Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Authors Posts by Mislav Jantoljak

Mislav Jantoljak

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Hi there, I'm Mislav, a hockey writer from Croatia. My weird hockey journey includes the Maple Leafs Hot Stove, covering the Kontinental Hockey League as a Managing Editor at KHL.hr and doing a piece for the Hockey News that one time. This is me on hockey and stuff in between. Enjoy your stay!

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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.

Zach Attack!

Two of the biggest names of this year’s free agency remain unsigned. Both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are taking their time to pick their destination and career path for the foreseeable future.

Parise retreated to Minnesota to discuss the situation with his family and will most probably make his decision today.

Per Dreger:

“Parise’s agent, Wade Arnott: We have thoroughly deliberated every option with Zach. He wishes to take some time to step back and review all with his fiance and his family. We could be drawing closer to a decision.”

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How dare he!?

A fairly big portion of Leafs Nation is freaking out about Burke doing “nothing” in free agency. First of all, this is an insult to Jay McClement and Mike Kostka because I don’t think they consider themselves – nothing.

Then there’s the notion that we should have overspent on players like Brandon Prust, Jordin Tootoo etc. because nothing will solve our team needs more than overpaid fourth liners. Leafs’ biggest needs are goaltending and top six talent (preferably size and skill at the C position) so naturally they fit the bill. The amount of sheer irrationality is staggering.

I want to make something perfectly clear, simply because this writer doesn’t realize how it’s not perfectly clear already. We’re at the beginning of hockey’s summer and the Leafs roster looks like it needs re-tooling/is set up to be re-tooled.

Photo: blues.nhl.com

The Leafs have signed Jay McClement to a 2-year, $3-million (1.5 mil. per) contract. McClement is a 29-year-old centerman from Kingston, Ontario (that one’s for you, Don Cherry). A left handed shooter, he stands 6 ft 1 in tall and weighs in at 205 lbs.

He is your prototypical shutdown centerman with little offense. But what he does, he does well.

A guy with good faceoff numbers, McClement is a player who is more mobile than Steckel, excels on the penalty kill and has decent size.

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Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

The Justin Schultz saga is finally over. The telephone lines closed and, in what would be best described as a reality show vote off, the young blueliner decided to sign with the Edmonton Oilers, leaving Leafs Nation and several other fanbases wondering what could have been.

This writer refuses to believe one young free agent defenseman would turn the fortunes of any franchise, but it’s hard to argue we wouldn’t be a deeper team with him in the mix. Did he really do that much to deserve the fanfare and media coverage he got? No, but I guess that is just the reality of a not so deep UFA pool coupled with the media doing their best to exploit the situation. Who knew…

In the end, we shouldn’t be judging the kid for doing what he feels is best for his career and taking his sweet time to do it.

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Photo: Toronto Star/Steve Russell

According to various sources including Bob McKenzie of TSN, the Leafs bought out winger Colby Armstrong:

McKenzie tweeted:

“Colby Armstrong is being bought out by TOR. Will be on unconditional waivers at 12 noon ET.”

According to capgeek.com:

If Colby Armstrong buyout goes through, MapleLeafs cap space will increase by $2M to $14.8M

McKenzie also tweeted:

Buyout of Armstrong, courtesy of capgeek, means TOR will have cap hit next season of $1M instead of $3M, but $1M year after instead of $0.

Photo: Mark Blinch/Reuters

Easily the most overlooked part of the draft bonanza and the Schenn-JvR deal, Jonas Gustavsson was dealt to the Winnipeg Jets for a conditional seventh round pick in next year’s entry draft.

You know, sometimes fans have a hard time finding sympathy for professional athletes because we’re so used to the mindset that they have everything most of us want to have or that they enjoy a far better lifestyle than any of us dare to dream about. It’s mostly because of said fact that them delivering/not delivering on the ice becomes the only important measuring stick when it comes to determining one’s glory or failure in the eyes of fans and team critics.

I would argue that since sports are about winning and winning is done by winners – players, coaches, trainers and GMs who help a team win and who, by default, win themselves – it’s the right measuring stick. My question is – is it the only measuring stick?

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Photo: Getty Images

As Darren Dreger tweeted:

“Breaking News!!!! Toronto trades Luke Schenn to Flyers for James Van Riemsdyk. Done deal.”

In a deal that made a lot of sense for both sides – and perhaps a needed change of scenery for both former top 5 picks – the Leafs trade defenseman Luke Schenn to the Philadelphia Flyers for big skilled winger James van Riemsdyk. The whole drafting process was leading up to this point, as the Leafs stockpiled on defensemen that made this trade all the more probable.

A deal which was in the making for quite some time, and maybe would have gotten done sooner if not for JVR’s earlier concussion problems, finally materialized. Burke pointed out that this team needed to get bigger up front and that’s exactly what this move is all about. While JVR won’t take people’s heads off with hits, he offers that big body in addition to his goal scoring ability that will hopefully give the top six a new dynamic.

We need to thank Luke Schenn for the years he spent with the organization and wish him all the best with the Flyers. They get a player who can still become one of the better shutdown defenseman in the league.

On the other hand, Leafs get a player who not only brings size and good possession skills but is also a fit price wise. Van Riemsdyk is also a good skater with plenty of speed who loves to drive the net. He is listed as being 6 ft 3 in tall and with a weight of 211 lb and is 23 years old.

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Hello fellow Leaf fans, welcome to the MLHS 2012 NHL Entry Draft Open Thread. According to Twitter, a lot of GMs are talking to each other so that’s probably a good thing, as long as they aren’t talking basketball. Which is over. Thank God.

Just because Burke has said his reading is that the best player available will be a defenceman doesn’t necessarily mean it’s set in stone. There could be trades, or a team could have changed their mind just as you’re reading this and the whole order changes.

According to The Star, there is as much interest in the Leafs’ 35th pick as there is for the 5th. Maybe that leads to a trade up possibility, but from the sounds of things it looks like the Leafs are picking 5th.

So, debate away, we have an exciting evening ahead of us. No one really knows what’s about to transpire for the Leafs, or most of the teams at the top of the drafting order.  Let’s hope the Leafs end up as winners when it’s all said and done.

The title of this article seems messed up, so let’s just start by explaining it. I’m not actually going to be talking about our “soon to be former” top prospect. I’m going to talk about an approach; an organizational and fan-made approach to our next top prospect. Still, expect Kadri’s name to be mentioned a lot.

This article shouldn’t really be about Kadri, because he is still very much what he always was, only a bit older. He still deserves to be talked about and his development is still very important to this hockey team, but some guys just take longer to develop. Don’t believe me, then take the Sedins for example.

My starting hypothesis for this article was that the spotlight that has followed Kadri has slowed down his development as a hockey player, but I haven’t really figured out the psychology behind it. “If you are ready to step up, you’re ready to step up, look at Landeskog and Skinner,” you say. Well, exactly. Kadri wasn’t ready then, and while he’s more ready now, it’s more complicated than just putting a talented kid on the ice, especially in a market like this.

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Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images

To this writer, this year’s Stanley Cup Finals were a treat. Not as much of a treat as seeing the Leafs win it of course, but enough of a treat to keep me in (and out of) my seat for most nights.

I couldn’t help but fancy the underdog, even if it meant not getting a chance to see the Cup in a neighboring country (Slovenia). Based on their team depth and level of play this team is capable of, the Kings seemingly had it all.

On the other hand, the Devils had to fight against injuries and featured storylines about a legendary goaltender fighting to improve on his already monumental impact on hockey history and an injured scorer struggling to shoot while leading all players in playoff points (up until game six).

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Wayne Gretzky, Alyssa Milano, Sidney Crosby (sorry Sid, but Alyssa gets the nod ahead of you), LL Cool J and David Beckham were all present as the Kings put themselves within a win of a Stanley Cup championship last night. Seemingly, all that’s left to do is to lift it. A highly commanding playoff run, coupled with a fantastic road record and an almost unbelievable penalty kill, gives them every right to. The Kings are simply playing fantastic hockey.

Simon Gagne made his return to the ice which, no matter who you want to win this thing, has to put a smile on your face. On the flip side, it’s hard watching a guy who’s the leading point scorer of the playoffs up until game 3 (Kovalchuk) struggle with an injury that’s becoming more and more of a hindrance as the Cup gets closer for the opposing team. Both things are equally a part of playoff hockey and we have no choice but to embrace them as story making events.

Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Yesterday was a big night for hockey. Unfortunately for Leaf fans, the Marlies lost out a convincing 4-2 decision to the record setting Norfolk Admirals. The Marlies are now heading home with a 2-0 deficit but here’s to hoping that the crowd at the Ricoh can ignite them again.

Norfolk opened the scoring with Panik deking Ben Scrivens, pushing the puck through the Toronto goalie’s legs and scoring to set the tone for the rest of the game. Alexandre Picard, Brandon Segal and Trevor Smith also scored for the Admirals. The only two goals for the Marlies were scored by Joe Colborne and Juraj Mikus. Mikus’ goal came in the final minute of the game.

There was also a Stanley Cup Final to be played, Game 2 to be precise. While the Devils played a much better Game 2 and dominated through large stretches, Jonathan Quick wasn’t about to be denied a second win in the series.

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Ken Holland and Brian Burke announce the 2013 Winter Classic.
Photo: Paul Sancya/AP

If you watched the Nicklas Lidstrom retirement press conference, which I’m sure some of you did, you undoubtedly saw the passion of Mike Ilitch Sr., who almost cried when talking about the departure of one of the best hockey players the world had ever seen. You undoubtedly bore witness to the quality of player/management personnel relationships that exist in such a world class organization.

I’ll be the first one to admit it. A part of me, the general hockey loving part, is a Red Wings fan. By that I don’t mean I support the team as a jersey-wearing fan or anything like that, but I do have tremendous admiration for how they conduct business, personnel decisions and make hockey men part of their family. In my line of thinking that kind of relationship has a major impact on the continuing excellence of that franchise.

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Did they just get in? Only a fool believes that.

There are two distinct stories on the surface of the upcoming Stanley Cup Finals. The Los Angeles Kings play the role of a team built for a Cup run. Deep down the middle, boasting a solid leadership group led by a hard hitting captain Dustin Brown and a veteran presence of Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi (who won the Cup with the Penguins not so long ago). Then there’s their scoring depth, their stars’ willingness to accept lesser roles (Richards, Carter) and great goaltending provided by Jonathan Quick.

Then there are the New Jersey Devils. No matter how you decided to paint the picture looking at the full length of the regular season, the Kings were always in the running for this year’s Stanley Cup and that percentage didn’t shrink when they traded for Jeff Carter. 8th seed or not, they always had the personnel to make that run. On the other hand, New Jersey took us completely (yes, yes it did) by surprise.

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In this period without any Leafs hockey, Leafs Nation speculates about the draft and summer trades and acquisitions. Once again, yours truly is here to do the former, only this time I’ll be looking at value beyond the top 10 selection.

At the moment, the Leafs hold the 35th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. It’s possible, plausible even, that our second round pick gets moved in order for us to move up for a shot at that future top line forward. However, given the uncertainty of draft day decisions, especially for the top five, six draft eligible players, I doubt that will be the case.

Photo Credit: thehockeynews.com

Writer and columnist Adam Proteau has been with The Hockey News since 1999. He is a frequent contributor to radio — including his role as host of THN’s Radio Show on XM Satellite Radio — and TV programs across North America and won the Professional Hockey Writers Association’s award for best column in 2005-06.

Adam took some time from his busy schedule to answer some of our questions. This is an interview we did earlier this year and since it’s pretty quiet on the Leafs front I thought it would be a good idea to publish it here since I never published the English version of the interview. Links below.

It has been 13 years since you first joined the Hockey News. What does covering the game of hockey mean to you personally? What are the main talking points that get you going for a new NHL season?

Covering the game means a chance to analyze and offer opinions on something that means more to my country than the political process. Not sure how healthy that is, but it’s the same in every country with one sport or another. But I do like examining hockey as a microcosm of the bigger society we live in, and point out the logical deficiencies that exist.

In terms of talking points, the changes that are made in the off-season always are a good entry point into each new season. Fans love change, and even though I’m not a fan in the traditional sense anymore, I’m the same in that sense.

The addition of Komarov would mean we gain a Shea Weber approved playoff beard, if such an occasion were to arise.

As Alex Tran discussed a week ago, apparently Leo Komarov is willing to join the Leafs. The feeling is that the 25-year-old Finnish forward is finally ready to make the transition to the best league in the world once the World Championships conclude.

“I hope so — as fast as possible, if they need me and they give me a good contract then I will go over there.

Komarov has one year remaining on his KHL deal but his KHL contract might include an out clause that can be activated after the World Championship. Although, that’s not what the following quote suggests:

“I’ve got a year in Dynamo left so I don’t know if they will let me go, it’s my agent’s work.”

Whatever the case may be, trying to sign Komarov just got more likely. It also may speak about Burke’s intent to make this team harder to play against than it does about him signing a player that will significantly improve our on ice talent. However, don’t be fooled, Komarov can score. Here’s what Burke had to say about it:

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Photo Credit: The Star

Brian Burke is mad. Make no mistake about it, he’s mad about missing the playoffs. Despite what is written/said down below, Brian Burke is mad, not elated:

“It’s hard to see a positive when you have the finish we had,” said Burke. “There are some positives, some building blocks. The pieces you need, the Phil Kessels, the Jake Gardiners, the Dion Phaneufs, the second line. All those things have been put in place. That’s what can’t be overlooked as you dissect the season. Even a season that’s marked by failure, I think we’re going in the right direction. It’s very hard to see that today.”

Leafs Nation is the greatest hockey fan base in the world, no two ways about it. But that always comes with a price. Elevated expectations, partially self imposed by the team’s uplifting performances, are always present. However, unlike seasons past Brian Burke and his (for all intents and purposes) team doesn’t have the luxury of time anymore.

“It’s not easy to fix a team that’s broken. I had no delusions. I watched GMs get up on their first day and say: ‘I’ve got a five-year plan.’ They’re buying five years out of the gate. I don’t respect that. My view is I was hopeful to do it quicker. We haven’t. But I haven’t changed the plan.”

Faster, quicker, sooner or later, slower, more conservative, it doesn’t really matter at this point, not for Burke. Unlike seasons past (not that he ever did this) we can’t justify the coaching profile and Wilson’s style of play impacting Burke’s personnel decisions. After all, he hired Carlyle and, judging by past experience, their marriage is made in a truculent hockey heaven.

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Photo: The Toronto Star

Today, Dmitry Chesnokov tweeted a quote from an interview with Mikhail Grabovski, where our recent signing claims to have been in contact with another team not named the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The quote, as translated by Chesnokov, read:

Were there any doubts when you extended your contract?

“There were doubts, and there was an offer from another club. If I wasn’t needed in Toronto, I wouldn’t have signed the contract. It turned out I was needed. I love Toronto. I want to play in that city.”

Before we go any further, please be advised that this is all pure speculation. Keep that preface firmly planted in your mind as we continue with the speculation.

Now, it’s completely possible that the team Grabo is referring to is a KHL team. Anything else, like Darren Dreger promptly noted (“Had an offer? How…he was still under contract.”), would fall under tampering. Okay, let’s assume for a moment this was a KHL team.