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President

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I was recently invited to a Canadian Tire press conference announcing their new five-year partnership with the NHL to become the League’s Official Sporting Goods Retailer of the NHL in Canada. While I was unable to attend the event, which included a one-on-one interview with Olympic Gold Medalist and Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Toews, the promotion company generously offered a media release for the site.

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*Warning:  More analysis and opinion concerning the Kovalchuk decision. For those who want to talk hockey, as opposed to the now perpetual indiscretions of the league office etc. Alex has a post beneath.

When Richard Bloch decided to rule in the favour of the NHL in the case of Ilya Kovalchuk and the ridiculous contract, he set in place a new precedent that the league hope will stem the flow of cap-circumventing front loaded contracts. In lieu of a concrete definition, the cover-all bases nature of Bloch’s ruling was expected to draw a line under the types of long, frontloaded contracts the NHL saw as detrimental to the spirit of equality the CBA and its salary cap was supposed to theoretically harbour.

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Some reading material for your weekend enjoyment:

- The boys over at PPP provide us with a nice piece about European free agent goaltender Jussi Rynnas. The 6’5 22 year old is coming off an impressive season in the Finnish Elite League, posting a 2.50 GAA to go along with a league-best 0.929 SV%. For comparison’s sake: Mikka Kiprusoff posted a 1.86 GAA and 0.936 SV% during his age 22-23 season in the SM-Liiga. Jussi is in the midst of a five city North American tour, with Toronto not being one of the destinations. However, Burke and Nonis have both made the trip out to Helsinki and later brought Francois Allaire along to speak with Rynnas during his stopover in Montreal. Rynnas is not as highly regarded as Gustavsson was last offseason, and will likely be playing for an AHL team next season. The scouting report on him is that he’s a big guy who can struggle at times with rebound control and positioning, much like our own Gustavsson, and his style of play has been compared to that of Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.

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From USA Today - 3/1/2007:

Anaheim Ducks general manager Brian Burke has always been among the NHL’s most colorful wheeler dealers. In 2005-06, he overhauled his team midseason and made a strong playoff run. Last summer, he made a major swap to land franchise defenseman Chris Pronger. Heading into Tuesday’s trade deadline, Burke hoped to make a major splash. He was able to make one deal, but he was unable to land one of the premium forwards. This is his diary of his efforts to make the major deadline deal:

Wednesday, Feb. 7

We’re interested in Peter Forsberg, but when Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren calls I tell him we aren’t trading (first-round pick) Bobby Ryan. We go through a package and I reject several names, including Corey Perry. I say, “No.” Homer and I are fishing buddies, and he jokingly says he wants to help us win the Stanley Cup by trading me Forsberg. I say, “We’re out,” and Homer says he wants me to stay in.

Thursday, Feb. 8

Homer and I talk again on Forsberg and this time he talks about Perry again. He tells me that he has a better offer on the table than Perry and a high pick. I say Perry isn’t going anywhere. We discuss multiple names to go with the high pick and they ask for specific players (Perry, Ilya Bryzgalov, Chris Kunitz). I like Homer and want him to succeed, but I’m thinking we would be better off looking at Todd Bertuzzi and the possibility of landing another defenseman. But (Florida GM/coach) Jacques Martin isn’t shopping Bertuzzi yet. We are looking at defensemen around the league who could end up being available —Brent Sopel, Brad Stuart and Sami Salo. But I think Vancouver is trying to re-sign Salo.

Friday, Feb. 9

I speak to Los Angeles about Sopel. Trying to trade is like playing musical chairs. You are always afraid you aren’t going to have a chair at the end. You worry that if you say no on one deal, you may not get any. Also, there is a “keeping up with the Joneses mentality,” particularly in the Western Conference. Players, coaches and fans want you to add. The allure of making the right trade draws you in. Remember last season when Edmonton was on the verge of missing the playoffs, made some deals, including getting goalie Dwayne Roloson, and they go to the Finals. It’s the most pressure you face all year, and it’s also the most fun you have.

Saturday, Feb. 10

Phoenix offered me Ladislav Nagy for a first-round pick. I call Doug MacLean about the possibility of acquiring Fredrik Modin. He says he’s trying to re-sign him. One of my problems in trying to make a deal is that I don’t have a first-round pick. I’m thinking I could move defenseman Shane O’Brien to get a first-round pick.

Sunday, Feb. 11

I think Tampa Bay’s (GM) Jay Feaster is interested in O’Brien. Homer calls and tells me that two teams are offering two first-round picks and a player for Forsberg, and another team is offering a first, second and another pick. To me, this is too rich for our blood. I think it’s too high of a price for a rental player.

Tuesday, Feb. 13

Feaster tells me he is interested only in hockey deals, not rentals. I have a long talk with St. Louis Blues President John Davidson about Keith Tkachuk. They want Bobby Ryan in a package.

Wednesday, Feb. 14

Officially turn down the Blues. Vancouver GM Dave Non-is, my former assistant, tells me he is going to re-sign Salo. New York Rangers GM Glen Sather tells me he’s not a seller, at least not yet.

Thursday, Feb. 15

Forsberg goes to Nashville. Homer was frustrated with me. He said I didn’t know the marketplace. But I have to give him a lot of credit. He really helped the Flyers with that deal. Tampa Bay offers goalie Gerald Coleman and a second for O’Brien. We want a first- round pick.

Saturday, Feb. 17

I talk to Florida assistant GM Randy Sexton about Todd Bertuzzi, and he tells me “the guy we like is Perry.” I offer him profanity. If you are offended by profanity, it’s difficult to make a trade in the NHL. If you are going to try to rob me, at least wear a mask. We talk to Philadelphia about Kyle Calder.

Monday, Feb. 19

At the general managers meetings in Naples, Fla., Feaster sweetened his offer to a first-round pick and Coleman and he wants a third to go with O’Brien. I call Sather to see if he can better that offer for O’Brien.

Tuesday, Feb. 20

Sather talks to me about O’Brien, and Pleau asks if I want to revisit the Tkachuk deal and make it bigger. We decide it’s not going to work, but we are interested in Bill Guerin. Sather tells me he’s got a good offer for Aaron Ward from another team.

Wednesday, Feb. 21

I call Montreal’s (GM) Bob Gainey and push him about whether he’s going to move any of his defensemen. Gainey says he’s unsure if he’s selling. Timing is beginning to be a problem. I decide to push on this, but I don’t get anywhere.

Sunday, Feb. 25

Tkachuk is finally traded to Atlanta for Glen Metropolit and first-, second- and third-round picks, plus another first-rounder if the Thrashers re-sign him. Davidson and GM Larry Pleau hit it out of the park on that one. We decide to trade O’Brien to Tampa Bay. We need the first-round pick to get into the card game. We felt comfortable making the deal because of the way Kent Huskins had played when he was called up. Oilers GM Kevin Lowe thinks he could have trouble re-signing Ryan Smyth. Would I be interested? He said he would want a “Tkachuk style package.” I say we can’t do it. Craig Rivet is traded to San Jose by Montreal, and I call and whine to Gainey about not calling me back and telling me he was available. He tells me that I was late to that party, and he had been talking to Doug Wilson for three weeks. Fair enough.

Monday, Feb. 26

Modin re-signs. While at a game in San Jose, I initiate a deal for Brad May via e-mail. I know him well and like his toughness.

Tuesday, Feb. 27

We were in on several trades. We offered a first and a fourth for Bill Guerin, but the Blues liked the Sharks’ deal better. (Los Angeles GM) Dean Lombardi talked to me about how Mattias Norstrom wanted to stay in southern California and I offered him a first-, second- and third-round pick, but I now believe he never intended to trade him to us. The Anaheim-Los Angeles rivalry is real. We looked at Bertuzzi, but the price was too high. I wanted to make a deal, but I stuck to draft picks. I told our younger players that I wouldn’t trade them and I kept my word. But I did get May. He’s a great character guy with a sunny disposition.

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs were amongst leaders in 2009 for all the wrong categories. The Buds were the most scored upon team in 2009, playing an NHL leading 13 overtime games (2-11) record, and NHL trailing overtime winning percentage (.154).

    Broken down after the jump is how the Leafs fared in the calendar year 2009.

    Best Wishes for a Happy New Year to everyone!

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      By: Gus Katsaros
      Prior to the season starting, I had written about the impact of schedules. In particular, as the Leafs face the Habs tonight after playing the previous night, while Montreal is rested. Interesting enough, the last time this happened, Toronto beat Detroit 5-1.

      Schedules make a big difference in the results of NHL teams fates during the season. In some instances, it could be the difference between a playoff spot and a tee time (and I thoroughly enjoy both – FORRRREEEE!!).

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        PART 1 – GETTING THE JOB DONE

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        It is the middle of training camp and the team on the ice has not been looking so decent. Brian Burke has been asked to choose between President and GM of the team in order for the club to find a better fit in the front office for a change. He’s selected President and you have been hired to take over the general manager duties. Congratulations. The team has decided to throw a staff party in welcoming you to the club.

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          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.

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            While the majority of Leafs fans wrote the team off in the summer, it wasn’t until the New Year that the teams first true season of rebuilding began the inevitable grind into early year golf tournaments.

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              Normally, you would figure that game # 82 on a team’s docket, in a season where that team has been eliminated from playoff contention, would be rather meaningless.   Normally, you would expect it to be nothing more than perhaps an opportunity to give young players a bit of NHL experience before hitting the greens.

              But when is normal ever the norm in Toronto?   Somehow, tonight’s season-closing game is still meaningful to the final outcome of the Leafs’ season … as are the final games for the LA Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes, which will be played late this afternoon and tonight.

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                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.

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                  Cox reporting for the Star, says the deal is pretty much done:

                  “The wait is over. Brian Burke is set to become the new president and general manager of the Maple Leafs. With only a few final details to be sorted out, none of which are viewed as deal-breakers, the deal is all but done.

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                    >>>DISCUSS IT HERE

                    It wasn’t more than a year ago that head coach Paul Maurice announced his team would make the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup. Players such as Simon Gamache and Tony Salmelainen were recruited from Europe by general manager John Ferguson Jr. and provided solid try outs. Colaiacovo was announced to not be in full form for the season opener, which we later discovered he would not be ready until late December, after arthroscopic knee surgery and an awkward fall in a pre-season practice after attempting a slap shot.