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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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Okay, it won’t be so much an Oil Kings blog as it is a celebration of one particular Oil King. Curtis Lazar. This probably won’t be the only time I bring him up this season, and I’ll be championing him as the Leafs 2013 first round pick throughout the season.

My bias: In my short time in Edmonton I have become an Oil Kings fan. I think Henrik Samuelsson will be a solid two-way player for the Coyotes. I think Michael St. Croix has the potential to be a successful top six forward in the NHL. I wouldn’t have been opposed to Griffin Reinhart being taken by the Leafs, but he certainly doesn’t seem to possess much of an offensive game. Finally, I’m eternally optimistic that at some point Edmonton will rescue Morgan Rielly from a dismal Moose Jaw team.

As the only MLHS writer repping the Mountain Time Zone, I’m hoping to report frequently on draft eligible Western Hockey Leaguers, and of course, see as much of Morgan Rielly as possible.

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It’s the last week before we officially enter the realm of lockout hockey. There is of course a chance things could be resolved before that time, but with players committing to Russia, and the CHL and teams preparing ticket holders and employees for the worst, it seems we are at least going to have some delay before the highest level of hockey is played.

Understandably, fans want to believe we can do something to help influence the outcome of this situation. Some of this has taken the form of protests organized by Occupy the NHL Store and Unfollow the NHL. Others are attempting petitions with supporting Youtube videos.

I will spare you a diatribe on the futility of Online Petitions, but needless to say I became jaded towards this process after Fuddruckers ignored my constant pleas for an Edmonton location.

The reality is, despite our emotional investment in the outcome and the fact that it is our money they are debating how to split up, this is about thirty owners feeling they are not turning enough of a profit, and 700+ players who as the product feel they deserve the lion’s share. It’s identical to every other labour battle since the beginning of time.

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The downside of long weekends is I forget that I’m supposed to write the Morning Mashup post for Monday. It took me until halfway through Breaking Bad that I owed you folks some links and a little Leafs talk.

So piggybacking on my earlier spreadsheet that I used for determining primary and secondary assists I thought I’d make a case against clutch scoring. This is also following up on the work of Gus Katsaros who put together a look at the Leafs scoring by period in a post at The Leafs Nation last week.

My argument is simple. The guys who score goals in clutch situations probably lead the team in any goal scoring situation. With the top five guys being Kessel, MacArthur, Grabovski, Bozak, and Lupul, I’d fathom that they’d be the leaders in any goal scoring situation in any period. Here are the top 3 goal scorers in a number of different situations.

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Here’s the shake. It’s the end of August, it’s been a couple of months since we’ve seen an NHL game played, and four months since we’ve seen the Leafs play. Topics are running thin, especially if you do not have an appetite for CBA articles and you recognize that roster building is on hold until the CBA plays out.

What a great time to bring up primary vs. secondary assists. I come from a school of thought that not all assists are created equal; in fact, I’d be perfectly fine with one assist per goal, while everything else is +/-. This is largely based on the assumption that on most goals the player with primary assist was more responsible for generating the play than the player with the secondary assist. While this may not always be true, it hardly seems like a coincidence that Lupul, Kessel, Bozak, and Grabovski led the Leafs in primary assists. Out of players with more than 10 assists, the four of them also had the highest percentage of their assists as primary assists.

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I plead guilty to writing far too many CBA posts in the past few weeks. This week I’m happily returning to a Leafs topic and looking at last season’s penalties.

Finding who took a penalty and who drew a penalty can be found on behindthenet.ca, but I wanted to look at the penalties in specific situations. So I when through the 82 box scores from last season and put together this handy dandy spreadsheet for fans of pivot tables to enjoy. If you’d rather have the Executive Summary, you’ll find some interesting facts listed below.

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Heading into a season with the potential for a lockout, it seems like mock trade proposals and mock line combinations are less relevant than ever before. We’re about 10 months away from the draft so doing a mock draft seems pointless as well, especially since most people can only identify a handful of 2013 prospects. What I propose we focus our energy on is Mock Collective Bargaining Agreements! Fun!

It pains me to link to Michael Grange, as he co-wrote Leafs Abomination, but the fact of the matter is he seems to have the best grasp on what is happening in the NHL CBA talks. Grange wrote this article suggesting how the NHL could be fixed in five easy steps. While I think that most of what he has suggested is very “pie in the sky” for immediately implementation I do agree his vision would produce a healthier league.

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So the possibility of a lockout certainly seems more like a real possibility now than maybe it did a couple of weeks ago, but I choose to keep optimistic about the season starting on time or only fashionably late.

My last hope for optimism is the number of new owners around the league, while this could also be the problem. Half of these owners were not a part of the last CBA, but when you look at new ownership groups in Dallas, Phoenix, St. Louis, and of course Toronto, all are going to want their teams on the ice. Throw in the new team in Winnipeg and a team in Edmonton trying desperately to come up with funds for a new rink, they are going to want to play. The other side of that is there are plenty of teams that will lose money by playing and they will hold up the process. Once again showing the issue is more about owners vs. owners than owners vs. players.

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It’s another slow weekend in Leafs land. Maybe not as slow as last week, as the Friday signing of Morgan Rielly is actual, factual news, but other than the decision to sign him now rather than wait for what the next CBA will hold in regards to Entry Level Contracts, there really isn’t much analysis required.

The Leafs also bulked up their Alumni roster for the Winter Classic, as Vincent Damphousse, Russ Courtnall, Gary Leeman, Bill Derlago, Dave Ellett and Bob McGill signed up. The highlight of this being that the whole hound line is now on board. Assuming that Sundin and Domi are in fact on board that levels Borje Salming as the last major holdout for the Leafs.

Unfortunately this is all we will likely get for news over the course of August, during Burke’s time in Toronto the only notable move he completed in August was the Clarke MacArthur signing. That doesn’t mean that nothing will happen, but it’s probably a time to divorce yourself from twitter insiders who are constantly reporting possible Leafs trades. With Burke at the Olympics this week it doesn’t mean that he’s not taking calls or there isn’t someone back in the office with something on the go, but signs are pointing to this being summer vacation time.

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Photo: Toronto Star

Over the past week I have been hard at work on a piece that examines what needs to be done to transform the Leafs into team with the potential to seriously contend and have prolonged success. While that won’t be available to read for a little while, it did get me thinking about the impact of the coaching change from Ron Wilson to Randy Carlyle.

Wilson had much more a free-wheeling, push the puck forward approach, and while he attempted to promote himself as a coach with a 200 foot coaching style, there seemed to be a consistent lack of defensive responsibility coupled with lacklustre positional play.

Randy Carlyle, much like every other coach in the league, also preaches a 200-foot game, but with tighter defensive systems, and increased responsibility for forwards. At the very least we will be seeing fewer neutral zone cross ice passes, and there’s a possibility that someone might cover the point when a defenseman pinches.

In the previous three seasons under Ron Wilson the Leafs have not dipped below 229 goals per season,. In the same time in Anaheim, Randy Carlyle has put up nearly identical numbers, but with arguably a more talented top six group.

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Saturday morning, CBC Sports ran an opinion piece on the CBA written by an anonymous player. The article is incredibly honest, and brings to light that some players have legitimate fears about the impact of lockouts, salary rollbacks, and limited window hockey players have to make a living.

A few quotes really stuck out:

“We certainly can’t be foolish enough to think that this initial offer will be accepted, but really, what can players do? If owners want to stand pat, eventually players would be forced to cave, or take their chances with another league.”

Players can take a chance on another league, but outside of the KHL the compensation levels will fall off. It also means uprooting yourself and going around the world to play, which isn’t the first choice of most players. Where I think this is a bit of an overreaction is the idea that the owners have a lot to lose from empty arenas, as well. Rogers and Bell I’m sure would like to make a little money off their billion dollar purchase. If Greg Jamison purchases the Coyotes I’d imagine he’ll need to at least sell a few tickets this year to stay afloat. It’s mutually beneficial to make this deal work.

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Photo: Toronto Star

At this point we are two weeks past the opening of NHL Free Agency, three weeks from the draft, and five weeks from when the Stanley Cup was won. In contrast we are about 12 weeks away from the start of the regular season, assuming it opens on time. For the record, I’m optimistic it will. There is still an awful lot of off-season to go.

With that in mind it begs the question, “How come we expect the Leafs to be fixed by now?” Recognizing that player movements start shortly after the Cup Finals end, we’ve given Brian Burke a month to fix a team that had the fifth worst record in the league. That’s a pretty tall order.

Granted, I’m as impatient as everyone else. The off season can be an incredibly painful few months if your team isn’t making trades or signing players. I would like to see more done for the Leafs than adding some size to the wing, and upgrade the bottom six forward group, arguably what should have been the lowest priorities on team that has obvious issues up the middle, in net, and on defense.

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With the rumoured initial offer from the NHL owners to the NHLPA hitting the internet last night, we have seen no shortage of freak outs. I guess it’s understandable as not many people are familiar with labour negotiations, and everyone wants to see hockey start on time in the fall.

The reality is much more optimistic than it appears. For one it’s encouraging that two weeks into discussion one side has already put forth a proposal. Secondly, it’s damn encouraging that the scheduled meetings for next week will proceed as planned, and that there are three of them. A lot can be accomplished in three days.

While part of me is being naive or optimistic it’s at the very least too early to panic. Considering the long wait for these talks to start, the league and union are certainly making up for lost time. It’s also damned encouraging that the NHLPA provides regular updates on the talks from Donald Fehr on their website. When the PA is unhappy you’ll notice a sharp change in his tone and these updates will cease.

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Nikolai Kulemin

Restricted free agent Nikolai Kulemin

So, Nik Kulemin is up for Club Elected Arbitration. Seems interesting, and given Burke’s statements in the past about arbitration I’d assume they’ll actually go through the process. What this means is that Kulemin will likely be on a one year deal, giving him one more round of restricted free agency after this one. Not a bad way for the Leafs to hold the cards, but it also gives Kulemin a chance to show if he’s the seven goal scorer we saw last season or if he’s the 30 goal scorer from the previous season (TRUTH: he’s somewhere in between.)

Arbitrations are generally not a fun process and best of all the decision results in either taking the one year deal or letting Kulemin walk for nothing. Joy! So, what is Kulemin likely to get out of this? Let’s take a gander.

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The Leafs certainly didn’t give us much to talk about over the weekend, nor did any team for that matter, so I have very little to offer you in the way of structured commentary today. Instead, I’ve got ten questions to start you talking hockey on a Monday morning.

  1. Which Leafs roster player would be the hardest replace if they are traded?
    My answer: Carl Gunnarsson, finding a 22 minute a night reliable defender for less than $1.5 million isn’t worth losing.

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Photo: Reuters

“We need a number one center.”
- Every Leafs Fan

While it may not be seen as the organizations top priority, it is safe to assume that most people who have followed the Leafs in the post-Sundin era have been left wanting in this area. Personally I’d prioritize goaltending, followed by a top four defenseman, but there’s no denying that first center is a glam position and it’s more fun to talk about the guys who score goals than the guys who prevent them.

That’s not to say that Grabovski hasn’t been a revelation, and certainly he can be considered a top center in some capacity, but Connolly and Bozak would be the greater cause for concern.

I didn’t like the Connolly signing, and he didn’t have a great season. That being said, it’s clear he’s capable of more, and a large part of what held him back was that he was focused on filling the duties of a third line role player, not the playmaking center he is capable of being.

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Photo: Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press

Seriously, if a player from Kingston doesn’t shut up Don Cherry, the man can’t be pleased. Other than that, what do we need to know about McClement? He’s not overly big, he’s not overly physical, but he’s not overly expensive either. The 6’1, 205 lb. 29 year old center is signed for the next two years at $1,500,000 a season.

Here are 7 noteworthy numbers for McClement from last season:

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Photo: Getty Images

It was quite the big weekend. I mean, how often do get a chance to sit around all day teaching your two year old nephew how to play hockey using his very first Maple Leafs mini-sticks? Oh, and apparently there was a draft and a couple of trades, too. I’ll do my best to offer some opinion, but a solid list of links will pick up where I left off and satisfy our hunger for seeing the Leafs roster evolve from the dogs breakfast into something at least comparable to Alphagetti with meatballs.

With the fifth pick in the 2012 draft, the Maple Leafs are proud to select…

Alright, if you check my twitter timeline on Friday night it’s very clear that I was more than a little upset that a skilled forward was not selected. I was listening to the draft on the radio while driving home from work, and the second that Griffin Reinhart was picked by the Islanders I assumed it was a foregone conclusion that we would see Filip Forsberg in a Leafs uniform. Am I still upset by this? Yes. Does this mean I think that Morgan Rielly is a crap prospect? Not at all.

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Friends, we are gathered here today to honour the man and the legacy that is Jeff Finger. It’s hard to believe it’s been four years next Saturday, but Jeff Finger’s contract is finally coming to a close. It might have been easy to forget this momentous occasion, but luckily about three and half years ago I put a reminder in my Outlook calendar so I couldn’t let this day pass without celebrating it.

Way back in the summer of 2008, Jeff Finger joined the Leafs on the strength of a breakout season with the Colorado Avalanche. A season that saw him average over 19 minutes of ice time, and as Cliff Fletcher said play over 23 minutes down the stretch (in fact he did this once in his final 10 regular season games.) Jeff Finger’s breakout season would also see him pinball between 19-24 minutes of ice time, and more often than not be a healthy scratch in the Avs two playoff rounds. Four of the five games he dressed for were losses.

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Photo: Getty Images

So here we are… Draft week. Five days away from our reward for being fans of what can only be considered a pretty crappy hockey team. Of course this is also a pretty stressful time. The main reason being that, no matter what he does over the course of the next few days, Burke is essentially going to be considered wrong. Not by all fans and pundits, but no matter what the decision is, it’s a guaranteed lock that majority of people watching the Leafs will label him as wrong. He now has left the “In Burke We Trust” stage of his tenure, and now he’s residing in his own personal Kobayashi Maru.

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My apologies, I would have hoped that in the past week I could come up with an idea for a post. Instead, here are some quick thoughts for discussion at the beginning of the week. Of course there’s also the small matter of Game Six tonight which I’m wagering is the last NHL game we see for the next four to six months. Having wagered on the Devils to win the cup back in April when Bodog had them at 22-1 odds, I can safely say my rooting interests remain with New Jersey. Here are the other discussion points and links.

  • David Jones signing a 4 year 4 million dollar a season deal sets the bar for forwards in free agency. It certainly wasn’t a hometown discount, and skews the value for all other middle of the road free agents. If Burke is looking to add a top six forward I’d rather see him overpay on high end talent like Semin or Parise rather than sign Brad Boyes or Olli Jokinen to $4 or 5 million dollar deals. On the upside, if the Leafs are willing to deal in forwards, it makes Connolly’s deal seem spot on, and Lupul and MacArthur probably could net a nice return if Burke wants to earmark one of their spots for Kadri or the 5th overall pick.