Though Iâ€™m quite aware of theÂ upcoming contract negotiations between Brian Burke and recent overachiever Clarke MacArthur,Â I’ve yetÂ to give it too much thought until now.
MacArthur is one of five of the teamâ€™s restricted free agents, including Luke Schenn, Tyler Bozak, Carl Gunnarsson and James Reimer.
Usually when the conversation arose about hisÂ pendingÂ newÂ deal I just passed it off with â€œYeah, heâ€™ll get a raise likeÂ Kulemin’s or something.â€
What was I thinking? Clearly Iâ€™m an idiot.
Amid the speculation surrounding the Philadelphia Flyers and their cap aches, it was bound to happen that the Leafsâ€™ name would get thrown into the mix. After all, whatâ€™s a rumor about a big name NHL player without Toronto somewhere in the headline?
However, much like a few years back, the recent Jeff Carter rumors actually make a lot of sense â€“ simply because the Flyers are in such a jam right now and have to move salary.
As if the Versteeg deal hasnâ€™t turned out good enough, it has effectively compounded the Flyersâ€™ cap troubles even further.Ville Leino canâ€™t be signed without moving out some other cash and Philadelphia are still in desperate, desperate need of a goalie.
Weâ€™ve onlyÂ just enteredÂ a crucial time of playoff hockey in the past week or so, but for a lot of fans of teams left on the outside, October canâ€™t get here any quicker. And for Ron Wilson, I think the situation is probably similar.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been a failure for all of Wilsonâ€™s tenure thus far. But, as if out of some superhero movie, Ron was recently saved by the one they call â€œOptimus Reimâ€ down the stretch.
When Leafs fans called for Wilsonâ€™s head in the early part of this past season, I sort of held my tongue. It was easy to recognize that things werenâ€™t looking up for the guy, but I really had no idea as to what was the right move.
Photo Credit: Sportsfanlive.com
Scott Stevens. A Hall Of Fame defenceman. The longest reigning Devils captain. Three time Stanley Cup winner. One of the hardest open ice hitters in NHL history. Matt Cooke. Stanley Cup winner. Founder of the The Cooke Family Foundation Of Hope.Â Pest. Dirty player. Animal. What’s wrong with this picture?
Photo Credit: Getty Images
By now weâ€™ve all jostled with the idea of the Leafs landing Brad Richards in some way or other. These thingsÂ tend to happen when itâ€™s basically been talked about for over a year prior to his upcoming free agency period.
Much like Rick Nash in the past, Leafs fans have plotted their potential line combinations with Richardsâ€™ name embedded on the top unit for some time now.
For me, the Richards idea sort of fell by the wayside a while ago as I came to grips with the fact that heâ€™d likely become a Ranger in the off-season. Returning to the free agency list, a few people began to throw around Brooks Laichâ€™s name â€“ which, I think, is a great thing. But the Richards situation has sort of resurfaced for me over the past week or so, and I think Iâ€™ve had a change of heart (or hope).
The days following the Maple Leafs’ elimination from the playoffs are always upsetting and/or depressing. However, now that I’m done looking back at the missed opportunities and asking “what if this or that didn’t happen?” It’s time to focus on the positives and look forward to next season.
With that said, what should the Maple Leafs do this off-season? What pieces do the Leafs already have in place? What would you do if you were Brian Burke?
Below is pretty much the Leafs roster down the stretch, with a * indicating a suggested cap hit for the unsigned player for next season.
If the NHL handed out awards for half seasons,Â would there be any doubt that Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson would be among a handful of candidates for Coach of the Year for the second half of this NHL season?Â After suffering a 3-2 defeat to the Columbus Blue Jackets on December 30th, 2010 the Leafs record sat at an uninspiring 13-19-4.Â Much of the blame for that record was placed squarely on the shoulders of our at timesÂ moody head coach.
I donâ€™t recall a post game (win or lose) theme that didnâ€™t in some shape or form include vast criticism of our coaching staff and the inevitable â€œFire Ron Wilsonâ€ mantra.Â Some of that critique might have been warranted but when considering the goaltending available to him to that point it is hard to solely blame one man (Ron Wilson) for the first half struggles of an entire team.
In 1892, English poet Sir Henry John Newbolt wrote VitaÃ¯ Lampada (They Pass On The Torch of Life), a lyric about a soldier learning the tenets of bravery and courage — of stoicism — through the practise of sport.
There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night
Ten to make and the match to win
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play, and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat.
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his captain’s hand on his shoulder smote
“Play up! Play up! And play the game!”
Photo Credit: The Star
Back on December 1st 2010, the Toronto Star broke a story which, if accurate, was poised to change the sporting and business landscape in this city and country forever. It would also represent the largest sporting transaction in Canadian history and will likely represent the most significant indication of the inevitable merging of the telecommunications, media and internet industries of our generation. This transaction will play a huge and direct role in transforming the way business in these sectors is done moving forward in this country. Â The story literally broke out of thin air. Â The concept that the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (OTPP) would be selling out of their cash cow that is MLSE was nothing more than a fantasy which most Leaf fans would not allow themselves to even consider as a possibility. Now, several months later, and despite repeated denials by everyone involved including the OTPP, MLSE, Rogers, etc., the matter has gone purposefully and strategically public and what was once only a whisper and a rumour has now become a verified fact. The OTPP are mercifully on their way out and will be selling off their ownership stake (66%) of the MLSE sporting empire.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
While there’s no debate that James Reimer has risen to assume the mantle of starting goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, his rise has opened to door for some debate over which direction the team will take with their goaltending as the conclusion of the regular season fast approaches. With just eleven games remaining, and Reimer having started 15 straight, the general consensus seems to be that Giguere will start tonight in Sunrise Florida as the Leafs take on the Panthers in a game the Leafs simply have to get two points from.
By now, fans of the Maple Leafs are all aware of GM Brian Burke’s publicly-stated intentions to pursue a defenseman at or (preferably) prior to the Trade Deadline.
With Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin now wearing different uniforms, the Leafs have freed up a total of $8.05m from what was a tremendously well-compensated defense corps. However, they have also created two rather large holes to fill in the process.
While Keith Aulie has done a good job thus far filling Beauchemin’s skates, the question remains: who steps in for Tomas Kaberle? If Carl Gunnarsson is not the man for the job – and early returns indicate he may not be – another puck-mover will be essential if the Leafs are to maintain their slim playoff hopes. The question is, who should the Leafs look to target? And how much should the team be willing to give up?
After what has felt like a lifetime of speculation and rumours, the Toronto Maple Leafs officially pulled the trigger on a transaction that will see Tomas Kaberle, the longest serving member of the organization, on his way out of town.
By now you know that the Maple Leafs received prospect Joe Colborne, a first round pick, and a conditional second round pick from the Bruins in exchange for the services of Kaberle.
Itâ€™s a move that already has been held up to the light my many, in an attempt to evaluate the pros and cons from both angles.Â The scrutiny will only intensify as Kaberle gets back into the playoffs with the Bruins, and the Maple Leafs use their picks received either as assets in another deal, or in drafting players at this yearâ€™s 2011 NHL entry draft.
"Talk to ya later, Toronto"
Of course Brian Burke would pull off a substantial trade on the eve of a midterm. Such was the case last night when I was trying to study, but had my eyes glued on Twitter for anything about the Leafs and what had transpired. And after zillions of characters typed and an equal amount of opinion being thrown around, I’m ready to discuss the Versteeg departure.
Upon first reading about the deal, I was a little angry. Why? Because Versteeg has 50 point capability and it seems counterproductive to let him go at such a young age. And after a night’s sleep and some more time to think about it, I pretty much feel exactly the same.
Now, I totally understand that a lot of people are excited that the Leafs received a first round pick in the deal. It’s what many have been requesting for quite a while: a chance at a true rebuild. Fair enough. But..
Phil Kessel has been one of the most polarizing figures in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs during his short tenure with the blue and white.Â Kessel will forever be linked with 2010 #2 overall selection Tyler Seguin and the jury might never come to a firm conclusion if that deal was in the best interest of the Leafs short or longer term.
Recently Kessel has come under heavy fire for his pointed comments regarding his lack of recent scoring and suggesting that maybe it â€œisnâ€™t working hereâ€.Â The Toronto media and fans of the team instantly took offense to this comment and basically hung him out to dry.Â Iâ€™ll admit it made me pause but this is Toronto, one of the largest media hubs in the world where even marginal players have microphones and cameras shoved in their grills, after a practise.Â
Photo credit: Getty Images
The frustration was evident in Phil Kessel’s tone as he answered a stream of media questions regarding his latest goal-scoring slump, now at ten games. Or perhaps, more accurately, his tone was one of resignation.
Sighing often, Kessel repeated the words “I don’t know” on multiple occasions in response to inquiries as to why he has been so snake-bitten, and what he feels can be done to re-discover his scoring touch. This was clearly a player at his wit’s end, a player who seemed to be completely out of answers as to why the puck won’t go in despite numerous scoring chances of late.
It was almost enough to make one feel sympathetic toward his plight; to make one feel as though he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, a victim of perpetual misfortune who was giving his all and unjustly coming up short.
Phil Kessel made a statement today. A big one. It’s now put Brian Burke between a rock and a hard place. A decision must be made and it looks as though the Leafs (arguably) best sniper has put that responsibility on Brian Burke and only Brian Burke.
“It’s not working out here,” said a frustrated Kessel after being demoted to the third line during practice on Sunday. He’s now sitting on the right wing of one Darryl Boyce and one Joey Crabb. “Maybe there needs to be a change.”
Phil Kessel has sounded an alarm today, and all Leafs fans should be listening.
There is little doubt among observers that the Leafs will attempt to make some moves at the trade deadline a month from now, and with the team’s leadership meeting in Florida to plot strategy, many feel there could be a shakeup coming prior to the annual auction at the end of February.
The question is, what sort of a shakeup will GM Brian Burke be able to pull off? With the team in a rut, and several core players not playing up to expectation, can the Leafs be realistically expected to put together a major deal which could turn the franchise around?
Noun pl. loyalties -Â·ties
Defined as a quality, state, or instance of being loyal; faithfulness or faithful adherence to a person, government, cause, duty, etc.
In the midst of one of the worst blowout losses (7-0) in the history of the beloved Toronto Maple Leafs I thought I would pose a question, what does loyalty mean to you?Â The idea came to me after I simply asked on my twitter account if there was actually a team in the NHL right now that you wouldnâ€™t trade roster for roster with the Leafs?Â
After surviving fans literally chanting for his head at the ACC, receiving the backing of Brian Burke with a very believable reaffirmation and absorbing the endless abuse from fans on every Leaf related website on the internet, Ron Wilson is still left standing. Â The scape goat that the entire Leafs Nation wanted to noose for their team’s lousy performance coupled with the potential consecutive lottery pick finishes without possessing a lottery pick seems to be getting the last laugh. Burke did the right thing by refusing to scapegoat Wilson. Â Will he now retain Wilson for next season and possibly sign an extension for beyond?
Dave Sandford/Getty Images
It should come as no surprise that James Reimer received an opportunity to start in the NHL, during his re-call to fill in for the injured Jean-Sebastien Giguere. What is somewhat of a surprise is the amount Reimer has played (3 starts in the pastÂ 4 games) during a time where Jonas Gustavsson was expected to seize the opportunity to prove himself the Maple Leafs’ netminder of the future.
The question is, to what degree has Reimer’s performanceÂ influenced the decision to use him as the de-facto starter, rather than the incumbent? Is Reimer receiving an extended look as part of an evaluation toward his future in Toronto — or are the Leafs showcasing him to other teams?
Update: Reimer gets the start tonight … his fourth in the past five games.
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