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In the final game of the rookie tournament, the Leafs’ rookies were beaten soundly — to the tune of 7-1 — by their Ontario rivals, the Ottawa Senators.
Although I was not able to attend this game in person, fellow Leafs die-harder ‘Bell’ was in attendance for all of the games and has kindly provided some thoughts about the action (or was it inaction?) at the Aud last night, and the tournament as a whole.
Wednesday night’s tilt between the Maple Leafs and Penguins was by far the sloppiest game the Leafs have played thus far, with a 4-1 Pittsburgh victory the end result.
Simply put, the players looked as though they lacked energy from the outset. Â Was it fatigue from the toll of three games in four days? Â Or was it simply a poor outing, as is prone to happen to all teams, from time to time? Â The answer to that may lie in Thursday evening’s game against the Senators.
Jonas Gustavsson’s unofficial debut performance is bound to generate some buzz after the Monster stopped 35 of 36 shots in backing the Maple Leafs’ prospects to a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins’ youngsters in the opening game of the rookie tournament inside the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium this evening.
Â Jeff Finger’s name may be rampant with tireless innuendo, but few Leafs fans were laughing when interim GM Cliff Fletcher tied the unknown, but apparently much coveted Colorado Avalanche defenseman to a four year, $14 million contract in the summer of 2008.
Working out at $3.5 million a year, the ultra late developing Finger went from no name, to fifth highest earner on the blue ribbon Leafs payroll creating a maelstrom of discontent amongst fans that remains to this day.
From full term college player and three year AHL blue liner with only 94 games of (then) experience in the big leagues, Finger quickly became synonymousÂ as the â€œman with the contract,â€ reddening faces further still in the land of blue and white where the overpay became talk of free agency.
Last season in a draft, I chose Evgeni Nabokov for an H2H league organized by James Mirtle. It seemed early, but I had reasons. To win in fantasy GMs must find an edge using unconventional analysis and strategy.
That’s what I try to do.
Facts don’t lie and I liked Nabokov (and Backstrom from Minnesota) better than any goalie last season. It’s also why Tim Thomas ranked higher. This season both Nabby and Thomas weren’t ranked as high. Maybe the Bruins and Sharks struggle this season.
Why? Find out here.
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?
The interview between league Commissioner, Gary Bettman, on Toronto radio station, FAN590 segment “The Game Plan” featuring Doug Maclean and Jack Armstrong, was a first hand look at the battle the relocation to Hamilton has become. Stating that after Jim Balsillie’s attempts at hijacking the Nashville Predators to Hamilton, the commish indicated he sat down with the billionaire outlining what it would take to become an NHL owner.
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.
So you’re Brian Burke and it’s July 1st.
Who do you go after? And what is the contract you offer?
Itâ€™s been 9 days since the deadline and already certain teams are rising and others are falling based on their performance on the â€œmaydayâ€ trade day. Hereâ€™s a closer look at how a few teams and players are fairing since the event transpired:
While draft picks are high priority in any potential trade talks leading up to the March 4th deadline, Brian Burke is also said to be targeting a group of young but already established NHLers, according to a source.
Hereâ€™s a look back at all the exciting events that happened in tonightâ€™s game:
Now on to the post-game reaction.
Nothing beats slaughtering Cindy “headjerk” Crosby and his fellow flightless Birds. Nothing.
I think we’ve come to learn that – play your back-ups against the Blue and White as much as you want on any other night – don’t underestimate the Maple Leafs if it’s Saturday night. The Leafs now boast a 9-5-1 record on Hockey Nights in Canada as compared to their 12-20-9 record during the rest of the week. So as much as they may exacerbate your already depressing work week, at least they don’t ruin your weekends. On this Valentine’s day affair, the lowly Leafs were by no means their lovable selves from the opposition’s perspective.
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.
It was a game that was circled with a red marker on the calendar, for the Maple Leafs. They would travel to Denver to meet the Avalanche, but this visit had a different feel to it; a different aura. It was potential revenge for ex-blue and white-ers, and similar revenge for a team that struggled the last 3 seasons.
Delving deeper into the hockey world, interacting with players, coaches and organizational personnel, Iâ€™ve learned a big lesson.
Weâ€™re dealing with people.
Guess what; fans are people, too.
John Tavares ties the most goals ever by a player in the World Juniors with 12 but managed to do so in 1 less game than Jeff Carter, and 13 less games than Eric Lindros, and the tournament isn’t even completed; although, after that performance, it really felt like the Gold medal game. It’s hard to top that one.
The Maple Leafs, now bearers of a winning record at 14-13-6, are looking to continue their offensive onslaught against the league’s fifth worst defense as they return home to host the underachieving Dallas Stars.
image via maple leafs.com
The Maple Leafs look to extend their two game winning streak Tuesday night as they entertain the New Jersey Devils sans Martin Brodeur. Rookie Jeremy Williams looks to continue a streak of his own having scored in each of his first two appearances this season.
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