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The Toronto Maple Leafs are officially in the playoffs.
I hope that felt as good to read as it did to write.
It has been a long nine years since Jeremy Roenick broke Leafs Nations’ hearts in 2004. The excitement that year was nuts. The Leafs traded for Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch for a bunch of guys nobody knew existed and Toronto was buzzing with Stanley Cup hopes. I remember Leetch’s first game against the Islanders; Leetch had three points and the TV broadcast had this stupid iso-camera on Leetch every time he touched the ice. (Ironic side note: the only player traded in the deal who became relevant in the NHL was drafted with the expended second round pick, a player by the name of Michael Sauer – you know, the guy who had his career ended by Phaneuf).
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.
A quick note:
I’ll be attending the on-ice portions of training camp on the weekend. I’ll do a blog about the day that will be a little different from the traditional coverage. If you want to know what Grabovski said, or how Kaberle felt … well, there’s other outlets for that. Here, I’m hoping to provide a different outlook of the camp that doesn’t get touched upon by traditional coverage.
In part ten of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at the importance of a good early start, and if the Leafs can avoid another disastrous start.
There really isn’t any other way to put it. Â No matter how you slice it, no matter how you try to spin it, or how you try to put a sugar coating on it, the cold hard fact still shines through.
The Toronto Maple Leafs were not a very good team last year.
Although their stats, and their general play, improved dramatically following the late January trades that saw them overturn nearly half their lineup, the fact remains that the 2009-2010 edition of the Maple Leafs fought inconsistency, as well as young inexperience that had them struggling most of the year.
But it could be argued that never were they worse, than in the first month of the season.
Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke should have uttered one phrase to explain the situation, one simple little phrase to envelope the reasoning for the Phil Kessel trade;
â€œOur picks in our vision of where we ended up are overvalued in accordance to the available crop of prospects.â€
But in Toronto, to admit that in whatâ€™s deemed as a â€˜rebuildâ€™ would have been a PR disaster.
Despite popular opinion, he wasnâ€™t wrong.
The world is no longer flat, itâ€™s round .. like a full-cirle
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.”
It appears as though Leafs’ fans will have to put the thought of pending-UFA defenseman Mike Van Ryn returning to the Maple Leafs on hold, as reports suggest he will remain on the sidelines for another season.
Last season Van Ryn underwent an osteotomy, a complicated surgery to re-align the knee, as an alternative to a total knee replacement. He spent the entire season rehabilitating the knee with the hopes of playing in 2010-11, but it appears as though the recovery process will take him well beyond that target date.
It’s not every day the Maple Leafs name a new captain. In fact, it’s not every decade. Sundin was named in 1997, 13 years prior to the Leafs appointment of Phaneuf. And with the announcement being made in front of a room of roughly 100 media personnel, the message was relayed to the world using every different angle imaginable.
Instead of weighing the pros and cons, balancing the collective good choices of Burke and Wilson against the bad, MLHS is going to bring you into the event. Thousands of writers have provided their opinion but little time has been spent enabling the reader to form their own. So please, if you will, grab your notepad and follow us past the security and the media media check-in, and into the press conference that will see Dion Phaneuf named the 18th captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The NHL has released the playoff schedule for the first round, along with the list of networks airing each series.
Here are the start dates for Game 1 of each series, and the network airing each opening match.
Full schedules for each series, including networks airing each game, are posted at NHL.com.
#NHLAnagrams have been a big thing on twitter over the past week, and what a riot we’ve had. Some of the creations have been strictly comical (Daniel Alfredsson = An Idle Ass Fondler), some have been ridiculous (Brian Burke = Urban Biker) and others have fit so perfectly, you would think that it was by some magical force that their name and anagram had come to be (Zdeno Chara = A Hazard Cone, Vesa ToskalaÂ = aka Lost).
With the Toronto Marlies seven pointsÂ back with 12 games to go, I’m torn as to my thoughts of the post-season and based on the Marlies’ anagram, Realism Torn Too.
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:
The Toronto Star provides us with a couple interesting tidbits about potential trade talks leading up to the deadline:
- Ponikarovsky continues to be heavily linked to Pittsburgh. Previously, we learned from CBC’s Hotstove that one team had offered the Leafs a 2nd round draft pick along with a prospect, which clearly was not enough for Burke to bite. He is likely holding out for a more prominent prospect than the one that was initially offered.
- Several key Maple Leaf front office members and scouting staff watched the Marlies – Bears game at Ricoh on Wednesday night. With the Hershey Bears being the Capitals’ AHL affiliate, there is certainly speculation that there may be some serious trade talks happening between the two clubs. The Capitals are far and away the league’s highest scoring team, so they may be more interested in either a defensive forward or a reliable stay-at-home defenseman. However, there is also the possibility that the Leafs’ staff may have just taken advantage of the time off to evaluate which Marlies players could be included in trades or be potential NHL call-ups to fill out the roster after the deadline.
Let’s be honest, how many of you had either fallen asleep or changed the channel when your Leafs tied it up tonight? Â In a comeback devoid of any explosiveness, Toronto teased you with the possibility of an overtime victory. Â Hah! Should have known better, eh?
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:
During the 1980s, years before cellphones and the Internet would make hockey news and highlights easily accessible to all, when newspapers and shows such as Sportsline would provide the fans their worth of NHL news, for many the only Maple Leafs action they would see would come via Hockey Night in Canada on CBC, or MolStar Communications during the week.
Living in a rural area with no cable access, a couple hours away from Toronto, the majority of my own fandom as a youth was experienced via the grainy picture of antenna television.Â Â My family didn’t have a lot of money, which meant that attending actual live games was a rare event.Â Â Which, in retrospect, made the event all the more special of an experience.
The Leafs improved their preaseason win total to six tonight at the ACC.Â These are the final chances for some of the young hopefuls, and they are not going to go away easily.Â Strong nights from Jonas Gustavsson and Viktor Stalberg were the headlines of this matchup.Â Even the defense corps has a rookieÂ strutting his stuffÂ as Ron Wilson deemed Carl Gunnarsson their “best defenseman tonight”.
Hitting the links bright and early on a Thursday morning: Jim Balsillie and the city of Hamilton get new life, Kadri’s WJC tryout experience, an update on the Justin Pogge situation, Leafs sign a young defenseman, a mid-summer recap of the offseason festivities, and the Marlies coaching staff announced.
A month into the offseason, one thing can be said for sure about the steps the Toronto Maple Leafs have taken toward rebuilding the team:Â credit Brian Burke with having a plan, and sticking to it.
The beginnings of that plan are clearly reflected in the sweeping changes to the goaltending and defence corps this summer, as well as a noticeable infusion of truculence.
Elliotte Friedman of CBC is reporting that the Toronto Maple Leafs have expressed interest in putting in a waiver claim on veteran goaltender Martin Gerber. It’s speculated that this surprising interest may be a result of two possible scenarios:
#1 – The Leafs have lined up an appropriate trading partner for Toskala and need a veteran goalie to stick in the net for the rest of the season.
#2 – As rumored for the past few weeks, Toskala may indeed be hurting and the Leafs may choose to shut him down for the rest of the season as he undergoes surgery.
-Draft pick be damned, being 7-1-1 in our last nine against the Senators is truly heart-warming. P.S., it’s time to point the finger where it needs to be pointed, Bryan Murray… trade Jason Spezza and shake things up in the old country club. Also trade Nick Foligno. To us. For Hollweg.
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