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hockey

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I was recently invited to a Canadian Tire press conference announcing their new five-year partnership with the NHL to become the League’s Official Sporting Goods Retailer of the NHL in Canada. While I was unable to attend the event, which included a one-on-one interview with Olympic Gold Medalist and Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Toews, the promotion company generously offered a media release for the site.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs 2010 rookie tournament is coming to London, Ontario and Maple Leafs Hot Stove is pleased to announce that we will have exclusive, unprecedented coverage of the event!

Just confirmed earlier tonight, I will be in attendance at the John Labatt Centre for the duration of the tournament, providing up to date news from the rookie tournament for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as the other competing teams (Pittsburgh, Ottawa, and Chicago.)

As part of our exclusive coverage, I am pleased to announce that we will have game day previews, game day recaps, live blogs, live tweeting, as well as exclusive interviews with some of the Leafs biggest rookies and prospects.

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In part three of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth looks at whether Mike Komisarek can rebound from a tumultuous first season in Blue and White.

It’s no secret that Brian Burke likes his hockey teams to be, for the most part, big, nasty, and in your face physical.  He also has a penchant for looking for players from his home country of the United States, but as he said, he would sign players who were from the moon if they could play the game.

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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;

“Our picks in our vision of where we ended up are overvalued in accordance to the available crop of prospects.”

But in Toronto, to admit that in what’s deemed as a ‘rebuild’ would have been a PR disaster.

Despite popular opinion, he wasn’t wrong.

The world is no longer flat, it’s round .. like a full-cirle

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In part one of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at whether the Maple Leafs new captain can return to form.

January 31st will forever be a day that will have historical significance for the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise, and all its fans.  How large of a significance it will have in the grand scheme of things has yet to be determined, but in many ways, it could be argued that it was the day the franchise turned the corner.

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*Warning:  More analysis and opinion concerning the Kovalchuk decision. For those who want to talk hockey, as opposed to the now perpetual indiscretions of the league office etc. Alex has a post beneath.

When Richard Bloch decided to rule in the favour of the NHL in the case of Ilya Kovalchuk and the ridiculous contract, he set in place a new precedent that the league hope will stem the flow of cap-circumventing front loaded contracts. In lieu of a concrete definition, the cover-all bases nature of Bloch’s ruling was expected to draw a line under the types of long, frontloaded contracts the NHL saw as detrimental to the spirit of equality the CBA and its salary cap was supposed to theoretically harbour.

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 As the systemic dismantling of this summer’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), Monday’s exit of Antti Niemi from the Chicago Blackhawks has helped turn the club into the latest martyr’s of the cap.

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    On Sunday August 29, the Pavilion Ice Arena in Thornhill will host the Hockey 4 Life Tournament in support of Chai Lifeline Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to easing the burden on families whose children are suffering from serious illness.  Last year’s tournament included former Leafs Mike Bullard, Mike Johnson, Gary Leeman, and Ric Nattress.

    If interested in participating in the tournament, you may register as an individual player, register an entire team, sponsor a player or team, or make a general donation to the event. Volunteers are also needed for the tournament.

    About the Charity:
    Chai Lifeline Canada offers “counseling for each member of the family, Big Brothers and Big Sisters who bring an extra measure of adult attention and stability to children’s lives, tutoring for children who must miss school for extended periods of time, family retreats, special sibling programs, information, peer and professional support, and two extraordinary summer camp programs for seriously ill children to help families retain a sense of normalcy and hope while fighting even the most dire pediatric diseases.”

    More Information:
    Tournament Details | Rules & Format | How To Register | Volunteer | Sponsor | Donate

    Hat tip to MLHS reader Charlie for forwarding the event info.

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    by Michael Cuttell

    Put your hand up if you think the Leafs are only one or two pieces away from winning a Stanley Cup this year. OK, I admire your enthusiasm, but put your hands down! There’s actually a good reason I’ve posed this question and I’ll come to it again in just a minute. With the long awaited Kaberle trade still looming, many in Leafs Nation have asked the question: If he could be had so cheaply, why didn’t Burke sign Frolov? The answer is that he didn’t want him; and trust me Leafs’ fans, you don’t want him either!

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    Leafs Preseason Synopsis Part 1  – Defense and Goaltending

    By: Michael Cuttell

    With free agency cooling off and countless free-agent and team roster questions floating around, it’s time for Leafs fans to look at what they have, what they can afford to lose , what they need, and what they can realistically get to fill those needs. This is a step by step speculative analysis of those questions.

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    Kris Versteeg has undoubtedly been the prize pick up for the Maple Leafs thus far this offseason. You’ve heard all the basics by now. He’s great in the dressing room, he plays all three forward positions, he produces under pressure and he’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 Leafs’ system?

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    The book has (finally) closed on the Ilya Kovalchuk saga, as the Russian winger elected to remain with the New Jersey Devils.  This ends weeks of mind-numbing speculation and rumour-rehashing, including a recent explosion of news in the hockey world that had all signs pointing towards Los Angeles.  Thus, while there will be some surprise that Kovalchuk did not head down south, the overwhelming feeling amongst hockey fans today will be relief.  A side-effect of Kovalchuk’s prolonged decision-making has been the absolute cessation of any other hockey activity.  The dam should finally burst as the remaining free agents and possible trades will now be explored further by the league’s general managers.

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    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.

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    Maybe it was indicative of how fragile the Leafs psyche had become after relinquishing such an unexpectedly high draft pick to the Bruins, or maybe it was just a reaction to the mid-summer boredom brought upon as the Kovalchuk saga stop-gaped the NHL trade wires, but the recent trade rumours surrounding Luke Schenn suggests a seismic shift has taken place in Leafs Nation with regards to the future and how to obtain long sought after success.

    One that seems to have embraced a cap defiant means of rebuilding in an age of tank-to-win.

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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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    Even with news breaking this afternoon of Ilya Kovalchuk’s new $60 million contract extension (potentially) with the New Jersey Devils, this 2010 free agency period has been one of the most uneventful and slow-developing offseasons in recent memory. The reason being? Despite a mediocre at best free agent group, there simply isn’t enough money to pay these guys what they’re probably worth. As one unnamed NHL General Manager put it last week: “The teams with cap don’t have cash and the teams with cash don’t have cap”. The Maple Leafs however, are fortunate enough to have both, and have the opportunity to exploit the market to their advantage.

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    The two greatest military tacticians of the past 5000 years – Sun Tzu and Sgt. Slaughter – both spoke on the value of knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your enemies in the field.  To effectively assess the situational realities of the Toronto Maple Leafs it pays to look at the status of their direct competition within the Northeast division.  Playing 24 games against teams from their own division, pride, points and position are all on the line.  While by no means comprehensive (as yet), take a gander at the past 3 weeks of moves.

    The Canadians, Senators, Bruins and Sabres all earned playoff positions last season.  A successful, playoff calibre Leafs squad must commit themselves to dominating these frequent opponents as more than a quarter of the season will be played against them.

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    On the eve of unrestricted free agency, the Maple Leafs made a big first move to upgrade their forward group. According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the club has swung a deal to acquire Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg and prospect Billy Sweatt in exchange for winger Viktor Stalberg, along with forward prospects Chris Didomenico and Philipe Paradis.

    Versteeg, still just 24 years of age, will instantly become a big component of the Maple Leafs’ core moving forward. He has two seasons of 20+ goals under his belt already, and is under contract for two more years at $3.08 million per season.

    Meanwhile, Sweatt, the Blackhawks’ 2007 2nd round pick, was ranked as the 7th best prospect in the Chicago farm system by Hockey’s Future. He is described as a talented two-way player with top end speed and finishing ability on the rush. By all accounts, Sweatt is also an excellent defensive player and effective penalty killer, which should ease the pain of losing Paradis.

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    For Greg McKegg, nothing has necessarily come easy in his hockey career.  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.  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.  Work hard.

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    Brian Burke must have felt a lot like the eponymous Old Mother Hubbard when he first reached into the Leafs prospects cupboard. Of course, unlike the elderly dog-mistreating crone of the rhyme, Burke already knew what lay in stock prior to his arrival in Leafs country. In short: a few notable exceptions to a decade of draft property mismanagement.

    Subsequently, the draft of 2009 looked to be a vital cornerstone in Brian Burke’s rebuild. The first chance for the Leafs to restock in a new, finally directed era.