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The Leafs will start and end with Montreal as to be expected. The schedule includes nine back-to-backs, an increase over the seven they played last season. The Leafs will head northwest March 22-24 to play Minnesota and Colorado after hosting them last season. The most taxing travel appears to be a four game stretch from January 7 – 13 when the Buds will make stops in Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Jose and Phoenix. The Leafs will also conduct a potentially critical division tour from February 12 – 19 when they face off consecutively with each Northeast rival. From December 14-18, the Blue and White will go on a Western Canada road trip where they can visit Taylor Hall, Matt Stajan and Kyle Wellwood. The full sched after the jump:
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.
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 itâ€™s the increasing need for an overhaul in the leagues pointsâ€™ 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.
It’s that time of year again. Â The most wonderful time of the year. Â No, not Christmas, and no, you won’t see any of those silly Staples commercials.
It’s time for the NHL playoffs.
The annual spring tournament that features some of the most exciting hockey of the season. Â It’s Â triple overtime games that rage on long into the night, games so long that you’ll hope you saved some sick days. Â It’s players skating through pain, all for the common goal of lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup.
And the great fans of the NHL, well they have the best seat in the house.
Around this time of year, especially the first round, marriages are postponed. Â Assignments are left on desks unfinished. Â Scheduled are cleared, or built around. Â Kiss your wife or girlfriend, and tell her you’ll see her in a few months, a better person than when you last saw her.
Phil Kessel has but one point in five games against his former side while recurrent Leafs nightmare Tuukka Rask, league leader in goals against average and save percentage, stands 3-1-0 against the club that drafted him. This match-up tonight marks the final opportunity this season to get a little bit of that sour taste out of the fan base’s collective mouth and perhaps symbolize that we, too, can make good trades.
Brian Burke has done an outstanding job of refacing the Leafs organization in a very short period of time.Â I for one am predicting a very surprising season from the Leafs as early as next year or the year after, once again propelling them into the playoffs and a very respectable playoff drive.Â The cumulative effort of acquiring several players and prospects that are “NHL ready” is absolutely and positively an impressive feat.Â Acquiring a player with the pedigree of Dion Phaneuf for almost zero significant cost was sheer brilliance.Â His relentless pursuit of, and ultimate acquisitions of players like Bozak, Hanson and Gustavsson inspire the type of confidence and hope that has been lacking in this city and in this franchise for almost a decade.
* aka “Operation: Basement Breakout”
With last night’s loss, the Maple Leafs were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention for the 5th straight year. This was not really news – even the most optimistic of Leafs’ fans pretty much knew this to be the case since early into the New Year, if not sooner.
However, a more prevalent question regarding the season standings remains: is getting out of last place in the Eastern Conference still possible?
Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs will host the Atlanta Thrashers at the Air Canada Center. Atlanta is hoping to catch the Boston Bruins for the 8th seed in the East and snag a post-season berth, while the Maple Leafs are looking to continue a playoff of their own – the quest to get out of the bottom five.
NOTE: Newly signed Brayden Irwin will not make his debut tonight. He will likely see action Thursday or Saturday.
The Leafs are looking to post their third straight win as they roll into Pittsburgh for this Sunday afternoon tilt.Â On the surface, this may seem like a run-of-the-mill Sunday game as there is no obvious importance in a matchup between the defending Stanley cup champs and our basement-dwelling team.Â However, there are a multitude of underlying storylines that should make this a very interesting game.
The most common complaint I hear from fans, media and even some hockey people revolves around the point system and the three point game.
Having done extensive point system analysis, alerted of a record shootout pace and declining overtimes, coupled with a scoring dip to the lowest goals-per-game average since prior to the lockout, a conclusion seems to come simple enough.
Submitted by Michael Stephens (a.k.a. Baumgartner)
The Toronto Maple Leafs have the Leagueâ€™s worst penalty kill, sporting a 73.0% success rate. They have been shorthanded 252 times this season, surrendering 68 goals. Through 71 games this season, they average 3.5 penalties (252ts/71gp) each night.
Around January 15th, this vaunted penalty kill was even worse, an abysmal 68.9%. Ron Wilson was smugly talking about how he had to teach his boys how to flip the puck down the ice and out of the zone.
Final Deadline Trades:
Alexei Ponikarovsky to Pittsburgh for Luca Caputi and Martin Skoula
Martin Skoula to New Jersey for a fifth round draft selection.
Lee Stempniak to PHX for 4th and 7th rounders.
Joey MacDonald to ANA for a 7th rounder in 2011.
Wrap-Up: That looks to be a wrap on Brian Burke’s trade activity for the 2009-10 season. The Stempniak deal was obviously a form of loss-cutting on a pending UFA, but it’s a bit painful to remember who we sacrificed to acquire him in November of 2008 in two albeit underachieving first rounders in Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo. The Leafs will not draft until the third round this year, and Burke did not succeed in that sense, however he moved the only piece realistically capable of fetching a second rounder for a semi-established young asset with the potential to replace Poni at an immediately cheaper price in Luca Caputi. It looks as though no takers could be found on either Wayne Primeau or Garnet Exelby, who look sure to now enter the FA market July 1.
There seems to be details yet to unfurl surrounding the Tomas Kaberle situation this deadline, as once again Leafs fans were teased into believing a deal was pending (involving Hodgson, as it was reported, or possibly Alzner from Washington) only for what looked to be an imminent deal to be flatly denied by Brian Burke in the end. There are rumblings that Kaberle might have nixed a deal in similar fashion to the Jeff Carter situation at the ’08 deadline.
From Garrett Bauman:
With the Olympics wrapping up (and in the process Canada securing the record for most gold medals, capped off by our Men’s and Women’s hockey teams), the focus among hockey fans now shifts to the NHL trade deadline.
While there are few untouchables on the Maple Leafs’ roster, speculation is that only a handful of players are likely to be dealt between Monday and Wednesday. Here’s a look at some of the speculation surrounding the most-talked about candidates to swap jerseys.
Setting up a goal for the Leafs in lieu of a playoff spot, making up seven points to get out of the NHL basement is a good start .. but just how difficult will it be?
Let’s find out together.
For the second time in four days the Maple Leafs will face off against the New Jersey Devils, this time at the ACC. In what seems to be the most nonsensical decision made in recent memory by NHL schedulers, come this Friday the Leafs and Devils will have faced off three times in one calendar week. What’s up with that?
As you are all undoubtedly aware, the Leafs have a few new faces in the fold, and we are all eager to see what Phaneuf, Sjostrom, and Giguere bring to the table as members of the blue and white.
Note: I won’t get into trade analysis here; that has already been covered in excellent fashion by the MLHS crew in prior posts.
The Leafs took to the ice today in preparation for Martin Brodeur tomorrow night. It featured some interesting one on one drills for a few key players, and one defenceman who claims the future of his career and the Maple Leafs would be better suited if he were traded.
Alec has asked me to add my two cents hereabouts from time to time, and I’ve agreed to do so with some trepidation. Â For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Junior, from Heroes in Rehab: the blog. Â I don’t want to step on the toes of any of the other contributors on the site, so I want to contribute something a little different from the others.Â What follows is, at it turns out, a bit of a (lengthy, sorry about that) manifesto for what I hope to produce in the coming weeks for you all.Â Some of it’s even about hockey and the Leafs! Â I don’t really see my self as the Stuart Smalley of Leafs Nation, and the affirmations I offer will be far from daily, but…well, just read, won’t you?
We're Good Enough, We're Smart Enough and Gosh Darn it People Like Us.
One lousy heart-stopping, craptastic win-that-almost-wasnâ€™t against the Thrashers Predators (update: oops, thanks Nights, I’m an idiot.Â Stupid interchangeable southeastern teams!).Â One crummy â€œWâ€ from a five game road trip through the Southeast, the division where NHL hockey goes to die.Â The Maple Leafs canâ€™t be happy with the way that worked out.Â When the trip began ten days ago, it seemed obvious that the Leafs were expecting to get pasted by Ovechkin and the Caps (first clue: starting Vesa Toskala); after getting the better of Bruce Boudreauâ€™s squad a couple of times earlier this year, it was essentially a foregone conclusion that the Blue & White would have the least amount of fun in a DC amphitheatre since Abraham Lincoln, and thatâ€™s exactly how it worked out.Â But they had to be hoping for more out of matches against Dixieâ€™s puck-playing tomato cans: Nashville, Atlanta, Tampa and Florida.
Of course we know now that it didnâ€™t work out that way.Â Much to the chagrin of the local populace, Ron Wilson, Brian Burke and the team have arrived home with only two points to declare at Customs.Â As far as road trip expectations go, this is the equivalent of a â€œbuddies road trip to Vegasâ€ turning into â€œan insurance seminar in Peoria.â€
The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of three teams without a shutout this season. They have been shutout four times, allowing 15 goals. They’ve scored 98 goals in wins and a paltry 12 in losses. Of the 44 goals they’ve allowed in losses, 15 come by way of shutouts.
The latest takes on it’s infamy as the record-breaking shutout by a most deserving, Martin Brodeur.
The New Jersey Devils are one of five teams that have not been shutout this season. Brodeur’s three shutouts for the Devils this season set up and then smashed the all time shutout record.
In honour of the new shutout record at 104 – and counting – the following are the to-date shutouts and numbers in the NHL in 2009-10.
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!
By: Gus Katsaros
Prior to the season starting, I had written about the impact of schedules. In particular, as the Leafs face the Habs tonight after playing the previous night, while Montreal is rested. Interesting enough, the last time this happened, Toronto beat Detroit 5-1.
Schedules make a big difference in the results of NHL teams fates during the season. In some instances, it could be the difference between a playoff spot and a tee time (and I thoroughly enjoy both â€“ FORRRREEEE!!).
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