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After the jump is the James van Riemsdyk Twitter Q&A and media scrum from this morning. In the meantime, Ken Holland had a fantastic idea:

“When we began the process of determining who should be on the roster for the Red Wings alumni team, it became very obvious, very quickly that we simply did not have enough room on one bench to hold enough of the many deserving players,” said Holland. “When we contacted Toronto and asked them what they thought about the possibility of two games, they immediately breathed a sigh of relief as they were going through the exact same issues we were in trying to fit all these players on one team.”


Photo: Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

This past Wednesday I had the great good fortune to see the guest speaker, Toronto Maple Leafs President and GM Brian Burke, at the Scotiabank ® President’s Breakfast. In no way should I have been in attendance at this swanky affair used to reward lucrative business clients and senior management, but my branch manager is an avid hockey fan and when a favoured client had to pull out, I was a last minute substitution. As we stand on the eve of the trade deadline with the Leafs in a tailspin, I’d like to share with you some of the highlights from Burke’s speech and Q&A session held in the opulent Ratcliffe Room on the 63rd floor of Scotia Plaza.

As a brief primer, I must report that Brian Burke is a terrific raconteur who speaks confidently and lucidly at all times; but when given a chance exhibits a tremendous, ribald sense of humour. His bravado and bluntness quickly came to light as he approached the podium. With a cup of coffee and some prepared notes in hand, I expected him to begin formally with pleasantries and platitudes for his sponsor. Instead, raucous laughter met his opening line regarding the Leafs OT loss to the New Jersey Devils the night previous, “So that goal was horseshit!”


"Salmings_Scar" and James Reimer

Hey guys. I’m sure many of you have read the James Reimer interview on MLHS regarding Reimer’s off-season training with Adam Francilla in Maple Ridge, B.C., at FitLife Training Centre. Since I live in Vancouver, B.C., I decided I would try and go out to where he trains out here, hoping I could somehow meet him, and possibly get an autograph. So here’s my story. I hope you like it and get more hyped for the season!

So I had got a tip from a friend who did an interview with Reimer for a local paper, and he told me when I could catch all the guys training. So a couple Thursdays ago (Aug 11th), I made my way out to Maple Ridge BC (in my Leafs jersey and hat of course) where he, Andrew Ladd, and others do their off-season training. No players were there when I arrived at the facility at 8 a.m., but Mr. Adam Francilla himself was. He indicated that they were doing dry land training off sight that day, but that he could call James Reimer on my behalf. So Adam makes a personal call for me, if you can believe it, and asks him if it’s cool if I go out to their dry land track to meet him! Reimer said it was no problem at all and he’d be happy to do it.


Click to preorder.

Let’s face it, you’re probably going to spend ten bucks on a garbage team calendar that still features Tomas Kaberle in a Leafs jersey (I bought one with Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala in it this time last summer). With the Maple Leafs Annual, you get all the great colour photography plus 112 pages of really good Leafs commentary and analysis. One of our readers said it the other day – this is “bathroom and beyond” reading material. High praise.

This edition (now $9.99), in addition to our usual staples – the player profiles (by Gus Katsaros), prospect rankings, and pages of analysis – we have continued to increase the reader’s level of inside access to the organization. Look for interviews with: President and General Manager, Brian Burke; Vice President of Hockey Operations, Dave Poulin; Director of Player Personnel, Rick Dudley; Director of Amateur Scouting, Dave Morrison; Director of Player Development, Jim Hughes; Leaf youngsters James Reimer and Keith Aulie; 2011 first round pick, Tyler Biggs, and head coach of the Marlies, Dallas Eakins.


Photo: Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

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.


Photo: Hans Deryk/Reuters

More Maple Leafs Annual bonus feature material for your enjoyment. Interview conducted by Steve Dangle. Be sure to check out the Reimer interview if you missed it earlier today.

Steve: Don’t you think that’s kind of funny though that while other guys are spending their summer relaxing, you’re out farming?

Aulie: Yeah, it’s just a way of life I guess. I like to do lots of other things other than just hockey. I like to get away from the game a little bit in the summer and do some other things and especially help out with the farm. I think it’s a good way to get a different mindset for a while, and when you jump back into the game you’re really refreshed. Farming’s got its own challenges and it’s kind of neat to work on something else for a bit.


James Reimer

Photo: REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Last week, Steve Dangle sat down with James Reimer for a rookie spotlight piece for the 2011 Maple Leafs Annual. The interview went so well that a lot of good material ended up hitting the cutting room floor. Lucky for you, MLHS and Steve Dangle.com readers, we can pass along the leftovers for your consumption. Consider it the next bonus feature to your copy of the Annual. Interview excerpts with Poulin, Dudley, and Morrison can be found here. Keith Aulie excerpts will be coming later today. Enjoy:

Steve Dangle: How do you spend your summer?

James Reimer: Mostly in B.C. I mean I try and visit back home to Manitoba a couple of times, but I spend most of my summer out in B.C. Just working out at a gym called Fit Life and hanging out and relaxing a little bit.

SD: Why B.C.? When did that come into the picture?

JR: Mostly with my wife, I started coming out here when we were dating, and we really liked it over the years and kind of just kept coming back so it’s nice. It’s where she’s from. She feels comfortable here plus I found a great gym so it’s those two reasons, mostly.

Dave Poulin and Brian Burke

Dave Poulin and Brian Burke

Photo: QMI Agency

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.  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.  The full interview will appear in the Maple Leafs Annual, due to hit newsstands in September.


Director of Player Personnel, Rick DudleyLast 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.  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.

Brian Burke / Tyler Biggs / Dave Morrison

As mentioned earlier, I had the privilege of chatting with Maple Leafs’ Director of Amateur Scouting, Dave Morrison this morning to glean some his insight for an upcoming piece in this year’s edition of the Maple Leafs Annual. For that content, you’ll just have to wait until September. However, I was given the go-ahead to pass along for your enjoyment some of the content that will not be used in the Annual. Bear in mind, the flow of the interview may appear a little off as these are excerpts pulled from various sections.

James Reimer really burst onto the NHL scene with a fantastic stretch of games as a rookie, but seemed to struggle a little bit toward the end there. Is conditioning one of those things James needs to work on in order to solidify himself as a true number one goaltender?

Morrison – You’re right Alex, this was his first real extended stretch of games at the NHL level and that was a big challenge. He certainly proved himself at the AHL level, but the workload he shouldered there at the end… any goalie would start to feel the effects of that. That part of James’ game and the process of him learning how to be THE guy are going to come with experience and maturity. He understands what he needs to do. The management staff as well… they’re going to work with James as well to know when he’s okay to play and when he may need a night off here and there.

After James Reimer was promoted to the big club, it was Ben Scrivens’ turn to steal the show as a rookie goaltender with the Marlies, putting up some very impressive numbers. Should Jonas and James be looking over their shoulders a little bit at the NHL level?

Morrison – Haha, well any goalie should be always looking over their shoulders. The skaters should be too. There should always be an element of competition there at all times because it forces everyone to stay honest and continue to want to improve. We know Scrivens is a very good young goaltender and that he’s chomping at the bit to see some NHL action. At some point, he will push for an NHL job and that could be as early as sometime next year, but I certainly expect James and Jonas to be prepared for that possibility and to work their butts off to keep their jobs. We’re in a great situation with a bevy of good young goalies moving forward.

Jesse Blacker seemed to have quite the breakout offensive season in the OHL this year thanks to increased ice-time and responsibility. How does he compare to Stuart Percy and Jake Gardiner in terms of puckmoving ability and offensive upside?

Morrison – Oh boy, that’s a tough question. Well Jesse’s definitely a good one. All three of those guys are excellent puckmoving defensemen but each of them approaches the game with a bit of a different feel. Stuart’s not as flashy as Jesse or Jake but his intelligence more than makes up for it as he possesses an excellent understanding of the game. That’s not to take anything away from the other two, but Stuart just seems to incorporate it more into his game. Jesse and Jake on the other hand, are a little stronger on their feet in terms of agility and rushing ability. I suppose in the end, one of them will end up being the best of the group, but it’s doesn’t matter who. We’re in a great situation to have three high upside defensemen who should all be able to contribute at the next level.

You traded up for your top selection of this year’s draft, snagging power forward Tyler Biggs, a ferocious checker, with the 22nd pick of the first round. What were some of the skills you saw that really drew you to him? Word is you guys actually had Percy rated a little higher than Biggs, but you called a draft floor audible to make sure you got both. Tell us about that.

Morrison – Like you said, Tyler is a big, strong guy with a great physical element to his game. He’s got the upside of a power forward because he can play with a hard hitting, nasty edge but he’s also got the offensive skills to complement a scoring line. We love that he goes out there and gets his nose dirty in the corners. These types of players are very hard to find because teams just don’t let them go.

We were sitting there at the draft table with picks 25 and 29 coming up and we knew there was no way we were going to get both where we were. So after trading up for the 22nd pick, I just had a feeling that Biggs was going to go before Percy within the next few picks. This is just one of those instincts you develop after years of experience and being on the floor for several drafts. It was something I discussed with my colleagues, who also shared the feeling. So we went ahead with our selection and just crossed our fingers, hoping that Percy would make it to 25. We really had no idea if it was all going to work out but we’re very thankful that it did.

Let’s switch gears a little bit and finish off with some draft related questions. There was talk this year of teams putting a lot more time and effort into the interview process, even meeting with players that were significantly out of their projected range. Was this simply a matter of the 2011 draft class being one where there was little difference between say picks 20 through 50, thus prompting the need to be prepared for any scenario?

Morrison – Absolutely Alex. That’s one part of it. You always want to be prepared for anything, whether that’s a player being unexpectedly available or trade options presenting themselves. The other aspect of it may simply just be the evolution of scouting as teams realize the importance of drafting well in the cap era. More time and money is being invested into the process and the teams that do so will reap the benefits later on down the road.

With the recent regime change in the management team of the city’s baseball team (Blue Jays), current General Manager Alex Anthopoulos talked about a new approach to drafting where the organization sought out players with a 10% chance at developing into a star preferentially over players with a 50% chance of developing into an average player. What are your thoughts on such a drafting philosophy? Is it realistic to draft that way in hockey?

Morrison – That’s an interesting question. My team and I are always trying to find that diamond in the rough… a true difference maker as it were. But like with baseball, it’s important to keep in mind that there are different ways for a player to positively impact a team. Some organizations have gotten especially good at identifying those riskier, high upside guys. Over the years, our team has been targeting increasingly higher risk-reward type players, much more so than four or five years ago. It becomes a lot easier to do so when you manage to acquire depth through free agent signings like Tyler Bozak, Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas. That frees you up to get a little more adventurous on the draft floor.

Let’s say you’ve selected a couple of higher risk players in the early rounds. Do you seek to contrast those selections with some safer guarantees with defined roles in the later rounds? I would imagine it’s quite important to ensure you leave the draft floor with at least a few NHL contributors?

Morrison –Maybe in the past we would do a little more of that. Now, we feel pretty confident taking high risk players because of all the homework we do to learn about a player, from a personal, medical and physical standpoint. A certain player may be further away from becoming an impact player but if we see that they have the right mentality and character to put in the work to get there, that makes us feel a lot better about a particular selection. Extensive homework is what gives us a better chance with these high upside risks.

When scouting a player, on average, how many games do you feel are required in order to make a proper assessment of that player’s abilities?

Morrison – You see Alex, it honestly depends on the game. Sometimes it’s one game… sometimes it’s two games… sometimes it’s six games. I read and receive a ton of reports everyday from all of our scouts and those are extremely important. If I were to go see a player, there could be any number of factors in play that could skew what I’m seeing. It could be a Sunday afternoon game for example where that player is tired after three games in two and half days, so perhaps I would consider coming back and watching him play on a Friday night.

One last question.There seems to be considerable hype building for the upcoming 2012 draft class. What’s your early impression of that next crop of young players? Could it be realistically likened to the 2003 class where you see several all-star calibre players like Getzlaf, Perry, and Parise being selected in the late first round, or is that a little on the optimistic side?

Morrison – That’s probably a little optimistic. I will say that the next group of players certainly looks very good and that throughout the course of this past year, the reviews on some of these underage players have been jumping off the page. However with any young player, a lot can change over the course of a year, so I like to stick with a wait and see approach before passing any final judgment.

Well, that’s it from me. A big thank you from both MLHS and the Maple Leafs Annual for letting us interrupt you during your much deserved time off.

Morrison – My pleasure Alex. Anytime.


And here you thought a magazine couldn't have add-on features.

Midway through the month of July, I had the privilege of chatting with Dave Poulin, Vice President of Hockey Operations with the Toronto Maple Leafs, for an article appearing in Maple Leafs Annual.

Having a professional background in publishing, I was not the least surprised that limitations on available space, plus design and layout constraints, resulted in the necessity to crop certain parts of the interview.

With the Annual due to hit stores next week, I thought I’d share a few of the “lost excerpts” from the cutting room floor in which Poulin offers his thoughts on the progress of the Toronto Marlies, as well as the emergence of the NCAA as a growing prospect pipeline.

Think of it as the equivalent of a “DVD extra” to your copy of MLA.