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Leafs Beat

A blog on all things Toronto Maple Leafs

Entry archive:

Mirtle: Why hockey’s new statistics aren't going anywhere

JAMES MIRTLE

Back in the fall, the Toronto Maple Leafs were considered the latest, greatest test case for analytics in hockey.

They had won games in odd ways in the lockout-shortened half season, with high shooting percentages and low possession numbers, two of the most telltale signs that they would struggle to maintain a 97-point pace over an 82-game campaign.

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Leafs first rounder Frederik Gauthier signs with Marlies

JAMES MIRTLE

The Toronto Maple Leafs season may be over, but their work developing their top prospects continues.

And that includes 2013 first-rounder Frederik Gauthier, who will get his first taste of pro hockey this week in the American Hockey League playoffs.

With his season in the Quebec junior league with Rimouski over, Gauthier signed what’s known as an amateur tryout contract on Monday morning with the Toronto Marlies, who open their postseason schedule in Milwaukee on Friday.

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Mirtle: Randy Carlyle left twisting in the wind by Maple Leafs

JAMES MIRTLE

There he was – again – as he’s often fond of saying, standing at a podium in the Air Canada Centre and deconstructing a collapse that has become hockey’s most beaten dead horse in the aftermath.

Yes, Randy Carlyle is still head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but even he has little idea how long that will last.

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Shanahan must set a new course for Leafs

JAMES MIRTLE

As far as analogies go, Tim Leiweke’s wasn’t half bad on Monday.

Moments after introducing Brendan Shanahan as the new head of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the MLSE president was likening the three very different challenges in front of him to three very different ships.

With the Leafs obviously being the most challenging to get a handle on.

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Leiweke: Maple Leafs need a culture change

JAMES MIRTLE

He didn’t mince words. He didn’t offer non-answers or excuses.

So credit Tim Leiweke for this much: While he may not have picked up on the problem early on this year, he now realizes the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t good enough and believes it needs to be said again and again until that’s fixed.

The MLSE president also added that while he feels the organization has made great strides with its other teams – the Toronto Raptors and Toronto FC – they have a long, long way to go with the Leafs.

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Mirtle: Maple Leafs get their end-of-season report cards

JAMES MIRTLE

The calls will be there to fail the lot of them.

After a 3-13-0 finish to the season that led to the Toronto Maple Leafs sinking from ninth in the league to 23rd in the span of a month, that’s understandable, even if not everyone involved had an equal hand in the collapse.

The reality was the Leafs actually received some strong performances this season, with the top line producing at an elite level most of the year and Jonathan Bernier emerging as a very good goaltender in his first season as a starter.

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Shanahan will have his hands full during Leafs’ off-season

DAVID SHOALTS

The latest new era for the eternally struggling Toronto Maple Leafs begins Monday when Brendan Shanahan meets the media for the first time since taking the job as president.

Beside him will be Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president Tim Leiweke and Leafs general manager David Nonis. While Nonis has taken his share of shots for the late-season collapse, all indications are that he will survive to sift through the smoking ruins.

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Leafs exit season on whimper with shutout loss to Senators

DAVID SHOALTS

The best thing that can be said for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ last gasp of their awful 2013-14 season is that it preserved their spot in the top 10 of this year’s NHL entry draft.

By losing 1-0 to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night with their usual desultory effort, the Leafs held a ticket for the eighth pick overall but that will not be certain until the season officially ends with Sunday’s games. The loss also guaranteed a 12th-place finish in the Eastern Conference, as the Senators moved two points ahead to 86 with the win while the Leafs finished their season with 84 points at 38-36-8.

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Mirtle: Phil Kessel takes ownership of Maple Leafs collapse

James Mirtle

He spoke little all season, as one of the NHL’s true silent stars.

But in the end, Phil Kessel said quite a bit.

With most of the Tampa Bay Times Forum cleared out and his teammates waiting on the bus to head to the airport, the Toronto Maple Leafs leading scorer invited a few straggling reporters to walk beside him as he left the deserted arena.

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Mirtle: Maple Leafs still mystified by what went wrong

JAMES MIRTLE

From the players’ perspective, this has all been a lot to take in.

Eleven games ago, as they swung through typically tough California, the Toronto Maple Leafs had beaten one of the top teams in the league, the Los Angeles Kings, and had 80 points in just 68 games.

With less than a month left in the season, they were in third in the Eastern Conference and ninth in the NHL – in perfect position, they figured, to make a repeat appearance in the playoffs.

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Mirtle: Big Dave Bolland deal won’t fix what ails Maple Leafs

JAMES MIRTLE

There’s no question that what happened to Dave Bolland’s season was a tragedy.

A hometown hero, in his first season with the team he grew up cheering for, has a great first 14 games and then suffers a devastating injury in the 15th, enough to ruin any chance of making much of an impact on the 2013-14 Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Mirtle: Players not the only problem in lost Leafs season

JAMES MIRTLE

All that’s really left in Toronto is the blame game.

The Maple Leafs will certainly have a lot of time for that after their latest listless performance, a dud turned in against Winnipeg on Saturday that very well may end up being the 60 minutes that defines their season.

With a chance to hang in the playoff race, albeit as a long shot, they instead were essentially blown out, with the 4-2 score not doing justice to just how lopsided the game was.

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Mirtle: Leafs playoff hopes all but toast after lacklustre loss to Jets

JAMES MIRTLE

They were outclassed.

They were embarrassed.

And they’re now all but guaranteed to miss the playoffs.

Playing in yet another do-or-die game against an opponent out of the running for anything but a decent draft pick, the Toronto Maple Leafs were hammered 4-2 by the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, receiving another death blow to their slim postseason hopes.

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How the Maple Leafs can still make the playoffs

JAMES MIRTLE

There’s no question it’s a long shot.

And they’ll need some help.

But the Toronto Maple Leafs playoff hopes aren’t dead, as they can actually even get back into playoff position on Thursday night with a win over the Boston Bruins and a regulation loss by the Columbus Blue Jackets in Philadelphia.

That would put them back into eighth in the East, with a pile of teams fighting to pass them and games in hand.

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Mirtle: David Clarkson and his buyout-proof contract

JAMES MIRTLE

It appears to be the great, unkillable contract.

And the Toronto Maple Leafs gleefully signed all seven years and $36.75-million of it with free agent David Clarkson last summer.

You really don’t have to look much further than a few headlines at various media sources this week to know how the deal has turned out, as talk of a buyout has quickly spread online as the season winds down.

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Desperate Leafs edge Flames to snap eight game losing streak

DAVID SHOALTS

There were some positives the Toronto Maple Leafs could take out of Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames that broke their eight-game losing streak.

Secondary scoring, long one of this team’s problems, finally showed up. Jay McClement, Dave Bolland and David Clarkson – yes, you read that right, David Clarkson – were the Leaf goal-scorers. Clarkson even provided the winning goal on breakaway, his fifth of the season, coming in at a little more than $1-million per, based on his contract.

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Mirtle: Ghosts of Brian Burke’s tenure still haunt struggling Leafs

JAMES MIRTLE

It was just like old times.

Brian Burke, sitting in the Air Canada Centre press box, sporting a scowl, an unbuttoned top button on his shirt and watching on as the Toronto Maple Leafs took the ice.

The only change? A new haircut – with the term hockey hair not quite doing the look justice – and a new team, as he is still settling in as president of hockey ops with the Calgary Flames.

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Flames looking to snuff out Leafs’ faint playoff hopes

JAMES MIRTLE

The Toronto Maple Leafs playoff chances are just 4.6 per cent right now, as they need to basically win out (or go 5-0-1) to have a reasonable shot at the postseason.

But the Calgary Flames would like nothing more than to drop those numbers to almost nothing.

That’s what on the line Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre, with the plucky Flames playing for pride and the downtrodden Leafs battling for their playoff lives.

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Kessel has bruised foot but is expected to play against Flames

DAVID SHOALTS

The bruised right foot Phil Kessel suffered when a pass from linemate James van Riemsdyk bounced off him last Saturday is not expected to keep him out of Tuesday’s game against the Calgary Flames.

While Kessel did not take part in the Leafs’ one practice since Saturday and also skipped Tuesday’s optional game-day skate, Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle said the right winger told him he “is available” to play against the Flames.

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Shoalts: Lack of leadership and hockey smarts signal need for new Leaf captain

DAVID SHOALTS

There is surprising unanimity among NHL people about what ails the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is not surprising that it runs counter to the hair-on-fire Leafs Nation types who want general manager David Nonis and head coach Randy Carlyle and the team trainer fired.

An entirely unscientific survey of several NHL pro scouts, who are paid to watch and dissect other teams, and general managers (who were promised anonymity for their frankness) produced no one who thought there should be major changes. But all think some change is necessary to fix the biggest problems on the team – a lack of leadership and hockey smarts among the players (hence their inability to carry out a game plan) and a defence corps that has too many offensive-minded players and not enough physical ones.

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Blog contributors

James Mirtle

Hockey writer

Follow James on Twitter @mirtle

David Shoalts

A native of Wainfleet, Ont., David Shoalts joined The Globe in 1984 after working at the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun and Toronto Sun.

Follow David on Twitter @dshoalts