The Future Is Bright For The Flames

           After overcoming a blown call by the zebras in Game 3 to win the contest and bring their series to 2-1 against the Anaheim Ducks, it appeared the Calgary Flames may indeed be a team of destiny. Johnny Gaudreau snapped a wrist shot over the glove of Frederick Andersen late in the third period to tie that contest, despite the fact the Flames had technically tied it just a few minutes earlier if not for the aforementioned blown call. Mikael Backlund then scored on a seeing-eye shot a few minutes into the first overtime period. Unfortunately for Calgary, the victory would be the only one the team would claim in the series as the Ducks’ Corey Perry scored in overtime last night to give the Ducks 4-1 series win.
           The loss was definitely disappointing for the Flames and their fans, especially considering the team filled with young guns had a chance to do something no Flames team had done since 2008… win a game in Anaheim. Still though, the future does look bright in Calgary. The team made the playoffs when nobody expected to and coach Bob Hartley instilled a sense of belief in the team’s young core group of players that seemed to carry the squad all the way through to the second round.
           And perhaps the most exciting aspect of the team’s run is that Norris Trophy caliber defenseman Mark Giordano missed the latter part of the regular season and all of the playoffs with an injury. The fact that he was out of the lineup allowed teammates Dennis Wideman, T.J. Brodie and others to step up their game and fill the gaps. The commitment to doing whatever it takes to win was evident throughout the end of the regular season and it spoke volumes as to the potential the Flames’ organization has moving forward.
          Gaudreau and Sean Monahan in particular produced way more than perhaps anybody would’ve thought coming into the season and the team also found a way to make it work between the pipes with former Duck Jonas Hiller playing extremely well early in the season giving his teammates added confidence in front of him. Even when Hiller struggled against his former team in Round 2, backup Karri Ramo Relieved him and showed up in top form giving the Flames every opportunity possible to claim victory against an Anaheim team who although will face its toughest test against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals, appears to be a juggernaut in its own right.

           So all in all there’s a lot to be grateful for and hopeful about now that the Flames are headed back to Calgary to clean out their lockers for the summer. It was a fun ride while it lasted and the team demonstrated that the future is indeed bright in Alberta, and not just because the rival Edmonton Oilers have their sights set on Connor McDavid.

Can Lightning Strike 4 Straight Times?

          Not for a knee injury to goaltender Carey Price during last year’s playoff run, the Montreal Canadiens may have found themselves in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings. Despite the fact that’s not how things played out, the Habs came into this season with high hopes of surpassing last year’s results in competing for hockey’s ultimate prize this time around. While the team may have been dying a rematch with the New York Rangers in the Conference Finals, the present order of business is to take care of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.
           If Montreal was taking Tampa Bay lightly, they now have cause for concern as the Lightning are now taking the series back to the state of Florida with a 2-0 lead, handily winning both games at the Bell Centre. To make matters worse, the team’s superstar Steven Stamkos appears to have finally awoken from his slumber. The sniper finally scored his first goal of the playoffs on Sunday night, forcing the Habs’ Hart Trophy candidate to do the splits in the crease to no avail as Stamkos deked around him and slid the puck in the net.
           And yet as much as experts around the NHL would gladly contend that Stamkos should be Montreal’s number one concern defensively throughout the series given the fact that a player of his caliber is bound to breakout sooner or later, it’s not Stamkos leading the charge early in the series for Tampa Bay.
          Thus far it’s actually been Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov who have caused the most damage. Kucherov scored twice in the team’s Game 2 win on Sunday, and Johnson leads the team in scoring in these playoffs with 7 goals and 3 assists. That’s 10 points in 8 games, and a lot of those points have come in key situations that led the team to victory, as is usually the case when it comes to offensive production in the postseason.
          Add to Tampa’s scoring a solid and healthy Ben Bishop in goal, and Montreal’s Brandon Prust publicly calling out the refereeing after Game 2, which will surely give the team trouble as the series moves forward and it appears there’s no stopping the Tampa Bay Lightning. That’s especially true considering the Lightning won every single game of the regular season series between the two clubs as well.
           The question now is not only whether Montreal can make a comeback in the series and keep it respectable, but whether the Tampa Bay Lightning actually have a realistic shot at sweeping the Habs. Conventional wisdom might say no just because Montreal is one of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup this year, but it appears that the Lightning are the hottest team in hockey outside of the Anaheim Ducks and no matter who has home ice advantage in the series, at the end of the day, it’s about who is playing better in the moment. And the Tampa Bay Lightning are definitely playing better right now.
          Without question, the end result of Game 3, scheduled for Wednesday in Tampa Bay will go a long way towards determining whether or not the Lightning can indeed achieve the improbable and sweep Montreal, not only from a practical standpoint given that they would obviously need a 3-0 lead to put themselves in position to sweep, but also from a morale of standpoint. A win on Wednesday gives the Lightning an opportunity to strike fear in all of the remaining teams in the playoffs and continue to build their confidence as they pursue bringing the Stanley Cup back to Tampa Bay for the first time since the franchise won its first ever title back in 2004 over the Calgary Flames.

           Whether or not Tampa Bay wins four games in a row however, it’s obvious the franchise is a force to be reckoned with and that’s a scary thought given that the team’ leading scorer just now decided to show up to the party, a party that could have the state of Florida preparing for a Stanley Cup parade by the middle of next month.

Chicago’s Captain Serious Leading Playoff Scoring

          If the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs has taught us anything so far, it’s that the game’s stars have come out to play. That includes the names we’ve already grown accustomed to showing up in the postseason over the last number of years, and the young guns who have emerged more recently.
          In one series we had the St. Louis Blues’ Valdimir Tarasenko continue to skate around opponents like pylons even as the stakes grew higher against the Minnesota Wild. Sure his team got bounced in the series, but a one-handed Peter Forsberg-style move in a big game is something nobody can do better than Tarasenko these days.
          In another series we saw Washington’s Alex Ovechkin outduel the New York Islanders’ John Tavares in a 7-game bout where both stars brought their best every night. While neither player finished in the top 10 in league scoring after Round 1, both played leading roles in making the Capitals/Islanders series the best of the opening round hands down.
          And yet, while Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson is on fire and could easily be the league’s leading scorer once Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings is in the books later tonight, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews who currently and quietly holds that title. Toews managed 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points in the team’s 4-2 series win over the Nashville Predators.
          Doing things quietly is exactly how the Hawks’ captain prefers things. He did after all only score 28 times during the regular season, finishing with 66 points, two marks that are respectable but don’t garner Toews the individual regular season accolades that are often associated with the game’s elite.
          The playoffs however tell a completely different story. Consider that Toews is presently only 26 years old, yet he’s a two-time Stanley Cup Champion, captaining his team to the Promised Land in 2010 and 2013. He received the Conn Smythe Trophy following the 2010 victory as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Finals, becoming the youngest captain in NHL history to claim the award at the ripe old age of 22.
          What makes Toews so good is that he’s a true leader, leading by example and not by drawing attention to himself. He’s also a complete two-way player on the ice and does whatever is asked of him. The scary thing about all of his success is that he’s only 26. People forget that given how serious his demeanor is, and what a rich track record of success he’s already experienced in the game.
          Whether he’s the leading scorer in the league following tonight’s final game of Round 1 or not one thing is for sure, Jonathan Toews deserves more hype and credit for what he does for the Blackhawks than individual scoring numbers could ever get for him. That’s evident in the decorated career he’s already put together for himself just by being the ultimate team leaders.

          He’s a rare breed and someone that even more skilled players like Tavares, Ovechkin, Tarasenko and Stamkos can never really match. Toews proves that being Captain Serious can give a player plenty to smile and jump on plexi-glass about, even if he is the type of guy that prefers to put his head down, fist pump his teammates while gliding past the bench, and get right back to centre ice for the next puck drop when he is doing the scoring himself.

Why The Ottawa Senators’ Season Is About To End

The Ottawa Senators weren’t supposed to find themselves in the playoffs this season. Everyone knows that. But thanks the team’s powers that be finding some true diamonds in the rough and having the good fortune of watching them succeed really quickly, the team is heading into Game 4 of a first round series with the Montreal Canadiens.
Unfortunately for the Senators, the dream of hoisting the Stanley Cup is likely over at least for 2014 as the club finds itself down in the series 3-0. In all of NHL history, only a handful of teams have come back from a deficit that significant and won.
One reason in particular the Sens find themselves in this position is that Carey Price has outplayed Andrew Hammond in the crease. While the difference is minuscule with each game in the series being decided by just one goal, in the playoffs one goal is huge. The end result however doesn’t all fall on Hammond’s shoulders, Ottawa is simply getting beat by better opponents.
The Habs are after all one of the league’s top contenders for the Stanley Cup. It’s not just because they have stars like Price, P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty however. Everybody on the team is stepping up when necessary. Winger Dale Weise is one prime example of that. He was particularly impactful in Game 3, scoring in the third period to tie the game at one apiece, and winning the game in overtime on a wrist shot from just inside the blue line.
In that game, Weise played the kind of hero the Senators could use right now. Maybe a guy that only scored 10 or 12 times in the regular season who finds a way to chip in a big goal or swing some sort of momentum in Ottawa’s direction. They need it now more than ever, and if the team doesn’t play like it in Game 4, they could be booking tee times at the golf course a lot earlier than they had hoped.
However, the fact is that nobody in the right frame of mind necessarily expected the Senators to continue their improbably regular season finish into the playoffs, so perhaps the season is already won in Ottawa. Could anybody really blame them with Mark Stone, player who was one of the league’s leading goal scorers in the latter part of the regular season, playing through a wrist injury and not looking anywhere near 100%? Odds are the team’s front office staff is more likely to get extended in the off-season rather than fired so the answer to that question is no.
That’s exactly how it should be, if only for the simple fact that the Habs are a few years further ahead in the growth of the team than the Senators are at the moment. Montreal is a team stacked with all-stars who would have made the Stanley Cup Finals last year if not for Carey Price getting hurt in Round 3 against the New York Rangers.

Aside from the clear reasons the Habs are outplaying the Senators, it’s important to keep in mind that the future really does look bright in Ottawa. It’s just too bad that the future isn’t now, as it is Montreal and not the Senators that has it’s eyes on a championship at the moment, at least for now.

A Breakdown Of The Best Round 1 Stanley Cup Playoff Matchups

          After a long and hard fought 82 game season, the 16 teams that will move on to hockey’s second season and fight for the right to hoist the Stanley Cup have been determined. Every series has the potential to spark a new rivalry or rekindle an old one, and no matter whether your team made the postseason or not, it’s hard not to get excited about the best time of the year. That said, of all the head-to-head matchups slated to get underway as early as this Wednesday, there are definitely some matchups that stand out above the rest.
          One such series features the Montreal Canadiens hosting the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre. The two teams took very different paths to earn their playoff spots to say the least. On the one hand, the Habs finished the season with the second most points in the NHL and played pretty consistently throughout the year, thanks in large part to a banner year by goaltender Carey Price, who set a new franchise record by recording 42 wins.
          On the other hand, the Sens made the playoffs on the last day of the season after topping the Philadelphia Flyers in a win-and-your-in scenario that was only made possible thanks to a remarkable run by goaltender Andrew Hammond, who finished the season with a 20-1-2 record in just 23 starts. The team’s success this year was as improbable as it was amazing, as most analysts predicted that the Senators were more than likely to have a losing year reflective of a team working through a full on rebuilding process. Instead, the club goes into its series against Montreal as perhaps the most feared team in the first round playoff bracket. No matter how this series shakes down it should be a good one.
          Over in the Western Conference, the series between the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames will prove to be equally exciting. At times throughout the year, it was hard to know if the Canucks were indeed a playoff-bound team and well, almost nobody expected the Flames to be in the mix.
          In Vancouver’s case, it wasn’t a complete stretch to picture the team doing well, with goaltender Ryan Miller providing the team with a definitive number one option between the pipes, removing a distraction that had previously plagued the team for years. Outside of Miller the core of the team still featured the Sedin twins a supporting cast that could get the job done.
          As for the Flames, their run was almost as magical as the one the Senators put together in the East, the difference being that Calgary surprised people at the beginning, middle and end of the season. Nobody would have guessed going into the playoffs that the team would boast a player who finished top-10 in regular season scoring (Jiri Hudler), a veteran goaltender playing some of his best hockey ever after seemingly falling out of favour in Anahiem (Jonas Hiller) and a small, speedy forward not named Sam Bennett who would emerge as a future star (Johnny Gudreau).
          Regardless of how both clubs got to where they are now, it’s obvious that neither one is going down without a fight, which should make for a quite an entertaining series in Western Canada.

          As for the other matchups outside of the Great White North, there’s no doubt there are some good ones. Then again, who can resist the Hamburglar taking on Carey Price, and Johnny Hockey trying to lead the Flames past the Cancucks? Do yourself a favour, don’t resist…just watch the NHL in all its glory as the chase for the Stanley Cup heats up.  

Why Watching The Tampa Bay Lightning In The Playoffs Just Got More Interesting

Someone should put the NHL on notice; the Tampa Bay Lightning are dead serious about winning the Stanley Cup this year, and they expect their fans to be too. How serious you ask? So serious that if you buy tickets to the team’s playoff games this year and your credit card doesn’t have a Florida address attached to it, you’ll get a full refund for your purchase and not be allowed inside the building.
          That’s right. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s powers that be are doing everything they can to keep fans of visiting teams from being able to attend the team’s games. Throughout the season, the organization noticed large and boisterous groups of fans from the Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets, Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens in the building.
          Lightning fans need not fret though, fans wearing the jerseys of visiting teams in the postseason won’t be allowed to sit in the Chase Club section of the rink. That means if you hope to watch Steven Stamkos and company while sitting in some of the best seats in the house this spring, you’ll need to consider purchasing some Lightning apparel. Of course here at Sports Jerseys Canada, you’ve got tons of options to choose from should you be heading south for a game, whether you’ve got your eyes on Stamkos’ number 91 or you’re a fan of Ben Bishop, Ryan Callahan and the other leaders of the team.
          While it may surprise some that teams are even allowed to invoke such policies, there really is no clear rule against it, so Tampa’s sales staff can indeed refuse to sell tickets to anyone they choose, as long as the reason obviously isn’t related to blatant discrimination.
          Good for the Lightning for taking a stand against tourists and fans of visiting teams who take away from the atmosphere in the arena. Home ice advantage is huge in the playoffs and the Lightning have not iced a real cup contender since 2004. This may indeed be the year that the team gets beyond the first round again and if the club does, the energy inside the Amalie Arena will no doubt play a factor.

          Although Tampa’s first round opponent is still unknown, visiting fans should be prepared to sport a team jersey even if you do plan on rooting for the opposition. At least that will guarantee you access to the Chase Club section of the arena. What remains to be seen is whether this new team policy will translate into playoff success for the Lightning.

The Surprising Rise Of Devan Dubnyk

It’s not often that a hockey player has his breakout season 11 years after being drafted, but that’s exactly what has happened to Minnesota wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
The conventional wisdom of the hockey world would tell you that it does take a little bit longer for a goaltender to mature in comparison to a position player, which is why it would have been no surprise to see Dubnyk solidify a permanent spot between the pipes for himself midway through his career with the Edmonton Oilers, but even though he had shown flashes of steady play with the club, things just didn’t come together for him.
It’s not all Dubnyk’s fault of course. His big 6’6 frame is built to cover up the net and he accomplished more than enough in his four years in the minor leagues to warrant an extended look in the NHL. As luck would have it, the Edmonton Oilers, the team that drafted Dubnyk in 2004 have been struggling for years, despite the fact the team seems to have lady luck on its side when it comes to the league’s draft lottery.
Thanks to the good fortune, or misfortune depending on your point of view, the team has managed to draft the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Dubnyk over the last 11 seasons. Had each of those players played up to the potential they displayed in their junior careers all at the same time in the NHL, the Oilers could be in the middle of a dynasty right now.
Unfortunately that’s not the way things worked out for Duby and the gang, which led to Devan being shipped to the Nashville Predators halfway through his fifth year in the league only to once again find himself moving on, this time to the Arizona Coyotes.

Although there was no chance that he was going to find himself any significant playing time behind Mike Smith in Arizona, Dubnyk did finish his tenure in the desert with a 9-5-2 record, which was just good enough to draw the interest of the Wild, where the former 14thoverall pick finds himself with a spectacular 26-6-1 record through 34 games to go along with 5 shutouts. Those numbers aren’t too bad for a guy who’s never had more than two shutouts in an entire season prior to this year.

Of course what really matters is that now Minnesota finds itself in the middle of a playoff race when at the beginning of the season things seemed to be all out of sorts for the club and it looked as if the team was more likely to be booking spring tee times rather than playoff games.

While the team as a whole has played better over the last three months, the bulk of the credit definitely goes to Dubnyk. He has officially risen from the ashes and brought new hope to the Wild organization.

Although a hot second half of the season does not a career make, it’s safe to say that Dubnyk may have just found the perfect place to continue his career, although probably many years later than he thought he would have.

Why The Islanders Gave Johnny Boychuk The Big Bucks

          Perhaps most hockey experts would call New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk a bit of a late bloomer. He is after all having a career best year at the ripe young age of 31, an age where most players are expected to be in the middle of their prime already and maybe even trending on a downward slope. Of course it didn’t exactly help that Boychuk spent the first five full years of his career on a Boston Bruins team filled with talented defenseman, including the likes of Dennis Seidenberg, Dougie Hamilton and former perennial Norris Trophy candidate Zdeno Chara.
           One of the positive things about being a Boston Bruin to start his career is that Boychuk learned how to become a winner, something that the Islanders franchise hasn’t done a lot of since the glory days of the 1970s. Of course coming over from Boston with a winning attitude alone isn’t what gets you a long term contract in the NHL in this salary cap conscious, analytics focused era in hockey… it takes a lot more than that.
           Normally one would automatically refer to the box score and point out a defenseman who is going to make an average of $6 million per season for the next seven years as one who can likely light the lamp on the power play and be his team’s best defenseman on any given night. Boychuck undoubtedly has the ability to be his team’s best defenseman, but until he started putting up career numbers this year, he wasn’t exactly lighting up the lamp or picking up helpers quarterbacking the powerplay.
           So what is it exactly that got a guy who, prior to this season, has never scored more than five goals and 23 points in a campaign a $42 million deal? He’s steady. Boychuck blocks a ton of shots and he’s not afraid to throw his body around. He does also have a career high in goals and points during what was just a little while ago a contract year.
           Let the detractors and naysayers say what they want about players on the cusp of their best years getting paid way too much in advance of their performance. That’s just the way the game is these days. Only time will tell whether the Islanders have found themselves a key piece that will help them build towards making the Islanders a perennial contender once again, or whether they’ve just signed the next Nathan Horton or David Clarkson. It’s also important to keep in mind that this isn’t the first time a player has stayed in a market that most of his colleagues would rather not entertain for the sake of inking a long-term, big money deal.
 As far as Boychuk is concerned however, he’s obviously okay with the idea of having long-term security while playing for a franchise that is on the upswing and likely will continue to be just that for the next seven years.

          At the end of the day no matter how things work out for Boychuk, he’s getting paid what the present day market allows, and now it’s on him to prove the Isles right for paying him a premium to stay on Long Island.

3 Teams That Had Fantastic Trade Deadline Days

This past NHL trade deadline day was the busiest in the last five years. A busy trade deadline day always means added entertainment for fans, coaches and players alike, as the hyper nature of transactions provides all interested parties with good reason to stay glued to the TV all the way up until the 3 PM Eastern Standard Time deadline.
           Those who watched all the wall-to-wall coverage on TV, listened to it on the radio or followed it on Twitter had the opportunity to witness some teams get ready for a run to the Stanley Cup Finals while others got set to take a run at Erie Otters sensation Connor McDavid, who will no doubt be drafted with the first overall pick this summer.
           While nobody knows just how good McDavid will turn out to be at the NHL level, it’s obvious that most GMs around the league believe he’s going to be pretty darn good… maybe even as good as Sidney Crosby.
           In light of that, judging the winner of any particular trade from this season’s deadline can’t just be decided based on which teams got the best players. Instead, the long-term impact of the deals that were made must be given consideration as well.
           The Buffalo Sabres probably did the most to help themselves in the McDavid sweepstakes and that’s why we’ve crowned them the unofficial winner of trade deadline day. The team traded forward Chris Stewart to the Minnesota Wild for very little,, and they also traded goaltender Michael Neuvirth to the New York Islanders, who was the backbone of a team that gave up a ton of shots this season, in exchange for a career backup. They were already the favorite to land McDavid and the team’s front office did whatever it had to do to improve those chances on Monday. Throw in a February deal that saw the team acquire Evander Kane from the Winnipeg Jets, who is out for the season with an injury, and its obvious the Sabres are poised to finish the season on a losing note.
             Only Buffalo did better than the Toronto Maple Leafs when it comes to strategically getting worse, but Leafs GM Dave Nonis deserves honourable mention for his efforts. Nonis managed to get rid of David Clarkson via the Columbus Blue Jackets, taking in exchange the contract of Nathan Horton, who will likely never play in the NHL again due to a degenerative back disorder, but whose salary also doesn’t count against the salary cap unless he should miraculously return. The Leafs also dumped forward Olli Jokinen on the St. Louis Blues, dealt Korbinian Holzer to the Anaheim Ducks and also traded Daniel Winnik (Pittsburgh) and Mike Santorelli & Cody Franson (Nashville) in a flurry of deals leading up to deadline day.
          At the end of the day however, dumping salaries and rebuilding for the years to come is not what gets fans truly excited and tuning in to all the trade talk. It’s the deals that help contenders solidify their position as heavyweights going into the playoffs. No team did that better than the Montréal Canadiens, who took Torrey Mitchell off of the Sabres’ hands to add some depth up front and also traded for defenseman Jeff Petry, who will bring a much-needed stay-at-home feel to the team’s blue line.

           Only time will tell which teams truly came out on top on deadline day, but the general managers of these three clubs sure did do a good job… at least that’s what it looks like at the present moment. Feel free to judge for yourself, but if you live in Buffalo or Toronto, you’ve got to feel pretty good about your team’s chances of landing the NHL’s next golden boy.

Why Phil Kessel Will Be Traded By The Toronto Maple Leafs…Eventually

It’s been a difficult season for the Toronto Maple Leafs this year, and that’s putting it lightly. To see that for yourself, all you have to do is take one look at the standings. You’ll find the Leafs just 4 points ahead of the lowly Carolina Hurricanes for second last place in the Eastern Conference.

It’s a harsh reality to swallow for fans, management and the players themselves. The 2014-15 season started out with so much promise. All of the above seemed optimistic at the team’s ability to rebound following a 2014 spring that saw the team completely fall apart during the stretch drive, taking a nose dive right out of the playoffs despite a very strong first half of the season.

As is usually the case in Toronto when things aren’t going well, the axe has to fall on someone and changes need to be made. In the offseason, that meant the hiring of Brendan Shanahan as team president and analytics guru Kyle Dubas as assistant general manager. During the season, it has meant the firing of head coach Randy Carlyle, the trading of Cody Franson, Mike Santorelli and probably others before the NHL’s March 2nd trade deadline.

The idea that the Leafs should be cleaning house and that the organization is more likely to get its hands on Connor McDavid than a playoff spot, like most people thought the team would prior to the start of the season, still leaves one question we thought wouldn’t come up…is it time for Phil Kessel to go?

He’s emerged as a point-per-game player in the last couple of years and yet it seems the perennial 30-goal scorer has a reputation for being very difficult to coach, as per former Leafs bench boss Ron Wilson. He’s also evidently more excited by the thought of working on his ping-pong game than he is about practicing and on top of that, it’s obvious he’s not a fan of answering questions from the media.
It’s those truths that have fans irritated, the team losing and Phil likely thinking about the possibility of a new beginning and greener pastures somewhere else, if only in the back of his mind. Still, with a $64 million contract signed and sealed locking up all of his prime years, it’s likely Kessel will still be a Maple Leaf when the clock strikes 3pm on March 2nd.

If the Leafs were to move him now, the winger’s services wouldn’t likely give the team a fair return on investment. The better move would be to ship him in the offseason as the calendar inches closer to the NHL draft. The current season is already a write off and the rumour mill in Leaf land will be non-existent on March 3rd while Canadian media focuses on the league’s playoff races, leaving the Leafs to play the role of spoiler.

That said, the questions around Kessel should not be if but rather when he’ll get dealt. If you need proof as to why his departure from the city is imminent, consider what happened to the player that was once upon a time traded for Kessel, the Dallas Stars’ Tyler Seguin. 

Like Kessel, Seguin fell out of favour in Boston and needed a change of scenery. Things soured almost as quickly as they apparently have for Kessel. Seguin signed a long-term deal with the Bruins in the summer before he was moved to the Dallas Stars.

Fast-forward to today and Seguin has flourished into one of the game’s best players alongside teammate Jamie Benn. He’ll likely finish his second straight season in the state of Texas eclipsing both the 30-goal and point-per-game marks respectively, leaving the hockey world to talk about his growth rather than his shortcomings.

One would have to think in light of witnessing Seguin’s turn around, Kessel realizes at this point that he could probably use a fresh start. Yes he may be signed to an 8-year deal, but in the NHL 8 years is an eternity and it seems an eternity is a little too long of a time span for fans, management and players in Toronto.

That said, Kessel is still a Maple Leaf…for now.