"I skated 10 times, maybe, all summer."
Oh, Phil. You really put your foot in your mouth this time. Your footlong hot dog, amirite?! Phil Kessel doesn't rock a six-pack like some other NHL players, and the hockey media can't seem to stop poking him about it. So it was no surprise that when Kessel admitted at training camp he had spent the entire summer relaxing, and not working out, a controversy quickly boiled over. Every personality in the hockey universe explained their beef, or lack of, with Kessel's physique. Even some publications that normally steer clear of hockey weighed in on the matter.
Will Kessel spend this off-season in the gym doing crunches and squats? Probably not. And good for him. For the record, he still beat Tyler Seguin in this year's fastest skater category at the All-Star Skills competition.
Orr and McLaren cut from Leafs roster.
The 2013-14 season will likely go down in history as the swan song for the giant hockey goon. On October 6, a refreshed Leafs management team finally pulled the plug on their low-minute, zero-scoring, heavy-weight fighters; one of the last teams in the league (though not the last) to make this decision.
Orr played his final game as a Leaf last night. He was first signed way back in 2009, and was technically the longest tenured player on the roster. McLaren was picked up on waivers from the Sharks in 2012, apparently on a request by Randy Carlyle when former Leaf fighter Mike "Cocaine Fists" Brown was injured. Carlyle couldn't bear to not have two face-punchers on the roster at any time. From that point on to the end of the 2013-14 season he dressed at least one of Orr and McLaren, and often both, for every game. They contributed almost nothing beyond punching other heavyweights in the face in pre-planed fights, combining for zero points in 2013-14. It was truly a stunning moment to see them go and the roster space freed up for players with at least a little skill.
OK. Fine. They did have that one awesome game where Orr KO'd two Habs at once and McLaren laughed while Josh Gorges tried to fight him.
Ashton suspended for prohibited drug.
Would you think twice about using borrowed medicine if it could cost you $170,000, and possibly your career?
If so, then you aren't Carter Ashton.
On November 6 the perpetually sad looking Leaf was suspended 20 games, resulting in $170,000 in lost pay, after failing a drug test. Ashton released a statement through the Players Association with the bizarre explanation that he had borrowed an inhaler at a summer training camp when he had an asthma attack, and decided to just keep on using it without telling anyone. The inhaler's medicine contained Clenbuterol, which, per The Star, is not even approved for human use in Canada or the U.S., so who knows what country it originally came from. The drug is often sought out for its ability to increase metabolism, and aid in cutting weight and body fat, something often wanted by athletes arriving at training camps.
I say this with no judgements at all but Ashton is in phenomenal shape. Simply ripped.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) November 6, 2014
Ashton was waived shortly after the suspension was over, and wound up being traded back to Tampa, along with David Broll, in exchange for pretty much nothing.
Unfortunately, Ashton was not the only humiliating failed test for the Leafs organization this season. On January 13th Brad Ross was handed a 20 game suspension for violating the performance enhancing substances agreement.
Lupul seriously injured. Again.
No season is complete without Joffrey Lupul sustaining a major injury. This season there were multiple!
First he broke a bone in his hand during an awkward fall at practice and missed 9 games. Then, on New Year's Eve, Milan Lucic decided to fall on top of him, causing a mysterious "lower body injury," which forced him out for all of January, missing 11 games.
Apparently it didn't heal sufficiently: on February 11, Lupul went on Injured Reserve for the same injury again. This time he missed one week. All told, he managed to play 55 games this season. Since becoming a Leaf in 2011 Lupul has missed almost 100 games due to a dozen various injuries.Our friend Jeffler compiled his recent years' injury history here.
The tweet that rocked #TradeCentre.
March 2nd started as a relatively quiet NHL trade deadline day, specifically for the Maple Leafs. The only deal of note was Olli Jokinen being moved out. Did you even remember Olli Jokinen was briefly a Leaf?
Indeed, there was little trade action in the morning for any team; so one might assume there could be nothing on TSN's Trade Centre broadcast that would generate a firestorm of controversy and cause a Twitter meltdown.
But, controversy, uh, ...finds a way.
Twitter user @AdragnaA21, later revealed to be a man named Anthony Adragna, tweeted a joke about Joffrey Lupul having an affair with Dion Phaneuf's wife, Elisha Cuthbert. It's the kind of background noise on Twitter that would generally be ignored, or possibly laughed at by a few people, except it somehow wound up being broadcast on TSN's live show for the whole country to see.
TSN thought it would be a great idea to have tweets with their #TradeCentre hashtag displayed on the screen during the broadcast. We've seen before that it is a really bad idea to do this.
Joffrey Lupul was not exactly happy.
TSN just a poor mans TMZ. Embarrassing.— Joffrey Lupul (@JLupul) March 2, 2015
TSN apologized, first on Twitter, then later in the day on air. But it didn't end there: Lupul threatened a lawsuit against Adragna. Adragna eventually issued a public apology and the legal proceedings were dropped.
Still, the whole incident accelerated the Leafs players' deteriorating relationship with the Toronto media.
Get familiar with #nocomment— Joffrey Lupul (@JLupul) March 3, 2015
"You're not here to be a girl about it."
Morgan Rielly today said positive approach, strong work ethic during tough time was key. "You're not here to be a girl about it."— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) February 20, 2015
It's not hard to imagine that storm of controversy that comment created on Twitter. But it also provoked some fantastic discussion and introspection. Some of the best, right here on PPP.
Katie Flynn wrote about why Rielly's comments will always be a big deal.
To his credit, Rielly delivered a sincere and well thought out apology.
Three of our PPP writers wrote that an apology wasn't really the remedy to the real problem; his comments were a symptom an issue much larger in scope.
Bernier thought Mandela played hockey.
In what will likely (hopefully!) be the most embarrassing moment of his career, Jonathan Bernier responded to a reporter's question about Nelson Mandela by offering admiration for his skills "on and off the ice" as a hockey player.
The cringe-worthy interview was taken at an event organized by the Toronto Raptors to honour Mandela's legacy, one year after his death. The gaffe might have even passed by unnoticed, but, for some unfathomable reason, the video was posted on the Raptors' website as a feature item. It quickly went viral.
A fascinating part of the whole incident is how Bernier appears to understand that he is in over his head, and has no idea who Mandela really is, yet he keeps answering the questions with such remarkable smoothness and no hesitation. If he had pulled out his phone and Googled the name two minutes earlier this could have all been avoided.
The week of hell: blow out losses; "Get away from me"; jerseys on the ice; and stickghazi.
It was going fairly well for the Leafs through to mid-November. Not great, but definitely on track to make the playoffs. They even cobbled together a three game win streak that was capped off with a blowout 6-1 win over the Bruins, in which the JvR-Bozak-Kessel line combined for 4 goals, and 8 total points.
But the following week, November 16-22, will go down as one of the most bizarre, controversial, and downright batty in the history of the team; and as an uncomfortable low-point for relations between the team and the media.
It started with two big losses. First a 6-2 loss in Buffalo to the lowly Sabres. Post-game, Kessel had a minor confrontation with Jonas Siegel who was chasing him for a comment.
Kessel's exact reaction when asked for comment: "Get away from me."— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) November 16, 2014
This caused Siegel to have a minor meltdown; going on the radio the next day to say he was "not going to hide the way [Kessel] acts anymore." Brian Burke, who just happened to be in town at the time, retorted that Kessel "shouldn't have to talk to pukes". Oh Burkie, how we miss you.
All of this was followed up on the 18th with the Leafs worst game of the season, a 9-2 loss at home to the Predators. The team wasn't exactly endearing itself to the fans.
Another night, another Leafs jersey on the ice. This time during play. pic.twitter.com/mut2YS8Vnp— Josh Gold-Smith (@GoldAndOrSmith) November 19, 2014
The next day there were rumours of imminent changes when the whole management group - even Cliff Fletcher (did Stavro give him a lifetime contract?) - appeared together at the ACC to watch the practice.
In the end, they simply reiterated their support for Carlyle and insisted the team was going in the right direction.
The Leafs did turn things around quickly. On Thursday the 20th they whooped the Bolts 5-2 at the ACC, but something went awry at the end of the game. The team didn't raise their sticks to salute the fans after the victory.
Because they are the Leafs, this became a national crisis. It made headlines in every paper, it was the subject of radio call in shows, and it was an item on local news broadcasts across Canada.
Answers were demanded from the team at practice the following day. One particularly deranged reporter shouted at Phaneuf "Why don't you just get it over with and bite the head off a chicken?" which apparently was asking him to admit it was a snub of the fans.
The Leafs insisted the salute was a goner, permanently, but the stick salute came back, the very next game.
Kadri suspended for late arrival.
Spring forward, fall back. Did you remember to change your clock for daylight savings time?
Nazem Kadri, FWIW, is not on a regular line this morning.— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) March 11, 2015
We don't really know if the time change was what caused Kadri to arrive late for practice, but it's fun to imagine it was.
The fallout of Kadri being 15 minutes late was just another crazy moment in a crazy season. Kadri was sent home by coach Horachek, but that was just the start.
Leafs' President Brendan Shanahan held an impromptu media scrum where he declared "there's a history here" and "Incidents like this won't be tolerated." It was the perfectly vague type of comment to throw the media into another frenzy.
It also was not the first time the Leafs have thrown Kadri under the bus. Most famously, Dallas Eakins all but called him fat back in 2012.
It will be interesting to see management's true opinion of Kadri by how they treat him as the Leafs execute a total rebuild over the next few seasons.
Clarkson traded for Horton.
It was totally unexpected. Totally unfathomable. Somehow, they pulled it off. David Clarkson and his worst-in-history contract, was traded.
The @MapleLeafs have acquired forward Nathan Horton from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for forward David Clarkson. #TMLtalk— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) February 26, 2015
How could this ever happen? In the end, it took a very unusual set of circumstances where two trading partners actually both benefited, or at least thought they would.
The Blue Jackets were saddled with an uninsured contract to pay Nathan Horton for years, despite him having an almost certainly career ending injury. Their internal spending cap precluded them from being able to take advantage of the LTIR salary-cap relief. David Clarkson's contract, with irrevocable bonuses, was about the same structure, and having him meant the Jackets would be able to put that salary to work on the ice as an actual hockey player. Even if not worth the cost, it was better than paying Horton not to play. The Leafs are a rich team, and so can of course take advantage of the LTIR cap relief. It was truly a bizarre, yet perfect match, as we covered here on PPP.
Of course, Clarkson was Clarkson, and wound up with a season ending injury just days after joining the Blue Jackets. At least their water bottles will be safe, next season.
Randy Carlyle fired.
I don't think I need to write much about this one.
After being inexplicably extended, we lamented the culture of entitlement that saw him keep his job despite repeatedly being shown to be an abject failure.
Let's just enjoy this moment one more time.
But the question does remain, who will be the next permanent Leafs coach? We may find out Monday!
And that's a wrap! If you have other ideas for great moments this season, please leave them in the comments!