaps just as important. It means they get a bonafide difference maker and a potential franchise player to hopefully lead them out of the dark abyss that’s been their last 50 season and into the promised land.

The Pittsburgh model. The Chicago Model. The Tampa Bay model. The Los Angeles model. The Edmonton model… Okay scratch that last one, but you get the picture. Be really bad, collect high picks, draft elite players and you’ll have a contender very soon. The Leafs nailed step one, and they’ll be rewarded for their ineptitude in June.

Their reward? Auston Matthews, an uber talented center born in Scottsdale, Ariz., with franchise cornerstone potential. The Leafs haven’t exactly had one of those since Mats Sundin and it’s not exactly far-fetch’d to think Matthews’ ceiling is even higher than that. He’s got potential to be the kind of superstar talent the Leafs have sorely lacked for most of their existence.

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