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Anthony Petrielli

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 petrielli.[email protected] or find him on Twitter at @APetrielli


Photo: Kathy Willens/AP Photo

Harry Sinden, the great Boston Bruins GM, once had an interesting quote about the job of being a General Manager and what it’s all about. Said Harry:

“I think the bottom line is pretty simple, who can play and who can’t play. That’s the bottom line. That is the fundamental job of the GM. Most GMs, if they didn’t have to make that call, [anybody] could do it, because administratively, it’s [straightforward]. There is a little more involvement because you have to plan how you’re going to field the team, make such things as a salary cap work, but that’s just mechanics. You read the CBA once and you go through a couple of incidents with it. ‘Capology’– it’s nonsense and a myth to think that that’s the most important part of the GM’s job, it’s definitely secondary… You’ve got to know who can play and who can’t, because you’re held responsible for that, and it’s very risky if you entrust that [to assistants] without having any input at all.”

At the end of the day, that’s what this is all about – player evaluation. Coming into an organization with no personal attachment to the players in it and a fresh, untainted view of the guys on the team makes it easy to clean house and know exactly who should stick and who shouldn’t, and Burke took advantage of that as he cleared out pretty well everyone.


Photo: David Abel/Toronto Sun

The locking up of John Michael Liles for the next four seasons  further evidences Brian Burke’s team building philosophy is moving towards speed and skill and away from size and toughness.

When Burke first arrived in Toronto he quickly moved to bring in Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek to join Luke Schenn as a formidable, physical trio. Not even three years later and there’s a clear group of three defensemen the Leafs are building on, but the theme is not physicality this time.

With Liles now in Toronto for the long haul, he joins, in my mind, Dion Phaneuf and Jake Gardiner as foreseeable locks on the blue line for years to come.


Photo: sportsnet.ca

I planned on writing about the Liles extension as a preamble into answering these questions, but once I began writing it I realized that it was a blog all on its own. With that said, I’ll be posting an in depth blog soon looking solely at the Liles signing and just exactly what it means.

I narrowed down the questions a little this time around due to the feedback. Hope you enjoy it and as shown, I do read through those comments and take what you guys into consideration, so always feel free to chime in.


Photo: Abelimages/Getty Images

If there’s a theme to this weeks Leafs Notebook, it is going to be two things: toughness and desperation.

You can have all the talent in the world, but at this time of the season if you aren’t playing tough, desperate hockey, you won’t be going anywhere except the golf course.

So to talk about toughness, to talk about desperation, we’re going to go back to last season first. When the Leafs went on their run to attempt to make the playoffs we saw a lot of things on display from that group and toughness and desperation were two of them.

Whether that be desperation to prove you are an NHLer – Darryl Boyce, Joey Crabb, etc.- or desperation to finally make the playoffs with Toronto – Luke Schenn, Mikhail Grabovski, Phil Kessel – or desperation to prove you belong on this team and in the role you’re currently playing – Carl Gunnarsson, Joffrey Lupul, Clarke MacArthur – there was desperation in the Leafs play.


Photo: blueshirtsunited.com

Amid all the trade rumours swirling around the Toronto Maple Leafs, I think we’re looking at this all in the wrong way.

The Leafs have been linked to some big ticket names this year (Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Eric Staal, Rick Nash, etc.) and the thing is, they actually have the players to make that deal should they be so inclined – even if that means overpaying.

Before when a player of that ability became available, the Leafs did not have the proper assets to pull off such an acquisition. Now, they could win a bidding war should they really want to.



I wasn’t sure what questions I would receive, but you guys stepped up to the plate here big time. I got a lot of quality, thought-provoking questions with far from “gimme” answers. There were a lot of similar questions (i.e., What do you think of the goalies, should we trade a goalie, etc) so in that case I picked one of the actual questions and fit in numerous answers in my reply. So if you don’t see your specific question but you do see your topic, I probably tried to say something about your question too. Please don’t take it personally if I did not pick your question.

Anyways, without further ado:


One of the best things about writing here at MLHS is far and away you, the readers.

Every week you guys are in full force reading, commenting, thinking about whatever is presented in front of you and throwing in your two cents. It makes for great discussions and it’s really appreciated.

Since I’ve been here doing Leafs Notebook, there have consistently been questions in the comments sections in regards to certain things I’ve wrote or something that the Leafs have done. Then as I was reading a Leafs “Q & A” elsewhere, I thought it would be a neat thing to do here. There have often been times when I get asked the same question by multiple people, or when somebody asks a question and my answer is posted the next day and therefore missed. Beyond that, it’s a lot more organized and easy to articulate in a post rather than the comments section.


Photo: Abelimages/Getty Images

Forty one down, forty one to go; the Leafs have shown a lot so far this season but now is when we really begin to see how far they have come.

There used to be a substantial difference between the top teams in the league and everyone else within the standings. Crunch time in the season would begin with around 20 games left in the season.

Not anymore.

There is too much parity, too many points on the line, and one bad week could bring you from contender to pretender status at the snap of your fingers. From here on out, it’s all about results. One bad week takes two good weeks to recoup.



Happy holidays, everyone!

In light of the holidays, it seemed like a good time to thank everyone for the warm reception I’ve received since I began writing here. Half way through writing the first Leafs Notebook I ever drafted for MLHS, I remember apprehensively wondering how would it be received and if I would get ripped apart, but you guys have been great. I enjoy the conversation and for those of you who don’t comment, I appreciate the time you put in to read it.

Due to being out of country I won’t be writing the Leafs Notebook next week, and with that I won’t be around to wish everyone a Happy New Year, so I’m doing that now. Happy New Years! I look forward to continuing with the notebook tradition in 2012.

This is a short(er) edition this week, but nonetheless there’s hopefully some good tidbits to take out of it.

Enjoy everyone, and I apologize if I’m not able to respond to any comments directed my way seeing as my flight leaves in the afternoon.


Photo: Darryl Dyck/AP Photo

Last season Brian Burke boldly stood in front of the media after trading Tomas Kaberle and made it clear, “Getting into the playoffs by the skin of your teeth and getting your ass kicked in the first round is not my idea of building a championship team here.”

A little under a year later and 32 games into the next season, it’s fair to begin evaluating whether the Leafs are playing hockey that would make them competitive in the playoffs or if they’re doing just enough to make it and subsequently get their “ass kicked in the first round.” At this point in the season, it seems a lot closer to the latter.

Systemically, the Leafs play to outscore the other team, instead of playing to win.


NHL realignment, more Burke & Wilson vs. Cox & Simmons, new owners and, oh yeah, the Leafs played some hockey games, too.

Quite the week and a lot to discuss, so we’ll get right to it.

The most important thing to happen this week, believe it or not, was not the new ownership change, it was NHL realignment.

The Leafs will of course be playing the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning six times a year now, each. They already play four of these teams six times a year, but now they’re adding 12 more division games. So you play 44% of your games within your grouping (I’m calling it that for now) and you only make the playoffs based on your point totals compared to those other teams.


Photo: Toronto Star

If the Toronto Maple Leafs ownership group was one person, it would be pretty safe to say that win or lose, that one person is not losing any sleep over it at night. I’m okay with that. And you should be, too.

Full disclosure is necessary, and that’s to say the John Ferguson Jr. hiring was terrible. There is no hiding behind that, and it is far and away the worst decision MLSE has ever made.

To their credit though, they turned it around and signed one of the premier General Managers in the NHL to follow that up, Brian Burke.

Whether you like Burke or not, from an ownership perspective, they’ve done their job. Beyond hiring Brian – who is not only a big-money acquisition, but one with a worthy resume of managing the Leafs – they’ve also stepped up financially in almost every department of Leafs management.


Photo: JP Dhanoa/Oye! Times

With the Leafs only playing two games this week, I headed out to the Ricoh Coliseum and took in a Marlies game. I don’t know how consistently I’ll be going to the games and talking about the Marlies, but it worked out last night and I thought it was worthwhile. Plus, their obviously an important part of the entire organization and are always worth discussing.

If you live in Toronto, I highly recommend you go watch a Marlies game (or two, or three…). It’s a cozy rink that just feels like a hockey arena, whereas the ACC seems more of like a giant building where events happen. Beyond the Ricoh being a great place to take in a hockey game, the atmosphere is fun. There’s a lot of energetic fans, it’s surprisingly loud and everyone gets into the game.


Glove tap to Mislav for the new Notebook graphic.

Something very interesting is unfolding with the Toronto Maple Leafs and it has nothing to do with anything they’ve done on the ice, or any of their players for that matter.

On November 19th, Brian Burke joined his friend and co-worker Ron Wilson by entering the Twitter world. They then proceeded to have a now-notorious exchange with Sun reporter Steve Simmons. The interesting thing here is not the exchange – that was immature, pitiful, funny, take your pick – what’s intriguing is the new dynamic Twitter is creating and the paradigm shift that is beginning to take place.

Now, I should preface this by saying that maybe Brian Burke and Ron Wilson simply got Twitter because they want to interact with the fans and they think it’s fun, maybe they are naive to the potential long term ramifications here and the trend they could be starting. But then again, Ron Wilson is a Providence College graduate and Brian Burke has a degree from Harvard, so they probably put some thought into this.


Photo: Getty Images

Phil Kessel is tired of losing, that much is clear.

In layman’s terms, there are two types of hockey players: Those who love to win and those who hate to lose. It took Kessel some time, but he’s become the second one.

Justin Bourne, who now runs The Score’s blog “Backhand Shelf,” discussed this concept last season over at Puck Daddy (view here). In it he says, “Here’s the difference: It’s like putting a cupcake between a chubby kid from a mansion on the hill, and some wiry starving kid from the streets. They both want the cupcake. But our portly friend isn’t fighting to the death over the damn thing. He might take a swing or two, but in the end, he knows if he doesn’t get this one another will come along eventually. And that’s when the wiry punk kicks him in the groin and one-bites the entire cupcake.”


Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs will be looking to get back on track tonight as they take on the Phoenix Coyotes at home. It will be the only meeting with the Coyotes this season and the Leafs will be in tough. Last season, Phoenix handily beat Toronto 5-1 at home, a game which you might remember more for Mike Brown’s controversial hit on Ed Jovanovski.

This is the second game of Phoenix’s five game road trip and they are already 4-1-1 on the road, making this no easy task for the Buds. The Coyotes shutout San Jose on Saturday to kick off this road trip.

For Toronto, Ben Scrivens gets the start after playing a solid game on Saturday night despite taking the loss. This comes amidst rumours that the Leafs have been in contact with Marty Turco, so the pressure will be dialed up tonight on the young Scrivens.



Everyone collectively take a deep breath, and hold it..

….Hold it a little longer…

.. Now, exhale.

You can relax, there is no need to panic.

The Leafs are 17 games into the season, they are 10-6-1 and they’ve hit a rough patch. Nobody thought this team was going to play great all season, did they? Yes, there are many troubling signs (which I’ll get to), but there are also a ton of positives (which we’ll look at first).

All the Leafs have managed to do at this point – and it isn’t much – is not blow their playoff chances. They’ve built up a slight cushion, but the New Jersey Devils sit in ninth, four points behind the Leafs with two games in hand. If anyone thought the Leafs gave themselves a ton of breathing room with their solid start, consider that your reality check.


Photo: theglobeandmail.com

So the Leafs have goalie issues, who’d a thunk it?

The truth is, everyone and their grandmother knew Toronto was in goaltending trouble this summer because simply put, they went into the season without one single goalie in their organization who had established himself at the NHL level.

Potential is great, prospects are great, but the NHL is about results.

Don’t let an excellent game fool you, the Leafs are far from being out of the woods when it comes to their goalie dilemmas and unless Scrivens goes on a Reimer-esque run now (yeah, I said it), then the Leafs are going to continue to have problems.


Photo: AFP

These might not be the same old Leafs, but it is looking like the same old Leaf penalty kill.

At this stage of the season, I maintain a couple of things as I write this: it’s still very, very early, and the Leafs are adjusting to a new penalty killing scheme which is bound to cause mix-ups and missed assignments early in the season. So I don’t think this penalty kill is completely doomed, but I do think there is a lot of work to be done.

First let’s look at penalty killing in it’s most basic form. At the youngest of ages you are taught how to form a box on the penalty kill. You make a box because you can keep the play to the outside and it allows you to have two guys down low to protect the net, and two guys up high to keep the defensemen honest and to take away point shots.


Photo: Brad White/Getty Images

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Quite a four games of hockey for the Leafs. I said last week that I would be interested to see how the Leafs did against some formidable competition and they finished 2-2-0 on the week. That’s not bad at all but there’s certainly room for improvement. There were a lot of positives from this week (that have probably been lost in translation considering the Leafs lost Sunday night) to go along with some glaring negatives too. Let’s take a look at some of the things that have been going on.