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The Maple Leafs finished as the league’s worst defensive team last season, giving up an astounding 286 goals, which works out to about 3.5 goals against a game. As such, much of the team’s summer remodeling took place on the blueline, which saw the departure of Kubina and the additions of shutdown defensemenÂ Beauchemin and Komisarek. With nearly $20M dollars committed per season through 2011 to the group of Kaberle, Komisarek, Beauchemin, Schenn and Finger, and Tomas being the only player above the age of 30, it appears on paper at least, that this will be the core of the defense for the foreseeable future. If that’s the case, how do they stack up against the rest of the league?
With only one day remaining before the draft, the NHL rumour mill is of course running rampant.
Here is an update on the latest “non-source” chatter I’ve been hearing regarding draft moves, trade possibilities, and free agent speculation as it may or may not pertain to our boys in blue.
Phew. Finally a chance to catch our breath after what was perhaps the best 2nd round of playoff hockey ever played. We were treated to three 7 game series, 9 overtime periods, and an epic showdown between the league’s premier young rivals, Crosby and Ovechkin. Perhaps overshadowed by all the intensity and exciting finishes, is a fairly simple underlying theme: Youth.
Excitement abounds these days in the streets of Toronto, as a long-overdue rebuilding effort for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the prospect of a revitalized franchise, moves into high gear.
Arguably the last successful revitalization of the Maple Leafs franchise occurred in the early 1990s, when in the span of three seasons the Leafs went from basement-dwellers to Stanley Cup contenders.Â Although many are quick to credit then-GM Cliff Fletcher’s 1992 mega-deal with the Calgary Flames as the key turning point for the franchise, the groundwork for the franchise’s rapid acceleration from pretender to contender actually began much earlier … in the 1989-90 season, to be exact.
While the majority of Leafs fans wrote the team off in the summer, it wasnâ€™t until the New Year that the teams first true season of rebuilding began the inevitable grind into early year golf tournaments.
For a full team-by-team breakdown of all playoffs clubs, sure bets and sleeper picks for your playoff pools, visit the McKeen’s Playoff Preview where the factors below have been outlined and pointed out in a team-by-team write up.
13 goals, 3 tenders, countless defensive errors and ugly goals.Â You almost felt sorry for Curtis Joseph after Jeff Carter cruised in for an easy breakaway goal and the camera panned to a thoroughly annoyed Ron Wilson.Â The Leafs would attempt a comeback of sorts after going down by six goals, but even with the best efforts of Martin Biron, it all went for naught.
In a game that was just as much about the Flyers’ failings as it was the Leafs’ success, Toronto played an energetic 60 minutes.Â Their bombardment of the Philadelphia net resulted in the exit of a shaky Martin Biron and an eventual total of 38 shots on goal.Â To be brutally honest, the Flyers were awful on a night when they should have steamrolled a non-playoff team.Â Ron Wilson and company must be happy that their team was the only one to show up tonight at the ACC.
A message to those disappointed in yesterday’s anti-climactic outcome:
Stop expecting the big deals (except Kaberle, see below). Watch the small things in the context of the big picture. Yesterday may not have been ideal, but it symbolically stamped the new regime in Toronto as legit. No more stop gap solutions.
The trade went down earlier today and involves a prospect and a shooter from the Ducks.
To Pittsburgh: Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi
To Anaheim: Ryan Whitney
As the Trade Deadline approaches, speculation will continue to grow over which Maple Leaf players may be moving on to new NHL destinations.
The following is my own personal estimation of the likelihood of regular roster players actually getting dealt, based upon contract status, playoff/stretch drive impact potential, comments from players/coaches/management, and of course the metaphorical smoke & fire (the amount of repetition in the rumour mills).Â Â To quote the great Chazz Palminteri, “a rumour’s not a rumour that doesn’t die”.
The craft of writing fiction requires an authorâ€™s innate ability to capture – and maintain – the readerâ€™s attention. Itâ€™s sleight of hand – or pen in this instance, with twists and turns deciphering an ending not envisioned by the reader. The process takes vision, vivid imagination, a well scripted story line and â€˜sleight of penâ€™ to playfully mislead readers into a perceived outcome, while planting thoughts and doubts that in the end make for a fantastic story.
It happens in the hockey world, too, and might be happening to Leafs fans currently. It could be a main factor in drafting Victor Hedman over John Tavares in the 2009 draft.
During my monthly fantasy hockey segments on Sportstalk Weekends with Rick Quinton on CKNW in Vancouver the fantasy scene always spills into analysis of real world NHL. Last night, with the segment winding down, knowing Iâ€™m from Toronto, the ultra-smooth basso-voiced host asked the question seemingly plaguing Leafs Nation.
Hey, B, where are the trades? Leafs Nation expected a roster overhaul with Brian Burke formally handed the keys to the franchise. So far, nothing.
Someone recently asked me a trivia question that got me thinking. The question was, â€œHow many major individual awards have been won by Maple Leaf players since the last Stanley Cup win in 1967?â€
Trade talks are heating up, in the NHL rumour mills, and online forums.Â 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.
Wilson had some choice words for the media after last night’s brutal loss that made Phoenix, one of the league’s lowest scoring teams, look like an offensive juggernaut out there. Talking about why he benched his all-star defenseman for the entire 1st period, Ron had this to say about Tomas Kaberle:
â€œYeah, I sent [Kaberle] a message, and he sent me a message back by being minus-4″.
Random thoughts, 23 games in:
Matt Stajan is the leading scorer on the Leafs. Let me repeat that: Matt Stajan is the leading scorer on the Leafs, and is on pace for close to 70 points this season. One of the great unheralded results of a rebuilding project is the chance to see former role players excel in new roles, and Stajan has certainly proved that he is more than simply an effective checker and penalty-killer.
Brian Burke’s exact intentions with the Toronto Maple Leafs will be the source of much speculation likely until after the Christmas season, but there may just be one tweak made in shorter order: locating a genuine heavyweight pugilist as a bottom six “hardhat” in his roster.
Jeff Carter is quietly making a name for himself around the league; in fact, heâ€™s so quiet that some teams donâ€™t even know it until they play him. His speed and gritty game allows him to stand his guard in front of the net to bang in the garbage goals, and his wrist shot is so powerful that he could zip it past you from the blue line as hard some guys can slap it in this league.
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