Are Maple Leafs fans on social media the worst people? Yes, yes they are.

Entitled, cocky, loud, uneducated, all with zero humility. The Toronto Maple Leafs may be one of the most storied franchises in major league sports, but the loudmouth fans ruin it for everyone else.

*The loud minority really makes the quiet majority look bad. If you’re not one of these people, you probably know it, but if the title got you triggered… I’ve got some bad news for you.

It takes about three seconds into a daily Facebook browse to see just how ignorant Maple Leaf fans are on social media. Any post in the major Leafs Facebook groups like Maple Leafs Central, Leafs Nation, or Maple Leafs News 24/7, is littered with comments that are usually factually incorrect and populated with insults, spelling mistakes, and awful takes.

Now imagine you wrote the content that spurred 300 guys with names like Rick, Steve, or Dave (yes, there is a certain demographic we’re talking about here) to call you a moron or something more colourful and less intelligent? Not fun.

But I’m not here to white knight for bloggers like myself. Instead, I’m here to call out the losers who comment on Leafs content with blatantly stupid takes that make every hockey fan in the world hate Leafs Nation with a passion. Not because the team’s good, but because the fans are so god damn insufferable.

What spurred this on was some cracking commentary on a great blog on NHLTradetalk.com about the Leafs connection to KHL Russian forward Alexander Barabanov. The article breaks down the link between the player and team with sources and succinctly contextualized how he could make an impact with the Leafs.

As of writing this, there is one comment on the post… “small forward…need D.”

What a piece of shit!

Did the braindead moron who wrote that somehow think the title was “the Leafs are only after small forwards” or “Russian forward the only player Leafs to sign”? probably not. What’s more likely is that they googled the player’s name, saw his height, thought back on hockey when helmets weren’t required and xenophobia about the Red Enemy was never more present and opened his mouth (or in this case, typed unintelligently into a keyboard, which should require a breathalyzer).

It’s something so small that pisses me off so much. Since when is a player who can score goals a bad thing? Consistent offensive production throughout the lineup has been an issue this season for the Leafs too, so wouldn’t more goalscorers help? It’s honestly too stupid of a comment to try and throw logic at.

It’s a microcosm for Leafs fans on social media, though. The loudest, most incorrect douchebags tend to taint whatever it is they’re commenting on, and colour the rest of the fanbase as loud pricks too. Maybe the guy who wrote the comment above has never commented on any other Leafs posts before (unlikely) but an army of people like him keep this narrative rolling.

So, if you’ve made it this far you’re probably not part of the problem. Reading why Leafs fans suck isn’t something some Facebook troll would want to do; self-reflection probably isn’t their M.O. But, again, if you’re at this point in this blog you’re probably in agreeance that you’re not an asshole but everyone thinks you are because you’re a Leafs fan. Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do, so why not call out these tools together?

Leafs forever.

Super Sunday for TWO Leafs prospects’ career games

No Leafs hockey on Sunday? No problem! The prospect camp had all the excitement you could need with two up-and-comers lighting the lamp repetitively and filling the boxscore at a relentless pace.

Nick Robertson – Peterborough Pete’s

The latest high Leafs prospect has followed up a great World Juniors tournament with team USA by continuing to light the OHL on fire! The 18-year-old left-winger netted a hattrick on Sunday against the Barrie Colts, scoring three goals in differing situations in the game.

His third goal of the game, a shorthanded tally off of some point pressure, was his 50th of the season. He’s managed this feat in just 43 games, bringing him to 76 points on the season. As shown above, his 50th of the season was a result of high-pressing penalty-killing much like how Mitch Marner plays for the Leafs now, finished with a quick release.

With Sandin and Liljegren up with the big boys and Jeremy Bracco away on personal leave from the Marlies, just one year after getting drafted, Nick Robertson is the Leafs crowning jewel in their prospect system. Exciting times lie ahead for this kid and the Leafs!

Justin Brazeau – Newfoundland Growlers

The over-ager the Leafs scooped up at the end of last OHL season, Justin Brazeau, was an absolute goal-scoring machine in the minors. His last season of OHL play saw him net 61 goals and 113 points in 68 games, so the contract made a lot of sense for the Leafs, could he translate it to different levels though?

Showing up Nick Robertson by a goal, Brazeau netted four in this routing of the Jacksonville Icemen. The Newfoundland Growlers have been uber-competitive since their inaugural season, and as reigning champs are doing everything in their power to run it back for the 2019/20 season, as well, with Brazeau stepping up huge for the team.

His 25 goals and 26 assists in 53 games this season show that the elite scorer is able to share the puck as well as smash it home. At 22 he’s adapting just fine to the ECHL level of play and looks primed to step up to the AHL hopefully next year. Much like Ilya Mikheyev who made an impact as a 24-year-old rookie, it may be a little while yet before Brazeau steps up to the big club, but if and when he does, his natural goal-scoring ability should take care of him.

Maple Leafs conjure up bigger underdog story than David Ayers in “replacements” win

Move over EBUG controversy, the Toronto Maple Leafs just put together a huge effort to protect their playoff spot and star goalie with a bunch of defensemen who shouldn’t even still be on the team.

For a team that couldn’t beat a Zamboni driver in goal on Saturday, the Leafs looked potent offensively, sound defensively, and motivated to take two points from an equally lopsided Panthers squad.

The only problem for the Buds was their defensive pairings. Reminiscent of a split-squad team that was clearly the B team, the crew’s depth was on display here:

Dermott – Holl
Sandin – Barrie
Marincin – Liljegren
Rosen

The seven-man core consists of the injury-prone next big thing (Dermott), our should-be seventh defenseman (Holl), our best Marlies D (Sandin), should-have-been-traded guy (Barrie), Shouldn’t-have-a-contract-guy (Marincin), our second-best Marlie (Liljegren), and a member of the Colorado Avalanche (Rosen). What a team.

To compound issues, Frederick Andersen had one of the worst periods of hockey in his life. With awful rebound control, less-than-usual edge work, and uncharacteristic swimming in his crease, Andersen channelled prime James Reimer with similar results.

A vote of confidence from the head coach to start him in the second (not a popular opinion) saw Andersen settle eventually, but not without near-constant bailing out by his rag-tag group of defensemen. Yes, the replacements showed up and actually looked like a solid group of players.

The biggest improvements in the D-core were their patience on the puck, willingness to turn back and retain possession, and ability to work with their backchecking forwards to section off any Panthers pressure. Timely pinching was also on display regularly, with extra motivated teammates coving back and offensive zone possession limiting defensive zone time.

Capped off with an empty-net goal by newly crowned shutdown defender Justin Holl, the wobbling puck that somehow tracked into the vacant goal showed that the Hockey Gods don’t fulfill lofty wishes, but rather guide justified results from ice level for hardworking efforts.

Honestly, the Leafs getting any sort of performance from these players tonight was unlikely, but keeping Florida to under 30 shots on a night where Freddy didn’t have it? It’s a narrative so unlikely the David Ayres story will drift into oblivion. Move over, Zamboni EBUG, the replacements are here, and they’re aiming for the playoffs.

Silly brand endorsement tips hand to imminent Leafs signing

The news we’ve all been waiting to hear finally broke – Ilya Mikheyev is officially endorsed by Campbell’s Soup! But, is there more pertinent news on the horizon?

Here it is, the glorious social media post we’ve all been looking for. Ilya MIkheyev holding a spoon up with some tasty, tasty Campbell’s soup at the ready. The endorsement was seemingly inevitable after Mikheyev joined the Leafs with the Twitter handle @soupman65 and declaring his love for the meal.

While the story is cool and endorsement fun to see, is there more than meets the eye here? Two important factors in this add – its Campbell’s Canada, and Mikheyev is wearing a Leafs uniform.

It’s all but clear (to me, anyway) that there is an imminent extension for Ilya Mikheyev with the Toronto Maple Leafs. There are a few reasons why this would appear to be happening:

  • Campbell’s soup wouldn’t jump on a random athlete more than halfway through the season with him only inked until the end of the year
  • The player is also currently injured and hasn’t been on the ice since December 27th
  • Campbell’s simultaneously announced their partnership with the entire Toronto Maple Leafs organization
  • Jack Campbell would have arguably been a better, longterm option for branding

With cap space at a premium within the team, signing versatile forwards that can move up and down your lineup is a key component to staying cap compliant as well as competitive for years to come.

The extending of Pierre Engvall may be the open door for a Mikheyev deal as well. Engvall signed a two-year extension at $1.25m a year in the past weeks, upping himself from the $925k/year he and Mikheyev make. Short term contract, roster stability, and a chance to succeed could get Mikheyev on board with extending his time in Toronto.

It should be noted that Mikheyev was a dark horse in the Calder Trophy race before getting injured against New Jersey back in December. His point production, 8 goals and 15 assists, had him turning heads, largely built on his work ethic, good shooting ability, and relentlessness on the puck.

The Leafs would be wise to have a backroom extension ready to go for Mikheyev as they did with Muzzin, likely ready to be signed after the end of the season. He’s big, can play physical, and has a good conversion rate on offensive chances. A la the Pittsburgh Penguins, support your strong spine with versatile forwards on the cheap.

Not having Mikheyev signed long term with the Leafs doesn’t make sense for all parties included – the Leafs themselves, Mikheyev and his future in the NHL, and Campbell’s soup who have donned the title of Brand Ambassador on the 24-year-old Russian on an expiring deal. No crystal ball needed here.

Three lesser-known Leafs Prospects TEARING up the ECHL

The use of the ECHL as a depth league for player development has really been embraced by Kyle Dubas’ Leafs team. The success of the team shows the usefulness of this team and has a few hidden gems to get excited about, too!

For reference, the Newfoundland Growlers are currently 35-11-0-1 on the season, including a huge home winning streak in this, their ECHL Championship season after toppling the opposition in pretty ridiculous fashion last season. Here are three young, exciting prospects to get hyped about:

Angus Redmond – Goalie

The Langley BC Native has strung together quite the season for the Growlers, stepping up from behind the more well-known Maksim Zhukov to steal some starts. Of his fourteen appearances this season, twelve have been starts and Redmond is 12-0 on the year.

His growing sample size put some meat behind his ridiculous stats. Currently, Redmond is sitting at a .916 S% with a 2.41 GAA. Those aren’t necessarily Vezina winning numbers, but in the ECHL the skill level varies massively, and with it, the scores generally are a little inflated. Redmond’s ability to backstop the Growlers to wins (exclusively) is nothing to shake a stick at.

The 25-year-old is proving the adage about goaltender development is still right – goalies generally need more time to develop. That being said, the three-year ECHL goaltender is finding his stride in the well-structured Newfoundland Growlers organization.

Aaron Luchuk – Forward, C

Possibly recognizable as an asset acquired in the Nikita Zaitsev – Cody Ceci trade, Aaron Luchuk is proving to be A LOT more than just an add-in piece to an NHL deal. The point-producing center has always been able to generate offense in his minor league career, scoring 50+ points in four consecutive seasons in the OHL split between Windsor and Barrie.

He managed 22 points in 32 games for the Brampton Beast (ECHL) last season but has exploded on the Newfoundland scene this year. With 47 points in 41 games, 18 goals and 29 assists, Luchuk has a 1.15 ppg. At just 22-years-old, it’s clear Luchuk has a role within the Leafs system and will likely graduate to the Marlies either this season for the playoff push or in the near future.

With center depth lacking organizationally but not a massive need on the Leafs current roster, Luchuk has the systematic support to marinade and develop at a natural and unrushed pace, which should help him develop, hopefully, into an NHL player.

Justin Brazeau – Forward, RW

Maybe the most well-known prospect on the Growlers’ team, Justin Brazeau was signed to a two-year deal last season as an over-ager coming out of the North Bay Battalion in the OHL. Last year, Brazeau had 113 points in 68 games, a strong follow to his 75 point season a year prior.

Brazeau has kept up his goal-scoring abilities in the ECHL with 40 points in 44 games played, giving him a .91 ppg. Of his 40 points, Brazeau is spreading the puck around well, too, with 18 goals and 22 assists splitting his production.

There is no question that Brazeau can put the puck in the net, but the criticism on Brazeau is his skating ability. Playing against older prospects and players in the ECHL, Brazeau can develop this and push forward to the Marlies eventually. At just 22-years-old, Brazeau has plenty of time to focus on his player development and grow into a more complete player.

 

Babcock’s rookie hazing was ridiculous and destructive to the team

With the Mike Babcock era over in Toronto, some information has come out regarding his tenure as head coach. How he handled Mitch Marner as a rookie is completely unacceptable.

The story from the Toronto Sun initially came out without specifics on who the player in question was, but as the story goes:

“Babcock was alleged to have asked one of the Leafs’ rookies to list the players on the team from hardest-working to those who, in the eyes of the rookie, didn’t have a strong work ethic. The rookie did so, not wanting to upset his coach, but was taken aback when Babcock told the players who had been listed at the bottom.”

Not only is this completely destructive when it comes to building a relationship between player and coach, but it’s also insanely self-defeating as it causes a rift between players on the same team! I have no idea where Babcock would have got this idea from but it’s not old school or new school coaching, it’s self-involved psychotic narcissistic behavior and it’s a blessing that he’s out of the team.

Ian Tulloch later confirmed on Twitter that the rookie in question was Mitch Marner. If the move wasn’t moronic enough, making your future star player the center of a dressing room controversy when he’d already been under the spotlight and scrutiny for his team-driving play and eventual monster contact shows that Babcock may have something severely wrong in his head.

Since he’s been gone (Kelly Clarkson reference), the Leafs have been envigorated in their two games under Keefe. The emotion is back, the raw skill is taking over, and the team doesn’t seem to quit. With the target of Babcock’s hazing (Mitch Marner) still out injured, he is clearly happy with the Buds’ turn of form and seems relieved to say the least.

I’ve never been one to actively cheer against someone or celebrate in their downfall, it’s just an unclassy thing to do. After Babcock’s firing watching Mike Commodore celebrate on Twitter or Jeff O’Neill continuously dance on his grave on TSN radio seemed like overkill. Now, however, I’m on their side.

Babcock has a Hall of Fame career behind him, that is indisputable. What is becoming more apparent, though, is that he also has a hell of a lot of skeletons in his closet that may surface sooner rather than later. It’s clear Babcock ruled with an iron fist in his own bubble world but with players no longer scared to speak out, his reputation could take a massive hit, rightfully so.

Kyle Dubas “willing to bet my career” on Leafs success under Keefe… LFG Leafs

Never once has Kyle Dubas said anything more than the cookie-cutter support message about Mike Babcock, that is until now. With his guy finally behind the bench Kyle Dubas is all in on Sheldon Keefe leading the Leafs to sustained success.

Mike Babcock was the final piece of the Lou Lamoriello era gone. Patrick Marleau went at a steep price, Lamoriello and Hunter both shipped out, Matt Martin and Leo Komarov gone, and now the head coach Mike Babcock axed – all by Kyle Dubas.

The glasses-wearing, new-age thinking, NHL-unproven GM has been ruthless in shaping the Leafs team into his own vision. The latest and final move, relieving Babcock of his coaching duties, forced MLSE to open their wallet and cut ties with the faltering coach and proves the GM is all in on “HIS” team with the highest stakes.

While talking on TSN radio Thursday, Dubas shared his thoughts on Sheldon Keefe’s hiring stating the team didn’t look at any other options to replace Babcock. Makes sense too with Keefe following his GM from the OHL to the AHL and finally to the NHL. That being said, Dubas went one step further in pushing his chips in the middle, staking his own job on the faith he has in his coach to get the job done, specifically playing hockey the way they want to play – without physicality and “brute toughness.”

These actual words left Dubas’ mouth, “I am willing to bet, I guess, my job and my career on it” when talking about the Leafs having success playing fast, skilled hockey and being a dominant team playing this way. Bryan Hayes gave the GM the floor and Dubas took full advantage of the opportunity, giving a detailed and passionate message to the fanbase about a changed mentality with the team.

All I can say is lets fucking go, boys! No cookie-cutter any more, no lob-ball pitches and predictable answers for Dubas. This is now his team with his players run by him and his coach. All the success will come back to him but so to will the questions about the system and the doubt along the way. I love that the GM is betting on himself. And, the freedom in which Keefe coaches could make Dubas a big winner in the big picture.

Everything goes right in Sheldon Keefe’s NHL debut

Talk about an immediate impact. The Leafs looked relaxed, motivated, happy, and most importantly, like themselves in Sheldon Keefe’s NHL debut. Not to piss on his proverbial grave or anything, but the Leafs never played like this under Babcock.

Relaxed

Did you see how Tyson Barrie and the rest of the defense jumped up in the play and impacted the game playing to their strengths? Looked pretty good, didn’t it? It’s exactly what Leafs Nation has been begging for – the team playing to their strengths. For all the good Mike Babcock did as Leafs coach, god damn was he frustrating when he slammed round peg players into his square hole systems.

In reality, there isn’t much impact a coach can have on a team long term in just 24 hours on duty. That being said, the impact Keefe has had is in embracing the skill set of his players and deploying them in a matter that best suits the team’s natural play style.

Motivated

Tyson Barrie – gets his first goal for the Leafs. Pierre Engvall – gets his first NHL goal. Auston Matthews – scores on the road and in front of his home town. The motivation for the Leafs’ three goalscorers was extremely obvious, but Keefe put them all in a position to harness that motivation and capitalize on it.

Barrie and the rest of the D were permitted to jump up in the play, and guess what? The forwards covered back on pinches and stretches in the offensive zone by Barrie and co., allowing for the skilled defenders to play to their skills. It worked for Barrie’s goal and he also got playtime beside Morgan Rielly on the top unit.

Engvall; big body, great hands, good shot, silky skater. Deployed on the PK and his hunger to make an impact in the NHL for his former coach resulted in a shorthanded breakaway and goal. Who woulda thought? Already love his guy.

Auston Matthews (this one is simple): He didn’t have anyone barking down his back; he was allowed to play his dynamic, net hunting style of hockey.

Happy and like themselves

Smiles, smiles, and more smiles. Engvall was smiling, Matthews couldn’t get the grin off his face, Barrie was ear to ear and Sheldon Keefe showed. emotion. behind. the. bench. What a foreign concept from the Leafs.

This team is skilled, this team is fast, this team is exciting, and this team is a hell of a lot of fun to watch when they play hockey the way they are constructed to. It is far too early to crown Keefe as the savior of this Leafs team, but if anything can be taken from this first glimpse into him as coach, less is more with a team that is as skilled as this.

Leafs value forward will FINALLY shine on second line after early season flop

Losing Mitch Marner sucks. Yes, Auston Matthews and William Nylander have been awesome in November so far, and yes, the bottom-six is still pulling their weight for the team, but still losing an offensive catalyst blows, regardless of the team’s form.

That being said, there is a golden opportunity right now for a former Tavares line flop to reassert himself as a potential top-6 forward. Yes, Kasperi Kapanen will get a more realistic and fair chance to shine on the 1-A line for the Leafs tonight and can rewrite the ugly start to the season he had on this same unit.

Why was it so bad prior to his re-ascension up the lineup? Because, in the wake of Mike Babcock never going back on his coaching decisions or adapting to any real evidence of him failing, Kapanen was inappropriately deployed as a left-winger to fill in for the injured Zach Hyman.

Firstly, Kapanen is a right-winger and has built his career on speed and shooting. Playing on his off-wing essentially neutered his ability to impact the offense how he naturally does. Secondly, Kapanen, while big and rambunctious at times, is a ‘skill’ player. He likes blazing by defenders and letting a quick wrist shot go to beat the goalie. He isn’t a grinder and again Babcock set him up to play as such, which obviously again limited his effectiveness.

Tavares and Marner still got their points with Kapanen on their line, however, it was largely due to their top power playtime instead of 5 on 5 scoring. When Trevor Moore took over, a versatile winger who can play both sides and grinds in the corners like Hyman, the line picked up their play and things were looking up.

Now, with Marner out, two thirds of that elite line will be back together again. Zach Hyman is back in the lineup on the left side of John Tavares presumably, and Kasperi Kapanen will replace Marner on the right side. It only makes sense, and should actually be effective. Hyman gets in the dirty areas, Tavares sets up the play, Kapanen uses his shooting to finish it.

This set up is much more advantageous to all parties and should help limit the loss of Marner to the best of the team’s ability. If Babcock over thinks this and decides to shuffle his bottom-6 and Tavares then he’s gone off the rails. Put Petan in Kapanen’s spot, insert Hyman and if he needs a minutes break, he can elevate Moore to the second line leftwing. On paper, this looks like an effective team… let’s hope paper translates to ice.

Will (and should) Kyle Dubas abandon his team structure and trade for linked “Grit Guy”?

The Leafs fended off Ryan Reeves and the Las Vegas Golden Knights to earn their third straight win to stay undefeated in November. And, while Reeves decided to leave the Buds’ stars alone, will and should Kyle Dubas bring in the linked-to enforcer a lot of people think they need?

Kyle Clifford – the enforcer the Leafs ‘need’?

With the LA Kings passing through town the trade rumor popped up – are the Leafs trying to bring in Kyle Clifford to defend their young stars? Maybe it was created simply because the two teams faced off recently, but regardless the link makes sense when you examine the strikes against the Leafs.

Not since Matt Martin have the Leafs had a legitimate fighter on their team, and the younger Leafs players adored him. Martin was close with Mitch Marner above anyone else on the team, and it makes sense – Marner needs the freedom that an enforcer brings to the team to create offense by keeping the opposition in check from debilitating checks or cheap shots. The same goes for Matthews, Nylander, Rielly, Barrie, and realistically every other Leaf on the roster.

Clifford would slot in on the fourth line’s left-wing. This unit is made up of Trevor Moore, Frederick Gauthier, Dmytro Timashov, Jason Spezza, and Nick Shore, meaning that someone will lose their job indefinitely to facilitate another member of the fourth line timeshare. If the Leafs brought him in, it should be mentioned, he wouldn’t be an everyday starter. If Reeves’ Knights are in town -throw him in, if the Bruins are on the schedule next – Clifford starts, but this team build on speed and will keep that mantra alive in games where he isn’t needed.

Statistically speaking, the 28-year-old enforcer had his best offensive season in the NHL last year, RACKING UP 21 points and 96 penalty minutes in his 72 games played. You don’t trade for Clifford’s point production though, you trade for him to add some grit, truculence and to shut up the likes of Brian Burke for five seconds.

Would this be a “loss” for Kyle Dubas?

Many Dubas haters would look at a trade for Clifford as him buckling under fan-pressure and recanting on his beliefs that this Leafs team doesn’t need a physical element. On the contrary, however, I – a loud and proud Kyle Dubas supporter (go Badgers) – think this can and should be spun in a positive light should he pull the trigger on a deal.

Only Siths deal in absolutes and Kyle Dubas opening up to the folly of his current game plan for team selection would show growth and an open mind in a business full of arrogant, uncompromising executives.

If anything, Dubas has shown that he is forward-thinking and on the cutting-edge of new-age NHL ideology. What he needs to now show is that he is still connected to the now, connected to the fans and that he isn’t going to ignore history over the past few playoff runs and try to out-skate physicality.

I’m all for the Leafs being a fast, dynamic team that burns you with speed and relentless effort of grinding you down over the extent of a game. I am also a strong believer that protecting your assets on the ice and policing through players should be adopted by this team. Don’t abandon the makeup of this team, but sacrifice some game time to make your stars feel protected in-game.