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Mailbag: Will the Maple Leafs ever win a round?

Mailbag: Will the Maple Leafs ever win a round?
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We re just about back, aren t we?

The Maple Leafs summer skates are winding down. Training camp opens for real on Wednesday. COVID is still around, of course, so there remains uncertainty about how many people will be allowed in to the Scotiabank Arena at any one time.

The biggest free agent signing of the season in my books: . Arses, prepare to be kicked.

It will be a long season, filled with drama, from Auston Matthews wrist, to Morgan Rielly s contract, to Jack Campbell s goaltending.

And none of it will matter (hockey-wise) unless the Leafs win a round (at least).

QUESTION: Hi Kev, so glad to see the Mailbag back. Hope you are healthy and enjoyed your summer. I don t like imagining trades, as I don t have the inside info I would need, but I can t get one idea out of my head: Auston Matthews for Nathan MacKinnon. Would shake up two contenders who can t get through to the last step. I am probably wrong, but I wonder sometimes if Matthews, when his contract is up, will want to play in the U.S. Leaf fans wouldn t have that concern with MacKinnon. And while I realize Colorado s cap would have to be considered, it just seems like an interesting trade that would be a (almost) pure hockey trade that would excite both cities. I m old enough to remember Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais being traded for Brad Park and Jean Ratelle. Reminds me of that. Always respect your views. What do you think? Thanks, and can t wait to see the Mailbag every Friday.

Steve J

ANSWER: Welcome back, Steve and yes I m healthy and enjoyed what I could of my summer. That trade, sure. Whatever. Don t think it accomplishes much. The Bruins didn t win with Ratelle and Park. The Rangers didn t win Esposito and Vadnais. But it was a heck of a trade. Not sure shaking things up is necessary (yet) in Toronto or Colorado. Not sure it would be even the best thing to do.

QUESTION: Mr. McGran, if Alex Steeves does indeed turn out to be a Star I ll apologize to you in person if you want. In the meantime please stop feeding us more BS from this dysfunctional organization which hasn t appeared in the Cup final since they last won it in 1967. Yes, the Leafs have made an effort to be diverse in hiring all of these women, great on them. None of these people have ever played in the NHL and leaves me to wonder how much they understand what it takes to win in this league, I suspect it s all optics. Again if I m proven wrong I will certainly eat crow, in the meantime maybe you can point out how many women the Raptors have hired that led to their championship season, had it not been for covid they would have won it again.

From where I stand, I don t see the Leafs making it to the playoffs this season, surprise, surprise.

After last season s playoffs, I ve tuned out, I ve supported them for 60 years plus, and now you come along insulting us with these BS stories, they don t merit any coverage, you could do much better.

Have a great evening.

Silvio T

ANSWER: Where to start, where to start. ... First, if you think hiring people who have played in the NHL is the answer to winning the Stanley Cup, let me introduce you to the Tampa Bay Lightning, whose GM, Julien BriseBois, who started out as a lawyer, not a hockey player. And their coach, Jon Cooper, never played pro. We could go on here, like Scotty Bowman never played in the NHL, but let s move on.

Second, if you think it s just optics, well I ll take a multiple Olympic gold-medal winning hockey player who got her medical degree while raising a family and getting better in the sport she loved — playing against men as well, if you remember -- as a role model to develop young players any day of the week.

As for the Raptors hiring women in key roles, well, they re miles ahead of the Leafs. Brittni Donaldson was an assistant coach -- focused on development -- on the 2019 championship team. She was the 10th female assistant coach in NBA history. Teresa Resch is vice-president of basketball operations, who got the OVO Athletic Centre built and was the key to finding a home in Tampa. She s touted as a futre GM.

I could go on, but it sounds like you may not like the idea of women in the NHL. I d suggest you do your best to get used to it. Maybe think of it in other terms: What the Leafs have done for the last 50 years hasn t worked. So let them try something new, with new voices. and new perspectives.

And, uh, how do you like your crow, sir?

QUESTION: Kevin, Let’s assume that the Leafs make the playoffs. Is there any reason to believe that they have improved enough to progress at least into the second round?

Take care,

Gary A

ANSWER: That s the only question that matters this season. I feel like I should end every story with: “But who cares until they win a round.”

QUESTION: Hi Kevin, I don’t agree with you on Matthews surgery. It was ludicrous to wait that long. It’s going to put him behind on his training and preparation for the season. A season for which all the preparation possible is needed. When it was a problem all year, it was crazy to wait.

Craig M

ANSWER: I was being facetious with my “nothing to see here, move along” bit re: Matthews. It doesn t always come across in print. If he s not ready for camp, it s a huge story. If he is ready, then really, nothing to see here. He can skate, just can t hold a stick, while he was out. Skating is the most important thing for hockey players to maintain.

QUESTION: Hi Kevin. Hope you managed some relaxing down time in the all too brief pause between one NHL season and the next. Though for us Leaf fans, the pause is longer than for a lot of others! I found it somewhat interesting how during another playoff flame out, the fan’s whipping boy seems to have moved from William Nylander to Mitch Marner. It almost seemed to me the fact that Marner being named a first team all-star really rubbed it in. A long time, I think, since the Leafs had a first teamer, and all the emphasis on that being a regular season honour sure didn’t help. What’s the path to fan redemption with Mitchell? Anything besides a successful playoff run do it? I can’t really think of anything else. Also, and I apologize for not remembering which writer proposed it, but what about a trade? Marner to the Sabres for 2018 first overall draft pick Rasmus Dahlin? Unlike a lot of fantasy trades, it feels workable. Leafs get a (hopefully) late developing defenceman for a potential Larry Murphy boo target, plus much needed cap relief for a few years. Buffalo gets a winger who may be good enough to persuade Jack Eichel to stay. Or am I dreaming in pastel shades?

Anyway, nice to have you back!

Allan H

ANSWER: I doubt the Sabres would be up for that, and I doubt the Leafs would want that. Like you say, Marner is more a target than Nylander. But a couple of his dipsy-doos to set up Matthews and it will be all forgotten. Until the playoffs. Marner is a terrific talent, maybe the best pure playmaker the Leafs have had in generations. He ll be on Team Canada s first line. Only Leaf fans would ever want to boo a player like that out of town.

QUESTION: Is the refereeing going to be more consistent this new season you think ? Why can’t they call what’s in the rule book ? Cross checking was forgotten during the playoffs to the point of being a joke. Can only imagine how many broken sticks there would have been if they were all wood like a Northlander.

Ruin a career very easily. Seems pretty simple to me to follow the rule book. If a player has to cheat maybe he’s not good enough. Guess the response from baseball fans would be they all cheat.

I don’t see the Leafs looking a whole lot better. Who of the prospects will surprise you do you think?

Thanks

Ken W

ANSWER: I think the age-honoured tradition of blaming the refs will continue to roll in high gear. That said, I thought the playoff reffing was abysmal in the early rounds. The NHL has to come to realize that fans pay to see the stars shine, not the pluggers mug them. The NBA figured this out a long time ago. If it s close, star players get the calls. I m okay with that.

QUESTION: I always liked Tyler Ennis in a Leaf uniform. I would like to see him back in Toronto but I think they have enough bottom 6 losers on board now. Your thoughts?

Mike P

ANSWER: Oh behave. Ennis was fine in Toronto, and Edmonton, but I don t see GM Kyle Dubas as a guy who ll circle back on a player he s let go. He let him go for a reason.

QUESTION: Hey Kev. First time mailbaggin and it s one I think you will like.

Josh Ho-Sang has a PTO with the Leafs. He has been a polarizing player thus far in his career and I believe in second chances for a young man still developing and finding his way in sport and most importantly life.

I will not be one to stand in progresses way or discourage change but wearing number #66 in the NHL is Blasphemous to me. Not even Mario him self could convince me it is an honourable gesture. Not having his number retired is bonkers to me but to unofficially have it retired by players not wearing it out of respect is incredibly powerful. It is in poor taste to defy this unwritten rule and really shows a lack of maturity, so it is my hope that if Ho-Sang earns himself a contract with the Buds that he has addressed whatever flaws that have kept him out of the NHL and starts fresh with a new number because he has realized that some things are bigger then yourself and you have to give respect to get respect.

How do you feel about a player wearing #66?? Especially in the Toronto market!

Frank from Ottawa

ANSWER: Frank, first off welcome. And second off, thanks for introducing a new verb: “Mailbaggin. ” Simply love it.

I got no problem, nor does Lemieux, with any player wearing No. 66. Obviously it s retired in Pittsburgh. Yes, No. 99 is retired league-wide, for good reason. That s it. Not No. 9 (Gordie Howe, Maurice Richard), nor No. 4 (Bobby Orr, Jean Beliveau). For that matter, maybe No. 1 should be retired (Jacques Plante, Johnny Bower, Glenn Hall, Gump Worsley, Terry Sawchuk – though not in Toronto -- Roberto Luongo).
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