‘He lets younger guys be themselves’: How Rich Clune’s leadership is felt throughout the Leafs organization

Seven years after joining the Maple Leafs organization, and Rich Clune is still playing the game he loves.
The bus was getting packed up on Thursday as the Toronto Marlies get set for a six-game US road trip. Clune walked out of the dressing room wearing a Gold’s Gym crewneck and track pants. He had some nice shoes on too.
He greets you with a big smile on his face and a kind “Hello.”
Clune had just gotten off the ice after a 40+ minute practice. The team also had time on the ice after to work on whatever they wanted. The 34-year-old spent it skating from blue line to blue line, back and forth, at some points also receiving pucks from teammate, Joseph Duszak.
He would stop, take a breath, watch what other players were doing, and then go again. There’s always something about players who work on their craft alone after practice. Bobby McMann, who was the captain while playing at Colgate University does the same thing at Marlies practices.
Players like that are doing what they love, while still finding a way to lead by example.
“I grew up in an area of Toronto where we flooded the streets,” Clune said of where his leadership may have come from. “Whether it was …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Did losing to Montreal wake up Toronto like getting swept woke up Tampa?

A couple years spent falling short of expectations, an embarrassing first round loss, an abysmal start to the new season, and then suddenly becoming the NHL’s hottest team. It’s a sequence of events both the 2021/2022 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 2019/2020 Tampa Bay Lightning took that got fans excited that this year may be different. For Tampa Bay, that sequence ended with the Lightning winning their second ever Stanley Cup, and then repeating as champions the following season. For Toronto, the end result is still waiting to be seen.
It’s hard not to notice the parallels between the path that these two teams took after one of the most embarrassing first round exits in franchise history. Much like how Toronto entered last season’s matchup against Montreal as heavy favourites, Tampa Bay was expected to walk all over Columbus during the 2019 playoffs. Instead, the Lightning were not only swept by the lowly eight seed but were absolutely dominated in the process, getting outscored 19-8.
The next season, the question on everyone’s mind was how Tampa Bay would redeem themselves after a monumental choke that was only made worse by one of the most mocked social media posts …

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Author: Filipe Dimas / The Leafs Nation

A lineup decision between Ilya Mikheyev and Pierre Engvall is basically a coin flip

This year’s Leafs roster has been relatively without controversy in terms of who gets starting positions. It seems that public opinion generally sides with Sheldon Keefe’s roster choices. There was Justin Holl’s healthy scratch, but otherwise the decisions have all been pretty straightforward.
A lot of that has to do with the team performing at a very high level. Other than Nick Ritchie and the aforementioned Holl, there isn’t anyone on this roster that’s been below expectations so far this year.
However, relatively soon, Ilya Mikheyev will be returning to the lineup, and that will pose some difficulty for Keefe. Right now it seems that Pierre Engvall will be Mikheyev’s top competition for ice time, despite Engvall probably being the 11th best healthy forward on the team, with recent call-up Joey Anderson biting at his heels and recent re-acquisition Kyle Clifford being a step behind the undervalued 4th-liner we once knew.
Engvall and Mikheyev fill a similar role for Toronto, being defensively capable, speedy, poor-shooting-but-offensively-capable wingers. Anderson and Clifford are also defensively capable, poor-shooting-but-offensively-capable wingers, and Anderson is not a slow skater by any means. Where the difference lies is that Anderson and Clifford …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

Blue Jays have altered the way free agents view their organization

Throughout their years of existence, the Toronto Blue Jays largely haven’t been considered a popular destination for free agents, but recently, that same narrative has begun to change, particularly in 2021.

Acting as the lone Canadian franchise in Major League Baseball, historically, there’s been a running theme about how this team hasn’t been able to attract marquee players in free agency, at least, that was the case up until the last few winters.
Whether it was the disparity between the American and Canadian dollars, concerns about income tax, being forced to pass through customs when crossing the border or having to experience the unpredictable weather in April and May, this fanbase had grown accustomed to hearing all of these excuses year after year. And yet, none of that mattered for Hyun Jin Ryu in 2019.
Breaking past the organization’s previous woes to land a high-profile name in free agency, Ryu agreed to join the Blue Jays despite being highly coveted by the rest of the league, signing a four-year, $80-million deal. Still to this day, it remains the largest contract handed out to a free-agent pitcher in franchise history, at least for now.
While it may not have …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation

Have the Toronto Maple Leafs finally found their killer instinct?

For years now, the Toronto Maple Leafs have had a problem that has been clear to the media, fans, and as the Amazon documentary revealed, especially to the team itself. Despite being one of the NHL’s most skilled teams on paper, the roster struggled mentally, lacking that extra gear necessary to succeed at the highest level. However, as we cross the quarter mark of the 2021/2022 NHL season, it seems that the team may have finally found their killer instinct.
In previous seasons, the team’s lack of urgency and what appeared to be a lack of passion cost the franchise countless wins. Whether it was starting games late, playing down to weaker opponents, or seemingly giving up on a game the moment things got tough, the worst kept secret in hockey was that the easiest way to beat Toronto was to get into their heads.
We saw it in the collapse to the Montreal Canadiens when the team thought the series was over and stopped trying, we saw it during the David Ayers game when Carolina made things hard on Toronto and they folded in response, and we saw it every time an opponent got physical and the Leafs …

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Author: Filipe Dimas / The Leafs Nation

José Berríos was well worth the cost of acquisition

José Berríos just re-signed for seven years for a total of 131 million. The speculated breakdown of the contract is 11 million for this season (where he’d have made 11 million in arbitration) and 20 million until the end of the 2028 season.

In 2021, Berríos pitched 192 innings and registered a 3.52 ERA and 3.47 FIP. He had a fWAR of 4.1 and a BB/9 of 2.11 while his K/9 was 9.56. In his career, he owns a 4.04 ERA and a 3.95 FIP in 851.2 IP. He is an incredibly durable pitcher and he’s only 27-years-old. This is a fantastic re-signing, but let’s see what they gave up for him.
I’ll take you back to July 30th. The Jays were a decent team that had the opportunity to make a run at the playoffs. To bolster their starting rotation, they traded prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson for José Berríos of the Minnesota Twins. 
My initial reaction to that trade was anger, disgust, and disappointment. In fact, Cam wouldn’t let me write the article announcing the trade for Blue Jays Nation because he knew I was angry.
However, after thinking about the trade more rationally, I calmed down and saw the reasoning as to why the trade …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

A Modest Proposal: Fixing Service Time Manipulation in the new CBA

Three years ago, as Jays fandom was clamoring for the promotion of phenom prospect Vlad Guerrero Jr. in the waning days of the 2018 season, the subtext of that conversation was the assumption that not only would the Blue Jays not start his service time clock with a late-season promotion but they might well delay his 2019 debut in order to buy an extra year of control

The campaign for promotion was understandable, Guerrero had hit .402 in 61 games at AA (as a 19 year old) and had a .978 OPS after being promoted to Buffalo, but the hesitancy was also understandable as any front office would be negligent to not try and maximize the value of the roster not just in one season (even less a piece of a season) but over the long term. As it turned out, their expressed concerns had merit as Guerrero still had some growing to do in terms of doing the work of conditioning to maximize his natural abilities.
This conundrum, the competing instinct to promote a player you deem ready with the legitimate motivation to maximize your control of a top-tier talent, sets up an impasse that player and owner reps really should completely rethink this winter. …

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Author: Tammy Rainey / Blue Jays Nation

Rumours: My Leafs reclamation project addiction

Long before Josh Ho-Sang, years before Alex Galchenyuk, I developed a problem. It is the firm belief that any highly touted prospect or struggling veteran that couldn’t find their footing with their current organization should be acquired by the Leafs on the cheap, and it would be worth seeing if Toronto could turn them around.
As we saw with Nikita Gusev and plenty of others before him, it’s not always the case, but this remains a market that I will continue to bang the drum for, and will feel vindicated as long as I’m right 51% of the time, or when it works out, it really works out well.
That’s why I have a mild obsession with Dylan Strome. Many will remember Dylan Strome as one of the potential targets in the 2015 draft, and there was plenty of debate over whether Marner, Strome, Hanifin, or (LOL) Crouse was the best option for the Leafs. For the record I was on Team Barzal, but everyone in the Marner camp is looking pretty smart as well. Score one for Mark Hunter, I guess.
Anyway, the fact that Strome was taken by the Coyotes just before the Leafs saved them …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The 2021 Top 20 Leafs Prospects: #2 Nick Robertson

Coming second on this year’s Top 20 Leafs Prospects list is last year’s #1, Nicholas Robertson.
Robertson, who torched the Ontario Hockey League for more than a goal-per-game in 2019-20, came into the 2020-21 season with a lot of hype and excitement surrounding him. Leafs fans were encouraged to see him keep his head above water in his first NHL stint as he joined the Leafs for their play-in series against Columbus.
Evaluating Robertson’s 2020-21 campaign was challenging, as he had a tough time stringing together long stretches of play between injuries, the Marlies’ COVID hiatus, and spending time watching the Leafs from the press box. When he played, his talent was still noticeable, the work ethic was still abundantly apparent, and he still showed a knack for blowing pucks past goaltenders. However, he played just 27 games of professional hockey last year, which did not give us much runway to work with to assess his progression.
Position: Left Forward
Age: 19 (20 on September 11)
Height: 5’9
Weight: 164 lbs
Drafted: 53rd Overall, 2019 NHL Draft by The Toronto Maple Leafs
2020-21 Teams: Toronto Marlies, AHL (21GP) | Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL (6GP)
2020 Prospect Ranking: #1
Overview
Robertson, an undersized forward at 5-foot-9, was selected midway through …

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Author: Mark Norman / The Leafs Nation

Toronto Raptors: 3 biggest strengths of the Raptors roster

Toronto Raptors: 3 biggest strengths of the Raptors roster

After years of contending for a championship, the Toronto Raptors may take a slight step backward this season, as their roster of young players will likely not have the firepower to compete with elite teams like the Nets, Bucks, or 76ers. However, Masai Ujiri has been very open and upfront about the fact that this […]
Toronto Raptors: 3 biggest strengths of the Raptors roster – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ