With season officially done, Leafs can look ahead to possible return, Columbus series — Toronto Sun

Rick Vaive’s Maple Leafs record is safe. Read More

With season officially done, Leafs can look ahead to possible return, Columbus series — Toronto Sun
By Terry Koshan

Rick Vaive’s Maple Leafs record is safe.

For now.

With the news — which was expected — on Tuesday afternoon that the 2019-20 National Hockey League regular season is over, Auston Matthews’ charge for the Leafs’ franchise goal-scoring mark will have to wait until the 2020-21 season.
Vaive’s 54 goals in 1981-82 will remain the most in team history.

When the NHL went on pause on March 12, Matthews had 47 goals in 70 games, with 50 a true probability and a shot at Vaive’s record perhaps a little more difficult.

Matthews will score 50 at some point, and we would bet he eventually breaks Vaive’s record. And not that Matthews would require it, but he can take solace in the fact he led the Leafs in scoring with 80 points, the first time since he was an NHL rookie in 2016-17 that he finished a season as the Leafs’ scoring champ. In the two seasons in between, Mitch Marner led the Leafs in scoring. Count on one of the two finishing atop the Leafs for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, the confirmation of the conclusion of the regular season was one of several highlights in NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s return-to-play announcements from the comfort of his own home on Tuesday. In a following interview on the Tim & Sid Show on Sportsnet, Bettman said there’s “light at the end of the tunnel” for the NHL as it puts plans in place to return in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

It’s expected the NHL will begin Phase 2 of the return to play in early June, with players moving back to their home facilities for voluntary, small-group, on- and off-ice training.

Phase 3, if the green light is given by medical and civil authorities, would include formal training camps, but not earlier than the first half of July.

Phase 4 would include what players and fans have been pining for since the NHL went on pause on March 12: The competition for the Stanley Cup with 12 teams in two hub cities, of which Toronto remains one of 10 in contention.

Bettman stressed the health and safety of players and club personnel was paramount, and the timing for the start of Phase 4 is to be determined.

Of course, the plans to return to play are at the whim of the coronavirus. It could be that we don’t see the NHL again until the start of the 2020-21 season, and there’s no certainty as to when that would be.

Let’s assume the NHL’s plans fall into place as the league hopes, even if there are moving dates on the calendar.

Toronto ended the season with a record of 36-25-9 for 81 points, including going 27-15-5 under Sheldon Keefe after the firing of Mike Babcock last November.

The Leafs, seeded eighth in the Eastern Conference based on points percentage, indeed, would play the ninth-seed Columbus Blue Jackets in the play-in qualifying round, with the best-of-five representing the first post-season matchup of the teams.

To put it simply, the series would pit the Leafs’ high-octane offence (their 3.39 goals a game was third in the NHL) against the Blue Jackets’ stifling, nose-to-the-grindstone defence (their 2.61 goals-against a game tied for third-fewest in the NHL).

We wouldn’t want to take anything away from Keefe, but the Jackets would have an edge behind the bench in coach John Tortorella, considering his NHL experience compared to Keefe (1,327), but we would take Frederik Andersen over Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo in goal.

Both teams would be close to full health, and for Toronto, getting defenceman Jake Muzzin and forward Ilya Mikheyev, who were injured when the season was paused, back for the penalty-kill would be crucial.

The Leafs and Jackets were to play each other on March 21 for the third and final time of the season. They met twice, with each team winning once, but not since Oct. 21.

Individually, the Leafs had some good things going for them when play was halted. Matthews was Matthews; Marner wound up with 67 points in 59 games, and captain John Tavares finished with 60 points in 63 games, giving him 148 in 145 in his first two seasons with Toronto. William Nylander and Zach Hyman shone, and Rasmus Sandin was taking steps on the blue line.

The final dozen games, record-wise, summed up the Leafs’ season to a degree. There were inconsistencies as they went 6-5-1, winning their final game against Tampa Bay after going 0-2-1 on a three-game trip through California that produced only three goals.

We buy into what many players have said during the past two months — that teams that are the youngest and most-skilled would have the best shot out of the gate. The Leafs would glide effortlessly into that category.

Now let’s keep our fingers crossed that the NHL positives revealed on Tuesday become reality in the coming months.

tkoshan@postmedia.com

Marner laughs at list now, figures Selke would look good in his trophy case one day — Toronto Sun

Mitch Marner chuckles about it now, the infamous list of lazy Maple Leafs teammates that Mike Babcock had him put together during Marner’s NHL rookie season in 2016-17. Read More

Marner laughs at list now, figures Selke would look good in his trophy case one day — Toronto Sun

Mitch Marner chuckles about it now, the infamous list of lazy Maple Leafs teammates that Mike Babcock had him put together during Marner’s NHL rookie season in 2016-17.

Marner appeared on former teammate Connor Carrick’s podcast this week and Carrick asked: What has been among Marner’s greatest learning opportunities as a Leaf?

“I think one is to never grade your teammates on their work ethic in practice,” Marner said with a laugh. “That one is definitely the top. I was really young, I was really nervous, I didn’t know what to do, so I did it. Next thing I knew, it got reported to the team (by Babcock).”

The Toronto Sun was the first to report the incident last November, not long after Babcock was fired. At the bottom of Marner’s list were veterans James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri.

“Bozie, JVR and Naz have been great throughout my career,” Marner said. “At first, they were jiving me about it, because I didn’t know it was going to get shown to them. I think (Babcock’s) lesson was trying to show the older guys that I’m a young guy and I’m looking up to those three. It didn’t come out that way, but that’s what the goal was.”

During the podcast, Marner also revealed the NHL trophy he would be keen to win.

“The award that would be really cool to be acknowledged for is the Selke (as the best defensive forward),” Marner said. “The names on the Selke are the guys everyone is scared of on the ice.”

Leafs prospect Woll ‘learned a lot’ in first year of pro hockey — Toronto Sun

The news was didn’t catch Joseph Woll off guard, but that didn’t make it much easier to digest. Read More

Leafs prospect Woll ‘learned a lot’ in first year of pro hockey — Toronto Sun

The news was didn’t catch Joseph Woll off guard, but that didn’t make it much easier to digest.

When the American Hockey League officially pulled the plug on the remainder of the 2019-20 regular season and the Calder Cup playoffs on Monday because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the AHL rookie year of the Toronto Marlies goaltender was done.

“It has been a weird couple of months with not knowing exactly what was going to happen,” Woll said on Tuesday from his parents’ home in St. Louis. “But now that it’s over, it’s tough. I wanted to be able to see some of the guys again.

“With pro hockey, you never know what the team is going to look like next year. At the same time, it’s good to have an answer and be out of the unknown. We can take a step back and focus on the summer now.”

Before he completely sets his concentration on the off-season and eventually returning to Toronto to resume his hockey career, the definite conclusion of the season allowed Woll to look back and make a few judgments on how it unfolded for him.

A third-round pick by the Leafs in 2016 — he was taken 61 picks after Toronto announced Auston Matthews’ name first overall in Buffalo — Woll made the transition to the AHL after three seasons at Boston College, appearing in 32 games for the Marlies.

Woll, who turns 22 on July 12, described his season as a bit of a roller-coaster. He had a record of 11-16-3, an .880 save percentage and a 3.75 goals-against average; the Marlies were nine points out of a playoff spot in the North Division when play was halted on March 12.

Not the greatest statistics line, to be sure, but Woll wasn’t asking for the world in his first run at the minor-pro level.

“I learned a lot, to be honest,” Woll said. “I think I dealt with a lot of adversity and so did the team.

“It was different than any hockey I had played before. Across the board, everyone is more skilled, for the most part stronger, faster. It can be a little overwhelming at first. The way players see the ice, their ability to make plays, was something I had to adjust to.

“It really taught me to have a really short mindset and focus on going into the next game, work on keeping your identity with all the ups and downs.”

The Leafs aren’t necessarily set in goal for the long haul — Frederik Andersen’s contract expires after the 2020-21 season and Jack Campbell’s is done after 2021-22 — but it’s not a managerial group in Toronto that will rush anyone, Marlies goaltenders included.

Kasimir Kaskisuo is eligible for free agency, and the Leafs are hopeful that Ian Scott can make a full recovery from hip surgery.

When we asked Woll about the role of patience in his development, he mentioned a pair of goalies, Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers and and Jordan Binnington of the St. Louis Blues, who have taken different routes to the National Hockey League.

“That’s one thing around goalies, the stigma that they might take a little longer to develop, but I think it’s unique to every player,” Woll said. “You see someone like Carter Hart go right into the NHL and be so successful, and you see a guy like Jordan Binnington who had to grind and spend his time in the minors.

“I’m just trying to find what my path is. It’s not like I’m trying to streamline it like Carter or necessarily wait for years like Jordan. I’m keeping my head down and working, and when it’s my time, hopefully I will be ready.”

Like everyone else involved in the sport, Woll doesn’t know when we will see hockey games again. He enjoyed all aspects of his first year in Toronto — Woll lived with Marlies teammate Kristians Rubins in a condo not far from the Coca-Cola Coliseum — but, like he is with his on-ice growth, he will be patient.

“You have to go with the flow of it,” Woll said. “I’ll be training like the season is starting like normal but I’m also prepared (for the idea) it could be a pretty long summer. You just have to make sure you’re prepared for whatever comes.”

MIND GAMES

Joseph Woll isn’t about to take a mental break from hockey during the off-season.

“The biggest thing I want to spend time on is my mind and focus more internally this summer,” the Toronto Marlies goaltender and Maple Leafs prospect said.

“When things don’t go your way and you’re not happy with the game you played, it’s important to look at it from a long-run perspective and looking at how that can make you better. It’s just about being rational and remembering that I’m still young and this was my first year in the American Hockey League and there is a long road ahead. I think that’s the right thing to look to.”

Not that Woll is going to ignore the physical side of keeping his body ready to return to Toronto.

“I’ve been training a lot and the Leafs and the Marlies have a lot of good virtual programs they have had us working with,” Woll said.

tkoshan@postmedia.com

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Sculptor Harry Weber Describes Challenges Of Making Bobby Orr Statue — NESN.com

When entering TD Garden for any event, it’s hard to miss the life-sized statue of Bobby Orr soaring in the air following his Stanley Cup-clinching goal in front of the arena. Harry Weber, a sculptor based out of St. Louis, completed the project more than a decade ago and spoke with NESN’s Michaela Vernava about…

Sculptor Harry Weber Describes Challenges Of Making Bobby Orr Statue — NESN.com

When entering TD Garden for any event, it’s hard to miss the life-sized statue of Bobby Orr soaring in the air following his Stanley Cup-clinching goal in front of the arena. Harry Weber, a sculptor based out of St. Louis, completed the project more than a decade ago and spoke with NESN’s Michaela Vernava about the challenges of constructing the magnificent work of art. Listen to the full interview in the video above. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Orr’s historic goal, the Boston Bruins Foundation is raffling off a miniature replica of the Orr statue. Click here for a chance to win. The raffle ends on Friday, May 8. Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images READ NEXT STORY Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/05/sculptor-harry-weber-describes-challenges-of-making-bobby-orr-statue/ Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/05/sculptor-harry-weber-describes-challenges-of-making-bobby-orr-statue/ Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/05/sculptor-harry-weber-describes-challenges-of-making-bobby-orr-statue/ Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/05/sculptor-harry-weber-describes-challenges-of-making-bobby-orr-statue/ Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/05/sculptor-harry-weber-describes-challenges-of-making-bobby-orr-statue/ Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/05/sculptor-harry-weber-describes-challenges-of-making-bobby-orr-statue/ Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/05/sculptor-harry-weber-describes-challenges-of-making-bobby-orr-statue/ Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/05/sculptor-harry-weber-describes-challenges-of-making-bobby-orr-statue/ Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/05/sculptor-harry-weber-describes-challenges-of-making-bobby-orr-statue/ Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/05/sculptor-harry-weber-describes-challenges-of-making-bobby-orr-statue/

Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/05/sculptor-harry-weber-describes-challenges-of-making-bobby-orr-statue/

MAPLE LEAFS SIGN ALEXANDER BARABANOV

MAPLE LEAFS SIGN ALEXANDER BARABANOV

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that the hockey club has signed forward Alexander Barabanov to a one-year entry level contract for the 2020-21 season.

Barabanov, 25, spent the 2019-20 season with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). In 43 games during the 2020-21 season, Barabanov recorded 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) while adding three points (one goal, two assists) in four playoff games. The Saint Petersburg, Russia native appeared in 262 career KHL games, all with SKA, registering 137 points (62 goals, 75 assists). In 68 career playoff games, Barabanov recorded 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) while winning the KHL Garagin Cup in both 2015 and 2017.

Internationally, Barabanov skated for Russia at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, winning the gold medal in a 4-3 win over Germany. Barabanov has represented Russia three times at the World Championships, recording 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 28 games.

KHL star to choose between Leafs, Coyotes — Toronto Sun

The chances of the Maple Leafs landing Russian sniper Alexander Barabanov are back to 50-50 with only one other NHL team in the hunt. After the field was opened to more clubs last week via an interview process with agent Daniel Milstein, the choices for the KHL free-agent right winger are back to the original […]

KHL star to choose between Leafs, Coyotes — Toronto Sun
By Lance Hornby

The chances of the Maple Leafs landing Russian sniper Alexander Barabanov are back to 50-50 with only one other NHL team in the hunt.

After the field was opened to more clubs last week via an interview process with agent Daniel Milstein, the choices for the KHL free-agent right winger are back to the original front-runners, Toronto and the Arizona Coyotes. The term would be the same one-year, entry-level deal as Milstein client Ilya Mikheyev agreed to with the Leafs last summer.

“Alexander has had video meetings with those two teams, the head coaches, ownership, things like that,” Milstein said Sunday. “There are two options for he and his wife.”

Milstein said discussions and one-on-one interviews with his client and the Leafs and Coyotes actually go back more than two years.

“They both visited him in Russia,” Milstein said, adding that former Toronto coach Mike Babcock had made one of the first trips overseas, followed by general manager Kyle Dubas. “(Current coach) Sheldon Keefe has had conversations with him, too.”

Dubas sized up Barabanov on a conference call with Toronto media last week.

“Alex is strong, not tall (5-foot-10, 191 pounds), but he has tremendous playmaking ability, great skill level in tight. One of the other things we like most about him is his ability to make plays under pressure and his ability to win pucks, protect pucks when people come after him,” said Dubas.

The undrafted 25-year-old has played in his native Saint Petersburg since he was 16, moving up to its KHL club in 2014-15. A career-best 20 goals and 51 points in 73 games two years ago (regular season and playoffs) caught everyone’s attention on this side of the pond and he had 21 points in 47 games before COVID-19 halted the 2019 KHL playoffs.

At the spring 2019 world championship, he was on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, adding to his comfort zone wherever he lands in the NHL.

“I expect his decision in a short time,” Milstein said. “Of course he and his wife are interested in what the two cities have (to offer as a home). But he’s here for the whole package; the hockey, how the coach sees him fitting in, the fan base, the traditions.”

Score one for the Leafs on that last point, but Arizona GM John Chayka is building a strong program. And if the Barabanovs are sick of snow, they certainly won’t need winter boots in Glendale.

“Alex is just a very nice guy, very humble, from a hockey family with two brothers,” Milstein said. “He’s very accomplished with a Gagarin Cup (in 2016-17 with Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk as teammates) and Olympic gold (2018).”

MIK IN THE MIX

Milstein remains hopeful the Leafs and the NHL will come out of the COVID crisis and any salary cap changes with enough money to retain Mikheyev beyond his current deal.

The agent described those talks with Dubas as cordial, very encouraged the Leafs called him Jan. 1 at the first opportunity to offer a new deal, less than a week after Mikheyev’s frightening injury, a skate blade slicing his wrist that required major surgery.

“The Leafs lived up to their promise and we’ve talked a bit since,” Milstein said. “If not for the work stoppage, he could’ve played after March 19. He’s very interested in re-signing there.”

MORE BEEF ON THE FARM

The idled Marlies have not stopped signing players.

The Leafs’ American Hockey League farm team inked four newcomers the past few days, including Toronto native Noel Hoefenmayer to a two-year contract. The 21-year-old defenceman played 58 games with the Ottawa 67s as an over-ager with a career-high 56 assists and 82 points to lead all OHL defencemen. In his 298 games with Ottawa, the 6-foot-1, 196-pounder had 222 points. He was a fourth-round pick of Arizona in 2017.

Prince Edward Islander Jeremy McKenna also agreed to a two-year AHL contract, the 20-year-old also getting 82 points (40 goals, 42 assists) in 57 games last year with the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec league.

Earlier in the week, forwards Gordie Green (Miami-Ohio) and Bobby McMann (Colgate) left the NCAA for two-year deals with the Marlies. The 5-foot-8 Green, from Ann Arbor, Mich., was team captain and had 36 points in 34 games and 115 career points at his school.

McMann, a centre, led Colgate with 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 34 games while also serving as captain. The 6-foot-1 Wainwright, Alta., native was nominated for the Hobey Baker Award in 2019-20.

Leafs’ Rielly hopes comeback wasn’t for just one game — Toronto Sun

VIRTUE AND RIELLY ‘TRYING TO KEEP EACH OTHER SANE’ Read More

Leafs’ Rielly hopes comeback wasn’t for just one game — Toronto Sun

It took eight weeks of hard slogging in the gym and on the ice before Morgan Rielly finally made it back from a broken foot — to play just one game.

Now it could be much longer down time than that before putting on his Maple Leafs sweater again.

But holed up in his North Vancouver house, Rielly does not consider the recovery period or the unplanned hiatus that’s followed as wasted energy.

“Yes, it was terribly long trying to heal, to keep yourself in shape,” he said Thursday on a conference call with Toronto media. “Eight weeks goes by and to come back and play one (game) is certainly not ideal. When you’re training at the gym and trying to get back to play, you’re picturing 12, 13 games and playoffs, not taking a pause again.

“But in that same breath, if I hadn’t came back and still hadn’t played since Jan. 12, I think it would’ve made things worse.

“You have to take the positives. I came back, played and we won (2-1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, just before COVID-19 put the NHL on hold). Look at the big picture, you have to be happy you got one game in. I’d be going crazy if I hadn’t played since early January.”

The 26-year-old defenceman, the rest of the players and team management have slowly de-escalated, respecting that what’s going on around them is far more serious than sports, yet totally out of their element at home this time of year.

more….

Leafs’ Rielly hopes comeback wasn’t for just one game — Toronto Sun