Tag Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

5 Teams to Watch This NHL Season

With the NHL season kicking off on Wednesday the sports world is finally at its peak again. The NFL, NHL, MLB, and NCAAF are all playing and the NBA is not stealing all the talking points on ESPN, but that’s a topic for a different day.

We all know what teams are usually good, Blackhawks, Kings, Capitals, and Penguins, but there is about to be a major shift in hockey supremacy in the next few years, I can guarantee it. But what 5 teams might we see getting better? Well I have a list of 5 teams I want everyone to watch out for this year, and all the years to follow because they have some interesting talent to recon with.

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5. Buffalo Sabres: Jack Eichel is sidelined with an ankle injury to start the season, but he was very productive last season and I expect him to take even more strides forward this year assuming he can stay healthy. Some key acquisitions made this offseason were Kyle Okposo and Dmitry Kulikov, I see them having immediate impacts on this team. Evander Kane and I have this unspoken beef because I hate him and I think he is wasting his talent by acting like a punk. If Kane can adjust his attitude the sky could be the limit for this kid. Sam Reinhart, Ryan O’Reilly, and Tyler Ennis all have great upside as well. I don’t think Buffalo is a playoff team just yet due to the lack of defense and goaltending, but the offense has potential to be lethal and I think they will be a fun team to watch.

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4. Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews, Auston Matthews, Auston Matthews, and hmmmm Auston Matthews. That’s 4 times you read that because that’s how many goals he had in his NHL debut. The Leafs won the lottery with Matthews and he is going to lead this team back to the playoffs soon. Leo Komarov, Willie Nylander, and Nazem Kadri are his help on this squad. I see so much star potential in Nylander, I can easily see him and Matthews being a Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane soon. Love Toronto claiming Seth Griffith off waivers from my Bruins, good work Don, really loved that move.

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3. Calgary Flames: Johnny Gaudreau resigned for 6 years and even more importantly, maybe, they signed Brian Elliot in the offseason to solidify their goaltending. I think Calgary is going to turn it around fast and squeak out 3rd place in the Pacific this season and get back into the playoffs. TJ Brodie, Mark Giordano, and Dougie Hamilton is a great unit on the back end. Sean Monahan is another young talent that I look for to make a leap this year and help carry the Flames to a great season. The youth of this team is amazing, because they all have so much experience as well, Sam Bennett and Micheal Ferland are two other players to keep our eyes on as the Flames make a run at the playoffs.

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2. Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid finally has his own team. The Oilers named him the captain and they shipped out two form number 1 overall picks this offseason in Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov. This means the Oilers now only have two former number 1 overall picks in McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But the Oilers got better this offseason by adding defenseman Adam Larsson in the Taylor Hall trade, and signing free agent Milan Lucic. I think Lucic and McDavid and be an incredible duo in the NHL, as Lucic has experience playing with fast skaters and scorers like David Krejci and Nathan Horton. Jordan Eberle needs to be great for this team to thrive. Edmonton cannot rely solely on McDavid to bring them to the top, but he sure will try. Leon Draisaitl is another name to watch as Edmonton will finally start to claw its way out of the gutter this season and be playing meaningful games come February.

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1. Nashville Predators: The Nashville Predators are going to win the Stanley Cup in 2017. Who wouldn’t love to see that anyways? The Predators have never even made it to a conference final, but this is their year. Trading for PK Subban in the offseason was a massive move and a great one for the Preds. They also appointed Mike Fisher as captain and he has exceptional leadership qualities. The defense on this team is deep and loaded with offensive talent. Of course, Subban, but Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Anthony Bitetto, Mattias Ekholm, and Yannick Weber make up what I believe to be the best defensive unit in the league. Oh and Pekka Rinne is still the goalie down in honky tonk, so watch out. Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, James Neal, and on and on this team is incredibly deep, which is why I have them as the number 1 team to watch this season and the future Stanley Cup Champions.

 

 

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Dazzling Debuts

Last night the NHL’s centennial season began with a thunderous boom. Historical franchises like the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs kicked it off.

But it was a pair of teenagers that took center stage. Newly appointed Oilers captain Connor McDavid and in-the-making super star Austin Matthews (both 19 years old) absolutely stole the spotlight.

Ladies and gentlemen, don’t look now, but we may have the next Sydney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin on our hands.

For Leafs Nation, allow me to introduce you to Hurricane MatthewsThe first overall pick in last seasons draft wasted no time becoming a national phenomenon. Scoring on the first three shots he had in the game. A feat that not even Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux or Alex Ovechkin can claim.

Matthews tightened every muscle in his face not to crack a smile after scoring his first career hat trick, but that didn’t stop his mother from shedding a tear or two. By the time the buzzer sounded to end period two, Matthews had four goals to his name and was beating the Ottawa Senators by himself. No, that’s not a typo. Matthews scored four goals before the start of the third period.

While the Senators would score late in regulation and again in overtime to spoil his coming out party, Matthews has officially solidified himself as one of the best in the league at taking what appears to be nothing and creating something. Combining the hands and skating ability of Pavel Datsyuk with a nose for the net similar to Patrick Kane, the sky truly is the limit. One thing is for sure, hockey fans across various regions will be tuning in to Maple Leaf games because for the first time in nearly 24 years they are once again, must see television.

“Matthews the Magnificent”…has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

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New building, new captain, new jerseys.

For the Edmonton Oilers, the ideology is that the past will remain there, while the future unfolds.

Now, if last night was any indication of how the rest of the season is going to go for the Edmonton Oilers, then buy your tickets now. In his first game as the Oilers captain, Connor McDavid reminded fans why he was given such an honor. McDavid had two goals and one assist for the Oilers as they were skating off the ice with a 7-4 victory against the Calgary Flames.

McDavid flew down the wing, out striding Calgary defenseman Dennis Wideman to draw a penalty shot. With time, space and speed McDavid rarely falters in the essence of the skill v. skill element of the penalty shot. Essentially putting the final nail in the coffin en route to their victory.

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Palpable is the only word worthy enough to describe the hype that has embodied fans who witness these two young men play the sport they love. While it’s still early, it’s also not obscene to predict that they will be doing just this for the remainder of their careers. Only Crosby and Ovechkin 11 years ago made a similar splash. Now McDavid and Matthews don’t play for teams that would consider each other rivals, but any time you get two proud Canadian franchises under one roof, as the saying goes, ‘all bets are off’.

Here’s to many more performances that encapsulate why we are all hockey fans at heart.

Happy Hockey Season everyone.

Atlantic Division All-Time Greatest Rosters

I know hockey may not be America’s favorite sport, but if all the ignorant hockey naysayers would give it a chance, I am confident that hockey would eventually rule not only America, but the entire world. With that said, wouldn’t it be awesome to have a season played with all 30 NHL franchises having their best all-time teams take the ice?

If you could cross eras, having Sidney Crosby go top cheese on Patrick Roy or Wayne Gretzky receiving passes from Connor McDavid, that would be AMAZING! So why don’t we digest this a little bit more and turn this fantasy into a reality, and see the 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and the 1 goalie that would dress for all 30 NHL franchises in the greatest of all-time season. Let us start with the Atlantic Division.

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1.  Montreal Canadiens:

Forwards:

Henri Richard-Jean Beliveau-Guy LaFleur

Stephen Shutt-Jacques Lemaire-Yvan Cournoyer

Mats Naslund-Saku Koivu-Mario Tremblay

Tomas Plekanec-Elmer Lach-Bernie Geoffrion

Defense:

Guy LaPointe-Andrei Markov

Larry Robinson-Doug Harvey

PK Subban-Serge Savard

Goalie:

Patrick Roy

The Montreal Canadiens are without a doubt the greatest and most storied franchise in NHL history, so cracking their all-time roster would be an incredible honor for sure, eh? Forwards were pretty cut and paste, these guys are the all-time leaders for the Habs on offense, and a team with 24 Stanley Cups don’t need to change much. Defense was again pretty easy, but I couldn’t not put PK Subban on this roster. He may have just be kicked to the curb (us Predator fans thank you greatly) for Shea Weber, but the impact PK had for the Habs was incredible. He was shut down on the blue line and had a slap shot of a God. Bruins fans are beyond excited to see him leave. The hardest choice of all 30 franchises was definitely the Montreal goaltender. Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden, Carey Price, Jose Theodore and Georges Vezina were all wonderful tendies, but how can you not pick Patrick Roy? He was one of the best goalies of all-time, and just watch out, we may be seeing Roy on another team’s all-time roster later on.

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2. Boston Bruins:

Forwards:

John Bucyk-Patrice Bergeron-Cam Neely

Ken Hodge-Phil Esposito-Rick Middleton

Wayne Cashman-Milt Schmidt-Terry O’Reilly

Brad Marchand-Peter McNab-Dit Clapper

Defense:

Ray Bourque-Bobby Orr

Brad Park-Zdeno Chara

Eddie Shore-Don Sweeney

Goalie:

Tim Thomas

Numbers never lie folks, so that is why you may not recognize a handful of these names. There are a few factors to consider when picking the all-time greatest team, factors being the era in which they played and how the game has evolved. Would Dit Clapper have 228 goals in today’s game? Absolutely not, but he is an all-time Boston Bruins great for what he did in his era. New meets old on this roster, as I have Patrice Bergeron centering the first line of the all-time Bruins team. This is a testament to Bergy’s incredible way to control the game, his impeccable defensive effort, and his consistency in the faceoff circle. Defensively, this team is a juggernaut. Ray and Bobby as the first unit, they might score more than any forward line combined. My head hurts just thinking about the damage that duo could do. Goalie was a tough one for me, but a no brainer at the same time. Timmy T is only fourth on the Bruins all-time wins list, but he did not even play 400 games for the Bruins, like the top 3 all did. He had a 2.48 goals against average and of course, single handily won the Bruins the Stanley Cup in 2011. Thomas’ athleticism and competitiveness made it an easy choice for him the represent my Bruins as the goalie on their all-time roster. Look for the Bruins to finish in the top 2 of the Atlantic Division in an all-time greatest season.

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3. Detroit Red Wings:

Forwards:

Henrik Zetterberg-Steve Yzerman-Gordie Howe

Alex Delvecchio-Sergei Federov-Brendan Shanahan

Ted Lindsay-Pavel Datsyuk-Norm Ullman

Gerard Gallant-Igor Larionov-Johan Franzen

Defense:

Nicklas Lidstrom-Reed Larson

Red Kelly-Niklas Kronwall

Chris Chelios-Gary Bergman

Goalie:

Chris Osgood

WOW. What a team this is. They will be competing with Boston and Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division with this team. Goals with be scored left and right, I can see this team averaging 4-5 goals a game with this forward unit. The ceneter core of this team features Yzerman, Federov, Datysuk, and Larionov…dear God that’s astounding. Defense is a force to be reckoned with as well, Lidstrom, Larson, Kronwall make up an extravagant defensive core. Goalie was a slam dunk for me with Chris Osgood, and he was very good. He had the funny helmet and all, and he was a great net minder for the Wings. I like the Wings to compete with the best of the best in an all-time league and to make it into the playoffs out of the Atlantic.

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4. Toronto Maple Leafs:

Forwards:

Francis Mahovlich-Mats Sundin-Darryl Sittler

Doug Gilmour-Dave Keon-Ronald Ellis

George Armstrong-Ted Kennedy-Phil Kessel

Bob Pulford-Auston Matthews-Lanny McDonald

Defense:

Borje Salming-Tim Horton

Tomas Kaberle-Ian Turnbull

Bryan McCabe-Red Kelly

Goalie:

Felix Potvin

This all-time roster will not be winning the Stanley Cup for the city of Toronto, but that’s expected when it comes to the Maple Leafs. The Leafs haven’t won a cup since 1967, that’s pretty embarrassing to say the least. There are some great players on this team, Mats Sundin and Doug Gilmour are two of the better players the NHL has ever seen, but no cups for either of you with the Maple Leafs. Phil Kessel gets to leave, and he wins a cup immediately in Pittsburgh, what a shocker there. The biggest surprise on this roster has to be Auston Matthews because the kid hasn’t even played an NHL game yet and he made their all-time roster. Why? Because he has so much potential, the Maple Leafs would be insane to not try him out for this team if this were reality. Goalie was tough, but Felix Potvin was my choice because I have seen him play, and he is a trustworthy option between the pipes. The Maple Leafs all-time team isn’t winning Lord Stanley anytime soon, but look for them to compete for a playoff spot.

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5. Buffalo Sabres:

Forwards:

Richard Martin-Gilbert Perreault-Miroslav Satan

Dave Andreychuk-Don Luce-Rene Robert

Thomas Vanek-Derek Roy-Craig Ramsey

Dale Hawerchuk-Pat LaFontaine-Alexander Mogilny

Defense:

Phil Housley-Alexei Zhitnik

Doug Bodger-Gerald Korab

Michael Ramsey-James Schoenfeld

Goalie:

Dominik Hasek

Buffalo is a franchise still searching for its first Stanley Cup but this team has potential to compete for a playoff spot in an all-time greatest season. The first player off this roster is Jack Eichel, I wanted to put him on this team so badly, but just couldn’t replace Pat LaFontaine with him just yet. I love the offense for the Sabres all-time team, but the defense is the grey area for me. Phil Housley is the best defender the Sabres have ever had, so he would be relied on heavily to hold down the blue line. There was a two goalie battle for the starting job for this team, Dominik Hasek and Ryan Miller were the two options, but come on, it is Dom’s net every time. And as a man named Kelley once told me “You better watch out for them Sabres, they are like sneaky average a lot.”

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6. Tampa Bay Lightning:

Forward:

Vincent Lecavalier-Steven Stamkos-Martin St. Louis

Vinny Prospal-Tyler Johnson-Brad Richards

Freddy Modin-Chris Gratton-Nikita Kucherov

Ruslan Fedotenko-Alex Killorn-Dave Andreychuk

Defense:

Dan Boyle-Pavel Kubina

Victor Hedman-Roman Hamrlik

Anton Stralman-Paul Ranger

Goalie:

Ben Bishop

Another young team here in Tampa Bay, but loads of talent up front. This first line is great but I don’t know how the other three lines will stack up with the other teams with more history in this division. The defense is week for the fire power that some of these teams have but I can see them surprising a few people with their offensive group. Goalie was a close one as Ben Bishop and Nikolai Khabibulin are both phenomenal goaltenders, but Bishop gets the nod cause of his size, he’s a giant standing at 6’7”. Some of these guys like Bobby Orr and Jean Beliveau have never seen a goalie of this size so that may make it difficult for them to find the twine. This team goes as Bishop goes, if he can fluster the all-time greatest scorers then there is a chance, and I mean slight chance that this team backs its way into the postseason.

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7. Ottawa Senators:

Forwards:

Dany Heatley-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson

Radek Bonk-Alexi Yashin-Chris Neil

Milan Michalek-Mike Fisher-Marian Hossa

Nick Foligno-Kyle Turris-Martin Havlat

Defense:

Wade Redden-Erik Karlsson

Chris Phillips-Zdeno Chara

Filip Kuba-Jason York

Goalie:

Patrick Lalime

Ottawa joined the NHL in 1992 through expansion, so they have no chance of winning the big one in an all-time greatest league. But nonetheless, could you imagine this roster in its prime? Some great stuff from that first line for sure. We see Zdeno Chara making his second appearance on this list, and I think a few more of these guys will be revisited later as well. Patrick Lalime is my choice at goalie because he is the franchise leader in games played, wins, etc. Ray Emery was so close to getting the nod for me because of his cup run he took Ottawa on back in 2007. Speaking of 2007, Dany Heatley. “50 in ‘07” is now a lifestyle for hockey players, and that’s an incredible impact to leave on such a beautiful game. This Ottawa all-time team might be my favorite to watch of any team in this division, but that does not mean they will be winning a lot, just too young of a franchise to have a chance against the Bruins, Canadiens, and Red Wings.

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8. Florida Panthers:

Forwards:

Nathan Horton-Olli Jokinen-Scott Mellanby

Pavel Bure-Stephen Weiss-Radek Dvorak

Jonathan Huberdeau-Viktor Kozlov-Ray Whitney

David Booth-Rob Niedermayer-Bill Lindsay

Defense:

 Jay Bouwmeester-Ed Jovanovski

Robert Svehla-Brian Campbell

Aaron Ekblad-Dmitry Kulikov

Goalie:

Roberto Luongo

This is a rough all-time roster to say the least. Some of these guys should never appear on a list like this, but when on the Panthers anything is possible. All these picks were obvious because of the lack of time and winning that has gone on in Florida. Maybe as time moves forward Aaron Ekblad will become a household NHL name and he will skyrocket to the first defensive unit, but for now line three is where he is at. Roberto Luongo is a great guy to have in net for your franchise but he definitely is not the best goalie of all-time. Olli Jokinen wins best name in NHL history, but this team will finish at the bottom of the barrel in the Atlantic Division.

Drafting Some Hope

Admit it, you were nervous that Edmonton was going to win the draft lottery again, weren’t you?

Nobody, and I truly mean absolutely no human being outside of the Edmonton Alberta region actually wanted the Oilers to draft Auston Matthews. Luckily, they don’t own that luxury, Toronto, the second saddest Canadian born franchise does.

Whats the difference between them? Toronto made major leaps of improvement this past season. Despite the horrific record and the countless number of jerseys sickened fans tossed on the ice near the conclusion the season. Mike Babcock and Brendan Shanahan put their hockey wits together, changes to the game plan, and roster paid instant dividends.

Petr Mrazek #34 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a first-period save on a shot by William Nylander #39 of the Toronto Maple Leafs at Joe Louis Arena on March 13, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan.
At just 20 years old William Nylander leads the youth movement established by Toronto this past season. Much to the enthusiasm of management, but more importantly the fans.
What was most impressive was the confidence instilled in the youth of their organization. Following the trade deadline when it was more than evident the playoffs were a snow balls chance, the youth movement officially began. Cream of the crop? William Nylander, 6-7-13 in 22 career games against the big boys. Yeah, he’s also only 20 years old, and definitely passed the eye ball test.

What I’m trying to hammer home is how far and beyond a better organizationally sound team Toronto is when compared side by side to Edmonton. While their numbers aren’t all that different, Toronto’s ceiling is much higher and prosperous. When they draft Matthews, he’ll immediately solve their most glaring issue, the lack of a number one center.

No doubt there will be crazy Leaf fans predicting an appearance at this years Cup final. Similarly to how Red Sox fans reacted to the David Price signing. Truth be told they aren’t crazy, they’re just starving for hope.

Remember the hype surrounding Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel last year? Matthews deserves just as much if not more hype than they received. Don’t believe me? YouTube a highlight clip then proceed to read.

Lightning fans can probably take a deep breath, with Matthews going to Toronto they no longer need that bonafied number one center. So favorite all the tweets you’d like Mr. Stamkos, odds are you’re staying put.

Speaking of whom, Matthews has been compared to elite centers such as Steven Stamkos and John Tavares. Slightly outside the realm of a Sidney Crosby type player, but by no stretch of the imagination, Matthews remains a player you build a franchise around.

What is without a doubt the best part of the draft is the fact that Edmonton won’t even be selecting in the top 3. While picking fourth isn’t a bad consolation prize, it’s something that GM Peter Chiarelli called “disappointing”. Rumor has it Edmonton is flirting with the idea of trading the pick for an established top four defensemen.

Whomever decides to do business with Edmonton could look towards another promising American, Matthew Tkachuk. Amassing 107 points last season, 5th in OHL scoring.

Bet the farm that Toronto will waste no time selecting Matthews number one, unless Tampa signs Stamkos long term then ships him off moments later. Even then I’d expect Toronto to turn that deal down, Matthews is an exciting proposition. Especially for a franchise that has endured so much hostility and scrutiny from just about everyone.

Hold off on planning those parade routes Leaf nation. Your depth chart has some gaping holes in it, enough that one, 18 year old kid, couldn’t possibly fix on his own.

However, it appears as though you just drafted yourself some hope.