Toronto overcame a slow start on the second night of a back-to-back set to close out the league-worst Florida Panthers at home. The game featured the return of Joffrey Lupul to the Kessel line, simultaneously heralding the revival of said line as contributing members of the team.
‘Tis the season for Leafs trade rumours.
Now, I’m not about to dig up every rumour out there on the internet and go through it, but I do want to provide some thoughts on the team, the direction of the organization, and what’s out there before the Leafs do (or don’t) make any moves.
With the boats now foolishly burnt and the season 31 games old, the Toronto Maple Leafs sure look like they’re reeling into form. Since starting the season with a record of 15 – 9 – 0, the Leafs have gone 1 – 3 – 3 in the past seven games, collecting only five points in the standings and now sitting precariously in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Through the good graces of the Hockey gods and the incompetence of their direct competition (the Jets, Hurricanes and Rangers all lost in regulation last night), the Leafs are just barely keeping their head above water.
A much needed two points put an end to a five-game winless (but not pointless) skid. Given the Leafs’ three wins in their prior nine were a pair of up-and-down 5-4 wins (vs. Ottawa and NYI) and a late come from behind win over New Jersey, this could be fairly labeled the Leafs’ first consistent performance over three periods since their wins over Buffalo and Philadelphia in late February.
PHOTO: MIKE CASSESE/REUTERS
It’s like déjà vu all over again.
And no, I’m not talking about “The Slide.”
Mike Brown has been traded to Edmonton for a conditional 2014 fourth round pick (could become a 3rd depending on if he shaves or retains his moustache) as the Leafs are anticipating a few injured bodies will soon return to active duty. Matt Frattin may make his return to the lineup tonight vs. the New Jersey Devils – he’s labeled a game time decision – or a little later on this week.
Alas, carrying McLaren, Orr and Brown on the 23-man active roster doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given the Leafs are right at the limit and Nonis’ flexibility in terms of waiver exempt options stops after Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov and Korbinian Holzer. The oft-injured Mike Brown essentially had his roster spot nabbed by previous waiver pickup Frazer McLaren, who has surprised so far. He’s not a bad skater for a big man, is competent enough to cycle a puck and has fared well in all of his punch ups to date.
(Photo: Getty Images)
The naming of Joffrey Lupul as an alternate captain and the announcement of his charity initiative Lupes Troops (granted this doesn’t always guarantee a spot in Toronto for the indefinite future) in recent days were both indicators that Nonis and Carlyle see Lupul as a face of the franchise going forward. Faces of the franchise usually need long term contracts, but few would’ve expected one for Lupul this soon in the season.
The NHL lockout has ended, rejoice! After a long-fought battle between the players’ union and the NHL owners, fans will finally see a season. It will be a shortened one, sure, but I doubt many care right now. Once again, the Stanley Cup will be raised and to the fans, for now, it’s all that matters.
As the season finally nears, there are a few Leafs for whom the resumption of an NHL season is a continuation of 2012-13 campaigns that started abroad. While it does seem like a paradox, quality hockey was indeed played – mostly in the KHL. Below are short notes about the progress made by Leafs players who decided to spend the lockout in Europe, as well as their stories from far away.
Courtesy of Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
Through a season of inconsistencies, the one thing that has remained constant for the Maple Leafs is the production of Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel. The duo surely formed one of, if the best, forward duet in the league, consistently tussling with the Sedins for the highest scoring pair (they’re trailing the race by a single point currently). All the while still keeping pace in the Art Ross race individually, as well. With all the success created and sustained, it was at one time far-fetched to believe the two could be split him for any reason.
With a three game losing streak in hand – one that all but made the Leafs four game win streak irrelevant – Ron Wilson made the peculiar coaching decision to split them up. And early progress reports signify it could turn out for the better.
By now, I’m sure many of you have seen ESPN’s report of a significant offer by the Maple Leafs for Phil Kessel: two 1st round picks and a 2nd round pick. The general reflex reaction that we’ve been conditioned to by the Toronto media the last few seasons is to avoid moving 1st round selections by any means necessary. The thought of moving two such commodities is beyond horrifying. I’ve seen the name Taylor Hall used as the backbone of many an argument over the last few days, often associated with the “chance” of landing said player. If we’re gonna turn this into a game of chance, let’s at least get all the cards on the table.