The best of Leafs Twitter following the 4-2 Wild walloping

The Leafs have strung together two wins in a row now and are looking to keep the momentum going after handling the Minnesota Wild easily on Tuesday night. Here are the highlights from Leafs Twitter.

Morgan’s historic night! Morgan Rielly chased down Rick Vaive with his four-assist period, tying the most assists in a single frame in leafs history. I looked it up, he was four assists away from the most in NHL history (8) which was done four times, three of those by Wayne Gretzky.

Mike Babcock made a change to his lines midgame! Annnnnnd, it wasn’t moving Nylander to the third line center position! It’s a massive move because it shows an old dog can learn new tricks with Kasperi Kapanen returning (and exploding) to the right wing with Trevor Moore player LW beside Tavares and Marner. A stunning turn of events proved the fans were actually right. Congrats, us.

Auston Matthews was all around the net in the first period but had nothing to show for it. He eventually broke through when he, Marner, and Tavares all ended up on the ice for what I would like to call, “the Money Line”. A drop back pass – > a slap pass -> a tip – > a goal. This goal meant 5-on-5 scoring for Marner and another drop in the goal bucket for Matthews in a ridiculous October.

You just knew as soon as the pregame breakdown brought up Jerry Mayhew’s NHL debut something good was going to happen for the kid. Not only was he allowed to take the ceremonial first lap of his NHL career in the hockey Mecca of Toronto, Mayhew, of course, bagged his first NHL goal after Anderson kept the Wild off the scoresheet for the better part of two periods. Need to set a record, break a slump, or get your first goal/win/shutout? Come to Toronto! …I feel ya, Marlanderthews.

To close it out, Morgan Rielly took home the Raptors game ball for his four-assist performance on the night. He played really well in this game defensively and provided much more beyond his four helpers. He proved last season that he can be a top offensive defenseman in the league, tonight he showed he can also reign in the defensive side of his game which has been direly needed.

With much more going on, and a lot more crude commentary on the Leafs slapping the Wild, let this be a jumping-off point for anyone not heavily invested in Leafs Twitter. Sure, it’s usually a vile site but when the Leafs are winning no one’s upset!

Why The Leafs win over Detroit was more important than it seemed

The Leafs eventually bashed in the surprisingly dangerous Red Wings on Saturday night. While they should have won, how the Leafs did it was crucial moving forward.

What do good hockey teams do? They beat teams that are worse than them and they battle with teams that echo their own talent levels. For anyone who watched the Leafs Hockey Night in Canada matchup with the Detroit Red Wings, there was probably a bit of frustration resonating early in the game more than anything else.

Frustrated with a 5-2 win?

The Buds had a ton of shots early but not from difficult areas. Subsequently, Jimmy Howard got into a bit of a groove and had a really solid first two periods. Shots on net are great for your Corsi, but limp perimeter wrist shots aren’t going to do anything but get the goalie hot.

There was also no flow to the game. The Leafs struggles with special teams zone entry again and also would stymie their own offensive zone pressure with sloppy cycles. It wasn’t a ton of fun to watch early, but thankfully some blue-collar players started to dictate play.

Frederik Andersen is also fighting the puck right now. We all know he’s a perennial slow starter in October, but his rebound control has been atrocious as of late. Jacob de la Rose capitalized on this early, killing the massive momentum the Leafs started the game with.

Why this win was so important

As mentioned, good teams win games. The Leafs were far from their sharpest in the matchup and they still got the win, eventually steamrolling the Wings along the way.

Yes, the top-6 was quiet in this game but the bottom-6 carried them; good teams will have this happen periodically throughout the season and it’s okay. Moore – Mikheyev – Kerfoot is proving to be one of the most exciting units in the NHL right now that no one outside of Leafs Nation is talking about and I can’t get enough of it. Skill, speed, hunger; it’s a recipe that is exciting and hopefully motivating for the rest of the group.

Andersen picked up his play late in this game. He ended the game strong, turning away 25 of 27 shots faced, rewarding him with a .935 save percentage. As mentioned, we know he’s a slow starter but playing as he did in this game shows he is getting close to reigning in the loose play this season.

Most importantly, the Leafs stepped on Detroit’s throat and closed out the game in style. The third period saw Kerfoot, Muzzin, and Moore all score yet again proving the bottom-6 forward group can chip in and pick up the mail if the big boys aren’t firing. They failed to do this to Montreal and St. Louis so getting it done against this quick, threatening Red Wings team is important and was impressive.

Understanding Why Toronto’s Fourth Line is Unparalleled in the NHL

Tavares’ skill line, Matthews speed line, or Kadri’s physical line. Which line is the Toronto Maple Leafs biggest difference maker this season? It may be none of the above. The Leafs ever-changing fourth line has been an absolute game changer this season.

Trevor Moore – Frederik Gauthier – Tyler Ennis

Not bad considering the left winger is an unproven AHL graduate, the center is a flop firstrounder drafted a decade too late, and the right winger is a reclamation project league minimum signee.

Somehow, however, this line has been producing for the Leafs this season, more so in the last month than ever before. First and foremost, the trade of Par Lindholm for Nic Petan was a needed move that created a spot for AHL all-star and standout player Trevor Moore.

Organizational, Homegrown Talent

Moore, who boasts a fat stat line in the minors, has made waves since getting the call-up. In 12 games he’s put up 7 points and is posting a +4 rating. Not bad for only averaging 9:04 minutes a night!

Moore, a Californian native, has been appropriately rewarded for his hard nosed efforts in the Toronto Marlies. After proving he can cut it at the AHL level he took his limited chances by the collar and has forced his way onto this dynamically talented team now and for the future.

The ascension of Moore was foretold by the assertion of Frederik Gauthier as the de facto fourth line center over Lindholm. That move by Babcock pushed Lindholm to the left wing position, eventually allowing him to be replaced by Moore.

It should be noted, as well, that Gauthier has 12 points, the same amount as Lindholm in four fewer games and an average of 3 fewer average minutes a game this season.

Despite his draft position and lengthy maturing in the minors, Gauthier is proving to be an integral part of the Leafs plans this season. Why? Because he’s better than average at faceoffs, regardless of player match up. This allows Gauthier to be used as a backup center to close out games on the wing or jump off the penalty kill after retaining possession off the draw.

Ennis’ Veteran Presence

That leaves the wily vet on the right wing and line motivator, Tyler Ennis, as the last piece of the puzzle.

Ennis’ signing with Toronto was sort of an afterthought. Along with Josh Jooris and Adam Cracknell, Ennis signing in Toronto was thought to be a depth move with the player either getting traded or spending time in the AHL. How wrong we were.

Ennis’ impressive play earlier this season was more effort-based than results-based. That being said, since his February return from a broken ankle he has been electric. His Calgary hat trick was the cherry on top, showing he can dangle, shoot, and get fairly lucky, too.

Ennis has been rewarded with second unit power play time, as well, showing that the coach likes what he’s seeing from his comeback kid, too.

The Leafs Ennis-led smashing Calgary 6-2 is becoming a characteristic scoreline for the Buds. As their Western Conference road trip continues, we’ll get to see more of the newest Leaf and fourth line auditioner, Nic Petan.

Petan and Beyond

Another small, skilled, fast forward for the fourth line to use, Petan has the added bonus of the ability to play center. He’s relieving Frederik Gauthier tonight, who has played the lions share of minutes and games on the fourth unit this season.

Petan impressed in his one game with the Leafs, scoring a goal on his only shot of the game. He played 7:45 of the game and linked up well with Gauthier and Moore. Tonight he’ll see more minutes and will have to play with Ennis over the Gaut, which could pose a possible issue due to the size mismatch.

With the wheels on Petan, Ennis, and Moore, there shouldn’t be any issue with this unit skating through a rebuilding Vancouver team. It’ll be exciting to see how this line performs tonight and to also see if anyone can excel enough to force a move up to the third line when Nazem Kadri returns.

Leafs Fans Get Their First Look of Nic Petan in the… Green and White?

Nic Petan was lucky enough to have his first practice with the Toronto Maple Leafs in their awesome St. Pats gear ahead of their St. Patrick’s Day game. Now, let’s try predicting Petan’s future with the Leafs.

Feast your eyes, Toronto Maple Leafs fans! That’s your newest Leafs in your sickest gear you’ll see any NHL team don this season.

Petan, who will wear 19 on the Leafs this season, looks like a good fit for the Leaf’s third/fourth line this season, and is also looking stylish in the green and white St. Pat’s gear.

The fourth line, Petan’s eventual home, was booming against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night. This was thanks to Tyler Ennis’s speed and veteran presence, Frederick Gauthier’s hands and size, and Trevor Moore’s intensity and skill. Safe to say, Petan won’t have an easy road to winning ice time.

With little sustained opportunity in Winnipeg, especially this season, Petan wasn’t able to get a run of games to fulfill his potential. Out of the draft, though, he was viewed as an elite prospect. described Petan as:

“an offensively gifted with high-end skating skills. While his size might prove detrimental, he pals a ‘big’ game and relishes physical play. He has a quick release and is a slick passer.”

They continue on to describe his game as gritty and physical, as he uses his size to gain leverage and create pressure situations. He is projected as a skill-based two-way bottom-6 forward.

It’s clear, Kyle Dubas is prioritizing players who can play this style of hockey. Speed reliant, skill players who tire out opponents not through physicality, but unrelenting pace.

Season Predictions for this year

Petan fits this NHL build perfectly. In the remaining 20 games for Toronto I expect to see Petan in no less than half of these games, so let’s call it 15 games played in Toronto before the playoffs start. He’ll get some late PK time, I believe, as well as some off chance PP time too so he’ll get a good chance to produce.

By seasons end, I give Petan 4 goals and 7 assists for 11 points in 15 games. Babcock has rewarded his depth lines with increased ice time when his big guns aren’t going and Petan can capitalize on this. I think the odd man out becomes Connor Brown, as well, with Trevor Moore continuously impressing.

Not a bad start for Petan, who could end up being a long-term solution for the cap crunched Leafs in 2019/20 and beyond!

The Leafs Three Deadline Moves: the Trade, the Return, and the Call-Up

The Leaf’s made two deadline day deals, adding forward depth at the NHL and AHL level. Despite these minor deals, the Leafs had three OTHER deadline moves that could be difference makers.

The Trade – Jake Muzzin

Kyle Dubas didn’t bother waiting for the trade deadline to make his most impactful trade of the season, acquiring LH shot defenseman Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings.

This trade added a controllable player for one season after this year at a relatively reasonable dollar value at $4 million. Muzzin doesn’t fit the right-shot need but after some stubborn usage, Mike Babcock has seen the light and received his just rewards for starting him on the right side against Buffalo.

Muzzin was a threat from the point all night against the Sabres, tallying one assist and relishing his second pairing minutes beside Travis Dermott. Safe to say that new pairing is lapping the Gardiner-Zaitsev pairing.

If Muzzin couldn’t play the right side Dubas has spent far too much on an oversaturated position. Now that he’s in Toronto and being played again on the right side (and away from Zaitsev), Muzzin can offer some bruising hits and a lot of offensive upside. He’s the Leaf’s second best defender and leader in beard growth.

The Return – Tyler Ennis

Leaf fans were crying out for physical forward depth in their bottom line, but Ennis’ size made his return fly under the radar. Ennis, who had broken his foot in December, returned to the Leaf lineup against Montreal after more than a month rehabbing.

The small, veteran winger was rewarded for strong forechecking against the Habs with some second-unit power play time. He didn’t disappoint as he immediately repaid his coach’s faith with a PP goal.

He quietly has eight goals now, which isn’t bad for a fourth line player who has played in just 36 of the Leaf’s games this season. Don’t overlook his grit and experience just because he’s small.

The Call-Up – Trevor Moore

Some viewed Moore as the loser in the Petan trade but not so fast. Moore has provided great value as a sub-million dollar contract player and is making NHL sized waves for Toronto.

The AHL graduate seems to fit on the fourth line with relative ease. He brings intensity and speed to his line with that AHL fueled hunger. Moore’s positive impact on staple fourth line center Frederick Gauthier is worth recognition as well:

If Moore can continue to impress with Par Lindholm now gone, he’ll be a valuable asset ahead of Toronto’s cap crunched future. Realistically, the addition of Nic Petan along with the ascension of Moore form the minors means good things for both, and probably makes Brown expendable.

Where in the world has Connor Brown gone?

The Toronto Maple Leaf’s up-and-down the lineup, versatile forward who scored 20 goals two seasons ago has seemingly dropped off a cliff. Has he played himself out of a future with the team?

Remember this? The Leafs are deadlocked with the Penguins at the then ACC 3-3 with just under two minutes remaining in the third. If the Leafs win they clinch the playoffs, lose and they have the win out against Columbus in the last game of their season.

Matt Hunwick shoots wide of the net and the puck finds its way back to the point where Jake Gardiner collects it and flings it towards the goal. Connor Brown jets out his stick high in the slot and the deflection sneaks past the goalie and the Leafs would go on to win the game 5-3 with Brown’s 20th and game winner.

It was Brown’s 20th goal of the season, and it sent the new-look Maple Leafs back to the playoffs after an impressively solid season. He was the homegrown talent that went on to play the hero in Toronto but, as No Mercy sang – “where do you go” Connor Brown?

Brown’s performance in the 2016/17 season had fan’s excited about his style of play. He brought intensity with his hard skating and willingness to get into the corners to grind out pucks regardless of where he was cast in the lineup.

Unfortunately, what we all hoped would be the floor of his skills now looks to be the ceiling. Brown regressed regressed in 2017/18, totaling 14 goals and 14 assists for 28 points. This was an 8 point drop from the season prior.

As of today, Brown is sitting on 15 points, 5 goals and 10 assists, and is projected to end the season with 28 point.

This production from a 3rd/4th line winger is completely acceptable, however the problem comes with his price tag.

At $2.1 million for one more season (after this), Brown is effectively costing the Leafs an extra:
– $1.175m in comparison to Trevor Moore (925k)
– $1.237m in comparison to Kasperi Kapanen (863k)
– $1.313m in comparison to Andreas Johnsson (788k)

The math doesn’t always show the whole picture when explaining contract value, especially with minor league and entry-level contracts. However, using sub-million dollar contracts on the bottom-6 will be the way forward through salary cap Hell for the Maple Leafs.

The sad reality of 2019/2020

It’s a hard truth, but moving forward Connor Brown doesn’t have a place on the Toronto Maple Leafs. His $2.1M cap hit can be invested in 1-2 depth wingers, freeing up cap space for the Leaf’s big-ticket earners next season.

That being said, Brown VERY MUCH has a job to do this season. Starting tonight, with the absence of concussed Nazem Kadri, Brown will play on a William Nylander centered line. Nylander has the je ne sais quoi to drive a line and Brown will need to be his grinder and net-front presence.

Best case scenario for the Leafs is that Brown helps them in the playoffs and propels himself into a better situation, via trade, in the offseason. And don’t get me wrong I like Brown and think he’s a good, effective player. It’s just a shame that he hasn’t taken the next step forward, but players like Brown are the unfortunate casualty of the top-heavy Maple Leafs in a cap-crunched NHL.

If the Leafs trade Trevor Moore or Jeremy Bracco they’re gambling A LOT

The Leafs are at a crossroads here – commit to the team and minor league development process that’s gotten them this far, or say “fuck it” and blow their load by trading away their best forward prospects.

I don’t know what they’ll do, but Kyle Dubas has already put his balls on the table with the Jake Muzzin trade. He sacrificed impressive power forward prospect Carl Grundstrom, the rights to second-round pick defense-man Sean Durzi, and the Leafs first-round pick this season.

That substantial haul secured Muzzin for this year’s run, next year’s run, and possibly an extension after that. It also slapped Jake Gardiner across the face by handing his proposed money to the new heir-apparent the the “second-best defender on the team” throne.

So why does a Bracco or Moore trade potential screw over the Leafs? Because they’re gambling that Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson will resign with the Leafs for anything less than $3.5 million each.

Patrick Marleau’s fatherly presence to the team’s superstars may be an intangible that money can’t buy, but his $6-mill cap hit has ramifications on this team, specifically when it comes to paying Kap and Johnsson.

So, with Bracco’s 53 points in 52 games with the Marlies, and Trevor Moore‘s 38 points in 43 AHL games plus his 4 in 7 NHL games, the Leafs have prospects that are attractive to rebuilding or retooling teams. But if they’re developed stars don’t resign for hometown discounts, trading these two players in particular catapults the team into a free-agent focused nightmare (see Dave Bolland, David Clarkson).

With no GM credentials or experience let me put forward a probably too easy to deflate solution – move out the second tier players. We know Liljegren and Sandin aren’t on the table, we know the 1st rd. pick from 2019 is already gone, and we know Bracco and Moore could be valuable players next year. So, why not move the likes of Dymtro Timashov and Adam Brooks?

Prospects are going to be moved, so my suggestion would be not to get too attached to middling, “still needs time” players like Timashov and Brooks, instead get excited about what Moore can do with an extended look, or where Bracco will fit into the team when he breaks in. No more Tyler Biggs mentality here.