Good Day MLHS readers! How was your Sunday? Did you find that you got your best night’s sleep? Did the air feel a little crisper, the sun shine a little brighter? Does everything in your life feel significantly better? I sure found that to be the case. Why? THE LEAFS ARE IN THE MUTHA FUNKIN’ PLAYOFFS!!!1 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
Okay, I’m good now. This weekend is just the start of the good times, we’ve got at least four hockey games in May worth watching and I’ll optimistically say I think we’ll be seeing more than seven this year. We may not yet know who the Leafs are playing in round one, but we know for sure that CBC will be the network carrying the games.
A couple of days ago, I had a pretty interesting conversation with @Dudgee (solid MLHS guy, give him a follow) when he first stated that he thought the Leafs brass should withhold judgement on Kessel and Bozak until we see them in the playoffs. This got me thinking, because Bozak is due for an extension and Kessel is going into the final year of his contract, ultimately with the prospects of a massive raise from his current $5.400mn salary. So I wondered – is Bozak destined to simply be a rental player for the Leafs during the playoffs, or is there anything he can do to solidify himself as a key cog in the organization?
Judging from most of the stuff I’ve heard on Twitter, if seems like the masses are ready to dispose of Bozak, and I wanted to reach out to our writers to see what they thought. From my side, regardless of whether Bozak stays, or not, the situation at centre will change – with Kadri’s ascension and Grabovski’s sub-optimization – and this summer could mark the beginnings of the organization’s intense search for a #1 Centre, which is key to turning the Leafs into a better possession team.
A Toronto Maple Leaf hasn’t won a major NHL award in an embarrassing amount of years. This year, however, it looks as if there could be a case made for 3 award nominations —major or otherwise, for the Leafs.
The last “major” award was Doug Gilmour winning the Selke Trophy in the 1992-1993 season, 20 years ago.
Jokes no more. Leafs fans assemble at the "Iron Horse!"
The Leafs are presently sitting at 99.9% likelihood of making the playoffs, with a magic number of 5, and one point away from the number deemed by many to necessary to make the playoffs. Ultimately, we’re at the point where the Leafs can crash and burn and we can still count on hockey in May.
Without the ‘x’ beside their name in standings it isn’t official, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are tantalizingly close to clinching a playoff spot. Even with their 49 points through 40 games, they may have simply outpaced the also-rans for playoff contention.
The Winnipeg Jets sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, but have only six games to make up ground. Every team above in the standings has at least one game in hand on the Jets. They’re running out of race track. The tenth place New Jersey, losers of eight of their last ten games; sit a nigh-insurmountable nine points back of the Leafs.
The truth is less suspenseful than the idea of the playoff chase, but I’ll take it. Here are some Leaf thoughts for your Friday.
Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Alexander Mogilny, left, and Gary Roberts stand dejected at the bench after their Game 6 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in their Eastern Conference semifinal in 2004, the last year the Leafs made the playoffs. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)
Mirroring the trade deadline, it’s been a slow and painful week in Leaf land. The club still sits in sixth place in the Eastern conference, briefly flirting with fifth without even playing. Even with the loss, the Buds are sitting on a 20 – 13 – 4 record and play only four games against teams ahead of them in standings in their remaining games. And one of those teams is the Washington Capitals so really it’s three. Here are some Leaf thoughts to start your Friday off right.
Trade Deadline 2013 is in the books. The Kiprusoff scare is over. Leafs are still 5th in the East.
“Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make.”-Anthony Petrielli -(@APetrielli)
For those of you who missed it and were doing something productive, yesterday’s experience reminded me of a famous quote once uttered by an esteemed San Diegan news anchor. In what started off as an eerily quiet and inauspicious morning, things quickly turned into a maelstrom towards the end of the deadline at 3pm. I usually go solo on this piece but given the magnitude of the Trade Deadline, I opted to enlist the help of some of MLHS’ great writers for thoughts on what transpired yesterday. We’ve got you covered.
News broke yesterday via Aaron Ward that Miikka Kiprusoff has been approached by the Toronto Maple Leafs about playing for their team. It should be noted, before we start, that Kiprusoff has reportedly given no indication he has changed his stance on not reporting if moved by Calgary. With Iginla, Bouwmeester and Regehr shipped out for futures, the Flames have merely given the Leafs permission to talk to the Finnish goaltender about his options.
With the trade deadline coming next Wednesday, and the Leafs settled snugly into sixth place, the team’s status as either buyer or seller is still unclear. The team as presently assembled is not a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup, and no Jarome Iginla could change that fact. Compounding matters is that Dave Nonis has already iterated that the team is not going to sacrifice the youth movement filtering into the professional ranks of the club for the sake of the immediate future. So even if the Leafs were to be ‘in’ on Ryane Clowe, they’d be priced out of the running by teams like the Bruins or Ducks.
WOW. What a turn of events in the Iginla sweepstakes. Mid-way through writing this piece, I paused to check for updates on Twitter and in an instant, Iginla had gone from a Bruin to a Penguin. Going back the other way to Calgary are college prospects Kenneth Agostino (20, LW), Ben Hanowski (22, LW), and Pittsburgh’s 2013 1st-round draft pick. From the outset, Feaster isn’t getting much credit for the return he’s getting but, it appears that Pittsburgh was Iginla’s call. Per Elliote Friedman:
Feaster said Iginla made the call on PIT. Added the draft choice is not conditional.
When faced with such a tectonic move, my first instinct is to take a breath and look at it from 30,000 feet – to try and take the broad level view. I asked myself, how does this change the competitive landscape of the East Conference? How does this move affect the Leafs? Who are the winners and losers of the trade? Will Iginila thrive under Dan Bylsma’s system? Where does Iginila fit in the line-up, and what of his role? At the surface level, the Pens’ active roster stays intact and get an infusion of leadership, class, skill, and toughness. Ray Shero is really going all-in here and the proposition of lining up Crosby and Iginla is a terrifying proposition, just ask Ryan Miller. In the coming days, I’m sure these questions will be addressed by the mainstream media and by members of the blogosphere.
This is a different kind of piece.
Before you read on, I submit this for your consideration:
For those of you who are unable to watch the video, it contains a segment from the Colbert Report, and it features a 13-minute montage of blatant Bostonian hypocrisy.
As I’m sure many Leaf fans were when they heard that Iginla was headed to Boston, I experienced some strong mixed-emotions. On the one hand, here you have a player who epitomizes class and leadership. On the other hand, he was headed to a hypocritical and dirty organization like Boston. If what Friedman said is true, then good on Jarome. Now, I am not privy to his decision-making process but I sure hope he considered the collective character of the organizations he was looking to join, along with, ultimately, the prospects of winning a Stanley Cup.
Iginla’s press conference is set for 10:30am (MT) and certainly lends itself to a tearful farewell. He has been the face of the franchise for the past 15 seasons and became the city’s beloved son. The loyalty he showed the Flames is quite remarkable, even despite the lack of talent and recent managerial gaffes. Adam Proteau, from The Hockey News, puts it best:
As the Jarome Iginla Flames Era ends, it should be noted there’s no classier player in the game than Calgary’s No. 12. The man is boo-proof.
In the end, Jarome Iginla deserved better than Boston, and I believe he made the right decision. As a hockey fan, I wish Jarome nothing but success and the best of luck in Pittsburgh.
Just a quick note on the Leafs.
Much has been made of the team’s relative success during the past 5 games (3-0-2) and many cited the home-and-home series with Boston as a test of sorts. Needless to say, the Leafs get more than a passing grade for their effort and surely surprised a lot of people. However, looking forward, I would argue that the next 6 games might be even more important than the past 5.
Including tonight’s bout against the Hurricanes (32pts -10th), the Leafs will face-off against the Senators (42 pts – 5th), Flyers (28 pts – 14th), and Devils (37 pts – 7th) once, and the Rangers (35 pts – 8th) twice. Essentially, 5 of the next 6 games will be against teams that are either in the race, or are within striking distance of the Leafs. Herein lies a crucial opportunity for the Leafs to expand their lead over lesser teams. If they can come out of the next 6 games with at least 8 points, for a total of 48 points, it sets them up nicely for the final 8 games of the season.
End of a long, strange day. Or is it start of another? College UFA D Dan DeKeyser could decide today (Thursday) which NHL team to sign with.
What an impressive showing by Joffrey Lupul last night. Re-united with 2011-12 running mates Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel after an in-game audible by coach Carlyle, he led the Leafs to a not-always-convincing 3-2 win over the lowly Florida Panthers with goals five and six in his last four games.
While it may not be as exciting as next week’s trade deadline, the College Free Agent signing season is now underway. At the moment the Lightning seem to be faring the best, landing the 6’8 Czech Andrej Sustr, a player that as many as 25 NHL teams were looking into, including the Leafs.
The new target on the blueline could now be Danny DeKeyser, a 6’3, 186lb. American from Western Michigan University.
With the boats now foolishly burnt and the season 31 games old, the Toronto Maple Leafs sure look like they’re reeling into form. Since starting the season with a record of 15 – 9 – 0, the Leafs have gone 1 – 3 – 3 in the past seven games, collecting only five points in the standings and now sitting precariously in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Through the good graces of the Hockey gods and the incompetence of their direct competition (the Jets, Hurricanes and Rangers all lost in regulation last night), the Leafs are just barely keeping their head above water.
Kudos if you’re reading this before noon, and my condolences if the only reason you’re reading it early is because you forgot to book Monday off work. Happy Advil Day! I’ll have an actual post later in the week, but the Leafs not playing until Wednesday hasn’t left me with much to say beyond the usual, “Holzer sucks, Free Gardiner, and Trade Bozak.”
Joffrey Lupul returns to the Leaf lineup at a time when they could sure use a boost. It’s not official that he’ll play tonight, but the indication from the player himself is that he will be making his reappearance against the Winnipeg Jets after 25 games missed due to the broken forearm, and indications from practice yesterday are that he might start off on a line with Nazem Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin. One imagines, after some time to shake off the rust, he’ll make his way back up to the top line opposite Kessel. For tonight, I’m curious to see how that line, if it comes together, performs in their matchup while attempting to exploit weaker competition.
You have to like how the Leafs depth at forward is starting to shape up now that they’ve got a full deck. Let’s hope Carlyle can find the right combinations to turn what could be a triple threat into reality. With this likely bumping McClement and Komarov to the fourth line, Lupul’s return also lends itself to the tantalizing potential of rolling four lines effectively.
Here’s five Leaf thoughts to get you through your Friday, with five links at the bottom.
Steckel and McClement Faceoff Woes
I was taking a look at the faceoff numbers, and I noticed some altogether startling numbers from Steckel and McClement. Both were once kings of the faceoff circle, with McClement averaging 51.6% of his 1152 draws in 2010-2011 and 51.3% of his 873 draws in 2011-2012, whereas Steckel won 62.3% of his 820 draws in 2010-2011, and 58.0% of his 1108 draws in 2011-2012.