By Kevin McGran Sports Reporter Mon., May 13, 2019 Hats off to the Toronto Raptors. I had a friend make an analogy the other day about Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment and their two keynote franchises: The Raptors and the Maple Leafs. They’re like two sons, she said. The Raptors are the good son, the one that always does what it’s told, always does what’s expected, never disappoints. You don’t have to worry about him. He’ll always be there. The Maple Leafs are the lovable rascal. A bit spoiled. Gets away with things he shouldn’t. Maybe thinks more of himself than it ought to, given his track record. Disappoints you, but then looks up at you with that smile and says next time he’ll do better. And you believe him. But you also worry for him, because, well, you know, he’s always doing things he shouldn’t. Article Continued Below Anyway it was a treat to see a clutch play from a Toronto player in a Game … [Read more...] about Rising to the moment: Comparing Leafs, Raptors and Blue Jays
Leafs will never win the cup
By Kevin McGran Sports Reporter Thu., May 9, 2019 Since the Maple Leafs rise under the plan laid out by president Brendan Shanahan four years ago, one element of the team has been lacking: Defence. Goaltending was taken care of when then-GM Lou Lamoriello acquired Frederik Andersen from Anaheim. That was a game-changer, a goalie who could steal a win and instil confidence in a young group. The forwards seem to be taking care of themselves, either from picking high (Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner), patient development (William Nylander, Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen) or free agent signings (John Tavares). Game-changers in their own way each able to rise to the occasion (*regular-season only at this point). Building the defence has seen more piecemeal: Get a few stop-gap measures and hope something good happens. Travis Dermott (draft and develop), Nikita Zaitsev (free agent) and Jake Muzzin (trade) are the sum of the blue line additions of the Shanahan era … [Read more...] about Mailbag: Leafs defence needs an upgrade
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