Friday Mashup: Back to the Grindstone

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Photo: Getty Images via NHL.com

The Leafs will return to the ice after what has seemed like an eternity.  The JVR-at-center experiment will make its debut against the Devils tonight while Smithson and Fraser will draw into the lineup.  The former is a move of necessity while the latter are indications of Carlyle reinforcing his desired style of game.

The theme of the week for the Leafs and their coaching staff?  Getting back to the disciplined, hard working game that defined this team’s unprecedented success a year ago.  Yes, the Leafs are off to a great start.  This has been in large part due to their potent offensive weapons, fantastic special teams, and a newfangled stud-goalie tandem.  Yet, the leaders of this squad have readily acknowledged that their compete level could be higher and more consistent.

Last year, this was a Toronto team that most pundits still viewed as irrelevant.  With a combination of skill and determination, one of the youngest squads in the league went out and fought hard every night to prove their naysayers wrong.  The page has turned after said season culminated in an impressive seven game showdown with the Bruins.  Nowadays, with the Leafs slowly regaining the respect of the hockey world, we are witness to one of the most difficult challenges with a young team that has seen success – remaining levelheaded, focused, and in touch with what led to success in the first place.

A lesson in the trials and tribulations of growing a young team with this style of play: the St. Louis Blues.  The Blues emerged from the murky recesses of the Western conference on the back of an influx of youth in 2008.  That team featured talented youngsters such as Backes, Perron, Berglund and T.J. Oshie.  They unexpectedly made the playoffs, got swept by the Canucks, and were commonly viewed as a team on the rise.  Yet finding a harmony with the demanding defensive game of their organization posed difficulties for the young group, as they narrowly missed the playoffs in the following two years.

With growth and maturity (and some better goaltending), the Blues rounded out their game in the 2011-2012 season and have remained a legitimate contender ever since.  They will likely remain as such for years to come, given their young core.  Granted, the personnel difference between the two teams is significant.  St. Louis has the edge in two-way players and an ability to work the cycle that is not present in this group of Maple Leafs.  But the similarity lies in the emphasis on defense and physical play within these organizations and the importance of ensuring that the young and immensely talented offensive players therein adhere to these principles.

In part, this identity will be reinvigorated with the returns of Kulemin and Fraser.  Moreover, we’ll find out if Smithson can bring a physical element and defensive presence that Trevor Smith did not.  Carlyle suggested Smithson may see time on the penalty kill with his faceoff proficiency (mandate likely being: win the draw, make sure the puck is cleared, go to the bench).  Regardless, while a lineup so heavily in flux no doubt poses some challenges, one would expect a determined and driven performance tonight at the ACC given the enormous amount of time off this group had to reflect and recuperate.

Friday morning links:

MLHS is offering free entry into a $500 fantasy contest for Saturday’s games.

James Mirtle compares this year’s team to the 2012-2013 Leafs. A quick look at some of the team’s numbers thus far.

David Clarkson is still finding his groove.  It will come, but Clarkson would be best served by sticking to his game and ignoring the incessant background whine of the Toronto hockey scene.

Traikos tries to drum up some drama in what is a conspicuously more antagonistic version of Mirtle’s piece.  Brief summary: shots shots shots, Toronto’s special teams are too good and Christian Ehroff will fix our “mess” of a defence.

Rielly will take a seat for now.  Not a big deal.  Carlyle likes to have a revolving door of his fringe defenders to keep them motivated and fresh.  He has not had that luxury this year thus far with Fraser’s injury.

Gardiner and Franson are reunited.  This should be the unit on the ice when Toronto is looking to score.

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  • Great Dane

    Good morning guys
    very balanced pieces on Phaneuf new paycheck:

    http://theleafsnation.com/2013/11/7/assessing-the-value-of-dion-phaneuf

  • Great Dane

    Is Liles being showcased around the league.  Just for scouts to check if he still got the wheels?

  • lieffan

    Great Dane Has to play to be “showcased.” Not that there’s any such thing

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ Radar O’Rielly

    This past week has felt like an entire off season.

  • Burtonboy

    I hope by moving Jake up to 2nd pair back to his natural side Carlyle now lets him loose to weave some magic. Jake was playing like he was always scared he was going to get benched at any minute . Like any PMD there is a certain amount of risk in their games and if you want that type of player on your back end you have to live and adjust to those risks. IMO the advantages of having a couple of good PMD’s on your backend far outweigh the risks.

  • Burtonboy

    Radar O’Rielly After the Bruins game we have another 4 days before the next game on Wednesday . Schedule sucks moose balls

  • mcloki

    Morning Gents. Great that opening Day is finally here.

  • Zep2

    High anxiety for Hapless Habs

  • Dan39

    Zep2 Watched half the game yesterday, they had zero fight in them. Barely played Parros. Didn’t notice Tinordi if he hasn’t been sent to the Bulldogs already. No Prust. No Tarnasky. They never learn…

  • Zep2

    Dan39 Zep2  Tinordi was sent down, Prust injured. I only saw the 3rd period. Subban tried to do too much.
    Lehner suggesting he’s going to get even with Gallagher , loved that
    Habs are at a disadvantage when it comes to front office personnel because of the French thing
    Bringing back Therrien reminds me of Jays bringing back Gibbons. Not the best available .

  • Mind Bomb

    Good morning Folks, finally, Game day :)

  • Dan39

    Zep2 Dan39 Therrien fits right in with his incessant whining.

  • wendelsway1

    Good Game Day Morning, Gents……a great day to be a Leafer!   GO LEAFS GO!!

  • Zep2

    Mind Bomb Morning MB
    Leafs need to come out with both feet on the gas. Theres no reason for them to get outplayed and outshot tonite.
    We need the 2 points. Getter doe boys

  • Burtonboy

    Zep2 If its high anxiety for the Habs then it must be sheer insanity in Philly . lol

  • wendelsway1

    Burtonboy Zep2 For sure….wonder how happy Luke is about playing in Philly now?…lol

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/canucksnaphookhttps://twitter.com/canucksnaphook/status/398797552801169408
    Good start to the day in Florida. Let’s golf. http://t.co/xpnLgAhL0u

  • B_Leaf

    Zep2 Mind Bomb 
    The boys need to put there hard hats on and go to work…time to put on a drive.

  • B_Leaf

    Burtonboy 
    Sigh…beach volleyball

  • wendelsway1

    CanuckUKinToronto wendelsway1 Always a great day to be a Leafer  :)

  • Zep2

    Burtonboy Zep2 Something has to happen in Philly for sure.
    But I don’t see how Holmgren can be the decision maker. 
    Hextall will takeover soon and then Cooler heads will prevail in Philly. lol

  • Burtonboy

    Zep2 Burtonboy Not as long as Snyder is the owner . Old dinosaur living in the 70 ‘s . He calls all the shots

  • Burtonboy

    Hall of fame game tonight . More ceremonies

  • Mind Bomb

    Zep2 Mind Bomb Morning Zep, yep I dont care how pretty it is, we need the 2 points, now I would prefer to out play NJ, but it seems like we have not won in like a week :)_

  • Zep2

    Burtonboy Zep2  Yeah Snyder is the one who drives the bus .A modern day Ballard. But Hextall is a Philly icon. Snyder will snap soon and make a move.

  • wendelsway1

    Burtonboy Of course it is…..seems like there are more games with ceremonies than without…….

  • Burtonboy

    Zep2 Burtonboy Won’t make a difference though , not as long as he is owner .

  • Cameron19

    Burtonboy Zep2 Don’t see how it would change their predicament. I mean, is GIroux playing like crap because of Holmgren?  The guy gave him 66 million dollars – doubt he has any hard feelings towards him.

  • Mind Bomb

    B_Leaf Zep2 Mind Bomb Morning B leaf, TBH I want to smoke/outplay Boston tommorrow, I dont mind an Ugly win tonight, but I want to absolutley pummel Boston in every aspect of the game tommorrow. I want them to beat Rask so bad he retires lol

  • Zep2

    Burtonboy Zep2 Having Bobby Clark involved in that team doesn’t help
    Not a Flyers fan, just wondering when the panic button gets pushed and what the results will look like

  • Burtonboy

    Cameron19 Burtonboy Zep2 I don’t know what’S going on down there but something is rotten in Denmark for certain .

  • MaxwellHowe

    Burtonboy I hope his score is in the triple digits.

  • wendelsway1

    Mind Bomb B_Leaf Zep2 You and me both…..Boston’s going down…..if they aren’t motivated to not just play but beat Boston, after last year’s playoffs then…….Houston, we have a problem.

  • Burtonboy

    MaxwellHowe Burtonboy I hope he does well . He is playing a tournament

  • MaxwellHowe

    Burtonboy Cameron19 Zep2 Yup, there is no good reason for that team to have fallen so far so fast.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Burtonboy MaxwellHowe Oh, a tournament, Ok, then….no wait, I still resent him

  • Mind Bomb

    wendelsway1 Mind Bomb B_Leaf Zep2  Exactly WW. if they come our Flat for that game. then Coaching and Leadership is a problem

  • Dan39

    Mind Bomb B_Leaf Zep2 Agreed. I’d like to see Orr follow-up on the last fight with a dominating win over Thornton. Lord knows Thornton has got the best of him in their career-series, but the big Bruin seems to be slowing down lately and I’d like to see the Sherrif put him down. Lucic would be nice, too, but he rarely fights anymore. Fraser should get in on the action as well now that his nemesis McDermaid has been traded away. McQuaid would make a good dance partner.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Mind Bomb wendelsway1 B_Leaf Zep2 
    Good points guys, but really should the coach have to motivate them for that game?  Every one of those players should be dying for a chance to beat the Bruins.  The Leafs should absolutely start Reimer for that game.

  • Knights2Leafs

    I’m okay with Rielly sitting for a game although I would have preferred he play tonight and sit tomorrow giving us a bigger tougher back end against the Bruins.  Don’t want him sitting too long.
    We should be grateful that we have 7 healthy dmen for the time being in light of all the injuries to the forwards.  We won’t stay injury free on the back end forever.

  • Zep2

    MaxwellHowe Burtonboy Cameron19 Zep2 
    I thing its a cumulative thing.
     The way they shopped out Richards and Carter after asking for team discounts
    Trying to replace those 2 with lesser players
    Horrible decisions when it comes to goaltending
    Schenn-JVR
    Aging , injured, slow D

  • Dan39

    Knights2Leafs Interesting that Carlyle has so much confidence in Ranger now. Where’s Pent House?

  • 4evrblue

    Knights2Leafs I agree it’s alright for him to sit. 60 NHL games is more beneficial than going back to junior IMO

  • Mind Bomb

    Dan39 Mind Bomb B_Leaf Zep2  Win or Lose Dan, we need to show up, tomorrow is a Statement game, Prime time Saturday Night, if they Pitch another Lackluster performance, then I am question our leadership

  • Cameron19

    Dan39 Knights2Leafs Is this really surprising?  He had Kostka and Holzer on the top pair last year. Not sure if Carlyel’s decision making should be a striking point for insults.

  • Zep2

    Dan39 Knights2Leafs Guy is a horse.  Cut down on the bad pinches and don’t try to do too much with the puck and Carlyle will play him a lot

  • Great Dane

    http://articles.philly.com/2013-11-07/sports/43779622_1_claude-giroux-no-flyer-the-flyers
    Holmgren is ready for another block buster deal.
    Reimer – Liles – Bozak – Holzer – 1st round pick – Blacker for Giroux- Timonen – Mason

  • Burtonboy

    Zep2 Dan39 Knights2Leafs Wish Franson would cut down on some of his ill advised pinches

  • B_Leaf

    Cameron19 Dan39 Knights2Leafs 
    Fair point, but Rangers physical strength will be a bigger factor when the games change down the stretch and in the playoffs. Carlyle tales this into account. Furthermore if you just look at rangers last ten games he has looked pretty good.

  • Zep2

    Burtonboy Zep2 Dan39 Knights2Leafs And he’s been shooting pucks into the pads of oncoming forwards. last year he very seldomly made mistakes at the offensive blue line