Should Phil Kessel continue his personal assault on the playoffs and be named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as tournament MVP, fans in Toronto and Boston should feel nothing but happiness for him. Wasting their time and emotional energy lamenting what might have been would be an exercise in futility.
And that’s largely because it never would have been. You see what Kessel is doing in the playoffs with the Pittsburgh Penguins? Never would have happened in either Toronto or Boston. Fans in Boston can be thankful for what they got in return for Kessel – Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton for a while – then Jimmy Hayes and three prospects they got when they dealt the players they got for Kessel. Fans in Toronto can watch as Kasperi Kapanen and Scott Harrington try to win a Calder Trophy for their minor league team and hope the first- and third-round picks turn into something nice.
So the Toronto Marlies are off to the Eastern Conference final in the American League as the executives with the big team tap the tips of their fingers together, their plan falling perfectly into place. Mitch Marner and his London Knights made a mockery of the Ontario League playoffs, Auston Matthews is leading USA in scoring at the World Championship and defenseman Connor Carrick, acquired from the Washington Capitals for Daniel Winnik, scored a goal to take over the AHL’s playoff scoring lead.
To be sure there were smiles and backslaps all around when the Marlies defeated the Albany Devils 4-3 in a darn entertaining Game 7 to win the second-round series and earn the right to face the Hershey Bears, the child team of the Capitals.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.