Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane. Today at No. 15 we have Kent Nilsson, a Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames star who won a Stanley Cup with the Oilers.
Not that there’s any guarantees in pro sports but it would be downright shocking if Joseph Woll didn’t crack the Toronto Maple Leafs opening night roster.
With that in mind, I think the organization is living in a fantasy world if they’re banking on the Samsonov/Woll tandem staying intact for the duration of the season.
Firstly, there’s the whole the injury thing. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the NHL has a goaltending problem. They just can’t stay healthy. I mean, having a quick look at the number of goalies that the Leafs have rostered in just the past five to seven seasons alone will give you a good indication of where things are at. It’s ridiculous. But as mentioned, it’s a league-wide issue, not just a Toronto one.
Furthermore, I know there’s the whole salary cap thing, but I think teams are nuts if they’re not at least preparing themselves for the inevitable. On that front, the Leafs deserve a lot of credit. In the offseason, they went out and signed veteran netminder Martin Jones to effectively be their third-string guy in case something happens to their other two guys. That said, believe it or not, it’s far from a lock that that will come to fruition. That’s because Jones will need to go through waivers before the start of the regular season. As mentioned, considering the volatility surrounding the position, the Leafs will need to be strategic with how they conduct business here. Suffice it is to say, Brad Treliving and company will be hard at work over the next week or so trying to manoeuvre their way through this. It will be difficult.
Any way you slice it, Toronto needs to find a way to make sure they have insurance in between the pipes. The Joseph Woll success story is a great one, but considering he has just 11 NHL appearances to his name, there’s no guarantee everything will go according to plan. Suffice it is to say, the Jones signing could end up proving to be pivotal one.
Simply put, Toronto needs to find a way to cover its basis —easier said than done, of course.
The Calgary Flames trimmed their training camp roster by nine players on Tuesday, reducing their total group to 55 players. The march towards the opening of the regular season continues.
On Tuesday’s episode of Canucks Conversation, Chris Faber was joined by Rink Wide Vancouver’s Jeff Paterson as Quads was away for the day.
After attending practice out at UBC in the morning, JPat and Faber talked about a number of topics surrounding the Vancouver Canucks. Chief among them was the defence pairings. Both gentlemen gave their ideal pairings, and as you can expect, their pairings were quite similar.
While Faber has Carson Soucy playing with Filip Hronek, JPat has Ian Cole in that spot on the second pairing, with Soucy playing alongside Quinn Hughes in his ideal lineup. Faber has Cole pencilled on the top pairing with Hughes.
Both guys agreed on one thing, and that was that Christian Wolanin and Tyler Myers should make up the Canucks’ third pairing on opening night.
The guys also talked about the Canucks’ depth — or lack thereof — on the right side of the blue line, and quickly previewed how the Canucks’ road trip to start the year could mean we see some more bodies in the lineup sooner rather than later. Watch the full segment below!
On Monday, Faber and Quads were joined by Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli and Seravalli gave his take on why he has the Canucks ahead of the Seattle Kraken on his Pacific Division power rankings.
WE ARE BACK TO FIVE DAYS A WEEK! You can catch the livestream of Canucks Conversation at 1:30 PM Pacific Time Monday through Friday on the CanucksArmy YouTube channel and the CanucksArmy Twitter account here. Clips of the show are also posted daily to the CanucksArmy YouTube channel, which you can find by clicking here.
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One area that the Edmonton Oilers will hopefully improve upon in the upcoming season is the penalty kill, which finished 21st in the league last season allowing 8.52 goals per hour.
While they’ve never been a couple of players who have been complimented for their foot speed, Toronto Maple Leafs veterans Ryan Reaves and Mark Giordano looked a step behind in their first preseason action.
The Maple Leafs hosted the Ottawa Senators on the back end of a home-and-home ‘Battle of Ontario’, and what I witnessed was a touch concerning. Sure, no need to overreact after just one game after a long summer where players can’t replicate game speed, but man, considering the roles both players are supposed to be playing for Toronto this season, made me wonder if general manager Brad Treliving may have his hands full with the team’s two oldest players.
Reaves Isn’t Going Anywhere
When ‘Reavo’ was signed to a three-year deal on the first day of free agency, it turned some heads as many people across the league didn’t feel the 36-year-old enforcer would be one to warrant a multi-year contract. Treliving had other ideas as he identified a need on the Leafs for some more ‘snot’ and let’s just say Reaves has been breaking noses for over a decade. But can he keep up? This Leafs team is built on speed and skill and the game continues to get faster year over year. After solely one game of the 2023-24 NHL preseason, my vote is no.
There were a few times against the Senators where Reaves was late on the forecheck. He was too late to even finish his check and on a couple of turnovers, he looked like he was on tape delay trying to get back into the play. Yes, he’s not in game shape just yet and we can all pump the brakes, but if you asked me a couple of things I am concerned about for this season’s Maple Leafs squad, Reaves would be someone I’d circle.
Three years at $1.35 million per season isn’t necessarily breaking the bank, but with the Maple Leafs cap situation, every dollar wasted hurts a significant amount. Reaves is expected to play around 8-10 minutes a night and he’s shown he can chip in once in awhile on the scoresheet, scoring five times in 61 games with the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild last season. Toronto needs at least a little bit of production from their fourth line at 5v5, and there were times last night against the Sens where it looked like Reaves, David Kampf and Noah Gregor had some good chemistry. The trio appear to be a potential fit when it comes to the regular season opener on Oct.11 against the Montreal Canadiens.
Giordano Could Be a Different Story
With Kyle Dubas now in Pittsburgh, it made you wonder if the 39-year-old Giordano would be in trouble when the Leafs hired a new GM and how exactly they saw ‘Gio’ fitting into the mix. All Toronto did was hire Treliving, Gio’s GM in Calgary and someone who loves and respects his game. It truly couldn’t have worked out better for the Leafs’ defenseman in that regard.
However, Treliving will be in tough to balance out his feelings and his soft spot for Giordano and truly evaluate his game from an unbiased lens. If Giordano’s game against Ottawa reflects the rest of his season, it might be an issue.
While the veteran blueliner has never been one to blaze with speed, he lost a lot of foot battles throughout the game against the Sens and he’s going to need to rely on his positioning a ton to ensure he can still be effective. Giordano’s hands and hockey IQ are going to be what get him through this season, not his feet.
With his 40th birthday around the corner, Giordano will be the oldest player in the league, something he embraces. He’s a very respected voice in the Maple Leafs’ dressing room and while his impact will always be felt in the room as he’s a natural leader, his on-ice impact needs to be consistent or else he’s going to find himself not changing out of his suit once he arrives to the rink on game days.
You’ll hear a lot about the Maple Leafs needing another defenseman to get over the hump this season, and if they target an upgrade on the back end towards the trade deadline, he might be the odd one out.
No need to panic just yet, but it would be wise to keep an eye on Reaves and Giordano this season for the Maple Leafs. The former is supposed to be making a physical impact for the next three years, meanwhile the latter will be doing his best to stay in the league this season after reaching a legendary milestone.
With one preseason appearance in the books after a long summer off there’s some tiny cause for concern, but there’s still lots of time to turn things around for the Maple Leaf elders.
Training camp and the pre-season are upon us, and this is going to be the last instalment of my preseason predictions series. I’ve gone from individual predictions to now a full team prediction, and it’s a doozy. I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who has read and interacted with these pieces, whether or not you agree or disagree with the actual premises. Hockey is slowly coming back, and I couldn’t be more excited.