It's been an interesting few days in Leaf land to say the least. Leafs brass opted to sit on their hands on Friday as the rest of the league's front offices threw significant sums of money at free agents like a bunch of drunken sailors, leading some angry fans to assume true the least logical possibility that Burke simply said "screw it all!" in favour of an Afghan vacation. With Brad Richards choosing to consign himself to a Wade Redden-esque fate in the Big Apple, Leafs management sprung into action on day two with the signing of 30-year-old centerman Tim Connolly to a two-year, $9.5 million contract. Then, on day three, the Leafs proceeded to buy Cody Franson off of Nashville (more to come on that in Part 2).
Firstly, let's get this out of the way about Brad Richards, and the dog and pony show that was last Friday at Newport Sports. Brian Burke flew to Sweden on the eve of 2009 free agency in hopes of sitting down with the Sedin twins if they became unrestricted at noon of July 1st. He went to meet Jonas Gustavsson on the same trip, who was at the time a target of the Leafs and was grieving the recent loss of his mother, whose funeral Burke offered to attend. If Burke felt the Leafs had a chance at signing Brad Richards on Friday, he would have been there with Cliff Fletcher and Dave Nonis making his pitch at Newport Sports. Instead, Burke decided to, in the pursuit something worthwhile, support a cause important to himself and the team over in Afghanistan on Canada Day. There's a lot of questions to be asked about the way Brad Richards and his representatives conducted their business on Friday, but when it comes down to it there's a reason why you can't rely on a free agent with control over his own destiny as the key to your organization's future plans. Regardless of the ballyhoo that surrounded the entire process, Richards as a UFA had the right to choose his next team on whatever basis he desired; city preference, or for a coach that probably won't be there for more than a quarter of his contract. May he join Drury and Redden in cap casualty hell, both of whom had their career reputations ruined by the horrible contracts handed to them by the New York Ranger franchise. [more…]
The excitement never ends, does it? Days after the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup, the NHL Awards capped off the season with a somewhat surprising (albeit well-deserved)Â Hart Trophy nod to Corey Perry. A day later, the Philadelphia Flyers rocked the hockey world with two major trades ... with reports suggesting the Leafs were nearly a trading partner in both.
As if that hasn't been enough, trade and free agency rumours continue to run rampant. The Leafs have several of their own player re-signings still on the horizon, and somewhere in all that a draft is about to take place.
Some late-night thoughts on all the madness, after the jump.
There you have it fellow Leafs fans, after much talk about anything and everything non-Leafs related, we finally have something to talk about. And boy, is it interesting. As our own Ryan Fancey reported earlier, Brian Burke, President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, announced today that Scott Gordon and Greg Cronin have been appointed as assistant coaches on Ron Wilsonâ€™s staff. In addition, Burke disclosed that Keith Acton and Tim Hunter will not return to the teamâ€™s coaching staff. So, where does that leave Ron Wilson, and more importantly, the Toronto Maple Leafs?
Taking into account all that was said at the press conference held earlier by our GM, a conference at which Wilson was not present, it is pretty clear that the coach simply had to accept the firing of Acton and Hunter as a change ordered from the top. Burke said outright that he alone insisted on the coaching change, but that the two newly appointed assistant coaches were a choice made exclusively by Ron Wilson. As far as Wilson is concerned, Burke also stated that his loyalty to the head coach doesnâ€™t include a contract extension if the results at the start of the upcoming season donâ€™t match his expectations. However, if the results are indeed satisfactory, contract prolongation would be the logical course of action.
With the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final upon us, it will soon be time for full-fledged Leafs speculation â€“ if not already.
After hockey has clued up for another season and the draft rolls around, things reallyÂ kick it up a notch in Leafs land.
From my own experience, at my previous blog, it seemed that June and July would easily ring up the most buzz (the Kaberle situation probably helped.) So before the rush, letâ€™s try to discuss the bigger picture for Burke and the Leafs, without beingÂ too focused on one name.
Whatâ€™ll it be? Patchwork, minor tinkering, or full on aggressiveness?
Call it patchwork, a desperation move, whatever you like. But thereâ€™s a very real chance that over this summer, the Toronto Maple Leafs will not be able to acquire Brad Richards, Jeff Carter, Paul Stastny, Steve Stamkos, Zach Parise, or any other name people decide to throw out there in the next few weeks.
Of course they could nab one of the names above, who knows? But itâ€™s not far-fetched to think that Burke may have to employ a â€œPlan Bâ€ if he doesnâ€™t land a prized free agent or trade target.
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.
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?
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. [more…]
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. [more…]