Joey Alfieri

Looking at the 2019-20 Toronto Maple Leafs

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 36-25-9 (70 games), third in the Atlantic Division, sixth in the Eastern Conference
Leading Scorer: Auston Matthews – 80 points – (47 goals and 33 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves:

• Acquire Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford from the Los Angeles Kings for Trevor Moore, a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 conditional third-round pick.
• Traded Aaron Luchuk and a 2021 conditional sixth-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Max Veronneau.
• Acquire Denis Malgin from the Florida Panthers for Mason Marchment.
• Traded Ben Harpur to the Nashville Predators for Miikka Salomaki.
• Acquired Matt Lorito from the New York Islanders for Jordan Schmaltz.
• Traded Martins Dzierkals to the Vegas Golden Knights for a 2020 fifth-round pick.
• Acquired Calle Rosen from the Colorado Avalanche for Michael Hutchinson.

Season Overview:

The expectations for the Maple Leafs seemed to be very high in Toronto coming into the season. It wasn’t so much about what they’d do in the regular season as much as it was about finally making a deep run in the postseason. But things got scary at different times during the year.

There were nights in the middle of the season where the Leafs weren’t sitting in a playoff spot. Despite having offensive stars like Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander, Toronto still couldn’t climb any higher than third in the division.

Tavares and Matthews is a solid one-two punch down the middle, but it seems like they miss Nazem Kadri. Yes, he crossed the line at critical times, but they didn’t replace him after he was moved.

Even with Kadri out of the picture, offense clearly wasn’t an issue with the Leafs. Defense, on the other hand, continues to be a major issue for this team. The Leafs’ number one defenseman, Morgan Rielly, missed an extended period of time, Jake Muzzin brought some stability to the unit, but the Tyson Barrie acquisition was a flop.

Starting netminder Frederik Andersen had to mask a lot of his defense’s warts. The 30-year-old has a 29-13-7 record with a 2.85 goals-against-average and a .909 save percentage this season. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but he was forced to play a lot of hockey. He was on pace to play 61 games and he missed four games with a neck injury in February.

Again, what happened during the regular season wasn’t going matter unless the Leafs missed the playoffs entirely. It’s all about what they can do in the postseason. Are they able to get by Tampa Bay in the first round and Boston in the second round? It’s entirely possible, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them lose in the first round either.

The big issue for general manager Kyle Dubas is that he won’t be able to make his team better because they’re tight against the salary cap. To add someone, they’ll have to subtract someone. That’s not always easy to do.

Highlight of the Season: 

Putting a David Ayres highlight here would’ve been mean-spirited.

But how about we go with a another game between Toronto and Carolina. This one happened on Dec. 23, 2019. Toronto built up a 3-0 lead, fell behind 5-3 and eventually won, 8-6. That’s a 2019-20 Maple Leafs game if ever we’ve seen one. Throw defense out the window.

MORE MAPLE LEAFS:
2019-20 surprises, disappointments

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Oldest living NHLer; Will Vegas name captain?

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Former Red Wing Steve Wochy is the NHL’s oldest living player. (The Hockey News)

• Travis Yost places goalies on his all-decade teams. (TSN)

• Today’s version of the NHL rewards the best thinkers. (Sportsnet)

• Check out this list of five forgettable Minnesota Wild players. (Hockey Wilderness)

• How healthy is the Dallas Stars’ cap situation heading into next season? (Defending Big D)

• It sounds like the Vegas Golden Knights may finally name a captain in the near future. (Sinbin.Vegas)

• Would the Avs rather have Taylor Hall or Alex Pietrangelo? (Mile High Hockey)

• Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen has started visualizing a return to hockey. (The Star)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Toronto gets NWHL expansion franchise

Getty

The NWHL is heading to Canada.

On Wednesday morning, the league announced that they were expanding to Toronto for the 2020-21 season.

Toronto is the sixth team in the NWHL. Boston, Minnesota, Metropolitan (Monmouth Junction, New Jersey), Buffalo and Connecticut are the other squads.

“We aspire to build a perennial Isobel Cup contender for Toronto,” said owner Johanna Neilson Boynton. “This will be an organization with strong fan, community and corporate support, outstanding coaching, training, and player development, and a club dedicated to promoting hockey as a game for everyone. Although this pandemic is challenging everyone in profound ways today, and we are very mindful of that, our outlook for women’s sports remains positive. We are launching this team now because we believe in the future.

“The advancement of a professional women’s hockey league for Canada and the U.S., one that will stand and flourish on its own, is a passion for me and everyone associated with the NWHL. We are driven every day to increase the opportunities available to women’s hockey players of all ages, and that’s what this expansion is all about. There is so much potential, and Toronto is the logical next step.”

The team doesn’t have a name yet, but they’ve already signed five players. They are: Kristen Barbara, Elaine Chuli, Shiann Darkangelo, Emma Greco and Taylor Woods.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Looking at the 2019-20 St. Louis Blues

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the St. Louis Blues.

St. Louis Blues

Record: 42-19-10 (71 games), first in the Central Division, first in the Western Conference
Leading Scorer: Ryan O'Reilly – 60 points (12 goals and 48 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves:

• Acquired Justin Faulk and a 2020 fifth-round pick from the Carolina Hurricanes for Joel Edmundson, Dominik Bokk and a 2021 seventh-round pick.
• Traded Robby Fabbri to the Detroit Red Wings for Jacob De La Rose.
• Acquired Marco Scandella from the Montreal Canadiens for a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick.

Season Overview:

If you expected the Blues to be battling a Stanley Cup hangover, you were wrong.

The defending champions have put together another impressive season in 2017-28. Not bad for a team that was bashing bodies on the ice until June. And it’s not like they didn’t have to face a little adversity along the way either.

For starters, sniper Vladimir Tarasenko went down after just 10 games (he collected 10 points in those contests). He had scored at least 33 goals in each of his previous five seasons. Losing that much offense would hurt any team, but the Blues found a way to keep pushing.

Did you expect the clock the strike midnight on Jordan Binnington?

Well, that didn’t really happen either. Sure, he didn’t replicate the incredible numbers he had last season, but he still found a way to help the Blues get to the top of the Western Conference standings. At the pause, he had a 30-13-7 record with a 2.56 goals-against-average and a .912 save percentage.

St. Louis’ key to success isn’t dependant on one player. So they can lose a Tarasenko and Binnington’s play can dip a little and they won’t miss a beat. This is a club that is reliant on their overall depth.

Their leading scorer, Ryan O’Reilly, has 60 points through 70 games. That’s not a remarkable amount for a team leader, but the numbers being posted by some of the players around him are pretty impressive.

David Perron (59 points), Brayden Schenn (57 points), Jaden Schwartz (57 points) and Alex Pietrangelo (52 points) all have at least 50 points. That’s pretty balanced. Had Tarasenko been healthy, he likely would’ve been right near the top of the leaderboard in this category, too.

The Blues, unlike a lot of the other top teams, don’t get the job done with one or two elite players. Head coach Craig Berube has something special here and it’s all about balanced scoring.

Now, there is a massive question mark heading into the off-season. Will they be able to retain Pietrangelo’s services? He’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and it doesn’t look like they have the money under the cap to bring him back.

General manager Doug Armstrong has made some bold moves the years, but getting his captain to accept a deal that’s team-friendly enough will be tricky.

Highlight of the Season:

There were so many memorable moments on and off the ice for the Blues in 2019-20, but the fact that they put together two eight-game winning streaks was so impressive.

MORE BLUES:
St. Louis Blues biggest surprises and disappointments
Blues’ long-term outlook

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Where will Byfuglien land?; Tarasenko’s return

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Here’s three potential landing spots for Dustin Byfuglien. (Sportsnet)

• Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko should dominate when he gets back into the lineup. (Bleedin Blue)

• Check out T.J. Oshie‘s draft story from 2005. You’ll get a kick out of it. (The Hockey News)

James Reimer wants to see NHL teams play exhibition games if play resumes. (TSN)

Brad Marchand believes the older teams are going to struggle if the season resumes. (NBC Sports Boston)

Darcy Kuemper explains what it’s like for him to be stuck at home during the pandemic. (AZ Family)

• On the Forecheck did an interview did an interview with SC Bern GM Florence Schelling. (On the Forecheck)

• The covid-19 pandemic is hitting women’s hockey at a pivotal time. (Lethbridge News Now)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.