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 two greatest military tacticians of the past 5000 years â€“ Sun Tzu and Sgt. Slaughter â€“ both spoke on the value of knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your enemies in the field.Â To effectively assess the situational realities of the Toronto Maple Leafs it pays to look at the status of their direct competition within the Northeast division.Â Playing 24 games against teams from their own division, pride, points and position are all on the line.Â While by no means comprehensive (as yet), take a gander at the past 3 weeks of moves.
The Canadians, Senators, Bruins and Sabres all earned playoff positions last season.Â A successful, playoff calibre Leafs squad must commit themselves to dominating these frequent opponents as more than a quarter of the season will be played against them.
TSN has reported that goaltender Jaroslav Halak has been acquired by the St. Louis Blues. Thus far there is no report on the return, but Halak has recently aided the Canadiens in reaching the Stanley Cup Conference Finals. Dealing him when his value is high could be either beneficial or disastrous should Carey Price not be able to handle the load. The Habs received Lars Eller and Ian Schultz in return.
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With the imposition of the salary cap taking some clout away from the financial Super Powers (or so they say), the “new” NHL focuses upon the importance of successful drafting and a constant flow of young players on cheap, entry-level contracts. With scouts now being dispatched to all corners of the globe, it’s getting to be quite a small world. The boundaries of the Hockey Community are ever-growing, and we’re starting to find ourselves with a neat little global village forming in the NHL.