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    Here are some quick hits on news around the league with just around 24 hours to go until the deadline:


      Update: A source’s response to Brian Burke’s rhetoric: “Burkie’s making me laugh…do you believe a thing he says right now? They’ve mulled over a number of offers and will continue to do so. He’s trying to temper expectations here as he doesn’t know if he can get the king’s ransom on these deals like he’s aiming for. Believe me, he’d almost trade the whole team less Schenn if he could. The Kaberle – Bruins denial was semantics as well.”


        As the trade deadline looms ever closer, the Ottawa Senators have just completed the second major trade in the last few days, by sending San Jose’s 2009 1st round pick acquired from Tampa in the Andrej Mezaros trade along with center Dean McAmmond to the New York Islanders in exchange for center Mike Comrie and defenseman Chris Campoli.


          So the Leafs are interested in throwing their hat into the ring as netminding bad boy Ray Emery looks for a new home? Somebody should warn Brian Burke about Razor Ray’s aversion to head gear following his altercation with Atlant Mytishchi’s team trainer Roman Sokolov last month. Yes we’ve all had a good laugh on YouTube at the expense of hockey’s self destructive answer to Britney Spears but hot of his hat phobia fisticuffs Emery has now walked out on the KHL’s second best team for another far more disinteresting reason.


            I feel that the NHL has paradoxically lost a lot of it’s appeal to the casual hockey observer by ushering in a salary cap and establishing the presence of relative parity. The prospect of competitive balance within the sport of hockey was long viewed as the ideal scenario, assuring the opportunity to succeed in any given season for even the least moneyed franchises and as a direct result providing these franchises with the means to draw new fans out of their tepid markets. It all sounded good on paper. But the league has lost a valuable dynamic that in my estimation plays a large part in the success of other major sports leagues and associations within North America.


              Random thoughts and opinions from (roughly) the halfway point of the season:

              * Glad to see the mustache is back in style.   In fact, when I was younger I grew a goatee just because everyone else was doing the ‘stache.  Then the ’93 Canadiens all grew goatees during their Cup run, and it became a social mainstay.   Yes, folks, it’s true: my hatred of the Habs has nothing to do with the Leafs, and everything to do with facial hair.


                In October 2008, a reporter set the Barilkosphere into a tizzy with a certain writing. The intention was simple, a deliberately cruel finger pointing at Leafs Nation.

                The backlash was tremendous, and it inspired Pension Plan Puppets to trigger a massive response to the piece. It shows the unifying force behind the internet, allowing fans the opportunity to voice dissent.


                  Just six months ago many a grapevine was carrying rumor of NHL expansion while I lamented the integrity of a revenue bound salary cap. Even into the new season few had foreseen the sheer gravity of the global economic downturn and its impact on jobs, housing, businesses and every facet of life down to sport. Now as international markets stutter into a depression that many an analyst believe could change the face of modern capitalism forever, the NHL seems to remain steadfast in addressing it’s minor successes as opposed to it’s crippling and potentially devastating financial model.


                    I couldn’t catch the game tonight (count me among the lucky ones), but the stats tell the story — outhit 28-7 and outscored 4-1 by the worst team in the league. 4 goals conceded on 27 shots. The Leafs again prove to be the tonic to a struggling team’s woes, in this case a team that hadn’t won yet in the month of December. A real Leafs’ goaltending controversy is brewing. It’s time for Ron Wilson to give Justin Pogge another shot and hope he continues to shine in the spotlight so that Brian Burke can ship out Vesa Toskala before his value is non-existent, which it probably isn’t far off from already. Toskala’s recorded a putrid .882 save percentage so far this season and allowed 12 goals on his last 54 shots. Additionally, he seems to downplay his numerous blemishes with “just one of those nights,” and “some times those things happen” rationalizations. Still love him, Wilson? I know, Toskala has somewhat unfairly become the whipping boy after some pretty lame efforts from the Leafs as a whole, but you only have to look as far as a team like Ottawa to see how deflating anemic goaltending can be to a team. I don’t think Burke will wait long before addressing what has developed into a serious problem in the short-term and possibly the long-term, depending on how Pogge responds to [hopefully] further testing in the coming days. The trade freeze has been lifted as of a few hours ago and certainly a sense of impending change is in the air.

                    I’ll turn it over to you guys.


                      Ed. Note: Lots of holiday reading going up today for you guys. Merry Christmas.

                      Here we are the Christmas break, and I’d like to take the time to look back at what we saw in September, what we expected by Christmas and what we envision for the future of the Blue and White.


                        Mats – firstly, you’ve made me look like a total sap having torn my heart out when staunchly defending your decision last March. Personally, that makes me more than a little bit pissed off (but I understand, I’ll explain later).


                          Trade talks are heating up, in the NHL rumour mills, and online forums.  To that end, I’ve compiled a list of notable free-agents to be, both UFA and RFA, across the league, who may be subject to trade.


                            I’m sure you are all aware by now that the fan voting for the All-Star game has begun over at the official website of the NHL. As such, I’m also sure that you’ve seen the landslide-lead that six Canadiens players have over their competitors that go by names such as “Ovechkin” and “Crosby”. If you are at all an earnest fan of the NHL as a whole, you’ve come to realize how flawed their voting system is for this glorified game of shinny. Regardless of the decreasing importance and excitement of the game, we have seen incidents like the Fitzpatrick-campaign of a few years ago make a laughingstock of the online balloting system. This year gives rise to a new fiasco as all six Canadiens players that were placed on the ballot have taken a runaway lead and do not appear to be in any trouble of relinquishing it.


                              Sorry for the delay guys.  We greatly appreciate the flood of great questions and comments, and are sorry to say we couldn’t get to them all. We’ve all been pretty busy lately for a variety of reasons, so without any further ado, let’s get started on the 1st ever Maple Leafs HotStove Hockey Panel Discussion.

                              Forming our panel for this session is Alec Brownscombe of Hockeybuzz and MLHS godfather, Gus Katsaros of Mckeen’s and MLHS fantasy expert, and myself, Alex Tran, an MLHS blogger.


                                1) The Maple Leafs have slogged through one of the toughest schedules across the league for the month of October, playing only three teams below the .500 mark, and currently sit 4-3-3.


                                  In the ultimate act of callousness by league schedulers, the Maple Leafs will open their regular season account inside the Joe Louis Arena, where they will endure the pre-game banner raising ceremony for the Stanley Cup winning Detroit Red Wings.


                                    >>>DISCUSS IN THE FORUMS

                                    Original post: http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=16747&blogger_id=48
                                    The Battle of Ontario’s prospects ended in triumph for the Senators in an action-packed, end-to-end tilt featuring 12 goals split 7-5.

                                    The night started brightly for the Maple Leafs following Phil Oreskovic’s bout with Geoff Waugh three seconds after puck drop that was seemingly a spill-over of bad blood from last AHL season and/or an arrangement made in warm up. Off an early face-off in the Sens’ zone, Darryl Boyce drew the puck back to 5th overall pick Luke Schenn who fanned on his point-shot only