Last season Brian Burke boldly stood in front of the media after trading Tomas Kaberle and made it clear, â€œGetting into the playoffs by the skin of your teeth and getting your ass kicked in the first round is not my idea of building a championship team here.â€
A little under a year later and 32 games into the next season, it's fair to begin evaluating whether the Leafs are playing hockey that would make them competitive in the playoffs or if they're doing just enough to make it and subsequently get their "ass kicked in the first round." At this point in the season, it seems a lot closer to the latter.
Systemically, the Leafs play to outscore the other team, instead of playing to win. [more…]
Quite the week and a lot to discuss, so we'll get right to it.
The most important thing to happen this week, believe it or not, was not the new ownership change, it was NHL realignment.
The Leafs will of course be playing the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning six times a year now, each. They already play four of these teams six times a year, but now they're adding 12 more division games. So you play 44% of your games within your grouping (I'm calling it that for now) and you only make the playoffs based on your point totals compared to those other teams. [more…]
If the Toronto Maple Leafs ownership group was one person, it would be pretty safe to say that win or lose, that one person is not losing any sleep over it at night. I'm okay with that. And you should be, too.
Full disclosure is necessary, and that's to say the John Ferguson Jr. hiring was terrible. There is no hiding behind that, and it is far and away the worst decision MLSE has ever made.
To their credit though, they turned it around and signed one of the premier General Managers in the NHL to follow that up, Brian Burke.
Whether you like Burke or not, from an ownership perspective, they've done their job. Beyond hiring Brian - who is not only a big-money acquisition, but one with a worthy resume of managing the Leafs - they've also stepped up financially in almost every department of Leafs management. [more…]
Something very interesting is unfolding with the Toronto Maple Leafs and it has nothing to do with anything they've done on the ice, or any of their players for that matter.
On November 19th, Brian Burke joined his friend and co-worker Ron Wilson by entering the Twitter world. They then proceeded to have a now-notorious exchange with Sun reporter Steve Simmons. The interesting thing here is not the exchange - that was immature, pitiful, funny, take your pick - what's intriguing is the new dynamic Twitter is creating and the paradigm shift that is beginning to take place.
Now, I should preface this by saying that maybe Brian Burke and Ron Wilson simply got Twitter because they want to interact with the fans and they think it's fun, maybe they are naive to the potential long term ramifications here and the trend they could be starting. But then again, Ron Wilson is a Providence College graduate and Brian Burke has a degree from Harvard, so they probably put some thought into this. [more…]
Phil Kessel is tired of losing, that much is clear.
In layman's terms, there are two types of hockey players: Those who love to win and those who hate to lose. It took Kessel some time, but he's become the second one.
Justin Bourne, who now runs The Score's blog "Backhand Shelf," discussed this concept last season over at Puck Daddy (viewÂ here). In it he says, "Here's the difference: It's like putting a cupcake between a chubby kid from a mansion on the hill, and some wiry starving kid from the streets. They both want the cupcake. But our portly friend isn't fighting to the death over the damn thing. He might take a swing or two, but in the end, he knows if he doesn't get this one another will come along eventually. And that's when the wiry punk kicks him in the groin and one-bites the entire cupcake." [more…]
Who could have expected this? Come on now, be honest. Reimer, Armstrong, Grabovski, MacArthur, Lombardi and Komisarek all missing from the lineup, yet we do this to a team that is pegged for Stanley Cup glory? Sure, they are also in a midst of a crisis, but come on. This was a wonderful night on which every Leafs fan could simply enjoy hockey.
Everyone collectively take a deep breath, and hold it..
....Hold it a little longer...
.. Now, exhale.
You can relax, there is no need to panic.
The Leafs are 17 games into the season, they are 10-6-1 and they've hit a rough patch. Nobody thought this team was going to play great all season, did they? Yes, there are many troubling signs (which I'll get to), but there are also a ton of positives (which we'll look at first).
All the Leafs have managed to do at this point - and it isn't much - is not blow their playoff chances. They've built up a slight cushion, but the New Jersey Devils sit in ninth, four points behind the Leafs with two games in hand. If anyone thought the Leafs gave themselves a ton of breathing room with their solid start, consider that your reality check. [more…]
These might not be the same old Leafs, but it is looking like the same old Leaf penalty kill.
At this stage of the season, I maintain a couple of things as I write this: it's still very, very early, and the Leafs are adjusting to a new penalty killing scheme which is bound to cause mix-ups and missed assignments early in the season. So I don't think this penalty kill is completely doomed, but I do think there is a lot of work to be done.
First let's look at penalty killing in it's most basic form. At the youngest of ages you are taught how to form a box on the penalty kill. You make a box because you can keep the play to the outside and it allows you to have two guys down low to protect the net, and two guys up high to keep the defensemen honest and to take away point shots. [more…]
Happy Halloween, everyone!
Quite a four games of hockey for the Leafs. I said last week that I would be interested to see how the Leafs did against some formidable competition and they finished 2-2-0 on the week. That's not bad at all but there's certainly room for improvement. There were a lot of positives from this week (that have probably been lost in translation considering the Leafs lost Sunday night) to go along with some glaring negatives too. Let's take a look at some of the things that have been going on. [more…]
I wasn't really sure how to start my first post here at MLHS as half of me wanted to completely introduce myself, and the other half wanted me to just get right into my first article. I guess I'll settle somewhere in between.I've been doing my own blog for quite some time (called the Leafs Dressing Room) and Alec saw it and approached me about writing here. First and foremost, that's really humbling. Secondly, I think this site constantly pumps out quality work and has great readership. I enjoy reading the articles here as much as I do the comments because of the informed followers, which is what drew me to writing here.
My first post is something that will become a weekly feature here. I call it 'Leafs Notebook.' It was a feature I started on my blog, where each week I go through all the games Toronto participates in and record my observations, counter people's misconceptions (in my book), analyze what the Leafs are and aren't doing well, point out interesting stats, and so on. It's supposed to be a fun read that encourages thought and discussion and it's something I really enjoy doing each week. I hope you guys like it too and I look forward to interacting with all of you in one way or another.
Enough of that though, it was a busy week in Leaf land. Considering they didn't play very well for close to three of the four games, the fact that they went 2-1-1 is pretty good. I should note that I covered the Colorado game in last weeks notes, so these only focus on the Jets-Bruins-Habs games: [more…]
The sweetness of the result of this game, a dramatic overtime victory over an ever-hated rival in the most intense game of the season, was overshadowed by a black cloud in the form of James Reimer's injury situation. It had all the makings of a concussion and has sparked a bit of a Steckel-on-Crosby "did he or didn't he" debate over Brian Gionta's intent. The initial word is that it's whiplash for Reimer, the same injury he suffered against Atlanta early in his Leaf career, so let's hope the recovery is going to be equally as quick. [more…]
The Toronto Maple Leafs met their first serious opponentÂ this season, facing the defending champions, the Boston Bruins, last night at TD Garden. It was a wake-up call for the Leafs, who have mostly faced non-playoff teams as opponents and have receivedÂ out worldly performances from Phil Kessel to save the game for them, game-after-game. Toronto has had glaring issues with their specialty teams, and even their 5-on-5 play, that has to be raising big concern for the players and coaches involved despite a 4-1-1 start. Facing the Boston Bruins brought this team back to earth and revealed a number of areas in need of work, merely covered up by Phil Kessel's dominance in the four games preceding last night's tilt.
It's not inconceivable that the Leafs would have had a 1-4 or 2-3 record going into the game against Boston if not for their offensive leader's best streak in a Leafs sweater. This team has not clicked as a unit from game one and it finally caught up with them in the form of anÂ embarrassing 6-2 loss.Â There was very little to like about Toronto's game and, as has become tradition, Toronto's stacked defence core largely underperformed. [more…]