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While the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing and continue to provide us with some fantastic moments of triumph, the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs are now forced to once again shift their focus to off ice activities.
And so too has Leafs brass.
Despite his team sitting on the sidelines, Leafs GM Brian Burke made quick work of two signing he was keying in on, signing goaltenders Jonas Gustavsson and newcomer Jussi Rynnas to contracts. Â Continuing with the in-house theme, Burke will now certainly turn his attention to Nikolai Kulemin, if he hasn’t done so already.
And while we are seemingly quite far away this point, it won’t be long before the draft and subsequent free agency period rolls around.
While Hockey’s Future has yet to release their top 10 organizational prospect rankings, the highly-respected source for prospect information has released their 11-20 and 21-30 lists. To the pleasant surprise of many, the Leafs aren’t on either of them.
Adding to the joy, division rivals Buffalo, Montreal and Ottawa have all already appeared in the 13th, 16th and 21st positions respectively.
As you are no doubt well aware, the NHL draft lottery will be held tonight in New York to determine the order of the 14 non-playoff teams heading into the June 25-26 draft in Los Angeles. You can catch coverage of the lottery at 8pm on TSN.
And the winner is … Edmonton. Â Leafs fans, prepare yourselves to endure “Kessel Trade” debates for the better part of the next decade.
It’s that time of year again. Â The most wonderful time of the year. Â No, not Christmas, and no, you won’t see any of those silly Staples commercials.
It’s time for the NHL playoffs.
The annual spring tournament that features some of the most exciting hockey of the season. Â It’s Â triple overtime games that rage on long into the night, games so long that you’ll hope you saved some sick days. Â It’s players skating through pain, all for the common goal of lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup.
And the great fans of the NHL, well they have the best seat in the house.
Around this time of year, especially the first round, marriages are postponed. Â Assignments are left on desks unfinished. Â Scheduled are cleared, or built around. Â Kiss your wife or girlfriend, and tell her you’ll see her in a few months, a better person than when you last saw her.
Lost amidst all the drama of today’s Tomas Kaberle situation is the game between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at the ACC (7pm, TSN).
Coming off a 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, the Leafs will look to reverse their fortunes with a better defensive performance against their rivals, who lead the Northeast division.
Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs will host the Atlanta Thrashers at the Air Canada Center. Atlanta is hoping to catch the Boston Bruins for the 8th seed in the East and snag a post-season berth, while the Maple Leafs are looking to continue a playoff of their own – the quest to get out of the bottom five.
NOTE: Newly signed Brayden Irwin will not make his debut tonight. He will likely see action Thursday or Saturday.
Unrelated Update: New signing Brayden Irwin to play tomorrow night against Atlanta (link).
#36 in Blue and White is proving to be everything his number-sake Anton Stralman never became in Toronto. Hear me out, Andrew R.
Fresh off last night’s hard-hitting victory over the Ottawa Senators, the Maple Leafs face another physical game tonight as they visit the Philadelphia Flyers.
Tonight’s game will be the fourth in six nights for a Toronto squad which has undergone some significant changes in the past week. The Leafs will enter the game physically tired, but mentally inspired following Saturday’s victory over Ottawa and a terrific effort in a shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
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:
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.
Setting up a goal for the Leafs in lieu of a playoff spot, making up seven points to get out of the NHL basement is a good start .. but just how difficult will it be?
Let’s find out together.
Mike Peca, also known as the little engine who could, has officially called it a career today. The 35-year oldÂ grinding leaderÂ playedÂ 864 career gamesÂ with the Canucks, Sabres, Islanders, Oilers, Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets.Â During that time, he talliedÂ 176 goals, 289 assists and 798 penalty minutes.Â Â On two seperate occasions, he reachedÂ the Stanley Cup FinalsÂ (Buffalo in 1999 and Edmonton 2006).Â He also helped Canada capture the gold medal at the 2002 Olympic Winter games in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Last season, Phil Kessel registered 14 of 24 assists in an 18-game span, with 10 more over 58 games. He battled an ugly 14-game goalless skid (14-0-3-3), three games before going down to a case of mono in January, and 11 games after his return.
In short, assists arenâ€™t his strong suit. Heâ€™s had more goals than assists in every season except his rookie season.
Well, break your selfish streak, Mr. Kessel and you’ll break your slump. One assist at a time.
Submit your GFWE predictions here.
Itâ€™s no secret that the Leafs’ biggest disappointment amid a conference-second-worst 15-20-9 first half of the schedule is a total lack of progress in the area of goals against and special teams, where Brian Burke focused much of his off-season efforts.
Happy Boxing Day, hockey fans!
It’s a great day for hockey here in Leafland. Â The World Junior Championship Tournament, featuring the Leafs’ highly-touted Nazem Kadri, officially gets underway this afternoon as Canada takes on Latvia. Â Following the tournament opener, we are in for a treat Leafs take on their long-standing rival, the Montreal Canadiens. Â And for those who are able to remain awake after all the holiday parties of the past two days, the Edmonton Oilers will visit the Vancouver Canucks in what should be a typical Saturday night Western Conference barn-burner. Â Does it get any better?
Now, onto the Leafs-Habs preview:
The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of three teams without a shutout this season. They have been shutout four times, allowing 15 goals. They’ve scored 98 goals in wins and a paltry 12 in losses. Of the 44 goals they’ve allowed in losses, 15 come by way of shutouts.
The latest takes on it’s infamy as the record-breaking shutout by a most deserving, Martin Brodeur.
The New Jersey Devils are one of five teams that have not been shutout this season. Brodeur’s three shutouts for the Devils this season set up and then smashed the all time shutout record.
In honour of the new shutout record at 104 – and counting – the following are the to-date shutouts and numbers in the NHL in 2009-10.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a rebuild, or a re-tool, whichever you prefer. Â In any event, a process such as this requires a team to have a plentiful prospect pipe, ripe with blue chippers are all positions. Â The Leafs certainly may not be plentiful when it comes to blue chip prospects, but they do have a few who are developing quite nicely.
And you just never know when and where a potential blue chipper may come from.
If drafting has taught us anything, it’s shown to be far from an exact science. Â Can’t miss prospects turn out to be busts occasionally, and sometimes late round picks have proven to be key components for a team, just ask, among others, Tomas Kaberle, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Viktor Stalberg.
Okay, while he may not garner enough adulation to be put in a group with some of the NHL’s top stars, there is plenty of reason to believe he may in fact one day be worthy of the mention.
Can the Leafs solve the visiting Sabres and that damned Ryan Miller?
Let’s hear your predictions. Â Be sure to check out Garrett’s post for some inspiring holiday spirit!
Just a quick update:
The Maple Leafs have recalled Viktor Stalberg from the Marlies and are sending down Joey MacDonald, as Jonas Gustavsson is ready to back up Vesa Toskala Friday night in Buffalo.
Probably a good idea to start Vesa on Friday. Give Jonas an extra night off (hopefully, anyway) and keep Toskala away from the Bruins Saturday, as he’s had trouble with them this season.
Viktor Stalberg has been recalled by the Toronto Maple Leafs today. Stalberg is the leading scorer for the Marlies, with 8 goals and 13 assists for 21 points in 19 games. There are rumors circulating that he will take over Jason Blake’s position on the 2nd line with Mikhail Grabovski and Niklas Hagman. There is also the possibility that Jonas Gustavsson will get one of the Leafs starts in goal as they prepare for 3 games in 4 nights beginning tomorrow night in Buffalo.
Micheal A. Aldred
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