If the Toronto Maple Leafs hope to complete the task of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in six years, they will need to import some firepower to the forward ranks.
It's unlikely the current group of forwards would provide the necessary boost for the Leafs to vault Â from 15th to eight place in the Eastern Â Conference. Even with the inclusion of Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel and the reliable duo of Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson Â between the pipes to start the season (and hopefully a healthy Mike Komisarek), the offence is simply too bare to score enough goals consistently over an 82-game schedule.
Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11. Next up we feature Mike Komisarek, profiled by Alec Brownscombe.
The Summary: Mike Komisarek entered the 2009-10 season on a new five year, 22.5 million contract (4.5 per) with hopes that the change of scenery to different albeit analogous surroundings would help restore his '07-08 form after a setback of a Â '08-09 season. In a year of injuryÂ and acrimony (including charges of a lack of focus), Komisarek would sit among league leaders in giveaways and seemed to reach a breaking point in his embarrassing bouts with Milan Lucic in the playoffs. While Komisarek overcomplicated his defensive game and was often caught out of position as a result, the silver lining remained Komisarek's team-leading 191 hits and top five shot block total.
Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11. Today we feature Garnet Exelby, profiled by Alex Tran.
The Summary: Exelby came to Toronto from Atlanta as part of the Pavel Kubina trade last summer, when Brian Burke needed to clear cap space for the free agency season. Essentially viewed as a salary dump with one year left on his contract, Exelby was given a shot to show Leafs' management that he could contribute to the team as a useful third pairing defender. But when you're ranked 6th on the defensive depth chart for the 2nd worst defensive team in the NHL, you can imagine expectations were already pretty low.
Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11. Today we feature Jeff Finger, profiled by Alec Brownscombe.
A former 1999 eighth round pick, Jeff Finger came to the Leafs via unrestricted free agency as a 29-year-old who was skating in the ECHL the last time Toronto made the playoffs. After his first steady NHL season with Colorado in '07-08, Cliff Fletcher rolled the dice on a $3 million-per-year raise for the journeyman that will cost the Leafs 3.5 million against the cap annually until 2012. Fletcher obviously thought there was a lot more to come from Finger in his late development as a two-way defenceman, but let's just say on that fateful day in July, 2008, the optics weren't good.
Note: With the playoffs being the focus of the hockey world right now, there isn't a whole lot of big stories breaking in Leafland these days. As such, I'll be helping out Alec with his "Bits & Pieces" articles, touching briefly on various topics, and providing the occasional draft primer for the Entry Draft this coming June.
This session's topics include the Phoenix Coyotes, Mike Komisarek and 2010 draft prospect Joey Hishon.
Those who know me can tell you I am an avid reader. Â I devour books at a staggering pace, specializing in sports books and autobiographies mostly. Â And as the warm weather approaches, and the hockey season gives way to deck weather, my reading habit ramps up considerably.
Book of choice at the moment? Â "The Yankee Years" Â by Joe Torre. Â A fantastic account of life in the major leagues and life as the manager of one of the most popular, most traditional, and at times, most dysfunctional franchises in the world.
Torre does an excellent job of taking readers behind the scenes of his time in New York, including a fist hand look of one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports. Â That is, the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.
And that's where the parallels started standing out to me as a Leafs fan.
The news that the Tampa Bay Lightning have Dave Nonis at the top of their shortlist for general manager candidates was perhaps an instance of the inevitable. If Tampa or Nonis deem it not a right fit, we can only expect more of the same from other owners looking to fill vacant general manager positions.
It was reported at the time of Nonis' signing that a one-year clause was included to assure Nonis' services belonged to the Leafs for 2009-10 at a minimum. When Nonis' contractual obligation ends is unclear, but from Joe Nieuwendyk to Steffan Kronwall to Justin Pogge, it's clear Burke will never step in the way of an employee's desire to advance professionally.
But not all hope is lost. First, let's look at what the Leafs have in Nonis, and hopefully what they don't end up losing.
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.
When Brian Burke became the new general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs in November of 2008, Leafs Nation embarked on a new journey. Â A new beginning. Â With Burke at the helm, the Leafs organization finally had a general manager who had credentials. Â Who had a winning pedigree. Â Who had the exact type of attitude the Toronto market needed.
A man who wouldn't take any nonsense from anyone, and a man who wasn't afraid to pull the trigger on a big move that may set the team up for the better in the long term, a characteristic it seemed so many Leafs GM's lacked in between the time of Fletcher's first run, and Burke being christened as the new head of the front office.
Finally, Leafs fans were able to legitimately talk about the "Big O", and they weren't faking it either.
With the NHL season now officially over, the Leafs' players and coachingÂ staff spent Monday afternoon cleaning out their lockers and addressed the media for the final time. Below is a recap of important comments made. It's generally just the usual lines about how they plan to work hard during the offseason in preparation for a bigÂ year but there are a few interesting tidbits as well. The full audio/video can be accessed in the LeafsTV archive on the Maple Leafs' official website. On to golf season!
With the final bell about to ring season most fans would be happy to forget - although the impending draft all but dictates they most assuredly will not - the Maple Leafs will officially enter the offseason five campaigns removed from the playoffs at the conclusion of Saturday night's game in Montreal.
Unlike previous years, however, this season has revealed to fans -- amidst the rubble of far too many losses -- a silver lining of sorts: the promise of youth.
Seems that shoulder injury is worse than first thought. He shuts it down for the year as per Bob McKenzie. Yes. This time it's legit.