The Maple Leafs‘ annual Rookie Tournament is upon us. Toronto hosts Chicago Jr. tonight at the Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario. Toronto Maple Leafs new and ‘not-so-old’ will have a chance to display their talents for the Maple Leafs Brass in what should be an entertaining tilt of careful pre-pre-season stepping and spirited verbal jousting.
For all your basic rookie tournament info needs, the Leafs’ official website pretty much has you covered. View the roster and schedule breakdown. Read the primer for tonight’s game, which includes broadcast details. Or watch an interview with Marlies coach Steve Spott in which he talks about the weekend’s promise and touches on a few key roster points.
But most importantly, join the party at MLHS and follow @TOTruculent as I live-Twitter tonight’s action! Embedded below, for your non-having-to-switch-tabs pleasure.
I’ll be covering the action from the press box in London. Check back here for updates throughout the night, and a post-game recap. Unless things go really poorly right at the end, in which case I’ll be locked in a dark room, fighting off a wave of painful flashbacks to May 13th.
—Projected Lines vs. Chicago
|Starting lineup vs. Chicago|
|Josh Leivo||Carter Verhaeghe||Brad Ross|
|Connor Brown||Greg McKegg (C)||David Broll|
|Sam Carrick||Frederik Gauthier||Ryan Rupert|
|Tyler Biggs||Andrew Crescenzi||Jamie Devane|
|Matt Finn||Morgan Rielly|
|Petter Granberg||Stuart Percy|
|Andrew MacWilliam||Kevin Raine|
The Leafs outshot the Blackhawks 14-6 in the first period, despite a healthy amount of play taking place in the Leafs’ end in the early going. Early standouts included – as expected – Morgan Rielly, who at any given moment seems like he could do something dangerous. Rielly took two early wrist shots, one from the point and one from the half boards, that both found the net in dangerous ways.
Josh Leivo also made an impact. From creating offense out of situations you wouldn’t normally consider opportunities to using his teammates well, he impressed from the get go and was rewarded with a power play goal. Leivo doesn’t immediately strike you the way his 6’2 frame would suggest, but he uses the size well. Keep an eye on him this fall.
So far, the Leafs’ rookies are by far the better team. Outpacing, outshooting, out puck-moving, out-hockeying. Chicago seemed to land a few more memorable hits, though. Here’s hoping for a truculent second frame.
Marked difference from the first frame. Chicago closed the shot gap, but the Leafs continued a high effort across the board and played pretty solidly for a young team thrown together in recent weeks. A few standouts emerged beyond the first period crowd, providing a great look at some other Leaf prospects.
Tyler Biggs might be one of the more interesting young Leafs. We’re all aware of his purported skating limitations, but on first glance, he’s added speed since my last viewing. In close, the mobility still seems like an issue – but that’s one of the hardest elements of proper skating technique to develop. Nevertheless, he brings a 100% effort level on every shift and gets his job done by making the right play. Gritty. As I mentioned on Twitter and am happy to stand by thus far – from the press box, he looks like David Clarkson in a different jersey.
With all the focus on the Bernier/Reimer debate heading into next season, not much has been made recently of the Leafs’ net depth behind the top two. Garret Sparks has turned in an impressive night so far, stopping several shots through traffic and snagging at least one high, hard snapper with the glove hand impressively enough to make Francois Allaire wonder, “You can do that?”
Also, have I mentioned the power play pairing that is Rielly and Finn? The power play pairing that is Rielly and Finn.
After a comeback by the young Hawks, the Leafs eked it out in a shootout to win 3-2, with Rielly and Biggs coming through in the skills comp for the jr. Leafs. Thus concludes the third period recap, which was truncated in favour of running downstairs for the postgame scrums.
The Leafs’ rookies took the tournament opener as a result of their energy, skill, and goaltending. They outpaced a Chicago group that was forced to rely more on physicality to gain ground. They caught the Leafs temporarily, but in the end Toronto came away with a win they probably deserved.
Check the period summaries above for a few observations on the standouts (Rielly, Leivo, Sparks) and watch the Game in Six below. Notable highlights from Steve Spott’s postgame scrum:
-On the mobility and skill of his young defensive corps: “Wow.”
-Spott was impressed by the team’s ability to come together quickly and
-He was also enthusiastic about Sparks’ performance, only calling out the first goal as one Garrett might potentially want another shot at.
-Spott confirmed Leivo missed the third period due to a chest contusion suffered when he took a hit earlier in the game.
Game in Six
The surprise roster I'd vouch for:
Trade Liles (retain 850,000 for remaining years), Trade Gunnar (expendable imo with Finn, Granberg, Percy, and Blacker coming through the system).
I just wish we would hurry and get Naz and Franny signed. I will sleep much better when we do. Each day I log into MLHS expecting the big announcement.
Just finished watching the game so I come on here to see what's up and the place is dead. What the heck.
F*ck, haven't left work yet, so missed the game. How was it? I'm counting on a thorough recap being posted on MLHS.
Hey Phook, Henny says HI. What a nice guy. I felt like I didn't want to intrude but he chatted with me for a couple of minutes. He says he's a real hacker at golf so I told him you'd give him some lessons.
I was reading comments on Burke / Calgary deal today. The hate for Burke is over the top . He gets no credit for the Cup in Anaheim, the perennial contender(ugh) in Van . or the rebuild in T
Th squad that was on the ice tonite is Burkes . The Leaf is organization top to bottom is in the best shape its been since 67, thanks largely to him. Good luck with the Flames Burkie
900 comments from 4pm until now for the rookie tourney? Pretty decent. HAHA
@Knights2Leafs where were were you?
I've seen Mirtle really go to town on Burke and trash everything he did in Toronto (unfounded & foolish). He was pretty shocked I dug this up and sent it to him. Next time you hear "Burke didn't build the team in Anaheim", point them to this post.
Burke deserves the credit
How the Ducks' GM built a champion
At the end of the 2003-04 season, the Anaheim Ducks weren't a contender — or even a playoff team.
Anaheim finished 12th in the Western Conference with just 29 wins that year, scoring more goals than only the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes and fading into obscurity.
Brian Burke wasn't hired as general manager until more than a year later, June 20, 2005, but he immediately began to put his stamp on his new team. Six weeks after his hire date, he signed Scott and Rob Niedermayer to four-year deals.
At the time, hockey people were skeptical of the deal, as Burke had effectively tied up 25 per cent of the then-$39-million salary cap in two over-30 players, one of whom was a career checking-line winger.
A few days earlier, Burke had found his head coach in Randy Carlyle. The long-time NHLer had never been an NHL coach, and was, in fact, in obscurity with the Manitoba Moose, but Burke knew Carlyle from his connection to Vancouver, and liked his no-nonsense attitude.
Unlike the freewheeling Canucks, the Ducks were to be a team built in Burke's image.
Burke then took a chance in late August on a fan favourite in Teemu Selanne, who was set to play on a rebuilt knee and a bargain-basement contract, and began shuttling veterans out the door: Sergei Fedorov, Vaclav Prospal, Petr Sykora, Steve Rucchin — all gone.
The franchise's top five scorers from that dismal 2004 team were all out the door by the next summer, and this year's edition of the Ducks doesn't have a single defender from that team. The holdovers, the survivors of Burke's purge? His goaltender, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and three forwards: Andy McDonald, Sami Pahlsson and the then little-used Chris Kunitz.
The Ducks weren't very good to start Burke's first season in California, but as he rotated players out in exchange for 'his guys', character players who were castoffs from other organizations, the team began to win. A lot.
Anaheim went 22-10-2 to end the year and claim a low-seeded playoff spot, and would knock out the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche in the postseason before losing in the conference finals to Edmonton.
Then, in the offseason, Burke added Chris Pronger while giving up little from his roster and, well, a contender was born.
But, really, Burke's success with this team was just as much about his ability to find castoffs to fill roles on his organization when others had given up on them. Waiver claims, deals using meaningless draft picks or that appeared to be salary dumps — they were what really worked for the Ducks' GM.
Francois Beauchemin, a spare part thrown in the Fedorov deal. Todd Marchant, a waiver pickup. Ditto for Kunitz. Dustin Penner was undrafted and unknown in 2004. Travis Moen was picked up in a 'minor-league' deal with the Blackhawks in 2005. Sean O'Donnell was tossed in the trade deadline bargain bin by Phoenix in 2006. Joe DiPenta and Kent Huskins were minor leaguers Carlyle brought with him from the Moose.
Even youngsters like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf were unheralded, in a sense, given how far they fell in the 2003 draft, and weren't expected to contribute like this, especially not so soon.
When he was first fired in Vancouver, Burke was bitter — not only because he was leaving a successful organization he had rebuilt from the ground up, but also because the timing would mean he would be out of work (and out of pay) for at least a year while the lockout ran its course. And while he moved into an analyst role with Canadian television during the year off, he also started to ponder the changing landscape in the NHL and the inevitable salary cap.
He spent time with his good friend, Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian, who had presided over a contender under a cap system, andasked for his advice.
"He said everybody is always saying with (Peyton) Manning and Marvin Harrison that too much cap room is tied up in two guys," Burke said. "But those are the right two guys. He said focus on the (right) guys and find a way to make it work."
Burke had one 'right guy' when he arrived in Anaheim in his goaltender, Giguere, and he added another in Scott Niedermayer soon after. Pronger fell in his lap the following summer, giving the gruff GM his 'right guys' and the core, big-budget pieces to build around. Forty per cent of the team's cap went to Giguere, Niedermayer and Pronger; the remaining 60 was split among the 32 other players who suited up for Anaheim this season.
All told, Burke has been with Anaheim just 23 months, and in that time, he turned an also-ran into the Stanley Cup champion. And not by a nose — no, this was a decisive win by the Ducks, one that included three five-game series wins and a dominant performance in the finals over the Ottawa Senators.
I've been saying for years that Burke is the best GM in hockey, after watching firsthand how he rebuilt a terrible Canucks team into a contender, but the one caveat coming the other way was always "he doesn't have a Cup."
Brian Burke is the best GM in hockey.
@Zep2 I've stuck to my pledge to never again buy a Rogers or Bell product for as long as I live. Nonis is a good guy but Burke should still be Leafs GM.
@Zep2 Very little hate for him from the bloggers here. I miss that man every day.
s115 row J seat 1. Didn't go home first so I had a blue suit on. For Sunday's game, I'm wearing the autographed Kadri jersey.
If he's still a Leaf that is. :)
Where were you?
@Zep2 As you may recall we pretty much shut down normal operations at the site for a week and posted a series of posts mourning the loss. lol.
Just checked my ticket. On Sunday I'm row K, same seat. See you then.
I also really liked Devane's game.
As expected Raine threw a couple of nice hits tonight too.
I liked Biggs but I liked him the one time I saw him last year. They're all at different stages of development but I also really liked Gauthier. Really nice skater and looks like he has nice hands. The other guy that impressed me was Finn. Last year he was never at 100% but he's a good skater, great puck handler and seems bigger this year.
I was there for the warmup and then went to get something to eat. Took forever to get a cheeseburger.
And with my note book. Nerd plus.
Next game I'm in the same location but 2 rows back.
I don't have a cell phone and my cable is through Eastlink ... whatever the else they peddle I could give a shit. Can't wait until we have a proper individual billionaire owner.
@TuckerForPunishment @Bon Scott was a Leaf fan @Zep2 Especially because the Flames will remove a lot of the temptations that caused Burke to err, here. He won't be given a blank check to sign free agents in Calgary. He will probably be forced to sign cheaper guys on shorter term deals. As a result, he should collect high draft picks, while also cashing in on smaller assets more easily and regularly.
But first things first, they have to tear down their whole scouting department and start over.