The two greatest military tacticians of the past 5000 years â€“ Sun Tzu and Sgt. Slaughter â€“ both spoke on the value of knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your enemies in the field.Â To effectively assess the situational realities of the Toronto Maple Leafs it pays to look at the status of their direct competition within the Northeast division.Â Playing 24 games against teams from their own division, pride, points and position are all on the line.Â While by no means comprehensive (as yet), take a gander at the past 3 weeks of moves.
The Canadians, Senators, Bruins and Sabres all earned playoff positions last season.Â A successful, playoff calibre Leafs squad must commit themselves to dominating these frequent opponents as more than a quarter of the season will be played against them.
According to the Toronto Star‘s Damien Cox, the Maple Leafs have targeted three potential players to bolster their lineup heading into next season.
For starters, the club is poised to make a run at impending unrestricted free agent defenseman Dan Hamhuis. Hamhuis is a good all-around defenseman who plays 21-22 minutes a night, makes a decent first pass, and can contribute a little bit in the offensive zone. His calling card is predominantly solid, if unspectacular even strength play, while eating up a ton of ice-time against the opposing team’s top lines. Still just 27 years of age, Hamhuis ranked 6th among NHL defenseman in takeaways last season. The potential link to Toronto is interesting because you’d think they’d already have enough money tied up on the blueline when Hamhuis could potentially be looking at upwards of $3 million on a long-term deal.
The team is also said to be kicking the tires on wingers Nathan Horton and Patrick Sharp, none of whom are strangers to the trade rumor mill. As mentioned previously, Horton has a no-trade clause that goes into effect on July 1st, which may motivate Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon to move the underachieving youngster at the draft. Meanwhile, Sharp is garnering plenty of interest around the league after an impressive point-a-game Stanley Cup run, but it’s likely that Chicago will exhaust all other possible trade alternatives before deciding to trade their valuable two-way forward.
So let’s get this straight: Burke wants a top six winger with some size who can score. Ideally, that player is young enough to fit into the team’s long-term core and plays with the kind of aggressive, up-tempo forechecking style the Leafs hope to one day employ. What if he were an Ontario kid, a former 3rd overall pick, and figures to be on the trading block? Bonus!
According to the Sun Sentinel, Horton’s agent would “not be surprised” if Nathan were dealt between now and the draft, as his no-trade clause kicks on July 1st. He had spoken with new Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon and has confirmed that while the team does like Nathan as a player, nobody is untouchable. Horton’s contract currently has 3 years left at a very affordable $4 million cap hit, but he has struggled to stay healthy over the past two seasons. He had a forgettable ’08-’09 campaign with just 45 points in 67 games played, but bounced back to score 57 points in 65 games played last season. Still just 25 years of age, Horton still carries that potential to be a 30-40 goal scorer in the right situation and a change of scenery should do him well.
With the World Junior Championship gold medal game taking centre stage tonight (7:30pm, TSN), Leafs’ fans can be forgiven for overlooking tonight’s matchup against an inconsistent Florida Panthers squad (7:00pm, Sportsnet).
Coming off a disastrous mini-road trip out West, featuring losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, the Maple Leafs will look to inject some confidence into their lineup with a victory against the visiting Panthers, who sit only 4 points ahead of the Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings.
My Team Canada Roster selections may seem a little vanilla, but they’ve been selected to play out various situations. Penalty killing, power play and balance on all the forward units took precedent over sheer offensive/defensive ability.
Despite an encouraging 3-0-4 record in their past 7 games, the Maple Leafs continue to explore ways to improve their roster with an eye to both the current season and the future. Â The following is a rundown of the latest rumours making their way around the campfire in reference to the boys in blue.
There’s nothing like an 0-6-1 start to push the rumour mill into full swing. Â Â The following is a quick rundown of some of the talk working its way through the grapevine.
As always, this is only talk — as in, players rumoured to be under consideration, not deals that are on the brink of consummation. Â Take it for what it is.
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?
By now, I’m sure many of you have seen ESPN’s report of a significant offer by the Maple Leafs for Phil Kessel: two 1st round picks and a 2nd round pick. The general reflex reaction that we’ve been conditioned to by the Toronto media the last few seasons is to avoid moving 1st round selections by any means necessary. The thought of moving two such commodities is beyond horrifying. I’ve seen the name Taylor Hall used as the backbone of many an argument over the last few days, often associated with the “chance” of landing said player. If we’re gonna turn this into a game of chance, let’s at least get all the cards on the table.
With the trade deadline just weeks away, here are a few rumors that are doing more than just making the rounds.