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On Wednesday, Wade Arnott, Phil Kessel’s agent, indicated his client’s apparent desire to spend the rest of career playing hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs. This, despite being disappointed in the club’s performance last season (I don’t even want to know what adjective he’d use to describe the two previous seasons in Toronto), and with little guarantee yet that this team is primed for long-term playoff success.
We’ll probably never know why the camera-shy Kessel wants to remain in a media-laden Toronto; Arnott seems to suggest it is an admirable inner desire to win in hockey’s mecca. Perhaps the better question is, what could it cost to keep him?
Photo: Greg Flume/Getty Images
The Toronto Maple Leafs bounced back from last night’s drubbing, defeating the Washington Capitals 3 – 2. But did you really expect a team with Tim Hunter coaching and Joey Crabb featuring heavily on the PK to actually win a game?
Photo: Getty Images
At the start of this season, noise was made that the current Leafs roster would be ill-equipped to serve under Randy Carlyle’s tough-nosed, nasty, defense-first style of play. That there was not enough team truculence to compete.
Despite the team placing 3rd in the league in fighting majors with seven, the club has been shorthanded a surprisingly low 23 times (3.29 penalties per game), fifth least in the league thus far. It’s quite early still, but the disciplined play is a stark change for a team coached by Carlyle. And that’s all for the better.
Photo: Frank Franklin/Associated Press
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ offense disappeared down the stretch and the defense had no answer for the “22-Million Dollar Line” en route to a 5 – 2 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday night. This was a funny game, because the Leafs never really had any business winning, yet carried a lead for 40+ minutes. That said, when Henrik Lundqvist has an average night, he ought to face more than 17 shots.
Photo: Abelimags/Getty Images
Last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs put on a classically Toronto Maple Leaf performance, falling 7-4 to the New York Islanders. It got ugly late, as an out of synch, laboured Leaf club seemed to erode in the final 40 minutes. It was an all-too-familiar sight to behold. And it has, perhaps unduly, substantially darkened the opinions of the team.
So what can be made of Leaf’s four game season? Here are a couple quick thoughts on the manic life of a rebuilding club.
The Toronto Maple Leafs lost the services of forward Keith Aucoin on Thursday, when he was picked up by the New York Islanders off of waivers. Jokingly mourned about online, Aucoin’s departure comes less than six months after then-GM Brian Burke signed the veteran to bolster the AHL Marlies. His acquisition by the Islanders marks the Leafs first loss to the roster due to waiver eligibility, but it probably won’t be the last.
Indeed, both the Leafs and the Marlies seem poised to lose some assets, all because timing is everything. And because the Lockout has far reaching effects that we’re still learning about.
Randy Carlyle spoke with reporters at the ACC for about 20 minutes Monday morning and shed some insight into the Leafs roster heading into training camp (thanks to Declan, you can check it out here).
The most promising and immediately important news from the interview is that Jake Gardiner, who has missed a month with concussion-like symptoms, is getting better and working out. Carlyle remained hopeful that Gardiner, who tallied nine goals and 17 points in 22 games with the Marlies prior to the injury, would be back in time for training camp.
Photo: Toronto Star
Recently I had an opportunity to interview Dave Poulin, vice president of hockey operations for the Toronto Maple Leafs, for Lindyâ€™s Sports Maple Leafs Annual magazine.Â Poulin, whose job focuses heavily on player acquisition and development at both the pro and amateur ranks, shared rare insight into almost all facets of the game.Â From principles of drafting, the mechanics of pro scouting, and internal team growth, Poulin shed light on the important, behind-the-scenes work that dictates the future success of the franchise.
As is often the case in any written work, more is discussed than can be shown.Â Inspired by MLHS readersâ€™ questions, here are a couple pearls that Poulin shared with me relating to draft draft methodology, player value and prospect depth within the organization that – Â due to space constraints – couldnâ€™t be included in the feature.
Be sure to check out Alex Tranâ€™s mag preview with Dave Morrison, if you havenâ€™t already.Â More info on the magazine release and availability will follow soon.Â Looking forward to your thoughts; enjoy.
Not too much of this for Kulemin this season (Photo Credit: AP).
Not too much of this for Kulemin this season (Photo Credit: AP).
The Toronto Maple Leafs have re-signed winger Nikolai Kulemin to a two-year, estimated $5.6-million contract this morning.Â The Leafs avoided the potentially acrimonious arbitration process, signing the Magnitogorsk native to a deal with a modest cap hit of $2.8-million.
Kulemin, a 2006 second round draft pick, struggled mightily prior to a season-ending finger injury last season, posting career lows with seven goals and 28 points in 70 games.Â He scored 30 goals for the Maple Leafs in the 2010-2011 season.
The two-year term means Kulemin will be a UFA at deal’s end, as opposed to a “show me” one-year deal which would’ve seen him become an RFA again next off-season, but there’s little doubting this is good value if Kulemin’s offensive game even half rebounds.
Anthony Petrielli and I will be interviewing Toronto Maple Leafs Vice-President of Hockey Operations, Dave Poulin, tomorrow afternoon for an upcoming feature. Â The discussion will revolve mostly around recent player acquisition and attempt to glean some insight on the day-to-day operations of the club from a management perspective heading into the 2012-2013 season. Â Please feel free to submit any possible questions you might have in the comments section below. Â Looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with.
Photo: Toronto Star
Photo: Toronto Star
The Toronto Maple Leafs have â€“ even by their standards â€“ had a very quiet offseason.Â Since late May, GM Brian Burke has focused almost entirely on improving the forward corps for the 2012-2013 season with the signings of both Leo Komarov and Jay McClement; and trading for potential sell-low steal of the year, James van Riemsdyk. Â The acquisitions have mostly been lauded as beneficial to the club, in particular for infusing some snarl, defense and skill into the beleaguered clubâ€™s front ranks.
But it takes only the most cursory of sifting through tea leaves to discover that these moves, while improving the team, are a precursor to even more change in the appearance of the forward ranks heading into next season.
Even without the additions of Komarov, van Riemsdyk and McClement, the Maple Leafs already have 13 forwards under contract for next season who played at least 10 games for the club in the 2011-2012 season.
Photo: Getty Images
With the Toronto Maple Leafs set to select fifth overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft on June 22, most Ontarians seem to be impatiently pining for an all-world talent to fall into GM Brian Burkeâ€™s lap.
Speculation will run rampant up until the moment just before Burke steps to the podium, when he caustically taunts a rival GM about his pending selection, ruining the reveal.Â But is there something we should know about Burke that heâ€™s not telling us?
I back-tested the last seven drafts that Burke has participated in – three with Toronto, four with Anaheim – going back to 2005.Â In those seven drafts, Burke selected a total of 52 players.Â Only eight of them, or 15.9 percent, are European-born or European-trained (all others are North American).
After jumping 30 spots in the most recent International Scouting Service report, the 2012 MLHS Draft Profiles turns its watchful eye to Oshawa Generals centerman and Jack-of-all-trades, Scott Laughton.
Thereâ€™s a lot to like about Scott Laughton, who recorded 21 goals, 32 assists and 101 PIM in 64 games, skating mostly on a line with Christian Thomas (40th overall in 2010 by NYR) and Andy Andreoff (80th overall in 2011 by LAK).Â After starting the year slowly, Scott Laughton has developed into a reliable two-way force in the â€˜Shwa.
What Scott Laughton has that should separate him from the pack is will.Â Simply put, the guy works hard each night and was relied upon as a special teams cog over older, more established players on the Generals roster. He initiates contact, and is dogged in his pursuit of the puck.Â And despite a relatively average frame (6-foot-1, 178 pounds), heâ€™s a willing pugilist.Â He might want to rein-in that last element of his game for future success, as his any-situation utility is moot while heâ€™s in the sin bin.
Photo: Rebecca Cook/Reuters
On Sunday I shared with you most of the highlights from Brian Burkeâ€™s appearance at an executive breakfast.Â Due to time constraints and formatting issues (and word count.Â Thatâ€™s Petrielliâ€™s bit), I had to omit an excellent story that Burke told about an altercation between the Fire Department of Vancouver and former Canucks tough guy Donald Brashear near the end of his tenure there. Â With the movies like Goon and Slap Shot portraying hockey players are lug nuts who can barely function in normal society, Burke related a story that in no way dispels this motif.
As a caveat to both the readers and potential claimants in a libel suit, I cannot certify the veracity of this particular story.Â I got the sense that Brian Burke is close to his Irish roots in that heâ€™s an admitted lapsed Catholic and that the point of a story isnâ€™t the facts, itâ€™s the story.Â My family can relate.Â But this was a tale that Burke told the assembled group last Wednesday, and Iâ€™d feel derelict in my duty not to pass it along.Â Burke re-enacted two scenes, playing out both parts, from a phone call with the Fire Chief of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services and an in-person meeting with Donald Brashear.
Photo: Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press
This past Wednesday I had the great good fortune to see the guest speaker, Toronto Maple Leafs President and GM Brian Burke, at the Scotiabank Â® Presidentâ€™s Breakfast.Â In no way should I have been in attendance at this swanky affair used to reward lucrative business clients and senior management, but my branch manager is an avid hockey fan and when a favoured client had to pull out, I was a last minute substitution.Â As we stand on the eve of the trade deadline with the Leafs in a tailspin, Iâ€™d like to share with you some of the highlights from Burkeâ€™s speech and Q&A session held in the opulent Ratcliffe Room on the 63rd floor of Scotia Plaza.
As a brief primer, I must report that Brian Burke is a terrific raconteur who speaks confidently and lucidly at all times; but when given a chance exhibits a tremendous, ribald sense of humour.Â His bravado and bluntness quickly came to light as he approached the podium.Â With a cup of coffee and some prepared notes in hand, I expected him to begin formally with pleasantries and platitudes for his sponsor.Â Instead, raucous laughter met his opening line regarding the Leafs OT loss to the New Jersey Devils the night previous, â€œSo that goal was horseshit!â€
Darren Calabres/Canadian Press
For fans expecting GM Brian Burke to make a big splash next Monday, prepare to be disappointed. Â After acquiring Joffrey Lupul a month ahead of D Day in 2011, Burke equated the deadline frenzy to ethnic party favours, â€œitâ€™s almost like a party with a piÃ±ata, everyoneâ€™s going for one player and everyoneâ€™s swinging at it.â€Â These are not the words of a man willing make a knee jerk trade just to appease his Twitter feed.
Below are the trades the Leafs have made on the past three trade deadline days.Â Aside from showcasing just how far the team has come, it speaks volumes that the best player Brian Burke has acquired for the Leafs at the deadline is Olaf Kolzig (about ten years past prime).
Photo: Vintage Leafs
Mats Sundin, perhaps the most hotly debated Leaf of all time (sorry, Phil), is in town.Â His number is being honoured this Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens, and the recluse-in-retirement has come back to Toronto for the festivities.
Maybe the best Leaf of the past two decades, he was an affable if reserved player both on and off the ice.Â He was no flash in the pan; he became the leading Leaf scorer through 13 seasons of determined consistency.Â Known for foppish locks, McDonaldâ€™s commercials, and breaking hearts, Mats’ mere presence always caused a stir.Â And on Saturday heâ€™ll be in the ACC, just a stoneâ€™s throw from the Hockey Hall of Fame.Â Heâ€™s eligible this coming fall, and it begs the question: Is Mats Sundin a first ballot hall of famer?Â
Having collected 9 of a possible 10 points in their last 5 games, and coming off back to back shut outs by James Reimer, the Toronto Maple Leafs look to move into 7th place in the East as they take on the surging Edmonton Oilers tonight at the ACC.
Box Score | Ice Time | Recap
God damn! It was a night of many happy returns, as the Toronto Leafs held on for a tough 1 â€“ 0 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.Â After clutching defeat from the jaws of victory last night the Leafs returned to the ACC, where theyâ€™ve been good this year, and managed to play an effective defensive game.Â James Reimer recorded his second shut out of the season in his first game since January 17th, overshadowing the welcomed return of John-Michael Liles and Colby Armstrong.
Someone’s going to be handing out tardy slips, and some notable names are missing around the NHL.Â So join us for the Wednesday Mashup and take a look at the presence ofÂ absence in the league this week.
Alexander Ovechkin, freshly suspended, will not be taking part in the Some Stars Game this weekend.Â Ovechkin not wanting to play due to the suspension is specious reasoning, no two ways about it.Â His inclusion to the festivities this year was on previous history and name, not merit.Â Heâ€™s one of the games poster boys, someone who generates revenue at these events.Â In what amounts to a flash bulb hyped game of shinny, Ovechkin could have put a little shine on his image.Â He could stand to put in some face time.
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