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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 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.
One of the key questions surrounding the upcoming 2010-11 Maple Leafs season is whether they will be able to score enough to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
An optimist will point to the Leafs’ record following the acquisitions of Dion Phaneuf and J.S. Giguere as evidence that the Maple Leafs can compete. The cynic will suggest that although the Leafs played well over the final third of the season following those moves, there just simply isn’t enough proven offensive production to buoy hopes for post-season play.
A closer look at the Leafs performance over their past 26 games following the January 31st trades for Phaneuf and Giguere, in comparison to their first 56, might shed some light on whether or not the Leafs’ need for more offense in order to compete is fact or fiction.
Great to see such an active group of readers. Here are a couple of FanPosts for your Friday afternoon reading enjoyment with today’s theme being youth, youth and more youth. Paul LeMay (B. Leaf) takes an in-depth look at the team’s organizational prospect depth while Chuck Johnson compares Nazem Kadri’s chances of making the NHL as a 2nd year player with those of previous high draft picks.
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.
Yesterday was a big day in Leafs Nation. Â And I think I speak for all fans when I say it’s about time. Â While two teams are currently battling for the opportunity to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been forced to sit on the sidelines and watch, bide their time with the other half of the league who wasn’t fortunate enough to make into the NHL’s playoffs.
And while they have kept themselves busy, and Brian Burke has shown a penchant for rarely letting his team slip into the background, a lot of hype has been leading toward this time of year.
Even without a first-or second-round draft pick, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still making plenty of waves, and it appears Burke is fit to make an impression at the draft, whether he is selecting or not.
Which, although he would never admit it, would be the perfect way to steal the spotlight back from the doom and gloom position of Boston using the Leafs pick to select a potential franchise cornerstone.
Tomas Kaberle, long been rumoured to be on his way out of Toronto, may be inching closer and closer with each passing day. Â As the calendar flipped to June yesterday, and now with the entry draft and free agency now firmly in sight on the horizon, it appears Kaberle’s time with the Toronto Maple Leafs is now being measured in days.
Things may be relatively quiet in Leafs Nation these days, but that doesn’t mean there has been a lack of excitement elsewhere in the NHL.
As such, here are a few quick takes on some of the headlines dominating the NHL landscape these days (including the Phoenix Coyotes situation, the Patrice Cormier charges, and Willie Mitchell’s controversial comments),Â as well as a quick glance at the nearly-completed 2nd round of the NHL playoffs.
(Authorâ€™s note: the intent of this analysis is not to ignore the great work of Nik Kulemin, I just couldnâ€™t really find any particularly compelling or solvent data to include in this article. Also, I just graduated university, so for the 0 fans of my work who were wondering where I was…uhhh… drinking, mostly)
The 2009 â€“ 2010 season for the Toronto Maple Leafs was one of transition, the decrepit monolith created by John Ferguson Junior being thoroughly and carefully dismantled by Brian Burke in an attempt to bring back league-wide respect and playoff aspirations to the storied franchise we know and (as of late) begrudgingly love.
Ron Wilson, an alumnus from Providence College, was playing for Davos in the Swiss National League A in 1985 when pivotal Minnesota North Stars defenseman Craig Hartsburg was injured. Embroiled in a battle for a playoff spot, Minnesota were in tough to find a stabilizing replacement to hold down the North Stars backend whilst Hartsburg recovered. Ron Wilson, a standout collegiate defender who never rose above major league stopgap, became the go-to-guy having already played 13 games for the North Stars the season previous. A span that bullet pointed five seasons in Switzerland.
A grizzled journeyman by age 30; Wilson would provide stellar coverage in Hartsburgâ€™s absence securing an presence on the North Stars blueline in the 1986-â€™87 season before completing his NHL playing career with Minnesota a year later.
Strengths: Prior to the start of this season, the Leafs prospect list was a list full of question marks. But it has become clear that the Leafs at the very least have some talent to work with in the coming seasons. First and foremost would be OHL star Nazem Kadri, who has come on in the second half of the season after a slow start in London. Two other forwards that appear to have a future with the Leafs are former collegians Tyler Bozak and Viktor Stalberg. Jerry D’Amigo, one of the stars for Team USA at the 2010 WJC, is another promising forward currently in the college ranks. The acquisition of Luca Caputi adds another solid forward with some size, a trait valued by Leafs’ GM Brian Burke. In goal, Jonas Gustavsson has emerged as a legitimate future starter.Â Weaknesses: Where the Leafs may lack future support is along the blueline, with trade deadline acquisition Keith Aulie and Carl Gunnarsson representing the only current prospects of real magnitude at defense. But, considering where the Leafs were after last season, the future is looking brighter. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nazem Kadri, C, 2. Jonas Gustavsson, G, 3. Tyler Bozak, C, 4. Carl Gunnarsson, D, 5. Viktor Stalberg, LW
Of no surprise is that signings Jonas Gustavsson and Tyler Bozak played a major role in boosting the Leafs up the rankings. That’s not to say that they don’t count the same as key young assets, but both Gus and Bozak will not qualify for this list next season after turning 24 and/or surpassing the 65 game mark of their NHL careers. To see Stalberg and Gunnarsson listed in the top five of a sixth-ranked prospect group as former sixth and seventh round picks respectively certainly represents some form of silver lining from John Ferguson Jr’s reign.
The author’s omission of the name Jesse Blacker in assessing our blueline depth weakness was curious to me. After standout performances at the rookie tournament in Kitchener in September, Blacker notched 30 points in 48 games following a trade request to the Owen Sound attack from Windsor in search of increased playing time. Granted, past Aulie and Blacker among players yet to feature in a Leaf uniform, depth certainly does thin out, and this is likely a priority for Burke with the remaining picks he has to work with come June 25.
More on the Leafs’ top ten placement here.
While Hockey’s Future has yet to release their top 10 organizational prospect rankings, the highly-respected source for prospect information has released their 11-20 and 21-30 lists. To the pleasant surprise of many, the Leafs aren’t on either of them.
Adding to the joy, division rivals Buffalo, Montreal and Ottawa have all already appeared in the 13th, 16th and 21st positions respectively.
Lots of reading today: Gus chips in an Â analogical look at the NHL playoff series; Alex has your links with a look at potential Leaf Jussi Rynnas.
In what was Brian Burke’s first summer on the job with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was clear from the get go that he put an onus on improving specialty teams, and also team defense. Â The brash Toronto GM made a lot of moves as it related to improving these areas, and on paper they looked like a sure recipe for change and improvement.
It seems Wayne Gretzky's days as an NHL owner are far from over. According to the Dallas Observer, the Great One, Mike Modano and Brett Hull are looking to collectively purchase the Dallas Stars from owner Tom Hicks.
Written by Wook
Unlike many veterans who were forced to pack their bags after many consecutive years of dismal play coupled to lack of passion, people tend to turn a blind eye when it comes to Tomas Kaberle.
Final Deadline Trades:
Alexei Ponikarovsky to Pittsburgh for Luca Caputi and Martin Skoula
Martin Skoula to New Jersey for a fifth round draft selection.
Lee Stempniak to PHX for 4th and 7th rounders.
Joey MacDonald to ANA for a 7th rounder in 2011.
Wrap-Up: That looks to be a wrap on Brian Burke’s trade activity for the 2009-10 season. The Stempniak deal was obviously a form of loss-cutting on a pending UFA, but it’s a bit painful to remember who we sacrificed to acquire him in November of 2008 in two albeit underachieving first rounders in Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo. The Leafs will not draft until the third round this year, and Burke did not succeed in that sense, however he moved the only piece realistically capable of fetching a second rounder for a semi-established young asset with the potential to replace Poni at an immediately cheaper price in Luca Caputi. It looks as though no takers could be found on either Wayne Primeau or Garnet Exelby, who look sure to now enter the FA market July 1.
There seems to be details yet to unfurl surrounding the Tomas Kaberle situation this deadline, as once again Leafs fans were teased into believing a deal was pending (involving Hodgson, as it was reported, or possibly Alzner from Washington) only for what looked to be an imminent deal to be flatly denied by Brian Burke in the end. There are rumblings that Kaberle might have nixed a deal in similar fashion to the Jeff Carter situation at the ’08 deadline.
From Garrett Bauman:
This involves the Leafs, as well as around the league.
TFP: The Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators are among the teams to have serious interest in Alexei Ponikarovsky. Various reports suggest the Leafs are looking for a first-round pick in exchange for Ponikarovsky, though it’s believed Burke is willing to accept a second-round pick and a top prospect.”
5:00 PM Update – Mueller, Roloson, Hamhuis, Voros/Lisin.
Ever since the Leafs’ late-offseason acquisition of Phil Kessel, his performance has been (understandably) heavily-scrutinized in the face of the hefty amount of futures given up to secure the extremely talented winger.
Kessel’s season has, in some ways, mirrored that of his teammates, with periods of great productivity followed by periods of near-invisibility. However, considering a host of issues which seemingly stood in the way of a productive season, including significant shoulder surgery, causing him to miss out on training camp, and the lack of talent surrounding him, the Leafs’ young sniper has produced at a rate which, in the context of the aforementioned factors, is actually quite impressive.
Random talking points on a variety of topics including Giguere’s shutout streak, a refreshing new attitude, the Schenn/Phaneuf connection, pending UFAs and more.
In the end, perhaps the player to best describe the trades is … Wayne Primeau?
After all, the former Flame has been through this before.
On the heels of the Leafs’ much-heralded acquisition of All-Star defenseman Dion Phaneuf, a significant question has arisen within Leafs Nation:
What impact does this trade have on the future of Tomas Kaberle?
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