Thursday, May 28, 2015
Authors Posts by Alex Tran

Alex Tran

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Alex has been a part of the original MLHS team since way back in 2008. He has contributed to the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals with a special interest in junior hockey and player development.

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As 2010 winds down, there are multiple sources hinting at some movement on the trade front for the Maple Leafs:

– TSN’s Darren Dreger notes that multiple teams have contacted the Leafs asking about a number of different players but that no offer has been up to Burke’s standards yet. He adds that defenseman Francois Beauchemin in particular has drawn plenty of interest though he does possess a limited no-trade clause. Bob Mckenzie agrees that that there is significant buzz around the league regarding a possible series of moves in the coming days, perhaps involving Toronto.

– The Fourth Period adds that Phoenix has been heavily scouting the Leafs recently and had two members of their senior hockey staff, most notably Assistant GM Brad Treliving, in Toronto to scout the Jackets’ game on Thursday. The article also mentions that the Coyotes are in the market for a scoring top six forward as well as a top four defenseman. A few days ago, I speculated that Burke could potentially be interested in Phoenix centre Martin Hanzal, a strong defensive player and big-bodied net presence. If the Leafs decide to target picks and prospects, they could ask for scoring winger Brett Maclean, power forward Viktor Tikhonov, physical defenseman Michael Stone, American checker Chris Brown or puckmoving defenseman Brandon Gormley, recently selected 13th overall.

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"You're kidding! I only have to beat out Brett Lebda for an NHL job?"

Kadri’s allowed to play again! After a rocky stretch in and out of the press box the last couple of nights, including one game where Nazem was benched in favor of the ever dangerous (for which team is up to you) Brett Lebda at forward, the Maple Leafs’ 2009 1st round pick has been sent back down to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. He will rejoin game action after serving out a two-game suspension that was handed out just before his NHL call-up. Through the first 17 games of his NHL career, Kadri was goalless with 6 assists and a minus 4 rating.

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In a recent lunch interview with the Toronto Star, GM Brian Burke finally conceded what many fans and media types have been saying the last couple of weeks: change is needed. While it has been quite popular to lay most of the blame at the feet of the head coach, Burke reiterated for the umpteenth time that the players have not quit on Ron Wilson and that they “are not even contemplating, considering or discussing a coaching change at this point.”

Burke did state however: “I think this group has established to my satisfaction that we’re not going to come out of this without some outside help. We’re not looking at a coaching change. So we have to see if we can make a player personnel change.”

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Some quick news and notes for your Monday afternoon:

– The Maple Leafs announced over the weekend that forward prospect Mikhail Stefanovich has been loaned to Minsk Dynamo of the KHL. There is no word yet on the anticipated timetable on a potential return to North America. The 21 year old Stefanovich was touted by as a dynamic, scoring forward after being drafted 98th overall in the 2008 NHL Draft by the Maple Leafs, but has struggled with inconsistency over the past couple seasons. Mikhail’s development should benefit from playing against higher level competition and returning to a familiar environment.

– Forward prospect Bradley Ross has been invited to the December Camp roster for the 2011 Canadian World Junior team. The Leafs’ top selection, 43rd overall in the 2010 NHL draft, has 10 goals and 13 assists through 26 games played this season for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Ross will likely be leaned upon for a grinding, agitating third line role for the Canadians, much like Steve Downie was a couple years ago.

– The Leafs’ other highly touted forward prospect, Greg McKegg, was unfortunately left off the invite list for the December Camp. The Erie Otters captain has been destroying the OHL to the tune of 20 goals and 20 assists through 28 games played, good for 5th overall in league scoring. McKegg earned his second OHL Player of the Week honours earlier this morning, after a week in which he tallied 6 goals, 3 assists and a +5 rating in 3 games played.

– It looks as if Nazem Kadri will be stepping even moreso into the limelight as the youngster has been centering the team’s top line in practice ahead of Tuesday night’s matchup against the Lightning. Kadri will be flanked by Clarke MacArthur and Phil Kessel in an effort to generate some much needed offense. Luca Caputi will be inserted back into the lineup and placed alongside Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin on the team’s second line while the struggling Tyler Bozak will be bumped down to third line duties.

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The Maple Leafs will try to forget last night’s defeat in Buffalo as they travel tonight to Scotiabank place to duel against their struggling provincial rivals. After kicking off the month of November with a 5-1-0 run, the Senators have since lost 5 out of their past 6 games including a defeat Friday afternoon at the hands of Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.

The Leafs have had a nightmarish time on the road this season, ranking dead last in the league in terms of road record and offensive production. The team has stumbled into a 2-6-1 record including a ghastly 16 goals for through those 9 games played. The Leafs have lost seven in a row on the road, as their last victory away from the friendly confines of the ACC came way back on October 15th against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

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Some links for your Thursday afternoon enjoyment:

Mark Sutcliffe of the Ottawa Citizen makes the case for banning Leaf fans from attending Leafs-Senators games at Scotiabank place. Apparently the Senators’ front office have been getting complaints from their supporters about Leaf fans “ruining the experience”.

The National Post‘s Michael Traikos praises winger Clarke MacArthur on his tremendous start to the season thus far. Not only have his contributions to the scoresheet been impressive but his enthusiasm and work ethic has been contagious. The 25 year old former Major Junior star is currently on pace for a 74 point campaign, and attributes his success to simply getting an opportunity to play. In his words, Toronto was really the only city that would “give a free-agent bum like me a chance.”

The Globe and Mail explains that Brett Lebda has had a horrific start to the ’10-’11 campaign and is beginning to feel left out. The veteran blueliner has somehow managed to accumulate a team worst -9 rating despite very limited ice-time in the ten games he’s actually managed to dress for. For his part, Lebda feels that he has generally been working hard, but realizes that the numbers are ultimately the bottom line and that he will have to continue to work at picking up his level of play.

Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star takes an early season look back at the Versteeg trade that sent forward Viktor Stalberg along with prospects Chris Didomenico and Phillipe Paradis to Chicago. McGran asserts that both teams have done quite well thus far, as Stalberg is slowly getting more ice-time and trust from head coach Joel Quenneville while Versteeg has been fantastic over the past handful of games handling the point on the Leafs’ powerplay. Steeger’s versatility and strong two-way play have been leaned on heavily by Ron Wilson thus far, as the youngster has averaged 20:23 minutes of ice-time a game, good for 18th among league forwards.

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Claus Andersen/Getty Images

It appears as if goaltender Jussi Rynnas is adjusting well to life in North America after a bit of a rough start at the Maple Leafs’ rookie camp in September. Rynnas posted a perfect 3-0-0 record this past week to go along with a scintillating 1.00 GAA and 0.971 SV% en route to earning the AHL’s Player of the Week honours. Overall on the season, the 23 year old Finnish netminder boasts a 3-3-1 record, a 1.95 GAA and 0.936 SV%.

Here’s what Allaire had to say about Rynnas back in September:

“I like his size for sure. He’s a very big guy. For a guy of his size, I like his speed. Good legs. Very quick glove. He’s got different good tools. He has a lot of good points.”

James Reimer, the other half of the Marlies’ youthful dynamic duo between the pipes, has gone 5-3-1 with a 2.90 GAA and 0.918 SV% through 9 games. Meanwhile, Alberta native Ben Scrivens, Toronto’s other free agent signee of the summer, is 4-3 with a 2.46 GAA and 0.931 SV% through 7 games played for the Reading Royals of the ECHL.

Chris Young/Canadian Press

Paul Hunter of the Toronto Star reports that the job of  Ron Wilson remains safe for the moment as the Head Coach received yet another vote of confidence from GM Brian Burke. Wilson has drawn the ire of Leafs Nation on a number of occasions over the past couple seasons every time the team has gone into any sort of prolonged struggle, but Burke remained steadfast in his support for his friend:

“I’m told (Wilson) got blasted in the media today. Let me ask you a question. Did Ron play poorly last night? No. Why don’t you guys focus on the players who played poorly last night instead of questioning the coach? It’s a very bizarre twist to this market place that when players play poorly, the coach gets hollered at. This is new for me. In Vancouver when the players played poorly, the players got blasted so I’m perplexed by this.”

So in Vancouver… the fans are tougher on the players than the coach… Interesting. On a completely unrelated note, here’s what Burke had to say about the fans booing Dion Phaneuf:

“All the time I worked in Vancouver I don’t think I ever had a player booed.”

Well, I’m stumped. Anyways…

By laying the blame primarily on the team’s on-ice product, it’s patently clear that Burke is itching to make a move to upgrade his roster. With both “cap room and budget room” created by the Finger demotion, the club is listening in intently on any possible trade talks around the league. There were rumors swirling a few weeks ago regarding a smaller depth move to pick up a bottom six forward with some size or jam ala Blake Wheeler or David Clarkson, but club’s #1 priority remains the search for a bonafide top line pivot to complement Kessel.

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    To begin with, I’d like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to share their wonderfully touching stories and personal experiences with myself and the rest of the MLHS community. I truly wish I had a pair of tickets for every single person, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. On the bright side however, tomorrow night is going to be quite a memorable evening for a special young lady, as MLHS reader R.J. Emptage will be taking his two and a half year old daughter to her very first Maple Leaf game. Follow the story after the jump to read R.J.’s submission.

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      Everybody remembers their first time… the buzz of excitement in the crowd as you line up to enter the arena… the tiny, insignificant piece of paper in your hand that has now become your best friend… the rush of cold air that embraces your face as you view the ice surface… the majestic sense of unison as 20,000 people stand to honour the national anthems… the incredible skill and speed of the players as they rush up and down the ice… You had seen it played on TV a thousand times, yet somehow, it still hadn’t prepared you for this amazingly new experience.

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      According to Nick Kypreos, the Maple Leafs could be without winger Colby Armstrong for four to six weeks as he may need surgery on his hand. Dreger adds that the team is expected to call up Luca Caputi from the Marlies to replace Armstrong on the third line, but Colby’s absence will leave a void in terms of physicality and strong board play.

      Caputi has recorded just 2 goals and 1 assist through 6 games played for the Marlies, but showed improved skating ability and poise playing against NHL players this preaseason. Prior to the start of the season, Burke alluded to the improvement in the organizational depth as a key factor in the team’s potential success, and this will be the first test of that theory.

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        It’s been a bit of a tough week with a pair of losses to the New York teams, but that’s over and done with. It’s Saturday night and there’s just something about these games that the Maple Leaf players just seem to get up for. To get you into the hockey mood ahead of tonight’s matchup against the Flyers, we’ve got a FanPost from reader Chuck Johnson, who provides his two cents on the state of refereeing in today’s NHL. If you’d like to submit a FanPost of your own, send it to me at [email protected]

        Also, I had originally bought tickets to next Saturday night’s home game against the Rangers, but have since been invited to better seats by some friends. As such, I will be putting up my purples up for sale at cost on a first come first serve basis. If interested, contact me via the email listed above.

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        The Maple Leafs' 62nd Overall Selection in the 2010 NHL Draft

        Greg McKegg has had a bit of an up and down week with multi-point games one night and zilch the next night. However, McKegg is still on pace for a phenomenal season with 19 points through 11 games played and sitting 2nd overall in league scoring behind Niagara’s Ryan Strome. Despite his efforts, the Erie captain has had a tough time carrying the Otters to respectability this season, as they currently last in the OHL’s Western Conference. The team’s poor start has fueled rumors across the league that McKegg could be on the move to a contender relatively soon, possibly to the London Knights.

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        On behalf of the writers, I’d like to extend a “Happy Thanksgiving” to all of you wonderful folks in the MLHS community. You guys are the ones that make MLHS what it is: a supportive venue for camaraderie, intelligent discussion and expression of passion for a truly remarkable sport and team.

        It’s beginning to look like there could be a lot to be thankful for this year with such an energetic and exciting young team. How’s about this little nugget to chew on? The three stars from last night’s game (Kessel, Versteeg, and MacArthur) are 22, 24 and 25 years of age respectively.

        There’s going to be a lot to look forward to in the coming months and years. But for now, let’s take a second to reflect upon and appreciate the some of the incredible moments of this past year like these ones, this one,  this one and of course who could forget this one.

        Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

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        Morrisonn welcomes Ross to the Maple Leafs' organization

        Not a bad start for the Maple Leafs’ 2010 draft class… It was announced on Monday that forward prospects Greg McKegg, the Leafs’ 3rd round pick 62nd overall, and Brad Ross, the Leafs’ 2nd round pick 43rd overall, were named OHL and WHL Players of the Week respectively for the week of September 27th to October 3rd. Not to be forgotten is forward Josh Nicholls, the team’s 7th round pick 182nd overall who is off to a career best start for the Saskatoon Blades.

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        Leaf prospect Josh Nicholl’s 2010-2011 season had gotten off to such a promising start. Currently tied for 6th overall in WHL scoring with 5 goals and 5 assists for 10 points in 6 games played, the Maple Leafs’ 2010 7th round pick seemed on his way to a potential D’Amigo style breakout campaign. Playing on the Blades’ top line with Marek Viedensky and Curtis Hamilton, everything seemed to be clicking for the youngster. However, on Wednesday night, a poor decision from Tri-City Americans forward Brendan Shinnimin could prove to be a serious setback to Josh’s progress.

        Late in the third period with Saskatoon up 5-3 thanks to a 3 point effort from Nicholls, the young forward was chasing down a puck in the offensive zone when he received cross-check from Shinnimin to his lower back, which caused Nicholls to be flung forward viciously headfirst into the end boards. Thankfully, Josh had turned his head to the side a split second earlier to follow the trajectory of a teammate’s pass or he might’ve suffered a much more severe injury. As it stands, the Blades have Nicholls listed as out at least a week with a concussion, though as we’ve seen on many an occasion in hockey, the recovery timeline for these kind of injuries can be very hard to predict. Shinnimin received a 5 minute boarding major and a game misconduct on the play.

        To view the hit, click here.

        [email protected]

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        As we await the season opener for the big club, let’s see how some of the kids are doing:

        • Greg McKegg is off to an excellent start with 8 points in 5 games played for the Erie Otters. Greg recorded two shorthanded goals and added another assist for good measure in a 5-2 win last night over the London Knights. McKegg is currently tied for 5th overall in OHL scoring.
        • Brad Ross has also started well out of the gate with 4 goals and 5 points in 3 games played for the Portland Winterhawks. Without Nino Niederreiter and possibly Ryan Johansen this season, Ross will be counted upon to shoulder a much bigger offensive load. He’s responded well so far, taking a hold of the team’s scoring lead in addition to posting a team best +5 rating.
        • Jesse Blacker is back with the Owen Sound Attack and has 2 points through 2 games played. It’s clear that Blacker has plenty of offensive potential, but he will have to work at rounding out the other areas of his game and improve upon last year’s team worst -22 rating.
        • The Toronto Marlies have started their hockey season on a positive note with back to back preseason wins over the Rochester Americans. Forward Marcel Mueller has been an absolute force so far, recording 4 goals and 1 assist for 5 points through the pair of games. The much maligned Mikhail Stefanovich will look for a big rebound year and is off to a good start with a pair of goals in the preseason opener. James Reimer was the winning goaltender on Friday while Ben Scrivens stopped 21 of 24 shots for the victory on Saturday. Toronto will open the season Saturday, October 9th against the Rochester Americans at the Ricoh Coliseum.

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        It was a tough loss last night against a Detroit team that appeared in mid-season form, but there won’t be a whole lot of time to dwell on that as the Leafs are right back at it tonight with their final preseason game in the second half of a home-and-home with the Red Wings. Here are morning links to tide you over until tonight:

        • Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post has a nice piece about newcomer Clarke MacArthur and how he’s been adjusting to a new team and a new city. MacArthur is poised to start the season on the team’s second line alongside Grabovski and Kulemin, and coach Ron Wilson notes that the key to success for him this year will be to put in a more consistent effort on a nightly basis.
        • Yahoo Sports, which is quickly becoming my favourite MSM hockey source, provides us with a nice little feature on Kadri’s up-and-down preseason. Even though all signs point to a demotion to the AHL, Nazem appears to be handling the situation with the right mentality and maturity: “I’ve been given the opportunity of a lifetime here. This is the NHL. There’s no room for crybabies. I’m not going to be that guy. If it means going down … I’ll handle it. I’ll play my best, and I’ll be right back up here.”
        • The Globe and Mail‘s Michael Grange and David Shoalts team up to evaluate the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s financial commitment to winning. The conclusion: it’s never about winning at all costs.
        • Tickets Note: For those of you who were around last season, you’re aware that I will occasionally post about available Leaf tickets from a couple of my season ticket holder friends/family who are unable to attend games and are looking to sell them at reasonable prices. If you would like to be kept in the loop when these become available, just drop me an email.

        [email protected]

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        According to Paul Hunter of the Toronto Star, it appears as if the Maple Leafs could be exploring all options in order to bring in another centreman from outside the organization. While Hunter explains that Bozak and Grabovski have essentially nailed down the top two centre positions to begin the season, both Kadri and Mitchell have struggled enough for Burke to begin considering alternative means of reinforcement down the middle. During the media conference call on Sunday afternoon, Burke had this to say about his current forward group:

        “No one has ever said we’re going with this group. We’re still in a great position for waiver claims. We still have our scouts out scouring. We haven’t ruled out doing something. . . . We may need to go out and grab a centre.

        Regarding Kadri:

        “He’s not played anywhere near to what we had hoped for and expected. I don’t know why that is and he’s running out of time.”

        Hunter speculates that Christian Hanson will likely be slotted in between Colton Orr and Mike Brown on the team’s fourth line, which by process of elimination, suggests that the Leafs could be looking to acquire a veteran third line centre. Presumably, this would be a player who would mesh into Burke’s “top six – bottom six” philosophy as a defensively minded player who will win faceoffs, battle in the corners and contribute on the team’s penalty kill unit.

        One such player could be former Canuck/Duck Brendan Morrison, whom Burke and Nonis are both quite familiar with. Morrison is currently with the Canucks’ camp on a tryout basis, but has been playing well. The 35 year old B.C. native posted 42 points and a +23 rating in 74 games played for the Capitals last season. If he doesn’t manage to snag a full-time job on a very deep Canuck team (Sedin, Kesler, Malholtra down the middle), then look for the Leafs to perhaps inquire about his services.

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        Courtesy of the Globe’s James Mirtle, the Maple Leafs trimmed the camp roster from 47 down to 30 on Sunday afternoon, as the team’s opening night lineup came just a little more into focus. Rynnas, Scrivens, Aulie, Brennan, Gysbers, Holzer, Mikus, D’Amigo, Irwin, Mueller, and Slaney will report to the Marlies, while Blacker, Carrick, Crescenzi and Ross will head back to junior. Despite performing well for two games, veteran checking forward Wayne Primeau has been released, as the club is likely looking to open up another roster spot for a younger player.