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]
  • Black_Hawk

    Pent_House Black_Hawk Jay_Berg agreed, organizational difference there

  • peterbleafs

    Xxxxxnew It is not illogical at all.  I would be surprised if JVR failed at Center.  To me he is perfectly suited for it, especially with Kessel on his wing.

  • DARF24

    DeclanK Matthias/Bjugstad

  • Ze_theLeafsFan

    DeclanK Shift_Disturber1 Jmessih who is Katie Burke?

  • peterbleafs

    Murph2417 rustynail Everytime I see your avatar, I scream….Die Bin Laden!

  • Black_Hawk

    peterbleafs Xxxxxnew we will see, time will tell

  • Burtonboy

    Jmessih Still say this switch is going to be harder then they think . Hope I’m wrong

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    DARF24 DeclanK
    Bjugstad would be a target if it were up to me. Barkov/Huberdeau are going no where, clearly.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Xxxxxnew Been two decades in the making.  As soon as the next Wayne Gretzky or Mark Messier is available to snatch with that #1 pick, they’ll be back in contention.

  • Black_Hawk

    DeclanK DARF24 Bjugstad would be interesting indeed

  • peterbleafs

    Luke Schenn as an Oiler would be an awesome fit with Eakins as his coach.  Eakins would dog him during the season and off season.  Philly should send Yakupov to Philly for him, and maybe even get a pick on top of it.  Schenn would still suck this year but towards the end and all of next year he would show why he was a top pick.

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/markhmastershttps://twitter.com/markhmasters/status/398895161989541888
    JVR jokes he thought media would confront him w/ his face-off stats from practice; Lupul: “Good thing you didn’t bc I worked him”

  • DARF24

    DeclanK maybe goc for really cheap tho

  • Black_Hawk

    Burtonboy LOL lupul is funny guy

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/markhmastershttps://twitter.com/markhmasters/status/398895380999319552
    Lupul on JVR at centre: “Once we have the puck his role isn’t going to change … coming back into our zone we’ll have to communicate”

  • Xxxxxnew

    He’d hate all the four- on- ones he’d face.

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/BroadStBullhttps://twitter.com/BroadStBull/status/398896669926109184
    Snider on https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Flyers&src=hash‘ 3-0 loss to https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Devils&src=hash on Thurs.: “The effort was pathetic. We were losing all the battles along the boards.”

  • Biltmore

    Xxxxxnew No kidding. It’s like the Oiler forwards hit a lemonade stand first on the way back to their end. Bobby Orr and Larry Robinson would minus players on that team. Well, maybe not Orr….

  • Xxxxxnew

    Sorry wouldn’t let any of them hande the puck.

  • PEIleafnation

    well here in PEI Leaf nation, im wrapping up all my tackle and flag football tomorrow…squeezed between leafs on TSN while I host trivia tonight and CBC HNIC ..leafs bruins..oh feel a shit kicking coming Bs way. ! goleafs go HAPpY TGIF

  • Xxxxxnew

    SportsnetSpec: Omark irrelevant in return to NHL
    SportsnetSpec: Wonder if Oilers brass is considering an AHL stint for Yakupov. He looks completely overmatched in NHL.
    SportsnetSpec: Yakupov, Eberle giveaways are prime examples. Young “stars” don’t figure out how the game is played, they’ll never win.

  • Burtonboy

    Xxxxxnew Is yak old enough to play in the AHL?

  • MaxwellHowe

    The window on Yakupov as a trade asset of any value is closing fast IMO.  If the Oilers don’t move they’ll be stuck with a Zherdev.

  • Jon5200

    Jonathon will give the Devils a ‘FIRST DEGREE BERN’ tonight…..tomorrow, its ‘REIM TIME’ all over boston!!

  • Dan39

    @Ryan Heh thanks but no – that’s where I draw the line!

  • Dan39

    MaxwellHowe Xxxxxnew McDavid. This year is already a write-off, what’s one more year at the bottom of the standings? They could ice a starting lineup of first overall picks!

  • Black_Hawk

    Gilbey93 wow

  • Xxxxxnew

    3 in 15 this year. -14

  • MaxwellHowe

    and thats the sales pitch.

  • MaxwellHowe

    He didn’t score 31 points last year with a very good team either.  In fact it was the same crappy team

  • Xxxxxnew

    mirtle: Colton Orr was off today with a maintenance day. Hasn’t been 100% since training camp. Likely to play tonight.

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/markhmastershttps://twitter.com/markhmasters/status/398911109521866753
    Getting awkward in Winnipeg as tension builds bt Kane-Noel re: Wednesday night scratch http://t.co/v1pWX0O2XM (vid)

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    Burtonboy Noel will lose that one.

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    Jay_Berg So in other words, he”ll be a future coach and President of the team too then.

  • Mind Bomb

    ingy56 Burtonboy  Hi ingy, I would have already let him go

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    Mind Bomb ingy56 Burtonboy Yup, me too. He’s good in the pressers but that’s about it.

  • Pent_House

    Burtonboy Noel is a clown

  • BPsotka

    At the lottery in the new CBA: after the first-overall-pick-winner is decided (Edmonton), is the remaining draft order set in stone or do they keep pulling ping pong balls to see how the rest of the order is?

  • Dan39

    BPsotka Apparently it’s the same, can only move down 1 spot.

  • BPsotka

    Dan39 BPsotka Thanks. I’d prefer the other way, but oh well.

  • Airfreshener

    TGIF Ladies and Gents, enjoy your weekends and remember! 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AEj3LA2vSo

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/HockeyBrophhttps://twitter.com/HockeyBroph/status/398917691395694592
    From my interview with Leafs coach Randy Carlyle this morning: http://t.co/6qGbAYfxgJ https://twitter.com/search?q=%23hockeynight&src=hash https://twitter.com/search?q=%23cbcsports&src=hash

  • rustynail

    Burtonboy Jmessih we need Phook saying that not you:)

  • rustynail

    wiski how about if you had a T and long sleeved Corsi shirt? :)

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    Airfreshener One of my favourite movies.

  • Dan39

    Xxxxxnew Beating the piss out of Janssen will make him feel better.

  • 17Forever

    DARF24 DeclanK 
    Wow .. just noticed that Florida is a team of centers

  • 17Forever

    DARF24 DeclanK 
    Ya I thought Marcel for cheap as well …

  • Tim Horton

    new http://mapleleafshotstove.com/2013/11/08/preview-the-leafs-play-tonight/

  • Dan39

    Burtonboy Xxxxxnew Yeah, he’s 20. You only need to be 20 in the season that you want to play in the AHL is my understanding.