With the opening of NHL free agency a little over a month away, Leaf fans, such as myself, can once again begin speculating what the team’s management should do to improve the club for next season.
In this week’s column, I will focus on how the Leafs should fill their fourth line centre role and add centre depth. With Dominic Moore and Tomas Plekanec set to be free agents on July 1st, I think the Leafs should sign Matt Stajan.
Yes, Toronto already recently signed Par Lindholm and also have Miro Aaltonen, who is currently playing for the Toronto Marlies, as an option. However, with the team set to also lose Tyler Bozak to free agency, having extra centre depth is never a bad thing.
Also, let’s talk about a hypothetical situation for a moment here. What if head coach Mike Babcock feels it is best for Lindholm to start the season with the team’s AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies? A similar situation happened at the start of the 2018 season, with Aaltonen not making the team out of training camp, and spending the entire season in the AHL.
Stajan could provide the extra insurance, just in case that is the case. Stajan could bring to the table what Dominic Moore brought this past season. A veteran NHL player who can be rotated in and out of the lineup when need be, possibly playing 50 or 60 games of the season.
As well, like Moore, Stajan knows how to handle the pressures of the Toronto market, having played for the team previously from 2002 until 2010.
Matt Stajan could also bring some added veteran leadership to the team’s locker room. With a core of Leafs still in their twenties, such as William Nylander, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Andreas Johnsson, still figuring out how to be consistently successful in the NHL, the 34 year old Stajan, who has played over 1,000 games in the league, would replace the veteran leadership lost by the departures of Bozak and Plekanec, and would become the second most experienced Leaf in the locker room; the most experienced being Patrick Marleau.
Stajan was effective in the role of fourth line centre for the Calgary Flames this past season.
He won slightly over 51 per cent of the faceoffs he took, was the Flames’ best centre in the plus/minus stat at plus 4, and finished the season with 12 points in the 68 games he played.
I think Matt Stajan would be the perfect candidate to fill the Toronto Maple Leafs’ fourth line centre role next season, and if the Leafs do add him to the roster, it would give the coaching staff extra options because of the added centre depth.
With a provincial election coming up in June, I would like to use this time to stress to people the importance of voting.
Yes, I’m sure many of you reading this column right now have probably read many editorials or columns in your lifetime, from journalists, about the election turnout rate or asking the public to vote. All I ask is that you consider these points when you decide whether or not to vote in this provincial election.
First off, to those who believe their vote will not count because they are just a singular voter, that is simply not true. To start on this topic, if you believe this idea I don’t think you are alone. In the 2014 provincial election, only 51 per cent of eligible Ontarians voted, and only about 48 per cent of them voted in 2011.
I’m sure at least some of these non-voters felt their votes wouldn’t count so they decided not to vote. But if everyone who felt their vote wouldn’t count voted, that would likely be enough collective force to sway the result of an election.
As well, if you do vote and your chosen candidate doesn’t win the riding, the number of votes they did get will, at the very least, show the candidate that their policies and promises did appeal to a certain number of people, so it is still your voice coming across.
Also, sometimes election results can be tight and sometimes just a small percentage of votes decides who the winner is.
While I’m on the subject, the election is never over until all the votes are cast. As a person who’s been alive during the last couple federal and provincial elections, I’ve found many instances where the reported polls say one thing, leading up to the election, but the result ended up entirely different. For example, in 2014 several polls predicted Tim Hudak would be next Premier of Ontario. That didn’t happen.
Of course, let me also point out that not everywhere in the world allows their citizens to vote in a democratic election. Residents of Ontario, and other provinces and territories in Canada, have the right to vote. It is not something that should be taken for granted, so I think all Ontarians should vote.
Now, this last point may not be the best reason to get out and vote, but if a large percentage of people vote, then finally the public will not be burdened with more news stories about how low the voter turnout is in the province.
So remember, this is the time designed by our country's founders for any person to directly influence politics.
Don't grumble after an election if you don't vote, speak now or hold your peace until the next election. We do have our say, this is the way to speak up.
On June 7th, and at advanced polling stations before then, I hope there is a large voter turnout for the provincial election.
The Toronto Maple Leafs' recent Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins, in the first round of the NHL playoffs, was hard to swallow for longtime Leafs fans, such as myself. But, after watching Jake Gardiner’s post game interview, on the Leafs’ YouTube page, I was reminded of an important fact, athletes are people too.
Seeing the emotion from him, in the post game interview, where he accepted blame for the majority of the team’s mistakes that led to the loss, it was hard not to feel sympathy for a guy like him, who felt the weight of the team’s success on his shoulders.
Yes, I do admit, I have been critical of Gardiner’s play over the years, as is my right as a hockey fan, but, at the end of the day, he is a person just like each and every one of the people presently reading this column.
At just 27 years old, Gardiner is a person who seems to have felt guilt for making mistakes that in his mind let down his team and the many fans of the franchise. For those who are in their twenties, or who remember when they were, I ask that you put yourself in his shoes, or his skates in this case. Think about what it must be like for him to have his every move on the ice magnified, and his mistakes criticized by an entire city of fans.
Now, with the NHL draft coming up in over a month, fans will be looking at who their team should draft and researching their team’s current prospects. I think one word, used by fans too much, is when a player is referred to as a “bust.” Let's think about the pressures they face. If a player doesn’t find success in their early or late twenties, some fans are quick to label them a “bust.”
So, I ask my readers, how would you feel if you didn’t find success right away in your career field in your early or late twenties, and people called you a “bust” or a failure? It certainly wouldn’t make you feel any better.
Now, let me clarify, I am not saying we shouldn’t hold professional athletes to account, but instead, when people talk about or judge these athletes, they should remember to respect the fact they are human, they are people just like all of us.
A wise colleague once told me NHL players are “regular guys” who have “cool jobs.”
It seems, many times, people forget athletes are people too. Nowhere was this more the case than when April Reimer, James Reimer’s wife, received death threats from fans when her husband was playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Yes, fans should be passionate about their team, but this case was an example of what professional sports should not be about; personal attacks.
If those who sent these threats had given thought to how scared it would make the recipient feel, it would make no difference if they are a celebrity or not. I hope, at least, that if their humanness was considered, it would have stopped them from sending the threats.
So, to fans of every sport, I just want you to remember that professional athletes are people too.
Is a reporter for The Standard Newspaper, so if you see him, feel free to say hello. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @dancearnsy