There’s still eight games left — an opportunity for the Toronto Maple Leafs to pull off a stunning collapse for the second straight season — but right now their entry into the playoffs appears to be all-but inevitable.
They have a 99.7% chance of still being around after April 27, according to the Sports Stats Club. Toronto has a five-point lead on the ninth place Winniepg Jets despite the fact that the Leafs have played in two fewer games.
It’s been a long, painful trip since they last participated in a postseason contest on May 4, 2004. They finished two points shy of a playoff berth in 2006 and then one point short in 2007.
The Leafs got the second overall pick in 2009-10 — only not really because they traded it to Boston before the start of that season as part of the Phil Kessel deal. That addition that might have been all that stood in the way of Toronto finishing dead last in the NHL and thus potentially drafting Taylor Hall instead of the Edmonton Oilers.
After their collapse in 2011-12, Leafs minority owner Lawrence Tanenbaum issued an apology, which led to CBC’s Rex Murphy’s scathing response:
And yet that chapter of the Leafs, led principally by youngsters and players that former GM Brian Burke acquired via trades, are on the brink of putting at least one embarrassing streak to an end. Of course, there’s still the issue of Toronto’s over four-decade old Stanley Cup drought…
Team Canada’s veteran lineup was too much for the young Americans to handle today in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where the Canadians rolled to a convincing 5-1 victory as the preliminary round of the World Championship got underway.
The United States actually opened the scoring, on a first-period, power-play goal by Patrick Maroon. But Taylor Hall quickly tied it, and soon after that, Brendan Gallagher gave the Canadians the lead. Matt Duchene, Boone Jenner, and Brad Marchand added the insurance goals for Canada.
Keith Kinkaid was in goal for the Americans, Cam Talbot for the Canadians.
Auston Matthews logged 16:56 in ice time and registered three shots for Team USA, who play Belarus tomorrow.
The Canadians are off until Sunday, when they’ll take on Hungary.
The New York Rangers announced this morning that forward Oscar Lindberg has undergone a “successful simultaneous bilateral hip labral repair.”
That’s a long way of saying he had hip surgery.
The Rangers say the expected recovery time for Lindberg is six months, meaning the 24-year-old is likely to get a late start to next season.
In 2015-16, his first full season in the NHL, Lindberg had 13 goals and 15 assists in 68 games. However, he was a regular healthy scratch down the stretch.
“I thought Oscar was playing well,” head coach Alain Vigneault said in March. “But when Rick Nash came back, we had 13 healthy forwards. It’s just the way it slotted out.”
In the playoffs, Lindberg dressed for just two of the Rangers’ five contests (Games 4 and 5 versus Pittsburgh).
Related: Rangers sign Lindberg
Of all the available coaching gigs, Minnesota’s seems to be the most muddled right now — there’s still no word on the status of interim bench boss John Torchetti, and GM Chuck Fletcher has reached out to both Randy Carlyle and Bruce Boudreau.
Now, the Star-Tribune is reporting Fletcher has also contacted another pair of veteran coaches: Marc Crawford and Guy Boucher.
Crawford, fresh off a four-year stint in the Swiss League — where he coached coveted draft prospect Auston Matthews in Zurich — is gunning for an NHL return, and would even accept an assistant coaching position to get his foot back in the door.
Related: Marc Crawford coaching in Detroit? Hey, could happen…
Boucher, also coming off a stint in the Swiss League, wants back in the NHL as well. He was in the running for a pair of gigs last offseason — Toronto, which ultimately went to Mike Babcock, and New Jersey, which ultimately went to John Hynes.
An interesting wrinkle with the Wild’s coaching search? Per the Star-Tribune, it sounds like coaches might be asking as many questions of Fletcher as Fletcher is of the coaches. The longtime GM has come under fire recently for the club’s current roster makeup, which forced owner Craig Leipold to give Fletcher a public vote of confidence during the playoffs.
College free agent Drake Caggiula is expected to pick a team shortly, possibly even today.
The University of North Dakota winger had originally shortlisted six teams, according to a report. Those teams were Philadelphia, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Chicago and Buffalo.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie said this morning on Edmonton radio that the Canucks are “maybe” the front-runners to land the 21-year-old. Vancouver signed Caggiula’s teammate, defenseman Troy Stecher, a couple of weeks ago, and Caggiula’s linemate, Brock Boeser, was drafted by the Canucks in the first round last year.
Recently, Boeser told Postmedia that he was trying to convince Caggiula to sign with Vancouver, where there will be plenty of opportunities for young forwards in the next couple of years.
If it’s not the Canucks, McKenzie said he’s heard the Oilers have a “puncher’s chance” of getting Caggiula.