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Graig Abel/Getty Images
Graig Abel/Getty Images
To say the least, it was a disappointing weekend in Leaf land. A decent effort Saturday versus the Canucks was spoiled, Kadriâ€™s season debut will mostly be remembered for losing the puck on a 3-on-1, and ex-Leaf Viktor Stalberg scored his 6th goal of the season for the Blackhawks…in overtime…with Brian Burke in attendance.
The Maple Leafsâ€™ losing streak ballooned to 8 games after falling to the Canucks on a weak goal on J.S. Giguere in the third period Saturday. Giguere made some big saves throughout the game, but couldnâ€™t make an easy one in the end. Perhaps Brett Lebda should have gotten his stick out of the way, but itâ€™s still one that Giguereâ€™s got to have. I still think Jonas Gustavsson should be getting more games in goal.
In what was nearly an improbable comeback victory for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the high powered Washington Capitals, the Leafs did manage to gain a valuable point while showing a ton of intestinal fortitude.Â Possibly more importantly they got key contributions from three or four forwards that have been missing in action for most of the season thus far.Â Scoring big, timely goals on the night were some prominent members of the 2010/11 â€œwhere have you beenâ€ class as Nik Kulemin, Kris Versteeg and Tyler Bozak all had big tallies on the night.
Mike Brown planking.
Mike Brown does his best Bobby Orr impersonation before later settling for a Colton Orr impersonation. Never underestimate the value of versatility.
Two games in, and the Maple Leafs are 2-0 for the first time in 11 years. While some might be tempted to find meaning within that number, the truth is that in terms of history the number is rather meaningless.
With still 80 games left on the docket, and the Leafs about to embark on their first road trip of the season, expectations must be tempered despite the hot start (and the rare sight of a 4th overall placement on the ESPN Power Rankings).
In other words, a 7-0-1 start (to counter last season’s 0-7-1) is probably just a little too much to ask. As if I had to tell you that. Then again, this IS Leafs Nation; somewhere, someone surely needed the reminder.
Follow the jump for a few first-week impressions and musings.
Week one of the Toronto Maple Leafs schedule is in the books, and while it only featured two games, there is plenty to talk about as far as the season goes. Â The Maple Leafs are off to a 2-0 start, having won their second game of the season nearly one month ahead of the time they got win two last season.
Through week one of the season, here are the Maple Leafs player power rankings, as seen by me.
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.
The Leafs head to the capital tonight to take on their bitter provincial rivals, the Ottawa Senators, for the third time in seven preseason games.
Tonight’s game figures to be the last chance for players on the bubble, including highly-touted Nazem Kadri, to make a lasting impression. When asked about these players, head coach Ron Wilson was emphatic:
“When the puck drops on the first day, you better be ready to go. No tip-toeing around. No â€˜oh, the waterâ€™s cold, Iâ€™ll wait until it warms up a bitâ€™. Nope, youâ€™re diving in and the guys who didnâ€™t, as [Leafs' GM Brian Burke] said, theyâ€™re waiting by the bus stop. Well, they missed it, the bus already left. Now their job is running down the road hoping they can get on.” (via)
With the pre-season set to end with a home-and-home against Detroit to open the month of October, the general sentiment is the Leafs will use a roster for those games comprised of the players who are expected be with the NHL club on opening night. For Nazem Kadri, John Mitchell, Jay Rosehill and Mike Zigomanis, tonight (or by a slim chance the first of the two Detroit games) may be their last shot.
The shoe is on the other hoof for tonight’s Leafs-Sabres rematch at the ACC as the Leafs are putting just about their best foot forward and the Sabres are sitting much of their core group. The Leafs will dress their complete top six on the back end, with Kaberle-Komisarek, Phaneuf-Gunnarsson, and Beauchemin-Schenn making up the pairings. Jonas Gustavsson will go the distance in net and a near-complete four lines (with one question mark remaining at the third line centre position) will dress up front. The full line-ups and a few notes are after the jump.
An intriguing top line of Kris Versteeg, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel will feature in tonight’s rematch with the Flyers following the Leafs’ 11-round shootout win over Philadelphia last night at the John Lebatt Centre in London. The trio is the most skilled iteration of forwards the Leafs’ roster has to offer, and combined with Dion Phaneuf and Tomas Kaberle on the blueline (who will also dress) represent an interesting potential powerplay option for coach Wilson. The results with the man advantage tonight, then, will be well worth monitoring.
Kessel will see his first action of the 2010 preseason.
After a disappointing Fans First preseason opener, the small upside of this overtaxing preseason schedule is that the Leafs get right back at it tonight, against the same opponents and with what appears to be a stronger line-up than last night’s edition. Tyler Bozak, Nikolai Kulemin, Phil Kessel, Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski all sub in up front while Luke Schenn, Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin will get their first tastes on the back end. Meanwhile, the Senators will ice a similar line-up to last night and will again sit their big names as all of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Alex Kovalev, Milan Michalek and Chris Phillips did not make the trip to Toronto.
Hey, let’s get this straight right off the bat: it sucks to lose 5-0 to the Ottawa Senators. Â Any day of the year, any type of game. Â There will undoubtedly be at least one mainstream media headline out there along the lines of: “Leafs back to losing ways”. Â But a step back will tell us this is the first of a whopping nine exhibition matches Toronto will be playing and a ton can (and probably will) change in the next two weeks.
After months of nothing but Kaberle rumours and Grabovski lawsuits, Leafs Nation will finally get a glimpse of their 2010-2011 Toronto Maple Leafs.Â Being the first game of the preseason, Toronto is going with a healthy mix of youngsters, borderliners, and veterans.Â Luckily, fans will not have to wait to see most of the new Leafs (Clarke MacArthur excepted) as off-season acquisitions Versteeg, Armstrong, Brown and Lebda will all be hitting the ice.
Day Two of on-ice participation is now in the books .. the sessions all had a purpose, as camp not only winds down, but clear decisions need to be made on who will remain with the main roster and who will be going to the Marlies or back to their original junior team.
A breakdown of the drills and more observations from the intra squad game after the jump.
Sunday Training Camp Day 2 practice
Teams A and B practiced with Team A on the main ice. (Breakdown of teams is here.
The drills weren’t very different from the previous days, they all focused on a real-game situation and the coaching staff made variations along the way.
Bring On Training Camp!
The Toronto Maple Leafs held their on-ice portion of training camp today. Players have been split into three squads to accommodate the 63 players invited to camp.
Among the contingent of fans outside the ice surface at the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence was a throng of media and of course, Leafs staff.
The newest member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Clarke MacArthur, took time today to speak with Greg Brady. Â Below is the recap.
–MacArthur said the last few days were pretty hectic, but he was relieved to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs and will be coming into town next week. Â He also stated later in the interview that he and his wife will immediately begin the process of looking for permanent residence in the city’s downtown area.
–He admitted that there were three others teams interested in his services, but thought Toronto represented the best opportunity, and also the best fit with the look of the team.
In the final part of his 12 Burning Questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at the Maple Leafs chances of getting back to postseason hockey this year.
May 4th, 2004.
Both teams, tired and weary from what had already been a long, arduous road, a journey that had left both teams battered and bruised. Â The teams went back and forth, showing tremendous heart and determination, showing what it takes to win hockey games at this time of year.
Up the ice they went, rewarded with a good scoring chance, but stopped by a goaltender who was up to the task. Â Then down the ice the other way, another good chance, this time for the other team. Â The goalie in this net, equally up to the task of making the save and preserving life, for at least another moment.
Quickly, and in a whirlwind of emotion, it was over.
In part ten of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at the importance of a good early start, and if the Leafs can avoid another disastrous start.
There really isn’t any other way to put it. Â No matter how you slice it, no matter how you try to spin it, or how you try to put a sugar coating on it, the cold hard fact still shines through.
The Toronto Maple Leafs were not a very good team last year.
Although their stats, and their general play, improved dramatically following the late January trades that saw them overturn nearly half their lineup, the fact remains that the 2009-2010 edition of the Maple Leafs fought inconsistency, as well as young inexperience that had them struggling most of the year.
But it could be argued that never were they worse, than in the first month of the season.
In part nine of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth looks at the Maple Leafs special teams, and why it must improve in order for the team to have success.
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.
And here you thought a magazine couldn't have add-on features.
Midway through the month of July, I had the privilege of chatting with Dave Poulin, Vice President of Hockey Operations with the Toronto Maple Leafs, for an article appearing in Maple Leafs Annual.
Having a professional background in publishing, I was not the least surprised that limitations on available space, plus design and layout constraints, resulted in the necessity to crop certain parts of the interview.
With the Annual due to hit stores next week, I thought I’d share a few of the “lost excerpts” from the cutting room floor in which Poulin offers his thoughts on the progress of the Toronto Marlies, as well as the emergence of the NCAA as a growing prospect pipeline.
Think of it as the equivalent of a “DVD extra” to your copy of MLA.
In part seven of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at how the new faces will fit in with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Brian Burke has always argued the fact that July 1st is his draft, the time where he does his best work in bringing in key pieces that will push his team to that next level. Â While he isn’t inept on the draft floor, it isn’t his strength. Â To his credit, it’s something he doesn’t necessarily hide either.
And while this summer’s free agent frenzy is more calm than in the previous years, there is no doubt that through free agency, and the days leading up to it, that Burke took steps towards continuing to shape this team in his vision. Â The moves have been made, and barring any sort of changes, this may well be the team we see enter training camp in under a month. Â With that in mind, it’s time for Leafs Nation to ask, exactly how will the new faces fit into place in Toronto?
In part six of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at Leafs sniper Phil Kessel, and whether he can hit the 40 goal plateau.
While January 31st 2010 will go down as a day Leafs fans will never forget as the Leafs acquired Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie, Fredrik Sjostrom, and J.S. Giguere in the span of about two hours, the date of September 18th, 2009 will also be remembered, yet highly debated, and much scrutinized.
It was on that day in September, following a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, that Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke got his man. Â After lots of rumours throughout the year, including one that involved Tomas Kaberle going the other way, Burke signed off on a deal with the Boston Bruins that landed him American born sniper Phil Kessel.
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