It was as predictable as it was painful to read. Smelling blood in the water as the fan base angrily seeks answers for what's been an inexplicable and catastrophic collapse, The Toronto Star's Dave Feschuk turned from calling player's moms to dialing up anonymous ex Maple Leafs to perform a hatchet job on Leaf captain Dion Phaneuf.
Feschuk takes so many liberties with his latest work, walking an ethical tight rope as a professional journalist, it's not worth linking to, much less poring over in line-by-line detail. At one point he seems to base a hint of a rift between Dion Phaneuf and Luke Schenn around Phaneuf and Luke's brother Brayden Schenn scrumming each other in front of the net the other night. He works in a shot at Burke, with whom he's had a rocky relationship after calling up Reimer's mom, when he wonders why he still has high regard in the hockey community even though his team played awful the last 20 games. He says Phaneuf never looks inward for blame, even though his favourite line following a loss is "we need to be better."
Feschuk only now mentions that Phaneuf did not attend certain events during the weekend of the Sundin banner raising ceremony, and that this allegedly upset some alumni. The timing of the piece and these revelations speak to Feschuk's moral fibre, bravely revealing them now when the team is in a lottery position, as opposed to when the snub actually happened; of course, the Leafs were still in playoff contention then. But with the Leafs back in familiar territory and the Leaf hate at full roar, the opportunistic Feschuk knew the time was now right to launch his agenda. [more…]
Now that we pretty much agreed that tanking is the way to go (had to drag this writer in chains and he's still not at peace with it), let's try to examine how much Leafs Nation really needs that high end first round pick/player.
When you take tanking out of the equation (and if youâ€™re like me, you have to, because itâ€™s not like youâ€™re going to stop watching this team) you realize that watching the current day Edmonton Oilers really seems more fun than watching the current day Maple Leafs. The amount of sheer young talent and hope for the future makes games exciting, makes fans watch even though they are losing games. Watching Taylor Hall fly down the wing, Eberleâ€™s quick hands or an 8 point night by Sam Gagner beats watching basically the same result with no such talent on the roster.
While Brian Burke deserves much of the blame for the recent woes of the Toronto Maple Leafs, itâ€™s also fair to point out that he didnâ€™t exactly inherit a powerhouse.Â The Leafs roster was in terrible shape when the big Irishman accepted the unsavory role of Maple Leafs president and general manager.
Unfair expectations were placed on this current regime and miracles were expected overnight as he was quickly dubbed the â€˜saviour of the franchiseâ€™.Â Unfortunately, in the new cap-era NHL, a quick fix is nearly impossible and instead patience, money management and shrewd decision making is even more imperative.
Is the â€œFire Burkieâ€ rhetoric that has been spewed from Leafs Nation coast-to-coast justified?
Ever hear someone say that in hockey, the best way to really see the separation between good and great is to see the game live, in the flesh? Well it's true. I can tell who the best players are just from watching at home on television, but when you take in a hockey game at the arena, the most skilled players will stand out more than ever.
I've been to a live Leafs game this season - it was the Leafs and Penguins in October, the game where Kessel saved the day in the third and made Brent Johnson look like a drunk as he stumbled to stop a cruising one-timer. No chance. Leafs win 4-3.
Now it had been a while since I watched the Leafs in person, the last time was against the Senators and I was blown away by how much skill Sundin, Spezza and Kaberle had at the time, how much better they were than everyone else. In the game I took in this past October there were also three players who stood out: Evgeni Malkin (obviously), Kris Letang, and Phil Kessel.
It's that rock-bottom point in the season when you officially quit, give up. The playoff talk is ramping up and now I'm looking at the rest of the league for big matchups every evening to see how things will play out before April 7th. We're all stuck staring at the standings and making predictions about who we think will face each other in the first round and which clubs will battle it out for the Cup. As much fun as that is, things were a lot more pleasant a few months ago. And now, for the boys in blue, it's all over but the crying.
At some point in our schooling, we've almost all had a teacher or professor who, as wise and experienced in the subject he or she may be, has unreasonably high expectations of the students. The type of teacher who operates on the assumption there's a level of understanding that simply isn't there.
I won't pretend as though I know what was happening in the dressing room on a day-to-day, game-by-game basis, but if I can read between the lines, that was Ron Wilson. In terms of the system he had his group playing, he was the hockey equivalent of a math teacher teaching calculus without assuring his students had the basic number sense down first. It's not that the students are incapable of performing the basics or that they're unaware of their existence, but you have to be sure they're down pat before tackling challenging concepts, especially with an inexperienced class of pupils. [more…]
How many different ways can you skin a cat?
Rather, how many different ways can you look at the Mikhail Grabovski extension?
"How is he making more money than Phil Kessel?"
(At the time Phil Kessel signed his deal he was an RFA, not a UFA, and he was making a higher percentage of the salary cap than Grabovski currently is).
"Blame the Oilers and Hurricanes for the money they gave Hemsky and Ruutu."
"He would have got more on the open market."
"Grabovski's never even recorded 60 points." [more…]
The Legion of Blog posts a weekly piece attempting to decipher what Don Cherry says on Saturday night's Coach's Corner segment. We're all aware that Grapes can say some pretty outlandish things from time to time, and whether you agree or disagree with him, the way it's all presented will often leave you saying "Don lost it on (fill in name, city, something)" immediately afterward.
I don't believe everything Cherry says is garbage. I've always thought his stance on getting rid of the military armor that players wear as hockey gear these days is right on. But there's usually a dose (or full onslaught) of foolishness we get to sit through every weekend on Hockey Night in Canada.
Asset management was really the theme of the deadline for the Maple Leafs.
At the end of the day it appeared Brian Burke and company tried their best to bring in immediate help for this team and add to the roster, but the prices were just too high to justify. No offense to Paul Gaustad, but when he actually netted a first round pick that more or less summed it up.
Had the Leafs stood in say, fifth place, yesterday, I suspect they would have been a little more open to flipping a younger player for more veteran help, but this recent stretch probably caused them to hold back.
Of course, the Leafs did actually make one move of moderate significance, swapping Keith Aulie for Carter Ashton.
The first player I thought of when that deal was announced wasn't Aulie, or Ashton, or anyone currently on the Leafs for that matter. It was Jimmy Hayes.
You know Jimmy Hayes. Drafted by Cliff Fletcher in the second round of the 2008 draft. He's 6'6, 220 pounds and was traded in 2010 for the second round selection the Leafs used to select Brad Ross. [more…]
As always, thank you for the questions, I really enjoy these.
I wanted to quickly clarify a quick comment from Wendelsway (if you don't know what I'm talking about and/or don't want to read, just scroll down to the questions) RE: the goalie situation. At the end of the day, Gustavsson views himself as a starting goalie, not a backup. I don't know what Gustavsson is thinking - he played well enough to run with the starting roll at one point - but the Leafs still didn't afford him that opportunity to really run with it. So in his mind, I'm sure he feels slighted because he's on a different page than management when it comes to his career and his career goals. Which brings me back to the original goalie article I wrote in November; if you want Reimer to be your guy, bring in a veteran who can actually support him and help Reimer's game grow, not keep around a goalie who wants to steal his starting job, as if the guy needs more things to deal with. Hope that clarifies. I look forward to reading your reply in the comments section. [more…]
Editor's Note: Matt drafted this piece before last night's atrocity.
With a regulation Rangers win over the Capitals this afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs currently sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Despite the demoralizing no show from the Leafs last night, if the season ended today, they would do something the team hasnâ€™t done in many, many years â€“ make the playoffs.Â With the trade deadline quickly approaching (February 27, 2012), the speculation as always is running rampant that the Leafs are poised to make a trade to improve the team's current roster.
While making the playoffs is the goal of every team I have to ask the question â€“ should the Leafs actually be sellers at the deadline?Â Now, before you freak out or send me a nasty email, let me first say I am only asking the question, not necessarily recommending it.Â But does this idea have merit and make sense for the betterment of the team going forward?
There's been a consistent theme during Ron Wilson's tenure when it comes to player development: offensive players tend to prosper in his system and under his guidance. This applies both up front and on the blue line.
Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski, Joffrey Lupul; two unknowns and a cap write off who came to Toronto and almost instantly (not so much in Grabo's case, but certainly the other two) began producing like able top six forwards.
Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson, Dion Phaneuf, John Michael Liles; four blueliners with an offensive capacity to their game who have become core pieces on the back end. [more…]