Good morning and welcome to our new home, early access readers! Some of y'all have already begun to support us with paid subscriptions and we couldn't be more pleased and grateful. It feels like a huge accomplishment and testament to the community we all collectively built that we can go fully independent this week. Oh, and to Cathy for making it her full-time job for the past month or so to learn how to get the site fully up and running, and to do it all before the playoffs. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Alright, onto the news stuff.
The Toronto Maple Leafs play tonight against the Florida Panthers in their ninth-last game of the 2022-23 regular season. Puck drop is at 7:30 and we will setup a Game Chat both for the old site and for all you early access subscribers.
The Leafs held a practice yesterday and Ilya Samsonov made his return to the team after the birth of his first child with his wife, Maria. His quote is infinitely adorable.
Also at practice were discussions about Ryan O'Reilly and his potential return to the lineup. As "thehumourisironic" has said in comments recently, ROR can't return from LTIR until his 10 games and 24 days is completed. 10 games was completed over the weekend, and assuming ROR was put on LTIR on March 5th, today would be the 24th day. That means he'll be eligible to return to the lineup on Saturday in Ottawa or after. Does Sheldon Keefe include the weekend when he says "week"? I guess we'll find out.
Keefe also acknowledged Timothy Liljegren's great season up to this point and gave his confidence that the young defenseman will work through the adversity. It's not an easy path for Liljegren to reach the top-six for the playoffs, but he has a fair chance.
I agree with Auston, having the creativity is one thing, but the willingness to try things is an entirely different skill. Trust me, as a teacher by day I know this too well. Mitch Marner has it in spades.
Here's something to gnaw on for today. Michael Bunting is going to be a very highly sought after commodity this summer. Mike Johnson thinks he'll get six years at $4 million AAV. Is that out of the Leafs price range? Maybe not? Should the Leafs spend it? Ask me after the playoffs.
Not to be too controversial, but I can't imagine looking at this and wanting to sign Jack Campbell to a long-term extension. A 40-goal difference in Dubas' goaltending decisions has helped the Leafs out massively in a season where Auston Matthews has merely been average.
Also from Micah, the Leafs are only really behind Boston, who breaks the scale, and Carolina when it comes to average goal differential over the course of a game. The Leafs get the lead, keep it, and do very well with it. They look a degree above Tampa Bay, which is also interesting to think about.
Ball hockey! The Leafs, Tim Hortons, and Justin Bieber’s Drew House are collaborating on bringing free summer ball hockey to youth who face barriers in their communities.
Seldo recommends this podcast. I watched the clip and it sounds pretty fun and upbeat. I might give it a download myself!
NHL to Derek Lalonde: "There's a tax for that."
Happy Wednesday, everyone! Go Leafs Go!