Islanders Fans Determined to Prove how Stupid a Fan Base can be in Tavares’ Returns

The comically awkward hate videos and plans to throw batteries are what the New York Islander fans have planned for the return of Tavares. The determination to be bitter discounts their stellar season and proves how stupid a fan base can be.

Yes, he was supposed to lead the New York Islanders out of obscurity and back to their former glory. Yes, he said he wanted to be in Long Island for the long haul. Yes, he is a team legend and still chose to left.

All of these things are true, but no one seems to put any of the onus on the Islanders’ front office for edging out Tavares for years.

What superstar wants to play in a small market for the entirety of their career? Or,what player wants to massively commute to each game that is inexplicably being played in a building designed for basketball? What player wants to be a part of a team that had years to resolve these issues but instead procrastinated on them and handed him a 5+ year plan to get back out to Long Island?

No player would want to endure all of that, especially not a player of the ilk of John Tavares. The stars aligned and Tavares’ dip into free agency coincided with the Leaf’s having enough cap space to fulfill his lifelong hockey dream. The story should have ended there, but bitter fans have decided to blow it out of proportion.

Sorry, Islanders’ fans but free agency allows for players like Tavares to get out from an unending pit of doom, like Long Island/the Barclay’s Center, and get a crack at playing in a real hockey market.

Stay Classy!

In response to Tavares decision to play out his contract and give the first have of his prime career years to a do-nothing-franchise like their own, Islanders’ fans have prepared a cringe inducing fan video:

Told ya. Cringe.

Anyways, if the embarrassing video wasn’t enough, apparently there is a plan in place to throw batteries at Tavares as well? I doubt enough people have the guts to pull this one off, but the threat is enough to prove how stupid Islanders fans are.

The message in the “Dear John” video is straight forward; we don’t need you anymore. But, why keep bringing it up then? Leafs fans couldn’t care less if it’s an away game at New York, and it’s all on the Islanders fans amping up the emotion in this game.

The best revenge is living well, and the Islanders are actually doing that. They’ll make the playoffs with a young, exciting team, and are playing back at Nassau Coliseum. What need is there to hold anything against Tavares?

Record night coming?

Tavares is two goals off of his personal best, 38, as he prepares to return to the Island. No one in the world is more confident in his own abilities than Tavares. Extra emotion and stress fuels the elite and Tavares is no exception. I’d be willing to put money on the line that he gets on the score sheet tonight… at least once.

Yes, Islanders’ fans, you don’t need Tavares. We get it. We got it before you made the Napoleon Dynamite-esque video! But, instead of moving on with class, you decided to make this an issue. Well, more motivated than ever Tavares doesn’t need you either, and is looking to prove it tonight.

The pure stupidity and jealous ex mentality Islanders’ fans are currently emitting is discounting their team’s break out year. I guess expecting class out of Long Island is too big of an ask.

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Leafs Forced to use Three Second-Stringers in John Tavares’ Return to Long Island

Jake Gardiner – Out, Travis Dermott – Out, Frederick Andersen – resting. Thing’s are a little lean on the back end for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they visit Tavares’ old home in Long Island.

New Third Pair

Ahead of the second game in the back-to-back the Leafs are shuffling their defensive lines a little more and mixing in players as much as they can it would seem. Martin Marincin has been called up to pair with Justin Holl as the bottom two for the Leafs defense.

It’s an interesting move for Mike Babcock, to not pair each new player off with a veteran, but rather pair them together. I understand, however, the desire to keep your greenest defenders on a pair that you can minute-manage for the entirety of the game.

The Gardiner injury saw Igor Ozhiganov return to the lineup after a months absence and he played well. Ozhiganov finished with an empty stat line and 15:08 if ice time. While underwhelming, it’s a positive; Igor showed he can seamlessly return to the team and put in a solid effort.

Justin Holl

Ozhiganov did well, but there is no need to rush him into what looks to be a high intensity back-to-back. Justin Holl, the Leafs OTHER extra defenseman will get the right-side duties tonight on the bottom pairing.

Holl impressed last season after getting called up and scoring in back-to-back games from the blue line. He impressed in those two games with the two goals and, more importantly, his +5 rating in that stretch.

There is a possible problem with injecting Holl into the lineup tonight. That issue is rust. Holl has played in just 2 NHL games this season and due to having waivers attached to him, has had no AHL games to keep him in game shape.

I would have liked to have seen Holl in the first game against Edmonton in Gardiner’s absence but that’s only due to the hindsight gained after the Dermott injury. Holl will have a tired team in front of him but no doubt they’ll be motivated for JT.

Martin Marincin

I’m seriously impressed that Martin Marincin is still a Maple Leaf right now. He played a big part in the Leafs’ playoff defensive woes last season and offers little to nothing from the back. This begs the question: why is Marincin getting the call up?

Let’s be honest here, Marincin is in because Calle Rosen is injured.

The Leafs did have Marincin on the roster earlier this season. Once Ennis returned from injury, however, there was no roster space available for him and he was waived. Despite my crossed fingers, Marincin (and his gaudy $700,000 contract) wasn’t claimed by anyone and he’s been in the AHL since.

In his 10 games with the Leafs this season, Marincin has chipped in 2 assists with a -1 rating. In his 8 AHL games, he has 1 goal and 3 assists for a 0+/-.

Scheduled Sparks gets the Start

As is tradition this season, Garret Sparks gets the start for the Leafs second game in the back-to-back. It’s good for Sparks to get into a game that will have a playoff-like intensity, providing him meaningful NHL hockey experience while still in the regular season.

There is little to no pressure on Sparks, whose job is basically to take whatever the opposition throws at him. He’s tasked with playing and knowing there is little to no chance of Frederick Andersen coming off the bench to relieve him.

Sparks hasn’t looked the most steady in net this season, but his stats show he’s doing a fine job as a backup. Throughout his 13 games played this season, Sparks is 7-3 with a .908% save percentage and GAA of 2.86.

He’s improved on his numbers in 15/16 when he first came up which is terrific. The next step in Sparks’ development is to learn how to stay more composed in net, which he can absorb from Andersen’s style of play.

It’ll be a tough game, regardless of Toronto’s bottom pairing and backup goaltender getting the start. Hopefully, the added pressure on the Leafs to come together for Tavares can inspire a solid performance.

Out with back spasms, the Leafs can preview what life is like without Gardiner

Reported by Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Leafs’s defacto #2 defenseman, Jake Gardiner, is out for the cross-conference battle with Edmonton tonight. The game now is acting as a preview for the Leafs life beyond Gardiner.

Love him or hate him, you have to admit the Leafs will be hard-pressed to re-sign their #2 defenseman Jake Gardiner this offseason. The now 29-year-old left sided D-man has enjoyed a one-team career with Toronto, but that is set to end with the Leafs pending cap issues and Gardiner’s probable raise.

Look for Jake Muzzin to take up the mantle of second power play unit captain with Gardiner out. Muzzin has a booming shot from the point and his passing and skating skills make him an ideal replacement.

Who gets the start?

With Edmonton in town tonight, there is no time to rehab and rest the issue ahead of the Leafs next game, so we’ll be seeing a new(ish) face on the blue line.

Dailyfaceoff.com has the Leafs setting up with Reilly-Hainsey, Muzzin-Zaitsev, and Dermott-Ozhiganov. This is the logical fall back with Ozhiganov playing the most minutes out of the two onlooking defenders, himself and Justin Holl.

Mike Babcock may opt for this as a simplistic approach to solving his late injury issue with Gardiner, but wouldn’t you like to see a little more excitement in his team selection? The one reason I believe he might make a call-up would be chemistry.

The chemistry between Muzzin and Dermott was electric against the Sabre’s on Monday night. Both finished with an assist and both can boast +’s on a night where the opposition scored three times (+2 for Dermott and +3 for Muzzin).

Muzzin seems fine playing on the right side of a defensive pairing. He played 20:12 minutes against a fast and unrelenting Buffalo offense from the right side and dominated. So why would Babcock mess with that? He shouldn’t, so guess Babcock needs a left-sided defenseman then!

Both Holl and Ozhiganov are right D, but Rosen’s injury could derail his play tonight in that desired LHD spot. Despite his injury keeping him our for the Marlies, Rosen could travel with the Leafs for the second half of their back-to-back against the Islanders.

The Leafs brought him in before the 2017/18 season to add more defensive depth options on the cheap. He was seemingly passed up by country-mate Adreas Borgmann initially, but the Leafs 1-way contract they gave to Rosen recently received (starts next season) suggests otherwise.

The more I write this the more I think it’s unlikely. But, with the Marlies close by why not give him a try? The Leafs can sustain some shuffling of the lines vs. Edmonton if Rosen unlikely for tonight’s game but if healthy he should start against immediately and against New York.

Brief background on Rosen this season…

In 52 games played this season Rosen has amassed:

  • 7 goals
  • 37 assists
  • 44 points
  • +10
  • 16 power play points
  • 2 short-handed assists
  • 127 shots on goal
  • 36 penalty minutes

Rosen was selected as a 2018/19 AHL all-star alongside Trevor Moore from the Marlies. Is he worth a look at this point in the season? He’s had a terrific AHL season so surely he’s earned a chance for some injury relief action.

Next season we’ll likely be seeing a lot more of Rosen as life without Gardiner sets in. Why not sample his skills now?

Leafs Fans see “What Could Have Been” as Edmonton visits Toronto

The Edmonton Oilers got a year head start on their rebuild, but have continously failed to take the next step towards success. Maple Leaf fans, on the other hand, have felt progressive success and with the Oilers in town tonight will be reminded that the rebuild could have gone much worse.

It felt like the Leafs missed the boat when the Edmonton Oilers card was pulled in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes. A year later they would get their long-term superstar center in Auston Matthews and the race was on; who would win the battle of the rebuilds, Toronto vs. Edmonton.

Since then, the Leafs have made the NHL playoffs in two consecutive seasons, both first-round exits, with a third all but confirmed for this season. Edmonton? Well, they lost out in the second round in 2016/17 and haven’t been back, with the 2018/19 playoffs a long shot.

What’s happened and what’s been the difference? Two organizational systems show the different, one built for the long term and the other a simplistic and idealist system destined for failure.

Why Toronto Succeeded Organizationally

The Leafs were ready to take everything down to the studs and start over, the foreman for the project? Brenden Shanahan. The Leafs brought in the NHL Hall of Famer to run their team as the President, overseeing all hockey operations moving forward. He brought with him NHL experience on both the playing and business side.

Immediately, Kyle Dubas was hired as assistant GM, Mark Hunter was brought in to lead the scouting team, Brandon Pridham was hired as a cap specialist, Lou Lamoriello was brought in as the GM, and eventually, Mike Babcock was wooed to be the coach.

Shanahan had a precise plan-of-action and he executed it well from the start. He built an organizational base that includes the successors of each position within it, and focused on drafting new talent and developing existing and incumbent players correctly.

In 2016 Auston Matthews was drafted and the wheels were in motion. Toronto had previously drafted William Nylander and Mitch Marner as well, so Matthews wasn’t forced to pull the wagon alone. With strategic and reasonable dipping into the free agent market and internal promotion through a revamped minors system, Shanahan’s plan for a deep and directed team were well underway.

Edmonton on the other hand…

Listen, I’m not going to tell you that I know everything about the Edmonton Oilers and their organizational depth and structure. What I, and just about every other hockey fan in the world knows, is that the owner is the problem with Edmonton and shit rolls downhill.

His influence on the board of directors has had a hand in the appointing of Todd McLellan, who alone is a terrific coach, as well as Peter Chiarelli as the GM. Both men have winning pedigree’s in the NHL so in the surface they were good hires, but McLellans success was through managing experienced talent, and Chiarelli’s was through an aging hockey mindset.

Where Edmonton went wrong was in their building of the system before Connor McDavid was drafted. There were plenty of prospects and young players in the system – Nugent-Hopkins, Hall, Eberle, to name a few, but all are/were undervalued by the team’s front office.

Rather than deciding how players fit into the long-term plans for the team, they gambled some of their best talents (Hall and Eberle specifically) for whatever return they could get. The sacrifice of stability for lucky success did not pay off. As we now know Hall has set New Jersey on fire while his return Adam Larsson has struggled to show his elite status. Oh, and Eberle was turned into Sam Gagner (who was on the Marlies via an AHL loan this season). Enough said.

The result?

Toronto boasts a deep lineup built on speed and skill opposed to Edmonton who boasts a skillful and speedy player who drags a sluggish and ill-conceived lineup with him.

Originally, the bite of missing hometown McDavid was brutal. Leafs fans, myself included, were preparing for the incredible with him and were heartbroken when Edmonton was seemingly rewarded for their perennial failure.

The most prized player in the NHL since Sidney Crosby would report to the team where prospects seem to stagnate. A year later, however, the Leafs happily accepted their “consolation” prize as Auston Matthews was drafted. He’s brought him McDavid level of play and excitement ever since.

Unlike Edmonton, Toronto’s rebuild didn’t start when their generational talent was draft, but years prior. There was a foundation and plan in motion when Matthews put on the Blue and White for the first time. He is a cog in the machine that is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not the only piece to the puzzle, just the biggest and most important one.

His presence has directly contributed to John Tavares signing here, William Nylander signing long-term, and Mitch Marner having so much success early on in his career (that goes both ways). Indirectly, the likes of Nazem Kadri, Morgan Reilly, and Frederick Anderson all committing long term to the Leafs also committed to this team after decades of failure due to the Matthews forecast.

Larry Tanenbaum, the owner of the MLSE and the Leafs ownership group made the important decision to empower Brenden Shanahan to kick-start this franchise, and he’s done just that.

The two teams who paralleled each other for so long have taken vastly different approaches to the rebuild and thus have had differing results. Rejoice, Toronto fans, your team made the right decision and are years ahead of where Edmonton currently are.

Leafs Fans Get Their First Look of Nic Petan in the… Green and White?

Nic Petan was lucky enough to have his first practice with the Toronto Maple Leafs in their awesome St. Pats gear ahead of their St. Patrick’s Day game. Now, let’s try predicting Petan’s future with the Leafs.

Feast your eyes, Toronto Maple Leafs fans! That’s your newest Leafs in your sickest gear you’ll see any NHL team don this season.

Petan, who will wear 19 on the Leafs this season, looks like a good fit for the Leaf’s third/fourth line this season, and is also looking stylish in the green and white St. Pat’s gear.

The fourth line, Petan’s eventual home, was booming against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night. This was thanks to Tyler Ennis’s speed and veteran presence, Frederick Gauthier’s hands and size, and Trevor Moore’s intensity and skill. Safe to say, Petan won’t have an easy road to winning ice time.

With little sustained opportunity in Winnipeg, especially this season, Petan wasn’t able to get a run of games to fulfill his potential. Out of the draft, though, he was viewed as an elite prospect.

HockeyFutures.com described Petan as:

“an offensively gifted with high-end skating skills. While his size might prove detrimental, he pals a ‘big’ game and relishes physical play. He has a quick release and is a slick passer.”

They continue on to describe his game as gritty and physical, as he uses his size to gain leverage and create pressure situations. He is projected as a skill-based two-way bottom-6 forward.

It’s clear, Kyle Dubas is prioritizing players who can play this style of hockey. Speed reliant, skill players who tire out opponents not through physicality, but unrelenting pace.

Season Predictions for this year

Petan fits this NHL build perfectly. In the remaining 20 games for Toronto I expect to see Petan in no less than half of these games, so let’s call it 15 games played in Toronto before the playoffs start. He’ll get some late PK time, I believe, as well as some off chance PP time too so he’ll get a good chance to produce.

By seasons end, I give Petan 4 goals and 7 assists for 11 points in 15 games. Babcock has rewarded his depth lines with increased ice time when his big guns aren’t going and Petan can capitalize on this. I think the odd man out becomes Connor Brown, as well, with Trevor Moore continuously impressing.

Not a bad start for Petan, who could end up being a long-term solution for the cap crunched Leafs in 2019/20 and beyond!

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Toronto Blue Jays: Service Time for Dummies

It’s not the clearest of situations, but the service time rule for MLB players is a tool MLB teams are using on their superstars to save a year on their entry-level contracts. The Jays are ready to force their top prospect into this controversial situation, but it’s the right thing to do.

Basically, service time is a way of crediting a year-played on a players contract based on the number of games or days they play with a major league team.

When a player starts the season and stays in the minors for the first eight games of the season it limits them to less than 172 days in the major leagues. This adjusts their season down to less than a full year, saving a full season on their contract. Once a player plays less than 172 days they will not burn a year on their deal.

Sure, that’s extremely simplified and dumbed down, but that’s basically it. Toronto is going to start Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the minors to ensure he’s a Blue Jay for at least one season longer.

And if you think Vlad Jr. missing a minimum of eight inconsequential games to start a meaningless (as far as standings are concerned) season is a bad thing, you might need to give your head a shake.

The argument against the manipulation of the service time rule is that players tend to have harsh feelings towards their ownership and front office because their development is being stunted for a team friendly option that also delays a big money contract. Fair points, but let’s check in on two recent high-value players who went through this process.

Kris Bryant – Chicago Cubs

Bryant being forced down to the minors for the first month of the Cubs 2015 season was a situation just about everyone who follows the MLB foresaw, but Bryant’s agent peddled the situation as a problem.

Bryant revealed there was “no bad blood” with the Cubs organization over the usage of the service time rule after he was called up to the team in 2015. With Bryant as their starting and starring third-baseman, the Cubs went on to the NL Divisional series with a 99-67 regular season record, eventually losing out to the Mets.

Just a day ago, Bryant has now come out saying the service time situation in the MLB obviously needs to change as he enters the season that could have been his new big money contract year. He’s still making $10.25 million out of arbitration, but that could be a fraction of what he’s worth. Weird timing, right?

Bryant played in 151 games, with 559 AB (his third highest in his career), hitting .275 BA, with 26 HR, and 99 RBIs.

Ronald Acuna Jr.

The highly touted prospect in the Atlanta Braves organization, Ronald Acuna Jr., was a victim of the service time rule usage last season. Yes, last season where he was THE breakout star of the season.

The GM of the Braves is a person many Jays fans should be aware of, Alex Anthopoulos, the former GM here in Toronto. AA seemed disinterested in considering the fallout of forcing Acuna to the minors for a few weeks to start the season, with reports suggesting he would make this move “for better or worse.

With Acuna Jr. now the face of the exciting, playoff contending Braves, it’s unlikely there are any hard feelings between the player and his team. He’s the face of the franchise and was still able to tee-off on his opposition last season, despite waiting a few weeks to start.

Last season, Acuna finished the season with 111 GP (injury caused missed time) and 433 AB. He hit for a .293 BA, 26 HR, and 64 RBIs.

What can we expect from the Jays and Vlad?

We can expect Ross Atkins to continue the narrative of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. being sent down to start the season in AAA to work on his defensive play. Also, expect for Atkins to be very open to Vlad joining the Blue Jays when he is ready and able to help the team.

From Vlad, there probably isn’t going to be much of a conversation. He’ll continue to play hard to try and win a starting position in spring training, stating that he just wants to play hard and try and help the Toronto Blue Jays become a better team.

If we as fans can take away anything from the past manipulations of service time, it’s that it is really a non-issue for the team and the player. We will get to see Vlad for a longer period of time in the long run and the team can weigh options on the roster ahead of him.

In the end, the only people who seem to have issues with the manipulation of this rule are player agents. Under the guise of caring for their players, agents are getting their massive paydays pushed back a season with the usage of this rule and are crying ‘development and unfairness’ to try and force their issues.

The Leafs Three Deadline Moves: the Trade, the Return, and the Call-Up

The Leaf’s made two deadline day deals, adding forward depth at the NHL and AHL level. Despite these minor deals, the Leafs had three OTHER deadline moves that could be difference makers.

The Trade – Jake Muzzin

Kyle Dubas didn’t bother waiting for the trade deadline to make his most impactful trade of the season, acquiring LH shot defenseman Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings.

This trade added a controllable player for one season after this year at a relatively reasonable dollar value at $4 million. Muzzin doesn’t fit the right-shot need but after some stubborn usage, Mike Babcock has seen the light and received his just rewards for starting him on the right side against Buffalo.

Muzzin was a threat from the point all night against the Sabres, tallying one assist and relishing his second pairing minutes beside Travis Dermott. Safe to say that new pairing is lapping the Gardiner-Zaitsev pairing.

If Muzzin couldn’t play the right side Dubas has spent far too much on an oversaturated position. Now that he’s in Toronto and being played again on the right side (and away from Zaitsev), Muzzin can offer some bruising hits and a lot of offensive upside. He’s the Leaf’s second best defender and leader in beard growth.

The Return – Tyler Ennis

Leaf fans were crying out for physical forward depth in their bottom line, but Ennis’ size made his return fly under the radar. Ennis, who had broken his foot in December, returned to the Leaf lineup against Montreal after more than a month rehabbing.

The small, veteran winger was rewarded for strong forechecking against the Habs with some second-unit power play time. He didn’t disappoint as he immediately repaid his coach’s faith with a PP goal.

He quietly has eight goals now, which isn’t bad for a fourth line player who has played in just 36 of the Leaf’s games this season. Don’t overlook his grit and experience just because he’s small.

The Call-Up – Trevor Moore

Some viewed Moore as the loser in the Petan trade but not so fast. Moore has provided great value as a sub-million dollar contract player and is making NHL sized waves for Toronto.

The AHL graduate seems to fit on the fourth line with relative ease. He brings intensity and speed to his line with that AHL fueled hunger. Moore’s positive impact on staple fourth line center Frederick Gauthier is worth recognition as well:


If Moore can continue to impress with Par Lindholm now gone, he’ll be a valuable asset ahead of Toronto’s cap crunched future. Realistically, the addition of Nic Petan along with the ascension of Moore form the minors means good things for both, and probably makes Brown expendable.