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 rumor, free agent signing, or other Toronto Maple Leafs news hits the web. Every Tuesday morning, 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!
The Three-Year Goaltending Plan…
The Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending picture became much clearer last Sunday with the signing of Jonathan Bernier. The 27-year old netminder (it was his birthday this past Friday) signed a 2-year contract worth 8.3 million dollars, avoiding the arbitrator’s decision which was due to come within a few hours. Reactions to the signing were mixed from Leaf fans; some thought it was fair while others thought it was too much. Some believe that Bernier has been the victim of a bad system in Toronto and is actually a superstar in the making. Others believe that he should have been dealt months ago and that the team would have been better with a much cheaper and just as talented James Reimer between the pipes to begin the rebuild.
Well, believe it or not, there’s a method to the Leafs’ madness. Yes, Lou Lamoriello knows what he’s doing and one only has to look at his three Stanley Cup rings to know that he has a plan. The truth is, you need to look past this coming season to see exactly where the club is heading in goal. So, Bernier fans to my left, Reimer fans to my right. I have some very upsetting news for both of you. Neither of your guys are going to be playing home games at the ACC during the 2017-18 season.
Christopher Gibson fans, all three of you, stop jumping up and down with excitement! I’m afraid the news isn’t very good for you either. Your guy will probably be back in Finland by the time the 2017-18 season ends, if not sooner. I could be wrong and I’m not afraid to admit when I am. Time to polish up the old crystal ball and look into the future and fill you in on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ “three-year goaltending plan!” (Cue the dream sequence music)
The stage is set for the coming season at the NHL level and nobody is surprised. Bernier and Reimer will share the job with the big club but the Leafs will hope that the former will finally make a statement to grab the starting role. There will be a change at the AHL level though with Garrett Sparks replacing Antoine Bibeau with the Marlies. Bibeau was inconsistent last year in his first pro season and will benefit from playing the bulk of the games with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. Sparks did the same last season and was outstanding earning a spot in the ECHL All-Star Game. Sparks will share the load with Gibson on the Marlies with Leafs management hoping that he makes significant strides in his third season as a pro.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Jonathan Bernier, James Reimer
Toronto Marlies: Christopher Gibson, Garrett Sparks
The James Reimer era is now over and the Leafs have chosen not to re-sign him. Bernier has done enough to be considered the starter but the backup job is up for grabs at this point. A battle at training camp between Gibson and Sparks is fierce but Sparks wins out to take the backup job sending a disgruntled Gibson back to Ricoh Centre and the starting job with the Marlies. However, third year pro Antoine Bibeau has other ideas. He is coming off a great season playing the bulk of the games with the Orlando Solar Bears and he’s ready to take on a larger role with the Marlies. The Leafs will hope that Bernier has a good season in order to move him at the deadline as he sets his sights on his first dip into UFA waters.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Jonathan Bernier, Garrett Sparks
Toronto Marlies: Christopher Gibson, Antoine Bibeau
Whether they go the preferable route and move him at the deadline or allow him to become an unrestricted free agent, Jonathan Bernier has played his last game in a Toronto Maple Leaf uniform. The Leafs will instead go with a tandem of 24-year old Garrett Sparks and 23-year old Antoine Bibeau in goal on a club that also includes 20-year old rookie forward Mitch Marner. The roster is one of the youngest in the league and also includes rookie Kasperi Kapanen, and second-year pros William Nylander, Brendan Leipsic, Connor Brown and Viktor Loov. Sparks started a surprising 37 games in 2016-17 due to Bernier’s penchant for being injured and his performance was impressive enough to have the Leafs hand him the starting job.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Garrett Sparks, Antoine Bibeau
Toronto Marlies: Christopher Gibson, Justin Nicholls
Ok, obviously I don’t own a crystal ball but I do see a pattern forming around this team. Short-term signings are the norm these days and it doesn’t stop short with the goaltending situation. The Leafs will be watching their youngsters over the next couple of seasons with the hopes that they will develop into the elite young goalies that most of the other 29 teams have seemed to have been able to turn out. If all goes well, they may just have their first “home-grown” superstar netminder since Felix Potvin took our hearts 24 years ago!
The Leafs Annual Rookie Tournament…
The Leafs will once again host their annual Rookie Tournament from September 11-13 at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario. The Leafs’ rookies will be joined by the Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, and newcomers the Montreal Canadiens who will replace the Chicago Blackhawks. This will be the first time that Leaf fans get to see the organization’s two top prospects (Nylander and Marner) on the ice together. The two skated in separate groups at last month’s prospects camp in Collingwood. Other notables include: Kasperi Kapanen, Frederik Gauthier, Nikita Soshnikov, as well as 2015 draft picks Travis Dermott, Andrew Nielsen, Martins Dzierkals, Dmytro Timashov, Stephen Desrocher, and Nikita Korostelev.
Here’s a look at the full roster…
Here’s the Leafs schedule for the weekend…
Friday, September 11, 2015
11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Pre-game skate
7:35 p.m. Ottawa (white) vs. Toronto (blue)
Saturday, September 12, 2015
11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Pre-game skate
7:35 p.m. Toronto (white) vs. Montreal (red)
Sunday, September 13, 2015
11:30 a.m. – 12:15 a.m. Pre-game skate
7:35 p.m. Toronto (white) vs. Pittsburgh (black)
If you’re interested in catching any of the games live then you can find all your ticket info here.
Marner and Dermott Impress For Canada…
Leaf fans had reason to get excited this week as the two top draft picks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft were on display for all to see. Mitch Marner (4th overall) and Travis Dermott (34th overall) were named to Canada’s World Junior Summer Camp Roster and were impressive in the games they played last week.
Dermott came exactly as advertised showing a little bit of everything in his appearances. The Erie Otters defenceman was rock steady defensively and also showed a little offence scoring a goal in a 3-2 shutout loss against the Russia. He also wasn’t afraid to dish out a little bit of punishment as seen in this clip.
Marner’s performance removed any doubt that people had in the back of their minds regarding whether the Leafs made the right pick back in June. He was consistently the best player on the ice and showed vision that only the top stars in the game possess. He is an absolute wizard with the puck and was a threat every time that he gained possession. His lateral movement and quick feet make it almost impossible to defend against him. If he gains some size in the next year, Marner could be a threat to crack the Leafs roster to start the 2016-17 season.
Check out a great article about the two Leafs prospects by Leafs Hub’s own Peter Baracchini here.
Prospect Piccinich Signs With London…
Some interesting news hit the net on Wednesday when it was announced that Leafs prospect JJ Piccinich was leaving Boston College to join the OHL’s London Knights. The 19-year old forward was chosen in the 4th-round (103rd overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Piccinich struggled in his freshman year at BU scoring just a goal and three assists in 25 games while coping with a lack of ice time. It’s expected that he will take on an offensive role with the Knights, who lost three of their top forwards from last year.
How About Those Blue Jays…
Ok, I know this is a hockey site and we all love our Leafs but I can’t publish this column without mentioning another blue and white (and red) team in this city. I have to say it: HOW ABOUT THOSE BLUE JAYS??? It really is refreshing for all Toronto sports fans to have a team that truly has a shot at making this city proud especially after the Raptors hit us with the biggest tease ever this past season. We are all Leaf fans, nothing is going to change that, but if you’re not following these Blue Jays right now then you’re missing out!
The additions of David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, Latroy Hawkins, Mark Lowe, and Ben Revere are just what this club needed to become a World Series contender. That was evident his past weekend when they rolled into New York and swept the division leading Yankees. What was always a good team has now become a great team that has a chance of doing something special. Do yourself a favour and jump on the bandwagon! Spots are still available!
The Blue N’ White Tonight Podcast…
The Blue n’ White Tonight Podcast featuring myself and Jon Stamos will be making its debut later this month! The show will be taped every Sunday evening and consist of three 20-minute segments of Toronto Maple Leaf content! Each Podcast will be released on SoundCloud in the middle of the same week they are taped.
Sunday, August 23- “BNWT SUMMER WRAP UP SHOW” Jon and I recap “The Shanaplan” and all the off-season moves that the club has made to reshape the organization this summer in the debut podcast!
Sunday, August 30- “BNWT YOUNG MARLIES SPECIAL” We’ll be joined by a VERY SPECIAL GUEST as we review the roster of the Leafs’ AHL affiliate as we get set for the most anticipated Marlies season ever!
If you’re on twitter, give the show a follow @BNWT_Podcast or join the official Facebook group here!
Rick Vaive Joins Leafs Hub…
Late Sunday evening, the official announcement was made that former Leafs captain Rick Vaive would be joining the writing team here at Leafs Hub. Let me say that it’s an honor to be working alongside a Maple Leaf legend! Vaive joined the Leafs, along with Bill Derlago, in a 1980 trade that sent Dave “Tiger” Williams and veteran Jerry Butler to the Vancouver Canucks. Many were unhappy about Williams’ departure but it didn’t take along for young Rick to win the hearts of Leaf fans everywhere.
He scored 33 goals in his first full season in the blue and white but even that accomplishment couldn’t prepare anyone for what was to happen next. In the 1981-82 season, Vaive became the first ever Leaf to score 50 goals in a season, notching 54! He followed that up with two more 50-goal seasons in the following two years. In all, Rick would score 332 goals and 570 points in 534 games as a Leaf. Numbers that make him unequivocally one of the greatest Toronto Maple Leafs of all time. Welcome to Leafs Hub Rick!
Leafs Hub Android App…
Want instant access to awesome Leafs Hub content? Now you can get it right to your phone with the Leafs Hub Android App available at Google Play Store.
Apple users like myself can look forward to the IOS version that should be available sometime next month. What can be better than Leafs Hub right at your finger tips?
So Who’s The New Guy…
If you’re a regular reader here, then you’ll probably realize that I’m “the new guy!” Then again, you may have already read my work over at Editor In Leaf or Bleacher Report. Regardless, let me tell you how happy I am to be joining the crew here at Leafs Hub.
“View From The Blues” will be a weekly column that will look at all the Toronto Maple Leaf news from the previous week. I’ll give you my unique, humorous, and sometimes twisted opinion on all of it. So what’s with the name? Well, it’s a “double entendre” if you will. When I was a kid, I attended quite a few Toronto Maple Leafs games at Maple Leaf Gardens. We would always sit in the “end blues” which almost hung over the ice surface offering a birds-eye view of all the action. On the other side of things, I’ve been a die-hard Leafs fans since birth. I “bleed blue” as most of us do but I also “feel blue” as I have yet to see the Leafs play for the Stanley Cup.
Anyways, It’s great to be here at Leafs Hub. I look forward to being a part of something that is built on passion for the blue and white and helping it to become the top site for Leafs-related content! If this is your first visit, take notice. Big things are coming from all of us here at LeafsHub.com!
Please send all comments, opinions, and hate mail to: email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter: @robb_ellis See ya next week… FROM THE BLUES!!!