Toronto Maple Leafs
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!
Looking back, the best thing that ever happened to the Toronto Maple Leafs was blowing that 4-1 third period lead in Boston. At the time, it was excruciating. Up 4-1 in the game seven with about ten minutes to play, the upset was imminent. Or so we thought...
Had we won that game, would we have torn it all down for a true rebuild? Would the Shanaplan have come to town? Would we be where we are today?
Where we are today is what this entry is all about. The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot. The rookies have exceeded all expectations, and Auston Matthews is sitting on 39 goals. It's a young, fun team that's getting results for Mike Babcock. It's a team that looks like it's only a couple of years away from truly contending for the Stanley Cup.
We Leaf fans deserve this. If you exclude the shortened 2012-13 season, we haven't been in the playoffs since 2003-04. I was in my 20s in 2003-04 with a two year old who is now a hulking fifteen year old. And that fifteen year old owns an Auston Matthews jersey and absolutely adores his Leafs. I can't tell you how excited I am to watch Leaf playoff games with that boy.
Go Leafs Go!
I've been busy. I've failed to document not one but two significant trades involving Toronto teams.
Yesterday the Leafs sent minor-leaguer Byron Froese and a conditional second round pick in 2017 to Tampa for fourth-line centre Brian Boyle. The only reason you make this deal is to make the playoffs this season. It seems the tear-down is officially over.
Depending on the day, I can be passionately want the Leafs to miss the playoffs and land another top ten pick or make the playoffs and give me some fun April nights with the family. It seems the Shanaplan now calls for option #2. Giddy-up!
The Raptors, meanwhile, have won four in a row after a rough stretch. All four games have been comebacks from double-digit deficits and thrilling finishes. The defensive intensity late in games has been amped up with the addition of Serge Ibaka and now P.J. Tucker.
While I was busy, the Raptors sent Jared Sullinger and two second-round draft picks to Phoenix for the former Toronto draftee. We're going to need him if we're going to take a series against the Cavs.
We're all hoping we don't meet the Cavs until the conference final, but Kyle Lowry's surgery makes that unlikely. But if a finals berth goes through Cleveland, it might be better to catch them early. Here's hopin'.
The Maple Leafs Forever is brilliant. Now that Tim Thompson has updated the montage to include Auston and the kids, it's even better.
If you're interested in long form discussions about this Leafs montage, I spoke with both Tim Thompson and singer Ron Hawkins about it in great detail.
In this 216th episode, Mike chats with Kevin Shea about his years working with "Weird Al" Yankovic and Motley Crue, selling Smells Like Teen Spirit to radio and the legend of Bill Barilko in glorious blue and white detail. This episode is exactly 1:18:17.
You can listen to this episode in a variety of ways:
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