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Despite eight new faces in tonight’s season opening lineup against the Montreal Canadiens, many of the recurring themes of futility from last year were evident again in the 4-3 overtime loss. Poor defensive zone coverage, poor penalty killing, questionable moments in the net, and the snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory late in the game. Despite the disappointing loss, there were a few bright spots: namely the play of the top line led by Matt Stajan and Viktor Stalberg.
The pre-season Buds may have exuded that truculent belligerence so deeply worn into the modern Toronto fans lexicon, but they rarely looked convincing. Either letting leads slip or being forced to fight back from poor starts, the Leafs managed to scrap their way to a strong 6-3 record. But as the 2008 Detroit Lions will attest to, a good pre-season rarely translates into a successful regular season.
Subsequently, while it is easy to buy into the hype of September hockey after the barren months of Summer, the Leafs will do well to learn from the more lackadaisical moments of their 6-3 warm up before they start lacing up against the cream of the leagues â€œAâ€ squads. After all, rallying performances aside, the pre-season has done little but affirm that the Leafs own one of the strongest depth charts in the league, not necessarily the strongest team.
The Maple Leafs continued their shaping of the NHL roster with another four cuts on Sunday. Top prospect Nazem Kadri will be going back to the OHL’s London Knights, Jonas Frogren and Christian Hanson will report to the Toronto Marlies, and Andy Rogers has been released. By my count, that leaves 30 players left (including Kessel who will be placed on the long-term injured reserve), meaning there will be another 6 cuts in the near future.
It took sometime to manifest, prolonged in the wake of shoulder surgery and stunted contract talks, but the September 10th news that negotiations between the Boston Bruins, Wade Arnott and Phil Kessel had come to an impasse reignited the rumor mill that has surrounded the Leafs and the Madison, Wisconsin sniper since Brian Burke first tabled Tomas Kaberle in the infamous draft day â€œmisunderstanding.â€
In the week that has passed since negotiations broke down, the value of Kessel has skyrocketed beyond the original RFA compensation of a 1st, 2nd and 3rd round selection in the 2010 draft.
Amid speculation that Brian Burke is positioning himself to extend an offer sheet – perhaps to long-rumoured target, 22-year-old winger Phil Kessel – after swapping picks to recover the Leafs’ 2010 second round pick in a deal that would seemingly make little sense otherwise, there is another possibility to consider in regards to trade negotiations.
This must be the mantra Brian Burke is following after recent reports indicate that Jason Allison has been invited to the Leafs training camp on a tryout basis.Â Some of you remember Allison from his 2005-2006 season with Toronto.Â He was often seen losing in casual races with the young children of Timbits Hockey.Â At 34 years of age and having not played for full three seasons, this move probably has some Leafs fans scratching their heads and worrying that John Ferguson Jr. has somehow been reintroduced into the organization.
Yesterday’s trade with Calgary sparked a lot of immediate negativity amongst many of our readers at the loss of Stralman. Today we try to view it from another perspective as we clarify an important CBA related issue that may have been a key motivation for the departure the young defenseman. In other news: Burke speaks to Foxsports about prospective changes to the CBA, Leaf prospect Kenny Ryan is being recruited by the Memorial Cup champs and Vaclav Prospal bought out by the Lightning.
The Toronto Sun is reporting that Brian Burke is back from his fishing trip, and that the action is supposed to pick up over the next little while. Some quick hits:
- Brian Burke confirms that the team will not be pursuing free agent Dominic Moore
- The signing of Rickard Wallin will serve as Moore’s replacement
- Just a reminder: Tomas Kaberle’s no-trade clause kicks back in after August 15th
Damien Cox is confirming the Leafs’ interest in Manny Malhotra as first reported in the MLHS FA Targets blog, suggesting he’s on Burke’s radar today. Malhotra’s never lived up to the offensive expectations that accompany a forward drafted seventh overall (in the 1998 draft), but he has a big, solid frame, plays an accomplished defensive game and has the type of leadership qualities Burke values. As Burke aims to reshape his bottom six, Malhotra is a worthy checking line center that fits his mold. Could mean not so good things for Matt Stajan.
Cox is also noting interest in Francois Beachemin as reported as well as possible revived trade talks between Burke and Chiarelli on the topic of Kaberle and Kessel.
The Cammalleri camp has countered an offer from Brian Burke… working on figures. Sportsnet now reporting: Ottawa, New York, Toronto in on Cammalleri.
While he would never admit it, Ontario native Nazem Kadri must of felt a twinge of anger at how the biggest day in his life panned out. Treated like a high steak pawn at the 2009 draft where the dreams he worked so hard to achieve were to be realized, Kadri watched as a bitter Brian Burke failed to secure the vaunted trade northwards, then faced the ignominy of TSN analyst Darren Dreger questioning Burke about Brayden Schenn as he sat in silence, festooned in his Maple Leafs jersey. For sure it must have been disappointing and one can only hope he didnâ€™t venture toward any Leafs related websites that night.
The feeling as the Leafs embark on this year’s unrestricted free agency period is that Brian Burke is not enamored with the ’09 free agent class and will neither overpay in salary or term. It appears Burke’s focused on acquiring his high-end talent through trade.Â In regards to the long-rumoured Mike Cammalleri signing, the word right now is that he’s not on the radar although this is certainly subject to change should circumstances change.Â More likely, if Burke can move Kaberle and/or Kubina and sign Jonas Gustavsson, the approach will be to strengthen from the goal out and thus most money will be allotted to high-end D rather than forwards at this time.
After all the hype surrounding a potential trade up proved for naught, Brian Burke went with a surprise pick in centerman Nazem Kadri at #7. The fact of the matter is that first-rounders are as cherished as ever and Burke was going to have to overpay to make anything happen in the top 5.
Was it fair to expect Burke to pull off something magical tonight? No, but it’s his own fault if he gets flamed for what happened or rather what didn’t. His uninhibited self-promotion these last few months set the expectations high and he came up empty. Nazem Kadri deserves his fair shake and for all intents and purposes seems a promising top 6 prospect. But it’s time for a little more action and a little less talk on Burke’s part, or at least a lot less talk if there isn’t going to be more action.
The latest from a trusted source:
“Burke may have been playing possum in order to move up to get Duchene when he was saying he wanted Tavares but no one is indulging him….
Phew. Finally a chance to catch our breath after what was perhaps the best 2nd round of playoff hockey ever played. We were treated to three 7 game series, 9 overtime periods, and an epic showdown between the league’s premier young rivals, Crosby and Ovechkin. Perhaps overshadowed by all the intensity and exciting finishes, is a fairly simple underlying theme: Youth.
Slow times in Leafland these days, so let’s have a crack at a couple of those questions.
According to TSN, the Maple Leafs continued their signing spree on Tuesday morning, inking University of Vermont foward Viktor Stalberg to a two-year entry level contract. The 23-year old powerforward could potentially join the Toronto Marlies as early as tomorrow night as they embark on their playoff quest.
From the Leafs webiste: “The Leafs announced Saturday that forward Chris DiDomenico has been signed to a three-year entry level contract. The 20-year-old native of Toronto was selected by the Leafs in the sixth round, 164th overall, in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.”
1) Brian Burke’s received two offers of a second round pick for Dominic Moore. Burke’s trying to up the ante in order to also land a 4th rounder in 2009 as the Leafs are without one.
2) Looked into it… the Martin Gerber rumour has some legs as the Leafs consider shutting Toskala down for the balance of the season. It’s no secret that there is zero trust in Curtis Joseph at this time and Justin Pogge’s currently struggling to hold down the starter’s position in the AHL. For the season ticket holders’ sake, Burke does not want to be perceived as though he’s throwing in the towel on the season if he elects to shut down VeTo. A move such as this would undoubtedly upset the pro-tankers among us, but to stay as competitive as possible through to the end is a Burke trade mark. Gerber’s contract expires at the end of the season, so if Burke opted to pluck him off re-entry waivers it would be a case of no harm, no foul, at least from Burke’s perspective.
3) A source I spoke with said he would be surprised if Burke settled for anything less than a first rounder in return for Nik Antropov.
The ongoing contract negotiations taking place between Brian Burke and Larry Kelly, Dominic Moore’s agent, are more meaningful than face value. On the surface, trying to re-sign a player that is for all intents and purposes a third line center (while a very good one at that) isn’t going to make or break the franchise, unlike the contract situations currently unfolding with Jay Bouwmeester, Marian Gaborik and their respective general managers.
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