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SIMMONS SUNDAY: Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving has watched his draft picks star in the Stanley Cup post-season

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The first draft pick of Brad Treliving’s time as an NHL general manager was Sam Bennett.

In a hockey sense, that’s the equivalent of having your first child. You never forget the feeling. You never forget the emotions of the day.

The pick of Bennett came one choice after Edmonton selected Leon Draisaitl and one before the Islanders chose Michael Dal Colle. That’s how close it can be on Draft Day, going from great, to difference maker to washout all in the matter of three selections.

“I love Sam,” Treliving, the Maple Leafs general manager has said on more than one occasion. You scout a player. You draft him. You sign him. You bring him to your NHL team and a relationship builds. A relationship that matters.

Two years after that, in the draft that brought Auston Matthews to Toronto, Treliving selected Matthew Tkachuk with the sixth pick, one choice after Olli Juolevi, one choice behind Clayton Keller.

None of the seven picks made after Tkachuk turned out anywhere near his level.

The fact that Treliving drafted Bennett and Tkachuk, two barn storming, aggressive forwards, should be somewhat encouraging for Leafs fans. It’s obvious this is the kind of player he desires. The kind of player almost impossible to acquire in today’s NHL.

Drafting them was encouraging. Trading them away — and there were many circumstances that led to them being dealt — leaves the opposite impressive.

Bennett has been a gigantic figure in the Panthers march to the Stanley Cup final two years in a row as has his linemate Tkachuk. They play hockey, hard, mean, tough and skilled. Tkachuk has 20 points in 20 playoff games. Bennett has 13 in 15 games this post-season.
And Treliving watches now from afar, out of Alberta, proud of those he drafted, still torn by the bevy of circumstances that led to them being dealt away.

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THIS AND THAT

The real difference between the soon-to-be-champion Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers make weak, soft defensive mistakes, which wind up resulting in quick goals against. The Panthers don’t make those kind of errors — and when they do — Sergei Bobrovsky cleans them up in goal. He will win he Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the playoffs … … Before getting to the final, Bobrovsky outplayed fellow netminders Andrei Vasilevskiy, Jeremy Swayman and Igor Shesterkin in goal in the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Stuart Skinner is not anywhere near the calibre of those three … Through four post-season rounds, Bobrovsky has allowed one even strength goal heading into Saturday night against from a murderer’s row of scorer, Nikita Kucherov, David Pastrnak, Artemi Panarin, McDavid, Draisaitl and Zach Hyman, six of the most dangerous snipers in hockey. That’s what’s known as coming up big … The only player to seemingly figure out Bobrovsky in the playoffs: Steven Stamkos. He scored five goals in five playoff games for the Lightning … The assumption is goalies always win the Conn Smythe: The truth, not so much. Vasilevskiy is the only goalie to win the Conn Smythe in the past 13 years … Could the Panthers have been in position to win the Stanley Cup without Bobrovsky in goal, without Sasha Barkov being everywhere, without Matthew Tkachuk, without Aaron Ekblad? The easy answer: No. Bobrovsky was signed as a free agent by previous GM Dale Tallon. Barkov was drafted by Tallon. Two of Tallon’s draft picks were traded to Calgary for Tkachuk. This is the second time Tallon did a lot of the early work in putting a championship foundation together. He did the same thing previously with the three-time champion Chicago Blackhawks years back … My two-prong guide for building a champion: 1. Hire Tallon. 2. Fire Tallon … Nathan MacKinnon was the first pick in the 2013 entry draft. Barkov was the second choice. After that, the quality dropped significantly, with Jonathan Drouin going third and Seth Jones the fourth choice … A question asked on a Stanley Cup bus ride: If you had one game to win, who would you want on your team, Bennett or Mitch Marner? The answer on the bus was Bennett, who scores about half the points Marner does most seasons … First time I ever saw Bennett play he was playing left wing on McDavid’s line on a Marlies AAA team. The coach was former Maple Leaf, Ken Strong.

HEAR AND THERE

Brady Tkachuk has played 440 NHL games for Ottawa. Rasmus Dahlin has played 436 NHL games for Buffalo. Neither has played a game in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

And sometimes when analysing all that is wrong with Matthews and Marner come playoff time, it’s easy to forget that they have never missed the playoffs in a single season of their careers. Getting there isn’t a given. And in an Eastern Conference with playoff ready teams such as Florida, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Boston, the Rangers and Carolina, it’s no sure thing to say Tkachuk or Dahlin will make the playoffs next year … In their first Stanley Cup final, the 1983 Edmonton Oilers were swept by the New York Islanders. They were shut out in Game 1 by Billy Smith, who went on to win the Conn Smythe. They trailed 13-4 after three games: The current Oilers trail Florida 11-4 after three games. The Oilers won the Cup the year after getting swept and won four of the next five championships … In his first training camp with the Maple Leafs, Alex Steen so impressed Alexander Mogilny with his natural hockey instincts that the Russian winger asked coach Pat Quinn to place him on his line. Mogilny saw something early that the St. Louis Blues have since recognized. Steen will become general manager of the Blues in 2026 … Canada’s best depth in hockey — coaching. Jon Cooper will eventually be named Olympic team coach but a Team Canada headed by him with a staff including Paul Maurice, Peter DeBoer, Bruce Cassidy, Rick Tocchet, Rod Brind’Amour or Kris Knoblauch is awfully impressive. Sean Burke would likely be the goalie coach … Assistant coach Guy Boucher will not be returning to the Maple Leafs next season. Craig Berube is looking elsewhere to fill out his coaching staff … Truth in regular season numbers: Marner is 10th all-time in assists per game in the NHL, which his kind of crazy when you think about it. Ahead of him: Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Connor McDavid, Bobby Orr, Peter Forsberg, Adam Oates, Paul Coffey, Sidney Crosby and Peter Stastny. That’s seven hall of famers and two sure thing fall of famers. Directly behind Marner: Marcel Dionne, Artemi Panarin, Nikita Kucherov, Kent Nilsson, Bernie Federko, Dale Hawerchuk, Bobby Clarke … More truth in regular season numbers: Matthews is third all-time in goals per game hockey history behind only Mike Bossy and Lemieux. Right after Matthews: Pavel Bure, Gretzky, Alex Ovechkin, the Hulls, Brett and Bobby.

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SCENE AND HEARD

This was Mark Shapiro at the end of last season, after the finger-pointing post-season disaster with the Blue Jays: “We need to build a strategy off what we learned from (our) offensive failures. This season was a grind. It was not ever easy. It was extremely frustrating and challenging … I can’t remember a season that felt like it was more of an effort.” He then promised to do a deep dive into what was wrong with the Blue Jays lack of scoring … Half a season later, the following has occurred. The Jays have dropped from fifth to 13th in hitting in the American League, eighth to 13th in runs scored, eighth to 14th in home runs, seventh to 13th in total bases, eighth to 13th in slugging and sixth to 10th in OPS. Whatever the deep dive was, it has turned out to be a dismal failure for Shapiro and friends. Their offence is significantly worse than the lousy offence of a year ago … Another Shapiro line: “We’re not looking to assign blame.” In saying that, the president said he was quite comfortable with Ross Atkins as his general manager and John Schneider as his manager. He may not be looking to assign blame. A whole lot of frustrated Blue Jays fans certainly are as the club sits 15.5 games behind the New York Yankees and 12 games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. Jays finished seven games ahead of the Yankees last year. Bur right now, the Yankees are 171 runs better than the Jays in run differential before the halfway point of the season … Hard to believe but you can make a case that George Springer is the worst everyday hitter in the league. His OPS of .580 is last in the AL for players with more than 200 at bats. His batting average of .197 is second last, behind Randy Arozarena of Tampa Bay. His power numbers are the lowest of his career … Most impressive about Russell Martin, now a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, is his playoff record. The Jays made the ALCS twice in the past 30 years. He was the Toronto catcher both years. Pittsburgh made the playoffs for the first time in 19 years after it signed Martin. Martin was in the playoffs nine of his first 11 big league seasons with four different teams … Long overdue for Canadian Hall induction: Lefty Jimmy Key, who tossed 1,695 innings in nine seasons for the Jays with an impressive 3.42 earned run average in and 32 playoff innings at 3.09 … It shouldn’t have taken Key this long or Paul Godfrey this long to be recognized. Godfrey was one of the key players in bringing baseball to Toronto … The Dodgers are one of the best operators in baseball. So how is it they can find a place for Cavan Biggie in their lineup and Teoscar Hernandez in their outfield when the Jays traded both away for next to nothing? It must be that great management Shapiro keeps referring to.

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Paul Godfrey
Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame chair Jeremy Diamond (LEFT) presents Paul Godfrey with his plaque as one of the Hall’s newest inductees. Photo by Cory Smith /Postmedia Network

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AND ANOTHER THING

Team Canada will have to name its initial six players for its Four Nations roster by June 28. The likely six: McDavid, MacKinnon, Crosby, Cale Makar, Brad Marchand and Alex Pietrangelo … The U.S. will likely start with Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, Quinn Hughes, Jack Eichel, Charlie McAvoy and Adam Fox … Among those not eligible to play in the four country tournament: Draisaitl, Bobrovsky, Vasilevskiy, Shesterkin, Panarin, Pastrnak, Kirill Kaprizov — seven of the 20 best players in hockey … What an impressive defence Sweden will have, starting out with Victor Hedman, Dahlin, Erik Karlsson, Gustav Forsling and Mattias Ekholm on the blue line… It’s too bad Marvin Hagler didn’t live long enough to see the statue of him unveiled in Brockton, Mass., on Thursday. What a champion Hagler was … I believe I saw Jerry West play once at Maple Leaf Gardens. I don’t have a ticket or a program to prove I was there. But I’m pretty certain that West and Wilt Chamberlain made an appearance in Toronto with that great Los Angeles Lakers team. I think they played the Cincinnati Royals. Or is this just part of a child’s imagination? … Congrats to Daniel Nestor, Patrick Chan, Vicky Sunohara, all deserving additions to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame … Mississauga’s Oshae Brissett is about to earn a championship ring with the Boston Celtics while brother Dejon caught a touchdown pass in the season opener for the Argos … The dominant Celtics are 15-3 in the NBA playoffs, just slightly better than the Panthers at 15-5 heading into Saturday night in Edmonton … Why would anyone trade Jrue Holiday away, least of all from one Eastern Conference contender to another? … Most coach’s aren’t loved by their players. That’s just part of the relationship. Steve Shutt once said it best when he said players on the Montreal Canadiens hated Scotty Bowman 364 days a year but loved him on the day they got their Stanley Cup rings. This isn’t true with the Florida Panthers. There is a relationship between coach Maurice and his players which is rarely seen anywhere anymore. This team wants to win for its veteran coach who has never won before. You can feel the love for Maurice being around this group … Happy birthday to Derek Sanderson (78), Dusty Baker (75), Wade Boggs (66), Phil Mickelson (54), Roberto Duran (73), Bianca Andreescu (24), Bobby McMann (28), Rick Nash (40), Steve Larmer (63), Claire Alexander (79), Kevin Bieksa (43), Andy Pettitte (52), Cooper Krupp (31), Kerwin Bell (59), Justin Jefferson (25), Zan Tabak (54) and Mamadou N’Diaye (49) … And hey, whatever became of Andre Igoudala?

ssimmons@postmedia.com
x.com/simmonssteve

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