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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 Toronto Maple Leafs have released their complete regular season schedule for the upcoming 2009-2010 NHL season.
The Leafs will open the season at home against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, October 1st, followed by a date with Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Saturday night at the Verizon Center.
Also of note, the team will play 4 Sunday games this season, which will include a pair of 5pm starts in Long Island and Pittsburgh. Their longest homestand will span 3 games, on 5 separate occasions throughout the season. The longest road trip of the year will encompass a pair of 5 gamers, in late October and mid-January. The late October trip should serve as an important benchmark for the young squad early into the season, as they will play all 5 games within 7 days, travelling out west to Vancouver, down south to face Anaheim and Dallas, and then back up to the northeast for games against Buffalo and Montreal. The Leafs will close out the regular season on Saturday, April 10th in Montreal.
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ first draft under the watchul eye of Brian Burke displayed a stark change in the team’s draft philosophy. The scouting staff searched for the type of players and attributes that would be able to fit into the mold of a tough, physical checking style of game that the Leafs hope to play several years down the road. As a result, we saw a lot more emphasis placed on size and toughness than skill and speed. Not surprisingly, all of Toronto’s seven selections were from the North American ranks, four of them from the Ontario Hockey League and three from American hockey programs.
The first round didn’t quite live up to all the hype that we were hoping for, but Toronto did come out of it with a promising two-way centreman in Nazem Kadri. As it currently stands, Toronto will have six selections on Day 2 of the NHL Entry Draft, which encompasses rounds 2 through 7. It all kicks off on NHL Network at 10am ET. Live updates and analysis throughout the day.
In the MLSE land of unreasonable expectations, even a superstar troupe like Burke and Wilson will not be afforded another record breaking season; at least not if said record is a fifth consecutive season of playoff free hockey. Subsequently Burke is going to be looking for a catalyst to the rebuilding project come summer and the most obvious route will arrive in early July, not a week earlier in Montreal.
Rewind a year to Ottawa, when interim GM Cliff Fletcher was preparing to make his last great splash. Trading up to secure hard hitting blueliner Luke Schenn, a player unto which the Leafs hoped to bank their revival, set in motion a summer of upheaval paving the way for Brian Burke to step in mid-season. For many the draft of 2008 marked an era of realization, that change was required and perhaps finally the Leafs were going to commit to a full scale rebuild based on the youth model in Pittsburgh.
I’ve been trading a few emails of late with some “non-sources” (I want to be very clear about that) employed by various media outlets in the Toronto area, to get their take on the rapidly-churning Maple Leafs’ rumour mill.
Although these folks are obviously not directly tied to anyone you would call a “source” affiliated with a team, their insight is often valuable as they are privy to more of the backroom chatter with those who are connected to the so-called “sources”.
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.
San Jose Sharks (1) vs Anaheim Ducks (8)
Preseason odds: Sharks 10/1 Ducks 12/1
Last 10: Sharks 5-4-1, Ducks 7-2-1
Season Series: Sharks win 4-2-0
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.
With Files from Gil Brown
The current point system is most equitable for playoff races in January and individual franchise marketing, beginning as early as midseason.
Part of the logic behind Detroit Red Wing’s GM Ken Holland’s proposal, shot down in GM meetings in Naples, Florida in March, to change the season ending tie-breaking measures from Wins, to Regulation Wins is incentive for teams to get the job done in 60-minutes.
It’s about motivation, from puck drop in October through to April. But the current point system has greater connotations for marketing games, ticket sales and shaping the playoff race, the biggest issues for owners.
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:
Here are some quick hits on news around the league with just around 24 hours to go until the deadline:
Turns out, there’s speculation that the trade between Anaheim and Pittsburgh was an inadvertent 3 way trade with the Maple Leafs. Thatâ€™s right, that big Ryan Whitney trade was for the bigger picture.
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”.
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.
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