Home Authors Posts by Mislav Jantoljak

Mislav Jantoljak

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I'm Mislav, a Croat living in Zagreb. I love the Leafs and write hockey things. First wrote on Leafspace, then did some work on LeafsHQ for about a year and a half and have been a proud member of Maple Leafs Hot Stove ever since. Also wrote for the Hockey News (that one time was sweet!), have been covering Medvescak Zagreb for the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga and the KHL as part of KHL.hr. @Xterratu on Twitter.

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‘Twas the first of four match-ups between these Northeast Division rivals, the season’s first edition of the Battle of Ontario. The organization honored the 50th anniversary of the 1962-63 Cup winning team. With Spezza and Karlsson out, it was supposed to be an easier game against a division rival that’s hurting right now, but it’s not like the Leafs are at full strength.

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Nikolai Kulemin

The NHL lockout has ended, rejoice! After a long-fought battle between the players’ union and the NHL owners, fans will finally see a season. It will be a shortened one, sure, but I doubt many care right now. Once again, the Stanley Cup will be raised and to the fans, for now, it’s all that matters.

As the season finally nears, there are a few Leafs for whom the resumption of an NHL season is a continuation of 2012-13 campaigns that started abroad. While it does seem like a paradox, quality hockey was indeed played – mostly in the KHL. Below are short notes about the progress made by Leafs players who decided to spend the lockout in Europe, as well as their stories from far away.

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Watching the Marlies this year partially feels like watching a clock turning its hands back. It was on the first day of training camp that a brand new name appeared on the roster. While roster changes aren’t exactly an AHL novelty, seeing Paul Ranger’s name on a hockey jersey makes one take a quick peek towards the calendar.

If you did turn back the hands of time, Ranger would be a 25-year-old defenseman playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning. With a promising career ahead of him, he suddenly left the game many of us would pay to play. Personal reasons or a different motive entirely, it wasn’t quite clear why he left hockey only to find him himself coaching his hometown’s bantam team in Whitby, Ontario.

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The plan? First make peace with the fact that the NHL latest work stoppage will become a reality. Check. Watch as much non-NHL hockey as I could get my hands/eyes on. Check. During these couple of months I’ve watched the KHL, AHL, SM-liiga, Elitserien, Czech Extraliga, OHL, QMJHL, EBEL, NCAA, and the CHL vs. Russian selects Super Series.

All of this gave me more insight about our beautiful game as well as new appreciation of both the NHL and hockey in general. Here are some of the things that stuck with me as I video traveled across the international hockey stage.

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In case you haven’t noticed, there is a lockout going on. As the league continued to chop of more bits from the 2012-13 NHL season the fans are getting increasingly frustrated. During work stoppage, those frustrated people tend to talk about various things. One of those things is pending expansion. As Ken Campbell wrote in the latest edition of the Hockey News, the league has gone 12 years without expanding, making it the longest expansion drought since it grew to 12 teams.

Sure enough, there are plenty of reasons in favor of not expanding. The league needs to control its suffering markets before it can ever think about adding teams in new ones. It also needs to accept that appeasing the fan bases deprived of hockey to lessen the negative impact of the lockout isn’t really a solid motive for expansion.

This list is long and could go on for another few paragraphs so let’s end it here.

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Nikolai Kulemin

Nikolai Kulemin, 2011-12: 70 games, 7 goals, 21 assists – 28 points. Numbers far below his NHL caliber.

“If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.”

- Marcus Garvey

Lockout. KHL, Metallurg Magnitogorsk with Evgeni Malkin. Nikolai Kulemin, 2012-13: 17 games, 6 goals, 5 assists – 11 points. Average ice time: 18:37.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been one to look on the bright side of things. The aforementioned trio (“Magnitka”, Malkin and lockout) could turn out to be very bright for Kulemin’s future.

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Stuck in neutral.

A valid question if there ever was one. Since we’re currently in “work stoppage” mode I decided to put forward some perspective on this topic.

It’s true that the NHL and hockey are, in most cases, in a league of their own. Combining a finesse skill like skating with devastating hits not unlike the NFL and adding the hand eye coordination needed to simultaneously control the puck trumps every known game out there. It does so for every hockey fan, but even those that don’t follow puck that closely admit it really is a challenging game.

That said, rarely has a game, no matter how special, been treated with that many special white gloves as NHL hockey. Perhaps the most glaring aspect of this story is the NHL’s lack of will for implementing a) more supplementary discipline, b) a stronger, stricter, more transparent disciplinary standard, one that is not this highly influenced by the owners.

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Photo credit: thestar.com

The Leafs announced today signing of goalie Ben Scrivens to a two year contract. The implications of this are fairly obvious. In 39 regular season games with the Marlies, Ben Scrivens earned a record of 22-15-1, four shutouts, an AHL-best 2.04 GAA and a .926 save percentage.

He was named AHL’s goaltender of the month for March and had received AHL’s Harry Hap Holmes Memorial Award for allowing the fewest goals in the regular season (with a minimum of 25 games played). Scrivens added to his great season with a very good Calder Cup playoffs, playing in all of 17 Marlies games and earning a 1.92 GAA, a .935 save percentage and three shutouts in the process.

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    The logo is smaller than the puck

    As writers, we try to be objective, unbiased and fair. As fans, we try to be passionate, loyal and loud. As people, we are all fans.

    When our objectivity isn’t stopping us from smiling, when our team passion doesn’t exclude us from admiring the opponent, we are all fans. That is what we’re trying to get back, it’s the thing that binds us all to hockey and, at the same time, it is hockey.

    The lockout isn’t only threatening to our great game but also to the very core of our being. As fans, writers, spokespeople, staff, coaches, kids, moms, dads, equipment managers, billet families, GMs, ice crews, color commentators, analysts, team physicians, photographers – we are NHL hockey as much as the owners or the players. Together, all of us make it a reality. Unfortunately, CBA negotiations are threatening to distort that reality.

    This is done by purposely or accidentally marginalizing the effect of other invested groups and people. Ultimately, that ends up being the case.

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    How do you like me now?

    Being branded or labeled is a common phenomenon in sports, especially when it comes to athletes. Most of the time, these two words have a negative connotation. Most of the time, it’s not a good thing.

    Most often, this type of behavior has a negative effect on players themselves but it does have an impact on the team and people running it. Think about it, you have a player who can have such a good credibility with his coach and the rest of the staff that they simply choose to ignore some of his bad performances. In this instance, eyes can truly see what’s been taught, corroborated by numerous prior examples of good games played by an individual. Based on this, some of his bad performances will be attributed to fatigue or simply bad luck. Hell, even he is allowed to have a bad day once in a while, right?

    However, since winning is what it’s all about, let’s not dare to even think otherwise, even a player with good credibility runs out of time if he continues to perform poorly.

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    "Fair is a matter of perspective."

    It’s the beginning of August, 2012. I’m at sitting home, at my desk, thinking about what my next piece is going to be about. Little ideas surface, but nothing quite worthy of putting on paper.

    The Leafs. What is the state of Leafs Nation? Where are our expectations at? Unlike seasons past, I find it difficult to answer that question. Hope, it’s always there, but this year it doesn’t seem worthy enough of a true, better yet – honest, Leafs related story.

    Is it the lack of moves by our opinionated, strong willed and loud, be it eloquently so, general manager? While the case may be that he was indeed loud in stating his belief in strengthening the current roster, that hasn’t happened with the signings of Tyler Biggs or Morgan Rielly.

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    Photo: CBC.ca

    As hockey fans, we can hardly stand summer. As regular people, most of us love summer. Rick Nash loves summer.

    Then, there are days like this, when the weather isn’t nice (at least not in Croatia, not currently), and when all we want to do is sit in front of our hockey news devices (otherwise known as laptops, PCs, general technology) and find some interesting news to get through a rainy day.

    Sadly, while most of the hockey world is patiently monitoring the Shea Weber offer sheet situation, Leaf fans are still left wondering about the roster for next season and when the first of, ok not many – but few of Burke’s dominoes will finally fall.

    Yesterday finally offered a destination for Rick Nash, and as it turns out it’s the Big Apple. Nash is heading to New York in exchange for Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon, and a 1st round pick. Scott Howson, ladies and gentlemen.

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    Photo: Peter J. Thompson/National Post

    The new CBA negotiations have started and everything seems quiet on the trade front. Not much  of relevance currently going on in around the NHL.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, labor negotiations are easily the most important thing happening this summer because, clearly, they will significantly impact the game in the foreseeable future which is why it’s prudent to always keep one eye on the process. But what we’ve heard so far is nothing to be alarmed about, at least not yet.

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    After the jump is the James van Riemsdyk Twitter Q&A and media scrum from this morning. In the meantime, Ken Holland had a fantastic idea:

    “When we began the process of determining who should be on the roster for the Red Wings alumni team, it became very obvious, very quickly that we simply did not have enough room on one bench to hold enough of the many deserving players,” said Holland. “When we contacted Toronto and asked them what they thought about the possibility of two games, they immediately breathed a sigh of relief as they were going through the exact same issues we were in trying to fit all these players on one team.”

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    We're not that far off

    Why is there a picture of Mark Messier holding the Cup? Why do we care about the Rangers? Well, read on. Just the other day, I was watching a documentary about the Rangers’ Cup win in 1994 (Road To Victory: The 1994 New York Rangers Story) which got me thinking about parallels between the two franchises, Rangers and Leafs.

    Indeed, there are plenty to choose from. Let’s start with the fact that both teams are a part of the Original Six. What is inevitably a major consequence of that is plenty of hockey tradition and a devoted, passionate fanbase.

    When comparing the markets, there is a distinction of NY having more sports teams (Yankees, Mets, Nets, Red Bulls, Knicks, Liberty, Islanders, Rangers based in NY City and NJ Devils, Giants, Jets in the greater metropolitan area), but the size of that market is a really good comparable to Toronto.

    Next up, let’s consider the Cup drought which Rangers fans had to endure for 54 whole years (1940-1994). The Leafs, as you certainly don’t need reminding, won their last Cup in 1967, which has the drought lasting 45 years now.

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    Anže lifts!

    You often dream about things, things that are so far beyond your reach that you have a problem of thinking about them being more than just dreams. I am a hockey fan from Croatia, who wanted to write about the game and therefore, my biggest dreams consisted of being around the game with people who care about it as much as me. Be it writing, seeing things live, or learning the game.

    Of course, the biggest dream in a hockey fan’s life is seeing the Holy Grail of hockey, the Stanley Cup. When Anže Kopitar won the Cup with the LA Kings, I knew that the opportunity for seeing it live could present itself and when the Kings’ ace announced that the Cup was coming to his native Slovenia I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t afford to miss.