Home Authors Posts by Michael Stephens
We get a lot of Leafs content on the site.Â That makes a tonne of sense given the URL.Â But every once in a while, itâ€™s nice to take a look at some of the early storylines that could define a teamâ€™s success or failure over the course of the year.Â So join me after the jump for 30 insights (okay thatâ€™s a strong word) on the league and your daily dosage of links.
Hey, they happen to all of us.Â But as it pertains to the Toronto Maple Leafs, there are a few players in particular that both fans and management are hoping to have some major breakouts in the 2011-2012 season.Â In the 2010 â€“ 2011 season, Leafs fans were treated to the coming out parties of Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, and Clarke MacArthur.Â The trio brought both life and excitement to an otherwise unsuccessful squad by playing above and beyond the expectations of cynical Leafs fans and expert NHL analysts alike.Â So who amongst the Leafs are poised for a breakout year in the 2011 â€“ 2012 season?Â Join me after the jump for my answers, as well as your daily stipend of links.
While the off season has been relatively quiet, something is becoming very clear about Brian Burkeâ€™s reconstruction of the storied Toronto Maple Leafs, especially as it pertains to the salary cap.Â Heâ€™s perhaps more aware of it than any other GM, using the Leafs financial strength to broker trades of a magnitude rarely replicated.Â Soon after taking the helm of the franchise, he began shedding the worst of the Leafs bloated contracts to underperforming veterans (Hagman, Kubina, McCabe, Toskala, the list could go on forever).Â Since then he has fostered a group that consists of young guys (be they blue chip prospects, late blooming college guys, re-treads or bonafide stars) that have a lot reasons to push each other towards respectability on the ice.Â Whatâ€™s more? He might have given us a pretty big tell about how close this team is to being a contender and how soon the next group of prospects will be ready for prime time.
Photo Credit: NHL.com
Photo Credit: NHL.com
The rivalries remain, but the faces change.Â For all the substantial additions that the Leafs have made, the 29 other teams in the league have not been idle.Â Though its anyoneâ€™s game any given night, itâ€™s the contemplative, patient process of adding the right pieces during the summer that allow continued success over the marathon half year regular season.Â Over the next couple of weeks, weâ€™ll be looking at all 6 divisions in the NHL team by team, how the Leafs compared to them last season, their improvements, additions, subtractions and the Leafs outlook against these revamped teams come the fall.
"l'enfer, c'est les autres"
What a difference a week makes, eh? Last week, all the buzz was about the now forgotten and insignificant Dry Island fiasco (only jerks use the Woodward and Bernstein â€˜-gateâ€™).Â But itâ€™s August now and while itâ€™s cooling off outside, things are heating up around the league.Â Most significantly, Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators need a mediator and Ryan Kesler has gone under the knife. Join me after the jump for news, commentary on Weber and links
For a long while Iâ€™ve held off discussing the depth of uncertainty surrounding the clubâ€™s post season chances in 2012, because I hold out hope and I donâ€™t wish to alienate my fan base before it reaches double digits.Â Here we are, almost a month since July 1, and while there are a plethora of additions to the roster, coaching staff and front office, there are still potential weaknesses, holes and question marks surrounding the team.Â With a core so young, nothing is given and little is certain.
I feel there are 3 questions yet to be definitively answered in this offseason that have the most improving or limiting effect on the Leafs chances next spring.Â They seem as simple as coin flips to determining success, and harder than Rubikâ€™s cube to solve.Â If they pan out, itâ€™s post season; if they donâ€™t, its going to be a long year.
After the jump, weâ€™ll take a look at some of the ifs and buts surrounding the Maple Leafs before we pay tribute to the other fine news breakers, fact finders and satirists in the Barilkosphere in our Links section.
"I never liked Carrie Underwood anyway"
"I never liked Carrie Underwood anyway" (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
In part 2 of our ongoing analysis of the 2011 Off-season, weâ€™ll be looking at the July 3rd, 2011 trade that saw Brett Lebda, a conditional 4th round pick in 2013 and Robert Slaney (who?) shipped out to Nashville in exchange for head patient Matthew Lombardi and Leaf-fan Cody Franson.Â After the jump, weâ€™ll take a longer look at the acquisitions and what it means for the Leafs come October
His tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs might only be a footnote in the annals, albeit an expensive one.Â Lombardi comes to Toronto as the 7 million dollar service charge for Cody Franson one year into a 3 year-10.5 million dollar deal he signed with Nashville.Â His 2010 â€“ 2011 season was cut short when he suffered a devastating concussion â€“ his second – on October 13, 2010 against the Chicago Blackhawks.Â The reality is that Lombardi isnâ€™t ready resume workouts, almost nine months after sustaining the injury.
Showing Boyce's face would make this NSFW
All three have notched career highs in games played and points scored in 2010 – 2011, and all three are pending Unrestricted Free Agents in July.Â Between the ages of 26 and 28 all three have had breakthrough years.Â Yet they arenâ€™t looking to cash in on the open market.Â Theyâ€™re fighting just to make the Leafs 2011 â€“ 2012 roster.
Theyâ€™ve had to earn every NHL pay cheque theyâ€™ve cashed, but who among Darryl Boyce, Tim Brent and Joey Crabb will be back next season in blue and white?
Yes, its time again for another non-Leafs game day thread.Â Tonight marks the start of the 3 other conference quarter finals games, with the Montreal Canadiens in Boston; Buffalo will be in the city of brotherly love for their first date with the Flyers and for a night cap the Battle of California will begin between the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks.
Though our boys in blue wonâ€™t be playing tonight, these three series are chock-full of ex-buds.Â 5 of the 6 clubs playing tonight have former Leaf products.Â The rosters are a gold mine Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Leaf fans, as Brad Boyes, Tukka Rask, Tomas Kaberle, Tyler Seguin (wellâ€¦sort of), Kris Versteeg, Hal Gill, Jamal Mayers, Ian White and Kyle Wellfed will be on the ice tonight.Â Only the Kings are without a Leaf alumâ€¦ which oddly doesnâ€™t help their chances.
Stats, storylines, and erroneous predictions after the break
â€¦this is it.Â Tonight marks the start of the 2010 â€“ 2011 NHL playoffs.Â 5 of the 8 Conference Quarter Final match-ups will open tonight.Â In the east, Pittsburgh will play host to Tampa and the New York Rangers will be visiting Washington.Â Out west, Phoenix will be in Detroit, Nashville will be in So-Cal to take on Anaheim and Chicago will be in the Cable Box taking on Vancouver.
Â With names like Datsyuk, Kesler, Ovechkin, Gaborik, Perry and Stamkos set to take the ice tonight, itâ€™s worth mentioning that thereâ€™s still time to join Maple Leafs Hot Stoveâ€™s Hockey Pool.Â All ya gotta do is register for an account on cbcâ€™s site, search for the Maple Leafs Hotstove league and input MLHS as the password.Â Then you pick six forwards (three from each conference), four defencemen (two from each conference) and two goaltenders (one from each conference) while staying within the 30 point â€œplayer valueâ€ limit.Â The MLHS reader who wins this pool gets a free Pucking Hilarious t-shirt for their trouble.Â Hereâ€™s a tipâ€¦donâ€™t pick Tukka Rask.
Â Stats and story lines after the jump!
"Maple Leafs...transform and roll out!"
Your Toronto Maple Leafs are in action tonight against the no-pronged attack of the Philadelphia Flyers.Â Despite the absence of Pronger, the Leafs will be in tough against the deepest and possibly most balanced defense in the league.Â Optimus Reim will make his 12th consecutive start for the buds who are hoping to break out of a 2 game skid while the Flyers will counter with Brian Boucher.Â The game can be seen on Leafs TV at 7pm tonight.
I'm praying for a Belorussian bout tonight
The Leafs are in Montreal tonight trying to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive against the recently flaccid Montreal Canadiens.Â The Leafs enter tonightâ€™s contest 8 points out of 8th place, but have been hot of late going 4 â€“ 1 â€“ 1 in their last 6. Montreal comes into the contest â€˜ce soirâ€™ with a firm hold on 6th place in the East but are losers of three straight.
Tale of the Tape:
Record (W â€“ L â€“ OTL):
Leafs: 23 â€“ 26 â€“ 6
Canadiens: 30 â€“ 20 – 6
Leafs: 144 (23rd)
Canadiens: 148 (21st)
The Hundred Million Dollar man with a ten dollar haircut.
The new look Leafs will play host to the red-hot New Jersey Devils tonight in a match-up of surging cellar dwellers.Â Both teams are well out of the playoff picture as of now (the Leafs sit 8 points out, the Devils 15), yet both teams are also coming into tonightâ€™s contest with 2 consecutive wins.Â The Leafs are also on a longer hot streak of 4 â€“ 1 â€“ 0 in their last 5.
Incredibly, the Devils have gone 8 â€“ 1 â€“ 1 in their last ten.Â Those 8 wins account for 40% of their wins through 54 games. Magically (or so it seems) all the problems in New Jersey â€“ From the coach getting canned to Kovalchuk getting benched to Brodeurâ€™s meteoric fall to mediocrity â€“ were solely Jamie Langenbrunnerâ€™s fault.
The Leafs will be back in the Hanger tonight to take on the (formerly mighty) Anaheim Ducks.Â JS Giguere will get the start for the Leafs after last nightâ€™s debacle in the big apple.Â The Leafs, who have lost their past three games will be hoping that a return home will see a return to the win column.Â Jonas Hiller will get the start for the Ducks, who are resting shoot out specialist Julie Gaffney from Bangor, Maine (yeah, thatâ€™s a D2 reference).
Jonathan Tavares powerplay goal with a 1:34 left in overtime lifted the competitive New York Islanders over the Toronto Maple Leafs 2 – 1. 11 months ago.Â Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson only had to make half as many saves as the November 23rd 2009 thievery, but the result was still the same as an outworked, out-chanced and outplayed New York Islanders club still managed to steal a win
The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning have made some minor league moves this afternoon, with the Leafs sending Marliesâ€™ forwards Alex Berry and Stefano Giliati in exchange for minor league defenseman Matt Lashoff.
In Lashoff, the Leafs are getting a young, depth guy who will likely play out the year for the Marlies.Â A former 1st round Bruins draft pick, Lashoff has some size and offensive skill, but couldnâ€™t translate his ability beyond the AHL level for any extended period of time.Â In 63 NHL games between Boston and Tampa, heâ€™s tallied 1 goal and 14 assists and is a career -15.Â Still young at 23, heâ€™ll have stiff competition for a spot on the Marlies blue line and a chance at a fresh start after showing promise in both Norfolk and Providence.
The Leafs lose two foot soldiers on the forward ranks in Berry and Giliati.Â Meat and potatoes type of players with little NHL upside, they will be missed for the leadership and experience.Â However, the move offers more opportunities for up and coming forward prospects such as Jerry Dâ€™Amigo, Marcel Mueller and Brayden Irwin.
So it ends, so it continues.Â Tomas Kaberleâ€™s tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs did not indeed come to an end this summer.Â In an earlier post, I had established a mostly forgotten pool asking the faithful readers to put on their brian burke mask and pretend to be a GM.Â Yup, I sure am a trailblazerâ€¦suggesting people use the comments section of this site to postulate trade proposals.Â Where do I come up with such creative ideas?
Ilya Kovalchukâ€™s record breaking 17 year, $102 Million deal has been shot down by the NHL for reasons of cap circumvention (per TSN).Â To brass tacks the article, the NHL put the kybosh on Lou and his Swamp Band on the grounds that the deal was being proposed and executed outside of good faith.
The two greatest military tacticians of the past 5000 years â€“ Sun Tzu and Sgt. Slaughter â€“ both spoke on the value of knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your enemies in the field.Â To effectively assess the situational realities of the Toronto Maple Leafs it pays to look at the status of their direct competition within the Northeast division.Â Playing 24 games against teams from their own division, pride, points and position are all on the line.Â While by no means comprehensive (as yet), take a gander at the past 3 weeks of moves.
The Canadians, Senators, Bruins and Sabres all earned playoff positions last season.Â A successful, playoff calibre Leafs squad must commit themselves to dominating these frequent opponents as more than a quarter of the season will be played against them.
(Authorâ€™s note: credit goes out to MLHS reader the stache, whose comment, â€œIs it possible to start up a poll/page on the Kaberle deal with every member giving their ONE Kaberle deal and whoever has the closest after the fact idk gets mad propsâ€ is the basis for this article.Â Good on ya, buddy)
Salutations, true beleafers! We stand but a month away from the 2010 NHL draft in Los Angeles, where Burke and the boys from Scouting and Development will be showing up like beggars at the ball.Â The consensus amongst Leaf fans and hockey analysts is that our faithful #15, Tomas Kaberle, shall be brought to market in LA and sold to the highest bidder.
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