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Minnesota Wild

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As the Toronto Maple Leafs skip along to their first playoff berth in eight seasons, Dion Phaneuf’s play is forcing his name to be included in discussion for the Norris Trophy.  The Norris is awarded annually to “the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” and that sure sounds like the play of the Leaf captain this season.

He plays a physical, two-way brand of hockey and sits fifth-best in league for defensemen scoring with eight goals and 18 assists for 26 points in 42 games.  He’s a leader on the ice, the best defender on the team by a mile and has joined forces with Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri and James Reimer to drag the Leafs into contention.

But how does his performance this season stack up against performances past, and what greater truths can we find about the anatomy of a Norris Nominee?

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Tickets: Are you watching or going to tonight’s Leafs game? RSVP here and be entered to win $200 in free tickets.

We’re at the half way point and the Leafs are in great shape at 15-9-0, sitting in fifth in the East with 30 points. .500 hockey from here on in, while not the best way to enter the playoffs, gets the Leafs back to the post-season.

The Leafs recent form, on paper, has also been dandy, with three wins on the trot. On one hand you’re happy with those final results, with the team finding different ways to win whether coming from behind or holding on for dear life, on the other you’re concerned with the significant portions of game in which the Leafs have been outplayed, outpossessed and outchanced.

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    The year was 2005.  George W. Bush was still in office (yes, somehow Americans voted for him, twice), Hurricane Katrina was doing catastrophic damage to New Orleans, and the vatican was naming a new pope after the passing of John Paul II.

    In the sports world, the New England Patrios would win yet another Super Bowl, this time against the Eagles, the Washington Nationals would begin operation as Major League Baseball’s newest team, Danica Patrick became the first woman to lead a lap at the Indy 500, and the Chicago White Sox ended a lengthy championship drought, winning the world series in four straight over the Houston Astros.

    Oh, and there was this one other thing too.  NO HOCKEY.

    Embattled in a bitter labour dispute, the NHL shut down operations for an entire year in search of cost certainty, something they would eventually get, although the opinion on whether the design is flawed or not is still out to be deliberated.

    For fans of the NHL, the June 2005 entry draft was more than just a weekend in June in which young players would be drafted, making their way into the beginning of their National Hockey League careers.  It was a new beginning for the world of the NHL.  A new season was about to kick off in earnest.

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    Whichever way you cut it, the Leafs endured a torrid season that no statistical tinkering can mend. Regardless, if there is one thing most opposing NHL fans can agree on it’s the increasing need for an overhaul in the leagues points’ structure and the farcical awarding of points in the overall standings.

    Where once every game had two points at stake, either by means of two for the win or split after an OT tie, the inclusion of an extra point for teams losing in OT or, more prevalently, after the shootout, has spawned an lopsided points structure that favours teams and coaches who adopt an cautious approach toward the end of regulation time that is the polar opposite of what was originally intended.

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    As you are no doubt well aware, the NHL draft lottery will be held tonight in New York to determine the order of the 14 non-playoff teams heading into the June 25-26 draft in Los Angeles. You can catch coverage of the lottery at 8pm on TSN.

    Update
    And the winner is … Edmonton.  Leafs fans, prepare yourselves to endure “Kessel Trade” debates for the better part of the next decade.

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      Daymond Langkow was injured today in Calgary’s loss to the Minnesota Wild. He was shoved in the slot before taking a shot to the back of the neck. Langkow then laid dazed on the ice with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

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        Just wanted to share a fantastic bit of work done by Nights, one of our many enthusiastic and intelligent readers, who evaluated how the NHL landscape would look without the first 8 games of the season during which the Maple Leafs struggled mightily. Great work!

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          It was the best of times, it was the worst of times and it was the most idiotic decision in Dominic Moore's career. From a player who was initially claimed by the Maple Leafs off waivers from the Minnesota Wild, and became the ether to Jason Blake's resurgence last season, it seems either greed, a serious misjudgment, or just flat out stupidity cost him nearly $4M dollars.

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            Maple Leafs defenceman Mike Komisarek is expected to miss 3-4 weeks due to a small quad tear. He got hurt in Saturday night’s game against the Red Wings and left Tuesday’s game versus the Wild early as well.

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              For the second time this week, Mike Komisarek has missed the team practice. He also left early on in the game against the Wild on Tuesday and now Ron Wilson isn’t sure when he will return, or if he’s even able to play this weekend.
              Update: Burke’s reaction after the GM’s Meeting.

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                Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs will try and make it 3 wins in a row as they host the Minnesota Wild. Toronto is just 6 points out of a playoff position with 2 games on hand. A win tonight would add to their current point streak of 11 points in their last 7 games.

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                  - The Toronto Star has an interesting article that mentions the Leafs would be at least open to talk of a second NHL team in the Greater Toronto Area.

                  - As Mike talked about in his blog, it appears that Ron Wilson will be riding the hot hand with goaltender Jonas Gustavsson until a change needs to be made.

                  - There are a few preliminary whispers of a possible deal involving a swap of netminders between the Leafs and the Ducks, with Vesa Toskala’s expiring contract heading down south and J.S. Giguere reunited with GM Brian Burke and goaltending coach Francois Allaire.

                  - Last, but not least, I’ve got a pair of last minute purples available to tomorrow’s night contest against the Wild. A friend of mine was unable to attend and asked me to post it up on MLHS that he’s willing to let them go for cost. Just like last time, this offer is on a first come first serve basis for those reaching me at my email below.

                  [email protected]

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                    The Leafs held practice today in preparation for a busy week. They will have yet another back to back set of games over the weekend, and a few changes in the lineup have been made to kick things off this week.
                    Update: Jonas Gustavsson starts on Tuesday night!
                    Update 2: Komisarek probable for Tuesday’s game – Wilson.

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                      The stats were not in Toronto’s favor. The Red Wings current streak was not in Toronto’s favor. Chris Osgood’s recent play was not in Toronto’s favor. But the Leafs came out last night with such, dare I say it, truculence that fans gave them a standing ovation for their efforts, as well as the Leafs first win at home this season.

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                        Seven games into the season might still be too early to panic, but it’s becoming quite clear that we’re inching quickly towards the button. The Sun is reporting that Brian Burke has beeen making calls around the league in search for another goal scoring forward. In the same article, the Sun also mentions that Florida has begun preliminary talks in exploring trade possibilities for young power forward Nathan Horton, who has thus far struggled out of the gate. Is there a possible fit here?

                          171

                          Although it has been widely reported that Farjestads BK forward Rickard Wallin is considering leaving Sweden to return to the NHL, and that the team interested in bringing him back to North America is the Toronto Maple Leafs, there is no definite timetable on when he might sign.

                          One would assume a decision is likely to happen within the next week.   Wallin’s four year contract with Farjestads includes a clause which allows him to sign with an NHL team, but that clause is only in effect until July 15th.