It’s surprising that in a post-hockey world – at least for this regular season, there’s still news. One thing that happened was the Toronto Maple Leafs took the lead in becoming part of the community. General manager Kyle Dubas, has posted tweets encouraging people to react wisely to the threat of the coronavirus by staying home if they can and by helping others who need help.
In fact, the following tweet came out on Thursday. Thanks to the Maple Leafs organization for stepping up.
In this post, I want to help Maple Leafs fans keep track of some of the news and rumors emerging from and about the organization.
Item One: What if the Salary Cap Doesn’t Move?
It seems so long ago now (Mar. 4) that the NHL reported that next season’s salary cap limit would be raised to between $84 and $88.2 million. However, with the end of the regular season also came the end of the NHL’s hockey revenue, there’s no reason to believe those projections will be fulfilled.
Related: Bobby Orr’s Landmark Season
What’s in line for the Maple Leafs? If the salary cap’s limit stays at its current $81.5 million, how would that impact the team? This past week, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox wrote a considerate article examining the impact on the Maple Leafs of retaining that salary-cap structure.
In previous posts, I’ve already shared that I believe defensemen Tyson Barrie or Cody Ceci won’t be back. On that point, Fox and I are on the same page. That leaves only Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and to a lesser extent Justin Holl as solid defensemen, which will force the Maple Leafs to continue the same strategy they employed when Rielly and Muzzin were injured. That is, the team must utilize young Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren more.
Here’s where Fox and I disagree. I believe it’s time to rely on these young Swedes and to build the team’s defensive core from inside the organization. Fox believes the team needs another defenseman and then considered whether it would be better to go the trade route or sign a free agent.
We both agree that trading Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and John Tavares shouldn’t happen. That leaves three signed forwards as trade bait for a defenseman: Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and Alex Kerfoot.
Fox admits that Dubas has been creative in finding ways to keep the team’s expensive and elite players; however, he rightly believes the organization’s plan was formulated when it was presumed the salary cap ceiling would slide upwards.
Now, with the impact of a global pandemic, things have changed and we can only speculate what challenges might arise if the salary cap limit remains the same or even drops.
Item Two: The Tie Domi vs. Scott Stevens Feud
Suddenly, out of the blue and white, I noticed that former Maple Leafs player Tie Domi, similar to acid reflux I suppose, brought up the name of a past player, stalwart New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Stevens. According to Domi, Stevens was “the biggest phony I ever played against.”
Those are fighting words, or apparently not. That’s what Domi said his point was in bringing up his age-old feud with Stevens, who’s comfortably resting in the Hockey Hall of Fame after playing for the Washington Capitals, the St. Louis Blues, and the aforementioned Devils.
According to Domi, Stevens seemed like one of the most vicious players of his era, but he wouldn’t go the distance. As a result, and despite Stevens’ captaincy of three Stanley Cup-winning Devils teams, 13 All-Star appearances, a Conn Smythe Trophy (for the 1999-2000 season), 908 points in 1,635 games, and 22 NHL seasons, Domi doesn’t think that much of him.
Domi noted that Stevens could smash an opponent with a body check, which Domi didn’t name as the problem. The problem was that Stevens “always” refused to drop the gloves with him.
Specifically, Domi said: “That guy used to target all the best players on my teams and I always tried to fight him, and he would never fight. He never ever answered the bell.” Domi continued, “He was a good hitter, obviously, but he targeted the wrong guys at very vulnerable times and he never answered the bell.”
Phony! “Honestly, I chased that guy for years. He was such a phony, it was a joke,” Domi lamented.
As the rest of us sit around reminiscing about the recent past, here’s Domi remembering the distant past.
Item Three: Mikko Kokkonen Spins Finnish Teammate Kalle Loponen
In my most recent post, I wrote about Maple Leafs prospect Mikko Kokkonen, who was drafted in the third round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. I also noted that Konnonen’s former Team Finland teammate Kalle Loponen was also drafted in the seventh round by the Maple Leafs.
Unlike Kokkonen, Loponen chose to come to North America to play and skated this season with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves (who are coached by former NHL veteran Cory Stillman who played with six NHL teams, most notably the Calgary Flames). In 56 games with the Wolves, Loponen scored six goals and 24 points.
When interviewed at the 2019 Draft, Kokkonen had this to say about his former Finnish defensive partner: “His slapshot is really hard, so when I was his partner I would give him the puck. He’s a really good offensive player.”
It looks like, if things go as Dubas has planned for the next few seasons, the organization might be rich in defensemen and the current woes might be a thing of the past.
What’s Next with the Maple Leafs/
Honestly, we don’t know what’s next. However, to follow Dubas’ advice this morning: