By Kevin McGran Sports Reporter Fri., May 10, 2019 How about those Toronto Marlies. Undefeated – a perfect 7-0 – through two rounds of the AHL Calder Cup playoffs. Raises an interesting question. Is the success of the Marlies raising expectations for the Maple Leafs? Is it realistic that the players starring for the Marlies will eventually star for the Maple Leafs? And how long is “eventually?” There is no question the Marlies are buoyed by some real solid veterans who don’t get a great deal of the spotlight. Chris Mueller, an 11-year AHL veteran, has never gotten a sniff at the NHL level. But Mueller is the perfect centre for Jeremy Bracco, the 22-year-old whose gone from playoff healthy scratch last year to star scorer this year. Article Continued Below Vincent LoVerde, an eight-year AHLer at 30, is a calming influence on the blue line, and surely a help to Rasmus Sandin, 19, and Timothy Liljegren, who just turned 20. Other … [Read more...] about Mailbag: Kadri is more vulnerable to a trade than Nylander
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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 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 Damien Cox Sports Columnist Mon., April 29, 2019 You had to like the snarl. The defence of a teammate with a snarl. That was how Morgan Rielly reacted last week when asked about the future of Jake Gardiner with the Maple Leafs. He didn’t go with the usual “well, we all know there will be changes” or “we’ve got a bunch of great guys in here” kind of stuff. Rielly, rarely caught using off-colour language, made it clear Gardiner is a “f---ing great player” and that the club needs him back. Period. Rielly was also the first one to talk on Hockey Night in Canada after the dispiriting Game 7 loss to Boston last week. He didn’t have much to say — “I’ll have to get back to you on that,” he said several times — but he was the kind of standup guy good teams need in tough situations like that. The kind of standup guy that makes a good captain. Article Continued Below And it’s … [Read more...] about Why Morgan Rielly is the Leafs’ most C-worthy option
Mon., April 29, 2019 So for the rest of the week, I’m going to grade the 2018-19 Maple Leafs in this blog, starting at the top: General manager Kyle Dubas. (Tuesday: Mike Babcock) Before I get to that, I want to tell you a little tale about the last time the Maple Leafs hired a rookie general manager, when things didn’t end well. That rookie GM was John Ferguson Jr., who came with a reputation of being a great talent spotter and of course came from a famous hockey family. It was a rocky ride for the young GM, just 36 when he started in 2003. He was certainly a better GM by the end of his tenure than the beginning. MLSE was a different monster then, more concerned about profit and a few (actually budgeted) playoff dates rather than winning and long playoff runs. The hockey world was different then. With no salary cap, the Leafs could simply buy a winner. Article Continued Below Along the way, Ferguson made mistakes (Should I mention Tuukka Rask for Andrew … [Read more...] about Grading Kyle Dubas after his first year as Leafs GM