Thursday, May 28, 2015
Authors Posts by Mislav Jantoljak

Mislav Jantoljak

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 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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High Five! Now, Who's Going Down?

Prior to preseason preparation, and training camp battles, management was very clear on how the available spots on the roster are going to be filled. Whoever earns the job, regardless of age, previous status or NHL experience, with a good camp will have the job. Jobs will not be given, they will be earned.

During this period of preparation, Jake Gardiner’s star shone so bright that even true spokesman of AHL player development couldn’t negate the impact his ability had on the transition game and overall attacking play of our back end.

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    Leafs win!

    Gotta love the victory over the Sens, preseason or not. However, things started out going from bad to worse. The first goal was one to remember for Chris Neil and his family. He makes the first real hockey play of his life by banking the puck off Reimer for Mika Zibanjad to show off his great hand eye coordination and bat the puck in. He meant to do it and all.

    So far Neil has had five career two assist games, and the sixth came tonight. Ah well, I hear Halley’s Comet is coming in 2061. That’s exactly the date when you can expect Chris to repeat this feat.

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    Frank Finnigan

    On this day in 1931, our Maple Leafs acquired Frank Finnigan in the NHL’s Dispersal Draft. Until that time, Finnigan had played eight seasons with the Ottawa Senators, seasons which included a Cup win in 1927. Following the Great Depression, most teams were in state of financial crisis and that was exactly what lead the Ottawa Senators to withdraw from playing in the 1931-32 season. Of course, we now know that the Sens didn’t make their return until a much later time.

    Francis Arthur Clarence Finnigan was nicknamed “The Shawville Express”. The nickname started when he was playing for the University of Ottawa, as he had to take the train from Shawville to Ottawa to study and play for the University. He played two more seasons for teams in the OCHL, with Ottawa Collegiate and Ottawa Montagnards before joining the Ottawa Senators in the 1923–24 season.

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    Which Kid To Keep?

    Sabres 3 – Leafs 2. A great performance by the Sabres left us Leafs fans wanting in what was a second consecutive defeat at the hands of Buffalo. The Sabres outshot the Leafs 37-21 and dominated play for the most part. Not that the boarder games are ever easy (our record there shows that) but Sabres once again iced a pretty competitive lineup and took full advantage.

    As always in preseason, there were some positives to take out of the game, not many, but a few. First let me start with a great bit of news. Matthew Lombardi has been cleared for full contact practice and may get an exhibition game in. I for one can’t wait to see him in action.

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      Photo Credit: Getty Images

      A game which had a lot of positives certainly didn’t look that way at first. It wasn’t the start we wanted when Keith Aulie got handcuffed by a bad pass from Dion Phaneuf. After getting caught in his feet, Aulie had to chip it out and we had no puck support, leading to a giveaway and a Buffalo lead.

      After that incident, things started picking up with the Leafs playing the best period of the preseason so far.

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      Today, I’d like to talk about an issue that’s been a somewhat heated topic of many discussions during the past three days. Suspensions and enforcing discipline have becoming increasingly important talking points because today’s players have made significant progress in terms of their physical ability compared to their former counterparts. The conditioning has never been better, the speed with which the game is played today is unparalleled by any former era of puck chasing. The equipment is better suited for protecting the player wearing it, but as a byproduct it has also become a devastating weapon for inflicting serious bodily harm on your fellow player.

      All of the above (plus additional variables) contributed to discipline being one the most talked about points during last year. The Colin Campbell era as chief NHL disciplinarian will mostly be remembered for the lack of consistency in his rulings. This writer is of the opinion that Campbell indeed tried to be fair and just, but his “old school” attitude (which can be read from some of his rulings and dealings with the press) caused him to bow down to the stereotypes that plagued this game for decades. I also don’t think he didn’t try to be progressive, but I guess being progressive isn’t as easy when you’re part of the old guard.

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        Photo Credit:

        Leafs vs. Flyers, 2011-12 preseason. A great battle of siblings was upon us. Schenn vs. Schenn. Kessel vs. Kessel. Brother versus bother. Period vs period. Jekyll vs. Hyde. Preseason vs. expectations. Scary stuff.

        The first order of business is telling you how happy I am that Colton Orr is finally fully healed. Recently, as seen with the cases of Marc Savard and Sidney Crosby, we have been reminded how detrimental these types of injuries can be to player careers. It’s particularly difficult to battle such injuries if you’re playing a role that Colton has been playing throughout his NHL career. I’d imagine enforcers owe much of their mental focus to confidence, which is a thing difficult to have coming off a serious concussion. It takes great courage to step into that role immediately after that kind of setback.

        Speaking of fourth line guys, Darryl Boyce played a hard nosed, gritty game. The kind of which will get him a regular spot on the roster. He will give you 100% every single game and if you don’t like that, go watch a game where people excel at not giving their 100%.

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          Leafs vs. Sens

          Here we go again! Hockey is back and there isn’t a bad way to say it. A Sens game is always a spirited tilt and tonight’s game didn’t disappoint. The game started with a very classy tribute to all who fell victims to this truly tragic hockey summer. You can view it here if you so choose.

          Huge hit early in the first by Phaneuf which rocked Conboy and initiated a fight between him and Cowen in which no serious damage was done to either participant. Major props to Phaneuf for stepping up early in preseason. Really shows the kind of attitude we want to see this year. If you’re the captain, you try to lead the way as early as you can and pave a solid way into the new season.

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          Photo Credit:

          As promised, here is the second part of my Media Day coverage. Part 1, which includes quotes from Schenn and Burke about Schenn’s deal can be found here. Now, I wanted to have quotes from all the guys, because we’re not in the business of promoting individuals or star quality, but there were just too many interviews for two pieces. I think I’ve compiled the most interesting stuff so do enjoy. Starting this segment off is Matthew Lombardi.

          Matthew Lombardi:

          “Even from a month ago, I’m feeling better than I was, my conditioning is getting better every day and I’m looking forward to it (the season), getting real excited for it. Let’s just take it day by day. My goal is to be ready for the first game, if I’m not eventually things are going to work themselves out, it’s just hard to put a day or a percentage on it. It’s been great to get here and spend some time with the guys, get to know them a little bit before training camp. There is just a really good energy going around right now and I think the guys are getting real antsy to start training camp. It’s exciting.”

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          Photo Credit:

          This is the first part of my transcript of yesterday’s Leafs media day. It focuses primarily on Luke’s deal, with the majority of the quotes coming from our general manager. Part two is coming to you on Monday, with quotes from other players and Ron Wilson for the media day itself.

          Brian Burke on life, universe and Schenn’s deal:

          “We intend to spend to the cap. He haven’t spent to the cap since I’ve been here, but that’s why you have to work hard at these contracts and Don Meehan’s group did a really good job on Luke’s side and Claude Loiselle did a really good job on our side. I think the deal reached was fair and am very pleased to announce Luke Schenn is a Leaf for five more years…”

          As are we. At 3.6 mil. Schenn deal is fair value, especially given the term of the contract. Luke has been a vital cog for this team, led us in hits in the each of the last three years and will keep progressing along with the likes of Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel, Keith Aulie etc. The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native also led the Maple Leafs in blocked shots with 168, and was the only player in the NHL to have over 250 hits and at least 150 blocked shots last season.  If you’re a Leafs fan, this is the news you were waiting to hear all summer long.

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            Photo Credit:

            The Leaf rookies finished the tournament with an unfortunate loss against Ottawa. The game ended in OT after Jakub Culek beat Owuya for his second tally of the night. All in all, it was an encouraging showing from the young Leafs, who battled to come from behind twice only to fall short in OT.

            Matt Frattin was building confidence throughout the tournament, and it was evident last night. Here is what he had to say about his goal, which was also his first point of the tourney:

            “The last two years I’ve been playing the point on the blueline in North Dakota. I moved back down there today and I told Gardiner I like that one side. I got him to shoot me a perfect pass right on the sweet spot and it was a good screen from Nicholls out in front and the goalie didn’t see anything.”

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              Photo Credit:

              Mitchell Heard went undrafted in the OHL draft. He got picked up and played for the Plymouth Whalers, collecting a total of 20 goals and 51 points in 93 OHL games. He also wasn’t drafted in the NHL, but so far, at the prospects tourney, he’s surprising once again.

              Before the OHL, Heard played for the Bowmanville Eagles in the OJHL, a hockey team that recently folded/merged with Cobourg. He scored 17 goals, 30 points in 22 games for the Eagles. Mitchell had an excellent game tonight which goes hand in hand with a very good effort in game 1. I always think effort should be rewarded and even if he doesn’t earn a deal, he certainly earned these two paragraphs.

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              Photo Credit:

              Here we are, it’s the second day of the rookie tourney. If the early signs are any indication, this is setting up to be a really good period for our prospects. Today’s opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team significantly older than the Hawks.

              Usually, there are major roster changes game in and game out during these events and things will not be any different tonight. Removed from the roster are: Matt Frattin and Jesse Blacker, as well as Kenny Ryan and Jake Gardiner, who combined for three goals against Chicago on Saturday. Forwards Tyler Brenner and Kyle Neuber, along with defensemen Dave Cowan and Denny Urban, sat out the first contest and are gearing up for their first tourney start.

              After sharing duties with Mark Owuya against the Blackhawks, Garret Sparks is scheduled to play the full 60 minutes. Sparks allowed both goals against Chicago, one coming only minutes after being sent to the crease cold at the midway point and the second a direct result of an odd-man rush. Be that as it may, we’re looking to see a more composed performance from the youngster tonight.

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                An Impressive Showing

                Unless you live in a cave, you know that the young Leafs beat the young Blackhawks 4-2 last night in the rookie tournament in Oshawa. Goaltending looked ok, with potential on show. Mark Owuya had trouble dealing with rebounds on occasion, but that’s to be expected from a European goalie just trying to figure out the new angles. Other than that, he was very solid. Garrett Sparks looked somewhat nervous in net, but settled down as the game progressed and made some nice saves later on.

                Jesse Blacker and most notably, Jake Gardiner looked like men amongst boys at times. Their superior skating ability caused major problems for the young Chicago team. Although we have to keep in mind this was just a rookie game, we can’t but admire his yesterday night showing. Dazzling rushes up ice, he scored two vintage goals which put his name on everyone’s lips. Blacker showed that he worked extremely hard on his game, which seems more mature now, coupled with the physical attributes he always possessed.

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                "May you have a long & prosperous NHL Â career."

                Each day we see increasingly younger sports phenoms wowing us with their performances in various sports. The age of elite athletes has dropped considerably and drastically.

                All of today’s superstars are younger, stronger and more developed than their counterparts of the past. Accordingly, never in the history of the NHL had there been so many young players dominating the league.

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                Eariler today, a plane containing the roster of the KHL hockey club, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, caught fire and crashed shortly after take-off, merely 4 kilometers from Tunosjno-airport. Preliminary reports say that 43 of the 45 passengers on board had been killed, and that the only surviving player was in critical condition. It was later announced that Alexander Galimov is only player on-board to survive the crash.

                Among the deceased are Igor Korolev, Alexander Karpovtsev, Karlis Skrastins, Brad McCrimmon, Ruslan Salei and a former NHL star Pavol Demitra who scored 304 goals and 768 points in 847 NHL games. I loved watching him play and am extremely saddened by his passing. I would like to think we’re more than a Leafs blog, so we should all express our sencere thoughts and prayers regarding this tragedy that shook the entire hockey world. In times like these, there is no NHL vs. the KHL rivalry, only togetherness and unity.

                Here is a part of the statement from IIHF President Rene Fasel, it really tells the whole story – “This is the darkest day in the history of our sport, this is not only a Russian tragedy, the Lokomotiv roster included players and coaches from ten nations.”

                R.I.P. hokejisti Локомотив Яросла́вль

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                I am a big believer of creating teams by having the players grow up together. It’s exactly what we have here. Our core is extremely young and everybody is developing, maturing together. It creates a bond which cannot be duplicated otherwise. Psychologists will tell you that having players (young men) go through stuff together in roughly the same period of their lives has an unparalleled bonding effect.

                Teams that are put together in that manner are almost always successful. And those that are the exception to that rule certainly can’t be blamed for their lack of team spirit or “togetherness”. More often than not, just putting together a group of talented players, or big money free agents gets you nowhere, except maybe in a big hole you dug up for yourself.

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                Photo Credit:

                September 9th 1936. Bob Baun is born in Lanigan, Saskatchewan. Baun was a Leaf for a total of 739 games in two stints with the club between 1956 and 1972. He was one of the Leafs “Big Four” on defense during their Stanley Cup dynasty years in the early-mid ’60’s.

                Baun was one of the hardest and cleanest hitters of his time. He was not considered an offensive threat by any means, having never scoring more than 20 points in a season in the NHL. His highest single-season goal total was eight in 1959–60. However, Baun will always be remembered for his performance in game six of the 1963–64 NHL season Stanley Cup finals against the Detroit Red Wings.

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                With the passing of Wade Belak I thought it would be a good time to remember players we admired most. It’s a sad time that’s also perfect to remember the players who put a smile on our faces throughout the years because they, like everything else, won’t be around forever. Nothing makes that more clear than a loss.

                Here are my all time top 5 favorite Leafs (sure some of them didn’t make that much of an impact and are on the list because of entirely trivial personal reasons that might seem dumb, but hey, you don’t choose who you remember). Here goes:

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                Photo Credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese

                Not many words today guys, but we’ve got a ton of links prepared for your reading pleasure. Stories ranging from Leafs training camp battles and a story about Tyler Biggs to arguing the validity of the charity point with Greg Wyshynski. MLHS’ Morning Mashup has it all. Enjoy.

                Days until… Training Camp: 14 / Pre-Season: 21 / 2011-2012 NHL Season Opening: 38.