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Leafs Beat

A blog on all things Toronto Maple Leafs

Entry archive:

It’s not sexy, but the Leafs’ ‘Shanaplan’ makes sense after disastrous season

JAMES MIRTLE

The Toronto Maple Leafs have bred dysfunction for so long that it’s not surprising that’s all many see.It feels like Groundhog Day: a losing organization going through another round of firing and hiring that will ultimately beget more losing.

So when Leafs president Brendan Shanahan steps to a podium and speaks the way he did on Monday, outlining his vision and the grand plan for fixing the mess, the skepticism is understandable.

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Sens playoff drive suffers blow with shootout loss to lowly Leafs

JAMES MIRTLE

These are the days when the out-of-town scoreboard can be your friend in the NHL.

Or your enemy.

Teams on the bubble, such as the Ottawa Senators, live and die not only in their own games, but in what happens elsewhere – often between teams they’re chasing and others with nothing on the line.

“Yeah, we’re checking,” Sens winger Clarke MacArthur lamented. “Right when you get off the ice after a win, you find out the other team’s won.”

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Sabres beat Leafs as battle for NHL’s basement continues

JAMES MIRTLE

It could have been billed as the NHL’s battle in the basement. Or, perhaps more accurately, the NHL’s battle for the basement, given what was at stake.

In one corner, the Toronto Maple Leafs, sitting firmly in fourth-last in the league.

In the other, the Buffalo Sabres, right at the bottom rung.

Both have a reasonable shot at winning the league’s draft lottery in a couple weeks – 20 per cent for Buffalo and 9.5 per cent for Toronto – and getting a generational, Next One-type player in Connor McDavid.

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Mirtle: Leafs should heed Steve Yzerman’s Lightning-quick rebuild

JAMES MIRTLE

From basket-case to powerhouse, in a few hundred not-so-easy steps.

By Steve Yzerman.

It could be a bestseller, if the Tampa Bay Lightning general manager chose to write out and explain how he’s taken a franchise from the bottom of the NHL to the top in less than five years.

That’s not hyperbole. Even after a 3-1 loss to Toronto on Tuesday, the Lightning still sit near the top of the standings – as they have all year – and have a legitimate shot at winning the Eastern Conference in the postseason.

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Mirtle: Leafs long to have Panthers’ young talent

JAMES MIRTLE

Times are tough indeed when the Florida Panthers are showing you the way.

But that’s how it looks these days for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Panthers may be last in the NHL in attendance, and they may have as-yet-unresolved financial issues to resolve, with a half-empty building next to a gator-filled swamp in suburban Sunrise. They also have a terrific collection of talent, however, thanks to finishing in the league’s basement so frequently of late.

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Dubnyk continues meteoric rise as Wild edge hapless Leafs

James Mirtle

Thomas Vanek couldn’t say it, not exactly. Asked the question that Minnesota Wild players have heard a lot lately – about where they were back in mid-January, with only 18 wins in their first 42 games and their playoff hopes slipping away – the sniper couldn’t blame teammates.

But what he did say said enough.

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Flat start costs listless Leafs in loss to Sharks

JAMES MIRTLE

We’re often required to be brief in this space, so we’ll be especially brief with this particular game summary.

The team that was trying to win the hockey game at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday night won the hockey game.

The team that was not trying to win did not win.

All was right with the universe, thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are predictable – we will give them that.

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Leafs' Kadri ‘embarrassed’ by extended suspension

ERIC DUHATSCHEK

Nazem Kadri broke a four-day silence Friday, speaking for the first time about the three-game suspension imposed by the Toronto Maple Leafs after he arrived late for a team meeting this past Sunday.

Kadri spoke after the Leafs’ morning skate at the Scotiabank Saddledome, hours before they were to play the Calgary Flames in a game that had a significant meaning to the home team, less to the visitors.

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Mirtle: Leafs' win over Sabres overshadowed by Kadri’s suspension

JAMES MIRTLE

It’s to the point that we’re past asking “what next?” with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“What next?” was appropriate back in the Salutegate days, in November, when this wasn’t yet a lost season, and it seemed surprising they kept making news for the wrong reasons, again and again.

Now, it’s not surprising. It’s simply an unrelenting pile-on, a nightmare that deepens with each new calamity.

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Mirtle: Leafs hope public shaming will push Kadri to change his ways

JAMES MIRTLE

This was never about Nazem Kadri being late to one morning meeting.

That was how the Maple Leafs young centre had wanted it to come off when he was benched on Monday and met with the media. That’s not how it’ll be remembered after president Brendan Shanahan’s comments two days later.

The Leafs have suspended Kadri for two more games for an as-yet-undescribed incident that took place on Sunday before practice. Their season is already lost so that might seem like an empty gesture, but in the fishbowl that is Toronto, it won’t be.

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Leafs announce Polak done for the year

JAMES MIRTLE

Down goes another one.

A day after the Toronto Maple Leafs announced veteran defenceman Stephane Robidas would be shut down for the season, teammate Roman Polak has been given a similar fate.

The big Czech defender has battled a hernia issue much of the year, and with the Leafs long since out of the playoff race, he will have the needed surgery in the near future.

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Mirtle: Athletes should be judged on their performance, not persona

JAMES MIRTLE

For a lot of people – and that includes fans and media – Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf’s media presence leaves something to be desired.

It always has, if you go back to their days in Boston and Calgary. It probably always will.

There’s no way around it: The two highest paid and most recognizable faces of the Toronto Maple Leafs are not scrum dynamos. They’re not Joffrey Lupul, their personable, outgoing teammate.

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Leafs players threaten lawsuit after TSN’s deadline day error

James Mirtle

The Toronto Maple Leafs ongoing war with the media hit a new level on Tuesday.

Two members of the team, captain Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul, along with Phaneuf’s wife, actress Elisha Cuthbert, threatened a lawsuit against TSN after a salacious tweet from a fan made it to air during the network’s trade deadline coverage.

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Maple Leafs keep focus on the future with Winnik trade

JAMES MIRTLE

Two draft picks is two draft picks – that’s the bottom line.

There has been some confusion in the wake of the Toronto Maple Leafs moving out Dan Winnik, who had been a terrific foot soldier all year.

He wasn’t traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday because he didn’t play well. He did, putting up an impressive 25 even-strength points in 58 games and working his tail off night after night on a bargain-basement contract.

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Shoalts: Kadri and Gardiner need to make a better impression

DAVID SHOALTS

For most of the Toronto Maple Leafs players, and certainly their fans, the results of their final 24 games of the NHL season are irrelevant.

With the teardown of the roster officially approved by the owners, the decisions for the most part have been made on who goes and who stays. The latter is a short list, indeed, consisting of 20-year-old defenceman Morgan Rielly barring, say, a trade offer of the Connor McDavid pick in this year’s NHL entry draft.

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Lineup shuffle fails to pay dividends as Leafs fall to Rangers

DAVID SHOALTS

The Toronto Maple Leafs may be trying to make noise by hiring a music guru to spice up the playlist at the Air Canada Centre but on the ice the song remains the same.

That would be any tune that employs a certain word in the title – I’m A Loser (The Beatles), Loser (Beck) or Lonesome Loser (Little River Band) for starters. The familiar refrain was there again Tuesday night, as the Leafs followed up Saturday’s big win over the NHL’s 29-place Edmonton Oilers by going through the motions in a 5-4 loss to the New York Rangers.

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Mirtle: Maple Leafs trying to right ship, but fans want team to tank

James Mirtle

‘Obviously it’s our fault.”

Dion Phaneuf paused and let out a short sigh before he said it. It wasn’t easy. It hasn’t been easy, especially as he’s sat on the sidelines with an injury.

The Toronto Maple Leafs season is over from a playoffs point of view, but there are still months to go, 30 games to play and hundreds of questions to come every day after these practices and games.

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Have Leafs fans finally had enough?

JAMES MIRTLE

Truth be told, this was likely the most entertaining game the Toronto Maple Leafs have played in quite some time.

It was close. There were lots of chances. And the result was on the line almost right to the end.

For a huge portion of the fan base, however, all they cared about was the result.

They wanted a loss. They want Connor McDavid – or at least a reasonable shot at him.

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Maple Leafs’ confidence sagging to all-time low

JAMES MIRTLE

After a while, I’m sure guys lose their confidence.”

Joffrey Lupul had been out of the lineup since Dec. 31, a span where his team has had one of the worst months in NHL history. But he could see what was happening from the sidelines and gave the most honest assessment after yet another loss Thursday, this time to the Arizona Coyotes, one of the few teams still behind them in the standings.

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Leafs stretch their losing streak to eight games

JAMES MIRTLE

The sequence was a telling one as far as how things have gone for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Phil Kessel got the puck, and he fumbled it away in the neutral zone. Then he got it again and flubbed another pass. And another.

He glumly went to the bench.

This was the first period. It was scoreless against the bottom feeding Arizona Coyotes. There was no reason to be down. But the Leafs looked it.

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