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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Nikhil has been writing for MLHS since the site launched in 2008. He misses talking about Mats Sundin and is currently entrenched in enemy territory (Boston) pursuing a doctoral degree. Contact Nikhil here: [email protected]
  • Dan39

    Murph2417 Pent_House Ahh sarcasm.

  • Cameron19

    MaxwellHowe wiski Or perhaps Voracek + Coburn.

  • MaxwellHowe

    rustynail Yeah, he’s been a mediocre player for years, but just think, he’s a guy who knows this is probably his last tour in the NHL.  If he plays his balls off, this might turn out to be a plseant surprise.

  • Dan39

    4evrblue Vinny’s long been known to not put the effort in off the ice, I don’t know why you’re so up in arms over this.

  • Jmessih

    -Keon- Nice, we are moving on up. I’ll be honest, one thing that has pissed me off this year is Bozak getting cleaned in the FO circle when one of the reasons we signed him was he was good at it.

  • Jmessih

    https://twitter.com/markhmastershttps://twitter.com/markhmasters/status/398874632725356544
    Lupul expects to take some draws on backhand side; worked on it last 3 practices; “It’s something that will take some getting used to”

  • 4evrblue

    Dan39 4evrblue Im not up in arms at all. I’m actually immensely amused that people would think he doesn’t want to win

  • Alec Brownscombe

    -Keon- That’d be refreshing

  • MaxwellHowe

    Dan39 4evrblue Why is anyone here arguing about over-the-hill Flyer wingers?  Focus people,.  Save your anger for Friday afternoon at the pub and shouting at the TV tonite.

  • Pent_House

    Murph2417 Pent_House I must know why

  • 4evrblue

    MaxwellHowe Dan39 4evrblue I have a lot of anger to spare 😀

  • Denied

    4evrblue This is not what is being argued, its the fact that as a unrestricted free agent a player who has already won in their career would be leaning more towards the money rather than a chance at a cup…

  • wiski

    https://twitter.com/Berger_BYTEShttps://twitter.com/Berger_BYTES/status/398875544105656320
    Again, happy 89th birthday today to the most beloved figure in Toronto Maple https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs&src=hash history; the great Johnny Bower. One of a kind.

  • Dan39

    Denied 4evrblue Obviously.

  • MaxwellHowe

    4evrblue MaxwellHowe Dan39 Leafs are playing back to back.  Pace yourself

  • Dan39

    hoolihan -Keon- $21 million of guaranteed money.

  • 4evrblue

    Denied 4evrblue hey Mr. Bossy Pants!!!! Don’t tell me what this argument is about!!

  • Komas Taberle

    -Keon- He listed under Fugly in the dictionary.

  • Jmessih

    -Keon- I agree, Bozak seems to have some entitlement about him this year, and I don’t like it.

  • 4evrblue

    MaxwellHowe 4evrblue Dan39 My mother in law lives in my house. LOTS of anger to spare lol

  • djamon

    Denied ALL players choose the money. Vinnie obviously did too. Why else would you choose a team who didn’t make the playoffs last year?

  • Dan39

    Jmessih -Keon- Well hopefully when he comes back it’s to the 3rd line – that should help dial in his sense of self-worth.

  • Jmessih

    Remember how close this relationship washttps://twitter.com/Berger_BYTEShttps://twitter.com/Berger_BYTES/status/397729404064759809
    Interested to learn this week that college pals Brian Burke and Ron Wilson haven’t spoken since one fired the other 20 months ago. https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs&src=hash

  • Jmessih

    Dan39 Jmessih -Keon- I would have liked to have seen Kadri and Kessel have more success together so Bozak felt like he would need to fight for his spot back.

  • 4evrblue

    djamon Denied impossible for him to think they could win going forward?

  • Dan39

    Jmessih Dan39 -Keon- Yeah, I guess that’s over for now. Maybe Carlyle starts double-shifting Kadri for additional minutes on the top line if JVR at center doesn’t work so well?

  • 4evrblue

    Shift_Disturber1 4evrblue MaxwellHowe Dan39 Just not sure man, ask myself that question everyday :(

  • Dan39

    4evrblue Shift_Disturber1 MaxwellHowe Dan39 Amazing the way your life plan can go awry, isn’t it?

  • rustynail

    -Keon- which is tough to do when some one else hires them :)

  • Pent_House

    -Keon- Very very true.

  • Jmessih

    -Keon- I thought so too

  • 4evrblue

    Dan39 4evrblue Shift_Disturber1 MaxwellHowe It is. One day you’re sitting in your recliner with a beer watching the Leafs annihilate the Habs in every facet of the game and then POOF!! You’re hiding in the basement with a laptop and a beer watching the Leafs annihilate the habs in every facet of the game

  • Dan39

    hoolihan Dan39 Jmessih -Keon- It’s unpredictable with Carlyle what’s going to happen to these lines with so many moving parts now.

  • Dan39

    4evrblue Dan39 Shift_Disturber1 MaxwellHowe Trust me, I know all about hiding in the house I paid for.

  • 4evrblue

    Dan39 4evrblue Shift_Disturber1 MaxwellHowe new home here, I don’t even have a shed………….every man needs a shed :)

  • 4evrblue

    Shift_Disturber1 -Keon- lol too true. how many millions did Ronnie run off with? 3 if I remember correctly?

  • Dan39

    4evrblue Dan39 Shift_Disturber1 MaxwellHowe Advice: insulate it, then put your beer fridge and a TV in there.

  • wiski

    Jmessih Both very proud men.

  • 4evrblue

    Murph2417 Pent_House He’s easy to hate when he’s playing against your team. Very effective in getting under guys skin, tough as nails and has offensive skill though. I’ve liked his play from way back in his LA days

  • Black_Hawk

    FUCK yeah finally finished all my midterms and can watch a game for once

  • rustynail

    Murph2417 4evrblue Pent_House as unpopular as it is I feel the same way

  • wiski

    https://twitter.com/Avalanchehttps://twitter.com/Avalanche/status/398882282393464832
    Patrick Roy said after today’s morning skate that Ryan Wilson will be out at least two weeks with a back injury.

  • Black_Hawk

    rustynail lol he shouldnt to be honest

  • Black_Hawk

    anything happen today?

  • docyqx

    4evrblue Dan39 Shift_Disturber1 MaxwellHowe 
    Next Up On the MLHS Calendar: Raise A Shed for 4evrblue
    NO Man should be without his Castle/Shed,

  • djamon

    4evrblue Certainly less likely. I think most of us had a pretty good idea the Flyers were going to be in tough to go anywhere.

  • docyqx

    Black_Hawk 
    The Sky was Black to start the Day……..but later turned a glorious Maple Leaf Blue……..
    Folks at MLHS have been semi happy ever since…..

  • Xxxxxnew

    I hope we don’t get sucked in to NJ’s style tonight. Even though they can’t win games they’ve only allowed an average of around 22 shots a game against this year so far.

  • Black_Hawk

    Xxxxxnew i can see a slow start but i hope not also

  • Black_Hawk

    docyqx Black_Hawk LOL