Michael Stephens has been writing for Maple Leafs Hotstove since 2010, and has featured in the 2010 and 2012 Maple Leaf Annuals. Former Editiorial Intern at The Hockey News. Undergraduate degree from the University of Windsor. Chat me up about all things hockey on twitter @MLHS_Mike
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 3: Phil Kessel #81 of the Toronto Maple Leafs scores his 200th career goal in the second period as Antti Niemi #31 and Justin Braun #61 of the San Jose Sharks defend during NHL game action December 3, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
Two vastly different Maple Leaf teams showed up, but neither were enough to muster W, as the Leafs fell to the San Jose Sharks 4 – 2 Tuesday night. Ex-Leaf Mike Brown, Joe Thornton, Brad Stuart and Logan Couture tallied for the Sharks, who won their 19th of the season and sixth straight. Mason Raymond and Phil Kessel replied with power play goals for the Leafs, who dropped their fourth straight. James Reimer made 37 saves in defeat, while Antti Niemi stopped 28 in his 24th start of the season.
Jake Gardiner dazzled in his best game of the season, David Clarkson FINALLY scored his first goal of the season and Jonathan Bernier was good when he needed to be as the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped the New York Islanders 5 – 2. Trevor Smith, Phil Kessel (2), Mason Raymond and Clarkson all scored for the Leafs, who won their second straight game. Smith (1G, 2A) and Joffrey Lupul (3A) tallied 3 points apiece as the Leafs cruised to a pretty easy victory. Bernier made 35 saves for his eighth victory of the season. Kevin Poulin struggled for the Islanders, making just 19 saves. Casey Cizikas and Frans Nielsen responded for the Isles.
1. Despite their middling record, the Islanders came into Toronto having won their last three matches at the ACC. They also have one of the league’s top forward trios with Jonathan Tavares, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo combining for 66 points through the first 21 games. But that didn’t matter all that much because Joffrey Lupul carried the puck cleanly through the neutral zone, sifted through the defense, cut towards the net and found a wide open Trevor Smith out front who scored the game’s opening goal just 22 seconds into the game. Lupul assisted on the goal, Smith’s fourth of the year, breaking a mini slump (2 pts in last 9gp prior to tonight). Hockey’s Handsomest Line™ (Lupul, Smith and Clarkson) was creating chances every shift they took tonight, combining for 7 points.
2. Jake Gardiner was electric in the first period. He turned a defensive zone fourth line shift into two offensive chances. Firstly by adroitly clearing the zone and getting the puck to Frazer McLaren and into the Islanders zone. Later in the same shift, Cody Franson pounced on a turnover and left a soft touch pass for Gardiner. With the Isles forwards switching their vectors onto him, Gardiner floated a surprise pass to Franson. Despite somewhat bobbling the back and forth, Franson had enough time and space to recover and get a crisp, low shot off. Later in the frame he also played a 3 on 1 textbook perfectly, neutering what should have been a good chance by the Isles. He saw 9 minutes through the first 20, 22 through the game, and had a shift in the second period where he was just a one-man breakout machine (fun fact, that was my nickname in high school).
3. For Gardiner’s heroics, his erstwhile (that means former, before you get on me in the comments) defense partner Paul Ranger had another rough game, especially at the blue lines. The Islanders were allowed to keep the puck in the Leafs end for nearly a minute due to Ranger’s inability to get it to the line AND out. With the Leafs applying pressure and the Kessel line on, Ranger turned the puck over at the blue line on a seemingly innocuous play, allowing for a chance the other way. That’s usually the recipe for a good old fashioned benching, so of course he went on to play 17 and a half minutes tonight, even in spite of a foolish roughing penalty towards the middle of the third.
4. Though the Leafs were outshot 11-7 through 20, they appeared to hold the balance of play through the first. The second period started off less favourably for the Buds, getting outshot 4-0 and out played through the first five minutes of play. It wasn’t until a borderline hit by Nikolai Kulemin on Tavares that the Leafs woke up. Though not instantaneous, the ice began to tilt in Toronto’s favour. The Leafs top two lines took to work, hemming the Isles in their zone for sustained periods of time, leading to the inevitable….
5. After James van Riemsdyk got hacked down in the Isles’ zone, the Maple Leafs took the game’s first power play mid-way through the second period. With a PP that’s been scoring nearly a goal per game and the Leafs surging, Phil Kessel took a pass from Lupul, button hooked, took a couple steps down to the circle, and took just a beautiful wrister that sailed passed Poulin’s blocker. The goal was Kessel’s 11th of the season and just his second in 8 games; with Lupul and Phaneuf picking up the assists. He’d later pick up his second goal of the game and 12th of the season off a 2-1 rush with van Riemsdyk to close out the third.
6. This is why you don’t make fun of people’s names.
Poor Casey Cizikas. First for being named Casey. But also for being a Mediterranean topping that pairs well with lamb.
Casey Cizikas, who isn’t a tasty thing that goes with donair, scores an absolute beauty on a breakaway with 11 seconds left in the 2nd, outracing Jake Gardiner (Not a typo) and slipping the puck through Bernier’s wickets. The Leafs held a 2-1 lead through 40, and I’m still sorry about the whole thing guys.
7. The third period started in a similar fashion to the second, with the Islanders controlling play. Shortly after Eric Boulton and Colton Orr chucked knuckles, Carl Gunnarsson blocks a shot and gets the puck out to Mason Raymond. The puck finds its way to a driving McClement in the center lane, who puts a shot on Poulin. Raymond was Johnny on the spot and buried the rebound to make it 3-1. The goal was Raymond’s 8th of the season, with McClement getting the lone assist. It was all over but the screaming at that point.
8. I wanted to use this space to discuss just how great a game Nikolai Kulemin had, but David Clarkson’s goal – and play tonight – warrant mention. The second line was great tonight. Their ability to wear the Isles down in the offensive zone was noticeable, and all three were rewarded handsomely on the score sheet. But for Clarkson, who is suddenly hot with three points in his last three games, his third period tally was the monkey off the back goal he so desperately needed. Much like Phil Kessel last season, it took Clarkson 21 11 games to pot his first, but it sure was a beauty. He played just a shade under 19 minutes tonight, and was hell for the Islanders to play throughout.
The line of Raymond, McClement and Kulemin was also effective while lining up against the Tavares unit for a number of shifts.
9. Special Teams Report: The league’s 11th ranked PK entering tonight (83.5% success rate) went 2/2 and kept the Leafs ahead the Islanders in the waning minutes of the second and mid-way through the third. Carl Gunnarsson, whom I maligned earlier this afternoon, made a huge play to block a couple shots with Bernier scrambling to get back in position. Gunnarsson’s selfless maneuver kept the Leafs two-goal lead intact with just over 10 left to play in the game.
The Leafs power play, ranked 3rd in the league with a 23.1 success rate, went 1/2 and helped put the Leafs out front by a two-goal margin. They never had to look back after that. For the record, the Zebras looked kindly on the Maple Leafs all game. In the first, Frazer McLaren attempted to instigate a fight with an unwilling Matt Martin. That probably should have been a penalty. Kulemin’s thunderous hit on Tavares, while the most hit Kuli’s had since May, was certainly on the edge of legality. The refs, thankfully, kept the whistles away, allowing for a fun, fast paced, even game.
Kessel’s 2nd of the night, the 5-2 goal.
10. The Islanders weren’t exactly expected to be a fearsome competitor facing the East’s third best team. Instead they served as slump busters, getting both Lupul and Kessel back on the score sheet after short droughts. It wasn’t always pretty for the full 60, but at no point did the game truly seem in doubt for the Leafs. There’s still plenty of room to grow, but this was a better, more dominant win than most for the Buds.
The Leafs will be in action on Thursday as they host the Nashville Predators. It’ll be the second and final regular season matchup between the two clubs; Toronto won their previous tilt 4-0.
Leafs/Isles Shot Location Data
Trevor Smith (3) Snap shot - ASST: Joffrey Lupul (5)
1 - 0 TOR
PPG - Phil Kessel (11) Wrist shot - ASST: Joffrey Lupul (6), Dion Phaneuf (7)
2 - 0 TOR
Casey Cizikas (3) Wrist shot - ASST: NONE
2 - 1 TOR
Mason Raymond (8) Backhand shot - ASST: Jay McClement (2)
3 - 1 TOR
David Clarkson (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Trevor Smith (2), Joffrey Lupul (7)
4 - 1 TOR
Frans Nielsen (10) Wrist shot - ASST: Josh Bailey (6)
4 - 2 TOR
Phil Kessel (12) Wrist shot - ASST: James van Riemsdyk (7), Trevor Smith (3)
Two of the longer term concerns entering the 2013-14 season for the Toronto Maple Leafs were the contract statuses of their star players Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf. GM Dave Nonis made good on Kessel’s desire to negotiate before the season, and now the Leafs leading scorer will be in the fold until 2022. Having taken care of the time sensitive work, now Nonis’ sights will be set on re-signing the Leafs captain to a long term deal. But what’s it going to cost? Let’s take a look.
For his part, Phaneuf has said he’s open to negotiating a new deal midseason, having done so in Calgary back in 2008. And why not? The Flames overpaid to lock up a young, budding star defender that had already reached the 20-goal and 60-point plateau by the age of 23. He’s never managed to repeat either feat since, and was shipped to Toronto two years later as a high-priced disappointment. Since coming to Toronto, he’s lost and re-found some measure of his scoring touch, while regularly lining up in the toughest defensive assignments. His role has changed, the cap has risen, the rules have changed, but his paycheque has remained static since then.
To look at what Phaneuf should get, I looked into the last four seasons of data on defensemen (2009-10 through 2012-13). Amusingly, these happen to be the four worst years of Phaneuf’s career from a statistical standpoint, but probably better reflect his scoring output as the seasons roll on. Yes, in an eight-year career, two Phaneuf’s worst individual seasons saw him feature 10th and 12th in league scoring among defenders. So please understand that I used the word ‘worst’ in a relative sense here.
In 277 games over the last four seasons, Phaneuf ranks 23rd in points scored with 134, good for .48 points per game. More impressively, he ranks 8th in goals (41), power play goals (18) and time on ice (6916 minutes). It is in that last category where there’s some interesting salary correlations, as six of the seven players ahead of him in TOI over the last four seasons also have higher cap hits (Weber, Chara, Bouwmeester, Doughty, Suter and Boyle). Only Duncan Keith, signed to a phony 13-year, $72-million deal that pays just 5% of his total salary over his final two seasons, has a lower annual cap hit and has played more hockey than Phaneuf.
Now, ice time is hardly a perfect measure of Phaneuf’s worth, and I think most would agree that at least five of the seven players ahead of Phaneuf on that list are better defensemen than the Leafs captain. But what we can extrapolate is that is that defensemen who play as much as Phaneuf does tend to get paid as much as Phaneuf does. They also tend to have both a leadership role and a ‘play in all situations’ role with their club, much like Phaneuf does. So while I’d be hesitant to say that Phaneuf is the league’s 8th best defenseman, he’s certainly in the top 20.
But one of the greatest difficulties in projecting Phaneuf’s future cap hit is understanding the vast shift in his playing style since coming to Toronto. As alluded to above, he has been tasked with defensive zone starts and top lines every shift he’s skated in Toronto. In his early days, Phaneuf saw over 5 minutes a night on the power play, and was given sheltered minutes at even strength. This season, Phaneuf finds himself in an elite pair of defenders (the other being Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson) who average at least 3:30 in ice time on both the penalty kill and power play per game while facing the league’s best forwards.
At this point, I’d like to remind Leafs fans of Phaneuf’s idol and potential career model, Scott Stevens. While known for punishing hits and staunch defensive play for the New Jersey Devils, it’s sometimes hard to remember that he was once a pure scorer. While never among the ranks of Larry Murphy or Paul Coffey offensively, Stevens still tallied 900 points in his career. His best season was 1993-94 when he finished with 78 points. Then came the first of Gary Bettman’s lockouts and a new game format that encouraged stifling defensive play. In 10 more seasons, Stevens would only crack 30 points once more, yet he became the most notable defensive presence of the “Dead Puck Era.”
Similarly for Phaneuf, the offensive dynamism that made him rich seems to have been replaced by defensive prowess. It’s not that Phaneuf has lost that offensive side to his game, it’s that his role and usage limit his overall number of offensive chances for in favour of limiting offensive chances against. Phaneuf could never score 40 points again, but he’s significantly more reliable, responsible and positionally sound than he was in his halcyon days as a scorer. As both James Mirtle and I said on Monday, Phaneuf is without a doubt the most irreplaceable player in the line up.
Many have argued that Phaneuf’s current cap number looks out of place citing his capgeek comparables, and have been using Jay Bouwmeester when forecasting Phaneuf’s next deal. The St. Louis Blues defender and former linemate of Phaneuf’s is in the last year of a deal that pays him $6.68-million annually. He also recently signed a five-year extension with the Blues that will pay him a mere $5.4-million. And for seemingly little reason, that’s what Phaneuf should get. Or so the thinking goes.
But there’s several factors that make me believe there’s no chance that Phaneuf can be re-signed for JayBo’s modest number. Firstly, there’s little similarity in their game, beyond the fact that both log a tonne of minutes. Over the past four seasons, Bouwmeester has 30 fewer points than Phaneuf; 22 fewer goals. While a top defenseman in his own right, Bouwmeester has to fight for third billing behind standouts Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk. It’s hard to ask for a raise when there are two other guys at your work who do your job better than you. Phaneuf does not have to suffer that workplace competition, and might never in a Leaf uniform. Also, George W. Bush was still president at the start of the last season where Bouwmeester recorded 40 points. Finally, Phaneuf is also a year younger than Bouwmeester, still closer to his prime and still able to crack 40 points.
So what does it all mean? What is Phaneuf worth? Most would agree that he’s not worthy of Ryan Suter’s $7.4-million paycheque, despite Phaneuf having 59 more points over 600-game careers. He’s also worth more than Jay Bouwmeester’s future cap hit of $5.4-million.
If I had to stake a guess, I’d actually say that Phaneuf will see a slight raise ahead of next season. He’s still only 28, and has been healthy most of his career. He’s proven capable of playing 25-minutes a night and more likely than not to score 40 points a season. There’s a dearth of options internally or externally that the Leafs could acquire to immediately replace and improve upon what Phaneuf does.
The only way I could see him re-signing at his current price tag or for less money is if the Leafs are willing to offer Phaneuf an eight-year deal. But if I had to give a more accurate range, I’d say that the Leafs and Phaneuf will probably end up coming to terms on a deal in the 7-8 year, $47-56-million deal. That would put his annual cap hit at a reasonable, $6.7 to $7-million cap hit on a deal that would expire when Phaneuf was 36 or 37 years of age. Should the Leafs want shorter term, expect the AAV to go up accordingly.
While it might sound unreasonable, nothing about NHL player’s paydays are ever reasonable. And ask yourself, what would you rather have? Phaneuf at 6.9 million, or to spend the next few seasons trying to replace him?
Highest Scoring NHL Defenseman
For combined seasons, from 2005-06 to 2013-14, playing defenseman, sorted by descending goals scored.
One of my favourite parts about a new season is the sheer volume of roster changes. The Toronto Maple Leafs alone saw 10 players leave the fold from May till October, and have already had 9 players make their Leaf debuts. So let’s catch up with some of the site’s old friends-turned enemies and see what some of last season’s jettison has been up to in the 2013-14 season.
Cody Franson has been a lot of things to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s seen more of the pressbox than the entire MLHS writing staff combined. He’s been top 10 in defensemen scoring. He’s twice held out on contract demands, only to sign below market value. But last season saw him change from bench warmer to playoff warrior; and through the first four games of the 2013-14 season he’s looked ready for more.
Dave Nonis completed arguably the best and most important contract negotiation of the offseason this morning, as the Toronto Maple Leafs locked up star right winger Phil Kessel to an 8-year contract worth $64-million. The annual cap hit it comes to a round $8-million, shirking the annoying trend of players getting paid their Jersey number, and is the biggest and most expensive player contract ever signed by the Leafs, nearly doubling David Clarkson’s contract signed in July.
James Reimer stood on his head but a plethora of turnovers proved deadly for the Toronto Maple Leafs , as they fell 3 – 2 to the Ottawa Senators on Monday night. Reimer made 34 saves while Senators starter Robin Lehner made 25 in defeat. James van Riemsdyk scored an absolute beauty and Dion Phaneuf collected the other tally for the Leafs who are now 4 – 1 – 1 in the preseason.
Because the league is hilarious, Phil Kessel served the first game of his suspension for his Paul Bunyan antics on Sunday while David Clarkson took his spot on the top line, as he waits for his 10-game suspension to begin on October 1.
It’s a quick turnaround for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as they play the home leg of their preseason series against the Buffalo Sabres tonight. Jonathan Bernier will get the start anyway for the Leafs tonight, and Joffrey Lupul is expected to make his preseason debut. Here’s the primer for tonight.
As training camps opened this week, the last of the RFAs have begun to re-sign with their clubs. Most notably, Leaf phenom Nazem Kadri signed a two year pact that will pay him $2.9-million per season. A hundred or so miles down the road, the Buffalo Sabres locked up their star RFA centre Cody Hodgson to a six-year deal at $4.25-million per year.
Last season, Kadri had a stellar 44 points in 48 games; Hodgson had a good but not great 34 in 48 games. For their careers, Kadri has a .636 points per game average (63 points in 99 games played) compared to Hodgson’s .554 (73 pts in 139 GP). So why does Hodgson get $20-million and four years more than Kadri?
There’s still no movement on either Nazem Kadri or Cody Franson, and training camp is still about a month away, so it’s time for another clip show!
The spin-o-rama has become a hallmark move in the NHL, even if it’s not without controversy. Here’s the 5 best in blue in white at twisting and turning heads.
5. Nazem Kadri is really, really, really skilled. Like damn skilled.
We’ll start of this clip show with a real beauty of a goal by Kadri during the 2011-2012 season. Kadri passes off to Joffrey Lupul in the left wing corner and sneaks through to the top of the crease. Lupul’s shot shanks off the Wild defender. Kadri, reading the ricochet, pivots on his right skate and bats the puck out of the air on his backhand to give the Leafs a 1 – 0 lead. Just incredible hand-eye coordination on this play, and totally worth a new contract… Dave.
4. Jason Blake… backhand
Jason Blake. Remember him? Seriously, do you? Do you remember when the Leafs made THAT free agent winger mistake in 2007? Anyway, I’m not saying you have to like the guy, but this is a pretty sweet shootout goal nonetheless. Blake carries the puck out to the right wing before taking a more direct line towards New Jersey netminder Scott Clemmensen.
Then, as if unbound by the laws of physics, Blake stops on a dime dead centre at the top of the crease and spins counter clockwise, backhanding in this beauty. Perhaps the most amazing part of this goal is seeing how tremendously underprepared Clemmensen was on that move. He’s like two feet out of the net and a foot off the ice.
3. James van Riemsdyk scores the first Leaf playoff game winner in nine years
May 4, 2013 was a special day to me for several reasons, and this was one of them. James van Riemsdyk cruises towards the net, slows and turns to receive a Mikhail Grabovski pass. He takes Grabovski’s pass with both feet firmly planted in the crease, standing almost on top of Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. After trying to tap the puck in between his legs, he swings on his right foot and puts the puck to his forehand, barely sneaking the puck past Rask’s outstretched right leg before tumbling to the ice.
He probably would have scored higher on this list were it not for the dismount, but this was probably the most exhilarating goal of the 2013 season for me.
2. Mikhail Grabovski… forehand
Another shootout goal, but boy this one is a beauty by Mikhail Grabovski. Grabovski, like Blake, cuts wide to the right wing as he prepares his attempt on Ty Conklin. But Grabovski chose to attack at an even wide angle, getting as far over to the hash marks before veering towards the net. He spins in a counter clockwise direction as he cuts to the left in front of the net, waits out a sprawling Conklin, and lightly flicks the puck into the top half of the net.
This goal is so incredibly because Grabo had the time, space and ability to complete the 360 THEN score. Absolutely masterful move and it would be the winner if it weren’t for…
1. Killer with the OT dagger in the Gardens
Clearly anyone can score on a spin-o-rama in front of the net. A real winner does it behind the net. An even real-er winner does it in a playoff game. And Doug Gilmour does all of that in double overtime.
Seeing Blake and Grabovski’s spin-o-rama goals in the shootouts, you think to yourself about the focus and timing required to make that play. Everything has to be moving in just about perfect order in perfect time on this risky play. What makes Gilmour’s so incredible is that he held the puck behind the Blues net for a full five seconds before making this dastardly move.
As Gilmour starts to move, the Blues left defenseman first breaks to intercept him. Then Gilmour cuts the other way, forcing the defenseman and the Blues net minder Curtis Joseph to cover the far post. Gilmour completes the pirouette, skates up and shovels the backhand just inside the near post to give the Leafs the victory. Just incredible.
From Conn Smythe’s likely-apocryphal quote, “If you can’t beat ‘em in the alley, you can’t beat ‘em on the ice” to Brian Burke’s tears for Colton Orr, the Toronto Maple Leafs have always encouraged fighting. There’s not much to report on in Leaf land right now, and instead of lamenting unsigned RFAs and the cap woes, let’s take a look at some of oddest fights in Leaf history.
The combatants are unusual, the results often surprising, and most of them leave one thinking fighting has no place in hockey (especially if you can’t fight). But they’re all still pretty hilarious, and ought to be remembered fondly by all Leafs fans.
It’s been an incredibly interesting first week of free agency for the Toronto Maple Leafs and around the NHL. Here’s four thoughts to get you through your Friday.
Kovalchuk’s retirement a blessing for the Devils
Ilya Kovalchuk shocked the world Thursday when the Russian superstar announced his retirement at the tender age of 30. In doing so, Kovalchuk will be leaving $77-million on the table over the next 12 seasons. But he also might save the New Jersey Devils.
With free agency upon us – and fresh on the heels of Mikhail Grabovski’s buyout – the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to be an incredibly different looking team come the fall. Through General Manager Dave Nonis’ machinations since taking over the reins in January, the Leafs roster now looks more shallow and vulnerable than it did at the end of the season less than two months ago.
Quite simply, Nonis slowly and quietly backed himself into a corner with the choices he’s made since taking over from Brian Burke. On a team that appeared to over perform benefitting from a shortened season, the general consensus was that there were a lot of upgrades that need to be made if this team was going to remain a winner. Nonis has to have a master plan, because right now, the Maple Leafs do not look equipped to contend for their first back-to-back playoff berth since 2004. And that’s all on him.
Should Grabovski clear waivers tomorrow at noon, the Leafs will use their second Compliance Buyout, having bought out the final year of Mike Komisarek’s contract earlier in the week.
Grabovski was coming off a career-worst season in 2013 scoring a mere nine goals and seven assists for 16 points in 48 games and still had four years remaining on a contract signed last offseason that was paying him $5.5-Million per year. The Belorussian is apparently set to get hitched tomorrow in Toronto, and as a wedding present will now be one of the best free agent centres available.
It must almost be the offseason, because NHL Awards have once again caused a stir regarding the voting structure and overall legitimacy of the accolades. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the Norris Trophy, where the Montreal Canadiens’ PK Subban won out by a hair over Minnesota Wild’s Ryan Suter. He did so despite the words, “awarded to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position” right on the darn trophy. Alas, with the results of the past two seasons, the statement about ‘all-around ability’ is looking demonstrably untrue for Norris voting.
MLHS Player Reviews is doing their best to round out the Leafs top six (hint-hint, Dave) by profiling alternate captain, left winger and pending UFA, Clarke MacArthur. In his third season with the Maple Leafs, the Lloydminster, Alberta native tallied eight goals and 12 assists en route to 20 points in 40 games played. Yet his season, like so many Leafs, was tumultuous, and his future in Toronto is unclear.
MLHS Player Reviews turns to one of the newest in the blue and white, fourth line tough guy Frazer McLaren. Like a lot of Leafs, 2013 was something of a banner year for the Winnipeg native statistically. He reached career highs in games played (36), goals (three), and penalty minutes (102). Of his three goals, two were – astoundingly – game winners; one of those was actually pretty nifty, too.
But that’s not why Dave Nonis picked McLaren up off of waivers on January 31, 2013. He was brought to fight often and win, and he did just that for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.
MLHS’ Player Reviews takes a look at another four-year veteran of the Toronto Maple Leafs, defenseman Carl Gunnarsson. Perhaps the second-most famous native of Orebro, Sweden (after – hilariously – the lead singer of The Cardigans), Gunnarsson has gone from being a seventh round pick in 2007 to being on the shutdown pairing with captain Dion Phaneuf. He battled through a hip injury, recording one goal and 14 assists in 37 regular season games en route his first NHL playoff appearance.