Just nine days away from the NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh (and, can you believe it, eighteen away from UFA day), SB Nation has been conducting a mock draft with the consultation of its team bloggers. Last week, I promoted the Leafs' need to go for some "high ceiling" offensive talent with their fifth overall pick, if possible. How does this relate? Well, it was Pension Plan Puppets' turn to pick in the SB Nation mock draft and Â they were dealt a scenario wherein all of the forwards in the top five discussion were already selected and off the board.
It's a muddy scenario for the Leafs, if it plays out that way. Those high on blueliner Ryan Murray (who PPP selected) may not see it the same, but the Leafs seem most interested in adding a high end offensive talent like Grigorenko or Galchenyuk according to most reports. It leads me to the question: if the Leafs find themselves in a position where all of Alex Galchenyuk, Mikhail Grigorenko and Filip Forsberg are gone by five, what should Burke do? After those four it seems to drop off in terms of offensive talent, or at least it becomes anyone's guess as to who the next best forward is. [more…]
My apologies, I would have hoped that in the past week I could come up with an idea for a post. Instead, here are some quick thoughts for discussion at the beginning of the week. Of course thereâ€™s also the small matter of Game Six tonight which Iâ€™m wagering is the last NHL game we see for the next four to six months. Having wagered on the Devils to win the cup back in April when Bodog had them at 22-1 odds, I can safely say my rooting interests remain with New Jersey. Here are the other discussion points and links.
- David Jones signing a 4 year 4 million dollar a season deal sets the bar for forwards in free agency. It certainly wasnâ€™t a hometown discount, and skews the value for all other middle of the road free agents. If Burke is looking to add a top six forward Iâ€™d rather see him overpay on high end talent like Semin or Parise rather than sign Brad Boyes or Olli Jokinen to $4 or 5 million dollar deals. On the upside, if the Leafs are willing to deal in forwards, it makes Connollyâ€™s deal seem spot on, and Lupul and MacArthur probably could net a nice return if Burke wants to earmark one of their spots for Kadri or the 5th overall pick.
The Marlies would've liked to put on a better showing in their final home game of the season than the 6-1 loss that saw the [more…]
I spent most of Wednesday afternoon watching the super-extended version of Return of the King on DVD. Must have jinxed it.
Oh, and settle a bet - what's a better headline? The one above, or "Not so Quick, Jonathan." Personally, I like the 'Quick' one - but he didn't really have a bad enough game to warrant using it.
David Puddy's Devils prolonged their Stanley Cup life Wednesday night with a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, who temporarily missed their opportunity to end a 45 year cup drought at home - and in front of celebrities! Goals from Elias (slick backhand!), Henrique (clutch snapper!), and Kovalchuk (empty net!) beat Jonathan Quick, calling into question our shared misconception that the young Kings' goaltender was sent here from the planet Krypton by loving parents moments before his homeworld exploded.
Even if you whole-heartedly buy into the "take the best player available" theory when it comes to draft strategy, I think the odds are low the Leafs will be drafting a defenceman with their fifth overall draft selection in the 2012 Entry Draft in Pittsburgh. Say you truly believe organizational needs do not shape a draft team's particular assessment of "the best player available." I still can't see Everett's Ryan Murray getting past the Oilers or Islanders. I also don't think the Leafs would pass on the offensive talent available in the top five and draft Matthew Dumba or Morgan Riely. It doesn't make sense from an organizational needs standpoint - not with Jake Gardiner's emergence this season - nor from a best-available-player perspective.
Working with that assumption, a good place to start when it comes to analyzing what the Leafs need most with their fifth overall pick is by taking a look at the young forwards already in the system. [more…]
Wayne Gretzky, Alyssa Milano, Sidney Crosby (sorry Sid, but Alyssa gets the nod ahead of you), LL Cool J and David Beckham were all present as the Kings put themselves within a win of a Stanley Cup championship last night. Seemingly, all thatâ€™s left to do is to lift it. A highly commanding playoff run, coupled with a fantastic road record and an almost unbelievable penalty kill, gives them every right to. The Kings are simply playing fantastic hockey.
Simon Gagne made his return to the ice which, no matter who you want to win this thing, has to put a smile on your face. On the flip side, itâ€™s hard watching a guy whoâ€™s the leading point scorer of the playoffs up until game 3 (Kovalchuk) struggle with an injury thatâ€™s becoming more and more of a hindrance as the Cup gets closer for the opposing team. Both things are equally a part of playoff hockey and we have no choice but to embrace them as story making events.
There are more than a few things Iâ€™ll never understand in life. Why do Americans want sports on TV in the middle of the day on the weekend? Who actually likes DJ banter on the radio? And why is the KHL considered to equal death for prospects?
The first two Iâ€™ve given up on and accepted as an unfortunate part of life, but the fear of the KHL seems like one that can be addressed easily. Simply put, I think the common perception of the prospects leaving for the KHL is wrong. In fact, the NHL should be encouraging some of their young prospects to consider going this route as it will potentially elevate their game.
Being pro-Russian prospect is easier this week with Vladimir Tarasenko returning to the Blues than it was a few weeks ago when Kuznetsov decided to stay in the KHL for another couple of years. Although, in his decision Kuznetsov does hint at the benefits to his development, and if you scan the Capitals roster there does not seem to be any certainty that a 20 year old offensive player will readily crack the lineup. If he continues to excel in Russia it seems that in two years it could be his spot to lose. [more…]
Yesterday was a big night for hockey. Unfortunately for Leaf fans, the Marlies lost out a convincing 4-2 decision to the record setting Norfolk Admirals. The Marlies are now heading home with a 2-0 deficit but hereâ€™s to hoping that the crowd at the Ricoh can ignite them again.
Norfolk opened the scoring with Panik deking Ben Scrivens, pushing the puck through the Toronto goalie's legs and scoring to set the tone for the rest of the game. Alexandre Picard, Brandon Segal and Trevor Smith also scored for the Admirals. The only two goals for the Marlies were scored by Joe Colborne and Juraj Mikus. Mikusâ€™ goal came in the final minute of the game.
There was also a Stanley Cup Final to be played, Game 2 to be precise. While the Devils played a much better Game 2 and dominated through large stretches, Jonathan Quick wasnâ€™t about to be denied a second win in the series.
The Marlies will take to the ice today in pursuit of the Calder Cup, against a Norfolk Admirals team that has stampeded through the AHL over the last few months. Â Toronto will be without some of its most potent offensive weapons, as Matt Frattin has joined Nazem Kadri and Mike Zigomanis on the injured list. Â As such, Ben Scrivens and Toronto's defensive effort will have to come up big against an Admirals team that features a number of scoring threats.
Elsewhere in the hockey universe, Nicklas Lidstrom announced his retirement, to the dismay of hockey fans everywhere (seriously, have you ever met someone that doesn't like this Swedish legend?). Â As Matt accurately predicted, there are already a number of career retrospectives on the internets, with many touching on the (admittedly selfish)Â disappointingÂ notion that we won't get to see #5 work the Red Wings blueline anymore. Â It's a presence that the game will truly miss.
Some good news and some awful news out of Leafland yesterday. Finally inking the 25-year-old Finnish forward after a courtship dating back to last summer, the Leafs officially signed 2005 draft pick Leo Komarov to a one-year contract (see our posts on Komarov here and here). The bad news? The Marlies have lost Matt Frattin for the Calder Cup Finals due to a knee injury sustained in a collision with the post while he scored the empty netter in Game 5 against Oklahoma City.
To call the loss of Matt Frattin a significant one would be understating matters. The AHL post season's leading goal scorer has posted 10 goals in the playoffs and 24 goals overall in 36 games at the AHL level this season. Frattin has been responsible for nearly 40% of total Marlie goal production in these playoffs and many of his tallies have been self-made. Since round two we've seen him dominate offensively and find the target with stunning frequency; let's hope this doesn't derail his momentum too badly headed into next year's camp. [more…]
The biggest question mark entering the off-season for Brian Burke and co. obviously surrounds the resolution to the goaltending situation.
Off the top, I'm going to rule out the possibility that Burke sticks with what he's got and allows Reimer and Scrivens to split the duties, hoping one or both becomes a capable number one netminder. I've said it before, but another oversight here and goaltending will be the scarlet letter on the license plate of Burke's ride out of town. It would be a repeat of the Dan Cloutier nightmare for him, except worse as he's cycled through multiple goaltenders and still hasn't got it right despite his declaration from day one in Toronto that he wouldn't fall by the same sword again. Simply put, he's got to enter this season with more reliability and less risk in net, no matter how much potential or depth he may have at the position.
I'm also going to rule out the possibility that Burke signs a merely serviceable veteran. I think a Ty Conklin type only makes the Leaf net more crowded and not necessarily less risky. While things may and very well could change between now and the draft and free agency (in terms of names available), I see Burke as having two options. I'm going to name them the Vokoun option and the Luongo option without discussing at length the pro and cons of each individual - that will be, if it hasn't already, explored adÂ nauseam. [more…]
Saying I have very little knowledge about Justin Schultz is quite the understatement. I have never seen him play, until this post I had never looked at a single one of his stats, and ultimately this whole situation seemed reminiscent of teams fighting for the services of Matt Gilroy a few seasons ago (Gilroy was statistically not as good.) The only thing I really knew for sure is that he was Jake Gardinerâ€™s defensive partner at the University of Wisconsin, and based on Gardinerâ€™s performance Wisconsin does alright in the offensive defensemen development department.