We're now 18 games into the 2011-12 season. Though the Leafs have hit a bit of a rough patch in the last few weeks, there is much to be optimistic about with regards to playoff hopes. Kessel has emerged as a new player, Lupul is back to old form and though not scoring as much as last year, Grabovski and MacArthur have played well. The oft injured Connolly has been excellent in limited action so far. However, there will be several nights this season where the top six forwards don't produce. On those nights, a good complimentary package in...
How do we accurately evaluate this team? Just how good are we? If youâ€™re looking for me (or anyone else for that matter) to answer those questions right now youâ€™re setting yourself up for a pretty big disappointment.Â In light of recent events, pretty much any scenario is possible.
What if weâ€™re missing Reimer until February? How will the duo of Scrivens and, to a lesser degree, Gustavsson perform? Will Tim Connolly ever stay healthy for a considerable number of games? Is our record so far sustainable through 82 games? I canâ€™t answer that right now, nobody can. There's too many...
These might not be the same old Leafs, but it is looking like the same old Leaf penalty kill.
At this stage of the season, I maintain a couple of things as I write this: it's still very, very early, and the Leafs are adjusting to a new penalty killing scheme which is bound to cause mix-ups and missed assignments early in the season. So I don't think this penalty kill is completely doomed, but I do think there is a lot of work to be done.
First let's look at penalty killing in it's most basic form. At the youngest...
Last night, only two days before the Leafs' season opener against the Montreal Canadiens, Brian Burke added Dave Steckel to the roster in exchange for a fourth round pick in 2012. Although drafted in the first round, no one would mistake the 29 year old Steckel for an offensive forward. He's kept himself in the league through his defensive play, made significantly easier by his big size, despite his inclination to not use said size. So tonight, one night before the regular season begins, we're going to take a peek at Steckel's defensive stats and see how he measures...
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,...
The rivalries remain, but the faces change.Â For all the substantial additions that the Leafs have made, the 29 other teams in the league have not been idle.Â Though its anyoneâ€™s game any given night, itâ€™s the contemplative, patient process of adding the right pieces during the summer that allow continued success over the marathon half year regular season.Â Over the next couple of weeks, weâ€™ll be looking at all 6 divisions in the NHL team by team, how the Leafs compared to them last season, their improvements, additions, subtractions and the Leafs outlook against these revamped teams come...
Prior to speaking with Rick Dudley for the Maple Leafs Annual, I also had the opportunity to speak with Dave Poulin, Vice-President of Hockey Operations for the Toronto Maple Leafs.Â Having contributed an interview for last year's edition of the Annual, Mr. Poulin graciously agreed to accommodate our request again this year.
Follow the jump for a few excerpts of our chat.
As was the case with prior excerpts, the following quotes are excerpted from a larger interview and thus the flow of the questions may seem a bit off.Â The full interview will appear in the Maple Leafs Annual, due...
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"...
After an impressive run of games to close out the season, it's hard not to get giddy and optimistic about the Maple Leafs' chances this fall. The biggest difference in the last thirty or so games of the year compared to recent Leaf teams has been the long-awaited installment of a reliable goaltender who gives you a chance to win every night. James Reimer gave this team that every night and more. Although he was hands down an inspiration between the pipes during that stretch, it may be wise to temper our expectations of the sophomore netminder heading into...
Leafs Nation was parked outside Brad Richards' agents' office on July 1st, singing songs they hoped would sway him to our little corner of the universe. It was not to be, along came Tim Connolly, the Leafs' silver medal. He has been notorious in his time in Buffalo for injuries that leave him absent from the team for large chunks at a time. At only 2 years, is Connolly a gamble worth making for the Leafs? Time to find out.
Here are the top 9 offensive contributors at forward for Buffalo in 2010-11:
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...
All of Leafs Nation was elated to finally have a first round pick in what seemed like forever on draft day this year. However, there was still another surprise only hours before the draft began. John-Michael Liles was brought in by Leafs general manager Brian Burke for a second round pick in order to fill the hole left behind by the departed Tomas Kaberle. Is that a reasonable expectation? Let's find out.
Here are the offensive stats for Colorado's defense (with at least 20 games played):
The excitement never ends, does it? Days after the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup, the NHL Awards capped off the season with a somewhat surprising (albeit well-deserved)Â Hart Trophy nod to Corey Perry. A day later, the Philadelphia Flyers rocked the hockey world with two major trades ... with reports suggesting the Leafs were nearly a trading partner in both.
As if that hasn't been enough, trade and free agency rumours continue to run rampant. The Leafs have several of their own player re-signings still on the horizon, and somewhere in all that a draft is about to take...
The Flyers have decided to make a move amidst a controversial ruling in the Stanley Cup Final. Perhaps the hit by Aaron Rome on Nathan Horton, and the subsequent 8-1 drubbing dealt out by the Bruins will be enough to keep the media focus on Vancouver and Boston. There should be no mistaking though, that something significant is going on in Philadelphia right now. Last night word broke that General Manager Paul Holmgren has acquired the exclusive negotiating rights to Ilya Bryzgalov in exchange for a 3rd round selection in the 2012 entry draft, and a conditional...
(Part 1) (Part 2)
Now for the (not-so) thrilling conclusion to my blog series on the Leafs trade targets on the back end.Â The following are (in my opinion), the top two options Burke will pursue over the coming months if indeed he does go the trade route:
2.) Brent Burns - Dion Phaneufâ€™s stalwart partner at the World Championship has played with the captain before.Â Thatâ€™s the same kind of sentiment we heard from free agents Clarke MacArthur and Colby Armstrong shortly after they were acquired.Â It seems there is a spot...
In part one of this blog we looked at possible unrestricted free agent options for the Leafs. Burke has always been proficient at landing a big name on July 1st, but he also has a reputation for loving a good old fashioned hockey trade. Since the lock-out, Burke has completed major transactions that brought in the likes of Francois Beauchemin, Chris Pronger, Doug Weight, Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, J.S. Giguere and Joffrey Lupul. Going further back, he pulled off massive draft day swaps that brought his clubs Henrik and Daniel Sedin, as well as Chris...
â€œPlus minus is a very deceptive statistic when a team struggles, and heâ€™s been put in a tough situation. If you look at the defense pairings, on a team thatâ€™s below .500 the top defense pairing playing against the other teamâ€™s top line is almost always minus, no matter how well they play. So I donâ€™t put a lot of stock in plus minus.â€
-Brian Burke on Tyler Bozak.
To a point, we have to agree with Burkeâ€™s statement, but only to a point. To say that a negative plus minus (-29) rating is the only reason behind Bozak being...
The locker cleanout day offered many interesting pieces of information that occupied me to the point of having to write about it. These are the quotes of things said that intrigued me the most. Below each quote is a note about what I took from it.
About Tyler Bozak:
â€œIf we got Tyler Bozak in the one hole (top line center), and he canâ€™t play in the one hole, thatâ€™s my fault, itâ€™s not Tylerâ€™s fault. I really like the way Tylerâ€™s game improved this year, he became a really solid penalty killer, heâ€™s what we thought we were getting...
Brian Burke's endorsement of Ron Wilson's work behind the bench this season and his confirmation of Wilson's return next season sparked some debate in the most recent comments sections. While the "talent vs. coaching" special teams debate is really tough to come to any conclusions on, below MLHS' Cameron ran some numbers on player performance before, after and under Wilson:
The thing that drives me nuts about Wilson bashers is that theyâ€™ve long expected him to spin straw into gold, and when he produces silver, they are still outraged. Take a look at the key players Wilson has had under...