The Nashville Predators finish their Canadian back-to-back at the Air Canada Centre. The Toronto Maple Leafs have tied cinder blocks to their feet in an attempt to sink as far down the standings as they can, while the Predators need every point they can muster to keep the Wild at bay.
The Toronto Maple Leafs
The rebuild is going according to plan, which has been the only thing Maple Leafs fans have been able to feel optimistic about in years.
Just about a year ago, Toronto still had David Clarkson, Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel on their roster. Somehow, those contracts are gone. Currently, they have six expiring UFA contracts, and come the deadline they are going to be throwing out anything that's not bolted to the floor in exchange for sweet, sweet draft picks. Decisions will have to be made on James Reimer (UFA), Nazem Kadri, Peter Holland and Morgan Rielly (RFA), but they have some cap wiggle room right now. Are they going to have money left over to sign any big name free agents? It's possible, as long as those free agents don't mind losing for the foreseeable future.
We don't have to get into all the ways the Leafs are bad this year, because it's an exercise in futility. That's what was expected, that's what they wanted, and that's what's happening. So far they are holding true to my prediction that they'd be worse than the Buffalo Sabres this year. Unfortunately, their 50 points in the league are tied with the Edmonton Oilers for the fewest, but they have three games in hand. Crap, Edmonton is going to get the first overal pick again, aren't they?
Things Craig Smith Misses
In lieu of actual analysis, today we'll venture into the world of Craig Smith. If you haven't already seen him accidentally preventing himself from scoring an overtime winner last night (or if you can't get enough of it) here you go again:
here's the overhead of Smith's shot/save pic.twitter.com/P120L3whog— Stephanie (@myregularface) February 23, 2016
Since missing wide open nets is becoming a common occurrence, and his most famous incident was against these very Maple Leafs, we have to get these out of our system right now. We're sorry, Craig, but jokes are going to be made at your expense for days (years?) to come. At least you know this is coming from a place of love, and all we're doing is getting them out of our system now so they don't build up down the road.
- Craig Smith was cut from his high school dive team because he could never actually make it into the water.
- In an alternate universe, Craig Smith was counted on to shoot proton torpedoes into the Death Star's exhaust port. He sent them high and wide.
- Growing up in Wisconsin, Craig Smith visited his relatives' dairy farm every summer. In a strange architectural decision, his aunt and uncle decided to build all the cow ports and equipment storage facilities without walls. That's why Craig Smith can't hit the broad side of a barn.
- Teammates refuse to play darts with Craig Smith.
- Voice commands on cell phones were a game changer for Craig Smith, who had not dialed a correct number in over a decade.
- The Predators were going to unveil player specific voice navigation for several different GPS apps, but scrapped the project when the Craig Smith setting kept ending drivers two blocks away from their destination.
- Craig Smith's dogs love it when he attempts to make omelets or flapjacks
- Over the summer, Craig Smith tried out for an intramural baseball team. He did not get selected.
- You'll never see Craig Smith guzzling water or Gatorade on the bench. He saves it for the locker room.
Ok, I think I'm really done but I'd love to hear yours.
Reasons to Watch
- Former Nashville draft pick Brendan Leipsic is up with the team and recorded his first NHL goal in his first NHL game on February 13th against Vancouver. It was the game winner. If he plays tonight, be reminded of Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli, and Olli Jokinen's sick flow. Odd times, those were.
- Laugh heartily at the TV whenever the Toronto broadcast mentions Auston Matthews, Steven Stamkos or Jimmy Vesey. Don't remind them that the Leafs, while executing their rebuild with precision, still won't be competitive for three to five more years. Why Stamkos would decide to play their and torpedo his chances at the Cup during his prime years doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.
- The last time the Preds were in Toronto, it was that glorious 9-2 dismantling. There will probably be plenty of highlights. What do you think Taylor Beck is up to now?
Enjoy this masterful cover of The Beastie Boys by Toronto's very own Cancer Bats. Get it? Because the Leafs are trying to sabotage their record for a chance at Auston Matthews.
Sights and Sounds
Hope traffic isn't bad. We've got another 6:30 Central start on FS-TN and 102.5 The Game.