Nic Petan gets an extended tryout to earn his pending 2-year contract extension

Frederik Gauthier, the mainstay on the fourth line as of late, will miss a minimum of Toronto’s next two games, giving deadline acquisition Nic Petan a chance to impress in the Blue and White.

Nic Petan offers some solid usability as a gadget forward, playing both wings and center in his young career. For Toronto, that means he’s the de facto center as he was brought in for the Leafs backup option at center Par Lindholm.

Skill Over Size

Petan is certainly an upgrade on skill over Gauthier, but Toronto has to sacrifice size with the Gaut injured. It’s a bit of a loss as Gauthier has impressed with his forechecking and net-front presence this season.

It’s no secret that Toronto’s fourth line, which saw a surge in productivity through January and February, has been slumping in March. An injury is never a good thing to a team (see Toronto’s struggles with the polarizing Gardiner out), but a shake up was certainly needed on the bottom-6.

Statistically speaking, Petan is a bit up and down in his three games with Toronto this season. He’s scored one goal, which was a no-doubt laser beam in front of the net, but he’s also got a -3 rating. Gauthier’s injury will give him a chance to show he’s got some defensive prowess as well.

Silver lining?

Where one injury subtracts from the team, it seems like another will add to the team as Kasperi Kapanen is back in practice. Kapanen, who initially missed time due to illness, was then diagnoses with a concussion and has missed the last four games.

With his reassertion into the team, the likes of Connor Brown gets pushed down to the bottom unit and Ennis is the odd man out. Ennis, who has looked good since his return from injury, has blown cold in recent weeks. Like Gauthier’s absence, Ennis’ pushing out of the lineup could refresh and remotivate the tenacious forward.

Hyman has also returned, so Kapanen’s return makes it s 2-for-1 swap of injured players. Of course, having no injuries would be better but Kapanen and Hyman provide that front end depth Toronto has been missing. Hopefully Petan can capture lightning in a bottle with his extended tryout and prove he has what it takes to contribute!

Advertisements

Kyle Dubas just Sub-Tweeted the Entirety of Leafs Nation

You should never judge someone unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Kyle Dubas has taken to twitter to show that this sentiment also applies to NHL General Managers.

I love it when someone mixes it up on Twitter a little bit. When it’s Toronto’s GM, even better.

Check, please! Dubas just did the classic ex-girlfriend move retweeting something saying “sometimes you need to cut toxic people out of your life to move forward” directed at a target EVERYONE can identify. Look in the mirror Leafs fans, this one’s pointed at us!

Arm-Chair GMs are criticizing the resigning of Garret Sparks, lack of defenseman depth after the trade deadline, and just about anything they can think of amidst this string of volatile, inconsistent play from Toronto.

The easy, wrong answer to these topics would be: keep Curtis McElhinney over Sparks, who is ten years older and costs $500k more per season (for the next two seasons), sell off one of Bracco, Timashov, Sandin, or Liljegren for an NHL-ready defenseman now, or maybe fire Mike Babcock and trade William Nylander.

Maybe, Dubas is saying some people “can’t see the forest for the trees.” Critics are getting too bogged down in the immediate ‘issues’ that they are losing their understanding of the big picture.

I am personally guilty of offering my (relatively speaking) uneducated input on the situations facing the Leafs right now. I’m not suggesting we all stop hypothesizing on what is best for the Leafs, but can we maybe pull back the explosive, reactive hostility?

Regardless of Dubas’ intentions, maybe we as fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs can come together to keep things positive and embrace the team, flaws included. Criticize the where it’s needed. call out performances when they’re underwhelming. But, let’s also try to keep some perspective on the NHL’s 5th best team.

Should the Sen’s win over Toronto give the Leafs hope to beat Boston?

Hockey games aren’t won on paper, and the Ottawa Senators proved that on Saturday night as they completely dismantled the much better Maple Leafs. Can Toronto take solace in the loss heading into the playoffs?

Who had that score line predicted before the game? I’m sure Ottawa fans (who watched from home, lets be honest) didn’t even see that explosive game coming. It’s inexplicable but maybe there is a lesson the Leafs can take from the game.

Hockey Games Aren’t Won on Paper

Who wants it more. That will be the question that decides Toronto’s eventual playoff series with the Boston Bruins. The Leafs seem resigned to cede home ice advantage to Boston, which isn’t a great tactic to be fair, but until we get to the playoffs, we won’t have any idea how this team will fare.

On Saturday, Ottawa showed Toronto that hockey games can be won on pure desire. A young, inexperienced team beat the offensive juggernaut Maple Leafs by shocking them with goals, simply because the pressure was off and they wanted the win more.

Call it a faulty ‘big team mentality’ but the Leafs appear to have overlooked Ottawa in this game and when they slapped them in the face with an unrelenting attack, Toronto had no answers for them.

Anders Nilsson played a role in Ottawa’s win, as well. He backstopped them to the unlikely 6-2 scoreline with some tremendous saves. On the other side, it’s easy to point the finger at Garret Sparks in net for Toronto for the loss but Sparks played extremely well and again was let down by his team defense on the majority of the goals.

Hockey Isn’t Fair

Toronto can embrace this. Everyone, including a lot of Leafs fans, are counting the Leafs out of their impending playoff series with Boston before they postseason even starts. I, for one, am not one of those doubters. I don’t want to come out and say they’ll win, but I think they have as much of a chance to beat Boston as they Bruins have to beat them.

It’s essentially a pick’em. Toronto has the better and deeper offense, Boston has one of the most effective first-lines in the NHL and a better defense-core. Ironically, on paper the Leafs might have the edge on Boston, but hockey isn’t fair like that.

It’s all burned into our minds. The playoff series that slipped away years ago with the old regime, and the grinding loss last season to the Bruins as well. Boston has the mental advantage and has people thinking they’ll repeat their first-round win over Toronto.

Ottawa showed Toronto that desire and wanting it more can outweigh on-paper skill of the perception of the public. Toronto should embrace the underdog mentality like the Sen’s did and shock the hockey world. It kind of sucks that their prize will be Tampa thought…

Does Toronto even need a captain? Going over the Leafs options for the ā€œCā€

Does Toronto’s recent inconsistent play show the need for a captain? Many Leaf fans across social media seem to think so. The real question is: who should be the next Leaf captain?

Two Horse Race?

Auston Matthews

He’s the drafted center stud the Maple Leafs has been missing since Mats Sundin left the team more than a decade ago. Auston Matthews is Homegrown, an offensive wonder , and one of the most dynamic goal scorers in the NHL.

It seems like the perfect fit for Matthews to step up and be the Leafs captain, right? The groundwork has been laid for the franchise draftee to take up the “C” after the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Connor McDavid.

He’s locked down for five years now but is this a negative factor counting against him? Regardless of his contract, Matthews has the self-belief to be a leader on the ice and would make for a fine candidate to captain the Toronto Maple Leafs.

John Tavares

The seven-year man, the prodigal son, or the snake (depending on your perspective). John Tavares is all of these things and is ripe to add another, captain of his boyhood team.

He has the pedigree after captaining his drafting team, the New York Islanders, for five seasons. Tavares dropped that team and with it his captain status which begs the question, was Tavares offered the eventual captaincy when Dubas pitched him Toronto?

He has endeared himself to Toronto fans by choosing their team over a host of others, but his play has made Leafs Nation Tavares fanatics. His chemistry with Mitch Marner doesn’t hurt either!

NEXT PAGE: Options not named Matthews or Tavares

What’s the excuse now, Leafs Nation?

I must have been one of the few to not turn off the game at the end of the first period (or earlier). What I watched was an inexplicably detached team get handed their lunch at home to a team leagues below them. How can this be acceptable?

‘Well, Kapanen has a concussion and Zach Hyman is out ill so the team had some important players missing.’ Save that excuse – Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Javares, Rielly, Andersen, Muzzin, Marleau, Kadri, Johnsson were all in the lineup. Two absent wingers wasn’t the problem.

No, it wasn’t injuries, sickness, or tiredness that the Leafs can blame for this loss. It’s just an uncomfortable truth that there is a lack of motivation in this team, and it’s inhibiting them from taking the next step to elite status.

All the parts are there: center depth, Vezina contending goalie, Norris quality defenseman, skilled players, coach with pedigree of winning. So, what’s the problem?

Maybe it’s the losers mentality that so many fans in Leafs Nation have crept into the players’ minds; “were not as good as Tampa or as physical as Boston, we can’t win against them.” The vocal minority seems to be chanting this regularly.

In the words of Pat Quinn, “that’s a losers race.”

If the Leafs are playing 82 games to place third in their division and get ousted in the first round of the playoffs every year then count me out on the Shanaplan or the belief that this team has been rebuilt.

The players are in place, barring a few off-season tweaks, and the skill is here, so what’s the issue? It has to be down to an attitude and motivational problem with the team. Is that a problem that falls on Mike Babcock? Yeah, kind of, but if these players can’t find a way to get up for a game is that really a coaching problem?

The answer to the title question is that there is no excuse this time. Injuries happen, sickness happens, and tiredness happens. Rather than relying on an excuse to justify poor play, this team needs to look at recent failures as a jumping off point and a starting line.

Get refocused, get motivated, and get going. There is nothing blocking the Toronto Maple Leafs from being a successful team that is as mentally strong as it is skillfully. But, the pessimism must end.

Exonerate me and forget about me – Fully, and Completely; The Morgan Rielly Saga

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Reilly has been cleared of all pending fines and suspensions after his alleged use of a homophobic slur towards an NHL referee in last nights 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay.

Nothing like getting your name dragged in the court of public opinion for the better part of a day before having it cleared by those investigating the issue, right?

Colin Campbell has concluded the NHL’s investigation and Morgan Rielly is a free man. This after the NHL has spoken to both Rielly and referee Brad Meier, is solidly conclusive that Rielly should be exonerated of his accused actions.

He was accused of calling Meier a homophobic slur after a proposed missed call leads to a turnover and eventual goal on a Maple Leafs power play. The game was atrocious for the Leafs and this, at the outset, seemed like the cherry on top of a horrible night in Toronto.

After listening and reading others’ opinions and watching the tape back myself, I honestly thought Rielly said what he was accused of. It shouldn’t ever be an acceptable thing to say in any scenario, but does the witch hunt for Rielly shed light on a bigger issue?

The world is turning into a politically correct place where others can get offended on your behalf even if you didn’t think an event or situation was offensive. The push back from the Rielly issue should be from the NHLPA to get the rink cleared out of on-ice microphones.

Rielly was cleared of saying the slur towards the referee, but the majority of the public have already had their minds made up on the issue and the morality of Rielly himself.

The fans always want more access and the NHL is happy to oblige their paying customers demands as long as a dollar value can be associated with it. Should this be the tipping off point of reduced and limited access to NHL audio? I hope so.

Audio has come out of Rielly calling a linesman a “fucking hero” for calling off an icing against Anaheim earlier this season. That’s more comical than anything, but if the intensity of a situation (or humiliation in the case of last nights game) causes a player to use a word deemed unacceptable by the PC world, should he the athlete be reprimanded?

If Rielly had been deemed guilty of this accusation would he then be homophobic? Would he get suspended or fined? Is available audio exposing a larger issue in general about offensive terminology? Does removing microphones really solve anything?

Well, if a tree falls and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?

When the times get tough, the Leafs get going; Toronto quits as bounces go Tampa’s Way

Hand up: who settled in on a warm Monday night to watch the Leafs take on divisional and league leaders Tampa Bay in what could be a measuring stick game? Okay, hand up: who watched the full 60 minutes?

An utterly sad effort from the Blue and White saw Tampa Bay assert their dominance over the Leafs last night. Toronto, a team poised and playing for the ever-important right to home ice in the playoffs couldn’t rock the boat against a well-oiled, albeit unmotivated Tampa team.

With the abysmal scoreline ending up 6-2, can we hang the goals on anyone? My answer? No not goals but a specific goal, yes. That goal was the shorthanded and fifth goal of the game. All but puck-chaser Morgan Rielly took the clearance as a chance to change, and with no one in support Tampa forced a turnover and scored on a SHORTHANDED 3 ON 1.

Every other goal against was a flukey bounce that Toronto never seems to get going their way. Cross-crease toe deflection and in, screened slot deflection and in, mask-popping rebound centered to man alone in front, off the draw deflection off Matthews and in on a well wide shot, *omit 3 on 1 shorthanded goal*, and deflection in front that found a way in.

That fifth goal against, that was the true mark of a team who gave up. Toronto had a powerplay and an opportunity to get back in the game. Instead of buckling down and looking to claw their way back into the game, the first unit sewered Rielly by taking a line change.

Somehow, a Few Players Impressed

First and foremost, Auston Matthews looked like he wanted to win this game. He was firing on all cylinders throughout the night but his linemates couldn’t keep up with him or the Tampa defense. Yes, Matthews also had the giveaway that led to the first goal, but I’m willing to look past that if you are.

The first goal of the game was another clip to his highlight reel, too, to balance things out:

Imagine having cemented linemates for your generational, franchise center? Seems crazy, doesn’t it? Well, until Babcock and Dubas want to commit to finding him a leftwinger I fear we’ll never see the sustained success of this superstar.

On defense, I thought two players actually played well. Jake Muzzin took a bonehead penalty in the first, but after Tampa failed to score on it he battened down the hatches and started firing his shot from the point with regularity.

He finished a -2 but I’m hard pressed to find him at fault for either goal against. Likewise, Rielly did well tonight for Hainsey who made a bit of a mess on the ice. Usually the pair is responsible and can shut down the elite attacking of the opposition, but only half pulled their weight tonight.

Like Muzzin, Rielly was a -2 but led the team in ice-time at 21:07.

Lastly, Garret Sparks came off the bench and looked good for Toronto. The game was seemingly in hand for Tampa at the time, especially after dismissing Andersen, but Sparks stood tall in net.

Both goals allowed are hard to fault him on. On the shorthanded 3 on 1 he could have came out to play the puck and help out Rielly, but to his defense I’m sure he didn’t think his entire time would take a lazy line change, and the puck was curling away from him positioning in the crease. The second was a tip in front that found it’s way in.

Sparks made 21 saves in his half-game and showed that with the pressure off, he can perform.

The Ugly, Lazy Truth

Nazem Kadri is certainly not in game shape after his 8-game concussion layoff. As much as I would like to trust the well decorated Mike Babcock, Kadri looked bad against Edmonton and predictably followed that up with another bad performance again against Tampa. So, why force him back onto a struggling powerplay unit in both games then? It doesn’t make sense to me.

In both games he collected an assist, which Kadri apologists will hide behind as justification for “good games,” but he brings zero intensity, is a pushover on draws, and cannot hold onto possession for the life of him.

Along with Kadri, Connor Brown has been a shell of what we all thought he would be this season and utterly stunk last night. I suppose effort and grinding to win a roster spot and contract is what the goal is, but the other end of the deal is that you, ya know, take the next step and continue to grow. Brown has failed to do that and doesn’t make my September training camp roster next season. His garbage time goal doesn’t change my opinion.

Tavares – Marner – Hyman, where did you go? The Leafs defacto top line in Matthews’ injury-ridden season yet again went MIA in a crucial game? Marner danced along the ice as he usually does, but I cannot recall hearing Tavares’ name mentioned once in the broadcast. Toronto needs better from this (currently) underperforming line.

Upon Further Review…

Toronto was missing two of their top four defensemen, and Kasperi Kapanen was a late-game scratch hurting the top-9 forward group. The excuses are there, but I’m not convinced the team would have fared much differently had these players been in the lineup.

The game was won on lucky bounces that found the back of the Leafs’ net and not the Lightning’s. Toronto didn’t press enough offensively and lacked the edge to force turnovers when Tampa held possession, and it showed in the final scoreline.

That being said, this game is a hell of a lot more respectable if the team didn’t quit on the fifth goal against just because things weren’t bouncing their way in this one. That is the unacceptable part. If this can be a learning experience, so be it, but it cannot happen again.