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: [more…]
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. [more…]
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: [more…]
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? [more…]
And guess what? Kaberle's future with the Leafs does not dictate whether or not the team's short-term goals will be fulfilled. In fact, retaining the veteran defender may prove toÂ strengthen the Leafs' chances at making the playoffs for the first time in the post-lockout era.
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. [more…]
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. [more…]
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. [more…]