Photo: Getty Images
When Colby Armstrong looks back on his career in Toronto, thereâ€™s a good chance heâ€™ll remark that is was a pain.Â How else can one describe the rash of injuries that has befallen the rugged right winger since coming to Toronto?Â Since signing a 3 year, $9 Million dollar contract in the summer of 2010, he has skated in 59 games while heâ€™s sat in the press box with casts, bandages and eye patches for a total of 56 games.Â So lets take a quick look at the trials and tribulations of the oft falling Leaf.
Prior to his tenure in Toronto, Armstrong was considered something of a durable player, whose low mark in terms of games played was 72 split between Pittsburgh and Atlanta during the 2007 â€“ 2008 season.Â Yet he missed 32 games last season with a broken finger, an eye injury and a broken foot.Â This season, he missed 23 games with a high ankle sprain, and after only 3 games back in the line up, suffered both a broken toe and a concussion on Saturday night. The concussion puts Colby amongst the growing list (now more than two dozen strong) of NHL regulars feeling the effects of head trauma.
There hasn't been too much of this for Kulemin so far this season (Photo Credit: AP).
Last season saw Nikolai Kulemin reach new heights. His 30 goals, beyond being a career high at the NHL level, placed him in some elite company for the Maple Leafs. In the past 10 seasons, only Phil Kessel, Mats Sundin, Alexander Mogilny and Kulemin have managed to tally 30+ goals in a single season. In August, our own prognosticators pegged the Magnitogorsk native to lead the club in scoring, building upon last yearâ€™s heroics.Â But with his play of late, he might not even hit 10 goals this season. So whatâ€™s the deal?
His current goal scoring slump has now reached 23 games, and unsurprisingly his stat line has been most unimpressive.Â Heâ€™s recorded 8 assists, is a +2, and has tallied 37 shots (1.60 per game).Â I typically dislike throwing out numbers, but very simply thereâ€™s little to like about his play this season.Â Heâ€™s on pace for career lows in almost every major category, and is set to score 27 fewer points than last season.
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 Â through their top two lines. Â 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.
Photo: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press
There is no understating the importance of tonightâ€™s game at all.Â With a win tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be in a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with 32 points.Â Riding a three game winning streak, the Leafs have gone from looking like pretenders to the real deal in the East, giving them a possible seven-point cushion on ninthÂ place if they can pull off a victory.Â Itâ€™s just a shame that they have to go up against the defending Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins, who look to be in post season form.Â The Beantowners will head into Toronto just one point behind the Buds and two games removed from a tenthÂ straight win.
Photo: Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
Your Toronto Maple Leafs needed a win in the worst kind of way last night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.Â Responding with a blow out 7 â€“ 1 win (their second in three games), the franchise seems poised to gain ground again in the Eastern Conference.
While incredible, their 7 â€“ 1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday masked the fact that the club had struggled mightily to find consistency and dominate the opposition since the turn of the month.Â Through November, the team has done as well as Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul have let them, and one the few nights that the duo hasnâ€™t been dynamic, the Leafs havenâ€™t had enough gun to win games.Â Tonight was a night for the ensemble, who have taken center stage in the two blow outs.
So the Leafs have goalie issues, who’d a thunk it?
The truth is, everyone and their grandmother knew Toronto was in goaltending trouble this summer because simply put, they went into the season without one single goalie in their organization who had established himself at the NHL level.
Potential is great, prospects are great, but the NHL is about results.
Don’t let an excellent game fool you, the Leafs are far from being out of the woods when it comes to their goalie dilemmas and unless Scrivens goes on a Reimer-esque run now (yeah, I said it), then the Leafs are going to continue to have problems.
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.
Thereâ€™s a lot going on in Leaf land this Wednesday morning, so lets take a look at whatâ€™s making news and look back a little at the month that was.Â Your Toronto Maple Leafs will take on the New Jersey devils tonight, hoping to rebound from Sundayâ€™s loss to the Ottawa Senators.Â The Leafs will sport a new line up due to injuries, demotions and call ups, and because the only constant is change.Â Itâ€™s been a promising sign that in spite of the numerous roster changes, the wins have been frequent and most games have been very close. Â Itâ€™s a testament to the depth of talent (even if the ceiling is a little low) that Brian Burke has provided in his tenure in Toronto.
That depth will be tested tonight, as Jake Gardiner is the latest Leaf to fall victim to the injury bug.Â The 21 year old rookie has been a solid if unspectacular defender for the Leafs, and his two way acumen, speed and utility will be missed if heâ€™s out of the line up for any extended period of time.Â This news must come as glad tidings for Cody Franson.Â The former Predator has been a healthy scratch ever since the Leafs lost in Boston after he went -3 on the night.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have leapt from the gate.Â With 10% of the season in the books, the Leafs are 3rd in the conference, and 6th overall in total goals scored.Â They are the best Canadian team.Â They are unbeaten in regulation at home.Â Going into Tuesday nightâ€™s games, the Leafs boast the highest scoring forward and defenseman in the league.Â All this while icing one of the youngest teams in the league, one whose forward corps has been decimated by injuries in the early going.
Despite the plethora of positive stat lines, the data can be equally damning.Â They have the 26th ranked penalty kill (still an improvement over last season, sadly), have allowed more goals than theyâ€™ve scored, and havenâ€™t been able to beat a team ranked higher than 13th overall in either conference.Â These statistics speak more of an unremarkable team that has received remarkable individual efforts rather than a pack of world beaters.
While the results have been favourable, the numbers â€“ increasingly â€“ havenâ€™t.Â Looking behind the curtain, we can see some troubling trends.Â After the jump, letâ€™s take a look at some of the funny numbers that should have you wondering just how precarious the Leafs situation is.
From Pierre Lebrun at ESPN/TSN:
â€ I heard from sources on other teams Monday that Gauthier was phoning around looking for help on defense. The thing is, heâ€™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 Iâ€™m not sure whether any of those three teams have interest in him.â€
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.
The 3-headed monster that led the Leafs to their early-1990s success. (Image via ChangingOnTheFly.wordpress.com)
Following the unexpected success of the 1992-93 campaign, which saw the Maple Leafs take a 44-29-11 season to the Conference Finals, the stakes were high entering the 1993-94 season.Â Could the Leafs prove that history was indeed behind them, and the previous season’s success was not a fluke as some critics were wont to suggest?
Jaded by the disaster that was the decade of the 1980s, one could hardly blame the skeptics for questioning everything from scoring depth to injury concerns to whether goaltender Felix Potvin was a flash-in-the-pan or the real deal.Â After all, hopes had been raised, only to be suddenly dashed, not long before.Â Fortunately, each of these questions was to be answered in short order — much to the delight of Leafs Nation.
Putting their unbeaten record in regulation on the line in tonightâ€™s game against the Winnipeg Jets, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be looking for offense from new sources.
Owners of a 2/21 powerplay, and with just 7 of their 13 goals coming from someone not wearing the #81, its become clear that the Leafsâ€™ early successes have been more the work of a one man magic act than 4 line team play.Â If this sounds familiar, its because last yearâ€™s hot start was predicated on the dazzling offensive production from the aforementioned Phil Kessel and Clarke MacArthur.Â But after an even better record after 4 games, an unreliable offense emerged and the Leafs tumbled down the standings behind a 9 â€“ 19 â€“ 4 record to close out the year 2010.
The Leafs schedule will soon turn from favorable to formidable after tonightâ€™s tilt with 7 of the next 8 games on the road including visits to Philadelphia, Boston and New Jersey.Â Its not a stretch to suggest that it will be in these next 2Â – 3 weeks will prove whether or not the Leafs are a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference.Â While it was positive to see the Buds grind out a point Monday night, too many players have been absent from the score sheet thus far.Â Very simply, for Toronto to have a meaningful season the rest of the top 9 forwards have to show up in numbers.
Photo: The Canadian Press
There was a lot ofÂ trepidationÂ going into the Toronto Maple Leafs’ season opener against the Montreal Canadiens, to be sure. Interviews with Brian Burke – featuring sometimes snippy comments and a seemingly reduced air of confidence – have started to show a dent in his armour. Between having to answer questions about his inability to secure a true #1 centerman, the job security of his friend and colleague, Ron Wilson, or the investment of faith in what could be a one-year wonder in net with James Reimer, it’s certain to have had its effect on him.
Ron Wilson is sure to a be a lame-duck coach if the 2011-12 Leafs get off to a bad start. As good of a job Brian Burke has done rebuilding the entire organization at all levels, there is only so much losing a team can take before fingers start to be pointed at Father Burke, himself.
Key pre-season injuries to top 6 centerman Tim Connolly, center-turned-winger Nazem Kadri and a suspension to Clarke MacArthur all added even more uncertainty to a team that needed solid footing to start off their 2011-12 campaign.Â They got it last nightâ€”and they got it in spades.
Photo: David Cooper/Toronto Star
Leave it to the Toronto Maple Leafs to have more roster questions heading into the regular season than heading into camp.Â Suspensions, injuries and trades have forced more confusion as to who fits where in the forward corps.Â Wednesday afternoon, reports came in from Leafs practice of Wilsonâ€™s impromptu line combinations heading into tonightâ€™s home opener against the Montreal Canadiens.Â While it seemed to answer a few questions, the current status of the Leafs roster longer term remains up in the air.
The programme editing department at the ACC must be a comedy of errors heading into tonightâ€™s first tilt, but the wackiness wonâ€™t end just yet.Â October has already been a surreal month for the Buds, with so many questions remaining. Let’s take a look at the leafs concerns up front.
So, the Leafs have improved to 3 – 3 in preseason with last nightâ€™s victory over the Senators.Â Making it all the more memorable was the fact that this Leafs squad managed to rally back after being down two goals in the first.Â While the points mean nothing, and the record of the Leafs preseason will be forgotten from collective consciousness by game 2 of the regular season, the story lines of the Leafs season are already taking shape. Â Ron Wilson will be on the hot seat this coming season, his 4th attempt as the Buds bench boss to make good on playoff promises past.Â There are some trends, both disturbing and positive, becoming visible in Leaf land.
Not to spoil the ending ... but the 1992-93 season went kind of well for the Maple Leafs.
The early ’90s were an incredible time to be a Toronto sports fan. The Blue Jays captured back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993, while the Maple Leafs, in those same years, traversed the road back to respectability following the tumultuous (and largely disastrous) Harold Ballard era.
Following successive seasons of seemingly-endless roster turnover (the 1991-92 Leafs closed out the year with only 4 members remaining from the 1989-90 squad) and less-than-stellar results, Leafs’ GM Cliff Fletcher felt he had finally established the right mix of youth and veteran experience to produce a legitimate contender. In fact, during the 1992 offseason, the man known as Trader Cliff somewhat surprisingly made only one deal of note: sending a future 3rd round pick (Martin Belanger) to Montreal for 25-year old shutdown defender Sylvain Lefebvre.
But Fletcher’s most impactful move would not prove to be a trade; rather, it would be the offseason hiring of former Montreal coach Pat Burns, whose fiery, no-nonsense approach would translate almost immediately to his players — especially franchise centrepiece Doug Gilmour.
Part 1 can be foundÂ here.
Notes on Day 2 of training camp:
I didn’t watch any of the drills and instead took in more of the scrimmages today. Here are the notes for the second day of training camp:
Training camp is set up with a scrimmage in one rink and drills going on in the other rink. The notes are about the scrimmages. Camp was split into three squads. The notes below are observations from the scrimmages.
Toronto Maple Leafs training camp opens today, with an enormous player base of 70 invitees. Some are guaranteed spots, some are looking to secure one. All of them want to make a positive impression. Here are some thoughts on the camp outlook.
At forward, Tim Connolly, Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Clarke MacArthur and Colby Armstrong are guaranteed spots on the roster. For Lupul, training camp and the preseason this year is an opportunity to show coach Ron Wilson that he has what it takes to be a first line forward. If he fails in doing that, someone like Nazem Kadri could easily come in and usurp that position with a strong preseason. MacArthur, Kulemin and Grabovski will be looking to show that their line wasn’t a one year wonder and, with Grabovski in a contract year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some explosiveness from this line in the preseason contests.
Photo: Andy Devlin/Getty Images
Camp is around the corner, the Leafs are playing golf, and like many of us, Ron Wilson is projecting line combos already. The Leafs head coach voiced to the media on Tuesday that right now he envisions a lineup with Lupul – Connolly – Kessel, MacArthur – Grabovski – Kulemin, and Kadri – Bozak – Armstrong going into the season.
Of course this is preliminary, but it’s good news for Leafs fans nonetheless, and even more so for Nazem Kadri, who looks to finally become a National Hockey League mainstay.
Competition for Kadri’s wing position will likely come by way of Matt Frattin and Luca Caputi (who seems to have become somewhat forgotten this off-season.) However, the general feeling around Leafs Nation for a while has been that it’s truly Nazem’s spot to lose. Wilson’s comments today just confirmed it.
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