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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 Garnet Exelby, profiled by Alex Tran.
The Summary: Exelby came to Toronto from Atlanta as part of the Pavel Kubina trade last summer, when Brian Burke needed to clear cap space for the free agency season. Essentially viewed as a salary dump with one year left on his contract, Exelby was given a shot to show Leafs’ management that he could contribute to the team as a useful third pairing defender. But when you’re ranked 6th on the defensive depth chart for the 2nd worst defensive team in the NHL, you can imagine expectations were already pretty low.
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 Jeff Finger, profiled by Alec Brownscombe.
A former 1999 eighth round pick, Jeff Finger came to the Leafs via unrestricted free agency as a 29-year-old who was skating in the ECHL the last time Toronto made the playoffs. After his first steady NHL season with Colorado in ’07-08, Cliff Fletcher rolled the dice on a $3 million-per-year raise for the journeyman that will cost the Leafs 3.5 million against the cap annually until 2012. Fletcher obviously thought there was a lot more to come from Finger in his late development as a two-way defenceman, but let’s just say on that fateful day in July, 2008, the optics weren’t good.
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 Luca Caputi, profiled by Garrett Bauman.
One of the Penguins’ highest-ranked prospects, 21-year old Toronto native Luca Caputi was acquired by the Maple Leafs on the eve of the Trade Deadline in exchange for long-serving winger Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Caputi’s acquisition was another in a long line of moves by GM Brian Burke designed to (a) clean house, and (b) add young players with upside who can contribute immediately.
To Caputi’s credit, the early returns have been positive the 6’3, 200lb winger can develop into a regular contributor, although with only 28 NHL games under his belt (19 with the Maple Leafs), it is difficult to gauge on what his ultimate role, or impact, will be. The 2010-11 season should provide a crucial indication of his NHL future.
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 Tyler Bozak, profiled by PPP:
“The Summary: Tyler Bozak picked the Maple Leafs over theÂ Ottawa Senators so right away it’s clear that he has a high hockey IQ. He signed a hell of a deal that, based on how people react toÂ Mikhail Grabovski, will be tough to live up to. He’ll likely get a break because if he costs the full cap hit he’ll presumably have achieved some decent points totals. Not to mention, his age andÂ provenenance as a found player in addition to an electric understanding withÂ Phil Kessel likely gets him a free pass. A solid first half season in the NHL certainly bodes well for the young centreman.
Brian Burke has done an outstanding job of refacing the Leafs organization in a very short period of time.Â I for one am predicting a very surprising season from the Leafs as early as next year or the year after, once again propelling them into the playoffs and a very respectable playoff drive.Â The cumulative effort of acquiring several players and prospects that are “NHL ready” is absolutely and positively an impressive feat.Â Acquiring a player with the pedigree of Dion Phaneuf for almost zero significant cost was sheer brilliance.Â His relentless pursuit of, and ultimate acquisitions of players like Bozak, Hanson and Gustavsson inspire the type of confidence and hope that has been lacking in this city and in this franchise for almost a decade.
I know, I know, when last we met, I promised you that the next installment in these studies in positivity would focus on Nikolai Kulemin.
Well, I lied.Â Sue me.Â Instead of discussing an individual player, I’m going to make some more general team-wide observations.Â Don’t like it?Â Line up at window 106 between the hours of 1 and 1:05 p.m., fill out the forms in triplicate, be sure to bring your receipt and three forms of photo I.D. andÂ the counter staff will be happy to refund in full the money you paid for these charming and entertaining visits to my mind.Â Really, though, following Bruce Boudreau’s logic concerning the Ovechkin hit on Brian Campbell (and the obvious liability of the end boards and equally obvious innocence of Ovie), it’s not my fault that I broke my promise to you;Â it’s your fault for reading that promise in the first place.
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
Alec has asked me to add my two cents hereabouts from time to time, and I’ve agreed to do so with some trepidation. Â For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Junior, from Heroes in Rehab: the blog. Â I don’t want to step on the toes of any of the other contributors on the site, so I want to contribute something a little different from the others.Â What follows is, at it turns out, a bit of a (lengthy, sorry about that) manifesto for what I hope to produce in the coming weeks for you all.Â Some of it’s even about hockey and the Leafs! Â I don’t really see my self as the Stuart Smalley of Leafs Nation, and the affirmations I offer will be far from daily, but…well, just read, won’t you?
We're Good Enough, We're Smart Enough and Gosh Darn it People Like Us.
One lousy heart-stopping, craptastic win-that-almost-wasnâ€™t against the Thrashers Predators (update: oops, thanks Nights, I’m an idiot.Â Stupid interchangeable southeastern teams!).Â One crummy â€œWâ€ from a five game road trip through the Southeast, the division where NHL hockey goes to die.Â The Maple Leafs canâ€™t be happy with the way that worked out.Â When the trip began ten days ago, it seemed obvious that the Leafs were expecting to get pasted by Ovechkin and the Caps (first clue: starting Vesa Toskala); after getting the better of Bruce Boudreauâ€™s squad a couple of times earlier this year, it was essentially a foregone conclusion that the Blue & White would have the least amount of fun in a DC amphitheatre since Abraham Lincoln, and thatâ€™s exactly how it worked out.Â But they had to be hoping for more out of matches against Dixieâ€™s puck-playing tomato cans: Nashville, Atlanta, Tampa and Florida.
Of course we know now that it didnâ€™t work out that way.Â Much to the chagrin of the local populace, Ron Wilson, Brian Burke and the team have arrived home with only two points to declare at Customs.Â As far as road trip expectations go, this is the equivalent of a â€œbuddies road trip to Vegasâ€ turning into â€œan insurance seminar in Peoria.â€
It was a dark night on Friday, and I thought I could accurately predict who will win tonight's game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals. What occurred over the course of the night is nothing short of the truth in a world full of lies. Am I lying about that? Read on for the ultimate truth by drinking my honesty serum with your mind gullet.
I’ll be answering a question or two every few days to fill time and space while we wait for the dog days of another playoff-less spring to wane away. It should also give each topic it’s due deliberation as opposed to throwing a series of topics at you guys at once. Today’s topic: The UFA-eligible Jeremy Williams.
In the first column of this two-part series, we took a quick look at Leaf prospect Jiri Tlusty’sÂ breakout campaign in the American Hockey League this season.Â Entering a season whereÂ expectations were tempered and hope and patience were preached, we’ve beenÂ privy toÂ a few oustanding seasons by Leaf youngsters across all levels of junior, minor, and collegiate hockey. Today, the spotlight’s onÂ Mikhail Stefanovich of the Quebec Remparts.
On the implications of the Leafs’ recent turnaround:
“I’m proud of the guys, they’re working their butts off and that’s important for a lot of reasons; a lot of what we’re trying to build here and reward our fans and our season ticket holders. They’re important wins, and I know people are saying we’re messing up our draft choice but we’ll happily accept that; we’ll take that trade off any time. If I could make a deal – I said this last week, and I’ll say it again today – if I could make a deal today that would put us in the playoffs, I would do it, as long as it was consistent with our long-term strategy. Those type of deals right now are not being presented, so I don’t think it’s going to change our approach.”
A rather solid home game by the Leafs saw them come out on the short side of the stick in extra time (yet again), but a fair share of positives came out of tonight’s matchup.Â Justin Pogge played a very solid game in net for the Blue and White, and really needs to continue seeing time like this for anyone to get a fair idea of how he will perform in the NHL.Â Moreover, most of the Leafs were buzzing all night long, and this game really could have gone either way.
Dale Mitchell (#71) – RW
Birthdate: April 9, 1989
Hometown: Mississauga, ON
Staffan Kronwall has been claimed by the Washington Capitals off of re-entry waivers in what appears to be a stroke of respect and altruism by Brian Burke. With the re-entry waiver distinction, Kronwall was pretty much trapped in the minors. Burke’s hands were tied in terms of flipping Kronwall for assets as any team acquiring the rearguard would similarly have to pass him through re-entry waivers and would therefore risk sacrificing assets for a player that may be gone the next day (thanks to Spitfire for pointing this out).
Tonight, the Leafs will play the Minnesota Wild. Justin Pogge will be joining the Leafs for the affair and will get his second start this season. Mike Van Ryn, despite feeling well over the last week, has finally been cleared to play for the Blue and White after suffering a mild concussion in mid December.
Ed. Note: Lots of holiday reading going up today for you guys. Merry Christmas.
Here we are the Christmas break, and Iâ€™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.
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.
>>>DISCUSS IN THE FORUMS
I’m approaching the upcoming campaign with a win-win mentality.
Should the Maple Leafs dwell in the bottom five as virtually assured by Toronto media types, the opportunity to import a premier prospect to join Luke Schenn atop the prospect ranks will obviously be a major boost to a re-tooling club in the midst of its youth movement.
>>>DISCUSS IN THE FORUMS
Every professional hockey organization, particularly one in the Leafs’ current plight, must exhaust every possible avenue when it comes to importing young talent into their system.
In addition to the chance to evaluate the progress of your developing prospects front-and-centre, the upcoming rookie tournament provides a valuable opportunity to invite undrafted youngsters for a 3 game trial run. Last year this event proved fruitful for the Maple Leafs, who uncovered a hidden gem by the name of Darryl Boyce. The Summerside native was already preparing for life-after-hockey at the University of New Brunswick when, after a fantastic championship-winning campaign with U of NB he was signed to a minor-league contract and invited by John Ferguson Jr. to play in the 2007 rookie tournament in Kitchener.
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