Thursday, May 28, 2015
Authors Posts by Anthony Petrielli

Anthony Petrielli

Anthony Petrielli has been at MLHS since 2011. He is known for his weekly "Leafs Notebook" feature, and also writes specific analysis pieces. You can contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @APetrielli.

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Randy Carlyle
Nick Ut/The Associated Press - Randy Carlyle and Brian Burke are back working together, hoping re-ignite their Stanley Cup magic.

Photo: Nick Ut/The Associated Press

Can we all agree right from the top that the hiring of Randy Carlyle signals the Leafs are back to following the top six, bottom six formula Brian Burke originally told us he would put into place?

Can we also all agree that it’s nice our General Manager and Head Coach are now on the same page, philosophically speaking?

Okay, good.

So what exactly is a top six, bottom six mold? A few years ago Pension Plan Puppets ran this piece, which explains how each line in this system is utilized. Essentially you have a top line, a shutdown line, a scoring line and an energy line.

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There are two lines of thinking when it comes to the Toronto Marlies.

One: Let’s just enjoy the ride, a team in Toronto is finally winning.

Two: How does this translate to the Leafs? (Which then shoots off into a million different opinions of how this helps, if this even matters, and so on).

Frankly, we won’t be able to answer that until, at minimum, next season. Although it will probably take longer than that though for us to fully understand the significance, or insignificance, of this run.

I’ve already written out the players to focus on as potential future pillars to the Leafs organization so you can focus on them if you’re looking towards next year.

If you’re just enjoying the run? Sit back, relax, and if you’re able to attend a game this round, by all means do so. The Marlies and Barons split their season series one regulation win apiece. Ben Scrivens played against Oklahoma once and got a shutout (Owuya lost against OKC earlier in the year), but really there’s not much we can take away from two measly games in the regular season that happened in November and at the beginning of January.

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Brian Burke
(Photo Credit: Canadian Press)

“Championship is the goal. Not to get in the 8th spot and get your ass kicked.”
– Leafs GM Brian Burke

You’ve probably seen this quote before, because it’s been repeated by Toronto media and sports fans alike throughout the NHL playoffs.

Now the LA Kings are in the Western Conference Finals and even though the Leafs haven’t played hockey in a month, many are back to pointing their finger at Burke and saying “Don’t want to finish eighth and get your ass kicked, huh!?”

The difference between the Kings and the Leafs? One team was thought of as a Cup contender before the season started, the other was thought of as a playoff bubble team, at best. I think we all know who each label applies to.

Another difference? The Kings have arguably the best goalie in the world right now on their team. As for the Leafs? Let’s just say calling their goalie situation a question mark is being generous at this point.

Goaltending. Now that’s a good place to start when it comes to the Leafs, the playoffs and this quote. Because the purppse of this quote constantly being brought up is that Burke should have made trades during the year to make the playoffs, is it not?

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Photo: The Star

When Brian Burke officially came to Toronto he told everyone exactly how he wanted the Toronto Maple Leafs to play hockey.

He wants his team to be tough, physical, entertaining and to fit into a top six/bottom six scheme. Fans of the Leafs were giddy after his opening press conference. This team would no longer be soft. This team would no longer be pushed around.

Fast forward three and a half years later and they are arguably softer.

So what’s happened? This vision Brian Burke had for this team has not come to fruition at all. Did he abandon the plan? Did he all of a sudden wake up and decide he no longer likes toughness? No. He’s just built it – or at least is attempting to – in a way that none of us saw coming. Especially after he essentially started his tenure by trading two first round draft picks and a second for Phil Kessel.

Photo: Rene Johnston/Toronto Star

For the first time in these playoffs, the Toronto Marlies lost a game.

Okay they’ve only played four, so it’s not a big deal. And if you asked the Marlies last night, they didn’t see it as too big of a deal either, yet.

The general sentiment echoed throughout those who spoke after the game (Eakins, Frattin, Gardiner, to name a few), was that yeah they lost, but that the chances were there for them to win the game and they really only made a few mistakes which unfortunately led to Abbotsford goals.

Jerry D’Amigo and Ryan Hamilton both missed tremendous scoring opportunities in the slot in the third period and the team in general was swarming inside the Heat’s zone for pretty well the entire third period. But Heat goalie Danny Taylor really played well and shut the door.

It’s one game and from the Marlies view, they outplayed them but just couldn’t bury. From the Heat’s view? They probably didn’t play their best but still found a way to win. We’ll see where this goes next.

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For the first time ever, the Toronto Marlies have swept a playoff opponent.

Give the players and coaching staff full credit, too. Sometimes when a team mounts a big lead in a series it rests on its laurels, relaxes a little, and takes the pedal off the gas just a tad, enough for the opposition to maybe take a game or two. But the Marlies came out like a team who had no interest in playing any more games than they had to against Rochester. They clearly wanted to end the series last night and were very business like in their efforts to do so.

Here are some notes from the game, which I watched online via AHL Live.

– With Carter Ashton hurt, Jerry D’Amigo was bumped up to the second line to play with Joe Colborne and Matt Frattin, while Marcel Mueller slotted in D’Amigo’s old spot with Nicholas Deschamps and Phillippe Dupuis. Otherwise, the rest of the roster remained the same as it has for the first two games.

Stuart Percy - July 12, 2013

Leafs fans are showing heightened interest in the Marlies lately, and deservedly so as they have officially begun their run for the Calder Cup. While AHL success in the playoffs is always a fantastic experience for any player – especially young ones – fans of Toronto hockey at the end of the day are asking themselves one thing: How does this help the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Earlier in the year, I wrote a piece looking at Calder Cup Finalists translation to NHL success. That leads into the current edition of the Marlies as we look at who on this team is being counted on to help the Leafs moving forward and which players are likely to become productive NHLers and part of the long-term solution here.

Now, I want to stress that there is a difference between a long-term NHLer, and a fringe AHL-NHL tweener. A player like Darryl Boyce is an AHL-NHL tweener, meaning he’s a very good American league player, but struggles to get into a National league lineup consistently. Usually players that struggle to translate their games are missing one key ingredient that they can get away with in the AHL, but not the NHL – Be that a lack of speed, size, vision, strength, shooting ability, defensive ability, and so on.

So, inevitably, when someone says “where is Greg Scott,” well, Greg Scott brings a lot to the table, and hey, he could potentially make the Leafs as their 12th or 13th forward, but he is not a long-term solution to anything for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Thus, when we are looking at the players below, we aren’t just looking at players who may or may not crack the Leafs next season, we are looking at players who are being counted on to be contributing Toronto Maple Leafs for years to come in the ongoing quest to make the playoffs.

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In case you haven’t heard, the Toronto Marlies beat the Rochester Americans last night 4-3 to take a 1-0 lead in their first round best of five playoff series.

The game story and video highlights can be found here on the Marlies website. The readers digest version goes like this: the Marlies took the play to Rochester in the first, yet it was Rochester who finished the first period with a 1-0 lead. The Americans’ goalie, David Leggio, was peppered with shots throughout the game and the Marlies D’Amigo finally broke through in the second period as the two teams went into the third period tied at one. The Marlies then scored two goals to take what looked like a commanding lead, only for Rochester to storm back and tie the game. D’Amigo scored once again with under five minutes to take a final 4-3 lead as the Marlies held on for the win.

I linked the game story because I don’t plan on writing them. Below I have some game notes, interesting tidbits and takeaways from conversations I was lucky to have with the players. I want to supplement the standard game stories that can be found on numerous websites rather than duplicate them. So here it goes:

Photo: Mark Blinch/Reuters

How many notable Brian Burke quotes has he unleashed for our constant reiteration? Too many to count.

You have your pugnacity, testosterone, and truculent quote, which now might be the three worst words to utter in Toronto. You have your “top six and bottom six” quote. You have your “build from the net out” spiel or the “I don’t want to get into the first round just to get my ass kicked” declaration. There’s a whole host of other gems, complaints, theories, one-liners to come out of Burke’s mouth that are now used to mock him, to cheer him, to evaluate his roster, or as Twitter handles.

But what is often forgotten, and often left not discussed, is his core belief. His central theory to building a team, which is:


Sometimes, there’s really just nothing left to say.

After the Leafs 7-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, they officially hit that point. You can only talk about the same things so many times before it just becomes tiring, old, and frankly, a waste of time.

Preceding Toronto’s shellacking to the Flyers, they played about as lackluster a game as you will ever see at the NHL level, in a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Yes, they summoned some pride against Buffalo and played, all things considered, a solid game. But it wasn’t chalk full of meaning in this situation, at this time of year.

Thus, we’re changing gears to the summer and some serious things the Leafs need to look at and address. If you’re expecting trade proposals, and a guess at what the Leafs roster “should” look like next season, you can look elsewhere. Rather, I want to go through some fundamental, foundational questions the Leafs seriously need to ask themselves in the coming months, and then figure out ways to properly address the problems.

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AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Remember Alex Steen?

The Leafs drafted him in the first round in 2002, 24th overall. He cracked the NHL in 2005, in part due to the lockout that occurred the year before. Regardless, he played alongside Mats Sundin and had a relatively successful rookie season scoring 18 goals and 45 points. The following season he regressed statistically, notching 15 goals and 35 points.

In that leap from year one, to year two, everyone expected Steen to take “the next step” in his development and grow his point totals playing on Sundin’s wing for a second straight year. Unfortunately for the Leafs and Steen, that didn’t happen. Alex struggled to rediscover his scoring touch, increased expectations mounted on him, and it basically wasn’t the year everyone expected from him.


Right now is the easiest possible time to dump on the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brian Burke, Phil Kessel and anyone associated with the organization in general.

Call me crazy, but there are a ton of reasons to be happy moving forward.

The fact is, when Brian Burke came to Toronto, the Leafs were a terrible team (roster here. In comparison, here is the Nashville Predators EXPANSION roster) . Some may argue they still are, and that may or may not be valid.

But let’s look at what Burke started with compared to where they are now before we conclude his tenure has been a total disaster.

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Photo: News

Another season is winding down with the Maple Leafs yet again on the outside of the playoff picture. The difference this season is that there was legitimate reason to actually think they could break the drought until around a month ago. Alas, a dreadful February has cost Ron Wilson his job and caused every Leaf fan to mutter the ever famous line, “there’s always next year.”

So let’s be honest, these last 15 games aren’t going to be fun to watch at all. At this point at least a small part of us is hoping they tank the rest of the way and get as high a draft pick as possible. We’re going to have to get through these games together.

Photo: CBC

How many different ways can you skin a cat?

Rather, how many different ways can you look at the Mikhail Grabovski extension?

“How is he making more money than Phil Kessel?”

(At the time Phil Kessel signed his deal he was an RFA, not a UFA, and he was making a higher percentage of the salary cap than Grabovski currently is).

“Blame the Oilers and Hurricanes for the money they gave Hemsky and Ruutu.”

“He would have got more on the open market.”

“Grabovski’s never even recorded 60 points.”

1-0, baby! (Photo: Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Going to cut right to it this week. This was a hard Leafs Notebook to write. Where to start? Talk about why Wilson failed? What’s good about Carlyle? How they actually played this week? How about the trade deadline?

There was a lot that happened in a short period of time, so I broke it up accordingly: There is a chart on the teams who finished seventh and eighth since the lockout, that I highly recommend you explore, then I talk a bit about what went wrong for Wilson at the end of his tenure, draw some comparisons between he and Carlyle, talk some lineup changes under Carlyle, and throw in some Don Cherry, just for fun. Enjoy.

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NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 05: Luke Schenn #2 of the Toronto Maple Leafs warms up before playing the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 5, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 05: Luke Schenn #2 of the Toronto Maple Leafs warms up before playing the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 5, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Asset management was really the theme of the deadline for the Maple Leafs.

At the end of the day it appeared Brian Burke and company tried their best to bring in immediate help for this team and add to the roster, but the prices were just too high to justify. No offense to Paul Gaustad, but when he actually netted a first round pick that more or less summed it up.

Had the Leafs stood in say, fifth place, yesterday, I suspect they would have been a little more open to flipping a younger player for more veteran help, but this recent stretch probably caused them to hold back.

Of course, the Leafs did actually make one move of moderate significance, swapping Keith Aulie for Carter Ashton.

The first player I thought of when that deal was announced wasn’t Aulie, or Ashton, or anyone currently on the Leafs for that matter. It was Jimmy Hayes.

You know Jimmy Hayes. Drafted by Cliff Fletcher in the second round of the 2008 draft. He’s 6’6, 220 pounds and was traded in 2010 for the second round selection the Leafs used to select Brad Ross.

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Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

As always, thank you for the questions, I really enjoy these.

I wanted to quickly clarify a quick comment from Wendelsway (if you don’t know what I’m talking about and/or don’t want to read, just scroll down to the questions) RE: the goalie situation. At the end of the day, Gustavsson views himself as a starting goalie, not a backup. I don’t know what Gustavsson is thinking – he played well enough to run with the starting roll at one point – but the Leafs still didn’t afford him that opportunity to really run with it. So in his mind, I’m sure he feels slighted because he’s on a different page than management when it comes to his career and his career goals. Which brings me back to the original goalie article I wrote in November; if you want Reimer to be your guy, bring in a veteran who can actually support him and help Reimer’s game grow, not keep around a goalie who wants to steal his starting job, as if the guy needs more things to deal with. Hope that clarifies. I look forward to reading your reply in the comments section.

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Photo: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Hockey is not a sport without its politics.

If there’s one thing HBO’s 24/7 has briefly shown its viewers, it’s that there is a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that affect roster decisions, play, signings and so on that a lot of the times we generally never find out about.

On that note, simply judging a roster decision, a player choice, a line combination and one single game is nearly the equivalent of judging the entirety of an iceberg, just by simply looking at what you can see above water. As many of you know, there’s a lot more than meets the eye.

That’s why playoff hockey is so great. By the time teams hit playoffs, it’s not so much about contracts, status, style points, or whatever, it’s about winning. It’s pure hockey.

So why is this all being brought about? That’s simple, it’s James Reimer. He hasn’t had a great year, Jonas Gustavsson has better numbers across the board, the Leafs are in the thick of a playoff race, and yet Reimer is still starting over Gustavsson.

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Photo: 98.1 CHFI

Funny how a week changes everything.

This time last Monday, the Leafs were coming off handling Ottawa easily and two very good efforts against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They took it to two teams who are in the same playoff clout as them and fared very well.

Fast forward to the present moment and they beat a bad Edmonton team, lost to the Jets in Winnipeg, the Flyers in Philadelphia and then at home to the Montreal Canadiens on Mats Sundin night… so naturally, they suck now.

The truth is though, they are essentially right where we thought they would be all along: in a dog race to make the top eight.

It’s a week of celebration, but it has nothing to do with the current Leafs team. Mats Sundin is back, and this is the week to remember him.

This upcoming Saturday the all-time leader in points for the Toronto Maple Leafs is deservedly having his number raised to the rafters.

Surprisingly, there are mixed feelings on Mats in Toronto, but when it comes right down to it he gave everything to this team on the ice and that’s all that matters. You know the numbers by now, you know the playoff runs, the overtime goals, the consistency; but above all that, Mats had a special aura about him.