Home Morning Mashup

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Thanks to Gus Katsaros for stopping by with a few thoughts on now-Calgary Flame Joe Colborne…

Even if you sensed Joe Colborne’s time with the Leafs was dwindling after a less than impressive 2013 training camp, it was a little disappointing to see a former 16th overall draft selection – who many Leafs fans were still holding out hope for, and once considered among the organization’s top prospects – jettisoned for a 4th round draft pick.

Randy Carlyle perhaps put it best:

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The preseason edition of the Battle of Ontario kicks-off tonight and there is a considerable amount of buzz surrounding both teams. The Leafs and Sens were both very active over the summer and, depending on who you spoke to, became more competitive through their roster moves and acquisitions.  As it stands, the Senators are sort of a fashionable/dark-horse pick to claim the Atlantic Division title.  Although I wouldn’t go as far as to call them a favorite, they do have a talented crop of forwards, one of the top-5 defensemen in the league, and a solid goaltending tandem.  Oh, and let’s not forget about their Jack Adams-winning, bug-eyed walrus of a coach. It should be a good one tonight.

As training camps opened this week, the last of the RFAs have begun to re-sign with their clubs.  Most notably, Leaf phenom Nazem Kadri signed a two year pact that will pay him $2.9-million per season.  A hundred or so miles down the road, the Buffalo Sabres locked up their star RFA centre Cody Hodgson to a six-year deal at $4.25-million per year.

Last season, Kadri had a stellar 44 points in 48 games; Hodgson had a good but not great 34 in 48 games.  For their careers, Kadri has a .636 points per game average (63 points in 99 games played) compared to Hodgson’s .554 (73 pts in 139 GP).  So why does Hodgson get $20-million and four years more than Kadri?

The Leafs’ rookies took the tournament opener as a result of their energy, skill, and goaltending. They outpaced a Chicago group that was forced to rely more on physicality to gain ground. They caught the Leafs temporarily, but in the end Toronto came away with a win they probably deserved as Morgan Rielly and Tyler Biggs converted in the shootout to secure a 3-2 Leaf victory.

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Nazem Kadri

Today, MLHS celebrates reaching the half-decade mark of existence. On this day 5 years ago, MLHS was a newborn blog adorned with a site banner I fashioned in about 5 minutes in MS Paint. To say I didn’t expect it to grow into one of the leading Leaf fan communities online, or for it to provide the opportunity to meet so many great people over the past 5 years, or for it to lead to opportunities such as publishing a magazine about the team and becoming acquainted with a few of the team’s players and members of management …. well, unexpected would be a whopping understatement. Thank you to everyone who has helped along the way and all those who continue to make MLHS what it is.

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Friend of site Nazem Kadri laid down a twitter diss yesterday, becoming, if I’m not forgetting something, the first Leaf player to directly call out a member of the Toronto media over Twitter:

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Nazem Kadri

Turning it over to MLHS graphic designer and power user mcloki for this morning:

Hello, Gents. It’s Mcloki. Last year, I suggested to Alec and Declan that a consistent look should be developed for the GDT. Foolishly they said yes. Those banners were done in the rush of adrenaline that came with the end of the lockout. The old banners were nice, but they didn’t bring a tradition or regularity to the site. And the Game Day Thread is special. When posted, it announces that it’s hockey time in Leaf Land.

There’s still no movement on either Nazem Kadri or Cody Franson, and training camp is still about a month away, so it’s time for another clip show!

The spin-o-rama has become a hallmark move in the NHL, even if it’s not without controversy.  Here’s the 5 best in blue in white at twisting and turning heads.

 

5. Nazem Kadri is really, really, really skilled.  Like damn skilled.

We’ll start of this clip show with a real beauty of a goal by Kadri during the 2011-2012 season.  Kadri passes off to Joffrey Lupul in the left wing corner and sneaks through to the top of the crease.  Lupul’s shot shanks off the Wild defender.  Kadri, reading the ricochet, pivots on his right skate and bats the puck out of the air on his backhand to give the Leafs a 1 – 0 lead.  Just incredible hand-eye coordination on this play, and totally worth a new contract… Dave.

4. Jason Blake… backhand

Jason Blake.  Remember him? Seriously, do you? Do you remember when the Leafs made THAT free agent winger mistake in 2007? Anyway, I’m not saying you have to like the guy, but this is a pretty sweet shootout goal nonetheless.  Blake carries the puck out to the right wing before taking a more direct line towards New Jersey netminder Scott Clemmensen.

Then, as if unbound by the laws of physics, Blake stops on a dime dead centre at the top of the crease and spins counter clockwise, backhanding in this beauty. Perhaps the most amazing part of this goal is seeing how tremendously underprepared Clemmensen was on that move.  He’s like two feet out of the net and a foot off the ice.

3. James van Riemsdyk scores the first Leaf playoff game winner in nine years

May 4, 2013 was a special day to me for several reasons, and this was one of them.  James van Riemsdyk cruises towards the net, slows and turns to receive a Mikhail Grabovski pass.  He takes Grabovski’s pass with both feet firmly planted in the crease, standing almost on top of Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.  After trying to tap the puck in between his legs, he swings on his right foot and puts the puck to his forehand, barely sneaking the puck past Rask’s outstretched right leg before tumbling to the ice.

He probably would have scored higher on this list were it not for the dismount, but this was probably the most exhilarating goal of the 2013 season for me.

2. Mikhail Grabovski… forehand

Another shootout goal, but boy this one is a beauty by Mikhail Grabovski.  Grabovski, like Blake, cuts wide to the right wing as he prepares his attempt on Ty Conklin.  But Grabovski chose to attack at an even wide angle, getting as far over to the hash marks before veering towards the net.  He spins in a counter clockwise direction as he cuts to the left in front of the net, waits out a sprawling Conklin, and lightly flicks the puck into the top half of the net.

This goal is so incredibly because Grabo had the time, space and ability to complete the 360 THEN score.  Absolutely masterful move and it would be the winner if it weren’t for…

1. Killer with the OT dagger in the Gardens

Clearly anyone can score on a spin-o-rama in front of the net.  A real winner does it behind the net.  An even real-er winner does it in a playoff game.  And Doug Gilmour does all of that in double overtime.

Seeing Blake and Grabovski’s spin-o-rama goals in the shootouts, you think to yourself about the focus and timing required to make that play.  Everything has to be moving in just about perfect order in perfect time on this risky play.  What makes Gilmour’s so incredible is that he held the puck behind the Blues net for a full five seconds before making this dastardly move.

As Gilmour starts to move, the Blues left defenseman first breaks to intercept him.  Then Gilmour cuts the other way, forcing the defenseman and the Blues net minder Curtis Joseph to cover the far post.  Gilmour completes the pirouette, skates up and shovels the backhand just inside the near post to give the Leafs the victory.  Just incredible.

LINKS:

In case you missed it, Anthony had a great chat with Leafs scout Garth Malarchuk.

PPP Fanpost with the most! Not Norm Ullman has a terrific piece on the acquisition of Paul Ranger.

Cam Charron was a stat laden piece on quantifying Dion Phaneuf’s ice time and usage in a Leaf uniform.

Gabriel Landeskog re-signs in Colorado for 7 years, $39-million ($5.57-million AAV).

Justin Bourne’s Backhand Shelf Podcast on Alfredsson, the Devils money woes, and crimelords’ cup rings.

 

 

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We’ve got a few more interviews and some actual relevant content coming next week, but it’s Friday when I wrote this and Michael has me draining time watching funny fights on YouTube. Until said content is ready and and unless Nonis figures out soon how to lock down Franson and Kadri with less than $6 million in cap space, two-parters about odd Leafs fights is going to have to do.

From Conn Smythe’s likely-apocryphal quote, “If you can’t beat ‘em in the alley, you can’t beat ‘em on the ice” to Brian Burke’s tears for Colton Orr, the Toronto Maple Leafs have always encouraged fighting.  There’s not much to report on in Leaf land right now, and instead of lamenting unsigned RFAs and the cap woes, let’s take a look at some of oddest fights in Leaf history.

The combatants are unusual, the results often surprising, and most of them leave one thinking fighting has no place in hockey (especially if you can’t fight).  But they’re all still pretty hilarious, and ought to be remembered fondly by all Leafs fans.

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How many different ways can you debate the Leafs’ remaining cap space? We’re working our way toward finding out.

While we lose our minds, several Leafs prospects are busy plying their trade against the best junior players in the world.  Yesterday, Canada took on Finland, which featured centerman Frederik Gauthier, winger Ryan Rupert, and defenseman Matt Finn. Dominic Toninato, although having made the first cut of the US Hockey National Junior Eval Camp, did not compete against Sweden.

The John Michael Liles buyout watch is officially over, for this year, anyway.

Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson are still RFAs, and the Leafs currently have just 4.9M in cap space to retain them both. While many have pointed out that Korbinian Holzer and Trevor Smith are accounted for on the Leafs capgeek roster even though neither figures to make the team, it also has to be said that the Leafs aren’t going to play with a roster holding the bare minimum of 12 forwards and six defensemen all year. Something has to give.

There are a few different ways things can turn out now.