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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  • Jay_Berg

    Fan reactions after we spank the devils tonight:
    “Wow JVR looked amazing at centre. I think we found our #1 centre finally!
    Fan reactions after we get killed by Boston on sat:
    “JVR sucks. Couldn’t win a faceoff, we are fucked!”

  • Black_Hawk

    Jay_Berg lol probably

  • rustynail

    https://twitter.com/TGfireandicehttps://twitter.com/TGfireandice/status/398884418250477568
    Fraser sustained scull fracture that required three metal plates, titanium mesh and 15 screws. Said if he’s wanded at airport, it goes off.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Jmessih Calling BS on this

  • Black_Hawk

    Alec Brownscombe Jmessih i think so too

  • Mind Bomb

    docyqx Black_Hawk  Whats up Doc  
     My Motto is Handle
    every Stressful situation like a dog.
    If
    you can’t eat it or play with it,
    Piss
    on it and walk away.

  • Xxxxxnew

    It’s already started with his draws in practice.

  • Reimocerous

    Murph2417 rustynail Really? I was like, wow that is cool after I read that. Soooo I guess I care. :)

  • Xxxxxnew

    Most interesting thing I’ve read here today …

  • TuckerForPunishment

    JVR is the big #1C we’ve been looking for.  Fuck I hope so.

  • docyqx

    Jay_Berg 
    Don’t forget the favorite line : Film at 11 !

  • Reimocerous

    Murph2417 Reimocerous rustynail I guess I never really knew all the details. 15 screws?

  • Xxxxxnew

    Titanium mesh?

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    Jmessih 
    That’s not true.

  • Reimocerous

    Murph2417 Reimocerous rustynail I wonder if he ever sticks magnets to it?

  • Xxxxxnew

    It was only a tweet for anyone who follows him. Wasn’t some big news story.

  • TuckerForPunishment

    Xxxxxnew http://www.seamless-titaniumpipe.com/photo/pl1317910-high_impact_strength_gr5_gr7_medical_titanium_mesh_for_medicine_paper_making.jpg

  • Xxxxxnew

    Probably throws off his compass.

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    Shift_Disturber1 Jmessih 
    I believe it was Patrick or Katie Burke that said they talk regularly.

  • Marlies Man

    Murph2417 Reimocerous rustynail Don’t blame reporters then. Blame Twitter whose stockholders double their investments yesterday.

  • Komas Taberle

    Jmessih 
    I heard Burke talking the other day……… oh wait you meant ” haven’t spoken to each other”

  • Xxxxxnew

    Ronnie lives in S Carolina anyway.

  • Marlies Man

    Jay_Berg We’ll he can’t be much worse than before our injury fuckery. We could send a monkey out and he’d probably win 40 per cent of the draws.

  • Wardus

    Anyone? Anyone?

  • Marlies Man

    Xxxxxnew Well then we’ll probably only get 16 … but score four goals.

  • Marlies Man

    Murph2417 Marlies Man Jay_Berg Monkey and a banana peel … anarchy on ice.

  • GeorgeCastanza

    Murph2417 rustynail  Jeeeeeeesh.  I’ve been saying that about all this “Ford” crap.

  • Xxxxxnew

    That would be one of those unexpected good fortune things that hasn’t happened in Leafland n a very long time. Cameron has mentioned this in the past.

  • Black_Hawk

    Xxxxxnew yeah would be the most pleasant surprise i can think of

  • Cloud09

    CanuckUKinToronto Xxxxxnew Would also open up a top 6 winger spot

  • Black_Hawk

    Might have to hope JVR turns into our Jamie Benn, a guy who can play center and wing. More predominately a wing though but could be a great stop gap until we can get one. Bozak is a good stop gap but not great.

  • TuckerForPunishment

    Alec Brownscombe Jmessih User Actions  Followhttps://twitter.com/dfeschuk
    Brian Burke on Ron Wilson’s daughter getting married in the summer. “Ron suggested it’d be better if I didn’t come to the wedding.”https://twitter.com/dfeschuk/status/307513752163598336#https://twitter.com/dfeschuk/status/307513752163598336#https://twitter.com/dfeschuk/status/307513752163598336# Morehttps://twitter.com/dfeschuk/status/307513752163598336#https://twitter.com/dfeschuk/status/307513752163598336#7:32 AM – 1 Mar 13
    User Actions  Followhttps://twitter.com/dfeschuk
    Burke on his relationship w Wilson post-firing: “There was a lot to it that was unpleasant. It’s fine now. But it is not easy.”https://twitter.com/dfeschuk/status/307514643050528772#https://twitter.com/dfeschuk/status/307514643050528772#https://twitter.com/dfeschuk/status/307514643050528772# Morehttps://twitter.com/dfeschuk/status/307514643050528772#https://twitter.com/dfeschuk/status/307514643050528772#7:36 AM – 1 Mar 13

  • Marlies Man

    Jmessih lol Could be worse boys. Here in NL that’s 9:30. Over around midnight.

  • Xxxxxnew

    Cameron was wondering why every so often on other teams a player on another team will emerge with a much higher impact level than was expected than from when they were drafted. Doesn’t happen very often, but his question was , why can’t we just get lucky for once?

  • Xxxxxnew

    Yeah, you can go around the league and pick a few out. Even as far back as a guy like Martin St. Louis.

  • Jay_Berg

    Don’t see the oilers and flyers as good trading partners anyways. They both have the same problems (defence and goaltending)
    https://twitter.com/darrendreger/status/398888037511208960

  • Black_Hawk

    Jay_Berg fuck the oilers

  • Xxxxxnew

    Trouble in Toronto though is he’ll get crapped on after one game if he isn’t 100% on the draw.

  • Xxxxxnew

    I think the Oilers rebuild will probably be longer than a decade.

  • Ryan

    https://twitter.com/Burkie2020https://twitter.com/Burkie2020/status/375650493243985920
    I’m very pleased and honoured to be joining the Flames! Retweeted by https://twitter.com/coachrw63https://twitter.com/coachrw63#https://twitter.com/coachrw63#https://twitter.com/coachrw63# Morehttps://twitter.com/Burkie2020/status/375650493243985920

  • Ryan

    that was retweeted by ron wilson.

  • Pent_House

    Jay_Berg If I was Eberle I’d rather play for Philly

  • Black_Hawk

    Pent_House Jay_Berg me too, Philly is always competitive after a year or two

  • Ryan

    https://twitter.com/HennyTweetshttps://twitter.com/HennyTweets/status/398887052374466560
    Schnieder vs bernier tonight. Correction and apologies. https://twitter.com/search?q=%23TMLtalk&src=hashhttps://twitter.com/HennyTweets#https://twitter.com/HennyTweets#https://twitter.com/HennyTweets# Morehttps://twitter.com/HennyTweets/status/398887052374466560

  • Marlies Man

    @Ryan Bitterness for not having a job.

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    http://www2.dailyfaceoff.com/teams/lines/25/florida-panthers
    Take your pick there.

  • Xxxxxnew

    Edmonton media talking last night how Yakupov would benefit from a year or two in the AHL. Saying he’s “overmatched” in the NHL.

  • Ryan

    http://mapleleafs.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=690257&navid=DL|TOR|home&navid=DL|TOR|home
    good read on Mason Raymond

  • Pent_House

    Black_Hawk Pent_House Jay_Berg They’ll get their back-end figured out eventually and their forwards are top class. I still think Edmonton is too small up-front and I don’t have the same faith in their organization to get their problems solved.

  • peterbleafs

    Jay_Berg They absolutely are a trade partner.