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Chris Young/Canadian Press
I really wanted to write a wrap up notebook, but I wasn’t going to subject myself to watching that game again, nor do I particularly want to write about it. I mean, the only time I watched that Bergeron game winner was live and that’s how it is going to remain, so I wouldn’t be much of a source for insight or analysis.
It really was a great year for the Leafs, though. At the beginning of the season I didn’t think they would make the playoffs, and at the beginning of the first round I wasn’t sure they would make it much of a series. They proved me wrong both times. They proved a lot of people wrong.
In order for the Leafs to get better, though, they’ll need to have a strong offseason and smooth out some of their rough edges.
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.
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.
Anybody still want to debate the wisdom of starting Gustavsson against the Penguins?
For my money, this was the right play.Â Â Anyway you slice it, after a 2-0 start against two undermanned/terrible teams,Â tonight’s game against the Penguins was set to be a measuring stick of sorts (despite the fact that they were somewhat undermanned themselves).Â If Wilson runs his number one guy out there and he gets torched, the Leafs’ momentum comes to a crashing halt: we are measured, and found wanting.Â Instead, the coach pitches the Monster at a talented (and desperate for a home win) Pittsburgh team, and sends a message to the rest of the squad: bring your lunchpail and hardhat, it will be necessary to win the little battles along the boards and elsewhere on the ice to have a chance at two points in this game.
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 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.
According to Paul Hunter of the Toronto Star, it appears as if the Maple Leafs could be exploring all options in order to bring in another centreman from outside the organization. While Hunter explains that Bozak and Grabovski have essentially nailed down the top two centre positions to begin the season, both Kadri and Mitchell have struggled enough for Burke to begin considering alternative means of reinforcement down the middle. During the media conference call on Sunday afternoon, Burke had this to say about his current forward group:
â€œNo one has ever said weâ€™re going with this group. Weâ€™re still in a great position for waiver claims. We still have our scouts out scouring. We havenâ€™t ruled out doing something. . . . We may need to go out and grab a centre.
“Heâ€™s not played anywhere near to what we had hoped for and expected. I donâ€™t know why that is and heâ€™s running out of time.”
Hunter speculates that Christian Hanson will likely be slotted in between Colton Orr and Mike Brown on the team’s fourth line, which by process of elimination, suggests that the Leafs could be looking to acquire a veteran third line centre. Presumably, this would be a player who would mesh into Burke’s “top six – bottom six” philosophy as a defensively minded player who will win faceoffs, battle in the corners and contribute on the team’s penalty kill unit.
One such player could be former Canuck/Duck Brendan Morrison, whom Burke and Nonis are both quite familiar with. Morrison is currently with the Canucks’ camp on a tryout basis, but has been playing well. The 35 year old B.C. native posted 42 points and a +23 rating in 74 games played for the Capitals last season. If he doesn’t manage to snag a full-time job on a very deep Canuck team (Sedin, Kesler, Malholtra down the middle), then look for the Leafs to perhaps inquire about his services.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
For those of you who missed it, the Leafs were very active on Day 2 of the draft, swung a couple trades, and ended up with the following players:
2nd round – 43rd overall – LW Brad Ross (Portland)
3rd round – 62nd overall – C Gregg McKegg (Erie)
3rd round – 79th overall – RW Sondre Olden (Modo Jr.)
4th round – 116th overall – D Petter Granberg (Skelleftea)
5th round – 144th overall – RW Sam Carrick (Brampton)
5th round – 146th overall – LW Daniel Brodin (Djugarden)
7th round – 182nd overall – C Josh Nicholls (Saskatoon)
*The Leafs traded forward prospect Jimmy Hayes to land the 43rd overall pick and traded a 2012 3rd round pick to land the 79th overall pick.
**The Leafs also acquired grinder Mike Brown from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 2010 5th round pick, as well as Edmonton’s 5th round pick in 2011 in exchange for a 2010 7th round pick
Rough Friday night for Leaf fans, but that’s in the past now. Rounds 2-7 of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft kicks off today at 1pm ET on NHL Network. The Maple Leafs are slated pick once in the 3rd round (62nd), once in the 4th round (112th), twice in the 5th round (122nd and 144th) and twice in the 7th round (182nd and 202nd).
Rumors are circulating that the Leafs will attempt to trade into the 2nd round if the price is reasonable.
This live blog will be updated with thoughts and pick analysis throughout the afternoon.