Saturday, May 23, 2015
Authors Posts by Ryan Fancey

Ryan Fancey

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Photo: Getty Images

It’s game day for the Leafs, visiting Philadelphia for an important matchup against the Flyers. While Toronto is obviously no sure thing for a playoff spot, they now find themselves  within striking distance of the Flyers, Penguins and Devils. For a team that recently exploded for 11 of a possible 12 points, it isn’t that far-fetched to believe they can pass at least one of these clubs and land in sixth in the East.

The Flyers, on the other hand, have been mediocre lately, and their view from the top of the conference is a memory.

James Mirtle has more about Bryzgalov, the Flyers, and their recent struggles:

After all, they were 15-7-3 before HBO’s cameras invaded the dressing room and then won five games in a row immediately thereafter, standing first in the Eastern Conference.

But since an ugly 6-0 loss at home to the Boston Bruins midway through the run of the series, the Flyers are only 10-9-4 and have fallen much closer to a pack of teams fighting to make the playoffs

Tonight is a chance for the Leafs to move within three points of the Flyers with a regulation win. After being held to only a goal against a stingy home team in the Jets, hopefully the Leafs can break out for a few tonight.

Links after the jump.

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Image: AP

Just a quick hit of links and a new thread.

Can the Leafs stop Sam Gagner and the Oilers? (The Star)

Marlies Weekly Update (Jeff at TLN)

Leafs should stand pat (Traikos at NP)

Leafs’ D deadly at both ends of the rink (The Sun)

The Leaf legacy in my lifetime, part II (Michael at VLM)

Trade Winds: Jeff Carter (Hockey Nerd)

And head on over to Copper and Blue or Oilers Nation to read up on the Leafs’ opponent ahead of tonight’s game.

Feel free to share any other links you have in the comments section.

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Entering this hockey season, the idea of talking about James Reimer as a backup plan by January would have seemed odd. The only way I could have thought up such a scenario would’ve been to include the Leafs signing or trading for a veteran netminder to settle things down. It didn’t happen, and the team is tied for a playoff spot regardless due to some timely performances by Jonas Gustavsson to kick off 2012.

The Leafs have the luxury (I guess) of not being constrained by a large goalie contract. There’s no true “number one.”

When teams throw around huge cash to goaltenders, it goes without saying that there’s risk involved. By paying Ryan Miller or Ilya Bryzgalov upwards of 5-6 million per season, the Sabres and Flyers, respectively, are basically saying “that’s our guy.” And in the case of both, this season has been a lot of wasted money.

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Image: The Sun

Some surprising news this morning, as the Leafs have announced a four-year contract extension for blueliner John-Michael Liles, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

From TSN:

The Toronto Maple Leafs will announce today that the club has signed defenceman John-Michael Liles to a four-year, $15.5 million contract extension.
It’s weird timing for a move like this, considering Liles has missed the last fifteen games with a concussion. This extension also stirs up a lot of rumors about what the Leafs will do in the next couple weeks, now that they’ve potentially taken a good chunk of cash away from being used to shop in the summer.

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Image: The Globe and Mail

It’s Thursday morning, and since it’s a game day I’ll keep this short.

After dropping three straight games, it looks like Ron Wilson has mashed up the Leafs’ lines and created somewhat of a puzzling layout. During practice on Wednesday, things looked something like this up front: Lombardi-Bozak-Kessel, MacArthur-Grabovski-Kulemin, Lupul-Connolly-Kadri, and Brown-Steckel-Crabb. Good to see Kadri re-enter the lineup after sitting against the Senators, I thought some of his creativity with the puck probably could have helped in the third.

It’s no real surprise that a head coach would want to shift some things around on a losing streak, but moving Lupul from the top line had a lot of fans confused. It’s a tough situation given the Leafs have only scored four goals in three losses, with only one point each from Kessel and Lupul, and the duo has been on the ice for six against in that span.

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Image: The Star

Few 25 year old NHL players have had careers as interesting as that of Kris Versteeg. Sure, there are guys who’ve done some great things early, but Versteeg has definitely had a weird past couple years.

After some good seasons and eventually a Stanley Cup win in Chicago, he was sent to the “center of the hockey universe” in Toronto, wasn’t given a fair shake (or at least he and many others believe), got dealt to Philadelphia and didn’t do much of anything, and now is producing big time in Florida.

We knew something was up with Versteeg when he was sent packing out of Leafland and basically couldn’t wait to jump on the plane. And in the past few days he’s made some comments that sort of paint the picture as to why things didn’t work out with our beloved Maple Leafs.

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Photo: Matthew Manor/Getty Images North America

Not a lot for me to talk about in this one, just some good links to send your way. There’s obviously a lot to be excited about regarding the Leafs right now – a playoff spot, some trade speculation, a good interview from Burke yesterday, plenty of buzz on Twitter.

As I mentioned, last night Alec posted Brian Burke’s interview with McCown and Cox at the FAN590. If you haven’t given it a listen, make sure to do so right here. Burke was on fire as usual, covering a variety of topics, even throwing out some more quotes to get everyone thinking about trade talks ahead of the deadline (is something on the burner? “Yes.” Do you think you’ll get something done? “Yes.”). A must-listen for sure.

Links after the jump.

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Probably not much more than some fun speculation here, but it seems the internet is heating up some trade talks, and the Leafs are in the middle of it. Again.

From the Philly Daily News:

Flyers director of player development Don Luce was spotted for the third time in as many weeks at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto for the Maple Leafs’ contest against Buffalo.

Luce’s consistent presence in Toronto fuels trade speculation between the Flyers and Leafs. The NHL trade deadline is just 47 days away…

“I do try to get my lineup set well in advance of the deadline,” Burke told on Friday. “I’ve never been a deadline guy. So January is when I try to make a splash. We are listening to a lot right now, and there is a good chance something will happen …”

While I don’t doubt the Leafs and Flyers are chatting, I’m not sure how you could pinpoint Luke Schenn as the player that’s targeted (which the article goes on to do.)

It’s well known that Burke and Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren are buddies, and Burke’s son is employed by the Flyers as well. The connection is there.

Is there enough to get a deal done? If Burke really wants to stay away from the deadline, it looks like we’ll find out soon.

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Just when I had envisioned the Bruins, Leafs, Sabres and Canadiens making the playoffs every year forever and ever, the NHLPA goes ahead and stops realignment. Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Realignment, not happening, or at least it seems that way for now.

From the White Towel (Province Sports):

The National Hockey League Players’ Association has blocked the #NHL’s proposed #realignment plan for the 2012-13 season

This, of course, means the Jets will remain in the Southeast, while the Florida teams won’t make the jump to join the Northeast clubs. It’s been reported that the League had imposed a deadline for the PA to approve realignment, they didn’t, and here we are.

There’s your late Friday night hockey news.

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(Photo Credit: CP/John Woods)

After doing battle for the third time this season on Wednesday night, the Leafs and Jets split from their marriage in the standings once again and Toronto climbed back into a playoff spot. The Jets on the other hand, saw their goal differential slip to -11 on the season after the 4-0 loss, they still sit in tenth.

If we know anything, it’s that January through February is an important stretch of the NHL season. Go figure, it’s the meatiest part of the schedule really, outside of the hilarious All-Star Game. You need only to look at these two clubs to understand why.

Last year around this time, the Leafs and Thrashers (I think that’s what they were called) started to turn the wheels, heading in opposite directions.

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AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Without sounding too grim regarding the Leafs playoff outlook, it’s basically undeniable that the club has reached the coin-flip territory that many of us predicted before the season began. Most believed the team would float around as a fringe playoff club and finish somewhere in the 7-11 range.

When the team kicked off things by banking points and climbing to the top of the league, we knew it wasn’t sustainable, but were obviously glad to see things go right before we knew they’d go wrong (somewhat). It isn’t exactly a death sentence, but the club has slipped to where they should be: clinging to a playoff spot.

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Photo: REUTERS/Mark Blinch

From Jonas Siegel at TSN1050:

Confirmed: Reimer starts.

This is the news we’ve waited on for what seems like forever. Reimer has been out of the lineup with whiplash, or concussion-like symptoms, or something, since late October when Brian Gionta decided to run him over (or, attack him, depending on how you look at it).

Talk about throwing him back into the fire. The Leafs face the Bruins tonight and are hoping that Reimer is the piece that solves the Boston puzzle in his first start back. Tough assignment.

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Photo: Toronto Star

Photo: David Cooper/Toronto Star

It’s been no secret to a lot of Leafs followers, and hockey fans in general, that with a changing NHL comes a change in the way hockey teams will be structured going forward. Structured, built, laid out, however you want to put it, the makeup of a roster these days probably looks quite different than it did even five years ago.

Of course the game has always had stars and superstars. Even the worst teams have had at least some talent sprinkled  through their top two lines.  Where the line was drawn, for a lot of clubs, was when the third string stepped on the ice. This obviously wasn’t true for every team, as even now you’ll find differences in the layout of team A vs. team B. But one thing is clear, undeniable: speed and skill kill.

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Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Unless you’ve been locked in a closet for the past few days, chances are you’ve managed to come across some Bobby Ryan trade talk in one way or another.

Well, what started as a quick hit rumor (or at least that’s what we thought) from Nick Kypreos has blossomed into full on hockey news. TSN made multiple mentions of the Ryan trade scenario on its national broadcast of the Leafs-Bruins game on Wednesday night, and Twitter has been abuzz for a couple days now. It simply won’t slow down.

Of course, what would a trade rumor be without mention of the Maple Leafs? Ryan has been mentioned among Leafs fans in the past, but now it seems they may have a legitimate reason to speculate.

From John Boruk at Comcast Sportsnet:

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Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

From Mike Brophy at Sportsnet:

The Toronto Maple Leafs have made contact with veteran goalie Marty Turco. He has been working out with the Soo Greyhounds.

Obviously nothing imminent yet, but with the Leafs’ goaltending struggles, it seemed like most fans were in agreement that veteran help was needed. Is this the veteran help the team needs?

Turco is 36, and in his recent stint with the Blackhawks in 2010-11 he posted an 11-11-3 record, along with a .897 Sv% and 3.02 GAA. Whether he’d be an improvement on the current tandem of Scrivens and Gustavsson is up for debate. Have at it.

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Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star released an interesting article on Wednesday night pertaining to the Leafs’ James Reimer, and some worries his mother may have about his current health situation. And to be honest, it will (and should) send fans into quite the panic.

After dropping two straight lopsided games this past week, it seems the team is finally slowing down, or regressing to the mean (as many would put it). Of course we didn’t believe this first place pace was sustainable, but nor did we believe the drop-off would be so steep.

Now, I’m fully aware that it’s only two brutal outings, but combine a snake-bitten group of forwards – who shouldn’t be cold for too long, thankfully – and some horrendous goaltending, and the Leafs seem to be gearing up for their regular November routine. The only problem is, they have zero idea when Reimer can come back and bust them out of this, and December’s schedule is a hell of a lot rougher than this current month. Even with goal-scoring eventually getting back on track, they’re still taking an enormous chance by putting any hopes in the Monster, or Scrivens for that matter. So, maybe something needs to be done quickly.

That falls on Burke. Wilson can toy with the lines and try to get his players back on track as soon as possible, but with basically a cardboard cut-out between the pipes, it won’t make a lot of difference in the win column.

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Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

In what’s been a dream season so far for the Maple Leafs, defenceman Luke Schenn is currently going through the most nightmare-ish period of his career, performance-wise. Though, it’s tough to notice his poor play, since he’s barely on the ice.

What you’re about to read may be offensive to some. Viewer discretion is advised.

Luke Schenn had the least amount of ice time for the entire Leafs squad during the win against the Devils on Wednesday night. 10:01, that was his total. Ten minutes and one second. Dupuis was second-to-last with 10:38 on ice. You know, Phillipe Dupuis, that guy who plays on the fourth line. Schenn didn’t even see the ice for one special teams situation – unbelievable.

A fight kept him out of the game for 5 minutes late in the second, as I guess he tried to spark some interest from the coaches. It didn’t really work.

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From Pierre Lebrun at ESPN/TSN:

” I heard from sources on other teams Monday that Gauthier was phoning around looking for help on defense. The thing is, he’s not alone. Tampa and the New York Rangers are among the other teams also looking for blue-line help. It just so happens that Cody Franson is available in Toronto, although I’m not sure whether any of those three teams have interest in him.”

This isn’t exactly surprising news. Franson really hasn’t panned out the way most expected, and though it’s early, he’s probably better off leaving town for more help up front. Keep a close eye on this one, those struggling teams will want to turn things around as soon as possible. Is Franson the solution to their problems? Probably not, but these are teams looking desperate to shake things up.

Glove tap to Curtis Tudor for pointing this one out.

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Photo: The Star

When Brian Burke decided to pull the trigger on a deal that would send Brett Lebda to Nashville for Cody Franson and Matthew Lombardi, Leafs Nation was, for one, ecstatic, and two, left wondering how this deal would pan out, given the Leafs’ lineup. We couldn’t stop talking about it.

Well it seems we still can’t, because since then things have taken a weird turn.

Lombardi was viewed as an injury write-off, many of us predicting he’d play less than 60 games total as a Leaf. Franson, on the other hand, was seen by many as a defenceman with offensive upside and perhaps on the verge of a breakout year with his minutes increased. Fast-forward two games into the season and Franson hasn’t got a sniff of icetime, while Lombardi has already scored a game-winning goal against the Leafs’ biggest rival.

Franson has made himself heard over this issue he’s facing, and it’s clear that he isn’t happy. And quite frankly, I’m a little puzzled as well.

I can see where the guy is coming from. Coming off an 80 game season last year, that’s where Franson is capped at this year and there’s no guarantee he’ll see more than 70 over the course of this campaign. That’s a tough one to swallow for a young guy in a contract year who was looking to make a real contribution in the top four on the back-end. He’ll get his chance to lock down a spot Saturday when he makes his debut, but then we’ll just start having the same sort of debate about someone else.