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‘Babsocks’ are a hit among Leafs fans, players – and Mike Babcock himself

From The Globe and Mail – James Mirtle

Thomas McCole’s small apartment in Toronto’s East End is filled with socks. Stacks of boxes stuffed with bright blue socks. Designed in Canada but made in China, new ones arrive regularly and the boxes pile up by the hundreds.

Then, sometimes one pair at a time, they’re shipped all over world – with some destined for such far-flung locales like Kirkintilloch, Scotland, Orebro, Sweden, and Moonee Ponds, Australia.

And every single sock has Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock’s stern face on it.

These are Babsocks, the brainchild of two twentysomething Leafs fans who are now on a wild ride that, among other things, has enabled them to meet many of their hockey idols.

“I literally don’t wear any other socks,” said Jake Mednick, a program co-ordinator at a community centre who came up with the name as a joke prior to a beer-league hockey game back in September.

From then on, McCole – a marketing student at George Brown College – couldn’t stop thinking about Babsocks and the possibilities.

So they paid a designer to create a cartoon stylization of Babcock’s face, found a sock maker in China on Alibaba.com, and a few weeks later, the first-ever order of 100 pairs of Babsocks arrived at McCole’s home. He and Mednick launched babsocks.ca in the fall, and a tweet of a picture of the socks from former Leafs-player-turned-TSN broadcaster Jeff O’Neill helped spur sales right away.

McCole and Mednick have now sold nearly 3,000 pairs at $20 a pop.

“I just thought that I cannot let this one [idea] get away,” said McCole, who has dropped out of school to promote and sell Babsocks for a living. “The more it developed, the more I believed in it.”

“Leafs fans are just so passionate and in love with this team,” Mednick said. “And so optimistic about Babcock. They don’t mind the down year [for the team]. They’re still excited about the product.”

The Leafs – and Babcock himself – have taken notice.

On Saturday, Toronto’s American Hockey League team, the Marlies, hosted a “Babsocks Day” during their game against Utica, in which 200 discounted tickets were sold through babsocks.ca and hundreds of fans turned out in zany Babcock masks.

Babcock, meanwhile, ordered 30 pairs of the socks prior to Christmas through one of the Leafs’ administrative assistants. A few pairs have even worked their way into the dressing room after McCole and Mednick gave them to Leafs players Brad Boyes and Michael Grabner at a recent event.

“It’s a neat idea,” Boyes said. “I think it’s really clever, to be honest. For a couple guys to go out and do that, have fun, make some cash on it, it’s a cool thing.”

“They’re just enjoying what they’re doing, and I think Babs loves it, too,” Grabner said.

Leafs players haven’t been spotted wearing Babsocks around the Air Canada Centre, although one theorized that it might be good for their careers.

“Maybe you’ll get an extra shift?” goaltender James Reimer said.

“We’ll see if they’re going to catch on here,” Grabner added.

The overhead on Babsocks is high. Much of the purchase price currently goes to manufacturing and shipping, a process that McCole and Mednick hope to eventually streamline by finding a local producer. Getting the socks onto retail store shelves is another goal.

They have other ideas, too. One is a line of gloves with Leafs president Brendan Shanahan’s face on them called “Shanahands” – they already have a few protoypes. After that could be slippers for general manager Lou Lamoriello (Uncle Lous), toques for retired captain Mats Sundin (Mats Hats) and young executive footwear for assistant GM Kyle Dubas (Du-business socks).

And Babsocks will soon be available in children’s sizes.

McCole and Mednick envision similar novelty clothing lines for teams in other Canadian cities.

“I think we can get bigger,” Mednick said.

In the meantime, McCole and Mednick will continue to lug dozens of small packages to the courier outlet at De Arts, the local corner store, every few days. Leafs fans in Albuquerque, Tokyo and Oslo are waiting on orders, and McCole’s girlfriend wouldn’t mind having a bit more room in their apartment.

“Ultimately, it’d be a dream to do this full time,” McCole said. “It’s something that was made by the fan, for the fan.”

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

Source: ‘Babsocks’ are a hit among Leafs fans, players – and Mike Babcock himself

William Nylander in non-contact practice with Marlies

From Pension Puppets

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Nylander appeared on the ice for non-contact practice for the first time since his WJC injury.

It’s been five days short of a month since William Nylander was injured in his very first World Junior Competition match against Switzerland. The hit to Nylander was a blind-side one by Chris Egli, who appeared to impact the side of Nylander’s head with his arm. Egli was suspended for three games following the hit, and rejoined the Swiss team — who successfully staved off relegation in their last game of the tournament.

Nylander, however, was never able to rejoin team Sweden at the WJC. Since returning to Toronto, Nylander has been absent from the Marlies. When asked about Nylander returning to the lineup, Kyle Dubas told Leafs Lunch that his health situation placed his return date “on hold.”

He’s incurred an injury which we are going to be extremely cautious with and most conservative with in terms of his clearance to return to play. We need to follow the steps in a very conservative matter, and make sure he is absolutely 100% healthy and not at any undue risk when he returns. Especially in his case as a young player, there’s not going to be any type of pushing to come back sooner or earlier. He’s 19 years old, he’s got a lot of runway in front of him in terms of his potential and his career, and the onus is on us to do what’s right for any player that is injured that is that young. (Source)

Today, we finally have better news:

William Nylander is participating in a non-contact practice with the Marlies today. It’s been almost a month since he was concussed. — Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) January 22, 2016

Concussion protocol dictates that if Nylander shows any signs of a setback he’ll slow down again, but here’s crossing fingers that he’ll make it through this next step.

Source: William Nylander in non-contact practice with Marlies

Game Journal: Game 44 – Maple Leafs vs. Flyers

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs



4:30 PM:
Tonight’s officials will be Frederick L’Ecuyer and Brad Watson. Andy McElman and Tony Sericolo will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in to tonight’s game can watch on TSN 4, listen on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

Paul Hendrick and Joe Bowen tee up tonight’s game in Philly below.

4:00 PM: Here are tonight’s projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Flyers.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

40 Grabner – 43 Kadri – 47 Komarov

23 Matthias – 42 Bozak – 15 Parenteau

19 Lupul – 24 Holland – 28 Boyes

26 Winnik – 56 Froese – 25 Clune

Defence

51 Gardiner – 3 Phaneuf

2 Hunwick – 44 Rielly

52 Marincin – 46 Polak

Goaltenders

34 Reimer

45 Bernier

Philadelphia Flyers

Forwards

93 Voracek – 28 Giroux – 17 Simmonds

12 Raffl – 14 Couturier – 10 Schenn

24 Read – 21 Laughton – 20 Umberger

76 VandeVelde – 78 Bellemare – 25 White

Defence

15 Del Zotto – 3 Gudas

55 Schultz – 32 Streit

53 Gostisbehere – 82 Medvedev

Goaltenders

35 Mason

30 Neuvirth



3:45 PM:
James Reimer gets the start against the Flyers tonight. Here’s what he had to say following morning skate…

Leafs TV

Have you been pleased with your consistency coming back from injury?

I feel like I’ve been playing well for the most part. Unfortunately the wins haven’t been there but you keep working hard, sticking to the plan and doing what you can to give yourself a chance to win. Tonight I think the boys are fired up and we’re ready to go so hopefully we can pull out two points.

How is the coach’s challenge going from a goalie’s perspective?

Good, I think it’s always nice when a goal gets called back when it gets by you. I think it’s good. I think it adds a little more integrity to the game and keeps it an honest game. From a goalie’s standpoint, you’re never going to argue when one gets called back.

Do you find the play in front of you has changed as a result of the challenge?

I’m not quite sure. I’d almost say it’s changed. It felt like at the start of the year it [getting hit by skaters] was almost more than normal but the last couple of games it hasn’t been as much. I don’t know if that has to do with the rule or whatnot but I feel like it has kind of fluctuated a bit. I don’t know if I could give you a definitive answer.

How strong is Roman Polak in terms of clearing the net and letting you see what’s coming?

He’s awesome. He’s an animal out there. He’s a big, strong guy and he does a great job of clearing guys out and picking up sticks so guys can’t get second whacks and stuff. Whenever he’s out there you know he’s got your back and he’ll do whatever it takes. It’s always a pleasure when he’s on the ice.

What are you doing for the all-star break?

Just heading some place warm. Just trying to work on this nice tan I have going on.



3:30 PM: Mike Babcock spoke to the media in Philadelphia on Tuesday following the Leafs’ morning skate. Here’s what he had to say…

Leafs TV

On the Flyers:

Well, I mean, Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, pretty good looking crew up front for sure. Couturier is their matchup guy. I think they’ve got a nice team and they’re trying to build a real program here and it looks like they’re going in the right direction.

How do you keep the day-to-day separate from the noise of the Toronto market?

We talked about that at the start but I think that’s a waste of energy and time. Who do you value as an opinion in your life? Let’s get on with it. I don’t even know this is going on. I know that I talk to Lou every day, I talk to my coaching staff every day, I talk to my players every day, I talk to Shanny, Kyle Dubas. Those are the opinions that are getting that influence hockey. I talk to my wife and kids every day, that’s kind of what matters to me. The rest of it to me, you can get caught up in anything. You can say — I’ve got young kids so I know they’re on their phone all the time and they know everything that’s said or going on in the world. But, that’s part of what they grow up with, the information overload. They probably like. Let’s get on with it.

If you could change one more thing about this team magically what would it be?

If I could change one more thing magically… I’m not a big magic guy but I guess what I would say would say to you is I think your determination should show every night. Not every second night or every third night or when you’re feeling good. Every night. That, to me, is our goal for our team is that we’re prepared and we’re competitive every single night. When you do that the score looks after itself. If there’s any one thing, and that’s not one thing, but if there’s any one thing, that’s what I’d give you.

Is it going to be tougher to keep the room focused given the standings and the trade deadline approaching?

It might be. The way I’d look at it is I got up today and knew we were playing Philly and thought about finding a way to get a win. That’s what I’d do if I was a player.

Are you happy you’ve got the coach’s challenge?

This would be me — an offside that you miss by a fraction of an inch that caused a goal that had nothing really to do with being offside, that’s not what the rules are, does it matter? Does it matter? I don’t know if it matters. Should those two goals that we called back really count? I thought they were good plays, I thought they should count. I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. What’s next?

How do you find offence in your lineup?

We talked about that today and our focus is on how to do that. That’s what we spent our time on and that’s what our concern will be today. That’s what our focus will be today. Keeping it out of our net and getting it in their net. What I’ve found is the more time you spend in the offensive zone, the more fun you have and the better chance you have to score goals… Win faceoffs, be heavier on the forecheck, don’t turn pucks over in the neutral zone, break out faster. They all go together. Which one comes first? The chicken or the egg.

3:00 PM: The Maple Leafs kick off their week in Philadelphia on Tuesday night when they take on the Flyers.

The Leafs are coming off a 3-2 loss in Boston on Saturday night. Leo Komarov and Shawn Matthias had the goals for Toronto while Jonathan Bernier made 42 stops in the loss. James Reimer will get the start against the Flyers in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

The Flyers last played on Sunday night and beat the Red Wings by a 2-1 score. Claude Giroux had the lone Flyers goal in regulation and Jakub Voracek had the shootout winner to clinch victory for Philadelphia. Michal Neuvirth had 29 saves and was named first star in the win. Steve Mason will start for Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Stay tuned for comments from Coach Babcock, James Reimer, projected lineups and more.

Source: Game Journal: Game 44 – Maple Leafs vs. Flyers

One-on-One with Kyle Dubas

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

When he joined the Maple Leafs organization in 2014, Kyle Dubas had already made a name for himself as a groundbreaking young hockey executive with the Ontario League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – and since then, the 30-year-old has continued to build his bank of expertise, serving as the Leafs’ assistant GM, as well as the GM of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.

Dubas recently spoke to MapleLeafs.com for an extended look into the Marlies organization and his personal journey to the upper echelons of the hockey management world. Here is the condensed and edited conversation:

MapleLeafs.com: In recently speaking to coach Sheldon Keefe and Frederik Gauthier for a story on Gauthier’s first pro season with the Marlies, it was clear the franchise is coming together in different ways to help young players improve – in his case, through changes to his equipment that will benefit his skating. Is that when you feel most fulfilled in your role – seeing the entire organization collaborate – and having players willing to work with them to make improvements?

Kyle Dubas: In Frederik’s case – and this applies to every player – we try to use all the expertise we have as a development staff. How that came about with the changes to his equipment was, in sitting and talking with Sheldon, myself, (Leafs director of player development) Scott Pellerin, (Leafs skills development consultant) Darryl Belfry, (player development consultant) Mike Ellis and (Leafs skating coach) Barb Underhill – so really our entire development staff. Barb had some great insights and so did Darryl and they conveyed that, by making a few alterations to his equipment, it would significantly change his posture and thus the power he could generate from his skating.

And so Chris McKeage, our equipment manager – who I also consider part of our development staff, because he’s the one who has to make the changes; he’s sort of the mechanic behind it all, even though people may not always think of that role that way, but we do – made the changes. Frederik was open to it, and not a lot of players are, especially not rookie pros who’re trying to get their feet under them and get started in the league. Frederik embraced the change, and it was explained to him in a way by our staff that “here’s how we believe it can help you, here are the direct improvements we can see these equipment changes making”. Frederik has put in a spectacular amount of work every day, but notably with Barb Underhill and Darryl, to improve his game.

When we’re scouting, some will say, “well, he didn’t have great numbers in the Quebec League and he’s a first-round pick,” a lot of that, especially in hockey, is still so subjective. But are there things we can do as a staff that will improve him? How does he retain teaching? Is he an intelligent young man? And Frederik is – before he chose the Quebec League, he was accepted to Harvard, and he’s a very intelligent 20-year-old, one of the most intelligent I’ve been around. He embraced it, and we try to provide all of our players with these types of insights to improve. And it’s paid dividends so far for Frederik.

MapleLeafs.com: Is that intangible of acceptance or flexibility in working on your game something that does matter to the organization? Do you look for players who believe in themselves and doing the things that got them to this level, but who also have to be willing to be open to change?

Kyle Dubas: The way I look at it is that intelligent players are open to doing things that are conveyed to them in a way that can benefit them. If you try to go to a player who’s a really smart person – which is something our organization really values in the players we draft – and give them a bunch of babble and basic stuff, they’re going to see through it. So in order to go to a really intelligent player, you have to explain things well so that the player understands the lesson and sees the benefit.

So the challenge to our staff here has been to better explain things, to better define them, and that involves using everything – objective and subjective information that we have and our expertise – to try to best explain things to a player in a way they can quickly apply to their games. An intelligent player is best equipped to do that.

MapleLeafs.com: In terms of the mental health angle and doing things like reporting injuries – particularly, head injuries – do you think that will be a growing concern for teams as the years go on? Obviously, you want players to push through a certain level of pain if it’s a knee or elbow during the game, but do you want that honesty and openness to extend to how they’re feeling, not only in terms of concussions, but in regard to their lives away from the rink?

Kyle Dubas: I’m here with the Marlies now every day, and we have our performance coach Rich Rotenberg, who Sheldon and I had in The Soo, and every day here we do what we call a wellness report. The main objective of that report is to always have a grasp on how our players are doing, but the most important part of it that we want to convey to the players is that, yes, we’re here to try to maximize their potential as players and as athletes, but players aren’t going to be able to maximize their potential if the person is not at their best, whether it’s because of relationship issues or mental health issues.

As an organization you don’t think you’re ever quite good enough at it, just because of how difficult it is. For me, anyway, I’m always afraid that we’re not doing enough and that it’s not good enough. But we try to convey to the players in every way possible that, if they are having any type of issue that has nothing to do with hockey, that we’re open and we’re here to treat them as people, not as hockey players. I hope that’s conveyed to the players, and based on the feedback we get, I think we’re on the right track there, but it’s an area that, no matter how good you are, you can always get better.

But it’s of vital importance to us. We’re in the development business here, and if the player is not right off the ice mentally or emotionally, they’re not going to be able to maximize their development as a player. So the person is more important than the player.

MapleLeafs.com: How does building a team at the AHL level – where you have players in vastly different stages of their careers – differ from building a junior hockey team? Are there parallels there?

Kyle Dubas: I’ve found it very similar, especially this season, to my time in The Soo. The players don’t have a set expiration date like they have in junior, but I think they realize once they get to that age where they’re past that entry-level deal, and then they get a second contract and get past that and they’re not in the NHL, they’re wondering where they might fit, much in the same way we dealt with overage players in Sault Ste. Marie.

In terms of building a team here, obviously we know what we’re going to have in terms of players who are signed, drafted and contracted. So it’s about ensuring we have depth that our players in (ECHL) Orlando are developing, that we’re doing a good job and are prepared for when players are recalled. If a player is recalled or injured with the Leafs, that influences us and it influences Orlando. We’re in the middle of it – we’re trying to get everyone to the Leafs as quickly as we can, and to make sure the players coming in here are developing and that we’ve done a good job of identifying players that can come in here and develop with the team.

MapleLeafs.com: So when it comes to someone like Marlies goalie Ray Emery – by the way, he was in The Soo when you were just a young guy, right?

Kyle Dubas: (laughs) Yes, that would’ve been in my time working on the bench and in the room on game days and in the office on non-game days working with the coaches. So when Ray was there, I would’ve been 13-16 years old. He’s an (19)82 and I’m an (19)85. The thing with Ray – all four goalies we have under contract are all on the Leafs roster, and you’re one injury away from not having any contracted guy able to go up – so we wanted someone with NHL experience, and Ray was available, and so we brought him in, and he’s been great, especially off the ice, mentoring the guys. He’s been great.

MapleLeafs.com: So when you look at those veteran players you want to surround your younger players with like Ray, is there a typical type of person like him who has that love for the game and a willingness to never quit when other older players might?

Kyle Dubas: When I think of our veteran group here, I think of Andrew Campbell, Rich Clune and Justin Johnson. Those three, Clune especially, with everything he’s been through as a person and an NHL player, have been absolutely amazing.

Rich has taken young players under his wing; he can talk from experience about dealing with the vices that can present themselves in athletics. He knows about those all too well, and he’s been able to pull himself through that, and he’s been unbelievable. Our team is one of the youngest teams in the league, and Rich is only 28 – and most of our veteran guys aren’t overly old. They’ve got experience, and Rich has been up and down with the Leafs a few times and has ambition to still play in the NHL. He has been excellent, in the room, in the weight room, on the ice and off the ice. Same for Andrew Campbell, in terms of how he plays, his commitment to the team, his sacrifices on the ice and his mentorship.

The one thing we wanted to ensure is that guys like that, if they were going to be here, wouldn’t be sulking because they weren’t in the NHL. Although they’re disappointed when they come down here, within minutes, they’re back in their role of mentoring younger players. So it was hugely important to Sheldon and I, as we signed players in the summer that we knew might be in veteran positions, that they’d be good enough to help us on the ice, but although they still had NHL ambition, that weren’t going to be envious or jealous of younger players and that would help them get to the NHL. And all of them have been fantastic so far, especially Campbell and Clune,

MapleLeafs.com: You mentioned players can see through the cliches, and when you look at a player like Byron Froese, does the fact the team has embraced him at the NHL level drive home the idea that this is a meritocracy and that people can work their way up the ranks regardless of how they came into the organization? Is a story like that a real positive for motivating players at the AHL level?

Kyle Dubas: I think in Byron’s case, it’s a great story. We brought him in last year when we were having trouble scoring here. I’ve known him for a long time; know what he’s about as a person and what his ability was. We’re fortunate – he was in Chicago’s system, which is loaded with excellent players and you can get lost a little bit – to bring him in here from the ECHL, and he was excellent for us last year with the Marlies and then got off to a great start.

I think what it shows the players is that, even though he’s not a draft pick of the organization and he didn’t get a huge look in training camp and exhibition, he comes here and he plays well. And then when the Leafs need a player, Mike and Lou call and say, “who’s playing the best right now?”, and the answer, at centre, was Byron Froese. Unfortunately, he’s got an injury right now, but he’s playing every night, playing a key role, and Mike trusts him, uses him for a ton of defensive zone draws.

It should serve to our players as the hammering home of all those cliches and stock answers that you speak of, which is: if you come here and you play your best, you’re going to get up and you’re going to be able to go. It doesn’t matter where you came from – once you’re in here, you’re going to have an opportunity to work your way up. It eliminates some of the excuses as well, from players and agents – “Well, he’s not getting a look because he’s not a high draft pick”. When you have Byron up and playing in the NHL, it certainly eliminates the ability for them to use those types of excuses.

MapleLeafs.com: How do you feel about Sheldon’s work with the team?

Kyle Dubas: I’m thrilled with the work of Sheldon and the entire coaching staff. Sheldon has been trying to accomplish three things: he’s trying to maximize the individual development of every player, first and foremost, he’s trying to master the system of Coach Babcock, and thirdly, he’s trying to accomplish those first two things while winning games.

I think that, if we go player-by-player through our team, we’re thrilled with the development of 80 percent of the guys, and the rest we’re either OK with, and maybe some, we’re unhappy with, but I would say that’s par for the course in athletics. How are we doing within the system of Mike? I think we’re doing very well, based on the conversations I have with Mike and with Lou. And then, the team has been fortunate to have some good success early. So all of the three things I look at as important when evaluating Sheldon, he’s accomplished.

He’ll coach at the AHL All-Star game this year, and Sheldon and I have been together as a pair for a few years now – with the hiatus of last year, when I was here and he was in The Soo – and for me, it’s the most fun I’ve had working with anybody in hockey. We challenge each other, we can argue – sometimes passionately, without it ever being personal and without anyone getting their feelings hurt – knowing that we’re just trying to improve one another and improve the team. So I’m thrilled for him, and I think his success here, a large amount of that credit also needs to go to (assistant coaches) Gord Dineen and A.J. MacLean and (goalie coach) Piero Greco and (video coach) Justin Bourne. They’ve been outstanding, and I couldn’t be happier with the job the coaches are doing so far.

MapleLeafs.com: You and Sheldon are obviously connected to your time in Sault Ste. Marie, and in many ways, you’re both young men in positions that have often been occupied by much older men. Do you ever get the sense you have a little extra to prove to some of the older hockey types and the establishment?

Kyle Dubas: A lot of people ask that question in some form or variation. I think it’d be crazy to deny that’s part of it; I also think the establishment is right to question people who are different at first.

It’s something that we embrace, trying to show people we are capable in our own way of having success in pro hockey, but we have to prove that. We’re only halfway through a year here together. But I think first and foremost, our goal is to challenge each other to make each other better in order to help the team and the players, and if we can do that, any doubts people have will be forgotten and we’ll move on. But being younger and going through it together in the same parts of our career, there’s certainly a synergy that forms trying to have success together.

MapleLeafs.com: With the evolution of advanced stats at a point where teams have hired experts and made the industry more secretive and proprietary, are there any trends or tendencies you can talk about in the abstract in terms of where advanced stats are headed?

Kyle Dubas: Oh man, a year ago, I would’ve said it’s player tracking and in-game tracking, and they tried that at the all-star game last year and it’s kind of gone silent ever since. I really think that it’s so far in its infancy in hockey, and right now it seems, to me anyway, there’s still some very good people in the public domain doing work, but because a lot of teams – us, certainly included – have hired the best people from the public domain, it’s kind of hindered everything that’s being advanced publicly.

Whether it’s Tim Barnes, Gabriel Desjardins, Tyler Dellow, Eric Tulsky and Tore Purdy, and now you’ve got Travis Yost and Matt Cane and others doing work that’s well done and debated. But there’s really a lack of that now. And every one of those people mentioned is deserving of working with an NHL team. But I think everything right now is so internal, and everyone is trying to do their own proprietary thing, that there’s a real lack of people still doing great work in the public domain.

We have a lot going on internally, and we’re trying to find our own edges and things we can identify – and not just in the game, either. It’s off the ice, and with our sports science department. We’re trying to challenge ourselves to think about not just to think what’s going on in the game and evaluating players and teams, but in what we can do to put our players in the best position and arm them with information, including information related to their nutrition, sleep and workouts. So we’ve got a long, long way to go in hockey, we’re just trying to catch up to the teams that are ahead of us and try to level the playing field. I still think we’re behind, but we’re getting there. We’ve got a great staff here with Darryl Metcalf, Cam Charron, Rob Pettapiece and now Bruce Peter, who spends a lot of his time on the Marlies. So we’re excited about the way things are going.

MapleLeafs.com: You get to sit at the feet, so to speak, of arguably the greatest GM in NHL history, and work alongside arguably the best coach in the game today and a Hall-of-Fame player and highly-regarded executive in Brendan Shanahan. Can any human being be that big of a sponge to soak in all that knowledge that you have around you? And can you speak about what you’ve learned from each of those men thus far?

Kyle Dubas: There’s so much information and so much for me to learn in general, and I would put (Leafs director of player personnel) Mark Hunter in that group as well, in terms of people who’ve had great success in hockey identifying talent and players and learning from them.

Since Babs arrived in May, I don’t know that I’ve ever learned as much from anyone as I have from him. He’s always on the go, always talking, always searching for new ideas, always willing to share, always willing to value your idea. He has a very unique way of going about it – what you see with him is what you get. What he says in public is what he says privately as well. He challenges you, he wants your opinion, he seeks it out, he’s very collaborative, and I’ve learned a lot from how he thinks about the game, how he explains and teaches it, how he thinks about different players and systems.

I have a daily interaction with Lou, and my tasks now have been the Marlies, our development system and our analytics side. Lou will check in with me every day, I’m able to bounce stuff off Lou, talk about it and so forth.

One guy that doesn’t get a whole lot of things said about him is (Leafs assistant to the GM) Brandon Pridham. I’ve learned so much from Brandon so far, in terms of his knowledge of the CBA and contracts, rulings and the intricacies of it. He kind of flies under the radar, but he really shouldn’t, because he’s great at what he does, not only with the CBA but with scouting and player identification and so forth.

Because I see a lot of AHL games, I’m able to talk to Mark and get his opinion about different players on different teams. And going into the draft last year, it was great working with Mark as we were trying to acquire more (draft) picks for the staff. And last year at the end of the year, I did a lot of amateur scouting – we kind of asked Mark, “Where do you want me to go and who do you want me to see?” He’d give me his insights, and it’s great to talk in meetings with him, it’s very interesting to see how he evaluates players.

My relationship with Brendan has been changing in a good way: when we went through that stretch of four months when there was no GM and we were sharing duties, we’d talk everyday. And he’s around the Marlies quite a bit, and it’s always great to get his insights on the way the team plays from his experience as a player, and as an executive in the NHL and how different things work.

I learn a lot of different things from everybody, and for me, to be able to draw on the unique experiences of those people, it’s amazing. It’s an excellent staff, and Brendan’s done a great job of putting it together. It’s exciting for me to learn from those kind of people. I’m very fortunate and happy to be here, and to just try to pull my weight and do the very best I can with the tasks assigned. I’ve learned a lot and still have so much to learn, but I’m in a great place to do that.

You can find our MapleLeafs.com Q&A with head coach Mike Babcock here.

Source: One-on-One with Kyle Dubas

From the Branches: Canada wins at WWJ

From Pension Puppets

Canada WWJ team celebrates its goal. – Singjay

Day 2 of the WWJ ended with Canada beating the Czechs 11-0 to make a run for first place in their group.

Our own Phylliskessel was on CentreIce TSN690 today talking to HEOTP’s Robyn Flynn. UPDATE: The live spot is now over but we will get a link to a recording up soon.

El Seldo’s been reporting for us on the WWJ, and his daily recaps of each and every game are some dedicated work. He reported on Canada’s win yesterday as well as the rest of the tournament, and his piece (with the assistance of all of Gunnar’s gifs) is an excellent read. Day 2: Recap: Canada 11 – Czechs 0 | PPP

Leafs News

Swedish TV interviews Maple Leafs prospect Andreas Johnson | PPP
Johnson speaks of his current success and more hopefully in the future with the Leafs.

Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Andreas Johnson has a three-point day | PPP

Canada vs. Russia: A Rinkside Pictorial | PPP

Kyle Dubas talks analytics and development, Toronto Marlies shut out the Moose 3-0 | PPP

Report: Concussion takes Nylander’s potential call-up ‘off the table’ | The Score
“That’s all off the table right now,” Cox said. “I think he’s going to miss a month or more when it’s all said and done.” Nylander apparently returned to Toronto on Wednesday and has embarked on his return-to-play concussion protocol.

2015 Draft Day: How Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas may have outplayed the league | MLHS

Winnik really likes Thornton’s beard | R/Leafs

Jeremy Bracco, kitchener vs. hamilton to put kitchener up 1-0 | R/Leafs

Other News

Lawyers in concussion case want to unseal NHL records | Star Tribune
Former players are suing the league in Minneapolis over the brain damage they suffered.

Call her Denna | SCOC
In which I talk about my dad’s paraplegia and what might be next for Denna and her family.

After John Scott vote, NHL will limit All-Star Game fan influence: Report | Puck Daddy
“You’re going to see a situation where the League decides if it’s going to be that the fans just have a portion of the vote – not all of the captaincy votes – or could it just be that there’s a list online that you’re going to be able to vote from. I think it’s pretty safe to say we’re not going to see the same kind of all out voting that we saw this year and what it resulted in with the captaincies.”

Recaps

Caps Earn Two the Hard Way, Beat Rangers, 4-3 (OT) – Japers’ Rink
The Capitals visited Madison Square Garden looking to put more distance between themselves and the Rangers. For 40 minutes, it looked as if the would. Hockey games, however, are 60-minutes long.

Flyers 4, Islanders 0: 10 things we learned from an afternoon treat – Broad Street Hockey
Back home in Philadelphia, the Flyers systematically took apart an undermanned Islanders squad. Which players particularly stood out?

Senators Defeat Boston Bruins 2-1 in Overtime – Silver Seven
Stone had the OT winner as Ottawa beat the Bruins in Marchand’s first game back from suspension.

Hurricanes 4, Blue Jacket 3 – (OT) – Canes Country
Jordan Staal wins game in overtime for Carolina

Overturned Stars goal bails out Mike Reilly and the Wild – Hockey Wilderness
Mike Reilly and the Wild were bailed out by the referees decision to disallow the Dallas Stars early goal.

Lightning roll by Canucks with 3-2 overtime win to get back in playoff contention – Raw Charge
Coming off an exciting victory the night before, the Lightning continued their momentum and picked up another pair of much needed points.

To Live and Die in L.A. – St. Louis Game Time
Myriad of injuries continue to pile up but Elliott steals a win in LA

Louis Domingue earns second shutout, Coyotes win 4-0 – Five For Howling
The Coyotes start off their homestand on a high note with a 4-0 drubbing of the Predators.

Source: From the Branches: Canada wins at WWJ

Connor Brown returns to ice with Marlies

From The Star

Connor Brown’s return to practice with the Toronto Marlies Tuesday marked another step in the club’s attempts to return some of its top young players to its first-place lineup.

Brown, who hasn’t practised at full stride since suffering a cracked bone in his ankle in late October, worked out with the rest of the players in advance of a two-game trip to Manitoba this weekend.

The 21-year-old Brown, who led the AHL in rookie scoring last season, is about two weeks away from returning to a game.

“Connor would play this weekend if it were up to him, and the way he’s worked at getting back, the things he does to recover, improving other parts of his body, I’m not concerned with the layoff,” Marlies GM Kyle Dubas said.

Brown, when he does return to game action, could eventually team up with former linemate William Nylander, who has yet to return to Toronto after a hit to the head suffered during the world junior championship in Finland. Dubas said he is not certain whether Nylander has recovered sufficiently to allow him to travel by plane.

The Marlies remain in first place in the Northern Division and have won six of nine games in the two weeks since Nylander and Finnish forward Kasperi Kapanen left to play in the junior tournament.

Dubas acquired American-born Jeremy Morin from the Blackhawks organization in exchange for Richard Panik over the weekend, in part because of Morin’s solid shot metrics.

Dubas said the goal is to build up Morin’s game, to the point where he may help the Leafs later this season.

“I try to be a shooter first,” said Morin, who had nine goals and 13 assists in 28 games for Rockford in the AHL so far this season.

“I try to build my game by going to the net and creating opportunities. When I heard I was going to the Leafs, I was excited, it’s a new opportunity for me.”

Source: Connor Brown returns to ice with Marlies