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Anthony Petrielli

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Anthony Petrielli has been writing Leafs Notebooks, also known as short stories, on MLHS since the beginning of the 2011 season. He'd rather let his work do the talking but Alec and Declan have been bugging him about writing a bio, so here it is. You can contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @APetrielli

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When the NHL finally decided to have a season last week, many Leafs fans knew Brian Burke was on thin ice. There was a large segment of fans who believed Burke had only the upcoming shortened season to turn things around. Arguably, there was an even bigger group of fans who believed Burke had the current season, and then the offseason – where two of his former star players could be available – to turn the Leafs into a contender.

No one believed Burke wouldn’t oversee the Leafs starting the season on January 19th.

At this point in time, it is probably fair to call Morgan Rielly the most hyped Leafs prospect since Wendel Clark. I don’t know whether or not that’s fair, but with great hype comes great expectations.

To this point, Rielly hasn’t done anything to really quash the excitement that is building for him. He’s scored electric goals, he’s played well for Canada in the past, and now he’s on the World Juniors team.

In essence, Rielly is following the path of many elite defensemen before him. With that in mind, I collected some stats on how players he’s been compared to have performed in this tournament. Hopefully, it will serve as some sort of barometer on what to expect from the young Leafs prospect.

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On Saturday, I took in the Marlies 4-2 win against St. John’s with McKeen’s Hockey pro scouting coordinator Gus Katsaros. First off, he’s an excellent hockey guy who you should follow on Twitter @KatsHockey, if you aren’t already. More relevant to this piece, we discussed numerous Marlies and Leafs-related matters that I’ll go over here as points of discussion and analysis.

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With the lockout in full force, I thought I’d try to get you all thinking about this actual Leafs team again. Take my word for it: eventually, even if the season is completely wiped out, NHL hockey will again be played and a new Leafs season will begin. When that happens, as is our nature, we will all get back to arguing with each other about various Leaf-related topics. On a chilly Tuesday in the dead of the lockout (snow doesn’t have the same appeal without the Leafs on the TV at night, does it?), here’s ten things to fill your time thinking about:

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Photo: Marlies.ca

It was met with a lot of skepticism when the St. John’s Maple Leafs were relocated to Toronto in 2005.  Seven years later, the move just continues to look better and better.

The Leafs’ AHL affiliate had excellent attendance numbers and were highly popular in St. John’s during their time there. The move was a result of the Leafs’ desire to reduce travel costs and fill the Ricoh. While the attendance was terrible for the Marlies’ first few years of existence – including a low point when barely 2800 people showed up for their first ever home playoff game in 2006 – the team is finally establishing a presence in the city. As the lockout drags on, many Toronto hockey fans are now turning their attention to the Marlies and even taking in a game or two if possible.

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Photo: Marlies.ca

Since there’s no NHL to speak of at the moment, Leafs Notebook is turning into Marlies Notebook until this lockout is over.

Here’s the thing though: with different leagues comes different expectations and viewing experiences.

When it comes to watching and evaluating the NHL, it’s very simple: winning is all that matters. Each team in the league continuously tries to get better, figuring out how to start winning or continue winning. In the AHL, that is not necessarily the case. At the end of the day the Marlies will probably be judged by many based on the win and loss column, but what really matters – to me – is the progression of their players and how they can eventually help the Leafs win at the next level.

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Morgan Rielly

With the NHL lockout in full force and not looking as if it is going to end anytime soon, fans are rightfully turning their hockey-starved eyes toward action in Europe and the junior ranks. When it comes to Leafs fans, most are understandably searching out hockey that contains Leafs property, specifically prospects.

The Marlies are primed to compete for another championship, the Leafs have a shiny new toy playing out in the WHL, and the OHL is full of Burke selections. It’s as a good time as any for fans to be watching Leafs prospects. Here are some things to look for and keep in mind while watching these players this year:

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Ben Scrivens

We had some Leafs news yesterday as Francois Allaire announced he isn’t returning and we found out the extent of Joe Colborne’s injury.

When it comes to Colborne’s injury, I’ll say a few things quickly.

Leafs management knew Joe was hurt in January, yet he played the rest of the year. To our knowledge, he didn’t further damage himself further physically by doing so but he didn’t play nearly as well as he was prior to the injury. To put it in perspective, Big Joe had 23 points in 22 games before hurting his hand, and only 16 in 43 after the incident. Colborne had surgery in June and is hoping to be back for October, which is over four months of recovery. He would have been back roughly around April/May had he gotten surgery immediately upon being injured.

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As the old saying goes, you have to learn how to walk before you can run. For a Leafs team that finished 25th out of 30 teams last year and has made few changes so far this summer, the Maple Leafs are still very much in that walking process.

The big changes Leafs fans hoped for haven’t quite come to fruition as of right now. The Leafs were one of the youngest teams in the NHL last year, crumbled down the stretch, and have to this point only made three noteworthy roster changes this summer by bringing in James van Riemsdyk, Jay McClement and freeing a roster spot up for Korbinian Holzer. Thus, if the Leafs do improve next season, it will mainly be due to internal growth and development from the same group that totaled 80 points last year.

When fans and pundits evaluate teams from year-to-year the most obvious thing to do is to look at who has been subtracted and added to the line-up. Because Burke and co. have made such minimal changes, we are forced to look passed that. Instead, let’s take a look at the roster that’s returning and some of the areas where internal improvement is possible, hopefully leading to some more wins.

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    Earlier today Roberto Luongo got off the ice in Florida and confirmed something many of us already suspected.

    “[The Panthers] makes sense for myself, for my career and my family,” added Luongo, who still has 10 years at $5.33 million per remaining on his deal. “That being said. There’s obvious other options as well. This is a preferred location for obvious reasons but I’m not shutting the door on other possibilities if it comes up.”

    Luongo maintains a home in Florida with his wife and two young children during the offseason and has made it  clear that he wants to be traded, particularly to Florida, after Vancouver committed some money and term to Cory Schneider.

    The Leafs, along with the Blackhawks, are also mentioned in the article as teams with goalie issues. The piece also makes sure to note that Dale Tallon has repeatedly stated he’s “content” with his current goalie trio of Jose Theodore, Scott Clemmensen and Jacob Markstrom. That said, Tallon hasn’t ruled out acquiring Luongo if the price is right.

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    Brian Burke all but promised changes this summer. Other than a few moves though, fans probably haven’t seen the changes they thought were coming.

    At this point, we can probably blame that on the lack of a CBA currently in place as all teams, including the Leafs, have to be weary of making any moves right now considering they don’t know the financial landscape of the (possible) season ahead.

    That has to be one of the bigger reasons why players such as Matt Lombardi, Tim Connolly and Cody Franson are still on the team. While none of those guys are particularly attractive pieces to acquire at the moment due to lackluster seasons for all, they are players that at least some teams should be willing to take a chance on due to their expiring contracts after next season.

    But with no CBA in place, there aren’t going to be any teams willing to take that kind of chance.

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    Whether or not there is any sort of NHL season this year, there is one thing we do know: there will be an AHL season.

    The Toronto Marlies will go into the season looking to defend their regular season division championship and their Western Conference playoff championship. The online odds at canada.betfair.com show they are among the firm favourites, but at this stage it’s based on last season’s glories, so there is still a lot to prove this year and a long way to go yet.

    Even with that kind of target on their back this season, the Marlies will be well-primed to at the very least win their division yet again.

    They are set to return most of their core from last season but there will also be some significant changes.

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    Brian Burke Fired

    When it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the first things often mentioned is money.

    The team is, after all, the most valuable franchise in the league. With that in mind, it is always expected that they use that kind of financial power to the best of their abilities to put themselves ahead of other teams in the league.

    And due to that, Brian Burke’s stance on cap circumventing contracts (the fact that he won’t do them) is pissing a lot of fans off.

    Let’s look at it.

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    Photo: flickr/jennkuhn

    With the Leafs announcing they would not be participating in a prospect tournament this year due to CBA negotiations, development camp became all the more important for young prospects trying to make an impression on Toronto management.

    By using (admittedly amateur) videos of the scrimmage sessions, I put together a few notes upon request from the camp. I didn’t originally plan to write anything up, but this is a slow time of the year and many people asked me to so I changed my mind.

    A few things to keep in mind when reading these observations:

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    Photo: Sportsnet

    As we approach the dog days of hockey, more and more Leafs fans are coming to the conclusion that there’s a strong chance we will see a James Reimer and Ben Scrivens goalie tandem to start the year.

    Barring a trade for Roberto Luongo (or a surprise move for another goalie), that’s the duo the Leafs will start the season with. So with that, I decided to take a look at other AHL goalies over the years and how their numbers translated to the NHL.

    In a nutshell, Ben Scrivens led the AHL in goals against average this year while also having the fifth best save percentage. A lot of fans have hung their hats on these stats and his generally-speaking strong season, and in light of this I decided to go all the way back to the 2005-2006 season and look up the top three goalies in GAA category of each season. Then, to increase the sample size, I also included the top three save percentages while pointing out notable goalies from each season that year who have had some NHL impact.

    Photo: theglobeandmail.com

    The Leafs have added some strength down the middle by signing Jay McClement to a two-year deal worth $3 million total.

    They were also able to agree to terms with Matt Frattin on a two-year deal that totals $1.7 million, while resigning Ryan Hamilton and Jussi Rynnas as well as adding Mike Kostka to the organization, too.

    It wasn’t a banner day for the Leafs, but it was still an important one.

    Most notably, they finally added the third line center they’ve needed for quite some time and that has serious ramifications on the rest of the roster.

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    Having been called into pinch-hit for the morning mashup, I figured this would be a good time to include some other draft thoughts that I didn’t write in my review mainly due to the fact that I didn’t think there was enough room to add these tidbits. Anyways, here’s some draft “bonus points” before we get to your morning links:

    - I didn’t touch on Viktor Loov simply because I don’t know anything about him. He was selected primarily due to the recommendation from the Leafs head European scout Thommie Bergman. Bergman has been with the Leafs since before the JFJ and Quinn eras and is the guy you credit when it comes to the drafting of players like Carl Gunnarsson, Viktor Stalberg, Staffan Kronwall and Anton Stralman (who were all chosen relatively late). You could also look at him when it comes to the selection of players such as Daniel Brodin and Sondre Olden, both of whom just went unsigned by the Leafs. Since Bergman has found some solid players in a low percentage segment of the draft, I think the pick is worth paying attention to. He also drafted Petter Granberg, who signed his ELC from the Leafs this year.

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    James Van Riemsdyk is finally a Toronto Maple Leaf.

    Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The worst kept secret in all of hockey finally became a reality.

    Luke Schenn is now a Philadelphia Flyer, and James Van Riemsdyk is finally a Toronto Maple Leaf.

    JVR (whose name I’ll probably never type in full again) was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft and has had a slow, but upwards, trend in his development since. After getting drafted he returned to New Hampshire, where he played college hockey, and threw up 40 points in 36 games along with 10 points in six world junior games. He ended that season playing some AHL games, but jumped straight to the NHL the following year and put up a respectable 35 points in 78 games. The next year he had five more points in three less games well also breaking the 20 goal barrier by notching 21.

    His big breakout moment though was in the playoffs of last year when he put up seven goals in 11 playoff games while single- handedly dominating some games. To put it into perspective, he had 70 shots throughout those playoffs. That’s over six shots a game. In the playoffs.

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    Photo: Toronto Sun

    “We shoot for a top four group that has a high skill level, [and] bottom two guys who look to do the plumbers work. Which are really important jobs on my teams.”
    - Brian Burke

    At the risk of over analyzing a few sentences said nearly four years ago, this is a good starting point to quote when it comes to looking at the Leafs defense.

    It’s really a very basic structure that doesn’t require much of a break down.

    The interesting thing is that, when Brian Burke was with Anaheim, he actually had three elite defencemen at the time, a middling fourth player and then two roster “plug-ins.”

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    Photo: Darren Calabrese/National Post

    I wanted to start this question and answer blog by addressing some debate that came about in my previous post.

    I’m sure many of you remember the top-six bottom-six article detailing the Leafs roster and where players currently fit in (read it here). A lot of people messaged me on Twitter or wrote on the board here in response to Grabovski being the shutdown center and I want to respond to that with a really simple answer.

    Simply put, I didn’t build this team.

    This isn’t my roster and we all know that. I simply took the information at hand and applied it as best I could. How Carlyle and Burke have combined to formulate their roster is pretty specific. I tried to root that in evidence and express that to all of you. After that, I used my own opinion to slot players into specific roles. The only debate to be had was whether Grabovski, Bozak or Steckel (or Connolly/Lombardi) were best suited for that role. If either Bozak or Steckel become the Leafs shutdown center, well, it’s going to be one interesting season. Does that mean Grabovski will be the shutdown center once training camp begins? No. It just means he’s currently the best option on the roster.