NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 23: Benoit Pouliot #67 of the New York Rangers checks David Clarkson #71 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at Madison Square Garden on December 23, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
It’s not time to sound the alarm, but the sense of urgency is heightened across Toronto.
The Leafs are still firmly in a playoff spot and, other than Detroit (who has three games in hand on the Leafs, but are also missing Zetterberg and, for the moment, Datsyuk), the 4+ point gap the Leafs have on everyone else is a much tougher hill to climb than it looks because of the “three point era” in the NHL. It’s extremely tough to make up ground at this stage of the season in this day and age.
Let’s start this off with a bold proclamation:
Dion Phaneuf’s 2013 campaign was his best season in the NHL to date.
I really believe that. Phaneuf has rounded into the complete, 1A defenseman that Brian Burke and Dave Nonis envisioned when they swindled the Calgary Flames into one of the most lopsided trades in recent NHL history.
After doing a great job of gathering up points over the past couple of weeks and pushing themselves well in to the playoff picture, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see the Leafs hold off on any trades going in to the deadline this Wednesday. But despite the amount of success the team has enjoyed this season, there are some glaring weak areas that could be addressed, and players may become available that could help Nonis bring this club to a higher level.
We’ve seen the Calgary Flames finally give in to a rebuild in the past week with the departure of Jarome Iginla, and the Buffalo Sabres have been known to be in fire sale mode for a little while now. As Wednesday approaches, other teams will have to make a decision on which direction they’re headed, and potentially start putting bodies on planes as well.
WOW. What a turn of events in the Iginla sweepstakes. Mid-way through writing this piece, I paused to check for updates on Twitter and in an instant, Iginla had gone from a Bruin to a Penguin. Going back the other way to Calgary are college prospects Kenneth Agostino (20, LW), Ben Hanowski (22, LW), and Pittsburgh’s 2013 1st-round draft pick. From the outset, Feaster isn’t getting much credit for the return he’s getting but, it appears that Pittsburgh was Iginla’s call. Per Elliote Friedman:
Feaster said Iginla made the call on PIT. Added the draft choice is not conditional.
When faced with such a tectonic move, my first instinct is to take a breath and look at it from 30,000 feet – to try and take the broad level view. I asked myself, how does this change the competitive landscape of the East Conference? How does this move affect the Leafs? Who are the winners and losers of the trade? Will Iginila thrive under Dan Bylsma’s system? Where does Iginila fit in the line-up, and what of his role? At the surface level, the Pens’ active roster stays intact and get an infusion of leadership, class, skill, and toughness. Ray Shero is really going all-in here and the proposition of lining up Crosby and Iginla is a terrifying proposition, just ask Ryan Miller. In the coming days, I’m sure these questions will be addressed by the mainstream media and by members of the blogosphere.
This is a different kind of piece.
Before you read on, I submit this for your consideration:
For those of you who are unable to watch the video, it contains a segment from the Colbert Report, and it features a 13-minute montage of blatant Bostonian hypocrisy.
As I’m sure many Leaf fans were when they heard that Iginla was headed to Boston, I experienced some strong mixed-emotions. On the one hand, here you have a player who epitomizes class and leadership. On the other hand, he was headed to a hypocritical and dirty organization like Boston. If what Friedman said is true, then good on Jarome. Now, I am not privy to his decision-making process but I sure hope he considered the collective character of the organizations he was looking to join, along with, ultimately, the prospects of winning a Stanley Cup.
Iginla’s press conference is set for 10:30am (MT) and certainly lends itself to a tearful farewell. He has been the face of the franchise for the past 15 seasons and became the city’s beloved son. The loyalty he showed the Flames is quite remarkable, even despite the lack of talent and recent managerial gaffes. Adam Proteau, from The Hockey News, puts it best:
As the Jarome Iginla Flames Era ends, it should be noted there’s no classier player in the game than Calgary’s No. 12. The man is boo-proof.
In the end, Jarome Iginla deserved better than Boston, and I believe he made the right decision. As a hockey fan, I wish Jarome nothing but success and the best of luck in Pittsburgh.
Just a quick note on the Leafs.
Much has been made of the team’s relative success during the past 5 games (3-0-2) and many cited the home-and-home series with Boston as a test of sorts. Needless to say, the Leafs get more than a passing grade for their effort and surely surprised a lot of people. However, looking forward, I would argue that the next 6 games might be even more important than the past 5.
Including tonight’s bout against the Hurricanes (32pts -10th), the Leafs will face-off against the Senators (42 pts – 5th), Flyers (28 pts – 14th), and Devils (37 pts – 7th) once, and the Rangers (35 pts – 8th) twice. Essentially, 5 of the next 6 games will be against teams that are either in the race, or are within striking distance of the Leafs. Herein lies a crucial opportunity for the Leafs to expand their lead over lesser teams. If they can come out of the next 6 games with at least 8 points, for a total of 48 points, it sets them up nicely for the final 8 games of the season.
End of a long, strange day. Or is it start of another? College UFA D Dan DeKeyser could decide today (Thursday) which NHL team to sign with.
With just over three weeks to go until the trade deadline, I feel as if I can get away with a rosterbation post without too much scrutiny. I’ll do my best to not go full HFBoards with my ideas, but certainly have a few players in mind that I’d like for the Leafs to target, and a few that I’d like Nonis to jettison. While I’m sure this won’t be the most intelligent post you’ll read this morning, hopefully it will at least spark some Monday morning conversation.
In part 11 of his 12 Burning Questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at one of the hottest topics in Leafs Nation today: just how long of a leash does Ron Wilson have?
In the summer of 2008, the Toronto Maple Leafs were in the midst of a major overhaul. Â Much maligned general manager John Ferguson, Jr. had been relieved of his duties with the organization, and as nice a man as JFJ was when I met him at the Leafs rookie and orientation camp a year prior, there is no solid argument that can be made for him as a good GM.
Ferguson Jr, to his credit, can take solace in the fact that a few of his draft picks are now cracking the Leafs as legitimate players, Kulemin and Gunnarsson among them, although even that fact can be debated Â - how much was scouting and how much was general managing?
In a word, John Ferguson Jr. left the Toronto Maple Leafs in shambles, and some of the moves he made, continually sacrificing youth for a quick fix solution (or at least something he thought was a quick fix) have very well set the Maple Leafs back at least an additional few years in the rebuilding process.
No Leafs fan wants to be reminded of that most hated of Finnish goaltenders, Vesa Toskala. He was ushered into the organization as the next great goalie that would surely be the one to finally right this sinking ship. As any fan will tell you, this has been a disaster. In the nature of looking back at previous Leafs from yesteryear, Iâ€™m going to show you just how bad Toskala truly was. All stats not specifically referenced are borrowed from BehindtheNet.ca.
Weâ€™ll start by taking a look at Toskalaâ€™s season in 09-10. Toskala ended his tenure with Toronto with a record of 7-12-3, appearing in 26 games. His save percentage was a ghastly .874 and his GAA was a monumental 3.66. You donâ€™t need to follow hockey closely at all to glance at these stats and understand why they are so bad. This was a far cry from his stats in 07-08, where he had a .904 save percentage and a 2.74 GAA. Even his rather subpar 08-09 season was better, when he had an .891 save percentage and a 3.26 GAA. Could the Leafs being in second last place in the league have something to do with his decreased stats?
In part nine of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth looks at the Maple Leafs special teams, and why it must improve in order for the team to have success.
When it came to doing this 12 burning questions series, I discovered a lot of things about the Leafs, and how I will be looking for different things this year. Â And even though I already knew the fact, it was all the more confirmed to me that there really are no definitive answers to these burning questions, at least not in August anyway.
However, as we reach part nine of the series, I can confidently say that I can, for the first time this series, give a more defined answer.
In part one of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at whether the Maple Leafs new captain can return to form.
January 31st will forever be a day that will have historical significance for the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise, and all its fans. Â How large of a significance it will have in the grand scheme of things has yet to be determined, but in many ways, it could be argued that it was the day the franchise turned the corner.
According to CBC Sports, the San Jose Sharks are on the verge of signing free agent grinder Jamal Mayers. The Sharks announced on their website their plans for the veteran forward. “Jamal is a fast, physical, team-first player who brings the ingredients we were looking for to this role,â€ said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. “He is an extremely fit athlete who can kill penalties and we think he will mesh well with our group of forwards.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Flyers officially kick off July 1st festivities by acquiring Andrej Mezaros from the Lightning in exchange for a 2nd round pick. Rumors of Boston centre Marc Savard potentially heading out west to Calgary as well.
As for the Maple Leafs, they will have $10.5 million in cap space to play with today, though that figure does not include the possible removal of Kaberle’s $4.25 million via trade or Finger’s $3.5 million as a potential waiver candidate.
The Leafs have been linked to defenseman Dan Hamhuis, forwards Raffi Torres and Colby Armstrong, and will also kick the tires on sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. Darren Dreger believes the club will look at adding a 3rd line forward along with a defenseman to “stockpile for later deals”. Stay tuned to this blog for updates on signings throughout the day.
It may seem uncharacteristic of Â Brian Burke, historically a headline maker at the Entry Draft, to sit essentially idle on the hockey world’s biggest stage. Important to remember is that the big man can be patient when he needs to be. The Anaheim and Calgary deals of last February, when Burke waited until certain pressure points reached a head, were both examples of Burke’s willingness to sit back until the time was right to pull the trigger – despite all the temptations to hit the panic button as his team sat in the Eastern Conference basement with no first round pick to look forward to.
The Leafs will start and end with Montreal as to be expected. The schedule includes nine back-to-backs, an increase over the seven they played last season. The Leafs will head northwest March 22-24 to play Minnesota and Colorado after hosting them last season. The most taxing travel appears to be a four game stretch from January 7 – 13 when the Buds will make stops in Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Jose and Phoenix. The Leafs will also conduct a potentially critical division tour from February 12 – 19 when they face off consecutively with each Northeast rival. From December 14-18, the Blue and White will go on a Western Canada road trip where they can visit Taylor Hall, Matt Stajan and Kyle Wellwood. The full sched after the jump:
Weâ€™ve partnered up withPension Plan Puppetsto 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 featureDion Phaneuf, profiled by Nikhil Daljeet:
The arrival of Dion Phaneuf in Toronto this year will undoubtedly be remembered as a significant moment in the annals of Maple Leafs history, for better or for worse.Â The trade that Brian Burke engineered for the newest Leafs captain has been generally heralded as a wise maneuver for his Toronto club.Â However, this transaction occurred after a full 2008-2009 season that saw a noticeable decrease in offensive output from Phaneuf (Flames management insisted it was due to injury).Â Moreover, the 2009-2010 season gave way to a floundering Calgary team that was in severe need of a major shakeup and Flames GM Sutter did exactly that on January 31st.