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The start date for HBO 24/7 – Leafs/Wings has been announced: Mark your calendars for December 15th. This show will provide a rare opportunity to basically put yourself on the ice, on the bench, and in the dressing room with the team we think about for multiple hours every day. It’s going to be awesome.
The Maple Leafs dropped a 5-2 decision to the
Swedish Olympic team Detroit Red Wings tonight. While firm judgement should never be made based on preseason, many of the goals tonight were a testament to the skill that the Red Wings possess and a poor effort from the Leafs. It will be great to renew one of Toronto’s oldest rivalries this season against one of the league’s oldest set of players.
A couple of days ago, I had a pretty interesting conversation with @Dudgee (solid MLHS guy, give him a follow) when he first stated that he thought the Leafs brass should withhold judgement on Kessel and Bozak until we see them in the playoffs. This got me thinking, because Bozak is due for an extension and Kessel is going into the final year of his contract, ultimately with the prospects of a massive raise from his current $5.400mn salary. So I wondered – is Bozak destined to simply be a rental player for the Leafs during the playoffs, or is there anything he can do to solidify himself as a key cog in the organization?
Judging from most of the stuff I’ve heard on Twitter, if seems like the masses are ready to dispose of Bozak, and I wanted to reach out to our writers to see what they thought. From my side, regardless of whether Bozak stays, or not, the situation at centre will change – with Kadri’s ascension and Grabovski’s sub-optimization – and this summer could mark the beginnings of the organization’s intense search for a #1 Centre, which is key to turning the Leafs into a better possession team.
Nazem Kadri celebrates his second career NHL goal in last night's 4-2 loss to Detroit. (Getty Images)
The Leafs entered last week with the hope of winning at least two of the three games on their Western road trip. They were successful in accomplishing that goal, however last night’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings put the team into a very difficult position heading into the final stretch of the regular season. In order to have a realistic chance of making the post season, Toronto will likely have to win all six of their remaining games and pray that the Buffalo Sabres hit a dead end and win two or fewer of their games.
Considering the season-long brilliance displayed by Ryan Miller, and major offensive contributions from Thomas Vanek and sophomore forward Tyler Ennis, the Sabres will have to suffer a significant blow such as an injury or losing streak to lose hold of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Brian Burke stated prior to the start of the season thatÂ the primaryÂ goal was to make the playoffs. With yet another season set to wrap up in mid April, the city of Toronto is not filled with negativity and frustration, but rather a sense of optimism and promise that the Leafs have madeÂ significant strides towards building a contending team in theÂ very nearÂ future.
Links after the jump.
(Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)
The Maple Leafs visit the Joe Louis Arena in the only meeting of the season against anÂ original six rival in the Detroit Red Wings. Coming off their third-straight win after a victory in Colorado on Thursday, tonight’s game is the next step in the attempt to more or less run the board and climb into the top-eight of the Eastern Conference.Â Despite being second in the West, the Red Wings have struggled in the month of March, going 4-4-3 in their last 11, including two losses in regulation and an overtime loss, in their last three games.
Toronto is looking to capitalize on the Red Wings glut of injuries. DetroitÂ will beÂ without leading offensive forwardsÂ Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Todd BertuzziÂ (back) and Johan Franzen (groin). With a 16-7-4 overall record and a 12-3-1 road record when James Reimer is between the pipes, the Leafs have been one of the top three teams since the all star break, behind only the San Jose Sharks and New Jersey Devils. In order to prove up to making the playoffs, let alone to competing in them, Toronto needs to be able to beat the best. Let’s hope the continued lack of outside help hasn’t taken some of the wind out of the Leafs’ collective sail, as the state of Florida failed the Leafs last night with Carolina and Buffalo wins over Tampa Bay and the Panthers.
Follow the jump for today’s Leaf Links.
Claus Andersen/Getty Images
It is a popular war cry teams will make when in the midst of an unlikely or unexpected championship run.Â But what exactly is needed to make a championship contending hockey club and just how far are the Maple Leafs from truly becoming one?Â I thought I would attempt to answer that very question while trying to look at how a successful championship contending hockey team is currently composed and then comparing it to the Leafs situation and roster makeup.
Matt Fratin, seen here hosting McNaughton Cup (WCHA Regular Season Title) is a breakout candidate for 2010-2011
At this time last year, Jerry D’Amigo was a little known Maple Leafs’ draftee who had been passed over 157 times by other clubs only a few months before. After a banner year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the NCAA and a brilliant run at the World Juniors, the not even 20 year old D’Amigo currently finds himself with an NHL contract, an invite to training camp, and a legitimate shot at making his dreams come true as soon as this fall. That was last year. Now let’s take a look at some of the names that could be making some serious headway up the Leafs’ organizational depth charts in 2010-2011.
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.
Â As the systemic dismantling of this summerâ€™s Stanley Cup champions continues in earnest, league watchers are crying foul. Where detractors of the current, hard revenue based cap once denounced the communistic, unilateral sharing of league revenue as the prime illustration of illogic in the CBA (alongside the long-long term contract loopholes), Mondayâ€™s exit of Antti Niemi from the Chicago Blackhawks has helped turn the club into the latest martyrâ€™s of the cap.
The Chicago Blackhawks have decided to walk away from Antti Niemi’s arbitration awarded $2.75M contract, and have instead signed veteran free agent Marty Turco to a one-year $1.3M contract. With the Blackhawks decision not to retain him, Niemi is now a free agent goaltender on the market and should attract some immediate attention.
In case you haven’t already heard, the Maple Leafs have broken off negotiations with prospect Bill Sweatt, acquired in the Versteeg trade from the Blackhawks. In a statement to the Toronto Sun, Burke explained that the club would rather keep a spot on the 50 contract limit open than continue discussions with Sweatt. As the talks continued to stall, the Leafs likely turned and upped their offer to Marcel Mueller, whose ELC contract value sits at $1.12 million. Sweatt is likely looking for a figure close to Blake Wheeler’s $2.825 cap hit as a 4-year college free agent, which is a steep price to pay for a player with speed but limited offensive upside.
According to the Toronto Maple Leafs official Twitter feed, the club announced today the signing of free agent defenseman Brett Lebda to a two-year deal worth $1.45 million per season.
Lebda spent the last five seasons with the Detroit Red Wings after the organization signed him as a free agent in 2004, picking up a Stanley Cup ring in during his stay in ’08.
Lebda’s career high in points is 18. Â He had 16 two years ago, but saw his total fall to just 8 points last year, though he did only play 63 games due to a back injury.
Lebda has great pace and puck-rushing ability, though his point-total doesn’t necessarily reflect that.Â The Buffalo Native is thick for his height at 195 pounds, but is a bit undersized at 5’9. He does play a game bigger than his frame would suggest. $1.45 million seems a tad pricey, but hopes will be that Lebda will be able to improve production on a Leafs blueline that doesn’t have the type of elite offensive weapons from the blueline like Detroit had in Brian Rafalski and Nik Lidstrom (this providing Kaberle is dealt, and no doubt this seems like a poor-man’s replacement).
It’s around 2PM eastern time, meaning National Hockey League GM’s are likely getting ready to juggle their BlackBerry’s while getting set to sit down for lunch at a local Los Angeles hot spot. Â With the many fantastic views and atmosphere, it may be the last relaxing moment of the day for these GM’s.
And most wouldn’t have it any other way.
Red Wings forward Jason Williams surprises my aunt at our charity golf tournament
It was something that was unbelievable, but at the same time, somewhat not surprising, given the type of people they are.
As many of you may-or may not-know, I am a committee member for a charity golf tournament held each summer in Strathroy, Ontario in support of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Â Last year we raised $5,000 in our first year of the tournament, and yesterday, June 5th, was the second annual event.
Eight months of hard planning, a delicate high wire act of balancing teams, sponsors, donations, and other variables that you undoubtedly run into along the way, and it was all coming together on this day.
And everything was aligning itself to be a special day.
The tournament is played in memory of my uncle, Shawn Wade, who passed away a few years ago as a result of complications of a stroke. Â Among the many ways you could describe him, all of them positive, he was also a huge hockey fan. Â Having played competitively when he was younger, my uncle attached himself to the Detroit Red Wings, amazed by Gordie Howe and his skill and dogged determination.
He followed the Red Wings throughout his whole life, and when he met and eventually married my aunt, Mary, the two took great pride and enjoyment in frequenting “The Joe” and cheering on the famed Winged Wheel. Â And cheer they did.
They attended games live, and lived and breathed Wings hockey throughout their time together. Â A past time of faith which was rewarded to the tune of a few Stanley Cups along the way.
With the tournament about two weeks away, we had an idea, which in hindsight looked completely out to lunch.
While many didn't predict the Blackhawks and Flyers to be in the Stanley Cup Finals, there are plenty of historical facts that may prove the hockey Gods have decided this would be the match-up for the Stanley Cup before the year even started.
It will be confirmed during a 3PM press conference, but the Tampa Bay Lightning will announce their newest general manager as Steve Yzerman today. Yzerman will replace Brian Lawton who was fired last month. Yzerman worked for four seasons as Vice President and Alternate Governor for the Detroit Red Wings after retiring as a player in 2006.
Leafs prospect, Mikhail Stefanovich was quoted in an interview on the internet site of Belarussian newspaper, ‘Sports Panorma’ about his relationship with Patrick Roy, the Canadian lifestyle contrast and commentary on the people of Quebec City … the article also mentions his favorite NHL team, which isn’t the Maple Leafs.
Whichever way you cut it, the Leafs endured a torrid season that no statistical tinkering can mend. Regardless, if there is one thing most opposing NHL fans can agree on itâ€™s the increasing need for an overhaul in the leagues pointsâ€™ structure and the farcical awarding of points in the overall standings.
Where once every game had two points at stake, either by means of two for the win or split after an OT tie, the inclusion of an extra point for teams losing in OT or, more prevalently, after the shootout, has spawned an lopsided points structure that favours teams and coaches who adopt an cautious approach toward the end of regulation time that is the polar opposite of what was originally intended.
The Playoffs are about to start and what better time than now for the CFB predictions. We highlight every series with individual writers giving their own opinion on why or how a particular team can win the series. This is the Round 1 Predictions for the Western Conference.
The Playoffs are about to start and what better time than now for the CFB predictions. We highlight every series with individual writers giving their own opinion on why or how a particular team can win the series. This is the Round 1 Predictions for the Eastern Conference.
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