What Is There to Even Do A Brief Dive Into the Toronto Maple Leafs Current Predicament

I don’t know that I can speak for everyone else, but I know that I am not having a good time watching this series. Against all odds, because of course, the Toronto Maple Leafs are going the distance against the Montreal Canadiens. A team the Maple Leafs owned during the regular season to the tune of a 6-2-1 record, then proceeded to own for four more subsequent games this postseason until they found a way to completely collapse under the weight of their own deeply ingrained ineptitude. Perhaps I’m fortunate that I’m a lot younger than many other long suffering Maple Leafs fans and don’t have much of anything in the way of pre-2005 lockout Maple Leafs memories. To be completely honest, I don’t even know what’s worse: The years of complete bumbling lunacy that defined this team between 2006 and 2013, culminating with “It Was 4-1”, or this current era of rebuilding, seeing a product that genuinely looks like it’s going to go somewhere, only to have your heart ripped out over and over and OVER again.

Perhaps the Maple Leafs win Game Seven. To be completely honest, the circumstances are there and it wouldn’t be the most shocking thing to happen. Do we really even care? Anything resembling the momentum of this series has been completely taken out of the Maple Leafs hands. It’s bordering on cartoonish how this hockey team has repeatedly struggled to find a way to close things out and display anything resembling a killer instinct. 

 

What’s even worse is that perhaps for 5 of the 6 games the Leafs have come out as the better team. Certainly for at least four of those games. It’s nothing short of befuddling how year after year, some of the league’s brightest stars, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner in particular during this go around, fail to show up when everything is on the line. It’s agonizing how, once again, the Maple Leafs are struck by injuries to key players down the stretch and forced to rejig. It’s understandable that nobody is playing healthy at this point of the calendar. But to lose your captain, your most steady defender, and to have your biggest deadline acquisition all go down to injuries during this series is something out of a Hollywood movie. Also, not to project too much, but I’m also pretty sure that most of those films end with the underdog little guys coming through and beating the bullies, which doesn’t seem like a great omen for Monday night.

I don’t have answers. I really wish I did. What do you even change if you’re Sheldon Keefe? Sure, you can tinker here and there with the fourth line, or put William Nylander in place of Mitch Marner, who has been a complete ghost for this series, on the first line. Marner’s play, in particular, is especially concerning given that we saw a similar lack of production last August when the Maple Leafs fell in five games to the Columbus Blue Jackets. To be honest, it all just feels like shuffling chairs on the deck of the Titanic. The Maple Leafs need to find something, ANYTHING, resembling a spark, and nothing appears to be on the horizon. Maybe they put Nick Robertson in for a game? Or give Timothy Liljegren a shot? It all just seems so pointless. As the big four goes, so goes this hockey team, and unfortunately, thanks to several factors like an unsustainably low shooting percentage, this team’s big four has not been there when they’ve needed to be (for some unfortunately because of things out of their control).

And so, I beg the question: What is there to even do? As much as I’m distraught by this team, I know that I’ll be tuning in on Monday at 7 PM, ready for the puck to drop with my good luck jersey on, likely feeling the same dread I felt during any number of the Maple Leafs last do-or-die games. Or perhaps this time, after blowing a completely winnable series lead and dominating on the way there, I’ll be feeling something more along the lines of despair and apathy. Who knows. Maybe, as Steve Dangle so often puts it, Charlie Brown will finally kick the football. All the signs for a win certainly seem to point in the Maple Leafs favour. The team holds home ice, they’re theoretically the better team, and ideally, they come out with some desperation to fuel themselves so as to avoid disaster yet again. As is normally the case with the Maple Leafs, however, you simply don’t know what effort you’re going to get on any given night. Additionally, probabilities clearly don’t seem to apply to this team, so you can throw those right out the window as well. With all this said, here’s hoping that we’ll get the opportunity to watch the 2021 iteration of the Maple Leafs more than just one last time. Here’s equally hoping that the players won’t be left licking their wounds after what, even with a win, will probably be looked back upon as a pretty disappointing first round. Or perhaps disappointment is what one should come to expect when making a habit of watching this hockey team.

Hockey Night in Canada: Stanley Cup playoffs on desktop & app

Want to view a totally free live stream of Stanley Cup playoff games on Hockey Night in Canada!.

?. !? CBC will live stream Hockey Night in Canada on all digital platforms, suggesting more Canadians will have the ability to access the games.

On Monday, the Montreal Canadiens deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of their series at 7 p.m. ET

Here’s your guide on how to enjoy.

The CBC Sports app will continue to supply complimentary live streams of Hockey Night in Canadavideo games, which you can download at the links below.

Click on the links listed below to see on desktop and mobile web.

Jets Sign F Jeff Malott to One-Year, Two-Way Contract For 2021-22 Season

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Manitoba Moose became part of a five-team Canadian Division for the 2020-21 campaign, which saw forward Jeff Malott enjoy plenty of success during his inaugural season in the AHL.

Following his impressive performance, Malott, 24, has agreed to a one-year, two-way contract with the Winnipeg Jets, which will earn him $780,000 next season.

After spending four seasons at Cornell University, the 6′ 4″ winger joined the Moose as an undrafted free agent this past winter and certainly made the most of his opportunity, as he led the team with 14 goals and also added six assists over 34 games.

Before making his professional debut, Malott served as a crucial leader throughout his collegiate career and was named captain of the team during his senior year. Though he wasn’t known as an offensive juggernaut, the youngster was still able to produce 24 goals and 53 points over 114 career games with the Big Red.

Originally slated to become a restricted free agent this summer, Malott is now expected to receive an invitation to next season’s training camp and could potentially make his NHL debut at some point in 2021-22. But at the very least, he’ll return for a second season with the Moose.

A jam-packed summer including expansion and tough decisions starts this week

Wednesday’s NHL Draft Lottery kicks off what could, and should, be a fascinating offseason for the Flames. Between now and the end of July, Calgary has a crucial expansion decision to make and multiple others in player personnel. Add in some interesting contract negotiations and a weird draft and you’ve got the makings of a really interesting couple of months.

In chronological-ish order, here’s a look at what’s on general manager Brad Treliving’s to-do list over the next number of weeks.

The Draft Lottery

While completely out of the team’s control, Wednesday’s lottery still offers a little intrigue for Flames fans. The team has just over a two percent chance at winning the number one pick, and slightly better odds for number two overall. By the middle of this week, though, we’ll know exactly where Calgary will be picking on night one of the NHL Draft in late July.

Here’s a crash course on how Wednesday’s lottery will work. The Flames have a 2.2% chance of being selected in the first draw to determine number one overall. The odds for the remaining 15 teams after draw one will increase proportionately for the second draw, which determines second overall. Either way, it’s a long-shot for Calgary.

The one wrinkle is Arizona, who have been assigned lottery odds but have forfeited their 2021 first round pick due to sanctions announced last summer. If the Coyotes are selected in either two draws, the league will do that drawing again. So, the Flames kind of have better odds than the ones shown above…but…not really.

Draft weekend

Once we know where Calgary is picking, we can turn our eyes to the 2021 NHL Draft, which goes virtually on July 23 and 24. As of now, the Flames have seven picks over six rounds of this year’s draft, including four in the top 96.

RD 1 RD 2 RD 3 RD 4 RD 5 RD 6 RD 7
1 1 2 0 1 1 1

Currently, Calgary has their own picks in each of the first three rounds and also owns Edmonton’s third round pick, dating back to the Milan Lucic for James Neal swap from July 2019. Neal had to score 21 or more goals and at least ten more than Lucic for the pick to change hands.

While those conditions weren’t met due to a shortened season, the league still ruled Calgary should receive the pick. The Oilers then had the choice to move that third rounder in 2020 or 2021; they chose the latter. The Flames sent their fourth round pick this year to the LA Kings when they acquired defenceman Derek Forbort at the 2020 trade deadline.

Expansion

So here’s where things really get interesting. Will Calgary even have their full complement of picks come draft weekend? Or will they have used one or two in a side deal with the incoming Seattle Kraken? We’ll find that out a few days prior.

Expansion Timeline (all times Mountain)
July 16
  • Last day to place players on waivers prior to Expansion Draft.
  • 3 pm deadline for players to agree to waive No Move clauses prior to Expansion Draft.
July 17
  • Rosters frozen at 1 pm. No trades, waivers, or signings until after Expansion Draft.
  • Expansion protection lists due to NHL Central Registry at 3 pm.
July 18
  • Protection lists made official at 10 am.
  • Kraken can start interviewing UFA and RFA players made available for Expansion Draft.
July 21
  • Kraken to submit Expansion Draft selections by 10 am.
  • Expansion Draft selections announced at 6 pm.

The expansion rules are the same in 2021 as they were for Vegas in 2017. The Flames can opt to protect 11 players (7 forwards, 3 defencemen, 1 goaltender) or nine players (8 skaters, 1 goaltender), with the expectation being they’ll go with the former. If that’s the case, the team’s biggest decision will come on the blueline.

Calgary has four D-men eligible for protection with only three slots. With the roster as it is now, that means one of Mark Giordano, Chris Tanev, Rasmus Andersson, or Noah Hanifin will be exposed to Seattle. Juuso Valimaki is exempt.

Giordano is the hot button, of course. The captain turns 38 in October and is entering the final year of his contract. For me, it makes the most sense to expose Giordano, as every one of Hanifin, Andersson, and Tanev factor more into the team’s long-term future. Whether the team actually makes him vulnerable or works a side deal with the Kraken is another question, though. Personally, giving up a pick (or picks) and/or a prospect to shield Giordano doesn’t seem like proper asset management.

“I guess we’ll circle back in the next couple weeks on that,” Giordano said earlier this month after admitting he and Treliving discussed expansion in their exit interview. “For me it’s pretty obvious as a player there’s going to be certain situations…we’re going to have to talk about. But as far as personally, I mean, I’ve been here my whole career and I love it here. Obviously I still want to be here next here.”

On top of Giordano, other reasonable options for Seattle include Washington product Derek Ryan, Milan Lucic (who has already agreed to waive his NMC), Matthew Phillips, and Oliver Kylington.

Qualifying offers

QO’s to pending restricted free agents are due July 26, the Monday after the draft. As per usual, Calgary will have decisions to make on a few players. If the team opts not to tender an offer, that player will become an unrestricted free agent a few days later. This year’s RFAs are listed below, with an asterisk signifying arbitration rights.

Forward: Dillon Dube, Matthew Phillips, Glenn Gawdin, Dominik Simon*, Luke Philp*, Justin Kirkland*
Defence: Juuso Valimaki, Oliver Kylington*, Connor Mackey*, Alexander Yelesin*, Colton Poolman*, Carl-Johan Lerby*
Goaltender: Artyom Zagidulin*, Tyler Parsons

Some of these are no-brainers. Dube, Mackey, and Valimaki are all getting qualified, for instance. On the same token, it would be a surprise to see the Flames qualify Simon knowing he played a grand total of 11 NHL games this season. There are a few larger question marks, though.

I think they’ll qualify Kylington, but it sure does feel like that relationship is on the rocks. Are Yelesin and Zagidulin heading back to Russia? Lerby has already signed in Sweden, do the Flames qualify him just to keep his NHL rights? And, after another season marred by injury, does Calgary opt to cut bait with Parsons? Or does he have one more QO in him?

Free agency

All of this leads up to July 28, when unrestricted free agency officially opens. That date is equally significant for Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, as it’s the day they’ll become eligible to sign contract extensions. We’ll have plenty of time to have those discussions in the coming weeks.

This summer’s potential big name UFAs include Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Dougie Hamilton, Taylor Hall, Gabriel Landeskog, and Zach Hyman, among others. We’ll see how many of those players end up hitting the open market. And, a few of the things we’ve highlighted already will also help determine how much cap space the Flames will be working with.

Im very glad that I signed a contract with Vancouver Vasily Podkolzin speaks on leaving the KHL to showcase his talents in the NHL

On Sunday, the Vancouver Canucks announced a three-year entry-level contract for their top prospect, Vasily Podkolzin.

According to the Canucks, Podkolzin will be available to local media after the World Championships conclude. The tournament will finish up on June 6th, so we can expect to speak with Podkolzin and likely a translator in just over a week. For now, he is doing interviews in Russia and speaking about his time with SKA, Russian National Teams and also his excitement to try his hand in the NHL.

These quotes are translated from Russian websites such as SKA’s team site, Sports24 and SportsRU.

From the exterior, it’s looked like a treacherous path travelled but he will likely not speak ill-will toward the organization that gave him a shot to play in the KHL at 17 years old. Podkolzin spoke with a SKA website reporter about his time with the organization.

“I am very glad that everything happened, that I played in SKA for three years,” said Podkolzin. “St. Petersburg has become almost a home for me, I believe that I grew up here as a hockey player and as a person. I want to thank the management, coaches, partners and, of course, the fans for these three seasons.

“In the MHL spent only a month, then I was transferred to the Major League, there already played with men. Then they took to the KHL, so, we can say, passed all the steps. In St. Petersburg, the infrastructure is at the highest level, the best coaches work here, summer training camps are held – ideal conditions for any young hockey player.”

“To those guys who will now follow the path of the MHL – VHL – KHL, I advise to work, first of all. More than the others. And, of course, to remain easy to communicate with people and not to be afraid of anything.”

We often saw Podkolzin’s ice time bounce around as he was truly one of the first teenagers to break through as a player who could contribute for SKA at the KHL level. He spoke about being one of the first players to do that for SKA and how he expects some talented players to follow suit. A perfect example is Matvei Michkov, who just signed a five-year deal with SKA as a 16-year-old.

Podkolzin spoke with sports.ru about the comments from his agent on January 11th, when he said that Podkolzin would not be returning to SKA and will be coming to the NHL for the 2021-22 season.

“If I was thinking about Vancouver all the time, it would be wrong with SKA,” said Podkolzin. “Of course, I had this in my head, I really wanted to try my hand at the NHL. But at the same time, I really wanted to play in the KHL and for the national team. Thoughts about leaving arose both before the season and during some unfortunate segments for me. I have thought a lot and can safely say that I am very happy that I spent these three years in SKA. They believed in me, they gave me chances.”

There were definitely difficult times for Podkolzin this season, which included being healthy scratched multiple times and even being sent down to the Russian minor leagues for a game. It brought up the question of if he considered trying to leave Russia early to join the Canucks.

“There was talk, of course,” said Podkolzin “But everything was postponed until the end of the season because there were a lot of matches, then the playoffs. Neither I nor the club management thought about my departure, there were other tasks.”

It seems as though Podkolzin is ready to move on from SKA. It was good of the organization to give him a shot at 17 years old but he is a much better player now than he was back then and his play screams that he belongs in the best league in the world.

Many asked if there is an out clause to go back to Russia and his agent told sportsru, “there is no clause on the return of the player to the KHL.”

Even though there is no chance he needs to start in the AHL, Podkolzin was asked if he would report to the AHL if that is what the Canucks organization wants for him, and was fully on board with it. Thankfully, many have a good feeling that there will be no AHL games for Podkolzin. His game will instantly translate to NHL success, it just depends on if that’s in a top or bottom-six role.

Podkolzin was asked if there was a KHL out-clause in his NHL contract.

“I don’t think so,” said Podkolzin. “I don’t think about returning to Russia, I want to fight my way there and prove it.”

As we know, Podkolzin is currently with Russia’s World Championship team as an extra forward who is not suiting up for the team. He is on the sidelines supporting his team and spoke about his feelings of being left off the roster.

“Of course I was upset. I really wanted to play in the World Cup,” said Podkolzin. “But you have to understand, I am 19 years old. As for the chances, if I scored 8 goals in four matches, who wouldn’t take me. In any case, for me, the time on the national team is a huge experience. Of course, I want the boys to win. I have no grudges, nothing like that. Only kind words and support.”

Daria Tuboltseva of Sports24 reports that Podkolzin will be coming to North America in August and still needs to work on his English to feel comfortable in Canada.

Now we wait.

I am more confident than most that Podkolzin is going to be an impact player on day one. Many believe that we should temper expectations about the Russian winger but I am so confident in his game being ready for a top-nine role in the NHL.

We saw Nils Höglander come in and shock the fanbase with how NHL ready he was. Well, Podkolzin has been higher on every prospect evaluator’s rankings. Podkolzin is going to bring even more tenacious forechecking, as he is a big body who knows how to use his size to his advantage. He is willing to stick up for a teammate and drops the gloves if someone tries to push him around.

Podkolzin fits the deployment of the Horvat line to a tee. Asking him to be in a matchup role is something he is likely ready for on day one. His attention to detail as a defending winger is at a high level and though many say to relax on this prospect, I’m not in that camp.

I’ve got very high expectations for Vasily Podkolzin right from day one of his NHL career and from the way he plays and speaks, I’d bet his expectations are even higher than mine.

The KHL chapter of his career is now over and he is very excited for what is to come with his hockey career.

“I am very happy that I signed a contract with Vancouver, that everything happened this way,” said Podkolzin. “It’s all very cool.”

We will likely hear from Podkolzin in the next seven to 10 days and it should be an interesting conversation between himself and the Vancouver media. We have a lot of questions for the Russian star.

One thing is for sure, every Canucks fan should be excited for this type of player joining the team next season. He will be a difference-maker on day one, and it will be up to Travis Green to decide which line Podkolzin fits on the best.

Who would you like to see Podkolzin play with on day one of training camp?


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