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After what seemed like a lifetime of waiting for fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the new look squad hit the ice Thursday night for their home opener against the arch rival Montreal Canadiens, and with it marked the true dawning of a new age in Leafs Nation.
While it’s true the hiring of Ron Wilson and Brian Burke will go down as the day the team began to turn the page on years of management misfortune, and the Dion Phaneuf day could very well end up being the trade that sparks the team forward much like the Doug Gilmour trade before it, Thursday night’s season premiere was really the first time since all this has taken place that it was truly a different roster.
Gone were the incumbents of past regimes, It was finally Brian Burke’s team. Â Having flipped the entire roster (sans Tomas Kaberle and Jeff Finger) Burke’s vision of the team could finally be implemented, his stamp beginning to form.
And it was, for one game at least, as advertised.
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.
Bring On Training Camp!
The Toronto Maple Leafs held their on-ice portion of training camp today. Players have been split into three squads to accommodate the 63 players invited to camp.
Among the contingent of fans outside the ice surface at the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence was a throng of media and of course, Leafs staff.
Image c/o J.P. Nikota / PensionPlanPuppets.com
“Being a kid growing up just outside Toronto, you always want to play for your team you watched growing up, and Toronto’s my team.”
It was one of the last things Andrew Engelage said after a lengthy discussion at the Ricoh Coliseum, but it definitely resonated the loudest.
There’s nothing quite like the story of the home-grown athlete. Everyone likes asking Oakville’s John Mitchell what it’s like to put on the Leafs sweater every day, or trying to find some way to relate to Jesse Blacker’s being drafted by his local club. But when adversity is thrown into the mix, when a player has to go through some degree of hardship to make it to not only the level he wants to be, but for the team he wants to play for, that’s when a story becomes a best seller.
Last Wednesday (September 1st), Toronto’s MasterCard Centre for Excellence, the Maple Leafs’ own practice facility, played host to the 2010 NHLPA Rookie Symposium in association with trading card leaders Upper Deck and Panini America. MLHS’ own Gus Katsaros was in attendance, and has kindly provided audio from his own conversation, as well as portions of a larger media scrum Q&A, with Leafs’ top prospect Nazem Kadri.
And here you thought a magazine couldn't have add-on features.
Midway through the month of July, I had the privilege of chatting with Dave Poulin, Vice President of Hockey Operations with the Toronto Maple Leafs, for an article appearing in Maple Leafs Annual.
Having a professional background in publishing, I was not the least surprised that limitations on available space, plus design and layout constraints, resulted in the necessity to crop certain parts of the interview.
With the Annual due to hit stores next week, I thought I’d share a few of the “lost excerpts” from the cutting room floor in which Poulin offers his thoughts on the progress of the Toronto Marlies, as well as the emergence of the NCAA as a growing prospect pipeline.
Think of it as the equivalent of a “DVD extra” to your copy of MLA.
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
$12.99, 128 pages, no ads, all Leafs.
The Maple Street Press Maple Leafs Annual is back for it’s second edition, jam packed with even more Leafs coverage, analysis and inside access than the year before. Preorders will ship on August 17 and include a $5.00 shipping charge. Yes, Kaberle remained a Leaf by the final deadline, because apparently it was just SO out of the way for Burke to deal him at our convenience. It matters not, just read some of these highlights:
Detailed player by player scouting information, advanced statistics and innovative statistical graphics for the 2010-11 roster
An interview with GM Brian Burke on change and the outlook for 2010-11
A look at the controversial legacy of 1960s Leafs head coach Punch Imlach, with reflections from Leaf greats Johnny Bower, Red Kelly, Dick Duff, Larry Hillman & more
A position by position look at the 2010-11 Leafs roster
The inside scoop on the Leafs’ 2010 off-season additions, organizational philosophy and evaluation with Leafs Vice President of Hockey Operations Dave Poulin
A review of the 2010 draft with the perspective of Leafs head scout Dave Morrison
Statistical analysis of the importance of first round picks: can the Leafs go their own way?
Analysis of the Leafs’ cap situation with looks at the constitution of past Cup winners
A Nazem Kadri feature (including thoughts from Morrison and director of player development Jim Hughes) & list of the Leafs’ Top Prospects in Fall 2010 & Darkhorses
An interview with potential sixth round steal Jerry D’Amigo
- An in-depth look at the Marlies’ season that was and will be with thoughts from head coach Dallas Eakins, Poulin, Jay Rosehill and Tim Brent
- Projections for the Leafs offense and defense
- An in-depth, goalie-by-goalie scouting evaluation of Leaf netminders (Gustavsson, Giguere, Scrivens, Reimer, Rynnas) with The Goalie Guild’s Justin Goldman
- Takes on how new media is changing coverage of the team with thoughts from MLSE social media strategist Jonathan Sinden
Ensure yourself a copy of the Maple Leafs Annual here. Take the jump for a full list of authors – the best of the best from across the Barilkosphere and beyond.
Since joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brian Burke has worked feverishly to distance the club from the atmosphere of mediocrity which pervaded during the years of mismanagement that came before.
While upgrading the playing staff and reducing the age demographic of the locker room are the two most apparent hallmarks Burke has placed upon the Leafs, his backstage upgrading of the administrative, coaching, scouting and medical departments have the potential to leave considerably longer legacies.
Colby Armstrongâ€™s shiny new 3-year, $9,000,000 contract with the Maple Leafs has been the focus of much debate over the past month. Leaving the contract argument aside, it would be prudent to take a look at Armstrongâ€™s advanced statistics in 2009-10, so that we might better gauge our expectations for the coming season. Thanks to BehindtheNet.ca for these fantastic statistics.
Quality of Competition (QoC) and Quality of Teammates (QoT) were very important stats when analyzing the potential impact that Kris Versteeg could have for the Maple Leafs. In Versteegâ€™s case, the QoT stat helped us understand his modest offensive numbers and how they might be improved in Toronto. However, they can tell a different story, namely that of defensive responsibility. Armstrongâ€™s QoT was an astoundingly low -0.119. These stats are calculated with advanced +/- statistics being compared between their linemates throughout the season. As before, it is important to note the linemates Armstrong had to work with (courtesy of DobberHockey.com):
Kris Versteeg has undoubtedly been the prize pick up for the Maple Leafs thus far this offseason. Youâ€™ve heard all the basics by now. Heâ€™s great in the dressing room, he plays all three forward positions, he produces under pressure and heâ€™s a back-to-back 20 goal scorer. At age 24, these are all impressive qualities, but now the real question is: how he will fare in the Maple Leafsâ€™ system?
The topic on the tip of everyone’s tongue in Toronto has been the future of Maple Leafs’ defenseman Tomas Kaberle. Long-rumoured to be a candidate for trade — primarily due to the relative weakness of the roster surrounding him, post-lockout — most are convinced it will be his departure which resolves not only the logjam on the Leafs’ blueline, but also the need for a scoring forward.
While nobody can say for sure where Kaberle will end up, there has been loads of speculation pertaining to multiple destinations of late. The temporary expiration of Kaberle’s No-Trade Clause has, naturally, expanded that list considerably.
The following is a breakdown of the most commonly-speculated rumours surrounding Kaberle’s future: why the rumours are plausible, why they are not, and my own take on the likelihood of such a deal in each circumstance.
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.
Somewhat surprisingly, there has been a fair amount of debate over yesterday’s signing of Colby Armstrong.
I find this interesting becauseÂ much of the criticism seems to revolve around the notion of $3m equating to more than a 15 goal career average, even though Armstrong wasn’t exactly acquired for his offensive prowess.Â Â The main criticism seems to be, why would the team be willing to make a $9 million investment over 3 years, when similar production can likely be found at a cheaper rate?
Now, it seems most decided to stop at that point and take the easy road; that being negativity for the sake of negativity (a known idiosyncrasy of Canadian hockey fans).Â But instead of screaming “WHY did they sign him?”, I propose a different question:Â Why DID they sign him?
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. Â 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.
For Greg McKegg, nothing has necessarily come easy in his hockey career. Â A slow start to his rookie campaign in Erie, followed by a knee injury which threatened the start of his season this past year, McKegg began the year as a winger for the Erie Otters that ISS ranked in the 90′s.
It was something that McKegg couldn’t not think about, no matter how much he tried.
“It’s something you try not to think about too much really, but you can’t help but look. Â It was disappointing to see that for sure, but I think it gives you that edge to work harder and show people that you deserve to be higher up on the list.”
And that is exactly what he did.
Being described by some in the hockey circles as a perennial underdog, McKegg did the only thing he knew how to do. Â Work hard.
It’s been a hot topic, and a touchy one at that for the better part of almost a year, since the day the trade was consummated. Â The Toronto Maple Leafs, toward the end of the pre-season, announced that they had traded two firsts and a second round pick to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Phil Kessel, a young American born sniper who the B’s were having issues resigning.
It was a steep price to pay, but you have to give to receive, and in Kessel the Leafs got a bona fide goal scorer who looks like he could be a perennial 30 goal scorer (more on that later.)
And yet some people have cast Kessel to fail, no matter what impact he has on the Leafs, attaching him forever to the trade that brought him here.
This past week, Bill Watters took that to the extreme, and took a piece of integrity written journalism and turned into something sensational and downright wrong, all in the name of making Phil Kessel look as bad as possible because he doesn’t agree with the trade.
It was a quiet Day One at the 2010 NHL Draft for the Maple Leafs, but the team stepped up its game in a big way on Saturday afternoon. The club wheeled and dealed its way into the 2nd round of the draft and through some crafty maneuvering in the later rounds, managed to add seven new players into the organization.
The Leafs were able to significantly upgrade their depth up front, by grabbing six forwards to go with one defenseman. Surprisingly, Leafs’ Swedish scout Thommie Bergman had a big day, selecting three players from the Swedish leagues.
Weâ€™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 Colton Orr, profiled by Alec Brownscombe:
Acquired via free agency on a 4-year, $4 million contract last July 1, Colton Orr arrived in Toronto to operate as the club’s resident heavyweight, a position left unoccupied since fan favourite Wade Belak was shipped to Florida in February, 2008.
What the Leafs were said to be getting in Orr was not only a player with a winning track record as a pugilist (he was voted as either winning or tying 15 of his 18 fights in 2008-09 according to hockeyfights.com), but also a player capable of skating a regular fourth line shift due to his forechecking energy, passable on-the-puck abilities, and defensive diligence.
Weâ€™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 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.Â The trade that Brian Burke engineered for the newest Leafs captain has been generally heralded as a wise maneuver for his Toronto club.Â 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).Â 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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