As I continue to read the work of other Toronto Maple Leafs hockey commentators, I believe I’m not alone in my increasing frustration with the pallor the Mitch Marner negotiations have cast over the offseason for Maple Leafs fans.
I accept that, in a professional sport such as NHL hockey, there are times when the two sides of contract negotiations – the player and the organization – must “work” towards a contractual agreement. However, there’s just something that seems wrong about the plodding way that these negotiations have been “progressing.” I cannot put my finger on what’s wrong, but all does not seem healthy in the land of the blue and white.
In the meantime, as Maple Leafs fans await some closure on the lingering drama, I’ll try to use this post to share what I’m reading and gathering as news and rumors about the team.
Item One: Four Reasons Why Mitch Marner Won’t Leave the Maple Leafs
I’ve contended in a number of posts that the worst thing Marner could do in both his professional and personal life would be to leave Toronto and his Maple Leafs teammates for something as paltry as more money – especially when he can make up that money easily in endorsements.
However, little seems sane about the on-going situation, so not much would surprise me. Editor in Leaf Maple Leafs commentator Mike Stephens, whose work I quite enjoy reading, and I are on the same page. He believes Marner won’t leave Toronto for the Islanders first because he grew up idolizing the Maple Leafs. Second, he wouldn’t move from a pretty “settled” situation in Toronto to one that is in upheaval like the Islanders.
Third, Marner was a key in luring John Tavares to play with the Maple Leafs before last season’s teammate signed with Toronto. That decision, obviously, worked out well for both players, who each had career seasons. Tavares set a personal best with 47 goals, 41 assists, and 88 points. And, the 22-year-old Marner, whose body of work is obviously smaller than an NHL veteran like Tavares, beat his previous-best season by a full 25 points with 26 goals, 68 assists, and 94 points.
Fourth, Marner, even if he’s receiving conflicting information from his agents about his personal value as a player, certainly must understand that his simpatico partnership with Tavares is beneficial for both players, and the team. He likely wouldn’t have such a good season with lesser teammates.
Item Two: Brett Pesce for Kasperi Kapanen?
In a quick flash from the past from early in the offseason, Fansided commentator James Tanner reminded Maple Leafs fans a couple of days ago that Pierre Lebrun reported that general manager Kyle Dubas had tried to trade Kasperi Kapanen for defenseman Brett Pesce from the Carolina Hurricanes, but the deal went sour.
Given how things have worked out on the Maple Leafs blue line with the trade for Tyson Barrie, I’m glad that’s a trade that wasn’t consummated. I look forward to watching Kapanen play this season.
Item Three: A Look at Goalie Prospect Ian Scott
I recently watched young goalie prospect Ian Scott being interviewed during the June 2019 Maple Leafs development camp. Although I am perfectly happy with Frederik Andersen in goal for the team for next season, I’m also looking forward to watching the young prospects grow toward the big club.
There’s something about the 20-year-old Scott that’s intriguing, and it will be fun to follow his progress with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies during the 2019-20 season. (I’m assuming he’ll make the Marlies this coming season.)
Scott was named both the CHL goaltender of the year in 2019 and MVP of the 2019 WHL Playoffs after he backstopped the Prince Albert Raiders to the championship. He and fellow goalie prospect Joseph Woll should develop a friendly rivalry as they rise through the ranks together.
Scott’s play trended upward during the past season, and Maple Leafs senior director of player development Scott Pellerin noted, “If you look at his progression from when he was with the Marlies during the Calder Cup run and then to take that experience and have the season he just had, it’s unbelievable.”
The one thing Scott must work on is his consistency, as MSN Sports reported, “The issue with Scott seems to be that consistency can still be a problem. The longer the playoffs went on, and the tougher the competition he faced, Scott would have pretty dramatic swings in his performance. In the Final alone, he gave up 12 goals in Prince Albert’s 3 losses, and only four goals in their 4 wins including two shutouts.”
Item Four: Mike Babcock On Auston Matthews’ Ice Time
It might be time to take a second look at the news that hit the fan a couple of days ago when Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock fueled the rage of Toronto’s hockey commentators by reporting in an upcoming interview with The Hockey News‘ Matt Larkin that Auston Matthews should average about 19 minutes per game. If you take the report simply for what it says, Babcock is saying that Matthews time-on-ice for the 2019-20 regular season should probably increase a bit.
Last season, Matthews logged a career-high 18:33 per game. This season, Babcock would like to have both Matthews and Tavares average about 19 minutes of ice time. Babcock suggested that Matthews had “earned the right over time.”
What particularly irked the hockey-writing community was that Babcock didn’t seem to see the irony of that statement given the fact that, during the Game 7 in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoff loss to the Boston Bruins, he wouldn’t double-shift Matthews when the game was on the line – opting, instead, to put fourth-line center Frederik Gauthier in the game.
To read the report in its simplest way, it looks as if Babcock expects Matthews’ ice time to increase next season.
Wow. If being a Maple Leafs fan has its ups and downs, it must be doubly tough for the players. On one side of the coin, you play in a rabid hockey market where fans really support and care how their team does. On the other side of the coin, it doesn’t take much to reveal the ire that occurs when things don’t go right.
Here’s looking for some good news next week.