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Captain

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At an afternoon press conference at Real Sports Bar & Grill, the Toronto Maple Leafs made official the worst kept secret in the NHL by naming Dion Phaneuf the 18th captain in the club’s long and storied history (22nd if you count the St.Pats and the Arenas).

The Maple Leafs also unveiled the team’s new jersey design.  The new jerseys return the horizontal white stripes to the bottom of the sweater, in homage to past tradition.  For more on the new designs, please see Alec’s earlier post regarding the jerseys.

See the full list of TML captains after the jump.

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Whitby born, Ryan Hamilton has signed a 1-year, 2-way deal worth $500k (at NHL level) with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hamilton, who came to the Leafs organization in a trade with the NHL Wild (AHL Aeros) during the 08/09 season, was scheduled to test the free agent market if unable to resign with Toronto.

Though he finished the season leading the team in goals and among the top-five in assists, Hamilton’s contribution to the Toronto AHL club is far deeper than what can be recorded on score card.

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Lots of reading today: Gus chips in an  analogical look at the NHL playoff series; Alex has your links with a look at potential Leaf Jussi Rynnas.

In what was Brian Burke’s first summer on the job with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was clear from the get go that he put an onus on improving specialty teams, and also team defense.  The brash Toronto GM made a lot of moves as it related to improving these areas, and on paper they looked like a sure recipe for change and improvement.

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Now that the Leafs’ most important pending free agent — goaltender Jonas Gustavsson — has been signed to a two-year contract extension, it is time to take a look at their remaining free agent players.

Notably, the list of expiring contracts includes pending RFAs Nikolai Kulemin, Christian Hanson and John Mitchell. Pending UFAs on the Leafs’ roster include Wayne Primeau, Rickard Wallin, Jamie Lundmark, Garnet Exelby and Mike Van Ryn.

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Prior to the lockout, undrafted college free agents were a rare, straight to NHL commodity. Either serving out their apprenticeships as minor league signees or plying their trade overseas, few players transitioned directly from the ranks of college hockey to the NHL without enduring prolonged development curves. However, in a post-lockout landscape where GM’s clutch their most valued assets and superstars to their clubs with dynasty length deals, and where dollars and ice time are apportioned in equilibrium, graduate aged (or younger) players progressing from the NCAA as free agents are providing comparatively cheap labour in an increasingly scrutinized marketplace.

Not too surprisingly, considering both his hockey heritage as a former captain of the Providence College Friars and his somewhat condensed timetable for rebuilding the Leafs, Brian Burke has been one of the first to plunder the verdant college market in recent seasons, in turn providing a quantum shift from the conventional dominance of the CHL at the junior level.

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I really had so many options with this title. With all the Anaheim prospects on Toronto, I thought of calling it “Duck, Duck, Duck, Moose!” With many players returning from injury, I pondered using “I’ve got 99 Problems, but a Stitch Ain’t One.” But really, being five points out with five games remaining, the Marlies truly are on a wild Moose chase.

As it stands now, the Marlies will have to win all of their final five games to have a hope of extending the season past April 12th. The two most important of these will need to come this weekend as Toronto faces Manitoba, the current occupant of the 4th and final spot.

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    Just some quick thoughts after the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 overtime win over the Bruins:

    Assist for Phil Kessel is his first point in 5 games against his old team

    Bozak continues to progress

    Carl Gunnarsson had another solid game with a goal and a +3 rating

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      Since posting the parable of Owen the other day, and most especially since reviewing the commentary appended thereto, it has come to my attention that:

      1. The Tragically Hip suck or else the Tragically Hip are the very Platonic embodiment of the concept of “win”.   It is not at all clear which of these two statements concerning the properties of the Tragically Hip inclines towards truth, yet the truth is said to be obvious, immutable and beyond the realm of debate;
      2. It is a very good idea to proofread what you have frantically typed in a guilty paroxysm of nostalgic reminiscence before hitting the “publish” button.  Failure to do so may have the inattentive rookie blogger combining various teams, their nicknames and game results in a charming but utterly abstract and completely fictional goulash of confusion.  In the unlikely event this is not the effect one is really attempting to achieve, this little pro tip may help you avoid embarrassment;
      3. It is quite possible that I am the first person on earth and in the history of ever to reference both the Three Stooges and Waiting for Godot in the same sentence.  Now I’ve gone and done it in consecutive posts!  Don’t be expecting this level of achievement in every installment, kids, outstanding performances have a way of regressing to the mean;
      4. My theory of road trips, nascent and ill-developed though it may be, is fertile ground for graduate study.  Even more startlingly, the road trip is fertile ground for reality television.  How has there not been a Big Brother style reality show centred around the road trip.  And no, I haven’t forgotten about the Amazing Race; pay attention man, those dudes travel in pairs, not triads.  As an aside, I wonder how many other areas of human endeavour are equally of interest to academics and reality TV producers?
      5. I somehow managed to omit from the story the fact that my buddies and I attended a cocktail mixer at the IMF.  Trust me, you don’t know from fun until you’ve partied with international debt specialists in a brightly-lit impersonal and institutional room in the middle of the afternoon; and
      6. At least some of you are seeing some of the same positive developments in certain Maple Leaf players that I am.

      Before we get to the subject of today’s post, Luke Schenn, a preliminary word if you will about the title of these entries: 

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        Team Canada World Junior's captain Patrice Cormier is under investigation by the QMJHL for his questionable hit against Quebec Remparts defenceman Mikael Tam. The video of the hit is below and looks as if Cormier came off the bench and delivered an elbow to Tam's head at center ice. Click here to view the video. The hit takes place at the 1:00 mark of the clip. Warning: The video does show convulsions after the hit and should not be watched by those who are faint of heart.

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          After recovering from the initial shock of the Leafs trading yet another highly rated, potentially top end prospect (Tlusty in this case) for picks, prospects (Paradis in this case) or players who at best can be defined as “depth” acquisitions, I decided to sit back, absorb all of the feedback and coverage from this transaction and form an opinion based on rational thought processes and any available factual information.  Past my initial, oh no, here we go again feeling, I was uncertain as to my actual opinion on this deal.  After all, I have never seen the young Paradis play, knew very little about this prospect, and the only information I had available was that he was a late 1st round pick in last years entry draft.  So, I decided to err on the side of caution and keep my initial opinion on this transaction to myself.  After researching this prospect, reading the various scouting reports and watching some film, it became rather apparent that Mr Burke had traded a potential top 6 type of sniper for a 3rd-4th line character guy.  Someone who was physical, had speed, was fearless and could become a real heart and soul leader on an NHL roster one day.  Considering the intangibles this player could potentially bring down the road, I was willing to overlook the obvious imaginary offensive upside Mr Burke was touting with this prospect and the projections of a top 6 “power forward” type in the NHL and was settling in with a comfortable neutral, “Wait and See” decision on this transaction.

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            I have always believed that a persons real intelligence level is a sum of what they allow themselves to learn from others.  Book smarts, education, degrees, etc are all an indication of knowledge – but, nothing adds to a persons real world IQ more then lessons learned.  Real intelligent people are able to learn by watching and listening to others rather then needing to learn everything themselves – you know, the hard way (sadly, the path I usually end up taking).  I am continually striving to get better at learning from others and gather as much IQ as I can from the experiences, observations and hard knocks others are willing to share with me.  As this pertains to hockey specifically, I had an opportunity to watch a Leafs game with Gus Katsaros last week and also the opportunity to meet with and speak to Garrett Bauman.  Gus and I had some nice seats for the New York Islanders game sitting at the face off circle in the offensive zone where the Leafs tallied some 50 of their 61 total shots.  I had meant to do a post game blog at the time, but, life got busy and I guess it is too late for that now.  However, that day yielded several interesting hockey learning opportunities for me personally and I decided that these lessons alone would make great blog material.

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              Per Kevin McGran at the Toronto Star:

              On a day a former Maple Leafs captain formally announced his retirement, coach Ron Wilson said the team would again start the season captainless.

              Newcomers Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin however will join Tomas Kaberle as three alternate captains.

              McGran notes that Wilson suggested the captaincy issue would be revisited in roughly a month’s time from now, at which point the coach will consider whether one of his three assistants should be given the role or whether the team should remain captainless for another season.

              Read the full article from The Star

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                After watching the first four pre-season games, I’ve noticed a few players stand out while others have sunk into a state of mediocre play. This is my brief evaluation of the players we no longer need, including my own opening night roster preview. I look forward to reviewing all of your own opening night rosters compared to the way I view the brand new Maple Leafs.

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                  Today was the deadline for Tomas Kaberle’s NTC lift, and he is still a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. While some fans were demanding for an immediate rebuild with some youth in return for a trade for Kaberle, others notice how strong the current Leafs defense core has the potential to be and are curious to see how Kaberle can perform with a physical presence around him. Brian Burke is among those who are interested. “I look forth to seeing what Tomas can do with a little more size and toughness around him when he’s not picking his teeth out of the glass all night.”

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                    Over the course of the offseason, the Maple Leafs have made several moves to ensure the focus they have placed on grit, heart, and tenacious play at the NHL level will extend to the AHL Marlies as well.

                    The team has re-signed Marlies’ stalwarts Darryl Boyce, Andre Deveaux, Alex Foster, and team captain Ben Ondrus, as well as rugged waiver acquisition (and recent Memorial Cup winner) Richard Greenop, and free agents Jay Rosehill and Tim Brent.    All are hopeful that solid play at the AHL level will result in NHL opportunities during the course of the season.

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                      Although it has been widely reported that Farjestads BK forward Rickard Wallin is considering leaving Sweden to return to the NHL, and that the team interested in bringing him back to North America is the Toronto Maple Leafs, there is no definite timetable on when he might sign.

                      One would assume a decision is likely to happen within the next week.   Wallin’s four year contract with Farjestads includes a clause which allows him to sign with an NHL team, but that clause is only in effect until July 15th.

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                        First, it was the failed courtship of a talented, young Farjestads star forward named Fabian Brunnstrom, who went on to post an impressive 17 goal rookie campaign for the Dallas Stars. Then Toronto went back to the Swedish club and relieved them of one of their top stay at home defenders, bringing over Jonas Frogren to add some much needed grit and toughness. Early into this summer, Brian Burke turned his attention to Farjestads’ young goalie phenom, Jonas Gustavsson, in a highly publicized negotiation process. As if that wasn’t enough, the Leafs are rumored to now be attempting to steal away Farjestad’s captain, forward Rickard Wallin as well. Their rising young forward, top defensive defenseman, top young goaltender and now their captain. Something tells me their fans aren’t too thrilled with the Leafs.

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                          Celebrating a decade of squandered potential and faded dreams, the draft of 1999 turned out shallower than an infant’s paddling pool, yet despite being regarded as an acrimonious footnote in league history the draft of ’99 also served as an unlikely backdrop to one of the most meticulously engineered pre-draft coups ever.

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                            With just a little over two weeks until the draft, it’s time to turn our attention towards some of the favourites to go off the board first. Last year, a small group of about six players (Stamkos, Doughty, Bogosian, Pietrangelo, Schenn and Filatov) managed to distinguish themselves from the rest of the class, leading the Toronto Maple Leafs to pay a hefty price to move up. As we inch closer to the twenty-sixth, a trend is beginning to emerge that has the same five players at the top of every team’s draft board. Let’s meet the candidates.