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Dion Phaneuf

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Why the Maple Leafs should make the playoffs in 2010-11‏

By: Joe Cino

Everything that could have gone wrong for the Maple Leafs in 2009-10 did. A combination of cold streaks, underperforming veterans, bad goaltending and a slew of injuries capped off a basement finish. The roster has been fine tuned, with additions like Giguere, Phaneuf and Versteeg chief among them, but by and large most of the roster is the same as last year’s iteration. With so many holdovers from the previous year, are the playoffs a realistic goal for the Maple Leafs? I believe that they are, with Corsi ratings, Goals versus Threshold and the realistic impact of the new Leafs taken into account.

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Great to see such an active group of readers. Here are a couple of FanPosts for your Friday afternoon reading enjoyment with today’s theme being youth, youth and more youth. Paul LeMay (B. Leaf) takes an in-depth look at the team’s organizational prospect depth while Chuck Johnson compares Nazem Kadri’s chances of making the NHL as a 2nd year player with those of previous high draft picks.

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    As you’ve probably noticed, the amount of content here on MLHS has slowed down a bit over the last little. We sincerely apologize for this and ask that you remain patient as many of our staff writers are working and re-working their drafts for the 2010 Maple Leafs Annual that comes out this fall. We ensure you that things will be back up and running at a regular pace soon. Now with that said, I do have a couple interesting figures to toss your way.

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    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.

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    - The Toronto Star has a nice piece up about Kadri’s offseason workouts and training regimen. The youngster has bulked up to an impressive 185 lbs, up from 170 lbs at this time last season and credits his success to being able to train regularly with Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel. The Maple Leafs player development staff are quite pleased with Nazem’s progress, as he continues to vie for a role in the team’s top six forward group.

    - Not to give away too many details, but I conducted my interview with Leafs’ Director of Amateur Scouting Dave Morrison yesterday for the 2010 Maple Leafs Annual and he confirmed that if Kadri does not make the team out of camp, the organization will send him to the Marlies rather than back to the Knights.

    - The Montreal Gazette provides some insight into how prospect Brayden Irwin, a late season NCAA free agent signee, is preparing for upcoming year.

    - CapGeek notes that the Maple Leafs have re-signed forward Tim Brent to a 1 year, two-way contract worth $575,000. Brent will likely provide some scoring depth for the Marlies, having scored 28 points in 33 games last season.

    - Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski confirms that the lack of movement on the free agent front is due to fact that several teams are facing financial restrictions. Free agents were aware that several teams were trying to offload cumbersome contracts, but were surprised at the lack of success in doing so. The teams trying to climb to the cap floor are preferring to do so by bidding on second or third tier players, which in turn is inflating the market for these secondary contributors. Several teams are in the “wait-and-see” mode with an eye on scooping up bargains around July 10th.

    [email protected]

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    As much of the league takes a post-draft/free agent frenzy breather for the Canada Day and July 4th long weekend, I figure I’ll spark some discussion with a bit of educated speculation. In talking to a source over the past week it’s been suggested to me that Brian Burke has a  deal or two on the table for scoring help involving a Leaf asset he’s struggling with the idea of parting with. It’s said at this time Burke is hoping desperation on the part of the involved GMs reduces the price on a few top six trade options as the off-season continues.

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    Trades are never won or lost when initially made, and tonight’s multi-player deal with Chicago is the very embodiment of that fact. Analyzing a deal that sent Kris Versteeg and Bill Sweatt to Toronto for Viktor Stalberg, Phillippe Paradis and Chris Didomenico involves a lot of subjective potential measurement.  Making the task more difficult is that two teams often come together to execute a trade for very different reasons in a salary cap era.

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      Next up: Fredrik Sjostrom, profiled by SkinnyFish:
      The Summary: Brought over from the Calgary Flames alongside Dion Phaneuf, Shoe Storm was initially overlooked in that deal as Phaneuf was the big name coming back. However it quickly became apparent that Sjobacca was just the man to fix the atrocious Maple Leafs’ penalty kill, something that he’s become one of the league’s best at.

      Read more here.

      The Discussion:

      Where do you see Schlitzstrom fitting in to the overall scheme of things for next season? Does he play low minutes on the 4th line and PK, or does he continue to play on the 3rd like he did this past season? After this year, do you think he should resigned for the 2011-12 season? Do you have any other awesome nicknames for him?

      Audience Participation:

      Rate Sjostrom’s performance last season on a scale of 1-10 relative to his potential and your expectations for the season.

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        We’ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to 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 feature Dion Phaneuf, profiled by Nikhil Daljeet:

        The Summary:

        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.  The trade that Brian Burke engineered for the newest Leafs captain has been generally heralded as a wise maneuver for his Toronto club.  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).  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.

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        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.

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          We’ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to 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. Next up we feature Tomas Kaberle, profiled by Chemmy:

          “The Summary: Where to start with Tomas Kaberle? He’s a four time all star including the last three times the games were played. He’s second all time in scoring for Toronto Maple Leafs defensemen.

          Kaberle’s scoring was instrumental in the Leafs first win of the season when he had a goal and four assists as part of a hot streak that saw him put up 22 points in his first 20 games. The opposite side of that coin is that to finish the season Tomas Kaberle scored two goals and had seven assists in 33 games; a stretch that saw the Leafs play 93 pt pace hockey. His slump started before the arrival of Dion Phaneuf but our new captain’s arrival begs the question: does Tomas Kaberle have a role on the Leafs in the future?

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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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            We’ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to 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 feature Garnet Exelby, profiled by Alex Tran.

            The Summary: Exelby came to Toronto from Atlanta as part of the Pavel Kubina trade last summer, when Brian Burke needed to clear cap space for the free agency season. Essentially viewed as a salary dump with one year left on his contract, Exelby was given a shot to show Leafs’ management that he could contribute to the team as a useful third pairing defender. But when you’re ranked 6th on the defensive depth chart for the 2nd worst defensive team in the NHL, you can imagine expectations were already pretty low.

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              Though the news in Leaf Nation has been relatively quiet of late, there have been a few intriguing storylines making the rounds. Joel Champagne will re-enter the draft, Nik Kulemin and the Maple Leafs have hit a contract impasse, Tomas Kaberle is reportedly gathering interest from a number of teams, and a member of the Toronto media raised a few eyebrows with a blog post regarding the relationship between Dion Phaneuf and Ron Wilson.

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              Yesterday was a big day in Leafs Nation.  And I think I speak for all fans when I say it’s about time.  While two teams are currently battling for the opportunity to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been forced to sit on the sidelines and watch, bide their time with the other half of the league who wasn’t fortunate enough to make into the NHL’s playoffs.

              And while they have kept themselves busy, and Brian Burke has shown a penchant for rarely letting his team slip into the background, a lot of hype has been leading toward this time of year.

              Even without a first-or second-round draft pick, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still making plenty of waves, and it appears Burke is fit to make an impression at the draft, whether he is selecting or not.

              Which, although he would never admit it, would be the perfect way to steal the spotlight back from the doom and gloom position of Boston using the Leafs pick to select a potential franchise cornerstone.

              Tomas Kaberle, long been rumoured to be on his way out of Toronto, may be inching closer and closer with each passing day.  As the calendar flipped to June yesterday, and now with the entry draft and free agency now firmly in sight on the horizon, it appears Kaberle’s time with the Toronto Maple Leafs is now being measured in days.

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                According to LA Kings beat writer Rich Hammond, it appears as if Kings winger Alexander Frolov is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. Citing an interview with Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi, Hammond explains that the team is “not optimistic” about their chances of retaining their young sniper. Should the Leafs be interested in his services?

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                (Author’s note: the intent of this analysis is not to ignore the great work of Nik Kulemin, I just couldn’t really find any particularly compelling or solvent data to include in this article. Also, I just graduated university, so for the 0 fans of my work who were wondering where I was…uhhh… drinking, mostly)

                The 2009 – 2010 season for the Toronto Maple Leafs was one of transition, the decrepit monolith created by John Ferguson Junior being thoroughly and carefully dismantled by Brian Burke in an attempt to bring back league-wide respect and playoff aspirations to the storied franchise we know and (as of late) begrudgingly love.

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                Ron Wilson, an alumnus from Providence College, was playing for Davos in the Swiss National League A in 1985 when pivotal Minnesota North Stars defenseman Craig Hartsburg was injured. Embroiled in a battle for a playoff spot, Minnesota were in tough to find a stabilizing replacement to hold down the North Stars backend whilst Hartsburg recovered. Ron Wilson, a standout collegiate defender who never rose above major league stopgap, became the go-to-guy having already played 13 games for the North Stars the season previous. A span that bullet pointed five seasons in Switzerland.

                A grizzled journeyman by age 30; Wilson would provide stellar coverage in Hartsburg’s absence securing an presence on the North Stars blueline in the 1986-’87 season before completing his NHL playing career with Minnesota a year later.

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                Those who know me can tell you I am an avid reader.  I devour books at a staggering pace, specializing in sports books and autobiographies mostly.  And as the warm weather approaches, and the hockey season gives way to deck weather, my reading habit ramps up considerably.

                Book of choice at the moment?  ”The Yankee Years”  by Joe Torre.  A fantastic account of life in the major leagues and life as the manager of one of the most popular, most traditional, and at times, most dysfunctional franchises in the world.

                Torre does an excellent job of taking readers behind the scenes of his time in New York, including a fist hand look of one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports.  That is, the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

                And that’s where the parallels started standing out to me as a Leafs fan.

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                During his first full year at the helm in Toronto, you could make the case that Brian Burke was the league’s most active general manager. There was the Kessel summer blockbuster with Boston and then the mega-deals on January 31st that brought in Phaneuf and Giguere. It’s quite obvious that he’s willing to expend assets to target any top notch premium young talent when it’s made available. Both of those trades were opportunities: Kessel was a restricted free agent on a team with cap issues. Burke often spoke of inquiring on Phaneuf several times throughout the year until the “pressure points” of the cap and the struggles of the Flames pushed Sutter into making a bold move. This summer should be no different. Let’s take a look at some of the young RFA’s that might potentially attract Burke’s interest.