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Matt Stajan


    Is tonight the night? The Toronto Maple Leafs (0-5-1) look for their first win of the season, as they take on the New York Rangers (6-1-0) at the Air Canada Centre. Will a change of routine help the Buds get of the schnide?


      Bad goaltending is now blamed on an injury. The Leafs have called up rookie James Riemer who will be sitting on the bench tonight as Joey MacDonald gets the nod. Vesa Toskala has apparently suffered an undisclosed injury after last night’s 7-2 loss (my bet is a fan clubbed him Nancy Kerrigan style) and is now out. Toronto’s top two goaltenders (arguably) are now sidelined. Gustavsson is expected to return sometime next week.


        The Maple Leafs are creative. You have to hand it to them for finding new ways to lose games all the time. In the home opener against Montreal, it was sloppy turnovers and poor special teams leading to a blown late third period lead. On Saturday night, they decided to pack it away early against the Caps before going on a late run at the end to make the score more respectable. Tonight, it was a listless effort physically and emotionally, creating virtually nothing in the way of offense and falling victim to a pair of strange plays.


          Despite eight new faces in tonight’s season opening lineup against the Montreal Canadiens, many of the recurring themes of futility from last year were evident again in the 4-3 overtime loss. Poor defensive zone coverage, poor penalty killing, questionable moments in the net, and the snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory late in the game. Despite the disappointing loss, there were a few bright spots: namely the play of the top line led by Matt Stajan and Viktor Stalberg.


            The Toronto Maple Leafs have sent forwards Jiri Tlusty, Nik Kulemin, and Tyler Bozak, as well as defender Carl Gunnarsson, to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.

            These moves leave the team with a 22-man roster, one under the season-opening limit of 23.    That number does not include either of Phil Kessel or Mike Van Ryn, as both will start the season listed as injured non-roster players.


              According to TSN, Stalberg has made the team and even found himself on the top line. Talk about getting the opportunity to showcase your talent. He’ll start Thursday’s opener against Montreal on a line with Jason Blake and Matt Stajan.


                The Maple Leafs continued their shaping of the NHL roster with another four cuts on Sunday. Top prospect Nazem Kadri will be going back to the OHL’s London Knights, Jonas Frogren and Christian Hanson will report to the Toronto Marlies, and Andy Rogers has been released. By my count, that leaves 30 players left (including Kessel who will be placed on the long-term injured reserve), meaning there will be another 6 cuts in the near future.


                  The following are the team lineups as per MapleLeafs.com. It does feature the kid line of Bozak, Stalberg and Hanson, but they are separated. Curious if that will remain the same for tonight’s affair in order to see what they can all do with other players.


                    The following is both teams lineups for tonight:

                    Joey MacDonald
                    James Reimer

                    Viktor Stalberg – Matt Stajan – Robert Slaney
                    Jason Blake – Jason Allison – Jiri Tlusty
                    Alex Foster – Tim Brent – Bill Thomas
                    Jamal Mayers – John Mitchell – Darryl Boyce
                    *Kyle Rogers may play

                    Garnet Exelby – Ian White
                    Jeff Finger – Juraj Mikus
                    Carl Gunnarson – Andy Rogers


                      The big news of the day, which turns out to be nothing, really, was the absence of Jonas Gustavsson from practice. Ron Wilson addressed the situation, talked about the goaltending situation, Matt Stajan and hinted on lineup additions for tomorrow in the final day of training camp.


                        Leafs coach, Ron Wilson made it clear, Nazem Kadri will not be getting a nine-game audition this season, just to be sent down to the OHL London Knights. Answering questions in the media scrum after the scrimmage at training camp in the Mastercard Centre of Hockey Excellence, Wilson was adamant about being against an audition for the young pivot. In order to stick with the Leafs, the 1st round pick in the 2009 draft will have to beat out one of Mikhail Grabovski, or Matt Stajan for a top-6 role in order to stick, and as of Wilson right now, both are ‘way ahead’ of Kadri for a spot at the moment.

                        Kadri will get every opportunity to earn a top-6 spot, but unless he completely overwhelms, expect to see him in London for the entire season.

                        More notes from Training Camp, Day 2.


                          The Maple Leafs began on-ice workouts today at their new practice facility, the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence.

                          I’ve been given credentials and was on site for the first day and will be attending all three days of on ice practice.

                          The following are a series of notes from Day 1 …


                            Some quick links and discussion points for a quiet Tuesday night. Plenty to talk about including the highlights of a Burke media scrum at the grand opening of the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence (MCHE), the GM’s speak out on the Phil Kessel situation and the possibility of an offer sheet, rookie tournament video highlights and the latest developments in the ongoing Phoenix Coyotes ownership drama.


                              Leafs-related news has slowed to a crawl during the final weeks of the offseason, and this year’s summer movie scene has been rather unspectacular.   I propose a cure for both maladies:  a hockey movie to fill the void of a puck-deprived offseason, complete with all the excitement of a sports flick and all the truculence of an action blockbuster.

                              And so, without further ado, here is the game-day casting call for your 2009-10 Toronto Maple Leafs.

                              A tip o’ the hat to Don over at Mondesi’s House for the inspiration.


                                Every season, teams have at least one player who emerges with a seemingly unexpected season.   This is often witnessed in the form of a surge in offense, a dramatic increase in ice time, or a goaltender excelling in key areas such as save percentage and shutouts.

                                Who will rise to the occasion this season, and surprise us all with a season beyond our expectations?


                                  Coming into this offseason, GM Brian Burke promised to drastically overhaul the Maple Leafs roster, and he knew that the primary asset at his disposal was cap space: lots and lots of it. After handing out long-term contracts to Orr,  Beauchemin, and Komisarek, he’s got a little under $3 million left to play with in order to add an impact top six forward. In an attempt to minimize the amount of outgoing “talent” via trade, it’s no secret that he’s been trying to corner GM’s of teams that are pressed right up against the cap.


                                    Damien Cox is confirming the Leafs’ interest in Manny Malhotra as first reported in the MLHS FA Targets blog, suggesting he’s on Burke’s radar today. Malhotra’s never lived up to the offensive expectations that accompany a forward drafted seventh overall (in the 1998 draft), but he has a big, solid frame, plays an accomplished defensive game and has the type of leadership qualities Burke values. As Burke aims to reshape his bottom six, Malhotra is a worthy checking line center that fits his mold. Could mean not so good things for Matt Stajan.

                                    Cox is also noting interest in Francois Beachemin as reported as well as possible revived trade talks between Burke and Chiarelli on the topic of Kaberle and Kessel.


                                      The Ottawa Citizen‘s reporting “speculation” that Dominic Moore is interested in a return to the Maple Leafs this summer. Presumably, if Moore is interested then he’ll be ready to accept Burke’s terms that he walked away from at the deadline. However, since the deadline we’ve seen John Mitchell ably step into Moore’s former role as a third line center that can provide a solid two-way presence as well as some offensive impetus. It seems that the third line center role is Mitchell’s for the taking at the start of the season. There could be other options available in terms of availing a roster spot such as parting ways with Matt Stajan, who has been rumoured to be on Burke’s summer shopping block.