By Kevin McGran Sports Reporter Tues., May 7, 2019 Well that was certainly a strange end to the saga over Mike Babcock’s future as coach of the Maple Leafs. GM Kyle Dubas had made a big deal about having a performance review – not just of Babcock but of everybody -- that set off the speculation in the first place. He concluded with: “We’ll let you know when we know.” Then he sort of, trying to sound off the cuff, tells one reporter over the phone that the Leafs are “all in” on Babcock, either trying to treat it like it was nothing, really, or more likely, avoid making a bigger deal of it than it had become. And it had become huge, taking on a life of its own, which is entirely predictable in this market. The kind of circus that existed around this team for, oh, close to 100 years. Or at least most of the last 50. (There was the time in 2008 that then-MLSE president Richard Peddie traveled with the team on a West Coast … [Read more...] about Babcock Mailbag: How the coach kept his job
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By Kevin McGran Sports Reporter Mon., May 6, 2019 Let me start today with a correction. Last week I answered a question by saying that the Patrick Marleau’s contract could not be bought out since he signed it when he was over 35. That’s not true. It can be bought out, it’s just that the cap hit will remain with the team. So, kind of, there’s no point. But maybe there is. Credit here to a faithful reader, Dave B, who patiently corrected me. I’ll let him explain. “Hi Kevin. Thanks for answering my question last week about getting another team to buyout Marleau. I have a follow-up comment about it. In your answer, you said that Marleau's contract can't be bought out because it was signed when he was over the age of 35. According to capfriendly.com, a 35+ contract can be bought out, but the team receives no cap relief from the buyout. They would only save 1/3 of the salary remaining on the contract, with the rest payable over … [Read more...] about Dubas Mailbag: Can the Leafs trade Patrick Marleau?
By Kevin McGran Sports Reporter Fri., May 3, 2019 Bumped into Nikita Soshnikov over at the Coca-Cola Coliseum on Thursday (as you might have surmised from this story about Egor Korshkov). Sosh looked good. He’s working out on his own, starting to get ready for next year. He figures he’s going back to the KHL – maybe St. Petersburg -- after things didn’t work out for him in the NHL. There was real hype – and hope – for him. He remembers it, and believed it and in himself. He was terrific his first call-up (two goals, three assists in 11 games) at the end of the 2015-16 season. “I had a lot of ice time, I had a lot of confidence,” he said. “It’s all confidence. The coach trusts you. You feel good. You’re going to play. But injuries. You have to find a way to stay healthy.” A concussion and a neck injury cost him playing time in Toronto. He was traded to St. Louis. He suffered a concussion in … [Read more...] about Mailbag: Whatever happened to Nikita Soshnikov?
By Kevin McGran Sports Reporter Tues., April 30, 2019 Before I get to Mike Babcock’s grade for the 2018-19 season, I guess I should point out we’re all on #BabcockWatch now. (Tomorrow: The Forwards) When asked about the Babcock’s job security with the Maple Leafs, GM Kyle Dubas punted the answer downfield. He basically said everything is under review, and he’ll let us know when he knows. Not exactly words of endorsement, though how often has a coach been fired mere days after the GM promised him the exact opposite? So Dubas will let us know when he knows and he hasn’t said anything yet, so the #BabcockWatch will carry on. Article Continued Below It’s really too close to call right now, whether Babcock will be back for Season 5. It’s a bit like Game of Thrones, where some of your favourite characters don’t make it to the end. Jake Gardiner’s not making it. A bit like Theon Greyjoy there. We all thought … [Read more...] about Babcock watch: Grading a coach whose job is on the line
By Dave Feschuk Sports Columnist Sun., April 28, 2019 The instinct always seems correct. Talent wins in pro sports — especially the flow games like basketball and hockey where a chess master like Bill Belichick can’t consistently win by outwitting. And since talent never seems to come cheap, it only makes sense that talent gets paid — handsomely, if need be. So when you think about the individual decisions to sign the Maple Leafs’ top players, it’s tough to assail any one of them as completely out of touch. William Nylander’s contract is the easy target. But with a cap hit of $6.9 million (all figures U.S.) in the years to come — with a seven-goal season in the rear-view — this might not be the ideal moment to analyze the deal’s merits. Ontario’s premier promised Buck-a-Beer. Surely one of Ontario’s premier right wingers will eventually see fit to produce at a rate beyond A Million-Bucks-a-Goal. … [Read more...] about Why the Leafs have to win salary showdown with Marner