It's not time to sound the alarm, but the sense of urgency is heightened across Toronto.
The Leafs are still firmly in a playoff spot and, other than Detroit (who has three games in hand on the Leafs, but are also missing Zetterberg and, for the moment, Datsyuk), the 4+ point gap the Leafs have on everyone else is a much tougher hill to climb than it looks because of the “three point era” in the NHL. It's extremely tough to make up ground at this stage of the season in this day and age.
But let's be clear: The Leafs...
Thanks again for all the questions. My apologies if I didn't get to yours.
Part 1 can be found here.
wendelsfist: "What one personnel upgrade or change would you make (trade for a role, call up to replace etc)?"
I assume you mean for the playoff race/run and not next season. At least, that's how I'm going to answer the question.
I don't think there are any defensemen worth the Leafs going after at this point, so that kind of upgrade can wait until the offseason. I'd be most interested in acquiring a really good 10th forward. If someone in the Leafs top 9...
Thanks for all the questions. Part 2 will follow a little later on in the day.
@BrianHuddle: "Where does management need to advance this roster to push it from middling playoff team to contender?"
The positions of defense and center still need improvement, but in terms of advancing the roster I think there are two ways to approach this question.
The first is having patience with this roster and developing the pieces in-house. They can improve in theory by staying the course with the Gardiners, Riellys and Hollands of the organization if they really have their hearts set on growing this young talent...
With the hockey world’s attention firmly fixed on the Olympics, it’s easy to forget that the NHL is quickly approaching a significant date: Trade Deadline Day on March 5th.
The Leafs play three more games before the deadline (at NYI and MTL, before a home game against CBJ), and they have some looming questions facing them. Perhaps the most important of which is this: Has Dave Bolland recovered?
It’s not necessarily a matter of whether he plays well or poorly – he hasn’t played since November 2nd, so he’s going to be rusty — it’s about how he feels. Does it...
The sentiment "Thank you Boston" has been never been more prevalent in Leafs Nation as Phil Kessel continues to rip apart the NHL. I'm thanking Boston, too, only for something else.
You can't convince me otherwise: Boston's dominance of the Leafs and elite standing in League the past few seasons has made the Leafs better.
The Bruins forced the Leafs to improve, they forced them to change their game, and ultimately they remain the benchmark for the Leafs to measure themselves against. When Chicago was in the process of building a contender, Detroit was the yardstick. They forced them to turn...
Why is the Leafs' PK struggling so heavily?
Plus much more on the week that was in Leafland.
It's kind of amazing how the Leafs' awful penalty kill has flown right under the radar this season.
Yeah, everyone knows it's bad, but when it was bad under Ron Wilson there was a constant reminder of how bad it was. It was a cloud of negativity hanging over Wilson's teams.
This season, though, it just doesn't seem like it's being made out to be nearly as big of a deal. But how bad is it? The current 76.8% success rate is a lower success...
It’s amazing how much a week can change, in the minds of some fans.
Some may say Carlyle is no longer on the hot seat, everything is fine now, the team is heading in the right direction, and everything is turning around at the right time. “They aren’t even fully healthy yet.”
Another perspective sees it as just a hot streak. The team has won a few shootouts, they’ve got some bounces and some good goaltending, and it’s really not a big deal. “It’s unsustainable; the averages will catch up to them eventually.”
Me? I’ll stick to the same script I’ve been...
Even the most optimistic Leafs fans weren't expecting David Clarkson to be great throughout the entirety of his seven year deal, but this is just getting crazy now.
By again going pointless last night, the big free agent signing has now stretched his pointless streak to seven games. If you look even further back, he has only three points in his last 21. Depth players Trevor Smith, Paul Ranger and rookie Morgan Rielly all have more points than him (Ranger’s played one more game than Clarkson and Rielly’s played four more; Smith has played ten less).
He doesn’t play on the...
Heading into 2013 training camp, Dave Nonis had two massive clouds hanging over his head as his best forward and best defenseman were both scheduled to become UFAs after the season. That’s no longer a problem as both have been signed to long-term contracts locking them in until 2021 and 2022 respectively.
The question is: Now what?
The Leafs are a playoff bubble team in a terrible Conference, and they now have six players locked into big deals (Kessel, Phaneuf, Lupul, Bozak, Clarkson and JVR). They still seem to have some cap flexibility with roughly $21M in cap space this summer...
With tomorrow's game vs. Buffalo representing the 40th game of 2013-14, the Leafs are nearly at the halfway mark of the season. The Leafs, 18-16-5, currently hold the final playoff spot in the East, are 3-5-2 in their last ten, and will try to fend off the Flyers and Hurricanes who are both three points behind them with games in hand.
Now seems as good a time as any to look at the early returns of the Leafs most recent moves. Without further ado:
David Clarkson - The Leafs are finding out his best role is that of a shutdown...
Although the Leafs went 1-2 last week, it really was one of their better weeks of hockey this season. They handily outplayed LA but just weren’t able to bury, and they laid a beating on the first place Hawks. It's true that St. Louis completely outclassed them, but two pretty dominant games against two of the top five teams in the league is really impressive. The Leafs have to build on that as a positive.
- As doom-and-gloom as it’s been in Leafs Nation the last few weeks, the reality is this: The East sucks. The Leafs have played 16...
The Sunday game threw off the timing of the Leafs Notebook (along with life, work, and so on), so I apologize for the delay. Hope it was worth the wait at least.
- It’s nice to see the Leafs have a true first line and to watch them in action. When JVR-Kadri-Kessel are together as a unit, they are capable of dominating and they are also capable of sustained zone time. The only problem I see with this line is that they can get a little too cute at times, which is probably a result of three creative players being...
The question for the Leafs right now is pretty simple:
Is this the kind of slump that every team goes through over an 82-game season, or is this a sign of things to come?
Toronto is 8-9-3 since a 6-1 start and are about to embark on what will likely be their toughest stretch of games this season competition wise. In the next eight games Toronto plays, in order: San Jose, Dallas, Ottawa, Boston, LA, St. Louis, Chicago and Pittsburgh. It doesn’t get much harder than that.
Last season the Leafs went on a pretty bad 2-3-4 stretch before going on an...
- Losing to a young, inexperienced goalie that fought every puck, like in the loss against Nashville, is the kind of loss that really hurts over an 82-game season. Especially because, after the first period, the Leafs were firmly in control of that game but didn’t bury chances or give themselves much of a lead. The Preds got a four minute power play early in the second, they scored, and the game completely shifted.
- Add in losing to a reeling Columbus team that didn’t have Gaborik, Dubinsky or Horton (who they haven’t had all year, obviously). Good teams take...
You have to give Dave Nonis credit: The Leafs needed a center, so he went out and got one.
It was only a few weeks ago that I wondered aloud, in this very space, whether or not Nonis would pull the trigger to fill a position of sudden need, knowing he sat on his hands when he was faced with this same depleted center situation in Vancouver.
Every GM in the NHL had to know the Leafs were in a tough spot already with Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland down, only for Nazem Kadri to get suspended and leave the Leafs...
No appetizer today. Straight into the main course:
- Last season, one of the biggest strengths of the Leafs penalty kill was its health and established rotation. Everyone knew who their penalty killers were and when they would be on; Bozak and McClement would go on for the immediate d-zone draw, Kulemin would hop on after the Leafs cleared it for Bozak, Komarov/Bozak would come on when McClement finally got tired, and JVR would see spot duty or help kill the penalty if one of the regulars was in the box. To tie it altogether, McClement, Kulemin, Bozak, and Komarov...
It is a little ironic that Dave Nonis left Vancouver this past weekend with an eerily similar problem to the one he faced while GM of the Canucks.
During the 2007-08 season – Nonis’ last with the Canucks — the team had 12 defensemen suit up due to injuries on the back end. Regulars Kevin Bieksa and Mattias Ohlund missed significant time, waiver claim (before the season started) Mike Weaver ended up playing 55 games, and players such as Lukas Krajicek, Luc Bourdon, and Nathan McIver ended up playing a lot more than intended. That’s because ultimately Nonis didn’t make...
Usually I like to include a little preamble before getting into notes, but the notes went a little long this week so I decided to scrap it. I’m also looking into something that could become a lengthy post; if all goes well there, I’ll hopefully have that up a little later in the week.
Moving on, there’s a lot to talk about in a week when JVR and Kessel put on a show against Anaheim, the Leafs made Columbus look a lot better than they are, and the team played two of their best periods of the season against Pittsburgh.
If you missed part one of this week's Notebook on Morgan Rielly, check it out here.
- Thought the JVR goal against Edmonton was a subtle example of the growth in Kessel’s game. If you watch the reply below, he gets knocked down, but keeps his stick on the puck and holds it against the boards to buy time for help. Then, he gets up and keeps battling. That effort and battle wasn’t always evident in Kessel’s game. Against Nashville, he went into the boards with Seth Jones and as they were on a collision course for the puck he...
We are only six games into the regular season, but the Leafs are quickly approaching what will be one of their biggest decisions of the season: What to do with Morgan Rielly.
Rielly has played four games for the Leafs, so if he continues to play every game the Leafs won’t have to make a decision until October 25th, after a game against the Blue Jackets, at the earliest. He’s had a solid start to his NHL career averaging 17:24 a night, which has pretty well been all at evens as he averages less than a minute of shorthanded (11...