After the Maple Leafs started the new year off right, with a 6-0 dominating (if sloppy) win over the Ottawa Senators, we saw a whole bunch of new things. Ilya Mikheyev finally got into a game this season and had an immediate impact. TJ Brodie had three points with a backhand wraparound goal and a beautiful stretch pass.
Is this an all new Leafs for the new year? Who knows! But I wanted to take this as inspiration for a lazy-Sunday FTB idea... a wish list of 22 things for the Leafs to finish the season, to honour the start of the ‘22 year.
#1) Ilya Mikheyev finally scores on a consistent basis. It could lead to upping his trade value, or it could just help the Leafs with even more depth scoring. But I just like the guy, and I’d love to see him go on a run and score on those breakaways when he gets them.
#2) Jake Muzzin has not looked like himself this season. If he was indeed playing through some kind of pain or injury, then I wish that this COVID break is a blessing in disguise for him. He hasn’t played since December 15th, and he was a game time decision since he only just came off of COVID protocol. The Leafs’ next game that has NOT been postponed yet is Jan 5th, which will be just over 3 weeks after Muzzin last played on Dec 15th. I’m just hoping he’s used the time to heal, rest, recover, and come back looking more like his old self.
#3) On a similar note, I hope Timothy Liljegren comes back from his COVID protocol, is still given some chances now and then, and shows his strong start to the season wasn’t a fluke. It would be huge for the Leafs this year and beyond if he can establish himself even with a low-bar of being useful on the third pair.
#4) Speaking of health and COVID protocol, I’ll put in a generic wish that the Leafs’ keep some good luck when it comes to both. Especially for the playoffs, where they DON’T experience a traumatic injury to one of their key players.
#5) Let’s make a specific wish that the goalies — and especially Jack Campbell — stay healthy. The Leafs will go as far as their goalies take them.
#6) Whatever black magic Kyle Dubas used on Wayne Simmonds and Jason Spezza to keep them looking and playing good for their ages, I wish he keeps doing it. Yeah I know Simmonds isn’t that old, but his body sure was over the past few seasons. But this year he’s looked pretty great.
#7) Ditto for whatever black magic he used on Michael Bunting, David Kämpf and Ondřej Kaše. They have been pretty great additions to the team, for not much money, to fill out their depth. Bunting and Kaše have been especially great.
#8) More goals for Nick Ritchie, regardless of where he finishes the season. I feel bad for the guy, and I don’t even think he’s been that bad all season even if he started rough. Let him go on a hot shooting percentage streak, if only to boost his trade value.
#9) Speaking of trades, I have a few trade-related wishes. Let’s start with... if my above wish for good health for the whole team works out, and that means they wind up needing to make a trade to avoid being over the cap, I hope they get a pick or two to make up for the fact that they currently only have a 1st, 2nd, and 7th round pick in this year’s draft. They may use that to flip at the deadline for something to shore up their roster, or they may use it on a decent prospect.
#10) Second trade wish, I hope they somehow find a way to swing a real interesting trade at the deadline to shore up their forwards. I don’t know who will wind up being moved out to clear the cap and roster space, or who they may even possibly be able to trade for to make the cap hits work, but I’m hoping its for someone like Tomas Hertl, Joe Pavelski, or another impact forward who is on an expiring UFA deal.
#11) Third trade wish, regardless of what happens the rest of this season, I wish the Leafs will have enough picks in this year’s draft by trading down or dealing some more expensive depth at or ahead of the draft to fill in that gap in their picks. This is selfish, because I find myself more interested in the draft and Leafs prospects than the Leafs themselves these days.
#12) Another draft-related wish, I’ll name a few guys I’ve come to really like and hope the Leafs take with their picks: Gleb Trikozov, Seamus Casey, Owen Pickering, Calle Odelius, Jagger Firkus, Jiri Kulich, Lukas Gustafsson, Kevin Korchinski, Owen Beck, Noah Warren. I plan to start writing some more draft related pieces in the new year, and all of those names will feature in them.
#13) Back to the Leafs. I wish to all that is good and holy in this world that they win a god damned playoff round. Goes without saying that this wish would wind up on the list somewhere.
#14) I wish I didn’t decide to make this wish list as a lazy, easy FTB idea. It’s taking a lot more time and thought than I thought at first, though maybe I could have settled with keeping it to a top 10.
#15) I wish none of Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal, New York Islanders, or Chicago win any of the draft lotteries. Let Shane Wright go to.... Dallas or New Jersey or something.
#16) I wish that Topi Niemelä finishes his Liiga season with the most points by any defenseman, and that he sets a record for most points by an U20 defenseman in Liiga history. He is still on pace for it, I believe, to use Katya’s favourite phrase.
#17) I wish that Matthew Knies finishes the season as Minnesota’s top scoring player. He’s only two points back right now as a freshman, not even playing on the top line. But he’s been so good and so much fun to watch. Him getting older and better over time is an exciting thought.
#18) I wish that Ryan Tverberg continues his hot season. Still not sure of his NHL future but it’s also been fun to follow. He was one of the last picks in his draft, and he was invited to Team Canada’s WJC training camp. That’s a remarkable leap in his development.
#19) I wish that two other Finnish prospects that have struggled this year to put up points end their years strong: Roni Hirvonen and especially Veeti Miettinen. The latter especially has struggled this year after a solid freshman season, but he did just have a two goal, three point night last night. But that still only brought him to 5 goals and 13 points in 18 games.
#20) I wish for better health and more icetime in the KHL for both Rodion Amirov and Dmitri Ovchinnikov!
#21) I wish that Morgan Rielly wins the Norris because it would make so many people mad.
#22) Fuck it, I’ll fly closer to the sun. I wish for a Leafs Cup. GO LEAFS GO!
Where the hell did Matthew Knies come from? | by some asshole
After postponements, scheduling picture for Canadian teams starting to emerge | by Sportsnet, from their intermission 32 thoughts segment if you missed it last night.
Leafs Notebook: A holiday wishlist, Rielly-Brodie’s continued excellence, Matthews’ mind-boggling numbers | by Anthony Petrielli at MLHS
Breaking down the Toronto Maple Leafs depth chart heading into 2022 | by Kyle Cushman at TLN
Hey speaking of Nick Ritchie and how I’m kinda rooting for him, I didn’t even realize he was a healthy scratch last night. I thought he was still on COVID protocol. He’s an expensive 13th forward at $2.5 million for his cap hit... they may have spots open due to injuries or COVID, but if that’s where they think he is on this roster I wouldn’t be surprised if they trade him to free up that cap space and use someone cheaper as their 13th forward with a fully healthy lineup.
Sheldon Keefe says it was a really difficult decision to healthy scratch Nick Ritchie as he says he's really liked the way he's played and practised. "It was a difficult decision because I think he has shown progress... We had to sit one guy here."— James Mirtle (@mirtle) January 2, 2022
A fun stat from last night’s win...
COVID continues to cause havoc for the Marlies and their schedule.
News: The Toronto Marlies upcoming games against the Laval Rocket, originally scheduled for January 7th & 8th have been postponed. Make-up dates will be determined at a later date. https://t.co/OvNwBCYCqF— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) January 1, 2022
Canucks assistant equipment manager credits Kraken fan for detecting cancer | A heartwarming and wholesome story to start the year! Here’s another article on the same story:
And it already has an even better, more wholesome resolution!
How history informs the push to restore the IIHF Women’s World U18 Championship | by Hailey Salvian and Sean Fitz-Gerald at The Athletic
Speaking of women’s hockey, we’re going to start seeing more national team roster announcements for the upcoming Olympics. We got Team USA’s from last night...