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The Toronto Maple Leafs are set to visit the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at the Consol Energy Arena. The Penguins have yet to win at home this season and get another opportunity to erase that stat tonight against a Leafs team that is hoping to remain undefeated. Jonas Gustavsson will get his first start between the pipes according to Sportsnet.
The wait is over. After yet another long off-season following a fifth consecutive year of missing out on the NHL post-season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are set to kick off the 2010-11 season against their oldest rival, the Montreal Canadiens.
Both teams have undergone an off-season where – despite the lack of a full-scale overhaul – crucial moves were made to bring in key players or (in Montreal’s case) provide a better opportunity for players already in the organization. Gone from the 2009-10 Toronto lineup are Viktor Stalberg, Rickard Wallin and Keith Primeau, replaced by Kris Versteeg, Colby Armstrong, and Brett Lebda. In Montreal, the most impactful move was the trade of playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to St Louis in exchange for Lars Eller, a move which paves the way for Carey Price to assert his standing among starting NHL netminders.
It’ll probably be labeled as a “typical Leafs fan” debate given their status as lower roster players but there has been a number of questions arising out of yesterday’s demotion of Christian Hanson and Luca Caputi in favour of John Mitchell and Tim Brent… and rightfully so, in my opinion, given the “earn your spot mentality” conveyed by Leafs brass and that both followed the off-season regimens recommended to them and came into camp by storm looking bigger, faster, stronger and more dynamic offensively.
While it’s too early to judge, I am not saying the decisions to originally sign either player in John Mitchell or Brett Lebda were wise; in the cap sense and numerically, both signings have me wondering, particularly in Lebda’s case. It’s hard to see where Burke arrived at the need for someone of Lebda’s ilk and price tag unless better offers were assumed to be incoming for Tomas Kaberle. But the decision made by coach Wilson yesterday, forgetting arguments about the off-season decisions and shifting to training camp and preseason, can be understood:
Jeff Finger returns to the line-up tonight in Detroit in what many will suggest is his Maple Leafs swan song/final pit stop en route to the Marlies. Burke is saying the right things about Finger’s right to a “fair look” and the importance of respecting players acquired via free agency as it relates to organizational reputation. But the realities are this: the Leafs are sitting with both Brett Lebda and Finger on the outside of their top six, over the cap by around $300k and uncomfortably close even with Lashoff and his $550k assigned to the Marlies. And that’s assuming Nazem Kadri and his $1.7 million cap hit will not be a part of the roster come opening night. If it’s important to show respect to signed free agents, surely Lebda won’t be Marlie-bound after his first training camp as a Leaf. Simply, something has to give, and the $3.5 million Finger, a Leaf of two seasons now, seems the obvious candidate for demotion.
Hey, let’s get this straight right off the bat: it sucks to lose 5-0 to the Ottawa Senators. Â Any day of the year, any type of game. Â There will undoubtedly be at least one mainstream media headline out there along the lines of: “Leafs back to losing ways”. Â But a step back will tell us this is the first of a whopping nine exhibition matches Toronto will be playing and a ton can (and probably will) change in the next two weeks.
Bring On Training Camp!
The Toronto Maple Leafs held their on-ice portion of training camp today. Players have been split into three squads to accommodate the 63 players invited to camp.
Among the contingent of fans outside the ice surface at the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence was a throng of media and of course, Leafs staff.
While there did turn out to be three signings from Burke and co. this off-season, it looks as though only one turned out predictable. The other two were a surprise signing in Brett Lebda (props to “Foliage,” the only user to see this one coming, albeit at a predicted 1 year, 0.75 million, hmmm) and the inking of Clarke MacArthur, who was at the time of the contest not a UFA as he didn’t enter the market until the ridiculous arbitration ruling in late July. Perhaps it was a poorly designed contest given the weak UFA crop. Or maybe too many of you wasted a guess on Ilya Kovalchuk.
Either way, outside of Foliage’s Lebda pick, the Colby Armstrong signing was the only correct prediction throughout the contest thread, with 76 participants getting the name right and 13 estimating the salary and term for the full 4 points. Here are those 13 again:
In part seven of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at how the new faces will fit in with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Brian Burke has always argued the fact that July 1st is his draft, the time where he does his best work in bringing in key pieces that will push his team to that next level. Â While he isn’t inept on the draft floor, it isn’t his strength. Â To his credit, it’s something he doesn’t necessarily hide either.
And while this summer’s free agent frenzy is more calm than in the previous years, there is no doubt that through free agency, and the days leading up to it, that Burke took steps towards continuing to shape this team in his vision. Â The moves have been made, and barring any sort of changes, this may well be the team we see enter training camp in under a month. Â With that in mind, it’s time for Leafs Nation to ask, exactly how will the new faces fit into place in Toronto?
The newest addition to a strong Leafs blueline
The newest addition to a strong Leafs blueline
Brett Lebda has barely registered on the radar for Leafs fans and with good reason. This offseason is yet again centered solely on Tomas Kaberle, while Lebda toils away on the bottom pairing in many fansâ€™ minds. Expectations are understandably low for Lebda, so it now becomes important to gauge proper expectations. All stats not specifically referenced are found on BehindtheNet.ca.
Lebda primarily played with two people in 2009-10. Those players are Jonathan Ericsson and Brad Stuart (courtesy of DobberHockey.com). Lebda registered the fewest points in the trio at 8, with Ericsson amassing 13 and Stuart putting up 20. Lebdaâ€™s -2 rating is by no means a good stat to have, but it is significantly better than Stuartâ€™s -12 and Ericssonâ€™s -15. So in looking at these basic stats, we find that Lebda is average defensively and sub-par offensively. However, do advanced statistics shed any more light on his overall play? Letâ€™s find out.
A Comparison of the Toronto Maple Leafsâ€™ Defensemen
By: Byron Nelson (aka: DefenseWinsChampionships)
Bored at work on a Monday afternoon, I found myself wondering which current Maple Leafsâ€™ defenseman had the best season in 2009/2010. While the obvious pick would be a flashy, high point-producing player like Tomas Kaberle or Dion Phaneuf, it seemed as if a greater deal of investigation would be required to come up with an informative answer. Needless to say, investigate is exactly what I did.
Leafs Preseason Synopsis Part 1Â – Defense and Goaltending
By: Michael Cuttell
With free agency cooling off and countless free-agent and team roster questions floating around, itâ€™s time for Leafs fans to look at what they have, what they can afford to lose , what they need, and what they can realistically get to fill those needs. This is a step by step speculative analysis of those questions.
A pair of MLHS readers have kindly submitted FanPosts for your reading enjoyment. Logan Macneil makes the case for converting Tomas Kaberle into a top six forward while Steve Hitchins previews some of the highly anticipated fisticuffs match-ups for the upcoming season. A big pat on the back for both these gentlemen for taking the time.
When Brian Burke added Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin to an established Leafs cast of Luke Schenn, Tomas Kaberle, Ian White and Jeff Finger it looked to all that the Toronto GM had built himself an enviable problem. A premium blueline, arguably one of the finest in the Eastern Conference, that also came with a premium price tag.
Of course, what began an enviable problem on paper quickly devolved into an actual problem when the new additions failed to mesh into a cohesive unit with defensive and special team frailties more apparent than those of an comparatively budget offense.
- Among the youngsters impressing at the Leafs’ prospect camp is 2006 NCAA draftee Tyler Ruegsegger. Tyler is a smart, skilled winger whose size and skating concerns may limit hit ability to become an impact player in the NHL. He was not offered an entry-level contract by the Maple Leafs after a 4 year stint with the University of Denver, but did finish this past season at a point-a-game rate. However, the club is strongly considering offering Tyler Bozak’s former teammate an AHL contract to play for the Toronto Marlies, though that would leave the door open for another team to swoop in and steal Ruegsegger away with an ELC.
- Recent Maple Leafs’ free agent signee Brett Lebda is hopeful of taking on a bigger role this coming season. Coming over as a depth defenseman on a very strong Red Wings’ blueline, Lebda hopes to become more of a 4/5 type defenseman with the Leafs. Burke commented on Lebda’s great skating and puck moving ability, though stressed that the signing is not tied to an imminent Kaberle trade.
- Is there a particular subject you feel strongly about? Feel free to submit a FanPost to MLHS to be displayed on the front page.
According to the Toronto Maple Leafs official Twitter feed, the club announced today the signing of free agent defenseman Brett Lebda to a two-year deal worth $1.45 million per season.
Lebda spent the last five seasons with the Detroit Red Wings after the organization signed him as a free agent in 2004, picking up a Stanley Cup ring in during his stay in ’08.
Lebda’s career high in points is 18. Â He had 16 two years ago, but saw his total fall to just 8 points last year, though he did only play 63 games due to a back injury.
Lebda has great pace and puck-rushing ability, though his point-total doesn’t necessarily reflect that.Â The Buffalo Native is thick for his height at 195 pounds, but is a bit undersized at 5’9. He does play a game bigger than his frame would suggest. $1.45 million seems a tad pricey, but hopes will be that Lebda will be able to improve production on a Leafs blueline that doesn’t have the type of elite offensive weapons from the blueline like Detroit had in Brian Rafalski and Nik Lidstrom (this providing Kaberle is dealt, and no doubt this seems like a poor-man’s replacement).
Jonas Gustavsson will make his much anticipated debut for the Maple Leafs in tonight’s preseason tilt against Detroit.Â Coach Ron Wilson has indicated that he will be in there for at least the first period, but that the staff wants to break him in slowly.Â If Toronto does not get barraged in the first twenty minutes as they have in recent exhibition matches, the Monster’s tenure may stretch to a period and a half.