What a heart-breaker that was.
What a heart-breaker that was.
Toronto Maple Leafs last 10: 6-1-3, New York Rangers last 10: 5-3-2
As the season winds down, The Maple Leafs find themselves in a position to either pull clear of the teams beneath them, or stumble and fall back into the clutches of 8th/9th place.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference (fourth in the Eastern Conference in wins) and some folks, even Leaf fans who write about the game, are simply writing it of as nothing other than luck. Puck luck. Good goaltending. Streaky scorers. Bad coaching is even bandied around as one of the reasons they’re bad – but not showing it yet – this season.
The truth is that the Leafs are playing right about where they should have been last year—offensively—but with a system that allows them to hold leads, shut down teams when they need to, kill off potential momentum robbing power-plays and turn them something that breeds confidence in their ability to defend and in their goalies’ ability to stop pucks. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Confidence was and is a big difference between this season and last. They were a confident group last season – arriving almost mid-summer for early camp and hitting the ground running – got off to a good start and were confident in their ability to score almost at will. But look no further than the two losses against Boston (3-2 until an empty netter finished it 4-2) and Pittsburgh (5-4 SO) – those were games that would have been horrendous blowouts last year. I think everyone was expecting them to be as much, but both turned into tight games in the end. That wasn’t on the strength of out-of-worldly goaltending, either.
The team has adopted a better structured system—even strength and on the PK—that has allowed them to mitigate the second chances that sank a lot of games last season. Rebound control is still a big issue with both Reimer and Scrivens, however getting good looks at pucks and directing rebounds into less dangerous areas allows them and the team in front of them to bend more without breaking into the type of horrible collapses that plagued the team last year. I feel that not fronting the opposing forwards—standing in front hoping for a shot block—and instead reverting to a method of clearing the front of the net, like defenceman have for decades, is much more effective for this group.
If Toronto were to be compared to any team right now, it would have to be the Ottawa Senators, as much as it pains me to say it. Both have benefited tremendously from strong AHL teams and excellent AHL coaching. Ottawa were a laugh to start the season last season—most were predicting a lottery pick, and instead they took the New York Rangers to game 7 of a close series that could have easily went either way. Toronto is getting exactly the same collection of things this year, between the internal development, the coach and the goaltending. The Marlies, in my opinion, were robbed of a Calder Cup by bad injury luck and I felt that, when healthy, they were the superior team. Regardless, they had the best PK in the league, the best goaltending tandem, and the best shutdown D pair in the league. Say what you will, but it’s impressive that they Leafs can walk three AHL defenceman onto the big club and have them play as well as they have. It’s a credit to the Marlies that they are able to do that so seamlessly. They aren’t ideal defence pairings, but this is the sort of depth that we, as Leaf fans, have been pining for. The first wave of development seems to have pushed through for the Leafs, and while the Marlies are completely depleted right now that will change as the next round of Burke draftees start to migrate from Jr. to the AHL. This is what a rebuild looks like.
So, just how good are they? I think they’re just that: “good,” if Boston is “Excellent” and Pittsburgh is “Very Good” to “Excellent” (they lack depth on D and a consistently good goalie). I think the Leafs were trending downwards quickly two and three seasons ago and are quickly trending upwards now. It should have happened a year ago, but … Ron Wilson.
It will be interesting to see how Dave Nonis makes his next two big moves to meet the club’s main two needs: A first line center who can play the game at a fast pace and is able to make plays at the same speed as Kessel and Lupul, and another top 4 two-way defenceman—preferably of the top-2 variety. Those moves don’t present themselves very often throughout the course of the season, and we’ll all be curious as to how he keeps adding top-flight talent to a group that has improved internally and is looking to advance gears in order to enter the conversation beside the Bostons and Pittsburghs of the league.
Tuesday Morning Leafs Links…
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ offense disappeared down the stretch and the defense had no answer for the “22-Million Dollar Line” en route to a 5 – 2 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday night. This was a funny game, because the Leafs never really had any business winning, yet carried a lead for 40+ minutes. That said, when Henrik Lundqvist has an average night, he ought to face more than 17 shots.
How’s the saying go? Shit happens, it’s how you react to the shit that counts? While the loss on Thursday was riddled with familiar Leaf flaws and more than a little concerning, we had seen much better from a defensive standpoint in the three games prior.
Forbes released their annual NHL franchise valuations today alongside an article detailing the financials of league’s 30 teams. Unsurprisingly, the Toronto Maple Leafs top the list â€” by a lot. With the recent sale to Bell/Rogers, the value of the team became more concrete and Forbes has estimated they are worth $250,000,000 more than the next team, The New York Rangers. Simply staggering numbers. The Leafs are the first team to break $1 billion dollars in value.
On the ice, the National Hockey League has never been more competitive than it has been over the course of its of its last collective bargaining agreement that began with the 2005-06 season. A different team has won the Stanley Cup each season, with the champion coming from big markets like Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as small ones such as Pittsburgh and Raleigh. A total of 12 different teams reached the finals during the seven-year CBA.
So why have the owners thus far cancelled 422 regular season games of the 2012-13 season, as well as the All Star Game, insisting on a new CBA that drastically reduces the amount of money (currently 57% of hockey-related revenue) that can be spent on player salaries?
The reason is because on the financial scoreboard, the leagueâ€™s 30 teams have never been further apart.
Consider the two most recent team sales. In May, Tom Stillman acquired the St. Louis Blues, the teamâ€™s American Hockey League affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen, the lease to Scottrade Center, and a piece of the Peabody Opera House for just $130 million. One month later, the NHL approved the Ontario Teachersâ€™ Pension Plan sale of its controlling interest in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns Torontoâ€™s Maple Leafs (NHL) and Raptors (NBA), and the Air Canada Centre, for an enterprise value of $2.05 billion. We estimate the transaction placed a value of $1 billion on the Maple Leafs.
Our data illustrates the leagueâ€™s conundrum. Fueled by a 9% increase in overall revenue to $3.4 billion during the 2011-12 season, the average National Hockey League team is now worth $282 million, 18% more than a year ago. The increase in revenue and value speaks to the leagues ability to raise the average ticket price an average of 5% last season, fill its arenas to 95.6% of capacity and renew or secure new sponsorships with Discover, Geico, Honda, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, McDonaldâ€™s, Paramount Pictures, Tim Hortons, Verizon and Visa.
But the spread between the rich and poor teams is dramatic. The top five teamsâ€“Maple Leafs ($1 billion), New York Rangers ($750 million), Montreal Canadiens ($575 million), Chicago Blackhawks ($350 million) and Boston Bruins ($348 million)â€“are worth $605 million, on average. The five least valuableâ€“Carolina Hurricanes ($162 million), New York Islanders ($155 million), Columbus Blue Jackets ($145 million), Phoenix Coyotes ($134 million) and St. Louis Blues ($130 million)â€“are worth just $145 million, on average.
There is also an incredible bifurcation of cash flow. Overall operating income (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) almost doubled during the 2011-12 season, to $250 million. But the sportâ€™s three most profitable teamsâ€“Maple Leafs ($81.9 million), Rangers ($74 million), Canadiens ($51.6 million)â€“accounted for 83% of the leagueâ€™s income, while 13 of 30 teams lost money, before non-cash expenses and interest payments.
If the salary cap were lowered to, say, 50% of revenue and the subsidies given from high-revenue teams to their low-revenue rivals was increased to $200 million from the current $150 million, which is essentially what where the two sides seem to be headed, small-market team values would get a big boost (as was the case in the NBA when the New Orleans Hornets and Memphis Grizzles sold for $338 million and $330 million, respectively, after the league worked out a new labor pact last year), and the leagueâ€™s overall profitability would increase. But teams like the Carolina Hurricanes, Phoenix Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets would still have trouble making money unless they went at least two rounds in the playoffs.
Drew Dorweiler, managing partner of Dartmouth Partners in Montreal, thinks the league needs to move some teams. â€œThe Sunbelt has had plenty of time to prove that the viability doesnâ€™t work.â€ Dorweiler thinks Quebec, where ground has already been broken for a new arena, will eventually get an NHL team, and he also thinks Portland, where minor league hockey is popular, and Seattle, where the city has approved a new arena, would be better cities to house teams than Arizona, North Carolina and Florida, where NHL teams are losing money.
The success of the Winnipeg Jets buttresses Dorweilerâ€™s case for moving a team to Quebec. Last year, True North Sports & Entertainment bought the Atlanta Thrashers for $170 million (including a $60 million relocation fee paid the the NHL). The team moved to Winnipeg and was renamed the Jets, after the original franchise that moved to Phoenix for the 1996 season. The team lost a pile of money playing in Atlanta but posted an operating income of $13.3 million last season, when they sold out every game at their new arena. We think the Jets are now worth $200 million.
The emboldened excerpt there is shocking even knowing beforehand the growth in revenue was driven by a wealth imbalance. Three teams responsible for 83% of the league’s income.
From Forbes’ Mike Ozanian:
There will always be a huge gap in team values because telecommunications companies like Rogers and Bell Canada can leverage the media rights for the Maple Leafs multiples of what Stillman can command in media fees for the Blues. But a new CBA in the NHL along the lines of what the NBA has, coupled with the relocation of some teams, would shrink the disparity in hockeyâ€™s operating income. Hopefully, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA director Donald Fehr stop fighting and start skating toward that goal before the entire season is lost.
The internal data of this table is corrupted!
The $1 billion valuation ties Leafs with the NFLâ€™s Carolina Panthers and MLBs Boston Red Sox at No. 23 and 24. How a losing team can make this much money is hard to wrap your head around. If that wasn’t bad enough, this was Mike Ozanian’s response to a question about their value if they were to actually become a winning team.
$1.5 Billion would put them at about the 6th most valuable sports franchise in the world behind Machester United ($2.33 billion), Real Madrid ($1.88 billion), The New York Yankees ($1.85 billion), The Dallas Cowboys ($1.85 billions), The Washington Red Skins ($1.56 billion) and just ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers ($1.4 billion).
Well, the luck continued yesterday for the Blue and White. With their monumental collapse in the playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers last season still fresh in the minds of the Boston faithful, the Bruins once again committed a major defensive lapse by surrendering five unanswered goalsÂ to the Rangers yesterday and putting the post season furtherÂ out of reach for the Leafs. Hopefully the hockey gods have the decency to balance out the Leafs’ misfortunes eventually because we haven’t seen much fall their way since the lockout.
At the end of the day, the Leafs playoffÂ aspirations rely solely on their performance throughout the entireÂ season. While a late stretch created excitement for the city of Toronto, this team must get over the hump and learn to win on aÂ consistent basis without that major, season-killing slump that has had them fighting such a deficit the past few seasons. All Leaf fans can ask for is an honest effort and demand no excuses for mid-season mediocrity. It has been well-documented that the Leafs have put together one of the best records in the NHL since the All Star break. None of that matters if the team is one of the worst through October and November.
With three important games left on the schedule, starting with tonight`s game against Washington, the Leafs will look to finish the year strong to leave no doubts that they finally jumped over the hump. Although the playoffs are still a mathematical possibility, the Buffalo Sabres must lose the rest of their games in regulation while the Leafs need to go three straight in either regulation or overtime. If the Sabres manage to record a point, Toronto will be officially, mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Hey, stranger things have happened, right? I think?
“Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”
It’s obvious now this Murphy character was a prescient Leafs fan. After the Leafs continued to do their part by dispatching the Senators on Saturday, the worst possible scenario transpired on Sunday as the Rangers beat the Flyers before the Sabres and Hurricanes put the icing in the shitcake by taking their game to overtime. The Hurricanes and Rangers are now 7-2-1 in their last ten while Buffalo is 6-2-2. The Leafs handed Buffalo one of their regulation losses while the other came from the Hurricanes. One of two Hurricane losses came from the Leafs. One of two Rangers losses came from Buffalo. It all adds up to the Leafs taking care of their must wins but receiving practically no help from teams not involved themselves in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Credit to the Sabres, Rangers and Canes for playing really good hockey that hasn’t allowed the Leafs to catch up after a horrible first half of their season.
For those maintaining hope until the math says there isn’t any, the Leafs would have to win out with three regulation/overtime wins while two of the three below scenarios would have to play out for them to make it:
It appeared as though the Leafs received aÂ luckyÂ breakÂ when the SabresÂ announcedÂ that Ryan Miller was listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury as a result of being hit in the chest by a Dion Phaneuf slapshot on Tuesday. As Leafs fans, we should know better by now. With Miller out, the Sabres started a relatively unproven and undersized goalie in Jhonas Enroth, who had only appeared in nine NHL games prior to starting last night. He made 23 saves to earn the victory and his first career shutout. Buffalo’s win puts the Leafs seven points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with onlyÂ five games remaining.
Toronto is back in action tonight against their division rival Boston Bruins, who have struggled against the Leafs this season, winning only two of the five previous matchups. However, the Bruins enter the game on a hot streak, winning three straight, their latest a 3-0 shutout performance over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.
There really isn’t any other way to put it. Â No matter how you slice it, no matter how you try to spin it, or how you try to put a sugar coating on it, the cold hard fact still shines through.
The Toronto Maple Leafs were not a very good team last year.
Although their stats, and their general play, improved dramatically following the late January trades that saw them overturn nearly half their lineup, the fact remains that the 2009-2010 edition of the Maple Leafs fought inconsistency, as well as young inexperience that had them struggling most of the year.
But it could be argued that never were they worse, than in the first month of the season.
The Chicago Blackhawks have decided to walk away from Antti Niemi’s arbitration awarded $2.75M contract, and have instead signed veteran free agent Marty Turco to a one-year $1.3M contract. With the Blackhawks decision not to retain him, Niemi is now a free agent goaltender on the market and should attract some immediate attention.
In case you haven’t already heard, the Maple Leafs have broken off negotiations with prospect Bill Sweatt, acquired in the Versteeg trade from the Blackhawks. In a statement to the Toronto Sun, Burke explained that the club would rather keep a spot on the 50 contract limit open than continue discussions with Sweatt. As the talks continued to stall, the Leafs likely turned and upped their offer to Marcel Mueller, whose ELC contract value sits at $1.12 million. Sweatt is likely looking for a figure close to Blake Wheeler’s $2.825 cap hit as a 4-year college free agent, which is a steep price to pay for a player with speed but limited offensive upside.
It was reported yesterday that former New York Rangers back up goaltender, Steve Valiquette, will be heading to the KHL next season. Today, it appears more movement will be taking place from the Rangers organization as newly acquired Olli Jokinen is currently in discussions with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL.
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.
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.
And the winner is … Edmonton. Â Leafs fans, prepare yourselves to endure “Kessel Trade” debates for the better part of the next decade.
The Toronto Maple Leafs play their second-last game of the season tonight versus the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7:00 pm et, TSN). The Rangers are fighting for their playoff lives, sitting 3 points back of the Bruins and 4 points back of the Flyers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. As for the Leafs, their hopes of moving out of the basement of the East are all but gone.
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 Torontosaurus Rex for Week 21 is ….
TSN’s Bob Mckenzie is reporting that the Maple Leafs have claimed forward Jaime Lundmark off waivers from the Calgary Flames. The 29 year old Lundmark was originally drafted 9th overall in 1999 by the New York Rangers. In 280 career NHL games, Jamie has recorded 39 goals and 57 assists. In 47 games with the Flames over the past 2 seasons, Lundmark has accumulated 12 goals and 25 points, while also earning 15 minutes of ice-time this season. In Lundmark, the Leafs will hope to reproduce the same waiver wire success they experienced with Dominic Moore, picking up a feisty two-way player with respectable offensive numbers at other levels.
The Carolina Hurricanes are closing in on a deal with the San Jose Sharks for Niclas Wallin, while Leafs fans were begging it was Rickard. Kovalchuk turns down $101M, while the Rangers pull out of the sweepstakes due to the asking price. Find out what the Thrashers wanted in return. Also, Dion Phaneuf has his own plan for the remainder of the Leafs regular season.