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NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 23: Benoit Pouliot #67 of the New York Rangers checks David Clarkson #71 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at Madison Square Garden on December 23, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
It’s not time to sound the alarm, but the sense of urgency is heightened across Toronto.
The Leafs are still firmly in a playoff spot and, other than Detroit (who has three games in hand on the Leafs, but are also missing Zetterberg and, for the moment, Datsyuk), the 4+ point gap the Leafs have on everyone else is a much tougher hill to climb than it looks because of the “three point era” in the NHL. It’s extremely tough to make up ground at this stage of the season in this day and age.
Mike Brown planking.
Mike Brown does his best Bobby Orr impersonation before later settling for a Colton Orr impersonation. Never underestimate the value of versatility.
Two games in, and the Maple Leafs are 2-0 for the first time in 11 years. While some might be tempted to find meaning within that number, the truth is that in terms of history the number is rather meaningless.
With still 80 games left on the docket, and the Leafs about to embark on their first road trip of the season, expectations must be tempered despite the hot start (and the rare sight of a 4th overall placement on the ESPN Power Rankings).
In other words, a 7-0-1 start (to counter last season’s 0-7-1) is probably just a little too much to ask. As if I had to tell you that. Then again, this IS Leafs Nation; somewhere, someone surely needed the reminder.
Follow the jump for a few first-week impressions and musings.
In part three of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth looks at whether Mike Komisarek can rebound from a tumultuous first season in Blue and White.
It’s no secret that Brian Burke likes his hockey teams to be, for the most part, big, nasty, and in your face physical. Â He also has a penchant for looking for players from his home country of the United States, but as he said, he would sign players who were from the moon if they could play the game.
by Michael Cuttell
Put your hand up if you think the Leafs are only one or two pieces away from winning a Stanley Cup this year. OK, I admire your enthusiasm, but put your hands down! Thereâ€™s actually a good reason Iâ€™ve posed this question and Iâ€™ll come to it again in just a minute. With the long awaited Kaberle trade still looming, many in Leafs Nation have asked the question: If he could be had so cheaply, why didnâ€™t Burke sign Frolov? The answer is that he didnâ€™t want him; and trust me Leafsâ€™ fans, you donâ€™t want him either!
Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11. Next up we feature Mike Komisarek, profiled by Alec Brownscombe.
The Summary: Mike Komisarek entered the 2009-10 season on a new five year, 22.5 million contract (4.5 per) with hopes that the change of scenery to different albeit analogous surroundings would help restore his ’07-08 form after a setback of a Â ’08-09 season. In a year of injuryÂ and acrimony (including charges of a lack of focus), Komisarek would sit among league leaders in giveaways and seemed to reach a breaking point in his embarrassing bouts with Milan Lucic in the playoffs. While Komisarek overcomplicated his defensive game and was often caught out of position as a result, the silver lining remained Komisarek’s team-leading 191 hits and top five shot block total.
Those who know me can tell you I am an avid reader. Â I devour books at a staggering pace, specializing in sports books and autobiographies mostly. Â And as the warm weather approaches, and the hockey season gives way to deck weather, my reading habit ramps up considerably.
Book of choice at the moment? Â ”The Yankee Years” Â by Joe Torre. Â A fantastic account of life in the major leagues and life as the manager of one of the most popular, most traditional, and at times, most dysfunctional franchises in the world.
Torre does an excellent job of taking readers behind the scenes of his time in New York, including a fist hand look of one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports. Â That is, the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.
And that’s where the parallels started standing out to me as a Leafs fan.
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.
Line-up Note: Tim Brent has been recalled from the Marlies and will feature tonight. He has recorded 26 points in 35 games this season, third on the team among active Marlies. Caputi or Primeau will sit according to AM640′s Jonas Siegel.
The planets have aligned and the gods of hockey have shined their countenance upon the Leafs. Considering of course the various permutations that have to yet play out, it could still end up for nought at the close of play Sunday night. But after a favourable series of results, Toronto now has the chance to topple the Montreal Canadiens wavering playoff aspirations and boy do they owe the fans a blistering performance to give the Leafs faithful some tangible highlight from a season resplendent in lows.
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.
Prior to the lockout, undrafted college free agents were a rare, straight to NHL commodity. Either serving out their apprenticeships as minor league signees or plying their trade overseas, few players transitioned directly from the ranks of college hockey to the NHL without enduring prolonged development curves. However, in a post-lockout landscape where GMâ€™s clutch their most valued assets and superstars to their clubs with dynasty length deals, and where dollars and ice time are apportioned in equilibrium, graduate aged (or younger) players progressing from the NCAA as free agents are providing comparatively cheap labour in an increasingly scrutinized marketplace.
Not too surprisingly, considering both his hockey heritage as a former captain of the Providence College Friars and his somewhat condensed timetable for rebuilding the Leafs, Brian Burke has been one of the first to plunder the verdant college market in recent seasons, in turn providing a quantum shift from the conventional dominance of the CHL at the junior level.
First and foremost, let me apologize for my absence. Â As some of you may know, I am in school completing my Sports Marketing degree, and things have gotten really hectic in crunch time. Â I am also organizing a golf tournament for this summer in Strathroy, Ontario. Â Anyone who would like to golf can get in touch with me anytime.
You know, another season of hockey is winding down.Â At least, it is in Toronto with the Maple Leafs.Â While the sun has been shining and treating us to above average weather the past week or so, it does come at a price.
It has become all to accustomed.Â As soon as the sun begins to melt the snow, and the grey, dull sky is replaced by a ray of sunlight, you know that the Maple Leafs arenâ€™t long for this world.Â That the season is just about wrapped up, and lockers will soon be cleaned.
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.
We have all had a few days to digest Sunday’s trades, but there is still a well of untapped implications. Â Here’s a closer look at the forwards involved: both the outgoing Leafs and our lone newcomer. Â Be sure to check out Garrett’s excellent pre-game analysis here before tonight’s tilt with the New Jersey Devils.
I would first like state that I am addressing this rumor because it is, in fact, circulating around the league that Toronto is interested in the Atlanta Thrashers’ sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. Yes, this rumor did come to light due to an Eklund blog, but no, it is not fake. In fact, every team in the league would love to get their hands on Kovalchuk. So there you have it, the rumor is true, but it was an easy one to pinpoint by Eklund because every single team in the league understands that Kovalchuk is available, and every single team in the league would love to have him on their powerplay. It’s as simple as that. Now to the non-obvious part.
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.
Speculation on whoÂ is likely to be scratched for Saturday’sÂ rematchÂ against the New York Rangers, an update on Phil Kessel, and (surprise, surprise) some early-season trade chatter.
Talking to sources this evening, I’ve managed to partially reconstruct — there is obviously much more to it than what is posted here — how the trade for Phil Kessel ultimately came about, and the origin of many of the rumours that circulated prior to the deal finally going down.
The Bruins wanted at least one player in a deal, but no suitable player-based deal could ultimately be found with any of Nashville, New York, or Toronto. Â At the end of the day, Bruins’ GM Peter Chiarelli opted to accept a package of picks that was originally offered by the Leafs nearly a full week before the deal was finally consummated.
Here’s how it is said to have happened.
Earlier today I was able to catch up with the Leafs at their new practise facility, a day before training camps officially open. I had just arrived and pulled into a parking spot and just as I was about to step out of my car, a beast of a Cadillac Escalade pulled into the spot right beside me. I had noticed the New York plates as it drove in, and was quite pleased to see new Leaf Mike Komisarek step out. It was my first time meeting the former Hab in person and it didn’t take long to figure out why he was so popular and well liked amongst his peers and fans in Montreal. He was more than willing to sign any autograph demands from his new fans, and was quite easy going. Any questions regarding his relationship with Grabovski, and if there were any ill feelings between the two can be put to rest. During skating drills and the scrimmage that followed, Grabs and Komi were often laughing it up and joking around with each other with playful jabs and hooks. If there is any animosity between the two, it was far from evident. It was a pleasure watching Komi having a good time with his new team and cleary getting comfortable and fitting in with the group.
With news of the trade to re-acquire Toronto’s 2010 2nd round selection, rumors and speculation of a looming offer sheet have been a hot topic of discussion among Leaf fans and around the NHL. Among the many RFA’s, the three most prominent and likely targets appear to be Boston’s Phil Kessel, Buffalo’s Drew Stafford and New York’s Brandon Dubinsky. Here’s the latest news pertaining to that trio.
Amid speculation that Brian Burke is positioning himself to extend an offer sheet – perhaps to long-rumoured target, 22-year-old winger Phil Kessel – after swapping picks to recover the Leafs’ 2010 second round pick in a deal that would seemingly make little sense otherwise, there is another possibility to consider in regards to trade negotiations.
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