For the past four months or so, I’ve been creating content for my new OldProf site as part of a larger site called NHLTradeTalk. One of the joys of creating content for my new site is that I can write whatever I want. I was a former full-time professor at the University of Alberta (for more than 40 years). In that work, I was an academic and am drawn to research and the consideration of questions.
I hope I can offer a different perspective because of my background.
I enjoy writing about the Toronto Maple Leafs. This professional hockey team is one of the most storied franchises in the National Hockey League (NHL). Its rich history dates back to 1917. The team’s name comes from the maple leaf, a symbol of Canada, and the team’s blue and white colours represent the city of Toronto.
One thing I have come to understand over the five years that I’ve covered the Maple Leafs is that they have had a passionate fan base. While the team has been a source of pride for the city, it can be frustrating being a Maple Leafs’ fan. The team’s postseason success has been almost non-existent in recent seasons.
From this context of writing about the team every day, many random thoughts come to mind when I think about Maple Leafs’ hockey. These include the team’s successes and failures, its iconic players from the past, its current stars, game-to-game play, and memorable moments from team history. There is much to explore and discuss.
This post represents one of an increasing number of posts I’ll put together that I call “random thoughts.” I hope you enjoy them.
Related: Maple Leafs’ Question: How Much Should Matt Murray Be Playing?
Random Thought One: Goalie Deployment Is a Balancing Act
Tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe has chosen to start Ilya Samsonov in the team’s home game. Samsonov has been especially strong at home this season, with a 17-2-2 record, a 1.95 goals-against-average, and a .928 save percentage. His overall record is 23-8-3, with a 2.36 goals-against-average, and a .916 save percentage.
On the other hand, goalie Matt Murray will be starting against the Ottawa Senators in an away game against his former team, on Saturday. He has a total 12-7-2 record, a 2.92 goals-against-average, and a .903 save percentage this season. However, he has a 7-5-1 record, a 2.63 goals-against-average, and a .923 save percentage on the road.
What’s interesting about this deployment is that Samsonov is so much better at home, while Murray is better on the road. I wonder. Should this trend continue, should coach Keefe start Murray in postseason away games and Samsonov on home ice?
I’ve never really seen that kind of deployment happen, but I suppose it could. Would it be wise?
Related: Maple Leafs’ Rielly Has Become One of the Best 2012 Draft Picks
Random Thought Two: Will Home-Ice Advantage Spell the Difference in the First Round?
The Tampa Bay Lightning have been dominant at home this season, with a record of 24-6-0. Should they win the home-ice advantage in their series against the Maple Leafs, it could definitely give them an advantage in the playoffs. However, their road record of 17-16-1 is only average.
By comparison, the Maple Leafs have a similar split between home and the road. Their home record is 24-7-5 and their record on the road is 16-11-4.
Knowing this, it would seem that both teams would push hard to gain the home-ice advantage. Each will want to maintain their momentum and keep playing at a high level heading into the playoffs.
That said, the playoffs are a different beast altogether. Regular-season records don’t always translate to postseason success. It’s pretty clear these two teams will once again face each other this postseason. It will be interesting to see how these teams perform when the playoffs start. I think this season the Maple Leafs might see their team’s best match-up.
My guess is that having the home-ice advantage will play a significant role in the outcome.
Related: Remembering Maple Leafs Tough Guy Jim Dorey
Random Thought Three: Luke Schenn Appreciates the Messages of Support
I’m enjoying how much Luke Schenn is thrilled to return to Toronto once again as a Maple Leaf player. In his conversations with the media, he’s made it clear that he’s looking forward to playing in front of the home crowd. However, it’s also very clear that he has something to prove to Maple Leafs’ fans.
He’s noted a couple of times in interviews that, in his previous stint with the Blue & White, he had experienced ups and downs. He also noted that “those were during his younger days playing in Toronto.” A second hint is that he mentioned that he appreciates the fans’ messages of support (as he’s appreciated messages of support from former teammates).
Putting two and two together, it would seem he feels he’s a different player and that he has something to prove — especially to the fans. And, he’s excited about the upcoming chance to do so.
Although he noted that he’s not active on social media, he does note that he’s seen the positive comments he’s received from fans. Furthermore, he’s amazed he has this opportunity to once again be part of the team.
I think he’s a keeper and hope he does well with the team. I bet he’d stay on a Mark Giordano-type contract.
Related: 3 MAPLE LEAFS’ RANDOM THOUGHTS: MARNER, ACCIARI & MURRAY