Tag: Toronto Maple Leafs

William Nylander

Looking to make the leap: William Nylander


Head coach Mike Babcock has predicted that “there’s pain coming” to Toronto, which is pretty much all Maple Leafs fans have known during the salary-cap era anyways. But as difficult as the 2015-16 campaign might be, their fans also have some reasons to be optimistic, with one of the big ones being forward William Nylander.

Taken with the eighth overall pick in the 2014 draft, Nylander is coming off a strong and unusual season. He started with MODO of the Swedish League, but left Europe after scoring eight goals and 20 points in 21 contests. He reported to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies where he added another 14 goals and 32 points in 37 games.

That stint in the AHL was a big test for Nylander. Unlike most freshly drafted players, he already had experience playing against men in Sweden, but this was an opportunity to get used to a North American travel schedule as well as adjust to a more physical style of play.

His success under those conditions certainly helped his cause, but he still has a lot of work ahead of him in order to secure a roster spot with the Maple Leafs. Toronto already has 13 forwards signed to one-way contracts (not including Nathan Horton) and some other forward prospects that should get serious looks during training camp, including Kasperi Kapanen, Mitch Marner, and Zach Hyman. Ultimately, what his physical conditioning is like by the start of training camp could go a long way towards determining how well the 19-year-old will do against that level of competition.

“You don’t worry about his speed, you don’t worry about his skill,” Leafs assistant general manager Kyle Dubas said of Nylander, per the Toronto Sun. “You just worry about him, as you would with any 18- or 19-year-old, being strong enough.”

Perhaps having more time to work on his conditioning will prove to be the best route for him, but Nylander could nevertheless force the Maple Leafs to make some tough decisions.

It’s Toronto Maple Leafs Day at PHT

Mike Babcock, Brendan Shanahan

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Toronto Maple Leafs.

Going into the 2014-15 campaign, the Maple Leafs were trying to end a disturbing trend of late season collapses and…in a way they succeeded.

Toronto got off to a 19-9-3 start, but there were already warning signs of what was to come as the Maple Leafs had suffered two embarrassing blowout losses to the Buffalo Sabres and Nashville Predators earlier in the season. On top of that, the Maple Leafs were struggling from a puck possession perspective even at their height as they had the fourth-worst five-on-five Corsi in the league (45.5%) through Dec. 17.

It seemed like it would only be a matter of time before the other shoe dropped, but the degree to which they collapsed was still stunning. It started with a three-game losing streak from Dec. 18-21 where they were outscored 15-5. By Jan. 6, Toronto had lost seven of its last nine games, prompting the Leafs to fire head coach Randy Carlyle.

At the time, new bench boss Peter Horachek was inheriting a team that still seemed salvageable as it had a 21-16-3 record, but the Maple Leafs only won nine of 42 games under him. During his tenure, they scored just 79 goals, putting them behind every team in the league except Arizona over that span.

The Maple Leafs finished with a 30-44-8 record, their worst of the salary cap era, which says a lot given their lack of success since the system started. But still, the collapse started on Dec. 18, so it wasn’t late season. So there’s that.

Off-season recap

After that disastrous season, team president Brendan Shanahan set out to change the culture of this team. Leafs GM Dave Nonis was fired along with Horachek and replaced with Lou Lamoriello and Mike Babcock respectively.

Toronto also pushed its rebuild forward by trading Phil Kessel, Tim Erixon, Tyler Biggs, and a conditional second-round draft pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for prospects Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, as well as a conditional first rounder, a third round pick, and Nick Spaling.

On the free agent front, the Maple Leafs added a slew of veterans to short-term contracts including Shawn Matthias, Mark Arcobello, and P.A. Parenteau to help fill out the roster during the transitional period.

PHT Morning Skate: Five unusual, ‘virtually unbreakable’ records

Nathan Horton

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Here are five unusual records that it’s hard to imagine anyone breaking. (Grantland.com)

Jonathan Bernier won’t let the arbitration process leave him sour. (MapleLeafs.nhl.com)

What are the NHL’s most unbreakable bromances? (Sportsnet)

New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero recently talked to Ryane Clowe, but it’s still unknown if the 32-year-old forward will be able to come back from a series of concussions. (NJ Advance Media)

Ian McCoshen has an opportunity to play a bigger role with Boston College next season as Michael Matheson and Noah Hanifin are moving on. (Panthers.nhl.com)

The Texas Stars added some veteran journeymen in Brennan Evans and John Muse. (AHL.com)

PHT Morning Skate: (Photo) Nieto’s Sharks themed Stormtrooper

Matt Nieto

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Matt Nieto has a pretty cool looking Stormtrooper:

Chris Johnston is predicting that Toronto will be getting an extremely motivated Jonathan Bernier. (Sportsnet)

Is getting Marcus Johansson at $3.75 million for the 2015-16 campaign a good deal for the Washington Capitals? (CSN Washington)

While we’re on the subject of the Capitals, is the Johansson signing the last significant move they’ll make this summer? (CSN Washington)

Former University of New Hampshire standout Kevin Goumas has inked an AHL deal with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. (AHL.com)

It’s not too early to start talking about the 2016 draft class, is it? (Last Word on Sports)

In Bernier, Leafs hope they have a stabilizing force

Jonathan Bernier

An argument could be made that the last goaltender to have a terrific season in Toronto was Ed Belfour back in 2002-03 and 2003-04, but perhaps Jonathan Bernier, who signed a two-year extension today, can still follow in his footsteps.

Bernier hasn’t been given the best of teams to work behind, but he did have an encouraging 2013-14 campaign with a 2.68 GAA and .923 save percentage in 55 contests on a team that ranked dead last in shots allowed per game (35.9). Last season was, at best, a mixed bag, but Toronto was also a squad in turmoil for much of that campaign.

Toronto still doesn’t have a good team on paper, but the hope is that it will at least be less prone to falling apart with Mike Babcock behind the bench. Of course, regardless of the situation, it’s up to Bernier to prove that he’s worthy of a long-term deal. He’ll turn 27 on Aug. 7, so him having promise isn’t sufficient at this point.

“The thought process is trying to get a goaltender, and hopefully it’s Jonathan, to be the stabilizer for this franchise,” Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello said, per the Canadian Press. “Having that one (extra) year is both good for Jonathan and the organization, whether it’s the organization evaluating or whether it’s Jonathan proving.”

If everything goes as Lamoriello hopes, then Bernier will represent a strong presence between the pipes for when Toronto comes out the other end of its latest rebuild. If not, then the Maple Leafs goaltending will be another area that will need to be addressed. Either way, Bernier has two more seasons to show the Leafs what he’s capable of.