Post Game Notes: Leafs light up Atlanta
One of the more polarizing players on the Toronto Maple Leafs roster, Mikhail Grabovski has been on the tongues of Leafs Nation with his current hot streak in full effect. He suddenly has a lot of new and of course the old diehard â€œalways believed in himâ€ fans on his side with his torrid scoring pace over the past month.Â Another game tonight, another two goals… the hot streak is borderline madness.
Just how hot has â€œGraboâ€ been?Â Think back if you will to last season when enigmatic (for Toronto anyway) scoring winger Lee Stempniak was dealt to the Phoenix Coyotes (for nothing) and was almost literally in the news every day for his scoring exploits â€“ 14 goals in 18 games!Â Well since December 6, 2010 Grabovski has scored at an even more ridiculous clip with 12 goals in 14 games, the hottest player in the league over that time span.
So the Toronto Maple Leafs did the inevitable and sent down there 2009 1st round selection Nazem Kadri to the AHL (Toronto Marlies).Â Whether it is longer term or just to get his 2-game suspension off the books remains to be seen but I for one hope he is firmly entrenched down there, for his own good.Â I still have hope that Kadri can develop into a serviceable and possibly even productive second line centre but for now he is not even close to being NHL ready.
To really drive home that point letâ€™s head to Alberta and take a look at Jordan Eberle.Â
Last night on twitter, I (LeafsHotStove) had a brief conversation with KCCanuck and mlse about this Leafs team’s problem with slow starts after it all too familiarly fell behind 2-0 to the Thrashers in under three minutes. I asserted that Wilson’s Leafs were again starting to play when there was nothing to play for before PPP suggested it might be apart of something bigger like a lack of talent since the lockout. The question for me then became; while the Leafs are known for late season surges when the pressure’s off, has seemingly poor game-to-game preparation been unique to the Wilson regime or a recurring post-lockout theme? I run the stats on the Leafs’ performance out of the gate after the jump.
Photo: John Ulan/The Canadian Press
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been called plenty of things this season but I can honestly say there is one I have never heard until recently after reading a piece by an Edmonton sports writer, chicken.Â The writer said the Leafs played the role of chicken (and turtles) versus the Edmonton Oilers stating Colton Orr spent the â€œentire evening running away from Steve MacIntyreâ€ and â€œfound an escape hatchâ€ when he beat Oilers tough guy Zack Stortini â€œin a marathonâ€.
Where to begin?Â First off, Colton Orr runs away from no man, this I think most NHL fight pundits will agree with.Â Brand new NHL heavyweight contender (some say champion) Deryk Engelland has been wreaking havoc on the fight scene this season with some impressive knockouts and wins over some big time opponents.Â
According to TSN’s Ice Chips, Ron Wilson has continued to rearrange the deck chairs on the sinking Titanic with some more line shuffling. Not that you can blame Wilson for trying; he has too. The practice lines are listed as follows:
MacArthur – Grabovski – Kulemin
Armstrong – Versteeg – Kessel
Sjostrom – Bozak- Brent
Orr – Kadri – Mitchell
So, Wilson is looking to size up his top six and establish a balance in grit and skill throughout his lines – not a bad idea in principle. Moving Colby Armstrong (it will be interesting to see what impact his return might have in terms of leadership and much-need physicality up front) onto the top units (and hopefully the PP) was a move overdue before the injury.
The potential sports story of the decade for the city of Toronto, and more specifically, fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs is unfolding right before our eyes. Â The legitimacy of the potential sale of MLSE to Rogers should not be easily dismissed. Â The rumoured sale simply makes sense for all parties involved. Â The recent announcement of the pending retirement of MLSE CEO Richard Peddie now starts to bring the picture into focus and adds significant legitimacy to the Toronto Star report of MLSE share sales from the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (OTPP) to Rogers Inc. Â The fact that the Richard Peddie retirement was announced just before this story broke, absolutely stinks of premeditated public transition planning. Â Personally, I must admit, I knew there was much more to the Mr. Peddie pending retirement announcement, but, I simply had no idea how deep this rabbit hole would go. Â Speculation and associated questions today, from all corners of the sports and business communities is running rampant. Â Why would the OTPP sell off their stake in this cash cow? Â What Return on Investment can Rogers Inc garner on a $1.3B purchase of an asset generating an approximate $160M in profit each year, especially considering that the real estate assets are thought to be excluded from the deal?
Graig Abel/Getty Images
Graig Abel/Getty Images
To say the least, it was a disappointing weekend in Leaf land. A decent effort Saturday versus the Canucks was spoiled, Kadriâ€™s season debut will mostly be remembered for losing the puck on a 3-on-1, and ex-Leaf Viktor Stalberg scored his 6th goal of the season for the Blackhawks…in overtime…with Brian Burke in attendance.
The Maple Leafsâ€™ losing streak ballooned to 8 games after falling to the Canucks on a weak goal on J.S. Giguere in the third period Saturday. Giguere made some big saves throughout the game, but couldnâ€™t make an easy one in the end. Perhaps Brett Lebda should have gotten his stick out of the way, but itâ€™s still one that Giguereâ€™s got to have. I still think Jonas Gustavsson should be getting more games in goal.
I recall our old colour commentator Harry Neale being asked what he thought made a great coach and he shrewdly remarked â€œgreat playersâ€.Â Now I know the topic of firing Ron Wilson has been beat to death but I wanted to further comment after reading a story from our friends over at Pension Plan Puppets who feel he should absolutely be fired now.
It was an entertaining piece â€œWhy Ron Wilson Should Get Fired ASAPâ€Â asking a tough question and answering unequivocally:
â€œThe question isn’t whether Ron Wilson is or isn’t a good coach. The question is will replacing Ron Wilson improve our record? If the answer is “yes”, obviously, we should do it as soon as possible. But how can we know?Â This got me to thinking, maybe there’s some historical evidence to shed some light on this issue.â€
The one area of weakness that was continually mentioned in the offseason centred around the Toronto Maple Leafs lack of scoring depth and the relatively lacklustre top six forward unit overall.Â We heard it time and again as the teamâ€™s brain trust attempted to move our best defenseman over the past decade for any forward who could be added to one of the top two scoring lines.Â At the same time we heard that the defence core we possessed wasÂ solid from one through seven and our goaltending should be hugely improved.
So should it really come as any surprise early into the season that our scoring depth is starting to be a bit of a concern?Â
As the chant of â€˜Thank you Kesselâ€™ rang through my ears while watching the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Boston Bruins last night I could not help but feel the need to comment on how ridiculous that cheerÂ actually was.Â Ok, I know they were just attempting to be clever but are they really all that thankful that a guy with 37 goals in his past 78 games is not on their team anymore?
For those curious Kesselâ€™s goal pace since joining Toronto is actually the best mark of his career, without Marc Savard.Â Imagine he still had a legitimate playmaking centre or a stronger winger riding shotgun?Â That is not meant to offend Matt Stajan, Mikael Grabovski, John Mitchell, Tyler Bozak etc but none of them have the proven track record or playmaking ability a guy like Marc Savard has.
Nothing gets Leafs Nation into a frenzy quicker than some good old fashioned trade rumours and with the recent news breaking that Brian Burke is “open for business” it was obviously going to makeÂ headlines.Â Bob McKenzie was told by his sources that theÂ Leafs had an offer on the table involving two bottom six forwards coming to Toronto for one of our current NHL bottom six forwards and an AHL player.Â Burke basically inferred the offer was half way decent so it likely would have solidified our bottom six forward lines slightly, but nothing to really get worked up about.
There has been extensive and rampant debate, spanning almost two full seasons, on the value of one Mikhail Grabovski.Â I personally have had more than a few pleasant debates in the comments section of MLHS specifically regarding this player and his skill sets.Â Oddly enough, even now, when his contributions border on the insanely obvious, Grabovski’s name is often overlooked when discussing the reasons for the Leafs early success.Â I know and understand that many on this site, including the more prominent bloggers, are not fans of Mr Grabovski’s game.Â I am here to ask you all to take another look.
Mike Brown planking.
Mike Brown does his best Bobby Orr impersonation before later settling for a Colton Orr impersonation. Never underestimate the value of versatility.
Two games in, and the Maple Leafs are 2-0 for the first time in 11 years. While some might be tempted to find meaning within that number, the truth is that in terms of history the number is rather meaningless.
With still 80 games left on the docket, and the Leafs about to embark on their first road trip of the season, expectations must be tempered despite the hot start (and the rare sight of a 4th overall placement on the ESPN Power Rankings).
In other words, a 7-0-1 start (to counter last season’s 0-7-1) is probably just a little too much to ask. As if I had to tell you that. Then again, this IS Leafs Nation; somewhere, someone surely needed the reminder.
Follow the jump for a few first-week impressions and musings.
One of the more interesting subplots to the Maple Leafs’ 2010-11 preseason has been the Michael Liambas situation. Offered a tryout – amidst much fanfare – in time for the team’s annual Rookie Camp, the infamous winger was ultimately released on Thursday, during the first round of cuts at the NHL training camp.
Ordinarily, such a move would be regarded as no more than a footnote, a regular or even “to be expected” occurrence which takes place in any training camp. But Liambas’ situation was – and remains – anything but ordinary.
Be sure to check out Nikhil’s post-game thoughts from last night.
Tuesday night, September 21st, about 6:40 p.m.Â I am dancing – yes, dancing, provided you can call a kind of frenetic spasticism punctuated with finger snaps and some twirling hands “dancing” – to no music in my kitchen as I cook our pasta for dinner.Â I am in a rush, and I am excited, because after a long summer of legal wrangling over the Kovalchuk contract, eternal speculation about Tomas Kaberle’s status and apparently endless MSM vs. blogger hissy fits, the puck is finally dropping on the preseason.Â Don’t get me wrong, I know that the preseason sucks.Â I know it’s not reflective or in any way predictive of how the team will do during the regular season – I’ve been a hockey fan long enough to know that, and last year’s brilliant exhibition campaign is still fresh in my memory.Â Almost as fresh as the oh-and-eight start that followed it, once the games counted.
Join us in the comments as Alex Tran and I go head-to-head carving up the Leafs youth.
(Note**) – for the record I will be making the picks for each of us as Alex is
boozing busting loose at some bar. I asked him if he was drunk, he said no, but his picks will tell show us the truth.
Whether it is fair or unfair, our perceptions become our reality.
Whether it is fair or unfair, our perceptions become our reality.
During an appearance on London radio’s â€œThe Hookâ€ with Norman James last Friday, our conversation at one point took an interesting turn toward the notion of player personality, and how it affects fan perception and the manner in which fans relate to the players.
It’s an interesting subject â€“ the trichotomy of fan/player/team identity, and not one the majority of fans spend much time pondering. What is it, beyond star power, that draws fans to feel they have formed certain bonds with specific players they have never met? What is it that keeps others at arms’ length? Is it the nature of the players themselves, is it our own as fans, or is it perhaps both?
AfterÂ months of political manoeuvring and speculation… and pending ratification, Donald Fehr appears primed to formally take office as the Executive Director of the NHLPA with the Ilya Kovalchuk saga providing an appropriate backdrop. Despite having earlier dismissed himself as a candidate for the role, the former MLBPA hardliner is now expected to spearhead the players union through the next series of collective bargaining negotiations in 2012.
Either a spectre to be feared, or a challenge to be relished for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, one wonders if the league office wishes it had treated the ailing NHLPA with kid gloves following the late, late night coup that saw former figurehead Paul Kelly overthrown in August 2009.
Even before the clock struck midnight, it had become apparent Tomas Kaberle would remain a Leaf headed into 2010-11. Indeed TSN ended the wait at 11.57pm, officially announcing that all trade negotiations had come to an impasse after a morbid day of Tweets, updates and rumours boiled down to the status quo. Almost three years of trade speculation seemed to be distilled into a cathartic melting pot of emotion. For many this was the trade that would define the Leafs future and after all the hyperbole, one leaked offer from San Jose; Joslin and a first round draft pick, seemed to set an ominous tone for a day that ended in nought.
It’s time for another MLHS FanPost, DefenceWinsChampionships stops in again and this time takes a closer look at the stats of Maple Leafs defender Luke Schenn, and how those stats stand up beside comparable players.
A True Schenn-derella Story
By Byron Nelson (aka: DefenceWinsChampionships)
Anyone that remembers my last fan post: â€œA Comparison of the Toronto Maple Leafsâ€™ Defensemenâ€, will already be well-aware of my love of statistics. In that specific piece of writing, I took a look at the 2009/10 season stats for each current member of the Toronto Maple Leafsâ€™ defensive corps. I then used the information I had gathered to make a comparison between them. What was a surprise to many, was the amazing amount of success young blue-liner Luke Schenn seemed to have, finishing in 1st place in the statistical comparison, despite supposedly suffering from the dreaded â€œsophomore slumpâ€ during the season. As a result of this, I decided to do a follow-up fan post on Schenn, this time comparing him to some of the NHLâ€™s elite defensive defensemen.
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