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injuries

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J-S Giguere

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

The wait is over. After yet another long off-season following a fifth consecutive year of missing out on the NHL post-season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are set to kick off the 2010-11 season against their oldest rival, the Montreal Canadiens.

Both teams have undergone an off-season where – despite the lack of a full-scale overhaul – crucial moves were made to bring in key players or (in Montreal’s case) provide a better opportunity for players already in the organization. Gone from the 2009-10 Toronto lineup are Viktor Stalberg, Rickard Wallin and Keith Primeau, replaced by Kris Versteeg, Colby Armstrong, and Brett Lebda. In Montreal, the most impactful move was the trade of playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to St Louis in exchange for Lars Eller, a move which paves the way for Carey Price to assert his standing among starting NHL netminders.

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Leaf prospect Josh Nicholl’s 2010-2011 season had gotten off to such a promising start. Currently tied for 6th overall in WHL scoring with 5 goals and 5 assists for 10 points in 6 games played, the Maple Leafs’ 2010 7th round pick seemed on his way to a potential D’Amigo style breakout campaign. Playing on the Blades’ top line with Marek Viedensky and Curtis Hamilton, everything seemed to be clicking for the youngster. However, on Wednesday night, a poor decision from Tri-City Americans forward Brendan Shinnimin could prove to be a serious setback to Josh’s progress.

Late in the third period with Saskatoon up 5-3 thanks to a 3 point effort from Nicholls, the young forward was chasing down a puck in the offensive zone when he received cross-check from Shinnimin to his lower back, which caused Nicholls to be flung forward viciously headfirst into the end boards. Thankfully, Josh had turned his head to the side a split second earlier to follow the trajectory of a teammate’s pass or he might’ve suffered a much more severe injury. As it stands, the Blades have Nicholls listed as out at least a week with a concussion, though as we’ve seen on many an occasion in hockey, the recovery timeline for these kind of injuries can be very hard to predict. Shinnimin received a 5 minute boarding major and a game misconduct on the play.

To view the hit, click here.

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With the pre-season nearly finished, the Leafs roster is beginning to take shape for 2010-11. Similarly, the Marlies are starting to become more defined as major league cuts are shuffled down to the minor league club. What is not so clearly defined on the Marlies is their goaltending situation. There will be a ton of competition between the four goalies in the Leafs minor pro system to get starts this season and those that do will have to seize the opportunity. Let’s take a look:

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One of the more interesting subplots to the Maple Leafs’ 2010-11 preseason has been the Michael Liambas situation. Offered a tryout – amidst much fanfare – in time for the team’s annual Rookie Camp, the infamous winger was ultimately released on Thursday, during the first round of cuts at the NHL training camp.

Ordinarily, such a move would be regarded as no more than a footnote, a regular or even “to be expected” occurrence which takes place in any training camp. But Liambas’ situation was – and remains – anything but ordinary.

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It was no less than two months ago that I was pondering this same question, that of captaincy, and examining the same factors. Thinking of all the tangibles – speed, talent and scoring – along with attributes that are harder to judge – the ability to command the respect of the team, lead with strength of character and handle the Toronto media through success and failure. The lone difference is that last time, it was the Leafs.

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- If the TSN reports that Frolov could sign a 1 year deal comparable to that of Afinogenov last season ($800,000) are true, then why weren’t the Maple Leafs heavily involved in discussions with Frolov’s agent? He’s a big guy who can win some pucks, plays a well-rounded game and would fit perfectly in the top line left wing role at a bargain basement price. Remember a few weeks ago when I talked about a deteriorating market? This potential signing may just be the beginning.

- The Toronto Sun reports that the Maple Leafs’ Rookie tournament will take place at the John Labatt Centre in London from September 11th-14th this year.

- The Hockey News makes the case for the Maple Leafs as a surprise playoff team this coming season.

- On to the FanPosts. Andrew Edwards (AKA Crazyaces) proposes a solution for these ridiculous long-term contracts, while Michael Cuttell continues his preseason synopsis by evaluating the Leafs’ current forward group.

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Why the Maple Leafs should make the playoffs in 2010-11‏

By: Joe Cino

Everything that could have gone wrong for the Maple Leafs in 2009-10 did. A combination of cold streaks, underperforming veterans, bad goaltending and a slew of injuries capped off a basement finish. The roster has been fine tuned, with additions like Giguere, Phaneuf and Versteeg chief among them, but by and large most of the roster is the same as last year’s iteration. With so many holdovers from the previous year, are the playoffs a realistic goal for the Maple Leafs? I believe that they are, with Corsi ratings, Goals versus Threshold and the realistic impact of the new Leafs taken into account.

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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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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.

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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.  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.

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    We’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 Wayne Primeau, profiled by Garrett Bauman.

    Wayne PrimeauSummary:

    Acquired via trade, Primeau was brought in to provide a veteran presence to a young locker room, add grit to the fourth line and fill the role of defensive faceoff specialist.

    Although he did not particularly stand out during his 59 games, Primeau was relativley effective in his limited (albeit important) role. An unrestricted free agent, he is unlikely to return barring a substantial paycut from the $1.4m he earned last season.

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      We’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 Garnet Exelby, profiled by Alex Tran.

      The Summary: Exelby came to Toronto from Atlanta as part of the Pavel Kubina trade last summer, when Brian Burke needed to clear cap space for the free agency season. Essentially viewed as a salary dump with one year left on his contract, Exelby was given a shot to show Leafs’ management that he could contribute to the team as a useful third pairing defender. But when you’re ranked 6th on the defensive depth chart for the 2nd worst defensive team in the NHL, you can imagine expectations were already pretty low.

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      JESSE BLACKER (#21) – D
      Date of Birth: April 19, 1991
      Hometown: Toronto, ON
      Height: 6'2" | Weight: 190lbs | Shoots: Right
      Drafted: Toronto's 3rd Choice, 58th Overall, in 2009
      Price Tag: AHL $67,500 | NHL $640,000
      Signed Through: 2013
      
      

      Career Notes:

      • Won the Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires in 2009
      • Lead all Owen Sound defensemen during 09/10 in goals (6), assists (24) and points (30)
      • Made his AHL debut on March 20th 2010 vs. Hamilton
      • Registered one assist and a plus-two rating in first AHL appearance

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      During his first full year at the helm in Toronto, you could make the case that Brian Burke was the league’s most active general manager. There was the Kessel summer blockbuster with Boston and then the mega-deals on January 31st that brought in Phaneuf and Giguere. It’s quite obvious that he’s willing to expend assets to target any top notch premium young talent when it’s made available. Both of those trades were opportunities: Kessel was a restricted free agent on a team with cap issues. Burke often spoke of inquiring on Phaneuf several times throughout the year until the “pressure points” of the cap and the struggles of the Flames pushed Sutter into making a bold move. This summer should be no different. Let’s take a look at some of the young RFA’s that might potentially attract Burke’s interest.

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      Is it just me, or has the hockey season passed us by far quicker than usual? It seems like I just finished making arrangements for the home opener against Hamilton (which, might I add was a win) and here I am already looking back at the season that was.

      It was an absolute blur of call-ups and injuries. The bright young stars that comprised the frat-pack line (Tyler Bozak, Christian Hanson and Viktor Stalberg) all found their way up to the Leafs. Carl Gunnarsson, the player I was most keen on going into the season, left the Marlies early on for the big club and never looked back.

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        The Playoffs are about to start and what better time than now for the CFB predictions. We highlight every series with individual writers giving their own opinion on why or how a particular team can win the series. This is the Round 1 Predictions for the Western Conference.

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          The Playoffs are about to start and what better time than now for the CFB predictions. We highlight every series with individual writers giving their own opinion on why or how a particular team can win the series. This is the Round 1 Predictions for the Eastern Conference.

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          With the NHL season now officially over, the Leafs’ players and coaching  staff spent Monday afternoon cleaning out their lockers and addressed the media for the final time. Below is a recap of important comments made. It’s generally just the usual lines about how they plan to work hard during the offseason in preparation for a big  year but there are a few interesting tidbits as well. The full audio/video can be accessed in the LeafsTV archive on the Maple Leafs’ official website. On to golf season!

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            It’s that time of year again.  The most wonderful time of the year.  No, not Christmas, and no, you won’t see any of those silly Staples commercials.

            It’s time for the NHL playoffs.

            The annual spring tournament that features some of the most exciting hockey of the season.  It’s  triple overtime games that rage on long into the night, games so long that you’ll hope you saved some sick days.  It’s players skating through pain, all for the common goal of lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup.

            And the great fans of the NHL, well they have the best seat in the house.

            Around this time of year, especially the first round, marriages are postponed.  Assignments are left on desks unfinished.  Scheduled are cleared, or built around.  Kiss your wife or girlfriend, and tell her you’ll see her in a few months, a better person than when you last saw her.