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The wait is over. After yet another long off-season following a fifth consecutive year of missing out on the NHL post-season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are set to kick off the 2010-11 season against their oldest rival, the Montreal Canadiens.
Both teams have undergone an off-season where – despite the lack of a full-scale overhaul – crucial moves were made to bring in key players or (in Montreal’s case) provide a better opportunity for players already in the organization. Gone from the 2009-10 Toronto lineup are Viktor Stalberg, Rickard Wallin and Keith Primeau, replaced by Kris Versteeg, Colby Armstrong, and Brett Lebda. In Montreal, the most impactful move was the trade of playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to St Louis in exchange for Lars Eller, a move which paves the way for Carey Price to assert his standing among starting NHL netminders.
One of the key questions surrounding the upcoming 2010-11 Maple Leafs season is whether they will be able to score enough to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
An optimist will point to the Leafs’ record following the acquisitions of Dion Phaneuf and J.S. Giguere as evidence that the Maple Leafs can compete. The cynic will suggest that although the Leafs played well over the final third of the season following those moves, there just simply isn’t enough proven offensive production to buoy hopes for post-season play.
A closer look at the Leafs performance over their past 26 games following the January 31st trades for Phaneuf and Giguere, in comparison to their first 56, might shed some light on whether or not the Leafs’ need for more offense in order to compete is fact or fiction.
In a move that should surprise nobody, a Swedish hockey site has indicated that Rickard Wallin will not be with Toronto next year. Â Wallin, who would have been a UFA for the Leafs, signed a four-year deal with his longtime European team Farjestads. Â This ends a very brief return to the NHL for the Swedish centerman which saw one mediocre-at-best season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Now that the Leafs’ most important pending free agent — goaltender Jonas Gustavsson — has been signed to a two-year contract extension, it is time to take a look at their remaining free agent players.
Notably, the list of expiring contracts includes pending RFAs Nikolai Kulemin, Christian Hanson and John Mitchell. Pending UFAs on the Leafs’ roster include Wayne Primeau, Rickard Wallin, Jamie Lundmark, Garnet Exelby and Mike Van Ryn.
With the final bell about to ring season most fans would be happy to forget – although the impending draft all but dictates they most assuredly will not – the Maple Leafs will officially enter the offseason five campaigns removed from the playoffs at the conclusion of Saturday night’s game in Montreal.
Unlike previous years, however, this season has revealed to fans — amidst the rubble of far too many losses — a silver lining of sorts: the promise of youth.
In the wake of Sunday’s blockbuster trades, one cannot help but wonder what’s next for the Toronto Maple Leafs? Who’s next to go? Who stays?
In any case, I think that it’s pretty safe to say that this season is a write-off. We’re not making any moves to make a run at the playoffs this season. So, let’s look forward and take a look at what the Maple Leafs should look like next season.
Tonight the ACC is host to a special pregame event: Canadian Forces Appreciation Night, to honour of the thousands of men and women who serve in the Canadian military. The event is said to feature members of the military rappelling from the rafters, a visit from the Chief of the Defense Staff, and a guest appearance by singer Alan Frew (formerly of Glass Tiger).
Oh, and there’s a hockey game, too.
Let’s be honest, how many of you had either fallen asleep or changed the channel when your Leafs tied it up tonight? Â In a comeback devoid of any explosiveness, Toronto teased you with the possibility of an overtime victory. Â Hah! Should have known better, eh?
Since posting the parable of Owen the other day, and most especially since reviewing the commentary appended thereto, it has come to my attention that:
- The Tragically Hip suck or else the Tragically Hip are the very Platonic embodiment of the concept of “win”.Â Â It is not at all clear which of these two statements concerning the properties of the Tragically Hip inclines towards truth, yet the truth is said to be obvious, immutable and beyond the realm of debate;
- It is a very good idea to proofread what you have frantically typed in a guilty paroxysm of nostalgic reminiscence before hitting the “publish” button.Â Failure to do so may have the inattentive rookie blogger combining various teams, their nicknames and game results in a charming but utterly abstract and completely fictional goulash of confusion.Â In the unlikely event this is not the effect one is really attempting to achieve, this little pro tip may help you avoid embarrassment;
- It is quite possible that I am the first person on earth and in the history of ever to reference both the Three Stooges and Waiting for Godot in the same sentence.Â Now I’ve gone and done it in consecutive posts!Â Don’t be expecting this level of achievement in every installment, kids, outstanding performances have a way of regressing to the mean;
- My theory of road trips, nascent and ill-developed though it may be, is fertile ground for graduate study.Â Even more startlingly, the road trip is fertile ground for reality television.Â How has there not been a Big Brother style reality show centred around the road trip.Â And no, I haven’t forgotten about the Amazing Race; pay attention man, those dudes travel in pairs, not triads.Â As an aside, I wonder how many other areas of human endeavour are equally of interest to academics and reality TV producers?
- I somehow managed to omit from the story the fact that my buddies and I attended a cocktail mixer at the IMF.Â Trust me, you don’t know from fun until you’ve partied with international debt specialists in a brightly-lit impersonal and institutional room in the middle of the afternoon; and
- At least some of you are seeing some of the same positive developments in certain Maple Leaf players that I am.
Before we get to the subject of today’s post, Luke Schenn, a preliminary word if you will about the title of these entries:Â
Coming off an uninspiring performance during a 4-3 road loss to the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday, the Maple Leafs look to rebound tonight with a more energetic effort in Tampa Bay against a struggling Lightning squad.
The Lightning currently sit 13th in the Eastern Conference with 48 points, 5 ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs and 4 out of the 8th and final playoff spot. For the Leafs to get back into the race, a victory tonight, and another Saturday against the Panthers, will be essential.
Tyler Bozak now has 4 points in three NHL games as a Maple Leafs, and one of those points came last night in a 4-0 victory for the Maple Leafs over the Philadelphia Flyers. Bozak – known for his playmaking capabilities and hockey intelligence – was nothing short of flashy and brilliant on a play that few talented players can make. In one swift motion, he turned Ole-Kristian Tollefson inside out before beating Michael Leighton clean top shelf.
Per the Toronto Star, it appears as though Tyler Bozak may be the latest player to get a shot at centring the Maple Leafs’ top line alongside Phil Kessel and Nik Kulemin, beginning tonight against Carolina. Â Â With Kessel having recorded only 1 goal and 1 assist in his last 12 games, the Leafs are desperately hoping this change may be the tonic required to get their star winger back on track.
Update: confirmed by am640′s Jonas Siegel.
Drop the penalty kill from the equation and the Leafs win this one 2-0; there’s something, right?
Submit your GFWE predictions here.
Itâ€™s no secret that the Leafs’ biggest disappointment amid a conference-second-worst 15-20-9 first half of the schedule is a total lack of progress in the area of goals against and special teams, where Brian Burke focused much of his off-season efforts.
With the World Junior Championship gold medal game taking centre stage tonight (7:30pm, TSN), Leafs’ fans can be forgiven for overlooking tonight’s matchup against an inconsistent Florida Panthers squad (7:00pm, Sportsnet).
Coming off a disastrous mini-road trip out West, featuring losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, the Maple Leafs will look to inject some confidence into their lineup with a victory against the visiting Panthers, who sit only 4 points ahead of the Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Leafs face up against their old bench boss Pat Quinn tonight hoping to get back on a winning streak of some sort.Â The big lineup change seems to be a demotion for Grabovski to the fourth line.Â Rickard Wallin benefits from Mikhail’s demotion with a undeserved look on the second line.
Tonight, the Atlanta Thrashers will visit the Toronto Maple Leafs at the ACC, and it will be the return of both Nik Antropov and Pavel Kubina. Exelby is in for Finger, so he'll get a chance to face his former team. For those with their fingers crossed, I also hope Exelby will fight Eric Boulton.
Warning: The following could make your eyes fall out, your ears explode, and cost you years of therapy. Howâ€™s that an introduction for you?
For the second time this week, Mike Komisarek has missed the team practice. He also left early on in the game against the Wild on Tuesday and now Ron Wilson isn’t sure when he will return, or if he’s even able to play this weekend.
Update: Burke’s reaction after the GM’s Meeting.
The Leafs held practice today in preparation for a busy week. They will have yet another back to back set of games over the weekend, and a few changes in the lineup have been made to kick things off this week.
Update: Jonas Gustavsson starts on Tuesday night!
Update 2: Komisarek probable for Tuesday’s game – Wilson.
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