The infamous Brian Burke "stamp" that has become his signature since his times in Hartford, Vancouver and Anaheim arrived in Toronto yesterday in the form of Phil Kessel and at the expense of the club's next two first round draft picks and this year's second round pick. Any time a general manager moves not one but two first round draft picks, it constitutes a major future-shaping decision and one that will ultimately play a major part in defining the legacy of his regime. Yesterday we were reaffirmed of one increasingly apparent fact about Brian Burke's rebuild - it's not your traditional model. We've seen over the course of the last three months - from June to September - Burke aggressively pursue all available avenues to try to position his club as a contender in the short and long term. Certainly, the 2009-10 campaign just got a whole lot more interesting.
It took sometime to manifest, prolonged in the wake of shoulder surgery and stunted contract talks, but the September 10th news that negotiations between the Boston Bruins, Wade Arnott and Phil Kessel had come to an impasse reignited the rumor mill that has surrounded the Leafs and the Madison, Wisconsin sniper since Brian Burke first tabled Tomas Kaberle in the infamous draft day â€œmisunderstanding.â€
In the week that has passed since negotiations broke down, the value of Kessel has skyrocketed beyond the original RFA compensation of a 1st, 2nd and 3rd round selection in the 2010 draft.
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€¦
Â 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 synonymousÂ as the â€œman with the contract,â€ reddening faces further still in the land of blue and white where the overpay became talk of free agency.
Author: B Leaf
Last season, the Leafs were 10th in scoring (244) and 9th in shots on goal (2,603). There is no major reason why that number should drop other than the loss of Antropov. There are other players who should have better years and help fill his ice time with similar results. On the powerplay, the Leafs were middle of the road at 16th. The Leafs were a respectable 17th in shots allowed (2481), but were a league worst in goals against (286). The PK% was also a league worst. Not all the blame can be placed on the goaltending, but a lot of it can. The collective save percentage for the team was an abysmal .885%.
Among the group of UFAâ€™s: Alexei Ponikarovsky, Lee Stempniak, Matt Stajan, Wayne Primeau, Jamal Mayers, Ben Ondrus, Mike Van Ryn, Jonas Frogren, Garnet Exelby, Joey Macdonald and Vesa Toskala.
Among the group of RFAâ€™s: Nikolai Kulemin, John Mitchell, Christian Hanson, Jiri Tlusty, Andre Deveaux, Ian White, Phil Oreskovic and Jonas Gustavsson.
What does this mean for the Leafs? Potentially, it could result in a playoff-berth for the Buds, who haven't made the big dance since the 2003-04 season. If some of the Leafs' core players take advantage of their contract years, thus playing beyond their established level, making the playoffs can be a distinct possibility.
As training camp approaches, there will be no shortage of forwards rumoured to be heading to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for one or more of their excess defensemen. The two players currently being mentioned in the rumour mill, however, will command a little more than a spare part.
Those two players are Patrick Marleau, and Patrick Sharp.
Every season, teams have at least one player who emerges with a seemingly unexpected season.Â Â This is often witnessed in the form of a surge in offense, a dramatic increase in ice time, or a goaltender excelling in key areas such as save percentage and shutouts.
Who will rise to the occasion this season, and surprise us all with a season beyond our expectations?
The Maple Leafs finished as the league's worst defensive team last season, giving up an astounding 286 goals, which works out to about 3.5 goals against a game. As such, much of the team's summer remodeling took place on the blueline, which saw the departure of Kubina and the additions of shutdown defensemenÂ Beauchemin and Komisarek. With nearly $20M dollars committed per season through 2011 to the group of Kaberle, Komisarek, Beauchemin, Schenn and Finger, and Tomas being the only player above the age of 30, it appears on paper at least, that this will be the core of the defense for the foreseeable future. If that's the case, how do they stack up against the rest of the league? [more…]