Registrato: 28/09/18 10:36
|TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs will be anticipating the playoffs and the Montreal Canadiens will only be able to look forward to next season when the teams meet in their final game of the regular season on Saturday night.
The Maple Leafs looked like a team that was more interested in looking ahead to the playoffs than the remainder of the regular season Thursday when they lost to the Devils 2-1 in New Jersey.
“I thought this was fair ,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said after the game Thursday. “I thought the team that worked the hardest won. I thought they were more desperate early. We weren’t good enough defensively. We didn’t compete hard enough. I thought we competed hard as the game went on.
“We had our chances but, in the end, we couldn’t overcome it. The bottom line is we’ve got one more game. This is our last chance to get ready but we’re going to have to get to another level than we were tonight for sure.”
The Canadiens, meanwhile, looked like a team that is making the most of what is left of the season when they defeated the Red Wings 4-3 in Detroit on Thursday.
“I’m not used to losing. I don’t like to lose,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. “But at the same time, I have to be objective and look at the situation and there were some challenges along the way that we didn’t expect, a number of injuries, and players having to move up in the lineup in areas they weren’t quite ready for.”
The Maple Leafs (48-26-7) do have something to play for Saturday at the Air Canada Centre. The loss to the Devils kept them at 103 points, which equals a franchise best for a season. So, they still have a chance to set a franchise record for total points in a season.
“Two different situations but we’re all competitive people and we’re all very prideful,” Toronto center Nazem Kadri said. “That’s what got us here in the first place , so I don’t think we take any games off. Obviously, we didn’t start (Thursday) the way we wanted to, but I felt that we made a push.”
Goaltender Frederik Andersen will be trying for a club record 38th win in a season by a Toronto netminder on Saturday.
Still, the playoffs will be on the minds of the Maple Leafs.
“You’re focusing on these games to get ready for the playoffs,” said Toronto center William Nylander, who scored the goal Thursday. “So, whatever we’re doing now is trying to get prepared for the playoffs.”
Nylander became the sixth Maple Leafs player to reach 20 goals this season.
The Canadiens (29-39-13) have been dealing with injuries all season, including season-ending ones to their top defenseman Shea Weber (foot surgery) and their captain Max Pacioretty (knee).
“It’s unbelievable the number of injuries and the types of injuries,” Julien said. “When we started the season, we felt we had enough veterans and enough experience to bring in some young guys and still battle through and get ourselves in the playoffs. But there’s a lot of things that have happened and concussions are one of those issues that we’ve had more than we’d like.”
The Canadiens have had five players with concussions listed on the injury report this season.
Russ Brandon abruptly resigned his dual role as president of the NFL's Buffalo Bills and NHL's Buffalo Sabres after being confronted by the teams' owners regarding an alleged inappropriate relationship with a female employee, two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because it is an internal matter, and owners Terry and Kim Pegula did not provide a reason for accepting Brandon's resignation in a statement they released Tuesday.
The relationship in question first became apparent to a number of team employees during the Sabres' visit to New York for a game against the Rangers on Jan. 18 , the people said. The trip included the team hosting a fan event at a bar the day before the game.
Kim Pegula will take over Brandon's roles overseeing the Bills, Sabres and Pegula Sports Entertainment, the company which controls the owners' numerous holdings.
In a text to The AP, Brandon said he has contemplated stepping down from the job for some time, and felt the timing was right after the conclusion of the NFL draft.
"My goal when the Pegulas purchased the franchise was to reach 20 years with the Bills, in which I achieved this past November," Brandon wrote.
"As grateful as I am for the amazing experience and the incredible people I've had the privilege to work with the past two decades, I am just as anxious for the professional opportunities that lie ahead," he added.
Brandon did not respond to follow-up questions regarding his relationship.
Brandon's departure comes after the Bills made a big splash in the first round of the draft by trading up to select both Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen with the seventh pick, and Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds with the 16th pick. The new additions join a Bills team that went 9-7 and ended a 17-year playoff drought last season.
On Saturday, the last-place Sabres earned a boost by winning the NHL draft lottery and the right to the No. 1 pick for the third time in franchise history.
"We have a tremendous amount of confidence in the strong leadership team we have built within each of these entities over the last several years," the statement from the Pegulas read.
"We are excited about the direction of our teams , especially after this past weekend's NFL draft and NHL lottery results. Our focus remains on building championship teams on and off the field for our fans and community."
Brandon most recently served as the Bills' managing partner, was the Sabres alternate on the NHL's board of governors and a member of the NFL's business ventures committee.
The timing of Brandon's exit comes at a time he was supposed to oversee the Bills' next big venture in determining their future home. Brandon was expected to lead the team's stadium search committee in deciding whether the Bills should continue playing at their current home or develop a new facility in downtown Buffalo.
He served in various roles with the Bills, involving both marketing and football decisions during a two-year stint as general manager from 2008-09.
He also took the lead in negotiating the Bills' most recent lease five years ago, which played a critical role in securing the franchise's long-term future in Buffalo especially following Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson's death in March 2014.
The lease included a strict non-relocation clause that included a $400 million penalty the team would be forced to pay if it considered moving before 2020.
Brandon also oversaw the Bills' eventual sale to the Pegulas, who completed their $1.4 billion purchase of the franchise in October 2014.
The Pegulas retained Brandon and elevated him to the role of managing partner. The Pegulas thought so highly of Brandon, the Sabres were added to his responsibilities after the team reached a mutual agreement to part ways with Ted Black in July 2015.
Brandon's resignation continues a large turnover of Bills executives who served under Wilson. Bruce Popko is the senior holdover and now becomes the top executive as chief operating officer of Buffalo-based Pegula Sports and Entertainment, which oversees the Pegulas' numerous holdings.
Brandon grew up in nearby Syracuse, New York, and began making his mark in Buffalo shortly after being hired by the Bills in 1997 to serve as the team's business development and marketing director.
He began by spearheading a campaign to transform them into a regional team by expanding the franchise's fan base to offset Buffalo's dropping population base.
That process began in 2000, when the team shifted training camp to Brandon's alma mater, St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester, to capitalize on the community's corporate and larger population base.
Later , the Bills boosted their presence across southern Ontario by negotiating a deal to begin playing annual regular-season games in Toronto starting in 2008. The "Bills In Toronto" series lasted through 2013 before the deal was placed on hold the following year and then terminated by the Pegulas.
Toronto-based media giant, Rogers Communications, paid the Bills $78 million to essentially lease eight games (five regular season and three preseason) during the initial five-year agreement. The price was almost double what the Bills were projected to generate if those games were played at their home facility.
The series also spurred a large bump in season-ticket purchases from across the border. By 2015, the Bills estimated southern Ontario fans accounted for about 18 percent of their season-ticket sales, surpassing their support from Rochester.
Not everything succeeded under Brandon, who drew criticism for a number of decisions, including failing to build a winner during his two-year stint as the Bills GM when Wilson elected to promote from within the organization after Marv Levy stepped down following a two-