Having gone through a long and painful rebuild, the Toronto Maple Leafs now find themselves right smack in the middle of a critical time in their development as an organization.
With legitimate core pieces finally in place, it's up to management now to make the proper decisions to take this team from a middling group capable of making the playoffs annually to a powerhouse perennial contender.
With that in mind, is locking up Dave Bolland the right move for this organization?
Long Term Contracts and Contention
Consider this: The Leafs have five forwards already signed to big money deals until at least 2017-2018....
What a much more enjoyable month of hockey that was from the Maple Leafs, the latter half in particular. Toronto has seven regulation wins in their last 10 games, and are 9-1-1 in their last 11, after just seven regulation wins total between October 29 and January 14. The Leafs seem to be playing closer to the potential their talent level would suggest after a couple of bleak months culminating in a brief stint spent on the outside looking in at a playoff spot.
Saturday's win was the first game of the season in which the Leafs out shot an...
The sentiment "Thank you Boston" has been never been more prevalent in Leafs Nation as Phil Kessel continues to rip apart the NHL. I'm thanking Boston, too, only for something else.
You can't convince me otherwise: Boston's dominance of the Leafs and elite standing in League the past few seasons has made the Leafs better.
The Bruins forced the Leafs to improve, they forced them to change their game, and ultimately they remain the benchmark for the Leafs to measure themselves against. When Chicago was in the process of building a contender, Detroit was the yardstick. They forced them to turn...
The Maple Leafs have cleared some cap space with a number of players set to return from IR shortly (Smith, Clarkson, Bolland).
Oilers acquire Mark Fraser from Leafs for Cam Abner and Hartikainen.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) January 31, 2014
always impressed with Hartikainen .. projects to a good lower roster player if he can be brought back to N America.
— Gus Katsaros (@KatsHockey) January 31, 2014
Overall a very good little move by Leafs, especially if Hartikainen ever returns to North America. Fraser would have cost cap space in AHL.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) January 31, 2014
Most importantly, the Leafs have added wiggle...
This is amazing: With another multipoint game last night versus the Florida Panthers, marking his 18th and 19th points in his past 11 games, Phil Kessel now sits fourth in points over the past three seasons. He's only four points back of first-placed Evgeni Malkin, meaning Kessel becoming the scoringest player in the National Hockey League in the past three seasons (start of 2011-12 to current) is an actual possibility, should he finish the season strong (-er than the other guys).
Un-frickin’-real, and it speaks to the evolution of this complete, elite offensive threat, as he’s also in the top-15...
Why is the Leafs' PK struggling so heavily?
Plus much more on the week that was in Leafland.
It's kind of amazing how the Leafs' awful penalty kill has flown right under the radar this season.
Yeah, everyone knows it's bad, but when it was bad under Ron Wilson there was a constant reminder of how bad it was. It was a cloud of negativity hanging over Wilson's teams.
This season, though, it just doesn't seem like it's being made out to be nearly as big of a deal. But how bad is it? The current 76.8% success rate is a lower success...
According to @themayor, the Maple Leafs have acquired Manchester Monarchs right-winger Brandon Kozun from the Los Angeles Kings. The 23-year-old Los Angeles native was drafted in the sixth round of the 2009 draft.
#LAKings have traded Brandon Kozun to Toronto Maple Leafs. #TML
— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) January 22, 2014
The 5'8, 180-pound Kozun has been a regular AHL points contributor but has yet to play an NHL game. He has amassed 179 points in 264 AHL games. Some offensive firepower for the Marlies here, from the looks of things, as Kozun is from all reports a skilled little winger...
Everything is coming up aces for the Toronto Maple Leafs in January. The club has won six straight games to not just climb back into the playoff race but establish a secure foothold. And if the riches weren’t embarrassing enough, the Leafs also have junior hockey’s hottest scorer, Connor Brown.
Brown, the 156th selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft currently leads the Ontario Hockey League in scoring with 31 goals, 61 assists for 92 points in 45 games this season. He holds a 10-point lead over his closest competitor (teammate Dane Fox) and is on pace to challenge the...
It’s amazing how much a week can change, in the minds of some fans.
Some may say Carlyle is no longer on the hot seat, everything is fine now, the team is heading in the right direction, and everything is turning around at the right time. “They aren’t even fully healthy yet.”
Another perspective sees it as just a hot streak. The team has won a few shootouts, they’ve got some bounces and some good goaltending, and it’s really not a big deal. “It’s unsustainable; the averages will catch up to them eventually.”
Me? I’ll stick to the same script I’ve been...
MLHS' Alec Brownscombe recently caught up with Director of Player Development Jim Hughes to check in on the progress of the younger Maple Leafs.
Hughes and Claude Loiselle had recently traveled to the World Juniors together to take in Frederik Gauthier and Andreas Johnson's performances for Team Canada and Team Sweden respectively, as well as one viewing of Fabrice Herzog for Team Switzerland.
On Connor Brown's eye-popping production:
JH: In Connor’s case, the goals and assists are in a lot of ways just the result of his whole makeup. He loves the game, he works extremely hard day in day out, he’s...
Even the most optimistic Leafs fans weren't expecting David Clarkson to be great throughout the entirety of his seven year deal, but this is just getting crazy now.
By again going pointless last night, the big free agent signing has now stretched his pointless streak to seven games. If you look even further back, he has only three points in his last 21. Depth players Trevor Smith, Paul Ranger and rookie Morgan Rielly all have more points than him (Ranger’s played one more game than Clarkson and Rielly’s played four more; Smith has played ten less).
He doesn’t play on the...
Heading into 2013 training camp, Dave Nonis had two massive clouds hanging over his head as his best forward and best defenseman were both scheduled to become UFAs after the season. That’s no longer a problem as both have been signed to long-term contracts locking them in until 2021 and 2022 respectively.
The question is: Now what?
The Leafs are a playoff bubble team in a terrible Conference, and they now have six players locked into big deals (Kessel, Phaneuf, Lupul, Bozak, Clarkson and JVR). They still seem to have some cap flexibility with roughly $21M in cap space this summer...
As reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Dion Phaneuf have come to terms on a 7-year contract extension valued at $49-million ($7-million AAV). This keeps the 28 year old Phaneuf in the fold until the end of the 2020-21 season. Bob McKenzie is reporting that there is some form of NMC/NTC, which is a typical addendum to UFA-year contracts. The deal is the second-most expensive contract ever signed by the Maple Leafs (Kessel’s 8-year, $64-million dollar deal signed earlier this season is #1).
The Only Man for the Job
The money should come as no surprise. Back...
Darren Dreger is reporting that a contract extension for Dion Phaneuf is near completion, as in it could be signed and sealed before the New Year. The long rumoured figures have The Captain's new deal in the neighbourhood of 7x7. Phaneuf would join David Clarkson, Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak as 'core' members of the team locked up through to the end of the 2018 season (or beyond).
Here's an important point of consideration when analyzing the upcoming extension for Phaneuf - Relative Compensation under a rising cap.
C. The Rising Cap and Leafs Contracts
With tomorrow's game vs. Buffalo representing the 40th game of 2013-14, the Leafs are nearly at the halfway mark of the season. The Leafs, 18-16-5, currently hold the final playoff spot in the East, are 3-5-2 in their last ten, and will try to fend off the Flyers and Hurricanes who are both three points behind them with games in hand.
Now seems as good a time as any to look at the early returns of the Leafs most recent moves. Without further ado:
David Clarkson - The Leafs are finding out his best role is that of a shutdown...
Although the Leafs went 1-2 last week, it really was one of their better weeks of hockey this season. They handily outplayed LA but just weren’t able to bury, and they laid a beating on the first place Hawks. It's true that St. Louis completely outclassed them, but two pretty dominant games against two of the top five teams in the league is really impressive. The Leafs have to build on that as a positive.
- As doom-and-gloom as it’s been in Leafs Nation the last few weeks, the reality is this: The East sucks. The Leafs have played 16...
The Sunday game threw off the timing of the Leafs Notebook (along with life, work, and so on), so I apologize for the delay. Hope it was worth the wait at least.
- It’s nice to see the Leafs have a true first line and to watch them in action. When JVR-Kadri-Kessel are together as a unit, they are capable of dominating and they are also capable of sustained zone time. The only problem I see with this line is that they can get a little too cute at times, which is probably a result of three creative players being...
There isn’t much I can add to the powerplay analysis that wasn’t in the write up by JP Nikota describing the Leafs use of the 1-3-1. They adopted this system in 2012-13 while more teams have incorporated the formation throughout the NHL.
This may be the same reason Randy Carlyle has kept the penalty killing system intact for the last two seasons.
More relevant in 2013-14 is the severe drop off in the success of killing penalties, a part of the ’12-13 Leafs that excelled while sitting at the top of the standings and helping propel the Buds into their first...
Unlike a singular rigid structure in the defensive zone, neutral and offensive zone systems fluctuate upon game factors including score, time remaining, and game situation (5v5 or 4v4). They also vary line to line and shift to shift.
Varying conditions make it difficult to really pin down one specific system being applied as a core philosophy, while personnel and opposition systems further muddy the set of variables that need to be addressed. The philosophy holds the entire system together, with other variables contributing to the on-ice decisions.
A primary proponent to score effects, a passive forecheck is desired when defending...
How will it happen & what does it mean for the Toronto Maple Leafs?
In a memo released in September of this year, the Chief Operating Officer of the NHL notified all league employees of initiatives and staff changes to take effect during the 2013-2014 season. In the memo the league identified a plan to increase annual gross national revenue by $1 billion dollars by the end of three years, or in other words, in time for the 2016-2017 season. To put that type of increase in perspective, it had previously taken the league from 2005-06 to 2011-12 –...