Friday, May 23, 2014

West Final starts tonight

Photo Courtesy of the Toronto Marlies

Clayton Theriault
Staff Writer

The Toronto Marlies are perfect so far in the postseason. After sweeping the Milwaukee Admirals in three games and the Chicago Wolves in four, the Marlies advanced to the American Hockey League's Western Conference Final for the second time in three years. They are the only team in the AHL that has not registered a loss in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The Western Conference Final will, without a doubt, be their biggest test yet as they will be facing off against the Texas Stars, a team that led the AHL with 106 points after posting aa record of 48-18-3-7 during the regular season. The Marlies and Stars split their four game season series 2-2.

If the Marlies want to have success against the Stars they must continue their special teams dominance. Toronto's penalty-killing percentage is 89.7, while their power play percentage is at 25. Similarly, the Stars penalty-killing percentage is at 86.7. Their power play percentage is 22. Through two rounds it is apparent that discipline is a must from both teams in this series.

Game one of the Western Conference Final begins tonight at 8:30 p.m in Texas. The game can be seen on LeafsTV.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Marlies Take 3-0 Lead

Photo Courtesy of the Toronto Marlies
Clayton Theriault
Staff Writer

The Toronto Marlies are the hottest team in Toronto. After defeating the Chicago Wolves 4-3 at Ricoh Coliseum on Wednesday night, the Marlies remain unbeaten in the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs with a 6-0 record. With the win, Toronto took a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Semifinal series.

After a back and fourth game, Jerry D'amigo scored 3:28 in to the first overtime to defeat the Wolves. D'amigo has points in each of the Marlies six games so far this postseason and leads the American Hockey League with 11 points (4G, 7A). Toronto's special teams were dominant once again, as Toronto went 1-2 on the power play and 2-3 on the penalty kill. The other goal scorers for the Marlies were Peter Holland, T.J. Brennan and Brandon Kozun.

The Marlies have two chances at home to close out the best-of-seven series. Game 4 goes Friday night at 7 p.m. If needed, game 5 is scheduled for Saturday night at 7 p.m. Tickets are still available for Game 4.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Leafs future set for Worlds

Photo Courtesy of

Justin Smith

Team Canada is gearing up for preliminary round match-ups at the World Hockey Championships, and there are some familiar faces set to compete.

James Reimer, Morgan Reilly and Nazem Kadri are ready to start their journey for gold and will face France tomorrow. After a disappointing season and an uncertain future for the Leafs this summer, all three players are looking to prove that they can compete with the best.

According to TSN Ottawa Bureau Reporter Brent Wallace the lines at practice today had Kadri centering the second line, while Reilly was placed on the third defensive pairing.

With Reimer set to get the first start, he will likely be playing for the chance to impress not only the accompanying Canadian coaching staff but also Leafs management. Although many believe that he will be traded in the off-season at some point, it is also conceivable that he may be playing for a contract with his future team. Whichever reason he might have, if Reimer performs well at this year's Worlds, the will be the beneficiary. With Team Canada being situated in a different grouping than Team U.S.A, all three Leafs will likely have to wait until the quarter-finals to face their teammate Jake Gardiner.

The tournament is being held in Minsk, Belrus this year, with 16 teams participating. Tomorrow's contest between Canada and France can be seen on TSN at 9:30 a.m Eastern.   

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Marlies Set to face Wolves

Photo Courtesy of The Toronto Marlies

Clayton Theriault
Staff Writer

The Toronto Marlies closed out their opening round best-of-five series with the Milwaukee Admirals with a 2-0 win on Thursday night. Drew MacIntyre was the first star of the game with a 29 save shutout. Greg Mckegg scored with just over two minutes left in the second period and T.J. Brennan added an empty net goal late in the third to seal the fate of the Admirals.

On Sunday it was announced that Toronto will face off against the Chicago Wolves (AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues) in the second round of the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Marlies and Wolves split their season series 1-1. Both games were decided by just one goal. Game one of the best-of-seven Western Conference Semifinal series is scheduled for Friday May 9 at 8:30 p.m. ET in Chicago.

Who to Watch:

Jerry D'amigo: (2G - 4A)

Trevor Smith: (0G - 5A)

T.J. Brennan: (2G - 1A)

Drew MacIntyre: (3-0-0  1 SO  1.33 GAA)

After the first round it appears the Marlies are in top shape. Round two will be a tough task for Toronto as the Wolves have home ice advantage. However, the Marlies will have a three game home stand after the first two games of the series. Those three games are absolutely vital if they are going to win this Semifinal match-up. If necessary, games six and seven will be played in Chicago.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Playoff leading Marlies

Photo Courtesy of the Toronto Marlies

Justin Smith

This time of year there seem to be many sentiments in sport that tend to hold true.

Leadership, grit and team toughness are just some of the things that you will likely see over the course of a post-season run. Just look at how the Toronto Raptors have captured the hearts of Toronto during their first round playoff match-up with the Brooklyn Nets. Unfortunately the Leafs found a way to let their fans endure another collapse in the Spring, so they won't be able to emulate these types of virtues.

Which leads us to the Toronto Marlies, who are on the brink of sweeping their first round opponent in the Milwaukee Admirals. With key contributions from Jerry D'Amigo, Sam Carrick and captain Trevor Smith; this young team will attempt to mirror their Calder Cup run in 2012.

The statistical information of the aforementioned players are pretty impressive with only two games being played thus far in the post-season.

1. D'Amigo leads the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs in scoring with five points. (2G - 3A)
    He ranks 1st on the Marlies all-time playoff scoring list with 27 points in 28 games. (11G - 16A)

2. Trevor Smith leads all players in playoff assists in the 2014 playoffs so far.

3. Sam Carrick leads all players in playoff goals in the 2014 playoffs so far.

Side Note:

What is being dubbed as the 'Black Aces' by the Marlies coaching staff; Fabrice Herzog, Carter Verhaeghe, Frederik Gauthier and newly added Conner Brown make up this group of "extra skaters". They are learning what it takes to be successful by former NHL captain and Leafs' player development adviser, Steve Staios. All four players will likely see some ice-time during these Calder Cup playoffs due to curiosity and injuries.

Photo Courtesy of THE CANADIAN PRESS

The 'Black Aces' regular season stats:

Connor Brown - Erie Otters (Captain)
Leafs 2012 draft pick: 6th Round - 156th overall.

Position: Right Wing
Shoots: Right
Height: 5'11
Weight: 170
Birthdate: January 14 1994
Hometown: Etobicoke, Ontario

2013 - 2014 OHL Regular Season: 68GP  45G - 83A (128 points)

Frederik Gauthier -  Rimouski Oceanic
Leafs 2013 draft pick: 1st Round - 21st overall

Position: Centre
Shoots: Left
Height: 6'4
Weight: 215
Birthdate: April 26 1995
Hometown: Laval, Quebec

2013 - 2014 OMJHL Regular Season: 54GP  18G - 32A (52 points)

Carter Verhaeghe - Niagara IceDogs
Leafs 2013 draft pick: 3rd Round - 82nd overall

Position: Centre
Shoots: Left
Height: 6'2
Weight: 185
Birthdate: August 14 1995
Hometown: Waterdown, Ontario

2013 - 2014 OHL Regular Season: 65GP  28G - 54A (82 points)

Fabrice Herzog - Quebec Remparts
Leafs 2013 draft pick: 5th Round - 142nd overall

Position: Right Wing
Shoots: Left
Height: 6'2
Weight: 189
Birthdate: December 9 1994
Hometown: Frauenfeld, Switzerland

2013 - 2014 QMJHL Regular Season: 61GP  32G - 26A (58 points)

Game time is at 7:00 pm at Ricoh Coliseum. The game will be broadcasted live on LeafsTV.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Marlies set for game three

Photo courtesy of

Clayton Theriault
Staff Writer

When someone is talking about sports and they bring up the city of Toronto what team do you usually think of first? Without hesitation most people would say the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, after a disappointing season where the Leafs failed to make the playoffs yet again, the attention should be on the Toronto Marlies. Over the last three seasons they have finished first in the American Hockey League's North Division and have finished with 96 points all three years. Every Maple Leafs fan should be watching this team.

After a disappointing Calder Cup Finals loss on a botched offside call by the officials in 2012 and a disappointing second round exit last year, the Marlies are hoping this is their year to win it all. After posting a regular season record of 45-25-2-4, they went into this year's playoffs as the third seed in the AHL's Western Conference. Their opponent; the Milwaukee Admirals. Through two games of the quarterfinal match-up, the Marlies have a 2-0 stranglehold on the opening round five game series. This was thanks to solid performances by Sam Carrick, Brandon Kozun and Jerry D'amigo. Drew Mcyntire posted a 2.00 GAA and a 0.933 SV% over those two games.

The Marlies hope to close out the series on Thursday which would give them a well deserved rest for the second round. Puckdrop for Game 3 is set for 7 p.m. at Ricoh Coliseum. If necessary games four and five will be played on Saturday May 3 and Sunday May 4 at 3 p.m.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The road less traveled

Justin Smith

With Brendan Shanahan set to take over the reins in Leaf land, what exactly will be in store for the franchise going forward?

Shanahan has the tangibles of a winner on almost every level, and that is probably the main reason Leiweke decided to bring him in. To me though, the single most important aspect of this new hiring is simply that he is a new set of eyes to evaluate this sinking ship of a team. Take into account the amount of possible candidates for blame spreading like a rampant forest-fire; perhaps he can provide a little perspective to a management staff that has no clue how to deal with this.

Now I have also evaluated the situation and it has lead me to the one thing this franchise has avoided like the plague for some reason. Not once have I seen a true commitment to taking the slow route, and building through the draft. I know there are many who will say that it is unfeasible to do that now because of the players the team currently has under contract, like Kessel. There also is the issue of the 100th anniversary in a couple of years that will surely be wasted with a losing season.

But logic aside a second, what if Shanahan looks at this team and decides that a 'true' rebuild is the way to go? I'm not sure how he would even pull it off considering the amount of players you would have to ship out just to be THAT bad. I can't say I would be totally heart broken about him deciding over the summer to just blow up the team and start drafting at the top for a change. It definitely would be a change because lets face it, the Leafs aren't exactly the envy of teams when it comes to prospective players. And to that end, what is a better time to do it then next season?

So the first move he would likely make is to fire the coach and maybe even the GM. Next, Shanahan would want to hire a coach that can coach young talent and essentially grow with the team. If you're lost on that fact, just think of what the Oilers did by wooing Dallas Eakins. Funny thing is, the second the Leafs hired Carlyle I knew it was going to be a mistake. Eakins should have been the coach of the Leafs last season and trust me the players would be better for it. But I don't want to get in to that right now because I could write another three articles about that alone.

Next you probably would trade your most valuable players to get the highest return in prospects and picks. Now of course you have already made a list of maybe five or six players that you feel can grow with the team. Likely Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel would be the two you would look to move for maximum return of assets. Get rid of your older/overpaid d-men, and promote some of the Marlies you have stewing in the minors, like Carter Ashton.

"But Justin, why would you do all of this knowing you just traded for a 24-year-old Jonathan Bernier?"

Two reasons:

1. You ACTUALLY want to change this team.

2. Who is to say that with J. Bernier these younger players can't have a bit of success? Look at how young the Avalanche are and they have been on fire for the entire season. Hockey media had them drafting top 5 in this years draft. Amazing what a new coach and steady goal-tending does for a team. Granted they have some pretty remarkable players, but they are very YOUNG players. Who is to say if you have a couple of good drafts, re-sign a now 26-year-old Bernier, that you can't make the playoffs?

All I am suggesting is that maybe Brendan Shanahan comes in and looks at what HASN'T been done yet. If you are to assume that is what he will do, it is conceivable to assume he will point to a proper rebuild.

Is it probable, no.

Will he likely do it, probably not.
It's a bit too difficult at this stage and maybe a bit too logical at the same time.

I just think it is kind of funny how everyone wants to put in their two cents as to why the Leafs don't have those go-to guys on the roster. Or maybe suggest who gets fired this off-season after another pathetic end-of-season collapse.

Perhaps it is time for this organization to stop delaying the inevitable and take the road less traveled for once. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Who needs talent?

Justin Smith

Judging by the last post on the Review, it seems I was not alone in thinking that the Leafs had nowhere to go but up, just three short weeks ago.

How sad it is for me to write this, that this team could go in the wrong direction so fast. The Leafs were third in their division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. The key word here is 'were' and for fans it is the third time in as many years they have had to endure a collapse from this team one way or another.

That is not what this post is about though, frankly the topic has been over discussed over the last week. There needs to be some realism brought to the situation going forward though. With growing speculation on who is staying and who is gone, the guesses get more ridiculous each passing day.

Why are there so many people so keen on having Dave Nonis ship Nazem Kadri out of town as fast as possible? How can these people logistically defend their position of trading him. I only say so because to me the thought of seeing Kadri traded seems ludicrous.

Yes the Leafs have had a bad season, and it has only gotten worse as the campaign has wore on. Defensively they were never good, at all, ever. If you thought they were, then you were watching the team through rose-coloured glasses this season. The fact the team had no ability in the least to play defence is not a good enough reason for me to trade my second-line centre. For clarification, Kadri is 23-years-old and is very capable of being a two-way scoring centre. How do I now this? Just look at the stats from last year. Kadri was second only to Mark Fraser (defenceman) in +/- through the shortened season.

"But Justin, the whole team was playing better defensively, so obviously that stat is a bit over-exaggerated."


Would you like to know Mikhail Grabovski's +/-? (-10)
How about Dion Phaneuf's? (-4)
Phil Kessel? (-3)
James van Reimsdyk? (-7)

Oh wait, what about the one guy that seems to be standing in Kadri's way? I bet Tyler Bozak was better defensively last season right? Nope. (-1)

My point is simply that in a half-season that was widely considered successful for the team, only one forward reached double-digits in +/-. So to all of those people saying he is a defensive liability, he isn't. As a matter of fact, one could argue that the team played as well as they did because of Kadri's improved play. It sure wasn't Kessel or JVR who brought that defensive part to the game. Aren't they supposed to be untouchable because they are so important to the team? If that truly is the case, then I think it's about time the fans and media alike start thinking of Kadri in that same light. This season was pretty horrible to watch at times; is it so incomprehensible that Kadri 'ONLY' was able to score 50 points in his first full year as a Leaf?

In order to play devils advocate, I am willing entertain possible trade scenarios for those of you who are utterly convinced it will happen

What return would you want?

        - Nazem Kadri, Carter Ashton and a first round pick in 2014.


          Kevin Bieksa, a second round pick in 2014

That is literally the best trade scenario I could come up with, and I still wouldn't do it if I'm the Leafs. Heck, I don't think I would even do it if I'm the Canucks. Assuming of course that this 'IS' the deal, the Leafs get their 'D' man. Here's the problem though, who is going to play centre? Bolland?

Not at 5.25 million dollars a season and certainly not for seven more years. Has it been so long already that we forgot the value a delusional Nonis put on Clarkson before considering what he is on THIS team.

So let me get this straight:

1. You want Bozak as your number one centre, with nobody who potentially could step up in a few years, waiting behind him?

2. You also want to replace the second-line centre position with an injury prone soon-to be 30 year-old centre; who has never been anything other than a third liner in his professional career.

Sounds like bad business to me.

My point, subtle or not folks, is to not trade Nazem Kadri for anything.
In closing I have only two words for unconvinced readers:

Alexander Steen...

or if you need a little more heartache...

Tuukka Rask


Friday, March 7, 2014

Leafs Fans Get Their #1

AbelImages/Getty Images
Justin Smith

There has been few 19-year-old NHL players I've seen that can stand in front of the media after practice and defend one of his teammates.

After Randy Carlyle and the Leafs finished their practice Friday morning Morgan Reilly expressed his feelings toward Tyler Bozaks critics.

 “I personally think he’s one of the top players in the league. I think he’s really had a chance to prove that this year. So I think all the chirps he gets about not being this or not being that are all stupid. I think he’s one of the best players out there,” said Reilly. (From Michael Traikos of the National Post)

Since Bozak came back from injury in late December, his line with James vanReimsdyk and Phil Kessel has arguably been the hottest trio in the NHL. With only 40 games under his belt, Bozak is at nearly a point-per game pace with 37 points. He has 12 points in his last 10 games and scored the winning goal on Wednesday night against the Rangers who are chasing the Leafs in the East.

The criticsm of Bozak is that the only reason he is producing at such a torrid pace this season is because he is centring two star forwards. Many of his critics are of the belief that if he was replaced by a legitimate number one centre, his line-mates would play better.

The fact of the matter is Tyler Bozak is in the top 15 of producing centre-iceman in the NHL. He comes up just behind Crosby and Getzlaf in points produced this season.

Is it time we start considering Bozak as a legitimate first line centre? Has he done enough to impress Leafs fans since Brian Burke signed him as a college free agent?

The one point I keep coming back to is that Kessel is on pace to score 40 goals this season with Bozak as his centre-iceman for the majority of the year. Wasn't that what we kept saying was the bench-mark for what a true number one centre was on this team? Get Kessel his 40 goals and now the Leafs have their centre. I remember a couple of years ago that was all that people kept saying. Even last summer before Bozak re-signed with the Leafs many fans were against him returning because the thought was still out there that he was not like a Ryan Kesler.

A point-per game pace for my first line centre is good enough for me.