The Leafs' top-six forwards of 2010-11 were a mix of pleasant surprises and bitter disappointments. Most notable among the surprises was the emergence of a not-so-second line consisting of Grabovski, Kulemin, and MacArthur. This line produced at a clip well above last yearâ€™s expectations and will now be expected to repeat that success in 2011-12. The teamâ€™s best line in 2010-11 almost certainly will be held together, barring a complete collapse, and should see much stronger support from other forward lines, and the defence core, in terms of secondary scoring and a spreading out of opposing defensive specialists. Though the skill of this line has somehow managed to slip under the radar of media analysts around the league, the statistics put this trio among the more dangerous units in the league and opposing coaches have definitely noticed. [more…]
5QTF2SMQME25 - In part two of his 12 Â burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at what type of impact John-Michael Liles will have in his first year with the Maple Leafs.
Derek Harmsworth returns with his 12 Burning Questions series for Maple Leafs Hot Stove. Â In part one, he asks if James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson can make for a competent goaltending duo for Toronto.
While the off season has been relatively quiet, something is becoming very clear about Brian Burkeâ€™s reconstruction of the storied Toronto Maple Leafs, especially as it pertains to the salary cap.Â Heâ€™s perhaps more aware of it than any other GM, using the Leafs financial strength to broker trades of a magnitude rarely replicated.Â Soon after taking the helm of the franchise, he began shedding the worst of the Leafs bloated contracts to underperforming veterans (Hagman, Kubina, McCabe, Toskala, the list could go on forever).Â Since then he has fostered a group that consists of young guys (be they blue chip prospects, late blooming college guys, re-treads or bonafide stars) that have a lot reasons to push each other towards respectability on the ice.Â Whatâ€™s more? He might have given us a pretty big tell about how close this team is to being a contender and how soon the next group of prospects will be ready for prime time. [more…]
The Leafs are expecting to see some major improvements in their bottom six forwards over last yearâ€™s starting roster. Last yearâ€™s group failed to consistently provide any of the criteria intrinsic to bottom-six role players. Improvements to this group, as energy providers, momentum shifters, penalty killers and a source of secondary scoring, is key to the Leafsâ€™ playoff hopes in 2011-12. Though the PK made strides in front of Reimer in late season 2010-11, the thirdÂ and fourthÂ lines were very often limited to a defensive role that saw them on their heels most nights, relying on a few heart and soul players to lift the team with a strong individual effort. [more…]
The Leafsâ€™ 2011-12 defence core boasts nine NHL-ready defencemen, not counting any of the three or four prospects who are on the verge of being ready and are hoping to challenge for a job with the big club at training camp. With a maximum of seven spots available, the competition at D will be the fiercest of the camp, and easily the most interesting.
The top of the depth chart features the only two defencemen guaranteed a top-four position next season: Dion Phaneuf and Luke Schenn. After that, however, management has set the stage for a tooth-and-claw training camp battle, with a paper-thin margin between the top four and a trip to the AHL Marlies. Keith Aulie, J.M. Liles, Cody Franson, Carl Gunnarsson, Mike Komisarek, Matt Lashoff and Jeff Finger round out the NHL-experienced players on the defensive depth chart, while Jake Gardiner, Jesse Blacker and Korbinian Holzer are all legitimate NHL-calibre prospects looking to make a lasting impression on coaching staff and management. [more…]
Earlier this month, Gus projected Nikolai Kulemin as Toronto's top scorer for the upcoming season in his 2011-2012 Maple Leaf player projections. Now it's time for me to share my projections, but I'll be taking a bit of a different approach. In an effort to make this as systematic as possible, I'm going to use a makeshift formula that I've created myself to take into account a few determining factors.
I'm going to start by placing value on a player's last three years of production, with the more recent years worth more than the earlier years. Year 1 will make up 20% of the total, Year 2 will make up 30% of the total and Year 3 (the most recent year) will make up 50% of the total. This helps take into account a player's improvement while also buffering for the possibility of overvaluing a career season. [more…]
There is no doubt many Leafs fans are disappointed that the off-season has passed without the "elite first line center" void filled. Despite an uncharacteristically quiet first day of free agency, however, Maple Leafsâ€™ General Manager Brian Burke has not been silent this off-season; having added depth at both defence, already a team strength, and at center, where the Leafs had been notably anaemic. Though Burke did not succeed in filling the teamâ€™s single greatest need, he has â€“ as a result of the many moves he has made during the course of his leadership in Toronto â€“ managed to supply the team with extraordinary depth at almost every position; creating an atmosphere of fierce internal competition for NHL, and even AHL, spots. Since Burkeâ€™s model builds from the goalie out, this analysis will evaluate the team in the same order. [more…]
The 2011 Maple Leafs Annual is 99% complete, and we should have preordering information available for you all soon. Remember, if you have read any of our teasers or interview excerpts, you are morally obligated to purchase this magazine. Don't be a bad person. The Annual can be yours for a mere $9.99 this time around, so no excuses.
The Burke interview for Annual, conducted by torontosportsmedia, went extraordinarily well. The final product is a must read, as Burke touches on a wide variety of topics including but not limited to the failures of past seasons, the offseason moves, the media, the status of Ron Wilson, and expectations for the season ahead. In the course of conversation, Burke touched on a number of the topics our reader questions inquired about. After the jump, I'll glean a few small excerpts for your enjoyment. [more…]
Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Rick Dudley, Director of Player Personnel for the Toronto Maple Leafs, for a feature in the forthcoming Maple Leafs Annual magazine. We had asked for a few of your questions for Mr. Dudley, and were able to work some of them in during the course of the interview.
Follow the jump for excerpts featuring your questions.Â As with Alex's prior interview with Dave Morrison, please bear in mind that the flow of questions may seem a little off as these are excerpts pulled from various sections.
The full interview will appear in the Maple Leafs Annual this September.
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. [more…]
Sometimes miracles do happen. In one of the more lopsided trades of recent memory, the Leafs dumped Brett Lebda (and our weakest prospect in Robert Slaney) on Nashville, in return obtaining the oft injured Matthew Lombardi and young defenseman Cody Franson. The deal was done on the basis of Nashville being unwilling to pay $3.5 million for Lombardi, who will likely sit out this next season and possibly be forced to retire. As for Franson, he was one of Nashville's best defensive prospects and has spent two seasons in the NHL.
Franson was a high price to pay for a salary dump, but just how high a price was it?Â Looking at some advanced statistics, I'm sure we can find out. [more…]