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It was a game that was circled with a red marker on the calendar, for the Maple Leafs. They would travel to Denver to meet the Avalanche, but this visit had a different feel to it; a different aura. It was potential revenge for ex-blue and white-ers, and similar revenge for a team that struggled the last 3 seasons.
Tonight, the Leafs will play the Minnesota Wild. Justin Pogge will be joining the Leafs for the affair and will get his second start this season. Mike Van Ryn, despite feeling well over the last week, has finally been cleared to play for the Blue and White after suffering a mild concussion in mid December.
There are a ton of rumors flying around on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Some a downright ridiculous and some may very well have merit. This is a close outlook on a few of those rumors and speculation. Weâ€™re under 2 months away from Hockey Christmas, where all the wonderful surprises of wanted and undesired gifts are passed around. A shopping list is what we all hope the Leafs are after, but sometimes thereâ€™s other plans that could be in place which may not seem so attractive at first. Consider that the following is merely speculation and rumors.
Random thoughts and opinions from (roughly) the halfway point of the season:
* Glad to see the mustache is back in style.Â Â In fact, when I was younger I grew a goatee just because everyone else was doing the ‘stache.Â Then the ’93 Canadiens all grew goatees during their Cup run, and it became a social mainstay.Â Â Yes, folks, it’s true: my hatred of the Habs has nothing to do with the Leafs, and everything to do with facial hair.
I know, youâ€™re worried about value for Vesa Toskala and Tomas Kaberle. Well, donâ€™t. Their recent performance(s) are killing their market value, right?
No. Market forces and low-ball offers may hinder dealing them now, but as the trade deadline approaches, true value is more likely for the Buds. And thatâ€™s good, because both players are underperforming.
Being in full evaluation/negotiation mode in fantasy leagues, posturing for position and propping up a sagging roster, it got me to thinking about reality-based trade evaluation, and how appraisals are distorted by current production .. or lack thereof.
In a season geared more towards the June entry draft than an April playoff berth, and with the World Junior Championships, the annual showcase of young hockey talent, stealing the hockey headlines as of late – at least in Canada, – it’s hard not to start dwelling on the possibilities available for the Maple Leafs when June rolls around. There are perhaps more imminent Leaf matters at hand in the form of the changes Brian Burke is expected to execute in the nearer few months, but I think I speak on behalf of all of Leaf Nation when I say last June, the time at which the Leafs welcomed Luke Schenn to the organization, was one of the most exciting and promising moments for the fanbase in recent times. This June will hopefully bring about similar jubilation and promise as Burke adds at least one more prized first-round pick to the fold of the re-building Maple Leafs.
The Holiday break is as good a time as any to take a peek at who the Maple Leafs’ leaders are in the major statistical categories, and how they stack up against the league leaders as of December 24th.
Anton Stralman has been sent down to the Marlies presumably to accommodate the return of Jonas Frogren off the injury reserve come Tuesday against New Jersey (or possibly because he was sitting the press box & not playing). In keeping with the “if you come to play you stay” mantra that Ron Wilson has been preaching, Jaime Sifers’ run with the big club has been extended.
Stralman was outwardly displeased last time he was demoted to the AHL, which makes one a little uneasy about his potential reaction this time around. Due to waiver restrictions, it was going to have to be one of Sifers or Stralman, and there’s no doubt Sifers is deserving of an extended stay with the big club based on his performance so far.
For your perusal:
Williams & White score to rally Leafs to 2-1 win at the HSBC
The Maple Leafs escaped from the House of Pain with two points tonight and, better yet, their two call-ups were superlative in the process. Jeremy Williams sniped his second in as many games from the half boards to even the game at ones late in the second frame before Ian White beat Ryan Miller with a seeing eye double to give the Leafs the edge in the third. Fellow call-up Jaime Sifers was a physical force on the blue-line, throwing a team-leading three hits and finishing second only to Jeff Finger in terms of ice-time (a resounding 21 minutes including 5 minutes of short-handed time). Sifers played a role in a critical penalty kill in the late stages.
Be sure to check out Scot Louck’s post-game thoughts below.
Wilson had some choice words for the media after last night’s brutal loss that made Phoenix, one of the league’s lowest scoring teams, look like an offensive juggernaut out there. Talking about why he benched his all-star defenseman for the entire 1st period, Ron had this to say about Tomas Kaberle:
â€œYeah, I sent [Kaberle] a message, and he sent me a message back by being minus-4″.
You couldn’t help but feel the Southwest Coast whammy was afflicting the Maple Leafs once again as Alexander Frolov streaked in alone and beat Vesa Toskala less than a minute into the three game road spread.
Random thoughts, 23 games in:
Matt Stajan is the leading scorer on the Leafs. Let me repeat that: Matt Stajan is the leading scorer on the Leafs, and is on pace for close to 70 points this season. One of the great unheralded results of a rebuilding project is the chance to see former role players excel in new roles, and Stajan has certainly proved that he is more than simply an effective checker and penalty-killer.
Ed. Note: Richard-Steven Williams, a UK-based NHL and European hockey enthusiast, will be joining the MLHS blogging team.
It’s fantastic to have Richard aboard, he’s an immense talent.
Here’s his piece on Ron Wilson from a week ago.
Sorry for the delay guys.Â We greatly appreciate the flood of great questions and comments, and are sorry to say we couldn’t get to them all. We’ve all been pretty busy lately for a variety of reasons, so without any further ado, let’s get started on the 1st ever Maple Leafs HotStove Hockey Panel Discussion.
Forming our panel for this session is Alec Brownscombe of Hockeybuzz and MLHS godfather, Gus Katsaros of Mckeen’s and MLHS fantasy expert, and myself, Alex Tran, an MLHS blogger.
A couple of weeks ago, Leafs defenceman Mike Van Ryn was battling for a spot on the Toronto blueline. Perhaps he still is.
The Maple Leafs are ready to set the upcoming season stage for the Detroit Red Wings tonight at the Joe Louis arena and quite a few regulars are ready to pull the jersey back on.
Mark Bell’s career in Toronto seems to be all but over. The 28-year old from Ontario joined the Leafs along with Vesa Toskala at last year’s draft shrouded under the cloud of an impending DUI sentence. With that cleared up this past summer, many Leaf fans hoped for a revival of the Mark Bell that scored 25 goals in Chicago during the 2005-2006 season. However, it was quite evident that Bell never managed to put it together in training camp or in the exhibition games that the Leafs played.
In a recent e-mail conversation with Cliff Fletcher, the Maple Leafs general manager suggested that he hopes to put pen to paper with 18-year-old Luke Schenn by early next week.
The debate rages on as to where Schenn should spend the 2007-08 campaign. The initial community sentiment was that another year in Kelowna, where would enjoy a leadership role and ample playing time, was the best option for his development. His pre-season display of steady, consistent performances and composure way beyond his years has certainly put Fletcher in a delicate situation. It’s only been made trickier by the development of some injuries on the Leafs’ back-end.
A few notes on the Leafs recent demotions, Wednesdayâ€™s roster tidbits and a quick review of Monday nightâ€™s affair with the Blues.
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