Another night, another victory for the Maple Leafs last night. It wasn’t a victory for all the players though as today 7 players were cut from training camp. Full details inside this edition of The Leafs Report.
The Leafs went into the Bell Center in Montréal a tired bunch last night, but they still managed to scrape together a 2-1 victory in overtime against the Montréal Canadiens. Antoine Bibeau stopped 13 of 14 shots while Garret Sparks continued his perfect pre-season with 7 saves for the Leafs. William Nylander and Jake Gardiner scored for Toronto. Gardiner put the game winner on a great feed from Brad Boyes. Michael McCarron had the lone goal for the Canadiens.
Gardiner has been great so far this pre-season. He has had a lot more poise and has been a lot better with the puck than he was at times last year. It looks like he’s finally putting all of his skills together and could be a very important piece of the future of this hockey club. It would be in the best interest of the team to get Gardiner a reliable stay-at-home defenseman to allow Gards the chance to free-wheel more and create some offense from the back-end. Jake has been highly motivated and certainly working on his game and it shows. He had a couple of points on odd-man rushes last night including an excellent return pass to Nylander for the first Toronto goal.
Brad Boyes has been a welcome addition to the team this pre-season. Boyes was originally drafter by Toronto in the first round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He never did play a regular-season game for the Leafs as he was traded to the San Jose Sharks in the deal the brought Owen Nolan to the Leafs in 2003. I always felt that that trade was one the really hurt the Leafs. Boyes went on to become a 30 goal scorer and have a very solid career while Nolan spent parts of two seasons in Toronto and battled injuries. He never became the piece that got the team over the hump like they thought that he would be and his career as a Leaf would prove largely forgettable. Also lost in that deal was a great character player in Alyn McCauley who would ultimately retire in 2007 due to lingering knee issues. It was one of the deals that put Toronto in the position they were in the past decade or so. It’s great to see Boyes finally wear the Maple Leaf and even better that he has been a key contributor in each of the games he has played going to the net and getting in front of the goaltender. Not to mention the great pass that won the game against the Canadiens. Just sign him already!
As was to be expected, Toronto cut 7 players from the roster today:
The following four players have been released from training camp and reassigned to the Toronto Marlies, who open camp September 28: Casey Bailey, Frederik Gauthier, Brendan Leipsic and Josh Leivo. The following three players have been reassigned to their respective junior teams: Travis Dermott (Erie-OHL), Andrew Nielsen (Lethbridge-WHL) and Dmytro Timashov (Quebec-QMJHL).
A lot of these players weren’t expected to make the team anyways, so this wasn’t much of a shock. The lone person I thought might have had a chance in this group out of training camp was Casey Bailey. The Leafs signed him out of the NCAA late last year and burned a year off his entry level deal letting him play a handful of games with the big club (which was one of the reasons he signed with Toronto). Bailey didn’t look out of place during his late season showings last year and I expected him to fight for a job with some of the veterans that were brought in to camp, but no sense in rushing a player. It’s a nice change to see the Leafs taking their time with prospects and letting them log lots of minutes with the Marlies before graduating to the Leafs. I expect Bailey to be a strong presence with the Marlies and be one of the first to be called up in case of injury.
Gauthier and Leipsic still need some more seasoning in the AHL. In Gauthier’s case, it will be his first professional season and he’ll be able to be an important player defensively in the Marlies system while working on his skating. He is miles ahead of where he was in terms of foot speed and agility, but still needs some more work if he’s going to be an effective two-way forward at the NHL level like he has in the QMJHL. Leipsic is a player who is poised to have a big year. He was a big-time point-producer in the AHL last year and there’s no reason he won’t be even better this year especially with the Marlies adding some more talent to the lineup. I’d expect Brendan to challenge for a spot in the Leafs lineup at next year’s training camp after another solid year in the AHL. Leivo looks to be on his last chance this year. I could see him being packaged in a bigger deal if he doesn’t break away from the other prospects in the system. He’s been a hard-working player his entire pro career, but just hasn’t stuck for one reason or another. It could be that Leivo is a little on the small side and is has been knocked around a little too much or it could be that he can’t quite seem to find enough offense to warrant keeping him with the Leafs. Whatever the problem is, Josh needs to have a better year to prove he belongs on this team or we might be seeing him in different colours by the trade deadline. As for the 3 junior prospects, it was expected that they’d be sent back and Toronto wasted no time with that. Each had a relatively good camp, especially Timashov with 2 assists the other night, but they’ll be better suited playing a lot of minutes in their respective junior organizations.
The Leafs next game is Friday night against the new-look Buffalo Sabres, it might be the first chance for Leaf fans to get a glimpse of 2015 2nd overall draft pick, Jack Eichel in blue and gold. The Leafs also take on the Canadiens on Saturday night. Both games will be at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
That’s all for today’s Leaf Report, come back often for all your Leafs news and analysis!