One day Jared McCann will be the subject of a Toronto Maple Leafs’ Forgotten Ones. You may already not remember the talented top-line centre for the Seattle Kraken was a Maple Leaf for about four days. For all the moves, good and bad, the team’s front office made in the past offseason, not protecting McCann from the expansion draft may be the worst one of all. It’s easy to block that memory until you see McCann play Toronto and realize just how good a player Kyle Dubas let go – for nothing.
Actually, it’s more accurate to say Dubas let McCann go to keep Justin Holl. That might make the memory even more painful. Toronto was gifted McCann and instead of reviewing an earlier plan, they allowed him to be taken by the Kraken. Lucky for the Kraken, McCann leads the team in goals with 20 and points with 31 in 44 games, has given the fans in Seattle something to cheer about during a rather horrible inaugural season. McCann’s output is the opposite of Holl’s 2021-22 season. The defenseman has struggled; he was an early candidate to be traded before being a healthy scratch for a few games and continues to be a liability.
McCann Named Second Star
Monday’s game was the first meeting ever between the two teams, Toronto won 6-2, but the second star went to McCann. He was all over the ice and scored a goal, recorded four shots and took 10 face-offs, winning five of them. Meanwhile, Holl was on the ice for a Kraken goal while registering two hits and two blocked shots and took a tripping penalty.
How could Toronto mess this one up? We can only guess most of the time; however, there is an actual video that gives us some clue as to what transpired during the Maple Leafs’ meetings. A Maple Leafs Blueprint video takes us in the meeting room before the expansion draft decisions. Sure, the video is only 11 minutes of several hours’ worth of meetings, and it’s team produced; therefore, it is what the Leafs want us to see. But the brass seemed far more confident in Holl than they should’ve been.
Dave Morrison, the Maple Leafs Director of Player Personnel, said, “We have a good top-four defence in the league. I feel comfortable when they are out there. Defence is a tough position to play in the National Hockey League, and these guys play well together.” Toronto decided it would protect four forwards, four defencemen and one goalie instead of the other option which was protecting seven forwards, three defencemen and a goalie.
Toronto Kept Holl Over McCann and Kerfoot
But this story could’ve even been worse. If the Leafs Blueprint video is edited true to the timeline of events, the decision to protect Holl was made even before Toronto had acquired McCann. The team was prepared to expose and likely lose Alexander Kerfoot. Kerfoot was coming off a fantastic playoff performance and is now putting up careers numbers.
Kerfoot was gone if it wasn’t for the Pittsburgh Penguins offering up McCann for Filip Hallander and a seventh-round pick only hours before the deadline to lock rosters.
Oddly, when McCann fell into Toronto’s lap, the team didn’t reconsider. Instead, Leafs’ President, Brendan Shanahan, said, “what could happen is we trade Hallander for McCann and lose McCann. So essentially, what he have done is traded Hallander to keep Kerfoot.”
At that point, Toronto could’ve taken a step back and amended their protected list to expose Holl and keep both Kerfoot and McCann. Was that ever discussed? It’s not in the video, but it should’ve been, and it should’ve been the Leafs’ plan. Instead, Toronto signed some free agent forwards, including Nick Ritchie. He has been a failed rebuilding experiment and is now in the minors. That was McCann’s spot on the roster.
Luckily, McCann plays on the west coast, and Toronto only has to be reminded of what could’ve been twice a season. But for four glorious days in July of 2021, McCann was an exciting new piece of Toronto’s future – those were the days.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.