Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas took the blame for many things that went wrong this year at his season-ending press conference, the most interesting of which is the team’s struggle with the penalty kill, which stopped the Boston Bruins’ power play just nine out of 16 times during the playoffs. Dubas admitted he should have had more depth. While the coaching staff should be blamed as well, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox suggests ways to fix that penalty kill for next season.
The top suggestion is that the team must use real centers to take faceoffs during the penalty kill as winger Zach Hyman took the most faceoffs last season, going 69-72, while star John Tavares took just 29 faceoffs on the penalty kill and was the 12th-most used player on the penalty kill. The team must also add some depth to this team that could lose quite a few key penalty killers whether it’s Connor Brown, who is considered trade bait; Ron Hainsey, who will be an unrestricted free agent; or Travis Dermott, who will miss six months after shoulder surgery, the team must add players who can help their penalty kill.
- One Atlantic Division challenger to the Maple Leafs could be in the running for one of their unrestricted free agents, as The Athletic’s Olivier Bouchard (subscription required) believes that the Montreal Canadiens should go after unrestricted free agent Jake Gardiner. The scribe points out that when the dust clears, Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin should have close to $11MM at his disposal and with defense being one of the team’s biggest need, Gardiner might be the perfect addition as the blueliner should be able to force defenseman Brett Kulak to a bottom-pairing role.
- Lance Lysowski of the Buffalo News writes that while the Buffalo Sabres have considered the possibility of trading defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen for a top-six forward, he believes that would be a mistake, claiming that rather than hiding his defensive weaknesses, the team keeps placing him in a role that doesn’t suit him, which is attempting to shutdown the opposing team’s players. Ristolainen, who finished the season with a NHL-worst rating of minus-41, has often been paired with defensive deficient players like Marco Scandella and Jake McCabe, while he also struggled inexplicably when paired with Rasmus Dahlin. Regardless, a new coach that can utilize Ristolainen properly might get the most out of him rather than the Sabres watch him flourish with another team.
- Joe Haggerty of NBC Sports writes that Boston Bruins forward Noel Acciari has returned to practice and while he’s not expected to play in Game 2 on Sunday against the Carolina Huricanes, he could be ready for Game 3 in Carolina. Acciari, practiced in a non-contact jersey Saturday for the first time after missing the last three playoff games with an upper-body injury. “[Acciari] won’t play tomorrow,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’s doing well. He should be a full practice [participant] for Monday. We’ll see what we’re doing [as a team] that day, but he’ll be ready whatever the case may be. Hopefully, that allows him to play Tuesday and then we’ll make our decision then.”