Defence is a lot more multi-faceted than is the forward position. It requires more finesse and more all around ability in order to rise to the upper echelon of NHL defencemen. The Leafs tried to compliment each of their offensive defencemen with a more defensive partner. This is a winning strategy often used on championship teams. With that in mind, of the six regulars on Toronto’s blue line at the end of the season, who rises to the top? Let’s find out.
The previous articles in this series are recommended reading. You can find “Season in Review: Top 6 Forwards” here, while the article entitled “Season in Review: Bottom 6 Forwards” can be found here.
Please read the preceding article in this series on top 6 forwards here. For this article, the bottom 6 forwards on the Leafs are: Colby Armstrong, Joey Crabb, John Mitchell, Darryl Boyce, Fredrik Sjostrom, Tim Brent, Mike Brown, Jay Rosehill and Colton Orr. I decided to leave Kadri out of my forward reviews due to his few games played in conjunction with his rapid change from top 6 to bottom 6 from game to game.
When all is said and done, the bottom 6 forwards on Toronto in the 2010-11 season dropped the ball in a big way. This is no more obvious than in their scoring. We’ve established that Toronto’s top 6 scored at a decent clip, but the bottom 6 had almost none at all. The leading scorer in Toronto’s bottom 6 was Colby Armstrong with a measly 8 goals. Third liners should all be expected to score at least 12-15 goals per year if you want to be a serious championship contender. In 09-10, the leading bottom 6 scorer on the Leafs was Lee Stempniak, who managed 14 goals in 62 games (and somehow ending the year with 28). It goes without saying that if a bottom 6 group scores as little as Toronto’s did this season, they have to be making up for it with some stellar defensive play. Let’s take a look at some of the relatively unseen stats (which can be found at BehindTheNet.ca) and see what we can find.
Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
If this is an “Inception” inspired dream, James Reimer is going to be one angry guy. Â But who’s kidding, Christopher Nolan is tied up on other projects, and even more of a stretch would be to see the happy-go-lucky Reimer mad.
Although I’m not sure he’s even had to time to sit down, lean back, and take in everything he has accomplished this past season, James Reimer is on a whirlwind tour through the land of hockey, picking up fans and supporters along the way.
Photo Credit: Paul Chaisson/Canadian Press
One little note: The terms top 6 and bottom 6 are thrown around rather frequently, but theyâ€™re anything but that simple in reality. Lines change often and players move up and down based on recent performance. For the sake of the article, I will be naming the following players top 6 players on the Leafs: Phil Kessel, Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak.
The curtain has closed on another disappointing Leaf season without the playoffs. This year had more than its fair share of ups and downs, but the emotional end leaves hope for the future. Goaltending was certainly the biggest change in the second half, with Reimer stepping up after Giguere and Gustavsson tumbled to the floor. But there was another noticeable improvement to the Leafs this season: top 6 scoring. Two players reached 30 goals this year (Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin), improving on last seasonâ€™s one (Kessel again). This was helped by two further players getting at least 20 goals (Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur), again improving over last seasonâ€™s one (Niklas Hagman). However, there is much more to winning NHL games than scoring some goals. With that said, weâ€™re going to analyze the Leafsâ€™ top 6 forwards and see which players rise to the top.
A member of the A+ club.
The season is over, but the postmortem examination is just beginning. I’ll open this period of speculation, hope and dissection of our favorite hockey team with a piece that grades our entire roster beginning with forwards and ending with the masked men of TO.
Players who played part years like Matt Lashoff were not included because I think most would agree 11 games are not nearly enough to grade him on a seasonal basis, nor is it fair to that particular player. The grading system varies from A+ to D- but there is one exception (guess who?). Everyone likes grades.
Well, what are you waiting for? Do continue.
(Photo Credit: Reuters)
“Put a candle in the window,
’cause I feel I’ve got to move.
Though I’m going, going,
I’ll be coming home soon.
Long as I can see the light.”
- John Fogerty
Reimer on the forecheck. (Photo Credit: Reuters)
You probably don’t need the following statistical breakdown to know the answer to the above question. I’ll try to keep the anointing oil on the shelf but we haven’t had a Leaf rookie step into the lineup and make this type of immediate impact since Felix Potvin. Just as the post-lockout plight of terrible goaltending looked to be continuing to haunt the Leafs, the new year brought new hope; Optimus Reim rolled out, and Leafs Nation has been walking in a Reimer wonderland ever since.
Last night’s 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers combined with the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 (OT) victory over the Boston Bruins has nearly sunk the fading playoff hopes of the Toronto Maple Leafs.Â In fact, the Maple Leafs are almost in need of a miracle to regain any real chance of actually making the big dance.Â According to Sports Club Stats the Leafs current chances of making it are now sitting at an all-time low of 2.3%.
To make the playoffs the Leafs are going to have to nearly run the table to get to the needed 92 or 93 points.Â With 14 games remaining in the season the Leafs will have to go 11-1-2 just to get to 92 points, and that might not even be a guaranteed playoff spot.Â If I just killed your spirit I apologize but this is just the reality of the extremely bleak situation facing the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Photo Credit: Reuters
With another trade deadline behind us, the NHL season truly enters “crunch time” as rosters are set (for the most part) and the push for the Cup gets underway.
Most teams, including the Leafs, chose not to ripple any waters on February 28th – save for a few minor deals and an even smaller amount of major transactions.
While some media outlets will suggest that the teams surrounding the Leafs in the playoff race added key components while Brian Burke sat on his hands, this simply isn’t true.
If Toronto fail to make the postseason, it won’t be due to the fact that the Hurricanes and Thrashers added Bryan Allen and Radek Dvorak, respectively. Nor will it be because Brad Boyes is now a Buffalo Sabre.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
in return for prospect Mikhail Stefanovich.
Update: Brian Burke tells MLHS Brunnstrom will start with the Marlies – “we’ll see how he does.” He adds that there’s no change in the Standard Player Contract count as Stefanovich was still Leaf property, “but he had time left, Fabian does not.” A trade off of term for salary from the sounds of it.
The 25-year-old Brunnstrom, who generated a sweepstakes of sorts after a big year for Farjestads, was originally a target of John Ferguson’s when he opted for the Dallas Stars as his NHL destination in spring, 2008. A promising if injury shortened rookie campaign of 17 goals in 55 games preceded a disastrous sophomore season that saw him spend some time with the AHL’s Texas Stars and nearly led to arbitration after he felt he was lowballed by the Stars’ initial qualifying offer. The sides settled on a one-year, one-way contract extension worth $675,000.
Phoenix moved Wojtek Wolski today to the New York Rangers for Michal Rozsival. Wolski represents the prototypical power forward/winger that Brian Burke has insisted that he may be after in leu of a legitimate front line center most are reporting the Leafs most desperately require. Â Was Brian Burke trying to acquire Wolski? Absolutely…
Dave Sandford/Getty Images
It should come as no surprise that James Reimer received an opportunity to start in the NHL, during his re-call to fill in for the injured Jean-Sebastien Giguere. What is somewhat of a surprise is the amount Reimer has played (3 starts in the pastÂ 4 games) during a time where Jonas Gustavsson was expected to seize the opportunity to prove himself the Maple Leafs’ netminder of the future.
The question is, to what degree has Reimer’s performanceÂ influenced the decision to use him as the de-facto starter, rather than the incumbent? Is Reimer receiving an extended look as part of an evaluation toward his future in Toronto — or are the Leafs showcasing him to other teams?
Update: Reimer gets the start tonight … his fourth in the past five games.
(Toronto â€“ Gus Katsaros) I tried to put together something that leads to the state of the Leafs, but it gets pretty intense and too much for a single blog so Iâ€™ve broken it down in two. Before we move forward we should acknowledge what is happening with the current club and I do that with just some observations.
Iâ€™ve broken down what I feel are some of the more important points of the Leafs forwards and defensemen while not being entirely thorough, leaving something for future blogs. Iâ€™ll follow this up on Friday tying in the coaching, the Burke regime and vision of the team in the future.
It can be safely said that Saturday night’s tilt between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs will go down as one of the best hockey games of the year. Â It had a little bit of everything; bone crunching hits, jaw jarring fights, ridiculous saves, last minute heroics, and a shootout victory that included a killer backhand, and a former Bruin getting at least some measure of revenge.
With all that action in mind, it is somewhat ironic that the player who stood out the most in my mind was someone who didn’t even get his name on the scoresheet.
Colby Armstrong returned from injury and joined the Leafs top line, paying immediate dividends in the Leafs 3-2 shootout victory at home on Hockey Night In Canada this past Saturday. Â Armstrong had missed time with an injured hand.
Goal difference vs. Points – A simple statistical analysis
by MLHS’ Great Dane (written before the weekend games)
There has been some talk on the site lately as to whether or not the playoffs remain in reach for the Maple Leafs despite a less than mediocre record a quarter of the way through the season, a subject Derek Harmsworth broached in his blog “At the Quarter Pole, Leafs Improved, But Is It Enough?” Statistically speaking, is 20, 21 or 24 points at the quarter pole enough to make the playoffs?
What follows is a small regression analysis of goal difference vs. points based on the records of the 30 teams in the NHL before American Thanksgiving.
For the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans, the last two seasons of hockey have combined for some roller coaster level of emotions. Â There was the bringing in of Brian Burke, the general manager with the pedigree to lead this team back to respectability, and back to the playoffs, with ultimately the goal of ending the Stanley Cup drought.
Then the hope was awash when the Leafs started the year off with a thud, winless in their first seven games, a stretch that they never did quite recover from. Â The trades in January that brought Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie, Fredrik Sjostrom, and J.S. Giguere to the organization brought about a new sense of optimism for the long suffering fans in Leafs Nation.
And when the Toronto Maple Leafs kicked off the 2010-2011 NHL campaign with four straight wins, the optimism levels couldn’t have been higher. Â After a lengthy losing streak, the team is back to playing more consistently, and with complete confidence you can declare that the Toronto Maple Leafs of 2010-2011 are an improved club.
Just how much they have improved, and whether it will be enough for them to break the postseason drought this April, is another question altogether.
"Interesting offer. Throw in a slice of pie. Apple. Then we're talking."
For as much as Brian Burke continues to show the fanbase that no stone will go unturned in his quest to rebuild the franchise, the fact of the matter is, the consummation of a trade is extraordinarily difficult in a salary-capped league where parity reigns. Especially this early into the season, at a point where many teams are still in the process of determining their needs.
I recall our old colour commentator Harry Neale being asked what he thought made a great coach and he shrewdly remarked â€œgreat playersâ€.Â Now I know the topic of firing Ron Wilson has been beat to death but I wanted to further comment after reading a story from our friends over at Pension Plan Puppets who feel he should absolutely be fired now.
It was an entertaining piece â€œWhy Ron Wilson Should Get Fired ASAPâ€Â asking a tough question and answering unequivocally:
â€œThe question isn’t whether Ron Wilson is or isn’t a good coach. The question is will replacing Ron Wilson improve our record? If the answer is “yes”, obviously, we should do it as soon as possible. But how can we know?Â This got me to thinking, maybe there’s some historical evidence to shed some light on this issue.â€
Chris Young/Canadian Press
Paul Hunter of the Toronto Star reports that the job ofÂ Ron Wilson remains safe for the moment as the Head Coach received yet another vote of confidence from GM Brian Burke. Wilson has drawn the ire of Leafs Nation on a number of occasions over the past couple seasons every time the team has gone into any sort of prolonged struggle, but Burke remained steadfast in his support for his friend:
â€œIâ€™m told (Wilson) got blasted in the media today. Let me ask you a question. Did Ron play poorly last night? No. Why donâ€™t you guys focus on the players who played poorly last night instead of questioning the coach? Itâ€™s a very bizarre twist to this market place that when players play poorly, the coach gets hollered at. This is new for me. In Vancouver when the players played poorly, the players got blasted so Iâ€™m perplexed by this.â€
So in Vancouver… the fans are tougher on the players than the coach… Interesting. On a completely unrelated note, here’s what Burke had to say about the fans booing Dion Phaneuf:
“All the time I worked in Vancouver I donâ€™t think I ever had a player booed.”
Well, I’m stumped. Anyways…
By laying the blame primarily on the team’s on-ice product, it’s patently clear that Burke is itching to make a move to upgrade his roster. With both “cap room and budget room” created by the Finger demotion, the club is listening in intently on any possible trade talks around the league. There were rumors swirling a few weeks ago regarding a smaller depth move to pick up a bottom six forward with some size or jam ala Blake Wheeler or David Clarkson, but club’s #1 priority remains the search for a bonafide top line pivot to complement Kessel.
According to Nick Kypreos, the Maple Leafs could be without winger Colby Armstrong for four to six weeks as he may need surgery on his hand. Dreger adds that the team is expected to call up Luca Caputi from the Marlies to replace Armstrong on the third line, but Colby’s absence will leave a void in terms of physicality and strong board play.
Caputi has recorded just 2 goals and 1 assist through 6 games played for the Marlies, but showed improved skating ability and poise playing against NHL players this preaseason. Prior to the start of the season, Burke alluded to the improvement in the organizational depth as a key factor in the team’s potential success, and this will be the first test of that theory.
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