Toronto Maple Leafs training camp opens today, with an enormous player base of 70 invitees. Some are guaranteed spots, some are looking to secure one. All of them want to make a positive impression. Here are some thoughts on the camp outlook.
At forward, Tim Connolly, Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Clarke MacArthur and Colby Armstrong are guaranteed spots on the roster. For Lupul, training camp and the preseason this year is an opportunity to show coach Ron Wilson that he has what it takes to be a first line forward. If he fails in doing that, someone like Nazem Kadri could easily come in and usurp that position with a strong preseason. MacArthur, Kulemin and Grabovski will be looking to show that their line wasn't a one year wonder and, with Grabovski in a contract year, I wouldn't be surprised to see some explosiveness from this line in the preseason contests. [more…]
Defence is a lot more multi-faceted than is the forward position. It requires more finesse and more all around ability in order to rise to the upper echelon of NHL defencemen. The Leafs tried to compliment each of their offensive defencemen with a more defensive partner. This is a winning strategy often used on championship teams. With that in mind, of the six regulars on Toronto's blue line at the end of the season, who rises to the top? Let's find out.
The previous articles in this series are recommended reading. You can find "Season in Review: Top 6 Forwards" here, while the article entitled "Season in Review: Bottom 6 Forwards" can be found here. [more…]
Sometimes miracles do happen. In one of the more lopsided trades of recent memory, the Leafs dumped Brett Lebda (and our weakest prospect in Robert Slaney) on Nashville, in return obtaining the oft injured Matthew Lombardi and young defenseman Cody Franson. The deal was done on the basis of Nashville being unwilling to pay $3.5 million for Lombardi, who will likely sit out this next season and possibly be forced to retire. As for Franson, he was one of Nashville's best defensive prospects and has spent two seasons in the NHL.
Franson was a high price to pay for a salary dump, but just how high a price was it?Â Looking at some advanced statistics, I'm sure we can find out. [more…]
Leafs Nation was parked outside Brad Richards' agents' office on July 1st, singing songs they hoped would sway him to our little corner of the universe. It was not to be, along came Tim Connolly, the Leafs' silver medal. He has been notorious in his time in Buffalo for injuries that leave him absent from the team for large chunks at a time. At only 2 years, is Connolly a gamble worth making for the Leafs? Time to find out. [more…]
Please read the preceding article in this series on top 6 forwards here. For this article, the bottom 6 forwards on the Leafs are: Colby Armstrong, Joey Crabb, John Mitchell, Darryl Boyce, Fredrik Sjostrom, Tim Brent, Mike Brown, Jay Rosehill and Colton Orr. I decided to leave Kadri out of my forward reviews due to his few games played in conjunction with his rapid change from top 6 to bottom 6 from game to game.
When all is said and done, the bottom 6 forwards on Toronto in the 2010-11 season dropped the ball in a big way. This is no more obvious than in their scoring. We've established that Toronto's top 6 scored at a decent clip, but the bottom 6 had almost none at all. The leading scorer in Toronto's bottom 6 was Colby Armstrong with a measly 8 goals. Third liners should all be expected to score at least 12-15 goals per year if you want to be a serious championship contender. In 09-10, the leading bottom 6 scorer on the Leafs was Lee Stempniak, who managed 14 goals in 62 games (and somehow ending the year with 28). It goes without saying that if a bottom 6 group scores as little as Toronto's did this season, they have to be making up for it with some stellar defensive play. Let's take a look at some of the relatively unseen stats (which can be found at BehindTheNet.ca) and see what we can find. [more…]
All of Leafs Nation was elated to finally have a first round pick in what seemed like forever on draft day this year. However, there was still another surprise only hours before the draft began. John-Michael Liles was brought in by Leafs general manager Brian Burke for a second round pick in order to fill the hole left behind by the departed Tomas Kaberle. Is that a reasonable expectation? Let's find out. [more…]
One little note: The terms top 6 and bottom 6 are thrown around rather frequently, but theyâ€™re anything but that simple in reality. Lines change often and players move up and down based on recent performance. For the sake of the article, I will be naming the following players top 6 players on the Leafs: Phil Kessel, Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak.
The curtain has closed on another disappointing Leaf season without the playoffs. This year had more than its fair share of ups and downs, but the emotional end leaves hope for the future. Goaltending was certainly the biggest change in the second half, with Reimer stepping up after Giguere and Gustavsson tumbled to the floor. But there was another noticeable improvement to the Leafs this season: top 6 scoring. Two players reached 30 goals this year (Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin), improving on last seasonâ€™s one (Kessel again). This was helped by two further players getting at least 20 goals (Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur), again improving over last seasonâ€™s one (Niklas Hagman). However, there is much more to winning NHL games than scoring some goals. With that said, weâ€™re going to analyze the Leafsâ€™ top 6 forwards and see which players rise to the top. [more…]
Quick note: Complications resulting from increased university work, my job and sickness have combined to prevent me from doing any articles recently. The good news is I should have that stuff figured out, so expect some larger team articles soon.
Brett Lebda came into Toronto with a lot of praise from current Leafs VP of Hockey Operations Dave Poulin. The praise came from a familiar place; Poulin was the head coach for the University of Notre Dame for 10 years, where he initially scouted and recruited Lebda for their program. Lebda later chose Detroit as his destination for pro hockey, staying in their system for seven years, of which five were spent with the Red Wings themselves. He lived under the shadow and tutelage of great defensemen such as Nicklas Lidstrom, Mathieu Schneider and Chris Chelios. [more…]
Nick Kypreos has tweeted this little gem today:
#Leafs put Jeff Finger onÂ #NHL waivers today.
This finally puts an end to the long period of [more…]
Versteeg - BozakÂ - Kessel
MacArthur - GrabovskiÂ - Kulemin
Sjostrom - BrentÂ - Armstrong
Orr - Zigomanis - Brown
Beauchemin - Phaneuf
Kaberle - Komisarek
Gunnarsson - Schenn
With the pre-season nearly finished, the Leafs roster is beginning to take shape for 2010-11. Similarly, the Marlies are starting to become more defined as major league cuts are shuffled down to the minor league club. What is not so clearly defined on the Marlies is their goaltending situation. There will be a ton of competition between the four goalies in the Leafs minor pro system to get starts this season and those that do will have to seize the opportunity. Letâ€™s take a look: [more…]
The Leafs won a game in the shootout. I'm as confused as you are. It was certainly an interesting one, going for 11 rounds before Colby Armstrong put Philadelphia out of their misery. Here are my game notes:
- The goaltending was great for the Leafs tonight, with Reimer in particular having a very strong performance. Both goals for Philly were flukey and both goalies played strong positional games. The shootout in particular was very impressive for Reimer, showing off his fast reflexes. Reimer is becoming a top goaltending prospect for the Leafs and his year with the Marlies should be very interesting. [more…]