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.
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 â€˜oh, the waterâ€™s cold, Iâ€™ll wait until it warms up a bitâ€™. Nope, youâ€™re diving in and the guys who didnâ€™t, as [Leafs' GM Brian Burke] said, theyâ€™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.
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.
As much as I tried to just sit back and enjoy the game as a fanÂ last night, I couldn't help but take a few notes (this might have been because we ended up sittingÂ among the scouts). So without further ado, here are a few additional observationsÂ from last night's tournament opener to supplement Derek Harmsworth's excellent coverage.
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.
During an appearance on London radio's â€œThe Hookâ€ 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 â€“ 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?
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.
Longtime MLHS reader/commenter Charlie welcomed a new addition to his family the other day, and sent in this [more…]
An optimist will point to the Leafs' record following the acquisitions of Dion Phaneuf and J.S. Giguere as evidence that the Maple Leafs can compete. The cynic will suggest that although the Leafs played well over the final third of the season following those moves, there just simply isn't enough proven offensive production to buoy hopes for post-season play.
A closer look at the Leafs performance over their past 26 games following the January 31st trades for Phaneuf and Giguere, in comparison to their first 56, might shed some light on whether or not the Leafs' need for more offense in order to compete is fact or fiction.
On Sunday August 29, the Pavilion Ice Arena in Thornhill will host the Hockey 4 Life Tournament in support of Chai Lifeline Canada, a non-profit [more…]
The topic on the tip of everyone's tongue in Toronto has been the future of Maple Leafs' defenseman Tomas Kaberle. Long-rumoured to be a candidate for trade -- primarily due to the relative weakness of the roster surrounding him, post-lockout -- most are convinced it will be his departure which resolves not only the logjam on the Leafs' blueline, but also the need for a scoring forward.
While nobody can say for sure where Kaberle will end up, there has been loads of speculation pertaining to multiple destinations of late. The temporary expiration of Kaberle's No-Trade Clause has, naturally, expanded that list considerably.
The following is a breakdown of the most commonly-speculated rumours surrounding Kaberle's future: why the rumours are plausible, why they are not, and my own take on the likelihood of such a deal in each circumstance.
In their report, TSN mentions section 26.3 of the CBA which alludes to the NHLâ€™s right to reject a deal upon suspicion of circumvention. There's [more…]