Settled in on the Maple Leafs beat for the past three seasons, Rob Longley has covered a wide variety of big events in his two decades at the Toronto Sun. From Super Bowls, to the Olympics, to soccer's World Cup, Longley gets around. An avid golfer in his spare time, Longley also writes his You Bet column during football season, delving into the ins and outs of sports wagering, another of his recreational pursuits. Lives in Burlington, Ont.
Rob Longley - January 21st, 2014
If all goes according to plan tonight in Denver, the Leafs could have a special visitor in their dressing room following the game against the Colorado Avalanche.
And what a big guest at that.
The guest would be none other than Toronto’s own Orlando Franklin, a mammoth offensive lineman for the Super Bowl-bound Denver Broncos and a big Leafs fan to boot. Over the years Franklin, who had a superb game in Sunday’s AFC Championship win over the New England Patriots, has become friends with some Leafs players, most notably centre Tyler Bozak.
Bozak is well familiar with the sporting scene in the Mile High City having played NCAA hockey at the University of Denver.
Following Monday’s win in Phoenix, Franklin responded to a Bozak tweet by saying “I’m going to the game, bud.” Later, Bozak suggested his big-bodied pal meet following the game in which the Leafs will be seeking a sixth consecutive victory.
Franklin told us last year that he’s a big Leafs fan and that during the off-season he tries to get to as many games at the Air Canada Centre as possible. Tonight, he’ll take a break from his Super Bowl preparations to do the same thing in his own back yard.
Rob Longley - December 31st, 2013
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – So Dion Phaneuf signs a seven-year deal that will keep him as captain of the Leafs for a long time and normally it would be time to celebrate.
The captain and the team’s best defenceman isn’t going anywhere. He’s a cornerstone for the future, according to general manager Dave Nonis and given his play and the ragged state of the Leafs blueline, that’s probably a good thing.
But where is the love?
For a guy who is a captain of the stories franchise, Phaneuf is at best a polarizing figure and at worst despised by too many. He is the Pylon to many. He is over-rated by others and a poor leader by yet another corner of the fan base.
Much of that is ridiculous, of course, based no doubt in part on the fact that Phaneuf doesn’t have an engaging personality. But in the context of today’s team, Phaneuf is invaluable. Randy Carlyle relies on him to shut down top offensive players on the opposition.
Meanwhile, Phaneuf leads the team in ice time and plus-minus is quietly having one of his strongest seasons in Blue and White. And ask yourself this: Where would the Leafs be this season WITHOUT Phaneuf?
Finally, check out the LeafsTV video of Phaneuf signing the new deal.
Rob Longley - December 18th, 2013
A couple turnovers here, a couple of nights as a healthy scratch there had a large portion of Leafs Nation screaming for Morgan Rielly to be freed from the Maple Leafs and sent to Sweden to wear the other Maple Leaf at the world junior championships.
It was never going to happen.
The reality of the situation, as a Leafs executive told us three weeks ago, is that Rielly is too valuable to the team that is paying him. Sure he was a healthy scratch a couple of nights, but he’s played 27 games already for the Leafs and is averaging more than 18 minutes a night.
But it’s more than that. Rielly has remained cool under the spotlight of being a Maple Leaf, even as the team has struggled. He is developing as a professional and though he’s just 19, has more than proven he belongs among men not boys. Factor in some of the brutal play on the Toronto blueline and the Leafs couldn’t afford to be a charity and lend him to Team Canada.
There’s a chance he will be a healthy scratch for a night or two over the next couple of weeks and their will be predictable outrage that he should have been sent to Sweden. Ignore it. Rielly is where he belongs and where he was always going to be in late December and early January.
Rob Longley - December 13th, 2013
The injury and suspension woes that have led to manpower issues for the Leafs may get another hit on Saturday.
The league announced on Friday that Toronto forward David Clarkson will have a hearing for a shot to the head of St. Louis forward Vladimir Sobotk in Thursday’s 6-3 loss to the Blues. Clarkson was assessed a two-minute penalty for a hit to the head following the open-ice check.
The first-year Leaf was banned for the first 10 games of the season following a pre-season suspension when he left the Toronto bench to defend teammate Phil Kessel, who was being stalked by Sabres tough guy, John Scott.
The suspension bug also hit the Leafs this week as captain Dion Phaneuf sat out losses to the Blues and Los Angeles Kings after hitting Bruins defenceman Kevan Miller head-first into the boards Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Rob Longley - December 10th, 2013
Here’s what Leafs fans should be looking forward to the most in the HBO 24/7 series that is scheduled to debut this weekend:
In a preview video released by the league, Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul talks about his years playing under Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. Essentially, Lupul says, one of the coach’s key commandments is that “everything stays in the dressing room.”
Under the prying eyes of HBO, not everything will remain there, of course, but how much of Carlyle’s personality, and those of the players, will be revealed.
The cameras have been trailing the team for a week now and in Sunday’s game vs. the Boston Bruins at the Air Canada Centre, an HBO shooter between the player’s benches seemed focussed on the Leafs coach for most of the game. How much footage was worth using in documentary form? We’re about to find out.