It was an exciting week in Leafs land. Not, “hey we got a win” exciting or “hey check out the return we got for Parenteau” exciting, but thanks to the Marlies invasion we can look back and find a few positives.
We’re going to try doing something a little different with Power Rankings, and rather than painfully assign rankings to the top 20 roster players, we’re going to look at the top ten Leafs moments over the past 7 days.
1. Willenium’s First NHL Goal
William Nylander’s first NHL goal, or as we’d like to call it, snizzb-ONE. pic.twitter.com/Gl1YY8SUT8
— The Tank Nation (@TLNdc) March 6, 2016
I’m trying to figure out if I’m more proud and excited for this moment or if Momma and Poppa Nylander are. This was a beautiful thing to see and this truly was the start of something great. I will spend the next decade having an uncomfortable amount of feels for this kid (and his hair.)
2. Soshnikov’s Solid First Week
The Hamburglar is cool and all but he always misplaces the McNuggets, best had with Sweet and Sour Sosh pic.twitter.com/IVbbgCXtOV
— The Tank Nation (@TLNdc) March 6, 2016
If any rookie managed to overshadow Nylander this week it was Nikita Soshnikov. Scoring in his second game, and adding another against the Sens, Soshnikov is quickly showing his worth. It may shock the world to know that he probably won’t be a 40 goal scorer with a 25% shooting percentage, but it may also shock the world to know that this kid is unbelievably entertaining and so far has managed to do everything right.
I’ve decided to take the Soshnikov pledge. I vow to never look at his stats and just enjoy him for the exciting player he is. I love what I’ve seen so far, and think he’ll be a fun addition to the lineup next season.
3. Greening vs. Phaneuf
The cool thing about this fight is that Justin Fisher predicted it our pregame post. The other cool thing about it is it satisfied a lot of Leafs fans who have wanted nothing more than to see a Leaf punch Phaneuf in the head for the past few seasons.
This was also a fun reminder to Senators fans that Colin Greening is in the NHL now, and while he’s paid too much and this may not be the best way of showing he’s in the NHL, they’ve had a perfectly good roster player buried all season.
4. The Phaneuf Tribute
There was some doubt that Phaneuf wouldn’t receive a tribute after Kessel didn’t have one earlier in the season. The Leafs decided to honour their former captain, and rightfully so. He’s their former captain and the Leafs have always held that position in high regard. The important thing to remember is that it’s a celebration of Phaneuf being gone and that’s something everyone should be able to get behind.
5. Brooks Laich Tribute
Brooks Laich salutes the Washington Crowd after a standing ovation between TV Timeouts pic.twitter.com/O6YZjkgPLl
— The Tank Nation (@TLNdc) March 3, 2016
Brooks Laich also received a tribute this week from the Capitals. His departure was much more bittersweet as he’s be a key part of their lineup and has now been castaway just as soon as the team is ready to make a serious run at the Cup.
The fact that fans, teammates, and seemingly everyone connected to hockey in D.C. loves Laich so much means he’s probably someone who can play a role on the Leafs over the next year. He can be the happy veteran face that proudly marches the Leafs from being a lottery team to being a bubble team.
6. All These Rookies!!!
We’ve talked Nylander and Soshnikov, but debuts from Hyman, Carrick, and Kapanen also occurred. We’ve also had the return of Leipsic and Sparks. Throw in Percy, Corrado, Leivo, and Rielly and it seems like half the roster can’t legally drink when they go on U.S. road trips.
7. Mitch Marner Player of the Month
In case you are wondering Mitch Marner is still incredibly good at hockey and the OHL recognized him for that this month.
If Marner can bring this kind of skill to the Leafs camp next fall the Leafs should finally have a respectable offensive arsenal.
The one thing that I’ve been wondering about is whether if an opportunity presents itself, if the Leafs will attempt to get a look at Marner using an emergency callup.
8. Losing by One
Four losses this week, all lost by one. What an excellent way to show this team can be competitive in the NHL, but still do what’s necessary to get a high lottery pick.
9. 30th Overall
How great is this really? It’s a 20% shot at Auston Matthews, which is anything but a guarantee. It’s also gives the Leafs a high probably of landing one of the two giant Finnish wingers which is pretty great. If that doesn’t happen it’s a chance to have first choice of the rest of the pack, or trade down and accumulate some additional picks. It’s a very good situation to be in.
Lost in all of that is it means the Leafs would pick first in each of the remaining rounds, and landing the 31st overall pick is about as close to getting another 1st round pick as you can get (signed, Captain Obvious).
10. At Least We’re Not the Canucks
I get the disappointment over having Parenteau and Boyes survive the deadline as Leafs. I get that it sucked taking the day off work only to watch Kris Russell be traded as a blockbuster acquisition, but I also get it could always be worse. Enter Jim Benning.
Benning essentially had a deal lined up to send Dan Hamhuis to Dallas and whiffed on it. He also failed to move Radim Vrbata, who’s return would have been similar to the expected return on P.A. Parenteau. In fact, the only move of note that Benning made was dumping a solid prospect in Hunter Shinkaruk for depth forward Markus Granlund.
So when you look at the 3 2nds, Connor Carrick, 2 4ths, Ben and Colin Smith, Colin Greening, Brooks Laich, Alex Stalock and Milan Michalek, remember that one slow day didn’t really hurt the Leafs at the deadline and being a Canucks fan is much worse.