Hopes and expectations are that the conclusion of the 2010-11 season will see the Maple Leafs Â return to playoff action for the first time since Jeremy Roenick ended the Leafs' 2004 post-season run in overtime of game six on May 4, 2004.
Many factors led to the Leafs' demise during the 2009-10 campaign, which ultimately meant theÂ relinquishmentÂ of Tyler Seguin to the Boston Bruins. Inconsistency was the primary issue, as many key players wereÂ ineffectiveÂ or downright useless---I'm looking at you, Vesa Toskala. The off-season acquisitions of Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin had fans salivating at the potential of the team's defense corps. However, things took an unfortunate turn for the worse when both defensemen---it was later revealed Komisarek required season-ending surgery for a pre-existing shoulder injury--- struggledÂ mightily out of the gate. Moreover, the combination of Toskala's horrendous goaltending and Luke Schenn feeling the early effects of the dreaded sophomore slump only added to the nightmarish start to the season. Leafs fans had toÂ endure seven torturous games before the club posted its first win. To put it simply, the Leafs didn't even take a step forward before they crashed and burned.
It was no less than two months ago that I was pondering this same question, that of captaincy, and examining the same factors. Thinking of all the tangibles â€“ speed, talent and scoring â€“ along with attributes that are harder to judge â€“ the ability to command the respect of the team, lead with strength of character and handle the Toronto media through success and failure. The lone difference is that last time, it was the Leafs.
Kris Versteeg has undoubtedly been the prize pick up for the Maple Leafs thus far this offseason. Youâ€™ve heard all the basics by now. Heâ€™s great in the dressing room, he plays all three forward positions, he produces under pressure and heâ€™s a back-to-back 20 goal scorer. At age 24, these are all impressive qualities, but now the real question is: how he will fare in the Maple Leafsâ€™ system? [more…]
It appears as though Leafs' fans will have to put the thought of pending-UFA defenseman Mike Van Ryn returning to the Maple Leafs on hold, as reports suggest he will remain on the sidelines for another season.
Last season Van Ryn underwent an osteotomy, a complicated surgery to re-align the knee, as an alternative to a total knee replacement. He spent the entire season rehabilitating the knee with the hopes of playing in 2010-11, but it appears as though the recovery process will take him well beyond that target date.
It's been a hot topic, and a touchy one at that for the better part of almost a year, since the day the trade was consummated. Â The Toronto Maple Leafs, toward the end of the pre-season, announced that they had traded two firsts and a second round pick to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Phil Kessel, a young American born sniper who the B's were having issues resigning.
It was a steep price to pay, but you have to give to receive, and in Kessel the Leafs got a bona fide goal scorer who looks like he could be a perennial 30 goal scorer (more on that later.)
And yet some people have cast Kessel to fail, no matter what impact he has on the Leafs, attaching him forever to the trade that brought him here.
This past week, Bill Watters took that to the extreme, and took a piece of integrity written journalism and turned into something sensational and downright wrong, all in the name of making Phil Kessel look as bad as possible because he doesn't agree with the trade.
Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11.Today we feature Phil Kessel, profiled by Garrett Bauman.
Acquired via a controversial trade during the 2009 offseason in which three draft picks were sent to the Bruins, Kessel rebounded from shoulder surgery to become the Maple Leafs go-to guy in the offensive zone.
Despite missing a month of the season, the electrifying 22-year old winger led the Maple Leafs in several offensive categories while providing the team with a legitimate scoring threat -- and their first 30-goal scorer of the post-Sundin era.
Only 22, Kessel has a bright future ahead of him and many suspect it will be only a matter of time before 40-goal seasons become the norm.
Whitby born, Ryan Hamilton has signed a 1-year, 2-way deal worth $500k (at NHL level) with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hamilton, who came to the Leafs organizationÂ in aÂ tradeÂ with the NHL Wild (AHL Aeros) duringÂ the 08/09 season,Â was scheduled to test the free agent market if unable to resign with Toronto.
Though he finished the season leading the team in goals and among the top-five in assists, Hamilton's contribution to the Toronto AHL club is far deeper than what can be recorded onÂ score card. [more…]
Lots of reading today: Gus chips in an Â analogical look at the NHL playoff series; Alex has your links with a look at potential Leaf Jussi Rynnas.
In what was Brian Burke's first summer on the job with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was clear from the get go that he put an onus on improving specialty teams, and also team defense. Â The brash Toronto GM made a lot of moves as it related to improving these areas, and on paper they looked like a sure recipe for change and improvement.
Note: If you crave insightful, indepth Leafs' analysis, I highly encourage you to read RSW's excellent article on Victor Stalberg.
Van Ryn, as you know, underwent career-threatening surgery as a result of a structural anomaly in his left knee.Â The surgery, an osteotomy (known throughout hockey circles as "Steve Yzerman surgery"), is a complex procedure in which the knee is realigned via the removal of part of the bone.Â Van Ryn has since resumed skating, but whether or not he will be able to resume his NHL career remains, at this point, unknown.
Seems that shoulder injury is worse than first thought. He shuts it down for the year as per Bob McKenzie. Yes. This time it's legit.
It is their second meeting this year, and the first played a big part on blinding fans for both teams in the belief that each were elite competitors. Since that opening night, the Habs have on 5-7-0, while the Leafs have gone 1-7-2. But there are always upsides, and tonight marks to start to capitalize on those specifics.