Monday, May 25, 2015
Authors Posts by Derek Harmsworth

Derek Harmsworth


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In what could yet again prove to be a shrewd, prudent move, Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has once again added another name to his front office staff.

Burke and the Maple Leafs announced today that they have brought former Tampa Bay Lightning assistant GM Claude Loiselle on board.  Loiselle returns to Toronto, after working in the Leafs front office in the early 1990’s.

According to TSN, he will largely be responsible for contracts and payroll with the club, replacing the departing Jeff Jackson.

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    While the news is slow I thought I would pass along the link to a little pet project of mine.

    I’ve launched my own website that features a bio and contact page, as well as articles written about things other than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Due to the lack of Leafs news at the moment, I have also started a podcast recapping the Stanley Cup playoffs, and episodes 1.1 and 1.2 are available here

    Please listen, and read the website, and let me know what you think about the podcast and the website, both positive and constructive criticism.  I can take it.

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    Those who know me can tell you I am an avid reader.  I devour books at a staggering pace, specializing in sports books and autobiographies mostly.  And as the warm weather approaches, and the hockey season gives way to deck weather, my reading habit ramps up considerably.

    Book of choice at the moment?  “The Yankee Years”  by Joe Torre.  A fantastic account of life in the major leagues and life as the manager of one of the most popular, most traditional, and at times, most dysfunctional franchises in the world.

    Torre does an excellent job of taking readers behind the scenes of his time in New York, including a fist hand look of one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports.  That is, the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

    And that’s where the parallels started standing out to me as a Leafs fan.

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    As teams that are lucky enough to still be alive in the NHL postseason get ready for what should be a fantastic round two, teams on the outside looking in have already began the process of looking towards next year.  The Toronto Maple Leafs are among the latter, having already been busy shoring up their goaltending depth in the past few weeks with the signings of Jussi Rynnas and Ben Scrivens.

    The Leafs aren’t the only team already looking to next year, and they seem directly related to another team that is doing the same.

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    The Leafs continued their offseason stockpiling of goaltenders today, announcing that they have signed College free agent Ben Scrivens to a one year contract.

    Scrivens compiled an impressive 21-9-4 record with Cornell last year, with a .934 save percentage.  He was also a top ten Hobey Baker finalist.

    According to TSN, It is expected that Scrivens will challenge for playing time on the Toronto Marlies.

    More after the jump.

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    While the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing and continue to provide us with some fantastic moments of triumph, the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs are now forced to once again shift their focus to off ice activities.

    And so too has Leafs brass.

    Despite his team sitting on the sidelines, Leafs GM Brian Burke made quick work of two signing he was keying in on, signing goaltenders Jonas Gustavsson and newcomer Jussi Rynnas to contracts.  Continuing with the in-house theme, Burke will now certainly turn his attention to Nikolai Kulemin, if he hasn’t done so already.

    And while we are seemingly quite far away this point, it won’t be long before the draft and subsequent free agency period rolls around.

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    For longtime fans of the NHL, it was nothing new.

    An organization set to come in, guns blazing, and attempt to be “competition” for the National Hockey League.  On the surface, perhaps not a bad idea.  After all, competition creates creativity.  Competition brings out the absolute best in everyone.

    However, there have been two big attempts by rogue organizations to dethrone the NHL from atop their perch as the number one hockey league.

    And just like the WHA years earlier, is it possible that the KHL is going the way of the dodo bird?

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    Lots of reading today: Gus chips in an  analogical look at the NHL playoff series; Alex has your links with a look at potential Leaf Jussi Rynnas.

    In what was Brian Burke’s first summer on the job with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was clear from the get go that he put an onus on improving specialty teams, and also team defense.  The brash Toronto GM made a lot of moves as it related to improving these areas, and on paper they looked like a sure recipe for change and improvement.

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    When Brian Burke became the new general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs in November of 2008, Leafs Nation embarked on a new journey.  A new beginning.  With Burke at the helm, the Leafs organization finally had a general manager who had credentials.  Who had a winning pedigree.  Who had the exact type of attitude the Toronto market needed.

    A man who wouldn’t take any nonsense from anyone, and a man who wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a big move that may set the team up for the better in the long term, a characteristic it seemed so many Leafs GM’s lacked in between the time of Fletcher’s first run, and Burke being christened as the new head of the front office.

    Finally, Leafs fans were able to legitimately talk about the “Big O”, and they weren’t faking it either.

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      It’s that time of year again.  The most wonderful time of the year.  No, not Christmas, and no, you won’t see any of those silly Staples commercials.

      It’s time for the NHL playoffs.

      The annual spring tournament that features some of the most exciting hockey of the season.  It’s  triple overtime games that rage on long into the night, games so long that you’ll hope you saved some sick days.  It’s players skating through pain, all for the common goal of lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup.

      And the great fans of the NHL, well they have the best seat in the house.

      Around this time of year, especially the first round, marriages are postponed.  Assignments are left on desks unfinished.  Scheduled are cleared, or built around.  Kiss your wife or girlfriend, and tell her you’ll see her in a few months, a better person than when you last saw her.

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        First and foremost, let me apologize for my absence.  As some of you may know, I am in school completing my Sports Marketing degree, and things have gotten really hectic in crunch time.  I am also organizing a golf tournament for this summer in Strathroy, Ontario.  Anyone who would like to golf can get in touch with me anytime.

        You know, another season of hockey is winding down.  At least, it is in Toronto with the Maple Leafs.  While the sun has been shining and treating us to above average weather the past week or so, it does come at a price.

        It has become all to accustomed.  As soon as the sun begins to melt the snow, and the grey, dull sky is replaced by a ray of sunlight, you know that the Maple Leafs aren’t long for this world.  That the season is just about wrapped up, and lockers will soon be cleaned.

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          The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a rebuild, or a re-tool, whichever you prefer.  In any event, a process such as this requires a team to have a plentiful prospect pipe, ripe with blue chippers are all positions.  The Leafs certainly may not be plentiful when it comes to blue chip prospects, but they do have a few who are developing quite nicely.

          And you just never know when and where a potential blue chipper may come from.

          If drafting has taught us anything, it’s shown to be far from an exact science.  Can’t miss prospects turn out to be busts occasionally, and sometimes late round picks have proven to be key components for a team, just ask, among others, Tomas Kaberle, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Viktor Stalberg.

          Okay, while he may not garner enough adulation to be put in a group with some of the NHL’s top stars, there is plenty of reason to believe he may in fact one day be worthy of the mention.

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            He glided down the ice, not showing any sort of intimidation despite the fact he was a little out of his element.  Like a veteran, he flew down the wing and fired a shot that eluded the goaltender.  It was his first NHL goal.  It was his first NHL game.

            He skated through the neutral zone, accepting a stretch pass, only to be met by a member of the opposition, who’s eyes were as big as saucers, knowing he was going to catch him.  He was leveled, sent for a trip down dream street.  A hit that caused a nasty gash to open up over his eye, blood streamed out of his nose.  It was his 425th NHL game.

            All 425, as a member of his hometown team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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              For all the headlines the franchise had made off the ice, it’s the Phoenix Coyotes on ice product that should be making the news.

              Led by a core of young, talented hard working players, and solid goaltending by Ilya Bryzgalov, the Coyotes have been one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season, and continued their winning ways tonight defeating the Leafs 6-3 in Toronto, denying the Leafs of their fifth straight win on home ice.

              Petr Prucha score twice for the Coyotes, while Vernon Fiddler, Paul Bissonnette, Scottie Upshall and Radim Vrbata all tallied singles for Phoenix.  Jamal Mayers, Phil Kessel, and Alexei Ponikarovsky replied for Toronto.

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                Niklas Hagman, with 15 goals, sits 18 in goals scored this season, fellow european Alexei Ponikarovsky is a little further down, ranked 29th in NHL goal scoring with 12 on the year so far.

                Phil Kessel and Matt Stajan both have more goals than Brad Richards, Nicklas Backstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, and Patrick Kane.

                And while these stats are a welcome sight to most fans, many would agree that the secret to the Leafs success lies much deeper.  At least, much deeper down the depth chart.

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                  For the second time in a week, the Maple Leafs have felt the wrath of the Boston Bruins on home ice, only this time there were distinct differences from Saturday’s 7-2 beat down.

                  The Leafs, after sleepwalking through two periods of the hockey game, decided to bring their game in the third and made things interesting with goals by Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to pull them within a goal of the Bruins.  A late, costly penalty by Leafs winger Jason Blake sealed their fate however, as the penalty kill sagged once again, and Mark Recchi scored with under three minutes left to ice the game for the Bruins.

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                    It took a while, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are finally starting to look comfortable on home ice, and on the ice in general, as one of their better overall team efforts led to a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night in front of a joyful, loud crowd at the Air Canada Centre.

                    Jason Blake scored the winner with just under five minutes left in the third period as the Leafs skated away with a hard fought 3-2 win.

                    Francois Beauchemin and Ian White also scored for Toronto, who improved to 7-2-2 in their last eleven games.  John Tavares scored both goals for the Islanders.