Saturday, May 30, 2015
Authors Posts by Richard-Steven Williams

Richard-Steven Williams

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After months of political manoeuvring and speculation… and pending ratification, Donald Fehr appears primed to formally take office as the Executive Director of the NHLPA with the Ilya Kovalchuk saga providing an appropriate backdrop. Despite having earlier dismissed himself as a candidate for the role, the former MLBPA hardliner is now expected to spearhead the players union through the next series of collective bargaining negotiations in 2012.

Either a spectre to be feared, or a challenge to be relished for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, one wonders if the league office wishes it had treated the ailing NHLPA with kid gloves following the late, late night coup that saw former figurehead Paul Kelly overthrown in August 2009.

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Even before the clock struck midnight, it had become apparent Tomas Kaberle would remain a Leaf headed into 2010-11. Indeed TSN ended the wait at 11.57pm, officially announcing that all trade negotiations had come to an impasse after a morbid day of Tweets, updates and rumours boiled down to the status quo. Almost three years of trade speculation seemed to be distilled into a cathartic melting pot of emotion. For many this was the trade that would define the Leafs future and after all the hyperbole, one leaked offer from San Jose; Joslin and a first round draft pick, seemed to set an ominous tone for a day that ended in nought.

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*Warning:  More analysis and opinion concerning the Kovalchuk decision. For those who want to talk hockey, as opposed to the now perpetual indiscretions of the league office etc. Alex has a post beneath.

When Richard Bloch decided to rule in the favour of the NHL in the case of Ilya Kovalchuk and the ridiculous contract, he set in place a new precedent that the league hope will stem the flow of cap-circumventing front loaded contracts. In lieu of a concrete definition, the cover-all bases nature of Bloch’s ruling was expected to draw a line under the types of long, frontloaded contracts the NHL saw as detrimental to the spirit of equality the CBA and its salary cap was supposed to theoretically harbour.

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As many of you are now aware we received this post from one of own Amoroq last nite:

I lost a nephew today, he was 20 years old, it was sudden, and quite a shock. The family is in need of assistance due various layoffs and they need help to give the kind of funeral he deserves. My Sister has negotiated the sum down from $10,000.00 to $6626.00 but still they need help. I know its a large amount, but any little bit will help. $5.00, $10.00 anything.

Please follow the link below, it is my Wife’s blog and may not be your cup of tea but this is where you will find the donation box.

My thanks in advance.

http://www.womanist-musings.com/2010/08/death-in-family-we-need-your-help.html

As long as I have been a contributor at MLHS, Amoroq has been a regular supporter of our site, in fact as Alec informed me in his e-mail last nite when I should of posted this, Amoroq’s contribution’s pre-date mine, responding as he did way back on our very first post:

http://mapleleafshotstove.com/2008/09/06/cliff-notes/#more-104

Look at that, 13 responses. As the site has grown Amoroq (as well as those of you who may remember that post) have been ever present and I know Alec, as well as myself and the rest of our contributors are all grateful for the support shown and as such wanted to show our support at this difficult time and do whatever we can to promote his families cause.

I like to think of this site as a community and Amoroq has been integral to that since the very beginning. I know many of you have already contributed, but for those who haven’t I hope you can find the time to visit his wifes site and contribute what you can.

For one of our own and with our sincerest condolences, the MLHS.

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 As the systemic dismantling of this summer’s Stanley Cup champions continues in earnest, league watchers are crying foul. Where detractors of the current, hard revenue based cap once denounced the communistic, unilateral sharing of league revenue as the prime illustration of illogic in the CBA (alongside the long-long term contract loopholes), Monday’s exit of Antti Niemi from the Chicago Blackhawks has helped turn the club into the latest martyr’s of the cap.

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Since joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brian Burke has worked feverishly to distance the club from the atmosphere of mediocrity which pervaded during the years of mismanagement that came before.

While upgrading the playing staff and reducing the age demographic of the locker room are the two most apparent hallmarks Burke has placed upon the Leafs, his backstage upgrading of the administrative, coaching, scouting and medical departments have the potential to leave considerably longer legacies.

If leaked reports are to be believed the NHLPA is preparing to file a grievance pertaining to the NHL’s rejection of the unprecedented 17 year, $102 million contract filed last week by the New Jersey Devils for Russian forward Ilya Kovalchuk. The report suggests that even if the Devils and Kovalchuk can agree on a restructured deal, the NHLPA may still decide to file a grievance in a preventative effort for future contracts.

The latter part is particularly significant for those who have been viewing the leagues rejection of the initial contract as an act of political posturing in the face of the PA’s on-going power struggle and an attempt at drawing a line in the sand.

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Maybe it was indicative of how fragile the Leafs psyche had become after relinquishing such an unexpectedly high draft pick to the Bruins, or maybe it was just a reaction to the mid-summer boredom brought upon as the Kovalchuk saga stop-gaped the NHL trade wires, but the recent trade rumours surrounding Luke Schenn suggests a seismic shift has taken place in Leafs Nation with regards to the future and how to obtain long sought after success.

One that seems to have embraced a cap defiant means of rebuilding in an age of tank-to-win.

When Brian Burke added Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin to an established Leafs cast of Luke Schenn, Tomas Kaberle, Ian White and Jeff Finger it looked to all that the Toronto GM had built himself an enviable problem. A premium blueline, arguably one of the finest in the Eastern Conference, that also came with a premium price tag.

Of course, what began an enviable problem on paper quickly devolved into an actual problem when the new additions failed to mesh into a cohesive unit with defensive and special team frailties more apparent than those of an comparatively budget offense.

Brian Burke must have felt a lot like the eponymous Old Mother Hubbard when he first reached into the Leafs prospects cupboard. Of course, unlike the elderly dog-mistreating crone of the rhyme, Burke already knew what lay in stock prior to his arrival in Leafs country. In short: a few notable exceptions to a decade of draft property mismanagement.

Subsequently, the draft of 2009 looked to be a vital cornerstone in Brian Burke’s rebuild. The first chance for the Leafs to restock in a new, finally directed era.

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There is no saying that Brian Burke won’t find some way to improve the Leafs lot come draft day, but as things stand this very moment the Leafs will not be making a selection until the third round. Where the Leafs went off the board early last year taking the nameplate-less Jamie Devane in the third, in a draft marked by big-bodied rough-and-tumble types, chances are this season, Burke and his staff will be looking for a player with a more immediate skill set. Not only would this partially appease a disheartened fan base, the Leafs will enter the draft wary of saturating the cupboard with leviathan sized bodyguards.

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Ron Wilson, an alumnus from Providence College, was playing for Davos in the Swiss National League A in 1985 when pivotal Minnesota North Stars defenseman Craig Hartsburg was injured. Embroiled in a battle for a playoff spot, Minnesota were in tough to find a stabilizing replacement to hold down the North Stars backend whilst Hartsburg recovered. Ron Wilson, a standout collegiate defender who never rose above major league stopgap, became the go-to-guy having already played 13 games for the North Stars the season previous. A span that bullet pointed five seasons in Switzerland.

A grizzled journeyman by age 30; Wilson would provide stellar coverage in Hartsburg’s absence securing an presence on the North Stars blueline in the 1986-’87 season before completing his NHL playing career with Minnesota a year later.

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Whichever way you cut it, the Leafs endured a torrid season that no statistical tinkering can mend. Regardless, if there is one thing most opposing NHL fans can agree on it’s the increasing need for an overhaul in the leagues points’ structure and the farcical awarding of points in the overall standings.

Where once every game had two points at stake, either by means of two for the win or split after an OT tie, the inclusion of an extra point for teams losing in OT or, more prevalently, after the shootout, has spawned an lopsided points structure that favours teams and coaches who adopt an cautious approach toward the end of regulation time that is the polar opposite of what was originally intended.

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    Leafs NationLine-up Note: Tim Brent has been recalled from the Marlies and will feature tonight. He has recorded 26 points in 35 games this season, third on the team among active Marlies. Caputi or Primeau will sit according to AM640’s Jonas Siegel.

    The planets have aligned and the gods of hockey have shined their countenance upon the Leafs. Considering of course the various permutations that have to yet play out, it could still end up for nought at the close of play Sunday night. But after a favourable series of results, Toronto now has the chance to topple the Montreal Canadiens wavering playoff aspirations and boy do they owe the fans a blistering performance to give the Leafs faithful some tangible highlight from a season resplendent in lows.

    Prior to the lockout, undrafted college free agents were a rare, straight to NHL commodity. Either serving out their apprenticeships as minor league signees or plying their trade overseas, few players transitioned directly from the ranks of college hockey to the NHL without enduring prolonged development curves. However, in a post-lockout landscape where GM’s clutch their most valued assets and superstars to their clubs with dynasty length deals, and where dollars and ice time are apportioned in equilibrium, graduate aged (or younger) players progressing from the NCAA as free agents are providing comparatively cheap labour in an increasingly scrutinized marketplace.

    Not too surprisingly, considering both his hockey heritage as a former captain of the Providence College Friars and his somewhat condensed timetable for rebuilding the Leafs, Brian Burke has been one of the first to plunder the verdant college market in recent seasons, in turn providing a quantum shift from the conventional dominance of the CHL at the junior level.

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      jonas-gustavssonOne of the more enigmatic problems facing Brian Burke in an summer that will see much of the contemporary Buds negligible talent headed for the door, is the impending contract crunch of now go-to starter Jonas Gustavsson. Touted by many as the best netminder outside of the NHL last season, Gustavsson has shown exciting, if fleeting moments of the form that earned him widespread acclaim backstopping last season’s Elitserien champions Farjestads BK.

      Unfortunately, Gustavsson’s dominant play in the SEL has failed to translate on a consistent basis in the NHL and much of the season many saw as the coronation of a new number one has been overshadowed by a significant heart problem. Supraventricular tachycardia aside, Gustavsson’s woes in the aftermath of his worrisome sidelining have seemingly stemmed from a crisis of confidence borne out of the inconsistent, Jekyll and Hyde defense, The Monster has had to deal with on a night by night basis, as well as the organizations early and now aborted attempts at blooding Vesa Toskala as trade bait.

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        The pre-season Buds may have exuded that truculent belligerence so deeply worn into the modern Toronto fans lexicon, but they rarely looked convincing. Either letting leads slip or being forced to fight back from poor starts, the Leafs managed to scrap their way to a strong 6-3 record. But as the 2008 Detroit Lions will attest to, a good pre-season rarely translates into a successful regular season.

        Subsequently, while it is easy to buy into the hype of September hockey after the barren months of Summer, the Leafs will do well to learn from the more lackadaisical moments of their 6-3 warm up before they start lacing up against the cream of the leagues “A” squads. After all, rallying performances aside, the pre-season has done little but affirm that the Leafs own one of the strongest depth charts in the league, not necessarily the strongest team.

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          The baby Leafs cruised past a Philadelphia Flyers B team playing an increasingly dirty game Thursday evening. The first victory in a, so-far, entertaining pre-season; the Leafs acquitted themselves well with a lineup that could be argued weaker than that iced the night previous.

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            It took sometime to manifest, prolonged in the wake of shoulder surgery and stunted contract talks, but the September 10th news that negotiations between the Boston Bruins, Wade Arnott and Phil Kessel had come to an impasse reignited the rumor mill that has surrounded the Leafs and the Madison, Wisconsin sniper since Brian Burke first tabled Tomas Kaberle in the infamous draft day “misunderstanding.”

            In the week that has passed since negotiations broke down, the value of Kessel has skyrocketed beyond the original RFA compensation of a 1st, 2nd and 3rd round selection in the 2010 draft.

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              Former NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly finally broke his silence yesterday following his firing early Monday morning. In a vicious 24 hours that also witnessed Glenn Healy’s resignation, Kelly was forced to defend himself against allegations he misused his office having reputedly been caught reading a confidential transcript from a players meeting.

              For his part, Kelly admitted reading the document to the Executive Board meeting that preceded his departure, saying he felt “duty bound” after union members, concerned that the NHLPA constitution was being violated, actively sought his participation.