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Jon Steitzer

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Jon survived in the wild for several years but now lives in captivity. His diet consists of meats and grains. He is on twitter dot com. Visit him at twitter.com/yakovmironov or his oft-neglected site yakovmironov.blogspot.ca

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“When the schedule first came out, you know, you look forward to it. But I think both teams have moved on now and they’re having some success, too.” – Luke Schenn

The definition of success is a funny one. It seems like it should be the Flyers who are proudly sitting in fifth place in the East, poised to make a leap into a tie with Pittsburgh or surpass a division leader with a victory on Monday night. It seems like it should be the Leafs who are taking pride in getting over the hiccups of a slow start, pleased to be part of an early tie for the last playoff spot in the Conference. Surprisingly, the tables have turned, and with very little changing for either team besides the Schenn/van Riemsdyk trade, it seems like Schenn has a lot to prove against his former club on Monday. Moreover, he’s got to show his current club that he can eventually become the type of shutdown defenseman that can warrant giving up a player who now seems to be discovering his true offensive upside.

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It’s painful for me to admit, but as much I will continue to bitch about how useless Colton Orr, Mike Brown, and (presumably) Frazer McLaren are, they will always have a spot on a Dave Nonis/Randy Carlyle run team. This is clearly an issue that I and many others have a difficult time coming to terms with, but it’s true. An enforcer will be dressed every night, and we’ll all be treated to a sideshow (admittedly an entertaining sideshow most of time) before proceeding to move on with the game, and coming back to terms with the other shortcomings of the lineup. Since I’m ready to concede that there will be an enforcer, I’d like to make the following asks. They will fall on deaf ears, but I’m going to make them anyway. Hopefully we can move past this annoying little issue and begin discussing the bigger issues of the roster.

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Mike Kostka

One of the more positive stories in Leafland a week ago was Mike Kostka earning a spot on the Leafs blue line coming out of camp. The 27-year-old career AHLer made his NHL debut in Montreal and was able to pick up his first point. He didn’t look horribly out of place against a horrible team. It also probably didn’t hurt to have a guy who has been playing all season, eating 20 minutes a night, in the first couple of shakedown games.

Kostka certainly seemed like a reliable option that would slowly slide down the depth chart as Carlyle had a better chance to assess his regulars. To date (albeit it’s been five games) that hasn’t happened. Kostka played 22:59 minutes against Montreal, and that ice time has climbed up to over 31 minutes against New York on Saturday night (he was also minus -4). He’s currently 10th in the league in Average Time on Ice per game, ahead of recent Norris Trophy winners Zdeno Chara and Erik Karlsson.

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Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

You’d think we were still waiting for the season to start with number of contract posts that have gone up in the past 24 hours. I think the Lupul trade has been analyzed very well by a number of Leafs bloggers (here’s Alec’s take from yesterday), but the fact that this has been discussed so much will not prevent me from weighing in on why I partially like this signing, but ultimately still conclude that it was a bad idea. I think this deal if managed properly could actually benefit the Leafs, and I’ll toss in my $.02 on that as well.

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“He had a good dream. It’s the only dream you can have – to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I’m gonna win it for him.”
- Happy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

I can’t say I am as distraught as some of the other writers on this site about Burke’s departure (I’m not). I will say I’m shocked by the timing. Coming out of a Collective Bargaining Agreement that sees many of Burke’s personal principles put into play league wide, and the amount of cap space he to work with this summer, it gave me the feeling that he would’ve been given the benefit of doubt running the team through the 2013-14 season. Guess not. Can I blame them? No.

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A Quick and Dirty Look at the new CBA and How It Affects the Leafs (All that Matters)

What World Juniors? The Marlies played, who cares? We’ve got NHL hockey back!

Right or wrong, that’s the attitude that is prevalent again, and while I enjoyed going to WHL games, getting up at 2am to watch prospects, and streaming Marlies games online, I am thrilled that we’ll get see the game played at its highest level this winter.

The coming weekend and half will likely see a whole summer’s worth of previews, speculation, and training camp analysis crammed in to it (personally I can’t wait to see the schedule, and plan a trip to Toronto), but I’ll get us started off with what we can expect for the Leafs out of the new CBA in the short and long term.

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Rather than more pointless lockout talk, I thought I’d look back at the Friday Night game between the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Edmonton Oil Kings.

There are a few things that stood out and are worth pointing out about Rielly’s performance last Friday.

The first forty minutes were some of the most conservative I’ve seen Rielly play. He was reluctant to pinch or join rushes, and was constantly looking out for Oil Kings sneaking through the neutral zone. Of course I wouldn’t say this is a bad trait, but this isn’t the true selling point of what Rielly brings to the table either. If Friday night was your first look at Rielly, I’d say you didn’t see what he truly brings to the table.

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So we had three Marlies game this weekend, two televised Morgan Rielly Super Series games heading into the weekend and a Biggs multi-goal game as well. By midday Monday I’m sure all the talk will have shifted back to the CBA and the potential for talks.

There was some brief optimism after it was reported that Ed Snider might be distancing himself from the owner’s stance.

“Behind the scenes, there seems to be a seismic shift going on among the NHL’s Board of Governors, also known as the group that Bettman answers to collectively.
And Flyers chairman Ed Snider may be the big mover-and-shaker behind it all.
Multiple sources confirmed to the Daily News on Friday that Snider, once seen as a supporter of the Bettman’s push to rein in the players’ share of revenue, has soured on the process after it became apparent that a deal would not be brokered in time for a Dec. 1 puck drop.
Put simply: Snider and the rest of the NHL’s owners were promised a big win by Bettman, with player concessions on revenue division and contracting rights. The best they’ll get now is a small win in revenue split – coupled with a demoralized fan base and all-important corporate sponsors that are ready to quit.
A source familiar with Snider’s thinking characterized it as: “If this is the deal we are going to get, what’s the point of dragging this out?”

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The lockout doesn’t matter today. For that matter, neither does a Marlies sweep of Texas, or another weekend full of strong performances by Leafs prospects.

I couldn’t care less about any of it today and that’s because the Leaf who is statistically the greatest of all time is entering the Hall of Fame today. First ballot, too, I might add.

Despite the confession from the man himself that he was a Habs fan growing up, I can’t be deterred from honouring his greatness. Also, who can blame him for not being a fan of the 80’s Leafs? That’s almost as bad as being a fan of the present Leafs.

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It looks like the NHL and Players Association are ready to resume talks this week (most likely Tuesday), and now we can briefly have hope again.

Certainly, a marathon talk between Bill Daly and Steve Fehr is a good start, and it gives even more reason for optimism that nothing was leaked from this meeting.

Where I lose some of my optimism is in a) the fact that this deal will rely on Jeremy Jacobs’ ability to compromise, and b) we live in a world where players value the opinion of clowns like Allan Walsh.

Neither side is content to reach the compromise we all envision for them, and both sides will need to let go of this “trying to win” philosophy that has cost them a quarter of a seasons revenue.

I’ll cap this rant early, but root for radio silence on both sides (an understandable challenge for the PA with 700+ members).

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On a week (possibly day) when the NHL is likely to cancel the Winter Classic – the most significant game the Leafs would have played in almost a decade – it seems like a great opportunity to look at the inches both sides are fighting for.

The latest player to speak out, surprisingly directed at a team owner rather than the league, was Ryan Suter (in an ESPN.com article):

“It’s disappointing. If you can’t afford to (sign contracts) then you shouldn’t do it. (Owner Craig Leipold) signed us to contracts. At the time he said everything was fine. Yeah, it’s disappointing. A couple months before, everything is fine, and now they want to take money out of our contracts that we already signed.”

Seemingly some very direct words for Craig Leopold, and given Zach Parise’s earlier criticism of Gary Bettman, both of these players are awfully quick to play the victim card. This was a very shrewd move by the Wild owner, as he knew what the owners would be proposing this summer and arguably was a key architect of it.

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So this week is do or die time for the 82 game season. Odds are we will see one last save face meeting between the league and PA and the result will be somewhat similar to what we’ve seen so far.

At this point neither side has been able to get past posturing and resentment. While I don’t doubt that the current proposals aren’t too far off of what will ultimately be the final deal, neither side is ready to make additional concessions.

For the NHLPA, there is a need to move to past the fact that this is the second recent lockout demanding serious concessions. That’s not to say don’t voice concerns if they take issues with the current agreement, but as long as everything is being done relative to last CBA they won’t be able move forward.

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 Friday Night I had the opportunity to take in the Edmonton Oil Kings game.  Their opponent just so happened to be the Moose Jaw Warriors and one Morgan Rielly. The Oil Kings proceeded to pummel the Warriors 5-1 and by the end of the second the shot total was 30-10 for the Oil Kings. As you can imagine, this doesn’t lead to a glowing review of Rielly or the Warriors in general.

My notes on Rielly below reflect what I witnessed in what clearly a lackluster night for him. They may seem harsh, but it doesn’t change the fact that I believe that Rielly will soon be the top unit powerplay quarterback for the Leafs. The viewing did not change my prior concerns that he may not be a defensively sound player.

Also, a while back DefenseWinsChampionships penned this thoughtful piece on his viewing of Morgan Rielly. I’d encourage everyone to use that as a basis for comparison and I think it accurately captures a typical game Rielly puts up in the WHL.

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This past weekend would have been the opening weekend for the NHL, and certainly its absence is a little disappointing. What was not disappointing was the quality of hockey that was available this weekend. From a Leafs standpoint there were two Toronto Marlies games featuring some of the most exciting and promising players in the organization.

We received the reminder that Jake Gardiner is clearly above the AHL level of competition, and frankly I don’t recall him having as good a slapshot last season. We have seen that Kadri is in fact ready to be a full time NHLer. Ben Scrivens has shown that he’s worth a look in the NHL, Leo Komarov is in fact one hell of a SOB, Joe Colborne could be ready to break out of the AHL, and Hamilton and Kostka are more than capable of being plugs in the NHL as well. Then we watched the game on Sunday and began questioning every player and coach in the organization again. Most importantly, I think a lot people realized that AHL hockey isn’t a bad alternative, and at least we’ll get a chance to see a team with a Maple Leaf on their chests win a few games this year.

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Recently Joffrey Lupul wrote an opinion piece over at AskMen.ca. And while I am disappointed I visited a site that looks to be a front for rohyphol sales, I was interested in hearing what Lupul had to say.

That led to disappointment number two. Joffrey Lupul isn’t interested in sharing his opinion so much as reciting the PA’s main talking points. Despite trying to make a point to the contrary, Lupul seemed to be making a plea to the fans:

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Hey everybody, if you weren’t aware, there’s a lockout going on. That leaves labour negotiations and prospects to talk about. I don’t feel like doing either today, so instead I’m going to revisit some quotes that are almost four years old.

On November 30th, 2008 Brian Burke entered the Toronto market with much fanfare and no shortage of soundbytes. He laid out his vision for the Leafs in that initial press conference. Today I’ll take a look at how good a job he’s done of living up to his vision.