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Opinion | 13 Musings: Sorry Leafs fans, Matthew Knies isn’t the answer yet, plus Stanley Cup playoff puzzlers


What to do with Matthew Knies?

Knies is the best maple leaves the hope has not signed a contract with the NHL. The second-round pick in the 2021 draft is widely expected to sign at the end of his college season. He is part of the top-seeded NCAA Men’s Championship University of Minnesota Gophers. Their first match is Thursday against Canisius. The final is April 8. Once his season is over, he is free to turn pro. Or stay in school.

There’s an almost amusing — and pretty unfair — amount of hype from an rabid fanbase who think he’s the missing ingredient for the Leafs’ top six. That’s too much to ask of a 20-year-old college kid.

At the end of his season, he’ll hire an agent, and that agent will suggest Knies sign a deal that guarantees he’ll play for the Leafs at the end of the season, a lot like Nick Abruzzese did Last year. (If Knies plays the final on April 8, the Leafs will only have three games left.)

From the agent’s perspective, that burns a year off the contract and brings his client closer to a season of unrestricted free agency. From a player’s perspective, it makes sure he gets into the NHL action. But it could also rob him of valuable development time.

The way things are going with the NHL and the AHL, if Knies is playing in the NHL this season he can’t play for the Marlies in the AHL playoffs. He would be ineligible like Abruzzese was last year.

The Marlies look set for a good, long Calder Cup playoff series, and a spring at the Coca-Cola Coliseum could go a long way toward bridging the gap between college and the NHL.

Instead, the Leafs should urge Knies to sign a subsequent NHL entry deal, as Ryan Tverberg did. Tverberg, a 2020 seventh-round pick, blossomed for three years at the University of Connecticut. His entry-level NHL contract begins next season. Meanwhile, he’s signed a pro tryout with the Marlies and promises to make it into their playoffs – a win-win all around.

In Knies’ case, it could temper the absurd expectations of a fan base that seems to want to impose the weight of the team’s history on a young, untested player. But the NHL rush is an allure that perhaps Knies, or the Leafs, won’t be able to resist.

If you have a question, write to me at and I will answer it in the next Mailbag. Now let’s move on to the 13 Reflections.

1. The Leafs are destined to make the playoffs for the seventh straight season. They made eight in a row from 1974 to 1981, nine in a row from 1959 to 1967 and 15 in a row from 1931 to 1945.

2. Connor McDavid seems to be locked for the Hart Trophy, Erik Karlsson for the Norris. Patrice Bergeron probably gets the Selke, but Mitch Marmer deserves huge consideration for this award.

3. Before being injured, Leaf Ryan O’Reilly was looking to play his 1,000th game. It sits at 986. The No. 1,000 regular season game will have to wait until next year. Maybe there’s a way for him to wear blue and white. It would have been fun to see him in green and white last week.

4. After Monday night’s results, Pittsburgh and Washington sit outside of a playoff spot. Is this the end of Sid and Ovie?

5. I was looking forward to the elimination races. Then Buffalo, Ottawa and Detroit got away with it in the East. Withered, just faded. Maybe Florida comes in, but that doesn’t count as a change. Or maybe the Senators Wellness Story of the Week, Dylan Ferguson, can continue a Hamburglar-type race.

6. Quiet rooting for Nashville — a team that sold out at the deadline — to get in. The Flames are a head-scratching team. The Jets? Things are going sideways.

7. Morgan Rielly on being the microphone for a recent game: “I think it’s not something that everyone really likes. Well, unless you like the spotlight. But I think it’s a good thing to do. We’re all trying to grow the game, so if it’s conducive to that, it’s fine.

8. Back in Kelowna, British Columbia, Luke Schenn has a framed copy of the game sheet from the first NHL game he played. He played 17 minutes and 20 seconds, had one shot on goal in 27 shifts, and the Leafs beat defending champion Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on October 9, 2008.

9. Schenn on his debut against the Wings: “They were waving their Stanley Cup banner. And right before that, the NHL was always bringing top prospects to watch the Finals. That year it was Detroit and Pittsburgh. So a few months ago, I was shaking hands with all these guys. I sometimes look at this score sheet and you have (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Henrik) Zetterberg, (Tomas) Holmstrom, (Nicklas) Lidstrom, (Brian) Rafalski, (Chris) Osgood, all those guys. It was my first game in the NHL. And I remember having that first shift against some of those guys. I don’t think I could get to the bench fast enough. I just thought it was crazy. It was quite memorable for me.

ten. Only three players from Schenn’s final season with the Leafs remain active in the NHL: Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel And James Remer. Jake Gardiner remains on Carolina’s payroll on long-term injured reserve with “chronic” injuries. So he’s on the island of Robidas.

11. Schenn on Iron Man Kessel: “It’s really wild for me. Of all the guys too, he’s against the odds. If you draw what a hockey player is supposed to do on a daily basis to get results, and you have Phil, who does it at its own way and which is so successful, it’s against all odds.

12. Schenn on wearing his old No. 2: “My Leafs No. 2 jersey is probably one of the only ones my family and friends have owned in my career. I wanted to try to put it to use again for them. It’s a special issue, you know, just because it all started here.

13. Me on Reimer: Sigh. Your team played on Pride Night, so don’t worry about the shirt.


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