As I was finishing writing this post, my phone buzzed with a message that talks had picked up between Mitch Marner and the Toronto Maple Leafs since training camp opened on Friday, but that nothing has been completed yet. If that is the case, the next few days should be interesting. However, Maple Leafs fans have been teased before. Is this yet another false hope?
In the meantime, here’s some of the news and rumors about the Maple Leafs that I have been hearing about.
Item One: ESPN’s Maple Leafs All-Decade Team
The hockey analysts at ESPN put together All-Decade teams for all 31 NHL franchises. When they built these all-decade teams, they attempted to answer the following questions:
Question One: Which players had that combination of statistical achievement and historic importance?
Question Two: Which players defined the journey for teams from the 2009-10 season to the present?
Here are their choices for the Maple Leafs:
Center: Auston Matthews (Maple Leafs Career Statistics: 111 goals, 94 assists, and averaging 0.97 points per game)
Left Wing: James van Riemsdyk (Maple Leafs Career Statistics: 154 goals, 140 assists, and averaging 0.71 points per game)
Right Wing: Phil Kessel (Maple Leafs Career Statistics: 181 goals, 213 assists, and averaging 0.88 points per game)
Defense: Morgan Rielly (Maple Leafs Career Statistics: 51 goals, 192 assists, and averaging 0.52 points per game)
Defense: Dion Phaneuf (Maple Leafs Career Statistics: 45 goals, 151 assists, and averaging 0.46 points per game)
Goalie: Frederik Andersen (Maple Leafs Record 107-53-26, .918 SV%, 2.75 GAA)
Head Coach: Mike Babcock (Record with the team is 164-123-41)
Obviously, one glaring omission was Marner. Although he’s played the same number of seasons as Matthews, he hasn’t yet made the all-decade team. Perhaps, with a season left in the 2019-20
The ESPN staff noted that the Maple Leafs decade has been a “ride.” They were a promising team early in the decade with Ron Wilson and Brian Burke, but never lived up to the hype. However, the decade started to look up when the team won the Matthews’ lottery and added veteran general manager Lou Lamoriello to help stabilize the franchise and mentor the young, and upcoming Kyle Dubas.
Finally, bringing John Tavares back home before the 2018-19 season helped solidify the team’s offense. Finally, the team has currently had to work to sign contracts with two talented, restricted free agents in William Nylander (last offseason) and Marner (this offseason). As the ESPN staff noted: “Let it never be said the Leafs had an unassuming 2010s.”
Item Two: Kasperi Kapanen Talks About the Upcoming Season
On Sept. 13, Maple Leafs forward Kasperi Kapanen was interviewed by Andi Petrillo and Dave Feschuk on Leafs Lunch. That interview covered a number of topics, including the personalities on the team to Kapanen’s personal goals for the upcoming season.
When asked about negotiating his current contract during this past summer, Kapanen noted that the contract he signed was easy to negotiate. First, there was no doubt in his mind that he wanted to stay with the team. Second, he has made Toronto his home and he didn’t even travel back home to Finland during the summer. Third, he’s excited about the young core of players on the team. He thinks they could go far this season and is anxious to begin.
In listening to the interview, it was nice to hear how much he valued being part of the team. He specifically said that he feels lucky to be wanted. He also thinks he can become a stronger defensive player and that one of his personal goals is to become better all-round. Now that Nazem Kadri has been traded to the Colorado Avalanche, he believes one of his jobs on the team is to “bring some grit and nastiness to the game.” He believes the team needs it and that he can provide it.
As I listened to the interview, I was surprised by his dedication to being “nasty” on the ice. My assessment is that he’s been a speedy and dynamic winger, who will eventually slot into a top-six role with the team. I was impressed by his ability to replace Nylander during last season’s holdout and how, even after he returned, Kapanen was able to put up points regardless of any center he played with. But I never assessed him as “nasty,” which is a self-definition that he gave himself during the interview.
For me then, it will be interesting to watch how his game progresses during the season. Should Marner not sign, I’m certain he will fill in capably on a line with Tavares.
In some other “minor” insights about the team, he believes he and Matthews are the best-dressed players on the team. He also believes that Matthews has the hardest shot on the team.
For Kapanen fans, the interview was really interesting and I encourage following the link and listening to the podcast.
Item Three: Good News on the Marner Negotiations?
In a tweet early on Sept. 13 from Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, it might be that the Maple Leafs and restricted free agent winger Marner have made “some progress” in their contract talks. But, as Johnston noted, “Nothing is done until it’s done.”
Item Four: Matthews Has Difficulty with Newfoundlanders’ Accents
Finally, in a quick hit from the Maple Leafs training camp, Matthews reported that the people of Newfoundland are “so nice,” but he has a tough time understanding their accents and vocabulary. For example, he had no idea what the phrase “the nippers are out” meant. He learned that it meant the mosquitoes; but, at first, he thought it meant something else – although he failed to say what that might be.
Perhaps there will be good news for Maple Leafs fans about the Marner negotiations; we shall soon see. If there is, it will be good to write about other, more “regular” things about the team. Personally, I have found it to be a bit difficult (as in keeping my optimism) writing about these negotiations.