Friday, May 22, 2015
Authors Posts by Garrett Bauman

Garrett Bauman

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Marcel Mueller
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Marcel Mueller
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Today in Leafs’ news:

– In a move that should surprise no one, goaltender James Reimer was returned to the Toronto Marlies as Jean-Sebastien Giguere has been deemed ready to return to action;

– Mike Brown has been suspended 3 games for his hit on Ed Jovanovski during last night’s heated tilt in Phoenix; and,

– Off-season FA signing Marcel Mueller has been recalled to fill Brown’s roster spot.

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Clarke MacArthur

Clarke MacArthur
Guess who leads the Leafs in scoring? Some guy named Clarke. No, not that one.

The Maple Leafs have reached the halfway point of the season on a tear, winning five of six games to kick off 2011 in style.

Despite the hot streak the team remains mired in 12th place in the Eastern conference, a full 11 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. While much can happen over the second half of the season, it is safe to say the Maple Leafs have not — as a collective unit — approached pre-season expectations.

The question is, which players are on pace to equal — or exceeded — pre-season expectations, and which players are not?

Dave Sandford/Getty Images

It should come as no surprise that James Reimer received an opportunity to start in the NHL, during his re-call to fill in for the injured Jean-Sebastien Giguere. What is somewhat of a surprise is the amount Reimer has played (3 starts in the past 4 games) during a time where Jonas Gustavsson was expected to seize the opportunity to prove himself the Maple Leafs’ netminder of the future.

The question is, to what degree has Reimer’s performance  influenced the decision to use him as the de-facto starter, rather than the incumbent? Is Reimer receiving an extended look as part of an evaluation toward his future in Toronto — or are the Leafs showcasing him to other teams?

Update: Reimer gets the start tonight … his fourth in the past five games.

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New Jersey Devils v Toronto Maple Leafs
Nikolai Kulemin busts through en route to a 3-1 Leafs victory in their last meeting with the Devils. (Photo credit: Reuters)

Fresh off the Christmas break, the Toronto Maple Leafs braved a blizzard to get to New Jersey, where they will face the Devils in a match featuring two struggling teams looking for a fresh start.

The Devils, widely expected to be a contender this season following the much-heralded re-signing of Ilya Kovalchuk, have suffered through injuries to key players, a defense riddled with holes, and an inability to score en route to last place overall in the NHL standings.  The Leafs, initially expected to battle for a playoff spot, have also experienced their own share of scoring woes en route to sitting 13th in the East.

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    It hangs on the wall, suspended by two cheap metal hinges, a hockey stick which upon first glance appears as nondescript as the hinges themselves. It’s a simple, wooden stick; undoubtedly plucked from a bargain bin somewhere, bereft of any manufacturer’s name or even the slightest hint of quality craftsmanship.

    And it is among my most prized possessions.

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    Phil Kessel
    Photo credit: Reuters

    31 games and a 12-15-4 record into the season, the struggling Maple Leafs find themselves the subject of several hotly-contested debates over many facets of the club. Is this the real Phil Kessel? Gustavsson or Giguere? And what of Ron Wilson?

    My own responses to each of these questions are posted after the jump, and as always I invite you to share yours in the comments below.

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    Lineup Note: As per Leafs head of PR Pat Park, Mike Komisarek and Jay Rosehill will both sit tonight due to upper body ailments, not as healthy scratches.

    Fresh off last night’s 5-2 shellacking at the hands of the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins, the Toronto Maple Leafs return to the ACC to host the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Although a loss to the Penguins – who extended their win streak to 11 – was not surprising in and of itself, the manner in which the Leafs’ players came out flat in the first 40 minutes certainly was. A strong effort from the opening faceoff will be a must against the Flyers, who happen to be the NHL’s top-scoring team.

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    "This is going to be harder than I thought. I'm sure people will understand, right? RIGHT?"

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
    it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
    it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
    it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
    it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
    we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
    we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

    — Charles Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities”

    How aptly the great literary work of Dickens describes the experience of the rebuilding process. On one hand, there is hope for a brighter future; on the other, the reality of a present mired in frustration and despair. Such is the state of both the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs, who will face off tonight in the Battle Of The Perpetual Rebuilding Effort.

    "Interesting offer. Throw in a slice of pie. Apple. Then we're talking."

    For as much as Brian Burke continues to show the fanbase that no stone will go unturned in his quest to rebuild the franchise, the fact of the matter is, the consummation of a trade is extraordinarily difficult in a salary-capped league where parity reigns. Especially this early into the season, at a point where many teams are still in the process of determining their needs.

    Syl Apps was the face of the Maple Leafs during the franchise's greatest era.

    On this Remembrance Day, 2010, I’d thought it would be fitting to take a look back at the Toronto Maple Leafs during the years of the Second World War.

    Having been on the losing side of the Stanley Cup Finals for three consecutive years (Chicago, Boston, New York) to close out the 1930s, the Leafs remained on the verge of becoming a championship team. Unfortunately, pending greatness would instead be put on hold as the roster would be decimated while players answered their country’s call to duty in the early 1940s.

    The following is a quick synopsis of the Maple Leafs’ successes and struggles during the war years, and the glory that would ultimately follow.

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    Jean-Sebastien Giguere
    Photo Credit: Reuters

    Jean-Sebastien Giguere
    Photo Credit: Reuters

    Following an unfortunate overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Monday night, the Maple Leafs came out flat against the New York Rangers last night in a 2-1 regulation loss. While some may be quick to conjure up memories of last seasons’ oft-moments of ineptitude, the truth is a 4-1-1 record offers little reason to panic. After all, that first regulation loss had to come sometime.

    Does the fact the team has now lost two straight actually mean anything, in the grand scheme? At this point I would say no: consecutive losses, and flat performances, are something all teams go through at various points in the season.  Only six games into the season, it is far too early to predict whether the 2010-11 Leafs are closer to the team that looked unstoppable during the first four games of the season or the team that has had difficulty sustaining a full 60-minute effort the past two.

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    Clarke MacArthur
    Leafs fans are getting used to this.

    Clarke MacArthur
    Leafs fans are getting used to this.

    The undefeated Toronto Maple Leafs (3-0) take a tour down Broadway this evening en route to face off against the New York Rangers (1-1) at historic Madison Square Gardens. 

    Coming off a narrow victory over the much-heralded Pittsburgh Penguins, the Maple Leafs will look to keep the momentum going against a Rangers team that has had no difficultly keeping the lamp lit … at both ends of the ice.

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    Mike Brown
    Mike Brown planking.

    Mike Brown
    Mike Brown does his best Bobby Orr impersonation before later settling for a Colton Orr impersonation. Never underestimate the value of versatility.

    Two games in, and the Maple Leafs are 2-0 for the first time in 11 years. While some might be tempted to find meaning within that number, the truth is that in terms of history the number is rather meaningless.

    With still 80 games left on the docket, and the Leafs about to embark on their first road trip of the season, expectations must be tempered despite the hot start (and the rare sight of a 4th overall placement on the ESPN Power Rankings).

    In other words, a 7-0-1 start (to counter last season’s 0-7-1) is probably just a little too much to ask. As if I had to tell you that. Then again, this IS Leafs Nation; somewhere, someone surely needed the reminder.

    Follow the jump for a few first-week impressions and musings.

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    J-S Giguere

    Jean-Sebastien Giguere

    The wait is over. After yet another long off-season following a fifth consecutive year of missing out on the NHL post-season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are set to kick off the 2010-11 season against their oldest rival, the Montreal Canadiens.

    Both teams have undergone an off-season where – despite the lack of a full-scale overhaul – crucial moves were made to bring in key players or (in Montreal’s case) provide a better opportunity for players already in the organization. Gone from the 2009-10 Toronto lineup are Viktor Stalberg, Rickard Wallin and Keith Primeau, replaced by Kris Versteeg, Colby Armstrong, and Brett Lebda. In Montreal, the most impactful move was the trade of playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to St Louis in exchange for Lars Eller, a move which paves the way for Carey Price to assert his standing among starting NHL netminders.

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    The Leafs head to the capital tonight to take on their bitter provincial rivals, the Ottawa Senators, for the third time in seven preseason games.

    Tonight’s game figures to be the last chance for players on the bubble, including highly-touted Nazem Kadri, to make a lasting impression. When asked about these players, head coach Ron Wilson was emphatic:

    “When the puck drops on the first day, you better be ready to go. No tip-toeing around. No ‘oh, the water’s cold, I’ll wait until it warms up a bit’. Nope, you’re diving in and the guys who didn’t, as [Leafs’ GM Brian Burke] said, they’re waiting by the bus stop. Well, they missed it, the bus already left. Now their job is running down the road hoping they can get on.” (via)

    With the pre-season set to end with a home-and-home against Detroit to open the month of October, the general sentiment is the Leafs will use a roster for those games comprised of the players who are expected be with the NHL club on opening night. For Nazem Kadri, John Mitchell, Jay Rosehill and Mike Zigomanis, tonight (or by a slim chance the first of the two Detroit games) may be their last shot.

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    One of the more interesting subplots to the Maple Leafs’ 2010-11 preseason has been the Michael Liambas situation. Offered a tryout – amidst much fanfare – in time for the team’s annual Rookie Camp, the infamous winger was ultimately released on Thursday, during the first round of cuts at the NHL training camp.

    Ordinarily, such a move would be regarded as no more than a footnote, a regular or even “to be expected” occurrence which takes place in any training camp. But Liambas’ situation was – and remains – anything but ordinary.

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    As much as I tried to just sit back and enjoy the game as a fan last night, I couldn’t help but take a few notes (this might have been because we ended up sitting among the scouts). So without further ado, here are a few additional observations from last night’s tournament opener to supplement Derek Harmsworth’s excellent coverage.

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    Last Wednesday (September 1st), Toronto’s MasterCard Centre for Excellence, the Maple Leafs’ own practice facility, played host to the 2010 NHLPA Rookie Symposium in association with trading card leaders Upper Deck and Panini America. MLHS’ own Gus Katsaros was in attendance, and has kindly provided audio from his own conversation, as well as portions of a larger media scrum Q&A, with Leafs’ top prospect Nazem Kadri.

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    Three Captains
    Whether it is fair or unfair, our perceptions become our reality.

    Three Captains
    Whether it is fair or unfair, our perceptions become our reality.

    During an appearance on London radio’s “The Hook” with Norman James last Friday, our conversation at one point took an interesting turn toward the notion of player personality, and how it affects fan perception and the manner in which fans relate to the players.

    It’s an interesting subject – the trichotomy of fan/player/team identity, and not one the majority of fans spend much time pondering. What is it, beyond star power, that draws fans to feel they have formed certain bonds with specific players they have never met? What is it that keeps others at arms’ length? Is it the nature of the players themselves, is it our own as fans, or is it perhaps both?

    And here you thought a magazine couldn't have add-on features.

    Midway through the month of July, I had the privilege of chatting with Dave Poulin, Vice President of Hockey Operations with the Toronto Maple Leafs, for an article appearing in Maple Leafs Annual.

    Having a professional background in publishing, I was not the least surprised that limitations on available space, plus design and layout constraints, resulted in the necessity to crop certain parts of the interview.

    With the Annual due to hit stores next week, I thought I’d share a few of the “lost excerpts” from the cutting room floor in which Poulin offers his thoughts on the progress of the Toronto Marlies, as well as the emergence of the NCAA as a growing prospect pipeline.

    Think of it as the equivalent of a “DVD extra” to your copy of MLA.