Several NHL teams failed to make the postseason last year — 14 of them, to be exact — but none failed quite so dramatically as the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs, you’ll recall, were in good shape for the majority of the 2013-14 campaign…until a late-season slide saw them go 2-12-0 over their final 14 games, completing a stunning fall from grace (or, more specifically, a stunning fall from second place in the Atlantic Division.)
It marked the second consecutive season Toronto went out like a house of cards. The year prior, the Leafs famously blew a 4-1 lead in Game 7 of their opening-round playoff series with Boston — though, to hear players explain it, ’13-14 hurt worse. At least against the Bruins, the Leafs were in the playoffs.
“Losing to Boston was hard, but this was painful,” Cody Franson said, per the Toronto Star. “We started playing some of our worst hockey the tighter it got. That’s not what good teams do.”
The Leafs seemed to take Franson’s words to heart. Good teams don’t do that, so the club set about making itself over. All of Randy Carlyle’s assistants were fired; Brendan Shanahan was hired as president and wunderkind Kyle Dubas was brought aboard as assistant GM.
On the ice, the team beefed up its forward group by adding Leo Komarov, Daniel Winnik, David Booth, Mike Santorelli and Petri Kontiola. The defense was given an overhaul by adding Stephane Robidas while trading Carl Gunnarsson for Roman Polak. (Tim Gleason was also bought out of his contract.)
On paper, these changes should be enough for the Leafs challenge for a playoff spot, given what was already in place. There’s some real talent in the core forward group of Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri, and Carlyle has vowed to put much more emphasis on defensive awareness and consistency. In goal, the Jonathan Bernier-James Reimer tandem is solid.
But can the Leafs overcome…themselves? This is a group now synonymous with collapse, and questions remain about the leadership group (most notably Dion Phaneuf, who was the target of a potential captaincy stripping this offseason.)
With that said, let’s go to the poll…
Looks like Coyotes dodged a bullet with Oliver Ekman-Larsson
In other Coyotes news, the team made Pierre-Olivier Joseph (the 23rd pick of the 2017 NHL Draft) one of their training camp cuts. So not all good news for prominent Coyotes with hyphenated names, although you could argue that POJ(?) might be better off receiving additional seasoning.
Earlier today, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that they would accept an invitation to visit the White House. You can read all about that here, including the Penguins’ brief statement on the matter.
On a day in which NFL teams are drawing attention for how players (and owners) are acting during the national anthem, Donald Trump took a moment to confirm the Penguins’ visit, and also to praise them on Twitter.
Trump issued this tweet on the matter:
Please to inform that the Champion Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL will be joining me at the White House for Ceremony. Great team!
It sure looks like the St. Louis Blues are going to limp into the 2017-18 season (sometimes literally).
The team announced that promising young forward Robby Fabbri will miss the remainder of training camp after injuring his surgically repaired left knee. The Blues say that they will re-evaluate Fabbri, 21, in 10 days.
It’s difficult to say how bad this issue is, but knee injuries – particularly involving knees that are already problems for athletes – can be tricky.
Even if this is a mere short-term setback, it’s staggering how long the Blues’ injury list is even before their season-opener.
Patrik Berglund might not be back until late 2017 or even into 2018 with his own shoulder issues.
While such injuries open up opportunities for younger players to make even temporary jumps, it’s tough to stomach as Mike Yeo preps for his first full season behind the Blues bench.
In Fabbri’s case, this is a considerable disappointment, as he was starting to show the zip at the NHL level that’s made him such a prolific scorer in the OHL. Here’s hoping he gets over these issues, as considering his size, a significant loss in speed could be a serious problem for Fabbri.
Coyotes want to retire Shane Doan’s number in the future
After more than two decades the Arizona Coyotes and Shane Doan parted ways this offseason, ultimately resulting in the 40-year-old forward retiring from the league.
The decision to part ways with Doan was part of a massive overhaul that dramatically changed the outlook of the team, ending a lengthy chapter in its history.
The Coyotes would eventually like to honor Doan by retiring his number “at a time that is right for him.”
That is what team owner Andrew Barroway said at a Coyotes’ town hall meeting, via Sarah McLellan.
“The relationship with Shane Doan has improved,” Barroway said. “We’ve reached out. We’ve spoken with Shane. Everyone loves him. He’s a class act, great guy.”
There are no plans for any sort of an official announcement this season, but Barroway said the Coyotes will revisit it next summer.
Doan spent is entire career playing for the Coyotes organization dating back to its days in Winnipeg (he played one season with the original Jets). During his career he appeared in 1,540 regular season games, scoring 402 goals, 570 assists and 972 total points. He is the team’s all-time leader in games played, goals, assists, total points, even strength goals, power play goals, and shots on goal.