Sports Maple Leafs less fun post-Burke — in a good way: Cox

19:07  14 november  2017
19:07  14 november  2017 Source:   Toronto Star

Leafs’ Matthews misses practice again as rehab from upper-body injury continues

  Leafs’ Matthews misses practice again as rehab from upper-body injury continues Auston Matthews once again was not on the ice at Maple Leafs practice Monday morning.Matthews has not skated with the Leafs in a week as he continues to rehab an upper-body injury. The Leafs have won their past four games, three of them without their star centre.Toronto is enjoying a four-day break between games before returning to action Thursday night at home against the New Jersey Devils. © Richard Lautens Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews has not skated with the team in a an upper-body injury.

“Ain’t happening,” was the way Brian Burke put it. Now with the way the Maple Leafs are playing these days, someone might easily assume they have already decided to That, of course, led to the draft lottery, which while wildly imperfect, does make it somewhat less profitable to plummet on purpose.

This wasn’t the way this was supposed to go. Burke and Allaire spoke last week and apparently Given the state of Leaf goaltending in recent seasons with Allaire as consultant, change is probably a good thing Maple Leafs : Intrigue surrounds departure of goalie coach Francois Allaire: Feschuk.

Brushfires that became five-alarm blazes on Brian Burke's watch in Toronto barely register under the current Leafs regime.© Chris Young Brushfires that became five-alarm blazes on Brian Burke's watch in Toronto barely register under the current Leafs regime.

Brian Burke has funny ways of reminding Toronto he was once hockey czar here.

Take his comments in a radio interview Monday about the struggles of Calgary Flames centre Sam Bennett, who is off to a nightmarishly bad start this season with one point in his first 16 games. Burke wanted to assure the world Bennett will eventually play better, but also that he’s much better off in warm and welcoming Calgary than if he was undergoing similar scoring woes in nasty old Toronto.

Pietrangelo scores twice as Blues beat Maple Leafs 6-4

  Pietrangelo scores twice as Blues beat Maple Leafs 6-4 Alex Pietrangelo scored twice, Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn each had three assists, and the St. Louis Blues beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-4 on Saturday night. Vladimir Tarasenko, Joel Edmundson, Magnus Paajarvi and Vladimir Sobotka also scored for the Blues, who improved to 6-1 at home. Jake Allen had 26 saves.Edmundson and Pietrangelo gave St. Louis a league-best 16 goals from defensemen this season. Pietrangelo's 15 points leads all NHL defensemen.The Blues have earned points in six of their last seven home games against Toronto (5-1-1).

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“If he were in Toronto, they would have traded him 70 times, shot him six times, condemned his parents four times,” roared Burke.

The Flames executive then doubled down, revealing once more his deep antipathy for the Toronto media and the unfair manner in which he believes he was treated during his time as president and general manager of the Leafs.

“The problem in Toronto is, there’s 100 people in the dressing room after practice, and when the team loses 80 of them are picking up the biggest rock they can find,” he said. “That’s the problem (in Toronto). There’s actually a significant chunk of the media that wants you to fail. We don’t have that in Calgary.”

It may have been mostly Burkian bombast, but his comments were way out of touch with the reality here in Toronto ever since the Mike Babcock/Lou Lamoriello combination took over. It might have been a rock-throwin’ time when Burke was running the show, but it definitely isn’t now.

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For starters, the team is better and more promising, and because of that both Lamoriello and Babcock have achieved a greater degree of popularity than Burke was able to despite his very public persona and charitable ways.

Second, Toronto is now the place where there is never any controversy, and the Leafs have become the organization that doesn’t react to anything. The last major controversy? Probably when Nazem Kadri was suspended by the team in April, 2016, before either Babcock or Lamoriello arrived. For a hockey town that used to be awash in controversy on a weekly basis, that’s like a lifetime ago. Tim Leiweke used to make headlines, so they replaced him with somebody nobody knows. Joffrey Lupul caused a minor storm with an ill-advised tweet earlier this season, but the team just shrugged off his complaints and the story went away in a city where hockey stories never went away before.

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Mitch Marner, a hotshot rookie last year, struggled earlier this season, yet there weren’t 70 calls to trade him, zero actually, and none for him to be shot. His parents weren’t discussed at all. Similarly, William Nylander hasn’t been as good yet as he was last year, but aside from discussions of why he might be less effective, there’s certainly been no widespread call to ship him out of town.

My guess is if Bennett were a Leaf, he’d probably be asked regularly about his lack of production and there would be columns written about him and chunks of broadcast time devoted to whether he could use a stint in the minors, but in this town, media and fans have learned patience tends to pay off with young players.

Generally, things just roll along these days with the Leafs, and with Lamoriello in charge you know there’s never any chance something rash will be done. Rather than 80 per cent of the Toronto media hoping for the team to get back to last overall as soon as possible, as Burke believes was the case when he ran the team, most these days seem favourably impressed with the way Brendan Shanahan’s hockey office has built and developed this team, and for sure most find the team much more entertaining to watch than has been in the case in more than a decade. They may not support the team the way Burke says media in Calgary support the Flames — it’s not their job to — but it would be hard to make the case there is an active local media campaign cheering for the Leafs to fail.

Auston Matthews returns to practice as Leafs prepare for Devils

  Auston Matthews returns to practice as Leafs prepare for Devils Auston Matthews took to the ice to practice with the Maple Leafs for the first time in more than a week.Matthews, out with an undisclosed upper body injury, resumed his spot as the No. 1 centre between William Nylander and Zach Hyman.The Maple Leafs have won their last four in a row, the last three without Matthews. He missed the first game of his career Nov. 8 against Minnesota.Nikita Soshnikov was also on the ice practising with the Leafs for the first time this season. He was recalled from the minors on Tuesday, in time to meet a contract-related deadline.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs canned general manager Brian Burke on Wednesday. In any event, the Toronto Star's Damien Cox got the first post -firing interview with Burke , and it is pretty dreary

The absence of Auston Matthews in recent days has been just another example of how what used to be a massive story in these parts never seems to grow into one anymore. The fact the Leafs haven’t lost since Matthews went down with an upper-body ailment (the guess here is it’s his back, possibly related to an injury in Switzerland two years ago) obviously helps, but if you were around in the days when Wendel Clark’s health was a daily matter of conjecture, debate and controversy, you know this is nothing like that.

Matthews is the team’s best player. But there is more depth here than has been the case in a very, very long time. That was demonstrated clearly with two gritty wins over the Bruins on the weekend. Next man up is how this now works.

There’s a belief here that Babcock is such a good coach that this team will be competitive with or without Matthews, and that bad times, like a lousy western swing recently, don’t last that long because there’s a more businesslike, professional style to hockey operations in Toronto than has been the case since at least the early part of this century. Or maybe ever.

The Leafs won’t say what’s wrong with Matthews, and because the NHL lets its teams get away with such nonsense, that’s what the Leafs do. Once an organization that leaked profusely and from more than one source, the Leafs have become a team that’s about unity, secrecy and playing their cards closely to the vest. You get the feeling they wouldn’t release their schedule if the league didn’t do it first.

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Burke felt during his time in Toronto it was his job to aggressively defend and protect his players in the media at all times. These days, players don’t seem to need defending, partly because there’s enhanced stability in the organization and players simply fall in line with the program rather than set their own agendas. There’s little or no chance something like Salutegate would happen under this regime.

It’s all rather dull by comparison to previous Leaf eras, and certainly dull in terms of flashy news stories compared to the wildly entertaining Burke years.

But few Leaf fans would prefer the way it used to be to the way it is now.

Damien Cox is the co-host of Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. He spent nearly 30 years covering a variety of sports for The Star. Follow him @DamoSpin. His column appears Tuesday and Saturday.

Marleau fills in for Matthews in win over Wild .
Marleau fills in for Matthews in win over WildThe Maple Leafs signed Marleau to be a winger, but with Matthews missing his first game due to an undisclosed upper body injury — widely believed to be a back injury — the speedy 38-year-old was inserted on the top line with Zach Hyman and Connor Brown.

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