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The Edge of Lori: Time for change

By Lori Bennett National Sports Columnist

NHL Noise It’s never a good sign when the most exciting things happening during the third round of the Stanley up playoffs – the Conference Finals – is happening off the ice. The final four teams, all from America’s south, have been engaged in a less than scintillating display of Canada’s favourite game. The Eastern Conference Final was a Staal family reunion with Jordan and the Carolina Hurricanes facing off against his brothers, Marc and Eric, and the Florida Panthers. The Canes were no match for the Cats, and while every game was lost by just one goal, the series ended in a clean sweep last Wednesday night, May 24. The best story of that series was the play of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The back-stopper known as “Bob” is a top candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy when this thing finally winds down. Carolina went into the series with question marks around their goal-scoring ability, having lost Max Pacioretty and Andrei Svechnikov, and confronted the Bob Wall. In the Western Conference, the Dallas Stars struggled against the Vegas Golden Knights. Unlike the Panthers, their ace netminder did not show off his best. The Stars weren’t exactly filling the Vegas net with pucks, but they also needed more from Jake Oettinger. Meanwhile, Jack Eichel is inching closer to a Stanley Cup after many fearing his career was in jeopardy not so long ago. Off the ice, all hell is breaking loose for the Toronto Maple Leafs. After winning their first playoff round since man discovered fire, the Leafs were an easy opponent for the Panthers, and that has gone just as well as expected. Hours after being ousted, GM Kyle Dubas stood before the Toronto media and said he would have to discuss his situation with his family, but he would either be back in Toronto or taking a break from hockey. Then days later, Leafs President Brendan Shanahan met with the media to explain that he had freed up Dubas’ future. Days later, the full details of what transpired are not precisely known. Shanahan provided a detailed timeline and Dubas provided a vague statement, and together they point to an old-fashioned pissing match over power and money. Now, with just weeks to the Amateur Draft, the Leafs are on a short timeline to find their new general manager. Shanahan has said he would value experience in his next hire, and that means the reuse and recycle movement is on in Toronto. Every unemployed GM from Peter Chiarelli to Marc Bergevin to Stan Bowman and beyond has been the subject of speculation. I don’t see it. Since winning the Cup in Boston, Chiarelli has had more misses than hits. Bergevin left his last GM gig completely burnt out by the bright lights of Montreal, and it’s unlikely Toronto would be less stressful. Bowman has been out of commission since the Chicago sexual abuse scandal. Surely there are better options. One interesting name running through the rumour mill is Mark Hunter, who had previously been an executive in Toronto. The Hunter brothers – Mark and Dale – are owners of the London Knights. Might there be a fit for both in Toronto, with one in an executive office and the other behind the bench? Brad Treliving is another name on the list, a free agent following his mutual parting of ways with the Calgary Flames. One rumour out of Calgary following his departure was that Treliving was less than enamoured with the interference of ownership. It’s only a rumour, but if true, one wonders how he would feel about Shanahan’s rumoured veto-happy ways. Treliving was reportedly in Toronto for an interview this past week, with some feeling it was his job to lose. Speaking of Calgary, they settled their executive search on Tuesday, naming Craig Conroy the eighth general manager in franchise history. Conroy had been an executive in the Flames organization since 2011 after retiring as a player. The Flames also named Dave Nonis the Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations and Assistant GM and noted that he will report to Conroy. Next up is the search for a Head Coach. Meanwhile the Pittsburgh Penguins continue their executive search, and Kyle Dubas is believed to be a top candidate. According to reports, the Pens were close to identifying their next GM when the situation in Toronto blew up. Leadership in Pittsburgh had coveted Dubas for their vacancy, but the door looked closed until last weekend. Perhaps Dubas was being a little rash when he said he would work in Toronto or take the year off.

Raptors Racket The Maple Leafs aren’t the only team in Toronto in hiring mode. The Raptors are continuing their search for a Head Coach following the departure of Nick Nurse. This week news broke that the Raptors had interviewed Canadian basketball legend Steve Nash for the role. Nash was coach of the Brooklyn Nets for just over two years before he and the team agreed to part ways. Better known for his All-Star playing career with the Phoenix Suns, the Dallas Mavericks and the L.A. Lakers, Nash also represented Canada in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The Raptors are continuing their comprehensive search.

Blue Jays Babble The Toronto Blue Jays have been tried and tested, and it hasn’t been pretty. Just over a week ago the Jays had a 24-16 record and were in third place in the American League East. Then they welcomed the New York Yankees for a four-game series and won just one game. The weekend came and the Jays welcomed the Baltimore Orioles for a three-game series. They were barely a threat as the Orioles claimed the sweep. The Blue Birds hit the road to Tampa Bay for four games, in desperate need of some wins against the Rays. The first game on Monday was not a glowing start as Chris Bassitt gave up three home runs in a 6-4 loss. After five consecutive losses, a win on Tuesday was necessary and the Blue Jays bats knew it. They came out swinging and claimed a 20-1 win. The high was short-lived, unfortunately and they suffered another loss on Wednesday night. The last couple of weeks reveal the Achilles Heel for the Jays. They don’t match up well enough against the teams in their own division. It’s been the story in Toronto. How can they compete with the powerful American League East? It’s very early in the season, but smart money says management is already considering whether they did enough in the off-season. The Jays were off to Minnesota for a three-game weekend series against the Twins.

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