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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.
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 Phil Kessel, profiled by Garrett Bauman.
Acquired via a controversial trade during the 2009 offseason in which three draft picks were sent to the Bruins, Kessel rebounded from shoulder surgery to become the Maple Leafs go-to guy in the offensive zone.
Despite missing a month of the season, the electrifying 22-year old winger led the Maple Leafs in several offensive categories while providing the team with a legitimate scoring threat — and their first 30-goal scorer of the post-Sundin era.
Only 22, Kessel has a bright future ahead of him and many suspect it will be only a matter of time before 40-goal seasons become the norm.
An active voice in the betterment of the sport of hockey, Brian Burke has three rule change proposals according to Darren Dreger. And I like all three, with some trepidation.
It was a light day practice wise as the optional skate drew only a handful of players to the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence.
I attended practice at the MasterCard Center for Hockey Excellence, watching a loose group of players reveling in the 4-1 win over their provincial arch rivals. It all began with a loose skate, just a warm-up involving firing some pucks off the boards along the way.
Pretty obvious choice this week, with two shutout wins making history after poured into Leafs silks.
J.S. Giguere stabilized the crease with immediate impact in a record setting arrival. The NHL draped him with second star of the week honours. Heâ€™s been rewarded and praised.
So, I’m going off the board.
Despite modest numbers in terms of offensive production, winger Nikolai Kulemin has made great strides in becoming a indispensible, two-way threat that all winning teams require. The young Russian worked up the hopes of Leafs Nation with a dazzling array of speed, skill and finishing ability in various Youtube highlight reels prior to coming over to the NHL, but it’s been his tremendous effort, work ethic and defensive play over here that has won me over thus far this season.
I’ve been watching Luke Schenn closely this season, looking for creep of the sophomore jinx. Everyone is a little banged up at his junction of the schedule, but he might be playing through some hurt. The rust is off in the NHL, and players are hitting stride, making the young blueliner vulnerable as the games get more intense.
With Kessel and Gustavsson integrating themselves into the lineup, the team seems poised to break off a big-time run to put themselves back into the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture. The team is playing very well of late and continued to build on that with an impressive 5-1 victory at home against the Detroit Red Wings on Hall of Fame night.
Update: During post-game media scrum, Wilson says Komisarek’s injury not serious.
The Maple Leafs are creative. You have to hand it to them for finding new ways to lose games all the time. In the home opener against Montreal, it was sloppy turnovers and poor special teams leading to a blown late third period lead. On Saturday night, they decided to pack it away early against the Caps before going on a late run at the end to make the score more respectable. Tonight, it was a listless effort physically and emotionally, creating virtually nothing in the way of offense and falling victim to a pair of strange plays.
Despite eight new faces in tonight’s season opening lineup against the Montreal Canadiens, many of the recurring themes of futility from last year were evident again in the 4-3 overtime loss. Poor defensive zone coverage, poor penalty killing, questionable moments in the net, and the snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory late in the game. Despite the disappointing loss, there were a few bright spots: namely the play of the top line led by Matt Stajan and Viktor Stalberg.
I had the privilege of a great view from the Gold section, ten rows off the ice to witness a fairly decent game with plenty of positives. It was my first time in the lower bowl, so it was certainly an exciting and interesting experience to see how the other side lives. Impressive performances carried over from the rookie tournament by Tyler Bozak, the game’s first star, and fellow collegiate rookie Viktor Stalberg.
Leafs coach, Ron Wilson made it clear, Nazem Kadri will not be getting a nine-game audition this season, just to be sent down to the OHL London Knights. Answering questions in the media scrum after the scrimmage at training camp in the Mastercard Centre of Hockey Excellence, Wilson was adamant about being against an audition for the young pivot. In order to stick with the Leafs, the 1st round pick in the 2009 draft will have to beat out one of Mikhail Grabovski, or Matt Stajan for a top-6 role in order to stick, and as of Wilson right now, both are â€˜way aheadâ€™ of Kadri for a spot at the moment.
Kadri will get every opportunity to earn a top-6 spot, but unless he completely overwhelms, expect to see him in London for the entire season.
More notes from Training Camp, Day 2.
The Maple Leafs began on-ice workouts today at their new practice facility, the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence.
Iâ€™ve been given credentials and was on site for the first day and will be attending all three days of on ice practice.
The following are a series of notes from Day 1 â€¦
I won’t go into a lot of detail about the game itself, as Alec covered that quite well.
The news, for the most part, was good.Â Â Many of the Leafs’ prospects were impressive in their bids to earn a spot on the big club and/or the Marlies.Â Â The following is a quick summation of some of the things that stood out to me from my vantage point at the game.
Remember the way back in the day when the “Can’t Beat Cujo” signs filled the ACC on those passionate, rambunctious (always wanted to use this word) Saturday nights? Well tonight, we got a brief glimpse of the glory days as Joseph turned in a magnificient performance down the stretch to steal a point away from Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
So much for easing Justin Pogge into his second start against the low-scoring Minnesota Wild. With that degree of spotty defensive coverage, even the lowest of low-scoring teams would’ve lit up the Leafs for 5+ goals last night.
Coughing up the lead late two games in a row is obviously a bit disconcerting considering the history of this team in that respect. But this pre-season is about shaking lingering habits from the former era and, as PPP points out, this is the perfect opportunity for Ron Wilson to kick some of these tendencies. That’s not to mention the fact that tonight’s collapse was largely the result of some rookie mistakes on the part of John Mitchell and Justin Pogge, who played great games otherwise.