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.
Before we get to this morning’s thoughts and links, I just wanted to thank everyone for the feedback and well wishes. I’ve been a reader of MLHS since late 2009 and it truly is an honor to write for this awesome blog community.
First things first, here’s the tweet we’ve all seen by now from Ben Hankinson, Jake Gardiner’s agent from Octagon Sports Management, who sent this out as the Leafs were losing to the Winnipeg Jets:
The Toronto Maple Leafs are sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference (fourth in the Eastern Conference in wins) and some folks, even Leaf fans who write about the game, are simply writing it of as nothing other than luck. Puck luck. Good goaltending. Streaky scorers. Bad coaching is even bandied around as one of the reasons they’re bad – but not showing it yet – this season.
The truth is that the Leafs are playing right about where they should have been last year—offensively—but with a system that allows them to hold leads, shut down teams when they need to, kill off potential momentum robbing power-plays and turn them something that breeds confidence in their ability to defend and in their goalies’ ability to stop pucks. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Confidence was and is a big difference between this season and last. They were a confident group last season – arriving almost mid-summer for early camp and hitting the ground running – got off to a good start and were confident in their ability to score almost at will. But look no further than the two losses against Boston (3-2 until an empty netter finished it 4-2) and Pittsburgh (5-4 SO) – those were games that would have been horrendous blowouts last year. I think everyone was expecting them to be as much, but both turned into tight games in the end. That wasn’t on the strength of out-of-worldly goaltending, either.
The team has adopted a better structured system—even strength and on the PK—that has allowed them to mitigate the second chances that sank a lot of games last season. Rebound control is still a big issue with both Reimer and Scrivens, however getting good looks at pucks and directing rebounds into less dangerous areas allows them and the team in front of them to bend more without breaking into the type of horrible collapses that plagued the team last year. I feel that not fronting the opposing forwards—standing in front hoping for a shot block—and instead reverting to a method of clearing the front of the net, like defenceman have for decades, is much more effective for this group.
If Toronto were to be compared to any team right now, it would have to be the Ottawa Senators, as much as it pains me to say it. Both have benefited tremendously from strong AHL teams and excellent AHL coaching. Ottawa were a laugh to start the season last season—most were predicting a lottery pick, and instead they took the New York Rangers to game 7 of a close series that could have easily went either way. Toronto is getting exactly the same collection of things this year, between the internal development, the coach and the goaltending. The Marlies, in my opinion, were robbed of a Calder Cup by bad injury luck and I felt that, when healthy, they were the superior team. Regardless, they had the best PK in the league, the best goaltending tandem, and the best shutdown D pair in the league. Say what you will, but it’s impressive that they Leafs can walk three AHL defenceman onto the big club and have them play as well as they have. It’s a credit to the Marlies that they are able to do that so seamlessly. They aren’t ideal defence pairings, but this is the sort of depth that we, as Leaf fans, have been pining for. The first wave of development seems to have pushed through for the Leafs, and while the Marlies are completely depleted right now that will change as the next round of Burke draftees start to migrate from Jr. to the AHL. This is what a rebuild looks like.
So, just how good are they? I think they’re just that: “good,” if Boston is “Excellent” and Pittsburgh is “Very Good” to “Excellent” (they lack depth on D and a consistently good goalie). I think the Leafs were trending downwards quickly two and three seasons ago and are quickly trending upwards now. It should have happened a year ago, but … Ron Wilson.
It will be interesting to see how Dave Nonis makes his next two big moves to meet the club’s main two needs: A first line center who can play the game at a fast pace and is able to make plays at the same speed as Kessel and Lupul, and another top 4 two-way defenceman—preferably of the top-2 variety. Those moves don’t present themselves very often throughout the course of the season, and we’ll all be curious as to how he keeps adding top-flight talent to a group that has improved internally and is looking to advance gears in order to enter the conversation beside the Bostons and Pittsburghs of the league.
Leafs GM in no hurry to deal UFAs - (Chatham Daily News) Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis is perfectly satisfied playing the waiting game with pending unrestricted free agents Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur
With just over three weeks to go until the trade deadline, I feel as if I can get away with a rosterbation post without too much scrutiny. I’ll do my best to not go full HFBoards with my ideas, but certainly have a few players in mind that I’d like for the Leafs to target, and a few that I’d like Nonis to jettison. While I’m sure this won’t be the most intelligent post you’ll read this morning, hopefully it will at least spark some Monday morning conversation.
I took in what felt like a one-point win last night at the ACC. I of little faith was thinking “blow out” after the bang-bang goals in the first, but there seems to be something different about this team (visible in the Bruins game as well). They didn’t slip silently into the night, and by the end of it you had the feeling Crosby, Malkin and co. snuck away, or limped away, with the extra point.
I’ll ignore the awful first period from the Leafs – and how deeply underwater the first line was in its head to head with Crosby’s line, or how off Reimer was for the first 20 – because in many ways the fight back was just that good. Reimer played one of his poorer periods of the season in period 1, but his overall performance matched the trajectory of the rest of the team – started slow, but without him the Leafs don’t get the point.
With the first half of the season in the books, the Toronto Maple Leafs sit firmly entrenched in fifth place in the East with an impressive record of 15 – 10 – 0. So who should we thank for the great successes so far at the midway mark?
In the least interesting reveal of the article, Nazem Kadri wins this first Middy™ by a wide margin. He took the team lead in points in the third game of the season and hasn’t looked back, having tallied 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points in 25 games. His arrival to the Leafs may have had few more layovers than anyone hoped, but he’s now showing every night just why Brian Burke was right to draft him seventh overall in 2009.
Last night’s 5-4 nail-biting win over the Sens further fanned the fires of the current “debate” on the role of fighting in the Leafs’ mid-season success. In case you haven’t seen it already, here’s the video of the KO McLaren delivered on Dziurzynski. It seems like McLaren only grazes him but given the speed at which these guys are throwing down, what’s a chin to a flying fist (or sheet of ice).
Kessel also came out with his second 3-point night of the season and generally looked to have given a 200 ft. effort, along with 5 SOG. Nazem Kadri meanwhile continues to roll and shows no signs of stopping. The imminent return of fellow Marlies graduate, Matt Frattin, should have fans pretty excited since prior to Frattin’s injury, Kadri had assisted on 4 of Frattin’s 7 goals. Hopefully, the two youngsters can pick up close to where they left off as Toronto will be facing some tougher competition in the remaining 12 games in March, including two dates with the Penguins and three against the Bruins.
In other news, the most recent installment of TSN’s TradeCentre listed Bozak and MacArthur as viable trade candidates. With Stephen Weiss out for the remainder of the season, you’d have to imagine that Bozak moves up on the list of available centremen. MacArthur’s upcoming UFA status and recent performance also makes him a prime trade target with Lupul returning and if Frattin continues to show he’s the real deal. No matter where he ends up, he’ll likely get a raise on his current $3.25mm salary but in the meantime, I’m not averse to expanding his value by having him ride Kadri’s coattails.
Another point on Kadri. I recently did an NHL impact analysis of top-10 CHL defensemen in scoring and found that Morgan Rielly had big shoes to fill. I then decided to perform a similar analysis for forwards and remembered that Kadri had actually finished 5th in OHL scoring during the 2009-2010 season with 93 points. While Kadri is performing at a tidy 1.00 point-per-game pace, and could be considered for an All-Star berth had there been an All-Star game, he was left out of the study sample because draftees typically need a couple of years before they can make an impact at the NHL level. Therefore, I only looked at forwards from 1999 to 2008. Below is one of the charts from the follow-on analysis. Some of Kadri’s predecessors include the likes of Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Corey Perry, and Steven Stamkos. Check out the piece to see how the WHL and QMJHL fared during the same time period.
Vintage Leaf Memories: Respect Alfredsson - I grew up on the Leafs-Sens playoff series and learned to hate Alfie. However, Michael Langlois, over at VLM, makes the point: “there’s something to be said for honouring a worthy opponent, too” ala Vince Vaughan in Anchorman.
For reasons beyond my comprehension, the two-year contract extension handed out to 25-year-old Korbinian Holzer yesterday generated reactions beyond “oh, alright” on Twitter.
Unless you’re predisposed to criticizing minor decisions with little downside, what is there to hate?
Worst case: The Leafs have signed a relatively young, homegrown depth defenceman for a deal below the 900k salary required for a one-way contract to count against the salary cap if the player is in the minors. Yes, he takes up a SPC slot, but you need cheap depth options in your organization.
The best case is that Holzer, he of 18 games, develops into a dependable last pairing defenceman for the team and gets paid a cap-friendly 725k/850k to do it for the next two seasons.
Yes, he’s made mistakes and is out of his depth in his current role. He’s also shown enough to indicate he can play at the NHL level if he continues to round out the edges.
In the short term, I’m interested to see how Carlyle and Nonis start sorting out the situation on defense over the next month. There seems to be an excess of bodies and a need for a top 4 defenceman. We need to find out if Gardiner is ready to take on that role for this season sooner or later (Liles also deserves another look), and if not I’d suggest Nonis pursues some trade options with intent. He’s not going to land our 1c before the season’s out, but an experienced top 4 rearguard who can hold his own could go a long way for this team in the playoff hunt. Of course, at least one body has to go out before a new one comes in.
It all seems pretty complicated, but I’m sure it will become much clearer with time. The path Nonis takes will be dictated by results. Whether it’s part-thanks to or in spite of his play, Holzer so far has those going for him.