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* 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?
The Torontosaurus Rex for Week 23 is fitting and also notoriously absent from the only Leafs extra time loss in the last seven overtime/shootout games. In that loss, the Maple Leafs and Penguins tied a dubious NHL record, one night after the Leafs/Rangers surpassed 100 overtime games in the NHL this season.
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 Torontosaurus Rex for Week 21 is ….
This is an odd one to say the least.
The Maple Leafs, fresh off last night’s victory over Oilers, are on Long Island this afternoon toÂ take on the Islanders in an usually-timed 5pm game (Leafs TV).
This involves the Leafs, as well as around the league.
TFP: The Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators are among the teams to have serious interest in Alexei Ponikarovsky. Various reports suggest the Leafs are looking for a first-round pick in exchange for Ponikarovsky, though it’s believed Burke is willing to accept a second-round pick and a top prospect.”
5:00 PM Update – Mueller, Roloson, Hamhuis, Voros/Lisin.
With the NHL’s Olympic Trade Freeze about to hit at 3pm today, reports out of Pittsburgh indicate that the Maple Leafs had scouted the Penguins’ Wednesday game against the Islanders. The obvious trade fit here wouldÂ seem to be a winger such as Alexei Ponikarovsky or even Lee Stempniak. However, the Pens currently have about $600 k available in cap space, so any significant acquisition means that another roster player would have to be going the other way.
Dreger had speculated a few days ago that the Leafs were looking for a 2nd round pick along with a roster player in exchange for Ponikarovsky, which is certainly consistent with Burke’s moves as Toronto GM. Realizing a lack of quality grinders on his team, Brian has been gradually and subtly requesting that teams include quality 3rd and 4th line players in a couple of his deals (see Primeau in the Stralman deal and Sjostrom in the Phaneuf deal). So perhaps Tyler Kennedy or Pascal Dupuis along with a draft pick coming back the Leafs’ way would be the most feasible framework around which to base a deal.
Should be an interesting day ahead.
Mike Peca, also known as the little engine who could, has officially called it a career today. The 35-year oldÂ grinding leaderÂ playedÂ 864 career gamesÂ with the Canucks, Sabres, Islanders, Oilers, Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets.Â During that time, he talliedÂ 176 goals, 289 assists and 798 penalty minutes.Â Â On two seperate occasions, he reachedÂ the Stanley Cup FinalsÂ (Buffalo in 1999 and Edmonton 2006).Â He also helped Canada capture the gold medal at the 2002 Olympic Winter games in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The NHL hit triple digit shootouts (100), setting a dubious milestone on the same day the midway point in the NHL schedule was reached in the schedule altered Olympics campaign.
Both NHL milestones – 100 shootouts and the midway point – took the lowest amount of games and days to reach in post lockout history.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a rebuild, or a re-tool, whichever you prefer. Â In any event, a process such as this requires a team to have a plentiful prospect pipe, ripe with blue chippers are all positions. Â The Leafs certainly may not be plentiful when it comes to blue chip prospects, but they do have a few who are developing quite nicely.
And you just never know when and where a potential blue chipper may come from.
If drafting has taught us anything, it’s shown to be far from an exact science. Â Can’t miss prospects turn out to be busts occasionally, and sometimes late round picks have proven to be key components for a team, just ask, among others, Tomas Kaberle, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Viktor Stalberg.
Okay, while he may not garner enough adulation to be put in a group with some of the NHL’s top stars, there is plenty of reason to believe he may in fact one day be worthy of the mention.
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!
Did the neutral zone trap morph into the shootout? The pre-lockout reason for altering the rules, transfigured into the shootout as teams play for the shootout more this season. If trends are any indication, perhaps the two memes have a direct correlation.
It took a while, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are finally starting to look comfortable on home ice, and on the ice in general, as one of their better overall team efforts led to a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night in front of a joyful, loud crowd at the Air Canada Centre.
Jason Blake scored the winner with just under five minutes left in the third period as the Leafs skated away with a hard fought 3-2 win.
Francois Beauchemin and Ian White also scored for Toronto, who improved to 7-2-2 in their last eleven games. Â John Tavares scored both goals for the Islanders.
Because when our readers ask, we deliver!
Congrats to everyone who picked Beauchemin for the first game of our contest.
The MLHS Holiday Giveaway Contest is opening it’s first official game thread. Â All eligible participants will have the opportunity to win a ticket to the January 14th Leafs game against the Flyers! Â This is the first of seventeen Leafs games (from Dec. 9th to Jan. 9th) that will be counted towards the contest. Â Simply make some gutsy predictions in these threads before the beginning of each game and try to climb to the top of the standings!
I have always believed that a persons real intelligence level is a sum of what they allow themselves to learn from others.Â Book smarts, education, degrees, etc are all an indication of knowledge – but, nothing adds to a persons real world IQ more then lessons learned.Â Real intelligent people are able to learn by watching and listening to others rather then needing to learn everything themselves – you know, the hard way (sadly, the path I usually end up taking).Â I am continually striving to get better at learning from others and gather as much IQ as I can from the experiences, observations and hard knocks others are willing to share with me.Â As this pertains to hockey specifically, I had an opportunity to watch a Leafs game with Gus Katsaros last week and also the opportunity to meet with and speak to Garrett Bauman.Â Gus and I had some nice seats for the New York Islanders game sitting at the face off circle in the offensive zone where the Leafs tallied some 50 of their 61 total shots.Â I had meant to do a post game blog at the time, but, life got busy and I guess it is too late for that now.Â However, that day yielded several interesting hockey learning opportunities for me personally and I decided that these lessons alone would make great blog material.
The Leafs and Islanders have a fair bit of history between them. The Mike Peca/Darcy Tucker incident, the Leafs trading up to acquire Luke Schenn, and even the Islanders beating the Devils (who played Scott Clemmenson instead of Martin Brodeur) in a shootout to knock the Leafs out of the 2006-07 playoffs by one point in the final game of the season. Tonight, they meet again in Toronto.
- The Globe and Mail explains that thanks to an impressive win over the Capitals, the Leafs’ veterans have bought themselves some more time, and no immediate restructuring with Marlies players will be made. Yeesh.
- The Toronto Sun reviews a possible Brent Sopel to Toronto swap, stating that the $500K cleared in the waiving of Andrew Ebbett likely stalled trade talks over the weekend as Chicago seemed to gain a bit more leverage.
- The Marlies came away with a 3-2 shootout win over the Monsters yesterday afternoon, and it was in big part due to the play of first star James Reimer, who turned away 30 shots, including an overtime breakaway and four shootout attempts. Don’t look now but Reimer is quickly doing his best to help us forget Justin Pogge, as the 21 year old boasts a 5-1-1 record with a 2.10 GAA and .928 SV%.
- Lastly, I’ve still got a pair of last minute purples to tonight’s game against the Islanders that I’m looking to move at cost. Drop me an email if you’re interested. Update: Tickets have been sold, thanks for your interest.
Update: Damien Cox is reporting that Burke is currently working on at least two possible trades.
- The Toronto Sun‘s got a very interesting quote from Ron Wilson. When broached about the possibility of call-ups from the Marlies, the head coach replied: “It would give us a boost, but because we are kind of limited, we canâ€™t send anybody down”. You’re kidding right? What happened to all that preseason talk about burying underperforming veterans in the minors? Where’s the accountability?
- Darren Dreger offers up some speculation as to what could be a very busy offseason next summer with as many as 17 free agents, 11 of whom will be unrestricted. He mentions that Stajan is a very likely candidate to be traded, and Ponikarovsky seems to be the only one who will be offered an extension.
- Prospect Notes: Nazem Kadri had a pair of very impressive games this past week, first in the OHL vs. Russia Subway Series, displaying a ton of poise and skill running the powerplay and then notching 3 assists against Erie last night. Jimmy Hayes, the Leafs’ 2008 2nd round selection, is showing signs of breaking out in the NCAA, with a 4 assist game last week and another goal last night.
- Once again, a pair of purples avaiable at cost for the Monday night’s game against John Tavares and the New York Islanders. First come first serve basis via email please.
Watching the Leafs play this season has already clearly demonstrated 3 distinct and separate teams.Â Â Team1 started the season on a dreadful 0-6-1 streak.Â Team2 surfaced on the teams first extended raod trip, and although losing the opener by the closest of margins in Vancouver, they managed to rally off a string of impressive games, still falling short and losing in extra time or in a shootout.Â Team3, continued to pick up a point in games and more recently have managed to win their last 2 in a row.Â But, IÂ was leftÂ asking the question, why the turn around?Â If one was to read the various media reports, 1 man alone was responsible for the Leafs woes early on (Toskala) and now one man alone is the saviour and is responsible for the Leafs turn around (Gustavsson).
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