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As we await the season opener for the big club, let’s see how some of the kids are doing:
- Greg McKegg is off to an excellent start with 8 points in 5 games played for the Erie Otters. Greg recorded two shorthanded goals and added another assist for good measure in a 5-2 win last night over the London Knights. McKegg is currently tied for 5th overall in OHL scoring.
- Brad Ross has also started well out of the gate with 4 goals and 5 points in 3 games played for the Portland Winterhawks. Without Nino Niederreiter and possibly Ryan Johansen this season, Ross will be counted upon to shoulder a much bigger offensive load. He’s responded well so far, taking a hold of the team’s scoring lead in addition to posting a team best +5 rating.
- Jesse Blacker is back with the Owen Sound Attack and has 2 points through 2 games played. It’s clear that Blacker has plenty of offensive potential, but he will have to work at rounding out the other areas of his game and improve upon last year’s team worst -22 rating.
- The Toronto Marlies have started their hockey season on a positive note with back to back preseason wins over the Rochester Americans. Forward Marcel Mueller has been an absolute force so far, recording 4 goals and 1 assist for 5 points through the pair of games. The much maligned Mikhail Stefanovich will look for a big rebound year and is off to a good start with a pair of goals in the preseason opener. James Reimer was the winning goaltender on Friday while Ben Scrivens stopped 21 of 24 shots for the victory on Saturday. Toronto will open the season Saturday, October 9th against the Rochester Americans at the Ricoh Coliseum.
Here are tonight’s lines courtesy of Pension Plan Puppets:
Versteeg – BozakÂ - Kessel
MacArthur – GrabovskiÂ - Kulemin
Sjostrom – BrentÂ - Armstrong
Orr – Zigomanis – Brown
Beauchemin – Phaneuf
Kaberle – Komisarek
Gunnarsson – Schenn
Jeff Finger returns to the line-up tonight in Detroit in what many will suggest is his Maple Leafs swan song/final pit stop en route to the Marlies. Burke is saying the right things about Finger’s right to a “fair look” and the importance of respecting players acquired via free agency as it relates to organizational reputation. But the realities are this: the Leafs are sitting with both Brett Lebda and Finger on the outside of their top six, over the cap by around $300k and uncomfortably close even with Lashoff and his $550k assigned to the Marlies. And that’s assuming Nazem Kadri and his $1.7 million cap hit will not be a part of the roster come opening night. If it’s important to show respect to signed free agents, surely Lebda won’t be Marlie-bound after his first training camp as a Leaf. Simply, something has to give, and the $3.5 million Finger, a Leaf of two seasons now, seems the obvious candidate for demotion.
Darcy Tucker has officially called it a career. “After spending the whole summer anticipating I would play, it got to a point where I knew it was time.”
“I just knew, during workouts I didn’t have that same feeling,” Tucker told TSN, “and I needed to be fair with my family.”
Perhaps the best part about Nazem Kadri’s two-goal, three-point performance last night against the Ottawa Senators is that he can start the season with the Toronto Marlies with his head held high. Certainly, Leafs fans, management and Kadri alike will hope he can relay last night’s performance on the wing into another strong showing against Detroit on Friday and make a case for a place in the big Leafs’ top six for the October 7th date with the Habs. But should Kadri’s play return to the form he exhibited in previous preseason showings – by no means terrible, but not as impressive as it will take – he can take solace and confidence in last night’s achievements and start off on the right foot at the Ricoh.
With the pre-season nearly finished, the Leafs roster is beginning to take shape for 2010-11. Similarly, the Marlies are starting to become more defined as major league cuts are shuffled down to the minor league club. What is not so clearly defined on the Marlies is their goaltending situation. There will be a ton of competition between the four goalies in the Leafs minor pro system to get starts this season and those that do will have to seize the opportunity. Letâ€™s take a look:
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.
The shoe is on the other hoof for tonight’s Leafs-Sabres rematch at the ACC as the Leafs are putting just about their best foot forward and the Sabres are sitting much of their core group. The Leafs will dress their complete top six on the back end, with Kaberle-Komisarek, Phaneuf-Gunnarsson, and Beauchemin-Schenn making up the pairings. Jonas Gustavsson will go the distance in net and a near-complete four lines (with one question mark remaining at the third line centre position) will dress up front. The full line-ups and a few notes are after the jump.
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.
Courtesy of the Globe’s James Mirtle, the Maple Leafs trimmed the camp roster from 47 down to 30 on Sunday afternoon, as the team’s opening night lineup came just a little more into focus. Rynnas, Scrivens, Aulie, Brennan, Gysbers, Holzer, Mikus, D’Amigo, Irwin, Mueller, and Slaney will report to the Marlies, while Blacker, Carrick, Crescenzi and Ross will head back to junior. Despite performing well for two games, veteran checking forward Wayne Primeau has been released, as the club is likely looking to open up another roster spot for a younger player.
Coming off a tough shootout loss against the Flyers last night, the Leafs will look to rebound on the road against the Sabres tonight at HSBC Arena. Despite blowing a late third period lead, there was a lot to like about the Leafs’ performance, including a strong bounce back game from captain Dion Phaneuf and spurts of brilliance from the club’s new top line of Versteeg, Bozak and Kessel. The Buds will be in tough tonight against the Sabres, who will be icing a lineup very similar to the one they will open the season with.
One of the more interesting subplots to the Maple Leafs’ 2010-11 preseason has been the Michael Liambas situation. Offered a tryout – amidst much fanfare – in time for the team’s annual Rookie Camp, the infamous winger was ultimately released on Thursday, during the first round of cuts at the NHL training camp.
Ordinarily, such a move would be regarded as no more than a footnote, a regular or even “to be expected” occurrence which takes place in any training camp. But Liambas’ situation was – and remains – anything but ordinary.
An intriguing top line of Kris Versteeg, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel will feature in tonight’s rematch with the Flyers following the Leafs’ 11-round shootout win over Philadelphia last night at the John Lebatt Centre in London. The trio is the most skilled iteration of forwards the Leafs’ roster has to offer, and combined with Dion Phaneuf and Tomas Kaberle on the blueline (who will also dress) represent an interesting potential powerplay option for coach Wilson. The results with the man advantage tonight, then, will be well worth monitoring.
The Leafs won a game in the shootout. I’m as confused as you are. It was certainly an interesting one, going for 11 rounds before Colby Armstrong put Philadelphia out of their misery. Here are my game notes:
- The goaltending was great for the Leafs tonight, with Reimer in particular having a very strong performance. Both goals for Philly were flukey and both goalies played strong positional games. The shootout in particular was very impressive for Reimer, showing off his fast reflexes. Reimer is becoming a top goaltending prospect for the Leafs and his year with the Marlies should be very interesting.
McKegg will be one to watch tonight
The Leafs face the Flyers tonight in London in what will surely be a physical endeavor. Paul Hendrick over at MapleLeafs.com has the lines for tonight’s game:
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.
Be sure to check out Nikhil’s post-game thoughts from last night.
Tuesday night, September 21st, about 6:40 p.m.Â I am dancing – yes, dancing, provided you can call a kind of frenetic spasticism punctuated with finger snaps and some twirling hands “dancing” – to no music in my kitchen as I cook our pasta for dinner.Â I am in a rush, and I am excited, because after a long summer of legal wrangling over the Kovalchuk contract, eternal speculation about Tomas Kaberle’s status and apparently endless MSM vs. blogger hissy fits, the puck is finally dropping on the preseason.Â Don’t get me wrong, I know that the preseason sucks.Â I know it’s not reflective or in any way predictive of how the team will do during the regular season – I’ve been a hockey fan long enough to know that, and last year’s brilliant exhibition campaign is still fresh in my memory.Â Almost as fresh as the oh-and-eight start that followed it, once the games counted.
Hey, let’s get this straight right off the bat: it sucks to lose 5-0 to the Ottawa Senators. Â Any day of the year, any type of game. Â There will undoubtedly be at least one mainstream media headline out there along the lines of: “Leafs back to losing ways”. Â But a step back will tell us this is the first of a whopping nine exhibition matches Toronto will be playing and a ton can (and probably will) change in the next two weeks.
After months of nothing but Kaberle rumours and Grabovski lawsuits, Leafs Nation will finally get a glimpse of their 2010-2011 Toronto Maple Leafs.Â Being the first game of the preseason, Toronto is going with a healthy mix of youngsters, borderliners, and veterans.Â Luckily, fans will not have to wait to see most of the new Leafs (Clarke MacArthur excepted) as off-season acquisitions Versteeg, Armstrong, Brown and Lebda will all be hitting the ice.
Matt Fratin, seen here hosting McNaughton Cup (WCHA Regular Season Title) is a breakout candidate for 2010-2011
At this time last year, Jerry D’Amigo was a little known Maple Leafs’ draftee who had been passed over 157 times by other clubs only a few months before. After a banner year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the NCAA and a brilliant run at the World Juniors, the not even 20 year old D’Amigo currently finds himself with an NHL contract, an invite to training camp, and a legitimate shot at making his dreams come true as soon as this fall. That was last year. Now let’s take a look at some of the names that could be making some serious headway up the Leafs’ organizational depth charts in 2010-2011.
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