Monday, May 2, 2016

Weekend report: The Maple Leafs... win?

The second round of the playoffs are ongoing, and we'll get to all the action down below. But by far the biggest moment of the weekend, everyone would no doubt agree, was Saturday's lottery to determine the selection order for the 2016 entry draft.

No? Not everyone? That was mainly a Canadian thing?

OK, it's possible that the lottery was a bigger deal north of the border than it was down there in the country that actually produces playoff teams. Still, for one night at least, fans of Canadian teams had something to root for.

On paper, the Leafs Leafs winning the top pick was the most likely result; they went in with a 20 percent chance of taking the top spot. In reality, it was all but unthinkable. These are the Maple Leafs. Nothing good ever happens to the Maple Leafs. This is a team that's become the NHL's version of the Browns or Cubs, the go-to synonym for a perpetually bad team that never wins anything. And yet they somehow hadn't had the top pick since 1985, and while they used that on one of the most beloved players in franchise history in Wendel Clark, they were just one year away from getting Mario Lemieux instead. The Leafs hadn't even had the second overall pick since then—oh, they'd finished second last twice over that span, but both times had already traded their pick in advance. They'd only picked as high as third once, and they used that on a career fourth-liner.

All of which is to say that every true Leafs fan went into the lottery already knowing what was going to happen: The Leafs would lose all three drawings, drop out of the top three, and wind up picking fourth in a draft with three franchise players. It was the twist ending that everyone could see coming a mile away.

And that's why, when Bill Daly flipped over the No. 4 card to reveal an Oilers logo instead, you could almost hear the collective record scratch from Leafs Nation. The Leafs had won something. A few minutes later, we found out they'd won it all.

And sure, winning it all is relative. We're still talking about a draft lottery, which by definition is the domain of the league's losers. The eight teams still alive in the playoffs are the ones who are actually trying to win something meaningful.

But the Maple Leafs haven't been part of the group for a very long time, and on Saturday they may have taken a big step toward finally getting there. And it was the weekend's biggest shock, no matter what the odds said going in.

Top Five

Celebrating those who've had the best week.

5. Winnipeg Jets—The Leafs may have been the draft lottery winners by virtue of securing the first overall pick, but the biggest jump was by the Jets. They came in holding the sixth slot, and moved all the way up to second. That probably means they'll end up with Finnish winger Patrik Laine, a gifted sniper who's drawn comparisons to Alexander Ovechkin. (And who delivered the evening's unquestioned highlight with this impressively laid-back interview.)

Hmm... a flashy Finnish winger with a knack for scoring goals. It feels like that's worked out pretty well in Winnipeg once before. And it's the reason that you could make a strong case for the Jets being Saturday's biggest winners.

4. Jonathan Drouin—Last week, we highlighted the production of Tampa's Triplets line, particularly Nikita Kucherov. That line remains hot, with Tyler Johnson moving to within two points of the league's postseason lead. But Drouin deserves some love, too, especially given what he had to overcome to get here.

You know the story by now: Drouin was the third overall pick of the 2013 draft, but had yet to break through in the NHL. He didn't play much as a rookie in last year's playoffs, and after an underwhelming start to this season he was sent down to the minors. He responded by walking out on the team, hoping to force a trade that never came. He eventually returned, although without any guarantee that the Lightning would give him another shot at the NHL.

They eventually did, in part due to the absence of Steven Stamkos, and Drouin is making the most of it. After recording four points in the opening round against Detroit, he's added three more in two games against the Lighting. That included this goal, the first of his playoff career, in Saturday's crucial Game 2 win.

Drouin is the sort of player who can be awfully fun to watch when he's on. But he may be even more fun once the offseason arrives, and the Lightning have to figure out what to do with him. If they're still going to trade him, you'd have to think the price is rising with every strong game. But could they bury the hatchet and keep him? If Stamkos is on the way out, that may start to seem like the best option... if the various egos involved can handle it.

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports


  1. I love the good Soo-boy Maurice (my former principal's son), but I'd be all over Boudreau if he's available.

  2. Rather light on the Leafs celebration -- sure.... no Steve Dangle impression -- but expected more for some reason.