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I know that some in our audience know the finer points of hockey. The Chris Johnston Show. We are your friends. The biggest stories bringing you inside the game. What did you hear? The Chris Johnston Show. What is going on? Here's Chris with your host, Julian McKenzie.


Part of the game. Cj, Julian is once again jet-setting around the world, so I've stepped in for him here, and you are about to be jet-setting off to Florida to cover the Stanley Cup final. Are you excited? Is there a buzz under your skin getting ready to go see the Cup, hopefully soon get lifted?


Yeah, I love this. It's my favorite thing that I get to do in this job is cover the final series, Especially the last night, whenever the final game is, whichever team wins. It's pretty special to be there when it's lifted. They let all the families and friends of the players come on the ice and the staff of the team. And it's amazing that we just to soak it all in and share in that. I'm pretty excited. I'm at the anxiety stage where I'm a few hours away from my flight and I haven't even started packing yet. The possibility that this thing could have me on the road till June 25th. And in fact, if it goes to June 25th, I might just go straight to Vegas for the draft. So this is a mega pack. I'm a last minute packer, and it's always to my detriment because I'm just thinking of all the things I should have done or didn't do or the load of laundry I got to switch over, or maybe the dry cleaning I got to pick up and all that stuff.


That's what I wanted to know when you mentioned the packing. I wanted to know, are you a pro at it now? Do you know what you need on a road trip and everything? You're like, because you leave it so last minute, you know what you need, or is it every time it's a panic?


No, I know what I need. The X factor here is I don't go to Florida in June too often. There's an extra set of casual clothes that be needed shorts and the like for that stuff. But let's face it, it's more or less the same pack every time. It's just also the length of this trip. That's certainly unusual, the possibility that it's that long. Funny thing is, if it's a sweep, I'll be home in whatever for 10 days, and it won't be that big a deal. But I'm down to logistics right now. But underneath the logistics, there's certainly a bunch of excitement, and I think it's going to be potentially a very special series. We'll see what plays out. But I think all the ingredients are there for something pretty memorable.


I'm excited to hear your journey just back and forth as a media member from Florida, Edmonton, because the travel has obviously been a big deal because it's the furthest ever Stanley got between two teams. I'm just excited to hear your plane trips back and forth and how that's going to go.


Yeah, I was doing an ESPN radio hit down in the States and like, Oh, it's good for your airplanes. I'm like, I guess it is. I hadn't really viewed it that way myself, but it's literally each one-way journey is about a trip to from Toronto. I mean, it's basically 10-hour travel days when you factor in that you have to connect somewhere. I don't mind flying. I've always said half jokingly, but half serious, I benefit from having short legs because I fit nicely even in the most comfy of airplane seats. I usually just chill out, do some work, have a nap, whatever it is. I'm not too bothered by the travel aspect, but let's catch up in two weeks time. Maybe if there's a bunch of massive delays or you You end up having to spend a night in a random city. I had to do that once, actually, in the San Jose, Pittsburgh final. I had all messed up travel one of the games. I had to spend a night in Chicago between games, and I literally flew in to Pittsburgh the day of whatever game that was, game five or six, whatever it was at the time.


But the point is, sometimes when you have these long journeys, you end up in places you don't expect when the day starts.


I guess there's a reason they call this the Short King pod with you and Julian. Yeah, That's why Julian can jet set.


We haven't seen Julian. He's on a plane, but he fits in nicely in those seats. A tall guy like yourself, I'm sure you got to really think about where you're going to sit on the plane, whereas I'll take whatever middle row or whatever seat you want to give me.


I don't remember the last time I didn't have to pay extra for the exit row seat. I had to choose that seat because I'm 6'4, so I can't just fit in any seat. So I always get that extra exit row seat. So that's the inconvenience of not being a short king.


Exactly. Exactly. So there's benefits. We take a lot of shit over the ears, especially when you're a kid, being a short kid, but it pays off in some ways, too.


All right. So the leaves somehow, even though the Stanley Cup final are about to get out of the way, I guess This lull in this period between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup finals has allowed the Leifs to make the NHL news about themselves. And the latest is Mitch Marner, obviously, because that's the biggest story around the team. And LeBron spoke to Brad Treleving, and he got some quotes about Mitch Marner in that situation that's going on. I want to read them to you, and then I just want to get the dump of your notebook on the latest on Mitch Marner. Sure. Pierre LeBron spoke to Treleving, and The Living said this, the thing I would say is be very, very careful of what you read out there. Mitch is a hell of a player. He's going into the last year of his contract. We're not going to comment on any players, any business that we conduct. We'll do that between Dary Darren Farris and us. We're not going to do play by play on it. We've got to look at every possible way for our team to get better. Cj, what do you know about Mitch?


What's the latest on his situation? And Darren Farris' reports, that, reportedly, talking to the media and getting some things out there through the media?


Well, what I'd say is, right now, everything remains on the table. And I don't think the leaves are locked in on it. It has to go a certain way. They haven't, for example, said internally, Okay, we have to trade them, or we have to extend him. I think that they're approaching this still with an open mind and a range of possibilities. Part of that is because of the control that Mitch Marner has in his own situation. This is probably going to play out a little bit more slowly than I think people wanted to at times. Because remember, Mitch Marner isn't eligible to sign an extension until July first. Obviously, there can be some discussions ahead of time, but it just doesn't seem like at this point in time, he and his side are all that interested in exploring an extension ahead of time. What that does is, I think the leads are going to go through these next few weeks. They're going to get to the draft. There's lots of other business that they're involved in beyond just the Marner file. At some point in time, they're going to have to broach the subject of, Okay, is there an extension at all, or is it And just an absolute no.


Is he going to play it out? And look, whichever way it goes, Mitch Marner has the contractual right to do that. I mean, it's his call. But I think that how that all the interplay back and forth might partly inform what happens there. And look, the least probably internally understand if they bring Mitch Marner back next season, there's a possibility they're just walking him to free agency. I mean, that possibility remained for William Neelander last year. There were very little talks Between the knee lander camp, basically from the draft in Nashville until training camp. There's almost no discussion with the least. It did start up again in September when William got back to Toronto and over the course of a couple of months, plus how he played, they finally got to a spot where they extended them. But I think that the Leaps are going to have to be cognizant of that. Of course, other teams are going to call and say, Would you move Marner? I think the least will at least have to listen and see what the deals look like. I realize that this is not giving everyone what they want, that everyone wants to know how it's going to end.


I really believe that all paths remain open, and it's going to be a delicate dance. It might ultimately come down to a spot where the leaves have to press Darren Farris, Mitch's agent, and say, Okay, is there any extension possibility? What would the number be? Is there any way move is no move. They're going to have to find a way to make this work. But I don't think the leaves are 100 % committed to bringing them back, but they're certainly not 100 % committed to trading them either. I think basically, the one thing that remains from the end of the season is management came out and said everything is on the table this summer. That is a difference from previous summers. And this is obviously only Brad Trio living second summer as a least GM. But basically every other year when the seasons ended, the least management or upper management were saying, nothing's got to change here. Everything's fine. We'll tinker on the margins. I think They're certainly looking at bigger changes, possibility. But we'll have to see how this goes with Mitch Mahr. I think that he is quite comfortable playing this right to free agency next summer for him.


Imagine if he We're getting way ahead of ourselves now. It's almost 13 months from now. But imagine if he became a free agent July first, 2025. When's the last time at that age, a player in his prime has become a pure UFA? It might be John Tavares, actually. Might be the best equivalent. Mitch Marner, 90 plus points every year, still on the right side of 30. If you're a team looking at signing him, that's a pretty lucrative possibility for him, too. So I think this is playing out slowly. I know the lines of communication remain open, that there have been ongoing discussions about the situation, where everyone's at. And so I don't think it's not good or bad. I just think the Leifs are feeling their way through this, and we'll see where things... I think by the draft and into July first, we should have a better sense of where this is probably headed.


Do you see the Leifs coming to the conclusion that they can just have Mitch Marner on the roster and walk into free agency? Or would a stalemate in the negotiations force them to force him to waive his no move and find a trading partner?


I think they're very wary of making a bad trade, which you would be every time you're making a trade. But if you're considering trading one of your franchise's all-time best players by points, by the records, Mitch has racked up, still in the prime of his career, the possibility of that going awry, you might never come out from under that. I think that they're not going to commit to ever like, We have to do this. I think that it's more about what the marketplace yields, what they hear back from the Marner camp. Look, I think that they would walk them to free agency if they had to, partially because they have no control over it. He literally has full control. Now, it's very rare for a player when he's made to be felt unwelcome or that the team wants to move on to say, Well, I'm not moving, and just you deal with it. I think that's much easier said on a podcast than lived in reality. It's much easier for us to say, Oh, yeah, you could just say that. But imagine saying that to your boss and having to go to work every day, having your teammates maybe know that.


It would be uncomfortable. But yeah, the Leaps have to... They have no control in the situation. They have enough control that they can try to influence things a certain way, but he's got final say. That's why those new movement clauses are very punitive. It's even different than when guys get, say, limited, no trade, a 10-team, no trade list. It's very, very different because that just guarantees there's 10 teams, say, or whatever way it's worded. There are a list of teams that you don't need permission to send a player to. You can just make a trade. The Leaps don't have that flexibility here. So I think it's going to play out slowly, quite honestly. I don't think we're going to know one way or another for a good number of weeks yet 100% which way it's headed. It's notable that I think the Leaps are at least willing to consider trading him, but that's a long way from saying it's going to happen or this is what it looks like. I think that that's still matriculating behind the scenes.


All right. And last question on this, just because I think people are curious. Do you know if Bradja Living has Can you make any calls to other teams or teams have inquired to the leaves about Mitch Marner and the possibility of a trade, or is that still going to just play out over the next weeks and months?


Well, the one benefit of all the noise around this is I don't think Bradja Living has to make any phone calls. I think that Obviously, as part of his job, he's talking to GMs every day around the league. But I think the other GMs are curious more from his end, how he's viewing this. They're seeing their media reports, they're seeing the speculation. And so absolutely, I think teams are what we call tire kicking to see what it might take. It would be an intriguing trade if it happened. It would be a block bluster no matter what the return is. It would be one of those moments where you're literally drawing a line. It's before the trade and after the trade. It really is a demarcation point for the franchise if something like that happens. I don't think it's gotten anywhere near a stage where they have to take anything to Marner camp or anything like that. But certainly, this is This is an important window. On the surface, nothing is happening in the NHL right now. There's not a lot of announcements of any sort. We did have the McDonald Trade and the like, but there really isn't a lot happening on the surface.


But beneath the surface, everything, all the dominoes are getting lined up right now for trades that happen at the draft, for what plays out on July first when free agency opens. Not to say there's tamper in the league, but there's certainly lots of general discussion about, well, if you had a player like this that could fit this need, there's a lot of lining up the dominoes right now, I think. And then once we get through the Cup final, you push the first one and they all start to fall. So I think this is a really busy period of non-activity that's obvious But a lot that's getting lined up behind the scenes. And the martyr conversations will be part of that, too.


Yeah, there's no tampering in the league, but suddenly on July first, deals are just all negotiated, and the pen is to paper, and they're ready to sign. But nobody's ever talked before 12:01 on July first. Oh, man.


They don't even hide it. I mean, some of the announcements come at 12:15, right after. I get it, though, because it is this a supply and demand thing, right? So if you're an agent, well, it goes both ways. If you're an agent with a client, whatever, a left winger who could play on the top two lines, there's maybe four guys like that that fit that out there. So you're trying to make sure you get your client to the best spot possible. If a team within a specific need and you're like, Oh, there's only about three guys I could see signing for this need, you have to be sure. I just think the market forces bring it together. I don't think all the deals are fully cooked. Don't get me wrong. Some obviously are. I think Some of them do come down to that day. Often we see pretty good players go to the second or third day for agency because things don't fall their way. Even the way the Leaps got, Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi, both were looking for more on July first last year than they got. They're looking for more security security, especially longer term contracts.


Then the least were able to circle back and get them on one year deals on the second and third day. It's not all fully done. I don't want everyone to think it's a massive conspiracy theory, but certainly, I think there's a fair bit of, especially for things like goal tending. There's only so many goalies. I think a lot of it does get sorted out ahead of July first, probably not by June sixth is it sorted out, but I think the conversations are at least starting to happen on a high level.


This wasn't the only piece of news that the Leifs made this week. They also brought in an associate coach. They haven't previously had associate coaches, so this is a new spot for them. Elaine Lambert comes over after a stint on the island, two years as their head coach, and They let go of Dean. On the Steve Dangle podcast, we've been calling him Chenowith, but that's not correct at all. Chenowith. Chenowith is his actual last name. They let go of Dean Chenowith. Those two pieces of Fred Burbe He's a new staff, one going out, one coming in. What do you make of that?


Yeah, well, in Dean Chenowith's case, he was on an expiring contract, and so they're just letting that expire and letting him essentially become a free agent. Obviously, there was a world when Craig Burbe first hired where maybe They have a conversation or there's a fit there and he could have been extended. So he moves on. And in Lane Lambert's case, I think what really drew the leaves to him is all the time he spent working with Barry Trotz. He had three seasons with Trotz in Nashville many moons ago. He went with them to Washington, was part of the staff that won the Stanley Cup there in 2018, and then followed Trotz to Long Island as an assistant for a number of years before ultimately replacing him as the head coach when Trotz moved on from New York. If you look at what was some of those teams known for was a lot of structure, strong defensive play throughout the lineup. You look at the two teams the Islanders went back to back to the Eastern Conference final with, 2020 and 2021, I believe it was. Those teams were not the most skilled in the conference, but they got a lot out of the lineup.


They played a specific style. The Capitals finally got it together, too, in some ways defensively after being a little too high flying prior to Trotz's time there. And so I think that the Leaps really view that experience, maybe more so than his head coaching experience. It was mixed results, I would say, for Lane Lambert as a head coach, but he's been part of some pretty successful staffs. I think that the Leaps are bullish on his ability to help draw more of the defensive side of the game out of this team. And some of that will be addressed, I would think, with the roster moves we see this summer and what the leaves look to do in free agency and maybe on the trade market. But that's where he fits in, and obviously, highly, highly experienced guy. That's why he gets the associate coach title. That probably means more money, although I don't know what his contract is in this case. But He comes with all that experience from being part of those teams, a lot of teams that won games that have played deep in the playoffs, one that won the whole thing. That should be a benefit to Craig Brube staff.


It's still being rounded out. I think this process has been maybe a little bit slower than expected in terms of just finalizing the assistance. But this is a really, really unusual time or unique time for coaches in the NHL. I mean, with all the head coaching changes you've seen, that comes with the trickle down is often, maybe they'll keep an assistant or two from the previous staff, but usually a couple move on. And so there are a lot of… It's really musical chairs right now with assistant coaches and the like. And so obviously that would apply to some of the other guys the least might be talking to or looking at, probably in the running for other jobs, pretty safe to say. We'll just have to see how everything breaks down. I should mention, too, the least of something a little unusual last year with their assistant coaches. They had four, which is more than usual. They essentially were like coordinators in football. They had literally one person who did power play, one who did penalty killing, one who did the defense, and one who did the forwards. I'm not sure if that approach is going to remain, but it's something to keep in mind because right now, they still have Mike Van Ryan and Guy Bouchet under contract, and now they've added Lane Lambert.


But there would appear to be at least one more spot there, and we'll have to see how the duties are exactly divided. I don't think that's all been 100% determined just yet.


Is there because Manny Mahultra also moved on from the lease organization, and you mentioned the two that are still remaining. Is there a chance they move off of Guy Bouchet and Van Ryan, or are they sticking around? Or is that confirmed or not?


Not confirmed. I would expect Mike Van Ryan, especially, will stay. He's only had one year on the staff already. He happened to work with Craig Berube in St. Louis, so there's that continuity there. Guy Bouchet is in a similar spot in that he's only been one year on the LEAF staff. He ran the power last season, and that didn't go that well. It went well for a time. I mean, the leaf said pretty strong power play through the first four or five months of the regular season, but towards the end of the year and in the playoffs, it let them down. And so we'll have to see where they land there. I mean, I think there's a possibility, given Guy Bouchet is also quite experienced. He's been a head coach a couple of occasions, known for actually teaching defensively strong teams. I mean, maybe his responsibilities are shifted. That's not totally unprecedented. Maybe they in someone just for the power play, and he takes on a new portfolio. There's a lot that goes on. Coaching has expanded a lot in the last number of years in the NHL. Most teams now have two video coaches, as the Leaps do.


As I said, they went to this coordinator set up last year, and then you've obviously got the person at the head of the staff. It's still waiting to see how everything shakes down with the Craig Berube and his staff in Toronto. But Lane Lambert, I can see how they landed there. And for him, it was probably a question, do you want to wait around to maybe be... Because he still was under contract to the Islanders, so he would have been paid, translation. Do you want to wait in the next season to be an available option for an in-season coaching change, or do you want to take that step back and go to the associate role? And obviously, they managed to convince him to do that. And yeah, they're hoping to bring some of that Barry Trott's magic, because Trott certainly was known getting the most out of his teams when he was a head coach in the league.


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And the last piece of leafs adjacent news, Amazon dropped a preview trailer of their new series that they're doing, which is basically the equivalent to if anybody out there has seen full swing on Netflix for the golfers or Drive to Survive, the F1 show on Netflix. And this comes from the producers of Drive to Survive, actually. They've hired them and make this doc and fall around a bunch of NHLers and do the inside look on their lives. William Nylander was featured in the preview trailer along with David Pasternok and a couple other NHLers. And we got a full list, and they say, among others, at the end of this list. But some of the names they mention that will be featured in the in-depth doc is Conor McDavid, Matthew K'Chuck, Jacob Truba, Leon Dreisaitl, David Pasternok, Jeremy Swayman, Quin Hughes, Jack Eichel, Willy, Philip Foresberg, and Gabriel Landesgog. So CJ, I know you know some things about what's been filmed already, but no spoilers for the people out there. But do you have any insight on how this is going to roll out, what we can expect out of this series and out of these players?


Well, I know this is something the league is very excited about. And they got a, maybe I would call it a little bit of a late start on the project. The From what I understand, the director first, I believe he came to Toronto at the All-Star Weekend and met with some of the players to start to lay out a vision of what they'd be asking for. I think they filmed some of the initial scenes in March. But it's late in the season to start asking for players for access to their lives. Obviously, they have cameras behind the scenes in the playoffs. I can tell you, being on the ground in the Leeds Bruin series, there was a camera crew following Milander everywhere he went. He had a newsy first round. There was those games he missed with the migraine issue to start the series. He scored a couple of goals when he came back. I'm sure you'll get that requisite behind the scenes stuff from the ice rink, from the hockey rink. But I think they really want to tell the stories of the players themselves, and in some cases, maybe they're family members. I don't know to what degree they ended up being able to get access to that thing.


I do know they're hoping this is more than just a one-off. Let's hope it's good enough that they can take an even better run at it the next next time around. But the other thing I was told early on is that they planned to basically over-filme. They're filming a lot of different players just in case, because when you start in March and even April, you don't know which team is going to be playing for the Cup. Obviously, the teams that play the longest, I think those players will probably be featured the most prominently. You're looking there at Connor McDavid, Leon Dreisaitl, and Matthew Kchuck, who are part of the two teams, contest in the Stanley Cup final. I think you'll see a lot of them. I know with Nylander and Pasterknack, obviously, they played together in Soda Italia in Sweden as kids, teenagers. Their friendship goes back that far. I know that they did something together, and it's only natural the way it turned out to leave some Bruins play in the first round. One of those two scored the overtime-winning goal in game seven. I won't spoil that in case you missed what happened there.


But I'm sure that that's a neat little storyline in addition to what was going on with Nylander. I think they really do... I really like the full swing. Jessie, I'm a golf fan in my day-to-day life, and I love the two seasons they put out of that show. So I'm very optimistic we're going to see the players in a different light, that we're going to... I think hardcore hockey fans have an appreciation of what the battle is like to win a Stanley Cup, what the players go through. But there's a chance to draw casual viewers into that because some people... I watched the tennis documentary. I can't remember what that one was called.


Breakpoint? Breaking Point? Breakpoint, I think.


But I actually some of that. And I watch almost no high-level tennis at all. So I think some people are just drawn to these access sports shows. And so I think there's a hope that it can help tell the stars' story a little bit more than we're used to seeing in hockey, give a real appreciation to those that maybe don't follow the play so closely what the players go through. And then I just hope it's entertaining. So it's all going to be rolled out in the fall, as my understanding. So we get the little tease now. We get the names, and we know you can start to see where the story lines might go, but we're going to have to wait till October. So I think before we see the final product.


I think it's a real interesting evolution in the NHL because they're behind in this, obviously, because all the other major sports league, except for baseball, who I believe is working on one as well, have gone down this route already. The NBA has got one coming out very soon on Netflix. Football quarterback, we just shot them out, too. Quarterback, what I thought was great. It was a great series.


I didn't see that I should watch it.


I love learning about Kirk Cousins and his family life and everything there. Then they also follow Patty Mahomes, and that's the biggest star in the sport. That's super interesting. It was great done by them. But the NHL, people have been asking for this. All these sports are going down these avenues and what it did for F1 and growing the game. It's good to see them getting these players and all these players signing up for this. Hopefully, this gives the NHL and the league another push, another avenue where people can discover the game and fall in love with these players and get to know their personalities.


Yeah. Do you know what's interesting is they actually brought the producer and the director of the series to Florida for the GM's meetings and basically delivered a message like, This is really important to the league. This is something that we have to get behind. We know traditionally, maybe some teams haven't wanted to provide this access or they've made it difficult. This is so important. We're bringing these guys in the room, listen to them, trust them. And So I haven't heard yet how that's gone. I'm sure we'll get a better sense maybe as we get through the playoffs here, as we can debrief a little bit on did they get what they need? Was the players willing enough to engage? Was it the teams putting up roadblocks? But I think that has been part of the problem in the NHL. And I don't even remember way back. I think the first road to the Winter Classic, the Pittsburgh-Washington one, was the gold standard for me of hockey behind the scenes shows. They really did show different personalities They showed the coaches losing it on play. It got more and more sanitized over time. Even that year that they were embedded with the least for an entire season and they ended up losing that, blowing that three-one lead in Montreal in round one.


There had to have been much better things, much more tension behind the scenes that wasn't shown, I think, because I've just heard second-hand, I'll call it, that there was a lot of interesting scenes that were included in the first cut that got cut because you've got the players themselves, you got the players association, you got the league. I don't know. I just hope that they're willing to allow this. I'm not saying it has to be a bunch of swearing. I'm not even thinking of one thing in particular, but I just hope it's not completely sanitized. There's an understanding. I think an audience in 2024, I think that we can understand nuance a little bit more. We don't need as much beping. We understand that there's conflict. Part of the amazing part of the sport, frankly, is just how intense it is. And so I hope that comes through. That's just my personal rant. But I do know that at the high levels of the league, that this is very important. And every team was told that back in March. Now we'll see if the final product reflects that everyone took that seriously.


That's very interesting to hear because I feel like that's a complete left turn of what we think about the NHL. And that's very forward thinking of them to realize that, yeah, getting that behind the scenes access, getting these players to buy in and having the ability to just, hey, we We don't need to cut all of the interesting parts, and we got to show that to the consumer. That's a very good to hear that the NHL is fighting for that behind the scenes, because like you said, you mentioned the least stock that the Amazon did in the 2021 season when they blew it to Montreal. I was so upset with what we didn't see because I remember the ending of that, too. They just lost, and that was the last episode, and there was no follow-up, and that was it, and everybody just moved on. It's like, We don't want to talk about this loss. I was like, No, this was an epic collapse, and we need more from this. Yeah.


It didn't just end on a still camera? It was like Marner and Matthews just had head in their hands. But we didn't get any interplay behind the scenes of what happened there. In fact, the most memorable scene for me, I mean, There's lots of funny lines and stuff that maybe... But Sheldon Keefe giving it to his team before overtime in game 6 when they got a chance to win the series, that was the most real and raw you saw. And then it's like, Oh, and by the way, they lost game 7, and it ended.


The end of the The end of the series was completely rushed. There was no details in the final... Game 6 and game 7 were 10 minutes worth of the series, and then they just ended. That was the last episode. It was completely, I think, fumbled at the end there because the leaves were so interesting. They collapsed again.


Here's the thing. I've done this as a reporter. They went wanting to tell one story, and they didn't embrace the story that fell on their lap. I I can tell you, I can't even imagine putting together a project of this size, editing as many clips and everything that they would have to over an entire season. It's easy for me to sit back and chirp these guys, but you sometimes show up at an arena. Maybe I go to game one of the Cup final thinking I'm going to find one story. And if you hang on to that too long and you don't embrace the one that's in front of you, I think it shows. It just felt uneven. And that's what happened. They were there to tell the story of the year the Leifs got it right, and the Leifs got it incredibly wrong. I mean, I think if you look back at all time, with time, we get more appreciation for what it means. That was the ultimate fail of this era of the Leifs teams. They were by far and away the best team in the North division that was reconstructed for the COVID season.


They had a path to the conference final through that division. They had beat every Canadian team soundly all year long, and then they fumbled away a 3-1 lead against Montreal. It I'm not going to say that was their one opportunity. They've obviously had some since, but that was probably their best opportunity, maybe their best version of this team, too. It depends how you view that, but I think there's at least an argument to be made. They missed the story. They went there to tell the good story, and they didn't realize, Hey, the flip side of the coin is actually more compelling anyway.


Yeah. I think back to some of those scenes, we got a lot of Justin Hall in his backyard playing golf and chipping into his backyard green, that stuff. None of that, in retrospect, matters because we wanted to see this great team that won the division and the collapse that ensued, and that wasn't what they told at all. You remember the scene where Dubas and Shana Khan are making a trade, and Dubas turns to Shana Khan, and he gets the thumbs up to do the final deal. That stuff was super compelling, and we saw so little of it. It was just that one scene, and we wanted more of that.


I love that Paul McLean, he was a coaching advisor, and he's like, These That guy's got demons in their cars, demons under their beds. That was a pretty lasting quote. I think he was right. This is the flip side of everything. I've thought about this in a lot of ways. You have to remain patient with teams. This doesn't just apply to the leaves. You have to let things play out. But at a certain point, if they don't change the results, the fact you've been patient, that works against you eventually. You're always trying to thread that needle, and it just feels like the leaves haven't quite might knock down their demons yet. Because I keep going back to the fact they lose games in overtime in game seven. Florida Series last year, I guess, is an outlier in this, but it's not like they're getting swept. It's just that they get to the moment where they can get it done and they can't get past it. Anyway, we're on a tangent now.


We could go on this forever. We keep circling because what you said about the 2021 season was so true. That was the year to get it done, watching the path that Montreal took to the finals. The least could have easily been on that run and everything. But we will move on to the big event that is happening, the Stanley Cup final. And you mentioned some of the... When you walk into the arena, the story lines that you're looking to write about and you're following the way the game goes. But going into it, I want you to pick maybe one A and one B from each side for the Florida side and the Edmonton side. Let's start with Edmondon. What are you looking at going in? Is it McDavid? Is Is it Nobloc? Is it Hyman? Is it Connor Brown? Is it Cory Perry? What are the two biggest story lines you're looking at for the Edmonton side?


Well, I would be missing the forest for the trees if I didn't put Connor McDavid in 1A. I mean, by far the most compelling storyline in this entire series, if you're not rooting for one team or the other, is the fact we have a generational player with a chance for the first time to win the Stanley Cup. To add something to his legacy that every great player, almost in NHL history, has has done one way or another. That alone, just that possibility. Then what happens next is the story. The story is, how does he react to that moment? Can he lift his game? Can he continue? He's put up so many He's got 30 points already. 31, I believe, through three rounds. Can he continue that way and get to 40 points, which has only been done one or two times in NHL history? Or is this maybe a series where things don't drop for him? To me, how it plays out for McDavid, what it it means to him, what it means for the history of the sport, for his legacy. I mean, all that stuff, I think, is the 1A storyline of the entire series, and certainly from the Edmonton end, I would call that 1A, because the fact of the matter is, it took him nine years to get here, and we don't know if he'll get back.


I mean, I'd say it's more than likely, but the league keeps growing. It's 32 teams. There's lots of good ones. There's lots of great players. It's not a guarantee. The truth is, too, is a lot of great players lose in their first trip to the Stanley Cup. Gratzky lost in his first, Crosby lost in his first. You can go down the list. It's obviously not every player ever. Ray Bork lost Cups with the Bruins, and had to win the one in Colorado. But just a lot of players that end up as top 10 all-time players or all-time scores, they also have to lose before they win. And so that's part of the dynamic. I know that Chris Noblek wants us to focus on the Bills losing four Super Bowl in a row.


But what a quote from him.


That was awesome, especially because he's a very calm, measured guy at the podium. He's not looking for the... Paul Maurice is the sound bite king, right? Chris Noblek is not normally the sound bite, but I don't even know if he meant that. I think he literally was just answering that, and it became the sound bite from this run.


It went super viral in all of sports avenues. It was a great quote.


I saw a bunch of people in Buffalo getting mad about it. I'm like, What are you mad about? It's just a statement of fact.


Yeah, NFL people picked it up and were like, We're rooting for Florida. We got to go with the Panthers because screw this guy.


All he's just saying is they went to multiple finals and they weren't better for their past Super Bowl experiences. Because they kept losing in the big game.


Anyway. I think it hurts a little in Buffalo to think about it.


Yeah, I would imagine. Can you imagine going to four straight championships and watching your team lose? Imagine that happened and Steve Dangle and Beliefs?


I don't know. I think that would be the breaking point. At that point, you're like, I give up. It's not meant for me.


Right. It's just not meant to happen. No. So my second storyline for Edmonton, That one's a little tougher because I think there's lots of different ways you can go there. I'm very intrigued by Stuart Skinner and how he gets through this. He low-key had a great performance in the conference final, but I think people are still thinking about in In the Vancouver series in round two, he got removed for a game. He had some tough nights there, talked about his own struggles pretty openly, full credit to him. But there's a little bit of unpredictable, I think, about what you'll get from him in this series. I love the Zack Hyman story, honestly. Just to become a 50 goal scorer, to be the guy leading the league in goal scoring in the play Offs is pretty incredible. He was a Florida Panthers draft pick, you may forget, too, was Zack Hyman. So he's going against the team that he could have been for. And obviously, just knowing Zack a little bit from his time in Toronto, I'll be watching him closely. I don't It's like an overriding one. Probably the goal-tending, though. I think if Edmondson is going to win the series, you need that first line to be game-breakers, but also they need Stuart Skinner to keep playing well.


And so he's going to be under a microscope, even greater than he has before. Would like to see how he gets through that. From the floor to end of things, I think I got to start with Barcov. He's done such a great job in these playoffs of shutting down all the top talent he's lined up against, the Kuchara Keturahs and the Panarin, Sabinajad. Really, I don't know the exact numbers, but I know that there's not been many goals against when he's been on the ice and he's been drawing the very difficult assignments. Well, you can't get a harder assignment right now than the Ryan Jim Hopkins, Zack Hyman, and Carter McDavid line. I suspect, especially for the first two games, which started in home ice and the Panthers have last changed, that he's going to see a ton of head-to-head ice time with them. How he handles that rises to the occasion I mean, Florida, we take for granted because they're in their second straight cup. But losing a cup and getting back the next year is not the easiest thing to do. I think this is the second time in 40 years, something like that's happened.


So there's a lot on the line for them because they've been here and they know what it feels like to watch the other team celebrate with the jug. So be interesting. They're probably favored in this series. It's a little different dynamic than last year with Vegas, where Florida was a umbrella run in some ways. This one hasn't felt umbrella at all. This is a top team all year long, and that's gone quite methodically through the playoffs, and now they're expected to deliver. So Barcov is my one story. What's my two? I almost want to say K'Chuck just because he's such a personality. And a little bit of history there from the Battle of Alberta days when he was on the Calgary side. You feel like you got Cory Perry in this series. You got K'Chuck, you got Sam Bennett. It feels like there's going to be maybe a little more animosity, even though it's not two teams that have natural animosity. They don't play each other very often. I think it'll be a series with some spice to it. I guess I'm looking at that's the Panthers game a little bit. They like to play in the alley.


So could Chuck/ Bennett intrigues me to see, does that become a positive thing for the Panthers? Are they able to get Edmonton off their game, or does it be something we're talking about like, Oh, my God, they're taking so many penalties and the oilers are making them pay? I think that that is a big dynamic for the series. But lots of personality in this series. Just being in Canada, it's different. I'm a Canadian. I don't know if a neutral views it that way. If you're a big hockey fan from Texas, maybe you don't care. There's a Canadian team in it. But I do think that the scenes and the vibe in Edmonton in particular are going to be pretty crazy. Yeah, I mean, 1993, man. I know that I'm not... I don't even have time for this argument about Canada's team thing. I just think it's so self-evident. But it would be pretty cool if you don't have a rooting interest just to see a Canadian team win, especially if they could win in their own city.


I think it's weird that people think it means nothing. It means something if Canada wins.


Well, of course. There's no country on Earth where the sport has more prominence than it does in Canada. There's more players that play minor hockey in Canada than any other country in the world. We produce more NHLers, we produce more stars. Connor McDavid happens to be from Canada. Did Sydney Crosby, Wayne Gretsky, Maryamou, Bobby Orr, down the list. Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau. But yes, hockey matters here. That doesn't mean that if you're watching for the Maritimes, you give a shit about the Oilers, per se. But it would be interesting. I think everyone can understand the passion that those markets would feel. It's like when the Red Sox finally ended their drought. I think even if you're not a Red Sox fan, you know how important the team is there, how long it had been, everything they'd been through. I think there's an element of that for the country. It's funny. I just watched the riot documentary, the 30430 that ESPN did in Vancouver. I'm hoping there's not a riot as my only thing if that happens because I think it's such a huge civic moment. There's a lot of emotion wrapped up in it. I'm excited to be part of a series that includes games in a Canadian city because it hasn't really happened much lately.


I know Montreal was there, but that was COVID times and there wasn't even full buildings. Then you got to go what? To Vancouver 2011. The point is, it's been a long time, even since the Canadian markets had a chance to do something like this. Obviously, I think the oilers have every reason to feel like they can win the series because I picked them in six. So hopefully that's not a jinks for them.


Is that your official pick? That's what we're going with?


That's my official pick.




I picked them to start the year. I mean, it's funny because I didn't have to amend that pick in November. I'm glad I didn't. But I wouldn't be telling you what my pick was if that season had it gone the way it looked like it was going in November. But I was among those picking the oilers right from the beginning. I think if you look at their underlying numbers, they were the best team in the league this year. Obviously, just had a really terrible start. But Chris Noblek has been the right coach for the group. Evan Bouchard's emergence, trading for Matias Ecom, the previous trade deadline. I think they've brought together a pretty solid team. There's no perfect teams in this league, but it's going to It's going to be tough for the Panthers to stop them, I think.


I know. It's going to be a fad. There's so many different story lines you think about going in to this Saturday in the Stanley Cup. And just one thing I wanted to throw out there on the Florida side and the K'Chuck-Huberto trade and how that's going to be looked at in history. If K'Chuck ends up winning a Stanley Cup in Florida. Do we look back and say that's one of the greatest trades ever that Florida was able to pull off? You get this player who if he leads the team in scoring or something like that in the Stanley Cup final and ends up and winning, lifting the cup on their behalf, is it one of the greatest trades of all time? Does it enter that lexicon for the NHL?


I think so. I mean, look, he's been their star player now in two straight runs of the Cup final. Unheard of that they could trade for that guy in his prime and have that become the case. I mean, the interesting debate is if you're Bill Zeto, what's Bill Zito's best trade? He also traded for Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhardt, Reinhardt, Brandon Montour. A bunch of the key parts of this team were acquired in deals in a, what, 18-month window? K'chucks, obviously, just I would say the best and most impactful player among that group, although Reinhardt just had 57 goals this season. So maybe I should be careful with being too strong on that point. But I think it could go down as one of the best trades ever. I don't know how that makes you feel if you're a Leef fan and the GM on the other side of that trade was Brad true living in Calgary. But I don't-I didn't even put that together. But I don't even mean this as a shot. He was in a tough spot in that deal, right? He had- Context. Well, he had Matthew Kuchuk, who wasn't willing to sign a long term deal in Calgary, who was one year from being a UFA.


What do you do? Do you sign him to a one-year deal and walk them away. Obviously, they opted to try to work with them and maximize the return and at least get pieces back. But there could be some hallmarks here if you're not careful with a Marner trade, right? Because I don't think in the moment anyone thought it was the fleecing it looks like now. In Huberto and Wiger, they got two pretty good players, and Huberto was coming off whatever, 114 point season or something like that, or 10 point season, whatever it was. But unfortunately, he was the older player. His game hasn't either fit in Calgary or he's taken enough of a fall off or a combination of the two. They sign him to a monster extension. That's an overpay. So this That's the danger, I guess. When you're moving, you're not trading ponds here, right? When you're trading like the king or queen on your chess board, you better be careful that you make the right move. I know you weren't bringing that up in relation to Marner, but it ties with our earlier conversation. It does. That if you just feel like just moving him solves a problem, opens 11 million in cap space, on one hand, yes, but on the other, if he goes and wins a Stanley Cup in two years somewhere else, you might go like, and you're sitting here with magic beans.


You're like, That doesn't look so good.


That's a perfect segue to our last little bit of news and notes. It's a trio of players who are on the block right now. I assume no trade is going to get done within the next couple of weeks as the Stanley Cup final is underway. But the Carolina Hurricains are very open about moving off of Marty Nietzsche and the Vancouver Knux, who tried to get him when they were negotiating with Elias Petterson, and The Montreal Canadians who need scoring and a high-end, skilled forward like Nietzsche have been the front runners in the news that has been out there. And apparently, half of the league's teams, according to Pierre Le Brun and the Athletic, have also called on Marty Nietzsche. Do you have any info on where he could land as the hurricanes look to move off of him?


It's going to be a tough deal to make. Carolina is in a situation where they don't want back futures or draft picks or anything like that. So How many teams can give them a player that makes it make sense, and that team wants to give up that player for that? I think it's hard to find a fit, which is you can understand why there's immense interest in the guy, but he's also coming off a down year for himself personally. He's only got two years of control left for whatever team trades for him. You're either signing him to a short term deal and potentially walking him right out the door as a UFA, or you're signing him to a long term deal, in which case you're going to have to spend a lot of money and not be sure what you have as of this. Absolutely. Team like Montreal has interest, the same way they've called on Trevor Zegris in Anaheim. They're looking for players that fit the window of the guys they've drafted in the last number of years. These guys fit the window. They're 24, 23 years old thing. Presumably, they can grow at the core of the team.


I just don't know if they're going to be able to give Carolina what it wants. I certainly think the hurricanes are willing to bring Nietzsche back. As much as they're open about wanting to deal him, I think he would like a fresh start. I believe he's made trade request, in fact, in the past couple of seasons, more than once. So may ultimately be the Carolina and he have to live together, and they're signing him to that extension and maybe trying to get a fresh start, give him different power play usage or something that maybe fuels what he feels like he needs in terms of his deployment. But there's a lot of interest in him, but I I don't get the sense that anything's close or anything like that. I would also say, though, there's nothing that prevents the trade from happening during the Cup final. I think it's safe to say it won't happen on a game day. The league would probably urge the teams to register a trade if one gets reached on some of the off days during the series. But there's not a complete news moratorium. I just don't think there's too much business that has to get done in June.


It might be an unofficial like, Hey, if it can wait, make it wait. But I do think that there's a world where you see, whether or someone else, I could see a trade being made in this window. There won't be a lot of them, and it's not particularly likely, but it is possible.


Okay. I guess because there's so many off days in between the games, you have those two off days in between a lot of the games that a trade could easily happen between GMs, and the league's okay with that news getting out. And you mentioned Trevor Zegris to Montreal. The last two players who are on the block, Pat Verbeek was talking about how John Gibson and Trevor Zegress could potentially be moved in Anaheim. Are they trying to win a lot sooner than we think? Or are they like, why are they moving off of their starting goal tender and their star player?


Well, the goal tender is easy, I think, because they have a goalie named Lucas Dostal, who's coming off a really strong rookie season. He just played for Chechia at the World Championships, was named the goal tender of the tournament. In fact, he made 104 saves on 107 shots in the last three games, that being the quarter final game, semifinal game, and gold medal games, the most important games that his team faced in the tournament, and he was virtually unbeatable. I just think they're very high on him. It might be time with John Gibson, too. He's been there a long, long time. That team hasn't been treading water, I guess, is the best way to say it, near the bottom of the league for the last couple of years. I think that they would be doing right by him if they could find him maybe a spot where he gets a chance to be back on a team with more soon playoff ambitions and things like that. And you obviously just potentially creating room for Dostal then to take over is the goal that plays most of your games. Zygris' situation is a little different. I think it's been some ups and downs getting him to embrace both sides of the park.


I guess, would be one way to put it, and maybe the fit just hasn't been quite right. And so I think the Ducks view it as a chance potentially to turn him into another asset rather than grind through it and hope he figures it out or gets to play a way that they deem would be best for him. I think that they'd be willing to move him. It's two different circumstances, but obviously two fairly big name players, and players that I think will create a little buzz around the league, especially because you look at the goal-tending free agent board. There's not that many slam dunk choices. Certainly not. There's not a lot of goalies that you could sign in a free agency and be confident you can give them 40 starts. I mean, it's not to say they can't do it. Laurent Boisau has had a number of really strong seasons the last number of years, but he's been in a 20 to 25 range games-wise. So there would be a bit of an uncertainty if you sign him and gave him basically half the team starts. How he would handle that workload, how that would go is a little bit of an unknown.


I don't know where John Gibson's at in his career because it's been so long since he's played what I'd call big games, games that really mattered on a Ducks team that's been rebuilding. But certainly, if If you look over the entirety of his body of work, he's had a lot of big seasons for that team, especially early in his career. I think if teams end up going the trade route, if they don't get a Linus Hallmark, if they don't get UC Soros, it sounds like Nashville is going to try to take another run at signing, but perhaps he could be had. Jacob Markstrom, the rumors that won't go away, you could see him being traded. I think some of the biggest moves for teams looking for goaltending will be done via trade rather than free agency. I think where Gibson could fit in as well.


And lastly, to end out the week on the CJ show, Stick Taps as usual. And I'm going to give you a moment to speak on my stick tap, which goes to Joe Pavelski, who announced that this was going to be his last season, and he knew it all season long, and now he's officially spoken it publicly, and he's not coming back. And I think it's a surefire Hall of Famer, one of the greatest American-born hockey players of all time. And we talked about the McDavid getting a Stanley Cup onto his resume because that's what the greats in the sport do. It's disappointing to see that Joe will end his career without that Stanley Cup through all those years in the competitive San Jose teams. Then Dallas gets so many shots at the cup, and he just doesn't get one at the very end. So happy retirement to Joe Pavelski. Do you have any thoughts on his career?


Say it ain't so, Joe. Say it ain't so. No, it's good for him for going out on his own terms, evidently. He did I would say it's not officially official, but that's where he's at. So he did leave maybe the smallest amount of wiggle room to reconsider things. But look, it's pretty incredible if you look back at time. He was part of that 2003 draft class, which at the time was very much hyped. I believe every first rounder in that draft played at least one NHL game, and he was taken 205th overall and ends up with the most goals, the most points from that draft class. If you look at his playoff scoring rates, he was a big game player, consistently helped drive the Sharks on long playoff runs, and then the last five years here in Dallas, went to seven conference finals, two Stanley Cup finals, and unfortunately, just didn't find a way to get his hands on the Stanley Cup. And he's been remarkably consistent even into his late 30s. But maybe the wheels started to fall off a little bit. He didn't produce much offensively for the stars during the run this spring.


And so might be the right time to go. But you hate seeing classey competitors go there. Again, I'm not cheering for teams, but I wouldn't love it if he had a storybook ending and you see him taking the cup around the ice this spring and then doing an interview with Kyle Bukowski, whoever on the ice, and saying that I'm going out on top. There's something to be said for that, but it doesn't... Let's face it, this sport, you lose more than you win. Even the Hall of Fame careers, the guys with five and six Stanley Cups still lost 10. Still didn't win 10 other years. It's just how it is. But yeah, Joe is class act, and I might as well give him a stiff cap, too, because I'm talking here for so long. I was going to give mine to Owen Beck, the Memorial Cup MVP and the pride of near my hometown, Kowberg. I believe he's from Port Hope area or Kowberg. Actually, not sure, but he's from... Anyway, Northumberland County, pride of Northumberland County, Owen Beck, Montreal Canadian's draft pick, and had an MVP performance at the Memorial Cup for Saginaw.


No, that's That was awesome. Yeah, that was a great win by Saginaw because everybody was on the London nights, and Saginaw just there, and the host team, I should say, lifting the Memorial Cup. That was a really good game, really good to see for Saginaw.


Well, they blew a lead in the game, too, right? And so it looked like London was going to roar back and win, and they still found a way to get the late goal. It looked like a lot of fun, too. It seemed like on social media, they had a good party afterwards.


I know. Yeah, I think that's understanding it. They went really hard for that championship. And this weekend, the beginning of the next run to the next championship, the Stanley Cups. So CJ, I hope you have a safe flight this afternoon. Enjoy Florida. Pack those shorts. I hope you got a lot of them for your runs. And the heat down there, it's going to be, I think, a really good time for you the next couple of weeks down there and up in Edmondson.


Thanks, buddy. And thanks for stepping in for Julian. It's fun to do it with you.


No problem. I think I'll see you again on Monday, if that's the next time we're doing this.


Oh, wow.


Yeah, I think one more with me.


Man, I got to get Julian's work schedule. Love you, Julian. The Chris Johnston Show, Inside the Game, twice a week. Follow Chris Antoine week. Follow Chris on Twitter @reporterchris, and follow Julian McKenzie at JK McKenzie.