Monday, May 25, 2015
Authors Posts by Greg Thomson

Greg Thomson


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Instead of writing about something Leafs related on another slow day in August, I’ve decided to take delve into the world of sports media and talk about the release of the Sportsnet magazine, due out in newsstands this fall.

Now, I’ll give you a forewarning; when it comes to launches of any new medium in the world of sports media, I’m all over it. Like many other Torontonians, especially the younger crowd, I demand the latest in news and consume it through a number of very diverse mediums.

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As the days trudge along and the countdown begins (61 days!) until puck drop on opening night, there remains some unfinished business for the Leafs front office between now and training camp. Although both the team and the player consider the new deal to be merely a matter of time, and while Schenn is one of 36 RFAs who remain unsigned at this juncture, every Leafs fan will be able to breathe easier once the Human Eraser is under contract.

According to The Globe and Mail, negotiations have begun between Brian Burke and Schenn’s agent, Don Meehan. Of course, neither side will reveal any details about specific salary and term for the contract, and it isn’t clear how far the two sides are apart at this stage.

Neither Meehan nor Leafs general manager Brian Burke have tipped their hand as to how negotiations on Schenn’s contract are progressing, but it’s fair to say he’s one of the harder players in Toronto’s lineup to put a dollar figure on.

Drafted fifth overall by the Leafs three years ago, Schenn has become a dependable defensive defender capable of playing second-pair minutes (he averaged more than 22 a game last season), putting him in a small group among players his age.

In terms of comparable stay-at-home types around the league, Braydon Coburn (Philadelphia Flyers), Roman Polak (St. Louis Blues), Jeff Schultz (Washington Capitals) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (San Jose Sharks) are all in similar roles and have signed a new contract recently.

Using those comparables listed in the Globe, do you put Schenn with the group that includes the likes of Vlasic, Schultz and Coburn (around $3 million and change)? Mirtle seems to rule out the possibility of Schenn getting Marc Staal money ($3.975 cap hit), but given his age (still only 21 until November), potentially elite shutdown ability and steadily improving offensive numbers, that’s just about where I’d put him. While it may seem a tad pricey at the moment, if that’s what it takes to lock Schenn down for a considerable term, it will be a steal well before the end of the contract. He’s only going to get better, and with his early entry into the league forcing the sides to renegotiate by 21, the Leafs may actually benefit for that very reason.

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The Leafs locked up David Broll, a sixth round pick (152nd overall) in last month’s Entry Draft, to a three-year entry-level contract yesterday. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound power forward has split the last two seasons between the Erie Otters, and more recently, the Soo Greyhounds.

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In 41 games with Erie he collected 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) with 51 penalty minutes. He finished the season playing 24 games for Sault Ste. Marie registering five goals and seven assists for 12 points along with 34 minutes in penalties.

Broll, a native of Mississauga, Ontario, played for Canada’s Summer Under-18 Team at the 2010 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In five games, he earned two assists and two penalty minutes, while winning a gold medal with Team Canada.

Broll participated in the Maple Leafs’ 2011 Prospect Camp held earlier this July in Etobicoke at the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence.

David Broll won’t be expected to tear up the score sheet or pile up points. It feels like we say this a lot (because we do), but he is a ‘prototypical Brian Burke type of player’ who uses his size to intimidate opponents. One could conservatively project David Broll as a future fit on a fourth line, counted on to throw his weight around and drop the gloves from time to time. However, there has to be reason Leafs brass rushed to put pen to paper with Broll, and it’s likely his physicality combined with hints of offensive usefulness to his game. Writes, who tabbed him as an early third round pick before the draft:

His physicality and ability to lay huge hits are two of the main elements to Broll’s game, but he also has some offensive upside. He’s a great guy to plant in front of the net on the powerplay and does a great job generating offense off the low cycle.

Broll was criticized by scouts for not being in good physical shape leading up to the draft, but Leaf management was impressed with his physical development when he arrived at the annual Rookie Camp in early-July.

On to your links after the jump

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So, how about this nice weather? Got any plans for the long weekend? *sigh*

Well, there is virtually nothing to talk about in the hockey world. The Islanders and Devils made a little noise by swinging a deal that sent Brian Rolston and a conditional pick to New York in exchange for Trent Hunter. Rolston is nearing the end of his career, but will provide veteran experience up front and likely play the point on the power play. This move also helps the Devils clear cap space in order to re-sign RFA Zach Parise. While Hunter was a serviceable player throughout his tenure with the Islanders, they needed to move closer to the cap floor, which they accomplished by acquiring Rolston’s large salary.

In other news, the Vancouver Canucks avoided arbitration with Jannik Hansen, signing him to a three-year deal.

The countdown is on until we can start talking about our beloved Leafs again. Can’t wait.

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MLHS’ very own Alex Tran had the opportunity to sit down with Maple Leafs Director of Amateur Scouting Dave Morrison, who provided some candid thoughts on the direction that this team is heading and which players to watch in the pipeline.

The rest of the answers will be published in the Maple Leafs Annual magazine, out on newstands in early September. The yearly magazine edited by Alec Brownscombe will also feature exclusive quotes from Brian Burke, Dave Poulin, Dallas Eakins, Tyler Biggs and more.

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Newly acquired defenseman John-Michael Liles has already earned a good first impression with Leaf management, teammates, fans, and, most importantly, some young people in need. Children at the Sick Kids hospital in Toronto visited with Liles yesterday, who made his first public appearance since the trade. He acted as a bright spot for many who have fought hard to live a healthy life.

Terry Koshan at the Toronto Sun summed up the day, including thoughts from Liles on his reaction to being traded to the Leafs and the expectations of playing in Toronto.

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It’s hard to believe that today is already the third Sunday of July. The dog days of the hockey off-season have arrived with the free agent market thinned out and training camp still a painfully long distance away. As far as major names go, only the Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty RFA situations need to be resolved, presumably paving the way  for other players, including Luke Schenn, to be re-signed. It seems likely that he’ll make between $3.5 and $4 million on his new deal over a 3+ year contract. How much do you think Schenn deserves on his upcoming contract?

Leafs Links:

The new Leafs’ third jerseys (probably), if you missed them

Little changes to the game from when I was a kid

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It’s speculative Saturday here at MLHS. With the roster looking more or less set to start the 2011-12 season, take a look deep into your crystal ball and predict what place the Leafs will finish in next season. Do you see them making the playoffs or falling short for a seventh straight season? Be fully honest and be sure to cite, you know, reasons, for your prediction.

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Photo Credit: The Globe and Mail

As Ryan reported yesterday, the Maple Leafs have re-signed Darryl Boyce to a one-year, two-way extension. The 27-year old forward, who had 13 points in 46 games, will earn $700,000 in the NHL and $105,000 if he is assigned to the Toronto Marlies. His $105,000 AHL salary is key because anything in excess of that number would mean Boyce would have to pass through re-entry waivers if he doesn’t make the team out of camp. The two-way deal is important in that way in terms of the flexibility the Leafs will have with Boyce.

It is nice to see at least one of Boyce or Brent rewarded with a contract by the club. Most would have taken Brent over Boyce in a perfect world but given Brent was getting a one-way contract somewhere else if not here and Boyce has been developing in the Maple Leaf organization since 2007-08 (when the Leafs picked him up as an undrafted free agent), it makes a lot of sense why it’s ultimately Boyce that’s returning.
More links after the jump

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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that the majority of free agents still available on the open market are all either past their prime or borderline NHLers who would be lucky to get a one-way contract. While there are slim pickings, one name in particular comes to mind who would bring a physical element to the roster, along with veteran leadership during his 1,000-plus games over the last 14 years.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t take the time to slave over my computer screen on a humid summer day to scour though the remaining available UFAs, but thanks to Michael Langlois from Vintage Leaf Memories, the suggestion to pursue Mike Grier piqued my interest.

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It’s no secret that the Maple Leafs finished in the bottom third of the NHL in goals against despite ample allocation of resources to the blueline, something they have encountered tremendous struggles with dating back to the season following the lockout.
While the Leafs lack of consistent goaltending can be blamed, in large part, for the team’s shortcomings, the defence has not met the task of shutting down the opposition. That’s not to say there haven’t been capable NHL blueliners on the roster. What has hindered the Leafs’ defensive units from their full potential, for my money, is the lack of chemistry and familiarity on the backend. Despite his lack of foot speed, Francois Beauchemin was a quality addition to the roster, but the coaching staff couldn’t find a defensive partner to successfully complement his game.
With Beauchemin, Kaberle, and to a lesser extent, Brett Lebda out the door, the stage is set for a young, versatile defence poised to both attack and defend on all cylinders. Led by Dion Phaneuf, the Leafs defence includes four players above 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds – including Keith Aulie (6-foot-5, 217 pounds) and the newly acquired Cody Franson (6-foot-5, 213 pounds), who make up the Twin Towers of the Toronto defence.
It doesn’t stop there.

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The Hockey Hall of Hame class of 2011 was unveiled yesterday after a panel of 18 members selected four deserving alumni for induction on November 14th. Headlining the group is former Leaf Ed Belfour, who earned inclusion as a first-time nominee. The legendary Doug Gilmour and Joe Nieuwendyk were also named as inductees, both former heart and soul forwards during their time with the blue and white. Rounding out the class is Mark Howe, formerly a defenseman with the Hartford Whalers, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers. He joins his father, Gordie, the all-time great who was inducted back in 1972.

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While free agency opens in just over a week from now, there is the possibility of Brian Burke getting his shopping done early by trading for a proven number one centre instead of gambling and probably overpaying on Brad Richards in the open market. Although there are not a ton of centers available nor is Statsny a bargain at $6.6 million cap hit, Colorado Avalanche pivot Paul Stastny is an interesting alternative to Richards considering his age (25) and pedigree. Like Richards, he’s a left handed playmaker (he nearly hit 60 assists in 2009-10) who on paper would complement Kessel perfectly.

The Avalanche have never let it be known that they are willing to move Stastny, but it would make some sense for them with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly fully capable of anchoring the top two lines. In addition, Stastny carries a hefty price tag that the Leafs would gladly take on if it meant solving their number one center void. However, with a $48 million cap floor on tap for next season, and with the Avalance committing only $32 million to 14 players for 2011-12 as of now, you have to wonder if the necessary pressure points exist for Burke to get Statsny at a reasonable price.

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Aside from the Stanley Cup parade yesterday in Boston, there is really not much to discuss in the hockey world. With the draft in five days and the free agent market opening shortly thereafter, it’s not long before there will be plenty to talk about. Think of right now as the calm before the storm. It will be a busy off season for Brian Burke as he looks to acquire a front line centre and beef up his forward corps. This is the year the Leafs get serious about the playoffs and Burke has work to do before this roster is ready. It all begins Friday when the Leafs stand up to the podium to make their entry draft selections. Let the fun begin!

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Exactly one week from today, the next wave of prospects from across North America and parts of Europe will gather for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota. While Burke opted to flip his top picks this year and last in exchange for an established asset in Phil Kessel, there is reason for excitement around Toronto this time, with two selections in the first round and three in the top 39.

Dave Morrison and the rest of the Leafs scouting staff are preparing for a potential trade up scenario, where Brian Burke would look to move into the top 15 by combining his 25th and 39th picks. While any move is likely to be consummated on the floor, it won’t be a disappointment if Burke can’t move up. Scouts describe this year’s draft class as being a level playing field with tremendous uncertainty after the top three picks. A player ranked in the top 10 going into the night could slip all the way to the latter stages of the first round. Essentially, this could be a first round where, from five on down, shrewd picks determines draft success more than the draft order even more than usual, and drafting twice at #25 and #30 while keeping #39 might not be a bad Plan B.

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In a series where the Boston Bruins have outscored Vancouver 10-6, with 8 of those goals coming in Game 4, it is bordering on unfamiliar territory for both teams to be tied at no goals midway through the third period. As is often the case in these tight games, one bounce (or in this case two in the same play) proved to be the difference. After Kevin Bieksa’s bank pass of the boards took the perfect bounce out front to Maxim Lapierre, the former Hab bounced in the biggest goal of his career off of a sprawling Tim Thomas. After having a clear advantage in Games 3 & 4 while rallying behind the loss Nathan Horton, the Bruins are now in a difficult position to climb back into the series. They must hold serve at home and hope to break the home ice advantage in game 7 to complete the comeback.

The Stanley Cup will be in the building on Monday night in Boston, with the Canucks looking to become the first Canadian team to take home the trophy since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. Almost looking down and out despite the 2-2 series score, the Canucks with a massive game 5 win are back on top, in control, and on the brink of winning it all. One win for Vancouver and it’s over.

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In the wake of the Aaron Rome hit on Nathan Horton Monday night, there were mixed reviews on the severity of the incident and debate over the number of games Rome would be suspended for. Bruins fans, quite unsurprisingly, felt Rome should be booted for the remainder of the post season, while Canucks fans – of course – thought he deserved only one or two games, deeming that it was an unfortunate result to an otherwise clean hit.

After taking all of the evidence into consideration and reviewing different angles of the replay, interim NHL disciplinarian Mike Murphy announced a four-game suspension for Rome, sidelining him for the remainder of the post-season. Whether or not you agree with the ruling, the league needed to take a stand against illegal hits (and late hits, in this case) to send a message to the other 29 teams that they will not be tolerated.

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Lots of Leaf-related content out there this morning, with an emphasis on Brad Richards and the possibility of him signing with the Leafs this summer. With game two of the Stanley Cup Finals getting underway tonight, feel free to share your predictions in the comments below.

Links after the jump

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Maple Leafs President and General Manager appeared on NHL Live yesterday to discuss a number of topics, including the Vancouver Canucks post season success, Colin Campbell stepping down as head of NHL discipline, and the Leafs` game plan heading into the off season. Here are some of the highlights from the interview:

– When asked about the Sedin twins, Burke elaborated on how difficult it was to secure the second and third overall picks in the 1998 Draft in order to take the twins. He spoke highly of the Sedins’ character, calling them ‘good kids who deserve all of the accolades they have gotten’.

– Burke praised Colin Campbell for his reign as the head of discipline for the NHL and thinks Brendan Shanahan is an excellent replacement who is cut-out for the position. He also mentioned that Campbell will be able to focus on growing the game now that he is primarily in charge of hockey operations.