Underrated conspiracy theory: The reason why Auston Matthews left Leafs practice early on the same day that Jozy Altidore skipped Toronto FC training entirely is because the two are taking the week off to go save the United States of America.

…shut up. You know you’d watch that movie. Anyway, here’s this week’s mailbag:

Sports are the worst. They are unequivocally terrible. None of us put ourselves through this for smart reasons, we do it because we’ve invested ourselves too deep at this point to back away from the screen.

The Leafs will stop hurting you soon, though. They’re too good not to. It’s probably a good thing that the “sort out all the bullshit” phase of the season is coming a few weeks in, and not towards the end.

Dzierkals (#24 in this site’s Leafs prospect rankings) has been practising with the Toronto Marlies since the start of the season. There are a ton of theories going around as to why this is the case, with many pointing at the success that Mason Marchment has had to start the season as an example of what could be happening with him.

In short, Marchment played very, very sparingly for the Toronto Marlies last year, spending the first few weeks of the season getting himself in shape for the pro game and learning Toronto’s systems and culture before being sent to the Orlando Solar Bears in late November. He played a stretch there, got called back up to fill some roster holes in December, then went back down for the bulk of the year. Now, he’s been one of Toronto’s best players to start the season.

Many are hoping that this is the same path that the team is taking for Dzierkals. It’s certainly possible, given that he’s also a recent junior graduate and that this year doesn’t burn into an entry-level deal (Dzierkals is signed to an AHL deal and has his team rights expire at the end of the season). It’s also possible that the youngster is taking his time to decide on a destination to play the bulk of the year in, be it the ECHL or somewhere closer to home in Latvia; Vladimir Bobylev made a decision along these lines earlier in the year, and there’s been a rumour floating around involving him heading to Dynamo Riga to play out the year.

My guess is that we’ll know in the last week or so.

I’m not sure what to make of the public relationship between William Nylander and, well, anyone who speaks about William Nylander from an official standpoint. I’ve always been of the understanding that the organization values him ridiculously highly; much more than the trade gossip parade will ever give credit for. On the other hand, he’s by far the most likely of the “big three” to get singled out for an imperfect effort.

I do wonder if there’s a calculated logic behind it. Different people respond differently to different things; some are fueled by pressure and spite, some need to be coddled, some are completely indifferent and live in their own world. I wonder if there’s a bit of that going on with these three kids; that Nylander might just be the type of player who works best near an open fire, that Marner might be the type that thrives on support and affection, and that there’s no point in saying anything one way or another about Auston Matthews in a slump because he’s a hockey robot that will get back to 100% whenever the firmware update finishes downloading.

It’s incredibly disingenuous of people to pretend that the treatment doesn’t exist. It’s clear as day obvious that it does, and I still don’t particularly like it being taken to a public setting because it rubs off onto the fanbase, who will broken-telephone the situations into ones even worse when talking around the water cooler. But I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt that there might be a reason for its existence.

Probably never. Too many dads for one line. Gotta spread out the fatherly advice. Also, they’d take about six thousand slashing/hooking penalties as a group, so they’d likely cancel out any positives they’d have as a straight up hockey unit.

Not a typical question, and not even a proper response to the mailbag, but I’ll say this: I’m not super worried. TFC have actually played Columbus once this year without Giovinco and Altidore, and it was their biggest rout of the season, beating them 5-0.

Granted, it was at home, and the Crew are playing inspired football right now with all the surrounding relocation rumours in full tow. But I think it’s a survivable match so long as everyone is healthy and rested, which two weeks of gap time gives them. Tosaint Ricketts isn’t Jozy Altidore, but he’s still a starter capable striker. I’d be curious to see whether they go with Jordan Hamilton as a second forward or whether they push Victor Vazquez up a little deeper to get Jonathan Osorio in as a starter along the midfield, but besides that, I think they can make that game work enough to make the home tie a little less pressure-filled.

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