It’s not game night. Tonight’s home game against Carolina was postponed due to optimism. That is, that there would soon be a time when Canadian teams could sell full arenas and not lose buckets of money. It appeared that for the January 1 game, the Leafs just didn’t have any ticketed fans at all. Which makes some sense. By the time you add up the numbers of people in the arena, the tickets left over to sell are not worth the bother at a limit of 1,000, and it’s entirely possible that limit is going right down to zero soon.
There’s also been some rumours that the NHL can’t do this postponement in Canada any more, and by about the middle of the month — the next scheduled Leafs home game is January 17 — they will just not do that.
Meanwhile everything is coming up roses for the Leafs. After beating the Senators like they were an AHL team, the NHL gave Auston Matthews the award for the month prior:
Beyond the ordinary ⭐️@AM34 | #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/RiTzdJewxb— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 2, 2022
Almost the entire team is healthy, and they had an ideal game to blow the rust off, followed by some more practice days.
The Leafs are second in the Atlantic by points % to Florida, and the gap is tiny. A couple of wins and they lead the division. The only team in the Metro better than the Leafs and the Panthers is the Hurricanes, so it is very much too bad they aren’t in town today. A match against someone in the top 10 would be good about now.
The next game is on Wednesday against the flailing Oilers, and we can be sure the Mike Babcock talk will start up in earnest. It’s fun watching another team be the centre of the media circus. Next Saturday against the real leaders in the West, the Avalanche should be interesting. It’s the start of a road trip, and it’s a chance for two fast, offensively gifted teams to meet to measure themselves against each other. The Avalanche have better defensive results and are perhaps the team we’d wish the Leafs to be in a more perfect world.
Before that all happens, the question of the cap crunch, which was put off by the delayed return of Jake Muzzin and the slightly, just ever so borderline questionable use of an emergency recall on Sandin five seconds after he’d been sent down, has to be answered.
Once Muzzin is ready to return to play, it’s decision time. Permanently remove a forward. Temporarily put someone like Spezza or Simmonds on the Taxi Squad or send Timothy Liljegren to the AHL. Yes I know you think the Leafs should just waive Nick Ritchie, maybe even make him wear a dunce cap and a shirt that says “bad player” while they do it, but they won’t. Not least because they understand shooting % at least a little.
Hey, a highlight that isn’t that Knies Guy:
That's how you capitalize on the 4 on 3 power play!— HarvardMHockey (@HarvardMHockey) January 3, 2022
ESPN+ (https://t.co/xFWmmUpSoB)/Int'l (https://t.co/saulstaKBG pic.twitter.com/3hAJ4gotIC
And that’s about all that’s going on. If you’re off work today, enjoy the last day of your holidays, and if you’re one of the millions of workers who don’t get office-job schedules, have the best Monday at work of the year so far!