When it came to doing this 12 burning questions series, I discovered a lot of things about the Leafs, and how I will be looking for different things this year. Â And even though I already knew the fact, it was all the more confirmed to me that there really are no definitive answers to these burning questions, at least not in August anyway.
However, as we reach part nine of the series, I can confidently say that I can, for the first time this series, give a more defined answer. [more…]
Hopes and expectations are that the conclusion of the 2010-11 season will see the Maple Leafs Â return to playoff action for the first time since Jeremy Roenick ended the Leafs' 2004 post-season run in overtime of game six on May 4, 2004.
Many factors led to the Leafs' demise during the 2009-10 campaign, which ultimately meant theÂ relinquishmentÂ of Tyler Seguin to the Boston Bruins. Inconsistency was the primary issue, as many key players wereÂ ineffectiveÂ or downright useless---I'm looking at you, Vesa Toskala. The off-season acquisitions of Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin had fans salivating at the potential of the team's defense corps. However, things took an unfortunate turn for the worse when both defensemen---it was later revealed Komisarek required season-ending surgery for a pre-existing shoulder injury--- struggledÂ mightily out of the gate. Moreover, the combination of Toskala's horrendous goaltending and Luke Schenn feeling the early effects of the dreaded sophomore slump only added to the nightmarish start to the season. Leafs fans had toÂ endure seven torturous games before the club posted its first win. To put it simply, the Leafs didn't even take a step forward before they crashed and burned.
The NHL goaltender.
It has been said that there is no more important position in all of pro sports. Â And if you believe that, it's quite easy to see why the Toronto Maple Leafs haven't had much regular season success in the post lockout NHL, and why the post season has eluded them. [more…]
I find this interesting becauseÂ much of the criticism seems to revolve around the notion of $3m equating to more than a 15 goal career average, even though Armstrong wasn't exactly acquired for his offensive prowess.Â Â The main criticism seems to be, why would the team be willing to make a $9 million investment over 3 years, when similar production can likely be found at a cheaper rate?
Now, it seems most decided to stop at that point and take the easy road; that being negativity for the sake of negativity (a known idiosyncrasy of Canadian hockey fans).Â But instead of screaming "WHY did they sign him?", I propose a different question:Â Why DID they sign him?
Weâ€™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 Jeff Finger, profiled by Alec Brownscombe.
A former 1999 eighth round pick, Jeff Finger came to the Leafs via unrestricted free agency as a 29-year-old who was skating in the ECHL the last time Toronto made the playoffs. After his first steady NHL season with Colorado in '07-08, Cliff Fletcher rolled the dice on a $3 million-per-year raise for the journeyman that will cost the Leafs 3.5 million against the cap annually until 2012. Fletcher obviously thought there was a lot more to come from Finger in his late development as a two-way defenceman, but let's just say on that fateful day in July, 2008, the optics weren't good.
In 2005, the NHL was returning to work after a year long lockout, a bitter battle between players and owners over cost certainty. Â The entry draft in June of 2005 was really the beginning of a new era in hockey, and a new era for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who drafted Sidney Crosby first overall, a move that would change their fortunes forever.
Drafted second that year was Bobby Ryan. Â A big bodied power forward with tremendous skill, I had the chance to watch Ryan in person blaze up and down the ice for the Owen Sound Attack. Â One look at Ryan moving swiftly between checkers, puck on a string as he bobbed and weaved his way into a prime scoring area, and it was clear.
This dude was one heck of a consolation prize.
And the GM who was afforded that consolation prize, as you are all aware, was one Brian Burke. [more…]
When Brian Burke became the new general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs in November of 2008, Leafs Nation embarked on a new journey. Â A new beginning. Â With Burke at the helm, the Leafs organization finally had a general manager who had credentials. Â Who had a winning pedigree. Â Who had the exact type of attitude the Toronto market needed.
A man who wouldn't take any nonsense from anyone, and a man who wasn't afraid to pull the trigger on a big move that may set the team up for the better in the long term, a characteristic it seemed so many Leafs GM's lacked in between the time of Fletcher's first run, and Burke being christened as the new head of the front office.
Finally, Leafs fans were able to legitimately talk about the "Big O", and they weren't faking it either.
So the curtain comes down on the 2009-2010 Maple Leafs season. I know many readers are upset because we as Leaf fans must once again adopt and follow an entirely different team as a sort of playoff hockey avatar in order to fully enjoy the postseason (I find the only way to really get in to it is to pick a surrogate rooting interest). The angst is ramped up in Leaf land as well because the team finished so low in the standings, yet come draft day the guys clustered around our table won't be studying anything more intently than the lunch menu, because we won't likely have a pick for the first day and a half (unless Burkie has a miracle relating to a certain Czech defenceman tucked up inside those French cuffs).
Prior to the lockout, undrafted college free agents were a rare, straight to NHL commodity. Either serving out their apprenticeships as minor league signees or plying their trade overseas, few players transitioned directly from the ranks of college hockey to the NHL without enduring prolonged development curves. However, in a post-lockout landscape where GMâ€™s clutch their most valued assets and superstars to their clubs with dynasty length deals, and where dollars and ice time are apportioned in equilibrium, graduate aged (or younger) players progressing from the NCAA as free agents are providing comparatively cheap labour in an increasingly scrutinized marketplace.
Not too surprisingly, considering both his hockey heritage as a former captain of the Providence College Friars and his somewhat condensed timetable for rebuilding the Leafs, Brian Burke has been one of the first to plunder the verdant college market in recent seasons, in turn providing a quantum shift from the conventional dominance of the CHL at the junior level. [more…]
Submitted by Michael Stephens (a.k.a. Baumgartner)
The Toronto Maple Leafs have the Leagueâ€™s worst penalty kill, sporting a 73.0% success rate. They have been shorthanded 252 times this season, surrendering 68 goals. Through 71 games this season, they average 3.5 penalties (252ts/71gp) each night.
Around January 15th, this vaunted penalty kill was even worse, an abysmal 68.9%. Ron Wilson was smugly talking about how he had to teach his boys how to flip the puck down the ice and out of the zone.
We have all had a few days to digest Sunday's trades, but there is still a well of untapped implications. Â Here's a closer look at the forwards involved: both the outgoing Leafs and our lone newcomer. Â Be sure to check out Garrett's excellent pre-game analysis here before tonight's tilt with the New Jersey Devils.
The Maple Leafs have traded G Vesa Toskala and F Jason Blake to the Ducks for G Jean-Sebastien Giguere. [more…]