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hockey

    34

    Leafs-related news has slowed to a crawl during the final weeks of the offseason, and this year’s summer movie scene has been rather unspectacular.   I propose a cure for both maladies:  a hockey movie to fill the void of a puck-deprived offseason, complete with all the excitement of a sports flick and all the truculence of an action blockbuster.

    And so, without further ado, here is the game-day casting call for your 2009-10 Toronto Maple Leafs.

    A tip o’ the hat to Don over at Mondesi’s House for the inspiration.

      129

       Jeff Finger’s name may be rampant with tireless innuendo, but few Leafs fans were laughing when interim GM Cliff Fletcher tied the unknown, but apparently much coveted Colorado Avalanche defenseman to a four year, $14 million contract in the summer of 2008.

      Working out at $3.5 million a year, the ultra late developing Finger went from no name, to fifth highest earner on the blue ribbon Leafs payroll creating a maelstrom of discontent amongst fans that remains to this day.

      From full term college player and three year AHL blue liner with only 94 games of (then) experience in the big leagues, Finger quickly became synonymous as the “man with the contract,” reddening faces further still in the land of blue and white where the overpay became talk of free agency.

        1

        A few days ago, we took a brief look at some of Gabriel Desjardins’ statistical work from behindthenet.ca. Using the junior hockey performance translator, we managed to project the future AHL/NHL impact for some of the Leafs’ bright young stars. The best and brightest of those stars is a 21 year old Czech forward by the name of Jiri Tlusty, a player who is going to take Leafs Nation by storm in the upcoming seasons. And now, I’m going to show you why.

          49

          It took me the weekend to devour and fully appreciate the Maple Leafs Annual, after receiving it late last week. So many different perspectives and writing styles between pieces don’t flatter the sheer magnitude of what’s actually been accomplished here and how much I believe Leafs fans will love the entire publication.

            34

            Aside from the occasional hardcore junior hockey followers, the majority of NHL fans will track the progress of their team’s top young prospects through highlight clips or boxscores. For the most part, the development and potential NHL impact of a young player then becomes a function of the amount of goals and assists they record at that level. I mean heck, it’s hard for Islanders fans to look at the 356 points that John Tavares has scored over the past 3 seasons in the OHL without getting excited. And rightfully so. All indications are that he’s going to be a very special player for a long, long time.

            On the flip side, you’ve also got the purists who value a keen scouting eye to judge traits such as leadership ability, instincts, emotional drive, among other skills that cannot be represented numerically. Back in March, when news spread of Tavares breaking the all-time OHL goal scoring record held by Peter Lee, the first reaction by many was “Who the heck is Peter Lee?” Just some guy who scored 81 goals and 161 points in his last junior season is all… Well, point taken. Stats and numbers don’t mean everything, but the question is: how much DO they mean?

              3796

              Maple Leaf prospect Matt Frattin is drawing plenty of headlines this summer… but unfortunately, it’s for the wrong reasons. For the second time this summer, the University of North Dakota forward was arrested by local police, and this latest incident resulted in Frattin’s dismissal from the school’s men’s hockey program.

                574

                Today was the deadline for Tomas Kaberle’s NTC lift, and he is still a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. While some fans were demanding for an immediate rebuild with some youth in return for a trade for Kaberle, others notice how strong the current Leafs defense core has the potential to be and are curious to see how Kaberle can perform with a physical presence around him. Brian Burke is among those who are interested. “I look forth to seeing what Tomas can do with a little more size and toughness around him when he’s not picking his teeth out of the glass all night.”

                  87

                  Hitting the links bright and early on a Thursday morning: Jim Balsillie and the city of Hamilton get new life, Kadri’s WJC tryout experience, an update on the Justin Pogge situation, Leafs sign a young defenseman, a mid-summer recap of the offseason festivities, and the Marlies coaching staff announced.

                    186

                    This isn’t exactly the typical blog you’ll find here at MLHS, but I figured it was definitely something worthwhile to share. I recently came across an extremely well written excerpt from the book, The Joy of Sports, by author Michael Novak. While not relating directly to hockey or the Maple Leafs, it is certainly a reflective piece with an interesting philosophical twist that speaks to the needs, desires and hopes of the common sports fan.    

                      47

                      Although the season prior to lockout would prove the Maple Leafs last playoff foray in half a decade, neither year that straddled the infamous labor disputes would be remembered with any particular fondness. Ushering in the reign of John Ferguson Jr., 2003-04 became, in hindsight, a defining landmark in an era of decline when overblown hype would manifest a country club malaise. Regardless, those lockout sandwiching years can also be remembered, at least in a very in a small way, for the gracing of the Toronto blue line by a cult stay at home defenseman who defied the “new” NHL dictum and refused to be culled from the game.

                        395

                        Over the course of the offseason, the Maple Leafs have made several moves to ensure the focus they have placed on grit, heart, and tenacious play at the NHL level will extend to the AHL Marlies as well.

                        The team has re-signed Marlies’ stalwarts Darryl Boyce, Andre Deveaux, Alex Foster, and team captain Ben Ondrus, as well as rugged waiver acquisition (and recent Memorial Cup winner) Richard Greenop, and free agents Jay Rosehill and Tim Brent.    All are hopeful that solid play at the AHL level will result in NHL opportunities during the course of the season.

                          76

                          It wasn’t long ago when Todd Bertuzzi, Markus Naslund, and Brendan Morrison were the talk of the league. They were arguably the best line in hockey during the 2002-03 season as the trio not only set career highs, but collectively posted 119 goals and 133 assists for 252 points. Not bad for one line. But since the lockout and the Steve Moore incident, every single one of their careers began to go downhill with a heap of steam.

                            171

                            Although it has been widely reported that Farjestads BK forward Rickard Wallin is considering leaving Sweden to return to the NHL, and that the team interested in bringing him back to North America is the Toronto Maple Leafs, there is no definite timetable on when he might sign.

                            One would assume a decision is likely to happen within the next week.   Wallin’s four year contract with Farjestads includes a clause which allows him to sign with an NHL team, but that clause is only in effect until July 15th.

                              1269

                              The Ottawa Citizen‘s reporting “speculation” that Dominic Moore is interested in a return to the Maple Leafs this summer. Presumably, if Moore is interested then he’ll be ready to accept Burke’s terms that he walked away from at the deadline. However, since the deadline we’ve seen John Mitchell ably step into Moore’s former role as a third line center that can provide a solid two-way presence as well as some offensive impetus. It seems that the third line center role is Mitchell’s for the taking at the start of the season. There could be other options available in terms of availing a roster spot such as parting ways with Matt Stajan, who has been rumoured to be on Burke’s summer shopping block.

                                98

                                The Toronto Maple Leafs’ first draft under the watchul eye of Brian Burke displayed a stark change in the team’s draft philosophy. The scouting staff searched for the type of players and attributes that would be able to fit into the mold of a tough, physical checking style of game that the Leafs hope to play several years down the road. As a result, we saw a lot more emphasis placed on size and toughness than skill and speed. Not surprisingly, all of Toronto’s seven selections were from the North American ranks, four of them from the Ontario Hockey League and three from American hockey programs.

                                  46

                                  Even in the days of modern technology, many still profess that meteorology is an inexact science more guess work than theory. The very same can be said when scouting goaltenders. For every Mark-Andre Fleury (selected 1st overall in 2003) there’s a Brent Krahn (selected 9th overall in 2000). Meanwhile recent Vezina nominees and winners such as Tim Thomas, Mikka Kiprusoff and Evgeni Nabokov had to wait until the 217th, 116th and 219th selections respectively to see their names on the board. Indeed, the vast majority of netminders who started a game last season in the NHL had long waits deep into the second day to see their dreams realized while others went completely unnoticed only to resurface as free agents years later.

                                    10

                                    I had the opportunity to catch Kurtis McLean at Hockey Heritage North in Kirkland Lake, Ontario and ask him a few questions about his career and his future in the NHL. The 28 year old NCAA and AHL star has been nothing short of a hard worker and the type of player every team wants in their system for strength and leadership. Kurtis talks about his career, his first NHL goal, and who he thinks the Islanders are going to select with their 1st overall pick.

                                      51

                                      The ability to select future stars or even useful role players in the mid-late rounds is what separates the pretenders from the contenders. The class of the NHL when it comes to late round drafting are the Detroit Red Wings, with players like Helm (5th), Franzen (3rd), Filppula (2nd), Hudler (3rd), Ericsson (9th), Zetterberg (7th) and Datsyuk (6th) all playing key roles on a Stanley Cup Finalist team. As E.J. Mcguire alluded to in the previous chapter of Draft Watch ’09, there will be plenty of potential impact players available beyond the first round of this year’s entry draft. Let’s take a look at some of the names: