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The league’s fourth ranked team, the Toronto Maple Leafs (we beat Boston in something!), host the New Jersey tonight seeking to snuff out their dwindling playoff hopes by completing the season series sweep over the Devils.
Settling for a comfortable playoff position cannot be the approach if you’re Carlyle’s Leafs. The goal has to be to try to chase down home ice advantage for round one, or at the very least to finish strong headed into the playoffs. There is a definite advantage for teams who are playing at a playoff level with playoff intensity already by the time game 1 of the Quarterfinals rolls around. Winning games like this one against desperate teams will help keep the Leafs confident and battle ready for the big dance.
One of the key questions surrounding the upcoming 2010-11 Maple Leafs season is whether they will be able to score enough to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
An optimist will point to the Leafs’ record following the acquisitions of Dion Phaneuf and J.S. Giguere as evidence that the Maple Leafs can compete. The cynic will suggest that although the Leafs played well over the final third of the season following those moves, there just simply isn’t enough proven offensive production to buoy hopes for post-season play.
A closer look at the Leafs performance over their past 26 games following the January 31st trades for Phaneuf and Giguere, in comparison to their first 56, might shed some light on whether or not the Leafs’ need for more offense in order to compete is fact or fiction.
A former Leaf is about to sign with Los Angeles, as Alexei Ponikarovsky has agreed to join the Kings (although a deal has not yet been signed). Â This ends some speculation that “Poni” would have to take his games overseas, as this summers UFA market has seen a lot of viable NHL players still without a job. Â Ponikarovsky was shipped to the Penguins by Toronto at this year’s trade deadline, bringing back Luca Caputi in what was a very fair exchange of players. Â However, Pittsburgh was expecting the Ukrainian to contribute at the level that saw him pour out 61 points for the Leafs in 2008-2009. Â With aÂ disappointingÂ 9 points down the stretch for the recent champs and an awful showing in the playoffs, teams weren’t exactly lining up to sign the 30-year old.
In my continuing statistical analysis of new and old Maple Leafs, Iâ€™ve decided to take a look at Matt Stajan in 2009-10. His play during his Leaf tenure was often a hot button discussion that somewhat divided the fan base. After all, heâ€™s only 26 years old and he has scored over 50 points back to back now. Maybe Burkeâ€™s statisticians brought some of his more unknown negative characteristics to light, making the decision to move him a little easier. Thanks again to BehindtheNet.ca for having all of the forthcoming information readily available for the public.
Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11.Today we feature Luca Caputi, profiled by Garrett Bauman.
One of the Penguins’ highest-ranked prospects, 21-year old Toronto native Luca Caputi was acquired by the Maple Leafs on the eve of the Trade Deadline in exchange for long-serving winger Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Caputi’s acquisition was another in a long line of moves by GM Brian Burke designed to (a) clean house, and (b) add young players with upside who can contribute immediately.
To Caputi’s credit, the early returns have been positive the 6’3, 200lb winger can develop into a regular contributor, although with only 28 NHL games under his belt (19 with the Maple Leafs), it is difficult to gauge on what his ultimate role, or impact, will be. The 2010-11 season should provide a crucial indication of his NHL future.
(Authorâ€™s note: the intent of this analysis is not to ignore the great work of Nik Kulemin, I just couldnâ€™t really find any particularly compelling or solvent data to include in this article. Also, I just graduated university, so for the 0 fans of my work who were wondering where I was…uhhh… drinking, mostly)
The 2009 â€“ 2010 season for the Toronto Maple Leafs was one of transition, the decrepit monolith created by John Ferguson Junior being thoroughly and carefully dismantled by Brian Burke in an attempt to bring back league-wide respect and playoff aspirations to the storied franchise we know and (as of late) begrudgingly love.
The Leafs are looking to post their third straight win as they roll into Pittsburgh for this Sunday afternoon tilt.Â On the surface, this may seem like a run-of-the-mill Sunday game as there is no obvious importance in a matchup between the defending Stanley cup champs and our basement-dwelling team.Â However, there are a multitude of underlying storylines that should make this a very interesting game.
I have been listening and watching Toronto media members discuss the Maple Leafs and am honestly beyond annoyed at their commentary and observations around the Leafs performance since the trade deadline.Â I am not even certain if this is “blog worthy” (shameless “sponge worthy” reference), but I have officially reached my “B.S.” tolerance threshold.
Submitted by Michael Stephens (a.k.a. Baumgartner)
The Toronto Maple Leafs have the Leagueâ€™s worst penalty kill, sporting a 73.0% success rate. They have been shorthanded 252 times this season, surrendering 68 goals. Through 71 games this season, they average 3.5 penalties (252ts/71gp) each night.
Around January 15th, this vaunted penalty kill was even worse, an abysmal 68.9%. Ron Wilson was smugly talking about how he had to teach his boys how to flip the puck down the ice and out of the zone.
- Tim Brent and Jay Rosehill have been recalled from the Toronto Marlies, while Sjostrom and Mitchell are doubtful for tonight’s game against the Flyers. Brent is a player Burke knows quite well from his years in the Anaheim Ducks organization, whom the Leafs signed this past offseason. Tim has always been a very productive player at the AHL level who has yet to make that successful transition to the NHL. However, he’s only 25 years of age with a strong two-way game and some decent hands, so this may be his chance to surprise.
Luca Caputi makes his Maple Leaf debut tonight as Toronto visits Boston to battle it out with the Bruins. Seidenberg will suit up for the Bruins who are still aiming to remain in the playoffs despite injury woes and a lack of ability to land an elite scoring winger for Marc Savard. The quest to get out of the bottom five continues for the Leafs tonight.
Somewhat understandably, a great number of people will be upset with what ended up unfolding (or not unfolding) as Trade Deadline Day progressed, in particular with regard to Tomas Kaberle.
A new twist in the latest “will he or won’t he” saga involving a star player for the Toronto Maple Leafs kickstarted a ravenous day of trade rumours, one which ended disappointingly for all those who dared to believe that a King’s ransom was just around the corner.
However, things are never quite so simple as they first seem.Â And where some are seething with rage, others are basking in the glow of a new-found respect for the class displayed today, for all of us to see, by both the player and the general manager in the face of the onslaught which predictably ensued.
Final Deadline Trades:
Alexei Ponikarovsky to Pittsburgh for Luca Caputi and Martin Skoula
Martin Skoula to New Jersey for a fifth round draft selection.
Lee Stempniak to PHX for 4th and 7th rounders.
Joey MacDonald to ANA for a 7th rounder in 2011.
Wrap-Up: That looks to be a wrap on Brian Burke’s trade activity for the 2009-10 season. The Stempniak deal was obviously a form of loss-cutting on a pending UFA, but it’s a bit painful to remember who we sacrificed to acquire him in November of 2008 in two albeit underachieving first rounders in Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo. The Leafs will not draft until the third round this year, and Burke did not succeed in that sense, however he moved the only piece realistically capable of fetching a second rounder for a semi-established young asset with the potential to replace Poni at an immediately cheaper price in Luca Caputi. It looks as though no takers could be found on either Wayne Primeau or Garnet Exelby, who look sure to now enter the FA market July 1.
There seems to be details yet to unfurl surrounding the Tomas Kaberle situation this deadline, as once again Leafs fans were teased into believing a deal was pending (involving Hodgson, as it was reported, or possibly Alzner from Washington) only for what looked to be an imminent deal to be flatly denied by Brian Burke in the end. There are rumblings that Kaberle might have nixed a deal in similar fashion to the Jeff Carter situation at the ’08 deadline.
From Garrett Bauman:
The deal is believed to be all but sealed, but the Penguins may have to first clear cap space. New reports suggest Toronto will take on the salary of Martin Skoula if they can’t work something else out elsewhere, but that it could cost the Penguins an additional pick.
Now from Dreger and McKenzie:
ponikarovsky to Pitt for Luca Caputi and Martin Skoula…pending trade call.
This involves the Leafs, as well as around the league.
TFP: The Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators are among the teams to have serious interest in Alexei Ponikarovsky. Various reports suggest the Leafs are looking for a first-round pick in exchange for Ponikarovsky, though it’s believed Burke is willing to accept a second-round pick and a top prospect.”
5:00 PM Update – Mueller, Roloson, Hamhuis, Voros/Lisin.
Although the Maple Leafs did not dip into the trade waters just yet, there were a couple events of importance that may determine how the next two days will shake out:
- Alexei Ponikarovsky left practice with a knee injury but did later return to finish it, albeit gingerly. Nearing its conclusion, he did head into the locker room accompanied by the team’s trainers, but it appears as if he was walking under his own power. Needless to say, any potential injury scares may affect the number of bidding for the Ukranian winger, particularly if teams are unable to get one last look at him on Tuesday night.
- The Penguins swung a trade for some veteran help on the blueline, sending a 2010 2nd round pick to the Panthers for Jordan Leopold. Later on during the day, the Predators sent their 2010 2nd round pick to the Oilers for Grebeshkov. This certainly puts an interesting twist on things if you believe the rumors and speculation. The Leafs were apparently offered a 2nd round pick and prospect for Ponikarovsky a few weeks ago, but now two of the most prominent teams mentioned in rumors (Pittsburgh this year and Nashville at last year’s deadline) have dealt that selection away.
With Wilson, Burke and Kessel all taking the day to fly back from Vancouver, we might expect to finally see some action on Tuesday.
With the Olympics wrapping up (and in the process Canada securing the record for most gold medals, capped off by our Men’s and Women’s hockey teams), the focus among hockey fans now shifts to the NHL trade deadline.
While there are few untouchables on the Maple Leafs’ roster, speculation is that only a handful of players are likely to be dealt between Monday and Wednesday. Here’s a look at some of the speculation surrounding the most-talked about candidates to swap jerseys.
The Toronto Star provides us with a couple interesting tidbits about potential trade talks leading up to the deadline:
- Ponikarovsky continues to be heavily linked to Pittsburgh. Previously, we learned from CBC’s Hotstove that one team had offered the Leafs a 2nd round draft pick along with a prospect, which clearly was not enough for Burke to bite. He is likely holding out for a more prominent prospect than the one that was initially offered.
- Several key Maple Leaf front office members and scouting staff watched the Marlies – Bears game at Ricoh on Wednesday night. With the Hershey Bears being the Capitals’ AHL affiliate, there is certainly speculation that there may be some serious trade talks happening between the two clubs. The Capitals are far and away the league’s highest scoring team, so they may be more interested in either a defensive forward or a reliable stay-at-home defenseman. However, there is also the possibility that the Leafs’ staff may have just taken advantage of the time off to evaluate which Marlies players could be included in trades or be potential NHL call-ups to fill out the roster after the deadline.
The Toronto Maple Leafs visit the St. Louis Blues tonight, in the Leafs’ final game prior to the NHL’s Olympic break.
The Leafs are coming off a narrow loss to the West-leading San Jose Sharks, a game which left the team with much to feel good about. Â Tonight, the team will look to resolve their road woes and enter the break on a high note, by capitalizing on what has been an inconsistent and underachieving Blues squad.
With the NHL’s Olympic Trade Freeze about to hit at 3pm today, reports out of Pittsburgh indicate that the Maple Leafs had scouted the Penguins’ Wednesday game against the Islanders. The obvious trade fit here wouldÂ seem to be a winger such as Alexei Ponikarovsky or even Lee Stempniak. However, the Pens currently have about $600 k available in cap space, so any significant acquisition means that another roster player would have to be going the other way.
Dreger had speculated a few days ago that the Leafs were looking for a 2nd round pick along with a roster player in exchange for Ponikarovsky, which is certainly consistent with Burke’s moves as Toronto GM. Realizing a lack of quality grinders on his team, Brian has been gradually and subtly requesting that teams include quality 3rd and 4th line players in a couple of his deals (see Primeau in the Stralman deal and Sjostrom in the Phaneuf deal). So perhaps Tyler Kennedy or Pascal Dupuis along with a draft pick coming back the Leafs’ way would be the most feasible framework around which to base a deal.
Should be an interesting day ahead.
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