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Mike Van Ryn


     Jeff Finger’s name may be rampant with tireless innuendo, but few Leafs fans were laughing when interim GM Cliff Fletcher tied the unknown, but apparently much coveted Colorado Avalanche defenseman to a four year, $14 million contract in the summer of 2008.

    Working out at $3.5 million a year, the ultra late developing Finger went from no name, to fifth highest earner on the blue ribbon Leafs payroll creating a maelstrom of discontent amongst fans that remains to this day.

    From full term college player and three year AHL blue liner with only 94 games of (then) experience in the big leagues, Finger quickly became synonymous as the “man with the contract,” reddening faces further still in the land of blue and white where the overpay became talk of free agency.


      Adnan Virk of Leafs TV recently caught up with GM Brian Burke for a brief chat and in his latest blog on mapleleafs.com, dishes out a few very revealing and interesting tidbits. Among the hot topics of discussion are: Burke’s projected top six defense core (including a few surprises), his expectations and hopes for Alexei Ponikarovsky, and the possibility of the Leafs ’09 7th overall pick Nazem Kadri cracking the roster out of training camp.


        “Burke loves the guy…very low maintenance.  It’s obvious this is not going to be a slow rebuild.  Burke is too competitive.  He believes his chances to make the playoffs are very good and wants to win now.  Rumblings are that Kabs was very overvalued.  He’s talented but not a game changer like Pronger, etc. Teams believed he would be a nice asset but not the franchise type guy who would put a club over the top… plus he had a bad year last season.  The best deal Burke was offered was a touted prospect (Jakub Voracek) plus maybe a second round pick.


          Today was the deadline for Tomas Kaberle’s NTC lift, and he is still a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. While some fans were demanding for an immediate rebuild with some youth in return for a trade for Kaberle, others notice how strong the current Leafs defense core has the potential to be and are curious to see how Kaberle can perform with a physical presence around him. Brian Burke is among those who are interested. “I look forth to seeing what Tomas can do with a little more size and toughness around him when he’s not picking his teeth out of the glass all night.”


            • Mike Van Ryn has some interest with an expiring contract, affordable cap hit and considering he played well when in the lineup last year.
            • White is a Wilson & Burke favourite, but if Burke can maximize the return on White he would heavily consider moving him as he will command a hefty pay raise after this season.


              A variety of discussion points to kick off the weekend including the imminent departure of Justin Pogge and the Marlies goaltending situation going into next season. Is it finally James Reimer’s time to shine? Also, a quick look at the latest flurry of moves made by the Boston Bruins, and how that may affect a potential Leaf trade for the still unsigned Phil Kessel.


                Let’s take a break from the rumour mill, and have a look at where the Toronto Maple Leafs roster currently stands.

                With the draft a little over a month away, and free agency beginning shortly thereafter, it’s time to take a look at the current Maple Leafs’ roster, who is and is not under contract for next season, and the resultant depth at each position.


                  Now that the 2008-09 regular season has officially ended, it’s time to take a look back over the roster to assess each of the Maple Leafs’ players.

                  Note that I’m only including players who finished the season with at least one game played for the Maple Leafs, and am excluding those traded away during the course of the season.

                  Statistics for those who were acquired mid-season reflect games played as members of the Maple Leafs only.


                    It’s not yet time to pack away the sticks and skates for some of the Leafs players. A pair of Maple Leaf defensemen, Luke Schenn and Ian White were informed on Saturday night that they would have a chance to represent Team Canada at the upcoming World Hockey Championship which begin April 24th in Switzerland. Jason Blake will lace ‘em up for Team USA while Niklas Hagman will don the Finnish colors.


                      It looks as though Phil Oreskovic will make his NHL debut tomorrow night vs. Ottawa as the Leafs attempt to cope with an injury-riddled blue-line. Anton Stralman will also feature with Tomas Kaberle, Mike Van Ryn, Jonas Frogren and waiver pick-up Erik Reitz all sidelined. Reitz and Kaberle should be back in action within a week whereas Van Ryn’s season may well be over after he sustained a wince-inducing knee injury last night against the Oilers. Just when we thought we were done with one freakishly injury prone defenseman, it looks like VR will be eliciting the frustration of Carlo Colaiacovo’s tenure as a very skilled defenseman who simply cannot stay off the shelf. The timeline on Frogren isn’t yet known, but Wilson suggested after last night’s loss that “he will be a while” recovering from his lower body injury.

                      Check out Garrett Bauman’s “Getting To Know You” profile of Phil Oreskovic here.


                        As the Trade Deadline approaches, speculation will continue to grow over which Maple Leaf players may be moving on to new NHL destinations.

                        The following is my own personal estimation of the likelihood of regular roster players actually getting dealt, based upon contract status, playoff/stretch drive impact potential, comments from players/coaches/management, and of course the metaphorical smoke & fire (the amount of repetition in the rumour mills).   To quote the great Chazz Palminteri, “a rumour’s not a rumour that doesn’t die”.


                          “Oh well, screw it.  It’s time to go on to the next one.”
                          Rinse and repeat Justin, as these words left the Toronto tender’s mouth after getting shelled for six goals in a loss to the Minnesota Wild last week.  One would hazard a guess that the young goalie will need some more of this good humour after seeing a similar fate tonight.  Likely exhausted from the extensive bus ride to Buffalo, the Maple Leafs as a team did very little to support their rookie netminder.


                            Tonight, the Leafs will play the Minnesota Wild. Justin Pogge will be joining the Leafs for the affair and will get his second start this season. Mike Van Ryn, despite feeling well over the last week, has finally been cleared to play for the Blue and White after suffering a mild concussion in mid December.


                              The league has announced a 3 game suspension for Maple Leafs rookie Mikhail Grabovski after the “abuse of an official” during last night’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens. The game got heated, and former Canadien, Grabovski, tried to go after the encouraging Sergei Kostitsyn, but were both held by the officials – Grabovski was pinned to the ice. The “intervention” (which no one ever likes) caused both to become quite upset and, ultimately, Grabovski got up off the ice, used some choice words (which are assumed to have translated into English as “I don’t like your face”) then bumped into the official who pinned him and used the same words on the linesman. Near the end of Grabovski’s speech, he kicked ice at the official (oooo) and skated off the ice giving the audience a double peace-sign – very political.


                                In October 2008, a reporter set the Barilkosphere into a tizzy with a certain writing. The intention was simple, a deliberately cruel finger pointing at Leafs Nation.

                                The backlash was tremendous, and it inspired Pension Plan Puppets to trigger a massive response to the piece. It shows the unifying force behind the internet, allowing fans the opportunity to voice dissent.



                                  Williams & White score to rally Leafs to 2-1 win at the HSBC

                                  The Maple Leafs escaped from the House of Pain with two points tonight and, better yet, their two call-ups were superlative in the process. Jeremy Williams sniped his second in as many games from the half boards to even the game at ones late in the second frame before Ian White beat Ryan Miller with a seeing eye double to give the Leafs the edge in the third. Fellow call-up Jaime Sifers was a physical force on the blue-line, throwing a team-leading three hits and finishing second only to Jeff Finger in terms of ice-time (a resounding 21 minutes including 5 minutes of short-handed time). Sifers played a role in a critical penalty kill in the late stages.

                                  Be sure to check out Scot Louck’s post-game thoughts below.


                                    PhotobucketFirst of six meetings between Leafs & Sabres this season

                                    The Maple Leafs renew acquaintances with their northeast rival Buffalo Sabres at the HBSC tonight, a building home to both some chilling and some rosy Leaf memories, from the Bryan McCabe own goal and other monumental Leaf collapses to some pretty all-around satisfying Ws.