Leafs Nation are a passionate bunch! We wear our hearts on our sleeves and aren’t afraid to fight to make a point so it’s always an exciting time when a new trade rumour, free agent signing, or other Toronto Maple Leafs news hits the web. Every week, I’ll break down what’s “in the news” and give you my perspective. You know what they say about opinions- everybody has one, some just stink more than others! This is how I see it…in my VIEW FROM THE BLUES!
Last night, a new chapter began in the page turner known as the Toronto Maple Leafs. A club that hasn’t tasted any kind of playoff success since a huge Irish man named Pat Quinn ran the bench in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. However, there is a new found hope as Mike Babcock has arrived in the “centre of the hockey universe” to lead us back to the promised land and hopefully beyond. Babcock first appeared in Toronto in late May and was met by a media gathering the size of what would be waiting for the Pope, the Queen, or Bono.
In a recent episode of the Blue N’ White Tonight Podcast, the legendary Joe Bowen compared the current team to the ones inherited by Pat Burns in 1992 and Pat Quinn in 1998. Teams that were “going nowhere” but became overnight successes due to coaches with impactful personalities and a wealth of knowledge and experience on what it takes to win in the NHL. Babcock is very similar to both Burns and Quinn in a lot of ways. Just seeing him handle the media with his booming voice and “let’s get to the point” demeanour reminds you of the way Quinn was 15 years ago. Pat Burns was very big on teaching and players knowing their roles… sound familiar? On the surface, the three situations do seem very similar but a closer look shows how different they really are.
Pat Burns was hired as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the summer of 1992. The team had underachieved in the previous season under coach Tom Watt finishing last in the Norris Division with a 30-43-7 record. (Last year’s team had a record of 30-44-8) That’s kind of where the similarities end.
General Manager Cliff Fletcher had just pulled off a blockbuster 10-player trade with the Calgary Flames that had brought Doug Gilmour to Toronto. Gilmour had been used primarily as a defensive centre with the Flames but was nonetheless a point-per-game player at that point.
Fletcher had also acquired All-Star goaltender Grant Fuhr from the Edmonton Oilers, but it was the trade he made to move him that would be key. After determining that young Felix Potvin was indeed “ready for primetime,” Fuhr was traded to the Buffalo Sabres for a package that included winger Dave Andreychuk. The chemistry between Andreychuk and Gilmour was instantaneous and the duo led the Leafs to two straight Conference Finals.
It was the summer of 1998 when Quinn was brought in to fix a once again broken Leafs team that had finished 30-43-9 in the previous season. Again, very similar to the record of last year’s mediocre Leafs squad. The team was led by 27-year old Mats Sundin who had recorded 74 points in the previous season but beyond that there wasn’t much to get excited about. The other big move made that summer was the signing of goaltender Curtis Joseph who had chosen to leave the Edmonton Oilers to sign with with the Leafs.
The club was moved to the Eastern Conference in Quinn’s first season and it didn’t take long for the results to show. The Leafs finished with a record of 45-30-7, good for second place in the Northeast Division behind the Ottawa Senators. The club would follow that up with their first playoff success in four years defeating the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins (both in 6 games) before losing to the Buffalo Sabres in the Conference Finals.
The similarities between Babcock, Burns, and Quinn are uncanny, especially the records of the Leaf teams they were brought in to coach. However, holding Babcock to those comparisons and grading him on the performance of his team this season would be unbelievably unfair. There are no Gilmours, Andreychuks, Sundins, or Josephs on the 2015-16 Leafs. Instead, you’ll find overpaid players (Lupul, Phaneuf, Bozak), veterans looking for one last chance to extend their careers (Parenteau, Boyes), and stop-gaps on cap-friendly contracts (Hunwick, Spaling, Arcobello). Even the team’s “young stars” (Van Reimsdyk, Kadri, Rielly) have yet to prove that they belong to be mentioned in the same breath as the top players in the game.
After starting the pre-season with three straight victories, Babcock’s new Leafs managed to lose their final 5 exhibition games, showing the familiar inconsistency that the club has become famous for in the past 10 years. The veterans have looked disinterested at times which is disturbing to see. It makes you wonder if ANY coach could change the attitudes of some of the personalities that have brought this team to the lowest depths of disgrace.
The fans have already started to notice and the negativity has begun. After Saturday’s final pre-season game, a 2-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Leaf “supporters” flooded Twitter and Facebook with chants of how bad this team is. It was almost as if they had not been paying attention to the words of Shanahan or Babcock over the past several months. This team is not being built for THIS season. It’s not being built for NEXT season. There is a long-term plan in place and unfortunately that doesn’t include being a good team right now. If that was the plan then William Nylander and Connor Brown, two of the team’s best pre-season performers, would be on this team.
This is a team that is short on talent and it will show in the standings. Look closely at the Leafs’ home opener against the Montreal Canadiens last night because you’re more than likely going to see that a lot this season.
Now let me aim this towards you fans who were hoping to see a highly successful Toronto Maple Leafs team this season. For those of you laughing, it was only a couple of weeks ago that I entered a Leafs Facebook group to read a post that said: “So we know we’re making the playoffs-the question is-where will we slot in?” It was that post that made me realize that there really are some people who just don’t get it. There are 16 teams in the Eastern Conference as opposed to the 14 that play in the West making it that much harder to make the playoffs. I love to see anybody name the eight teams in the East that Toronto is better than.
You only have to look at Mike Babcock’s first press conference here in Toronto to understand what we’re in for this season. “THERE WILL BE PAIN.” Unfortunately, most of it will be felt by those of you are just expecting too much from a team that isn’t very good. Reality bites!
The Final Cuts…
There weren’t many surprises on Sunday afternoon when the Leafs announced their final cuts. Joining the Toronto Marlies are young prospects William Nylander, Connor Brown, Nikita Soshnikov, Zach Hyman, Kasperi Kapanen, Viktor Loov, Stuart Percy, Rinat Valiev, Antoine Bibeau and Garret Sparks.
The fates of Nylander and Brown were somewhat unknown, especially since coach Mike Babcock had singled them out as the best players on the ice in their last preseason game. In the end, the best place for all of these youngsters is with Sheldon Keefe on what should be a very competitive Marlies club. Both will be put into important situations and should thrive in the AHL. Training camp in 2016 will be a completely different story for these two and other young players like Percy and Loov who will spend the year over at Ricoh. Zach Hyman was also impressive in his first NHL camp and was singled out by Mike Babcock on more than one occasion. At 23-years-old, and with NHL size, he may be one of the first players the club looks at when injuries start happening at the NHL level.
The club also demoted winger Rich Clune, who is signed to an AHL contract, and placed T.J. Brennan, Andrew Campbell, Sam Carrick, Matt Frattin and Byron Froese on waivers for the purpose of sending them to the Marlies. All cleared waivers and were sent to the AHL this past Tuesday to further bolster a stacked Marlies lineup. Just hours later, it was announced that the 27-year old Campbell would become the seventh captain in the history of the Toronto Marlies.
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) October 6, 2015
It was also announced that Matt Frattin, Richard Clune, Sam Carrick and TJ Brennan would be the team’s alternate captains. Frattin and Clune will be the alternates at home while Brennan and Carrick will wear the A’s in opposing team’s buildings.
The Waiver Wire…
As they did last year when they grabbed Richard Panik from the Lightning, the Leafs took advantage of a team’s depth at a particular position by plucking defenceman Frank Corrado off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.
The Toronto-born blueliner has played 25 games with the Canucks in the past two seasons but failed to make the club and was on his way to Utica in the AHL when he got the call. He’s also a right hand shot which is something that the Leafs were sorely lacking. Leafs head coach Mike Babcock told the Toronto Sun that he likes what he sees in the 22-year old Corrado.
I did some background work, watched him yesterday on tape. He’s a right hand shot, young guy, he moves well and I thought he played well in the games I saw. We can help him with his puck retrievals and his exits. (Mike Babcock
Ironically, it was Panik himself who was placed on waivers to make room for Corrado on the 23-man roster. Panik had a so-so training camp and obviously didn’t do enough to impress Babcock. The Leafs also placed 38-year old Stephane Robidas on the IR to start the season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Centres- Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak, Peter Holland, Nick Spaling
Wingers- James Van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul, Brad Boyes, Shawn Matthias, Daniel Winnik, P.A Parenteau, Leo Komarov, Michael Grabner, Mark Arcobello
Defensemen- Morgan Rielly, Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner, Roman Polak, Matt Hunwick, Martin Marincin, Scott Harrington, Frank Corrado
Goaltenders- Jonathan Bernier, James Reimer
IR- Stephane Robidas
Centres- William Nylander, Byron Froese, Frederik Gauthier, Sam Carrick
Wingers- Connor Brown, Kasperi Kapanen, Richard Panik, Brendan Leipsic, Zach Hyman, Nikita Soshnikov, Casey Bailey, Matt Frattin, Josh Leivo, Rich Clune, Justin Johnson
Defensemen- Stuart Percy, Viktor Loov, T.J Brennan, Rinat Valiev, Andrew Campbell, Justin Holl
Goaltenders- Antoine Bibeau, Garret Sparks
IR- Pettr Granberg
The Blue N’ White Tonight Podcast
Last week’s guest was the legendary Joe Bowen and needless to say, that’s a tough act to follow. However, we’ve managed to land one of the most respected hockey writers in the business..Chris Johnston, Senior Staff Writer at Sportsnet. A great guest to have on as the Leafs were poised to make their final cuts.
On Thanksgiving Sunday, we’ll record show number eight. At that point, the Leafs will be three games into the season and we’ll have Jude MacDonald of LeafsHub.com join us in a roundtable to discuss the team’s start. Also, the Toronto Marlies will open their season with back-to-back games against the Manitoba Moose at Ricoh Coliseum. Joining us will be “The Voice of the Marlies” Todd Crocker who will be making his third appearance on the show.
The Official Website…
Just over a week ago, we unleashed the official Blue N’ White Tonight website and the response has been awesome! As much as we appreciate all of our Twitter followers and members of our Facebook group, this website is where you can find out everything you need to know about the show. Check it out today!
BNWT Listener of the Week…
This show has some great guests and we’ll continue to bring you more and more every week. With that being said, it’s important to remember what this show is really about. If you listen to the disclaimer at the beginning of every show then the final sentence pretty much says it all:
“The purpose of this podcast is to inform, entertain, and share the passion for the blue and white!”
We do our best every week live up to those expectations, so let’s look at the final part of that sentence. Sharing the passion that we all have for our favourite hockey team…the Toronto Maple Leafs!
Do you love talking Leafs? Of course you do! Well now is your chance to talk hockey with us ON THE AIR!!!
We are adding a new segment to the show called the BNWT “Listener of the Week!” Every week for 5 minutes, we’ll call one listener to talk about a Leaf-related topic of their choice.
All you have to do is go back to the main page at bnwtpodcast.com and click “FOLLOW BNWT BY EMAIL.” Then send us an email at: email@example.com about the topic that you’d like to talk about with Robb and Jon. We’ll pick one listener every week to appear on the show! It’s as easy as that!
***Although we appreciate our listeners from all over the world, we can only accomodate our Canadian listeners at this time!***
Without YOU, the listeners, we don’t have a show. So just look at this as a thank you to all of you who let us into your ears every week! You all rock!
Please send all comments, opinions, and hate mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter: @robb_ellis
I’ll catch ya next week… FROM THE BLUES!!!