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Jarome Iginla

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After doing a great job of gathering up points over the past couple of weeks and pushing themselves well in to the playoff picture, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see the Leafs hold off on any trades going in to the deadline this Wednesday. But despite the amount of success the team has enjoyed this season, there are some glaring weak areas that could be addressed, and players may become available that could help Nonis bring this club to a higher level.

We’ve seen the Calgary Flames finally give in to a rebuild in the past week with the departure of Jarome Iginla, and the Buffalo Sabres have been known to be in fire sale mode for a little while now. As Wednesday approaches, other teams will have to make a decision on which direction they’re headed, and potentially start putting bodies on planes as well.

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WOW. What a turn of events in the Iginla sweepstakes. Mid-way through writing this piece, I paused to check for updates on Twitter and in an instant, Iginla had gone from a Bruin to a Penguin. Going back the other way to Calgary are college prospects Kenneth Agostino (20, LW), Ben Hanowski (22, LW), and Pittsburgh’s 2013 1st-round draft pick. From the outset, Feaster isn’t getting much credit for the return he’s getting but, it appears that Pittsburgh was Iginla’s call. Per Elliote Friedman:

When faced with such a tectonic move, my first instinct is to take a breath and look at it from 30,000 feet – to try and take the broad level view. I asked myself, how does this change the competitive landscape of the East Conference? How does this move affect the Leafs? Who are the winners and losers of the trade? Will Iginila thrive under Dan Bylsma’s system? Where does Iginila fit in the line-up, and what of his role? At the surface level, the Pens’ active roster stays intact and get an infusion of leadership, class, skill, and toughness. Ray Shero is really going all-in here and the proposition of lining up Crosby and Iginla is a terrifying proposition, just ask Ryan Miller. In the coming days, I’m sure these questions will be addressed by the mainstream media and by members of the blogosphere.

This is a different kind of piece.

Before you read on, I submit this for your consideration:

For those of you who are unable to watch the video, it contains a segment from the Colbert Report, and it features a 13-minute montage of blatant Bostonian hypocrisy.

As I’m sure many Leaf fans were when they heard that Iginla was headed to Boston, I experienced some strong mixed-emotions. On the one hand, here you have a player who epitomizes class and leadership. On the other hand, he was headed to a hypocritical and dirty organization like Boston. If what Friedman said is true, then good on Jarome. Now, I am not privy to his decision-making process but I sure hope he considered the collective character of the organizations he was looking to join, along with, ultimately, the prospects of winning a Stanley Cup.

Iginla’s press conference is set for 10:30am (MT) and certainly lends itself to a tearful farewell. He has been the face of the franchise for the past 15 seasons and became the city’s beloved son. The loyalty he showed the Flames is quite remarkable, even despite the lack of talent and recent managerial gaffes. Adam Proteau, from The Hockey News, puts it best:

In the end, Jarome Iginla deserved better than Boston, and I believe he made the right decision. As a hockey fan, I wish Jarome nothing but success and the best of luck in Pittsburgh.

Just a quick note on the Leafs.

Much has been made of the team’s relative success during the past 5 games (3-0-2) and many cited the home-and-home series with Boston as a test of sorts. Needless to say, the Leafs get more than a passing grade for their effort and surely surprised a lot of people. However, looking forward, I would argue that the next 6 games might be even more important than the past 5.

Including tonight’s bout against the Hurricanes (32pts -10th), the Leafs will face-off against the Senators (42 pts – 5th), Flyers (28 pts – 14th), and Devils (37 pts – 7th) once, and the Rangers (35 pts – 8th) twice. Essentially, 5 of the next 6 games will be against teams that are either in the race, or are within striking distance of the Leafs. Herein lies a crucial opportunity for the Leafs to expand their lead over lesser teams. If they can come out of the next 6 games with at least 8 points, for a total of 48 points, it sets them up nicely for the final 8 games of the season.

Thursday Morning Links

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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 Dion Phaneuf, profiled by Nikhil Daljeet:

    The Summary:

    The arrival of Dion Phaneuf in Toronto this year will undoubtedly be remembered as a significant moment in the annals of Maple Leafs history, for better or for worse.  The trade that Brian Burke engineered for the newest Leafs captain has been generally heralded as a wise maneuver for his Toronto club.  However, this transaction occurred after a full 2008-2009 season that saw a noticeable decrease in offensive output from Phaneuf (Flames management insisted it was due to injury).  Moreover, the 2009-2010 season gave way to a floundering Calgary team that was in severe need of a major shakeup and Flames GM Sutter did exactly that on January 31st.

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      We have all had a few days to digest Sunday’s trades, but there is still a well of untapped implications.  Here’s a closer look at the forwards involved: both the outgoing Leafs and our lone newcomer.  Be sure to check out Garrett’s excellent pre-game analysis here before tonight’s tilt with the New Jersey Devils.

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        My Team Canada Roster selections may seem a little vanilla, but they’ve been selected to play out various situations. Penalty killing, power play and balance on all the forward units took precedent over sheer offensive/defensive ability.

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          The Leafs were down early as rookie phenom Jonas Gustavsson was lit up for 3 goals on 5 shots. Poor defensive coverage, a terrible line change, and a lucky bounce on a shot that Gustavsson likely should have had forced the Leafs to swap the goaltenders and bring in Vesa Toskala. The goaltenders tapped sticks at the bench in the shuffle. “Tag, you’re it” can be described at the outcome.

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            The Toronto Maple Leafs are now back from Chicago to host the Calgary Flames at the ACC in Toronto. Jonas Gustavsson is expected to get the start tonight, but Vesa Toskala must be credited with his strongest performance of the season.

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              After being released by the team late last week, Theoren Fleury has officially retired from hockey and he did so on his own terms. “I could not sign with another team,” he said. “I retire a Calgary Flame.”

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                With just a little over two weeks until the draft, it’s time to turn our attention towards some of the favourites to go off the board first. Last year, a small group of about six players (Stamkos, Doughty, Bogosian, Pietrangelo, Schenn and Filatov) managed to distinguish themselves from the rest of the class, leading the Toronto Maple Leafs to pay a hefty price to move up. As we inch closer to the twenty-sixth, a trend is beginning to emerge that has the same five players at the top of every team’s draft board. Let’s meet the candidates.

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                  Phew. Finally a chance to catch our breath after what was perhaps the best 2nd round of playoff hockey ever played. We were treated to three 7 game series, 9 overtime periods, and an epic showdown between the league’s premier young rivals, Crosby and Ovechkin. Perhaps overshadowed by all the intensity and exciting finishes, is a fairly simple underlying theme: Youth.