Toronto Maple Leafs
My Toronto Maple Leafs have just signed their biggest free agent, ever. John Tavares is coming home, signing a seven year $77-million deal.
I’m thrilled to be starting a new chapter of my career and life in Toronto with the @MapleLeafs. I feel very fortunate to come join a team with a great young core and play where I grew up learning and loving the game. I can’t wait to get started!— John Tavares (@91Tavares) July 1, 2018
I was on a bike ride with my youngest when I got a phone call from my oldest. "Dad, guess what happened?" I knew from the tone of his voice that #91 was a Leaf. It's all we've talked about all weekend.
Tavares is 27 and has 621 points in 669 career NHL games. He and Auston Matthews up the middle gives us Penguinian strength at centre and is an enormous upgrade over the departing Tyler Bozak. This is exciting!
My boy just called me with the big news. John Tavares is a Toronto Maple Leaf! Happy Canada Day! 🍁 pic.twitter.com/UzfLrXkGOl— Toronto Mike (@torontomike) July 1, 2018
It's an interesting coincidence that both the Blue Jays and Raptors have strung together multiple win streaks of 11 games but never 12. I believe the Jays have hit 11 at least five times now and I know the Raptors have reached 11 at least twice. When I have time, I'll try and find precise numbers.
With the Raps loss today to halt their streak at 11, here's the longest winning streaks in franchise history for each of Toronto's main five professional sports teams.
Raptors - 11
Blue Jays - 11
Maple Leafs - 10
Argos - 10
TFC - 6
The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired centre Tomas Plekanec and AHL forward Kyle Baun from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for defender Rinat Valiev, winger Kerby Rychel, and a 2018 second-round pick.
My oldest son tells me this is a good deal for the Leafs. Plekanec will be our fourth line centre and should be an upgrade on Dominic Moore. He's a veteran presence on a very young team and didn't cost us a heck of a lot.
Johnny Bower was 93. Nicknamed "The China Wall", the Hall of Famer won four Stanley Cups tending goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs. In retirement, no Leafs alumnus was more active than Johnny Bower.
Often at this time of year I'd share Johnny Bower's "Honky the Christmas Goose". Sung with Little John and the Rinky Dinks, it was released in 1965 and enjoyed a significant amount of airplay, making it to number 29 on our Canadian music charts.
Mr. San Jose Shark Patrick Marleau is now a Toronto Maple Leaf. Mike Babcock knows him well, having coached him to gold medals in 2010 and 2014. Marleau has had a stellar career and is as durable as they come. Clearly the Leafs are trying to win now.
But it's not all good. Marleau's so old, he was born in the 70s! And he didn't come cheap. His three-year contract is worth an annual average of $6.25 million. Oh, and he has a no-trade clause, so you can understand why some Leaf fans are concerned.
This Leafs fan is fine with the deal. We gave up no prospects, no draft picks, just cap money we had available. For three years we can watch Marleau play with the kids. And remember, we had a better regular season last year than the Predators, so anything can happen!
Go Leafs go!
Somehow, against all odds, the Nashville Predators have made the Stanley Cup Finals. They were the 16th seed, and I had them going out in the first round. I was so confident in that, I drafted many Chicago Blackhawks in my annual playoff pool.
Leafs fans will take some delight in the fact P. K. Subban might win a cup the season after being traded by Montreal, but Nashville making their first finals simply magnifies the Leafs drought. Not the championship drought, but the fact we haven't even played in a finals since 1967.
Below are the active teams who haven't played in a Stanley Cup final since 1967. One of these teams is not like the others.
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Winnipeg Jets
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Minnesota Wild
- Phoenix Coyotes
But it's coming... you know it and I know it.
Despite frustrating me for three quarters, the Raptors actually won in Milwaukee yesterday to tie their first round series with the Bucks at 2 games apiece. They should advance to the second round, although nothing is a surety when this team is in the playoffs. They're rather unpredictable, hence the frustration.
Tonight I'll be glued to the Leafs game as we try to win at home to force a game seven with the President's Trophy winning Capitals. What a series this has been... four games have been decided in OT and the other was decided by a single goal. The Leafs are hanging with the big boys and it's been thrilling.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are in Anaheim so I've been waking up to find out how we've done. We lost last night, lowering our record to 4-13. That's a .235 winning percentage. That's bad... very, very bad.
The past two years the Jays and Leafs were flipped. The Jays were thrilling, advancing to two ALCS. The Leafs were junk. They've essentially switched spots on the Toronto pro sports spectrum.
One day, all three teams will be competitive. It's never happened before, but hope springs eternal. In the meantime, I'm just glad we've had two out of three in the playoffs the past few years. It sure beats how things looked a mere five years ago.
And two out of three ain't bad.
Bill Barilko's overtime winner in game five of the 1951 Stanley Cup final was scored 66 years ago tonight. I love the legend of Bashin' Bill and have hosted this tribute in one form or another for the past 19 years.
If you're interested in Bill Barilko's story, I urge you to listen to my conversation with hockey historian Kevin Shea. He's quite the expert and full of interesting details. It's mandatory listening for any Maple Leafs fans interested in the club's 100 year history.
On the topic of Leafs history, Tim Thompson's updated Maple Leafs Forever montage captures it perfectly. I simply can't get tired of watching this.
Tim and I spoke about this montage in great detail during his visit to my basement studio. If you want to hear how it came together and the effort involved, listen to this.
The song accompanying Tim's montage is Peace and Quiet by Ron Hawkins, lead singer and songwriter for Lowest of the Low. Ron visited me last summer and we spoke about this song and its use by Tim for Maple Leafs Forever. Here's that conversation.
Tonight, let's win it for Bill. Go Leafs!
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