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The Hockey News

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With just ten games left on the schedule for the Leafs this season, here are ten thoughts I’ve been considering heading into those final games.

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WOW. What a turn of events in the Iginla sweepstakes. Mid-way through writing this piece, I paused to check for updates on Twitter and in an instant, Iginla had gone from a Bruin to a Penguin. Going back the other way to Calgary are college prospects Kenneth Agostino (20, LW), Ben Hanowski (22, LW), and Pittsburgh’s 2013 1st-round draft pick. From the outset, Feaster isn’t getting much credit for the return he’s getting but, it appears that Pittsburgh was Iginla’s call. Per Elliote Friedman:

When faced with such a tectonic move, my first instinct is to take a breath and look at it from 30,000 feet – to try and take the broad level view. I asked myself, how does this change the competitive landscape of the East Conference? How does this move affect the Leafs? Who are the winners and losers of the trade? Will Iginila thrive under Dan Bylsma’s system? Where does Iginila fit in the line-up, and what of his role? At the surface level, the Pens’ active roster stays intact and get an infusion of leadership, class, skill, and toughness. Ray Shero is really going all-in here and the proposition of lining up Crosby and Iginla is a terrifying proposition, just ask Ryan Miller. In the coming days, I’m sure these questions will be addressed by the mainstream media and by members of the blogosphere.

This is a different kind of piece.

Before you read on, I submit this for your consideration:

For those of you who are unable to watch the video, it contains a segment from the Colbert Report, and it features a 13-minute montage of blatant Bostonian hypocrisy.

As I’m sure many Leaf fans were when they heard that Iginla was headed to Boston, I experienced some strong mixed-emotions. On the one hand, here you have a player who epitomizes class and leadership. On the other hand, he was headed to a hypocritical and dirty organization like Boston. If what Friedman said is true, then good on Jarome. Now, I am not privy to his decision-making process but I sure hope he considered the collective character of the organizations he was looking to join, along with, ultimately, the prospects of winning a Stanley Cup.

Iginla’s press conference is set for 10:30am (MT) and certainly lends itself to a tearful farewell. He has been the face of the franchise for the past 15 seasons and became the city’s beloved son. The loyalty he showed the Flames is quite remarkable, even despite the lack of talent and recent managerial gaffes. Adam Proteau, from The Hockey News, puts it best:

In the end, Jarome Iginla deserved better than Boston, and I believe he made the right decision. As a hockey fan, I wish Jarome nothing but success and the best of luck in Pittsburgh.

Just a quick note on the Leafs.

Much has been made of the team’s relative success during the past 5 games (3-0-2) and many cited the home-and-home series with Boston as a test of sorts. Needless to say, the Leafs get more than a passing grade for their effort and surely surprised a lot of people. However, looking forward, I would argue that the next 6 games might be even more important than the past 5.

Including tonight’s bout against the Hurricanes (32pts -10th), the Leafs will face-off against the Senators (42 pts – 5th), Flyers (28 pts – 14th), and Devils (37 pts – 7th) once, and the Rangers (35 pts – 8th) twice. Essentially, 5 of the next 6 games will be against teams that are either in the race, or are within striking distance of the Leafs. Herein lies a crucial opportunity for the Leafs to expand their lead over lesser teams. If they can come out of the next 6 games with at least 8 points, for a total of 48 points, it sets them up nicely for the final 8 games of the season.

Thursday Morning Links

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- If the TSN reports that Frolov could sign a 1 year deal comparable to that of Afinogenov last season ($800,000) are true, then why weren’t the Maple Leafs heavily involved in discussions with Frolov’s agent? He’s a big guy who can win some pucks, plays a well-rounded game and would fit perfectly in the top line left wing role at a bargain basement price. Remember a few weeks ago when I talked about a deteriorating market? This potential signing may just be the beginning.

- The Toronto Sun reports that the Maple Leafs’ Rookie tournament will take place at the John Labatt Centre in London from September 11th-14th this year.

- The Hockey News makes the case for the Maple Leafs as a surprise playoff team this coming season.

- On to the FanPosts. Andrew Edwards (AKA Crazyaces) proposes a solution for these ridiculous long-term contracts, while Michael Cuttell continues his preseason synopsis by evaluating the Leafs’ current forward group.

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    Dave Nonis on his new two-year contract extension with Toronto:

    “I’m very lucky. I have more to say about our team than some GMs do,” said Nonis of his unique position as Brian Burke’s right hand man. “It’s not a job that’s comparable with other positions around the league.”

    “If you look at our roster now and compare it to 16 months ago, it’s not only different, it’s younger and better,” he said. “But we’ve still got lots of work to do. The job is not done by a longshot. There are more pieces to add.”

    -Toronto Star’s Damien Cox

    Cox reports that one of those pieces may be 25-year-old center Roman Cervenka of Czech club HC Slavia Praha, perhaps familiar to you from his international appearances alongside Jaromir Jagr on Czech Republic’s Olympic side in February.

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    Those who know me can tell you I am an avid reader.  I devour books at a staggering pace, specializing in sports books and autobiographies mostly.  And as the warm weather approaches, and the hockey season gives way to deck weather, my reading habit ramps up considerably.

    Book of choice at the moment?  ”The Yankee Years”  by Joe Torre.  A fantastic account of life in the major leagues and life as the manager of one of the most popular, most traditional, and at times, most dysfunctional franchises in the world.

    Torre does an excellent job of taking readers behind the scenes of his time in New York, including a fist hand look of one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports.  That is, the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

    And that’s where the parallels started standing out to me as a Leafs fan.

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    About a month ago, we took a look at Phil Kessel’s production, including the on-pace numbers for this season and (theoretically) projected 82-game statistics.

    With 10 games left to go in the season, perhaps it’s time we re-visit and update those predictions — this time in the context of other “name” or “impact” players to see just where exactly Phil Kessel ranks, production-wise, among the league’s elite.

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      Final Deadline Trades:

      Alexei Ponikarovsky to Pittsburgh for Luca Caputi and Martin Skoula
      Martin Skoula to New Jersey for a fifth round draft selection.
      Lee Stempniak to PHX for 4th and 7th rounders.
      Joey MacDonald to ANA for a 7th rounder in 2011.

      Wrap-Up: That looks to be a wrap on Brian Burke’s trade activity for the 2009-10 season. The Stempniak deal was obviously a form of loss-cutting on a pending UFA, but it’s a bit painful to remember who we sacrificed to acquire him in November of 2008 in two albeit underachieving first rounders in Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo. The Leafs will not draft until the third round this year, and Burke did not succeed in that sense, however he moved the only piece realistically capable of fetching a second rounder for a semi-established young asset with the potential to replace Poni at an immediately cheaper price in Luca Caputi. It looks as though no takers could be found on either Wayne Primeau or Garnet Exelby, who look sure to now enter the FA market July 1.

      There seems to be details yet to unfurl surrounding the Tomas Kaberle situation this deadline, as once again Leafs fans were teased into believing a deal was pending (involving Hodgson, as it was reported, or possibly Alzner from Washington) only for what looked to be an imminent deal to be flatly denied by Brian Burke in the end. There are rumblings that Kaberle might have nixed a deal in similar fashion to the Jeff Carter situation at the ’08 deadline.

      From Garrett Bauman:

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        Also: Details and analysis of the Jiri Tlusty departure and Phillipe Paradis arrival can be found here and here. Be sure to check out the latest edition of Stick Work with Fab and Kats for an in-depth Marlies roundup, discussion of the Leafs’ triumph in Montreal with Ryan Dixon of The Hockey News and some fantasy Leaf talk with Michael Fanwax of Rotoworld.

        Here is your in-game thread for this evening as the Leafs look to feed off the momentum of Tuesday night’s shutout in Columbus tonight.

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          Stick Work has a stellar lineup of guests this week to give listeners variety.

          Kicking off the first segment isEric Prime, who covers the Toronto Marlies for of FAN590 and Rogers Sportsnet, talks about the season thus far for the Baby Buds. Find out what he feels about young prospects, Victor Stalberg, Tyler Bozak, Jiri Tlusty and recent call up Christian Hanson. about 12 minutes long

          Eloquent and ever engaging, star of print, web, television, and now podcasts, Ryan Dixon from The Hockey News talks about the Leafs and the Habs game and expands it to the season. 12 minutes length

          One of the greatest fantasy hockey experts on the planet, Michael Finewax from Rotoworld lines up the Maple Leafs, in reality, and how it translates fantasy wise. 12 minutes length

          Fab and I discuss our Torontosaurus Rex. Enough talk ..

          Download as .mp3 file (right-click and save-as)

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            This latest edition of Stick Work with Fab&Kats, features the co-hosts, expanding on the winning means nothing blog in an expanded forum.

            Fab and I pick our Torontosaurus Rex. Fab goes the conventional route, while I pick a defenseman … It’s an abreviated, yet content-rich edition.

            StickWork

            Download (right-click to save-as)

            ***************

            I’ll be posting at FAN590 and Prime Time Sports personality, Bob McCown’s site Fadoo.ca moving forward in addition to MLHS.

            My first post consisted of more point system analysis, looking at how post-expansion increases in tied games precipitated the implementation of overtime in the early 1980′s. It needed tweaking once again and then once again in the late 1990′s, and then fully eliminated with the final implementation of the shootout.

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              Its the fourth installment of Stick Work with Fab & Kats.
              Guests on this show include Brian Metzer, stalwart XM Radio correspondant and featured Penguins bloggger on Network Pittsburgh and hockeybuzz.com. We’ll touch on some Penguins rookies, the injury-ravaged defense, as well as two underperforming forwards.

              Edward Fraser from The Hockey News chimes in on the Los Angeles Kings, Leafs opponent Carolina, Chicago and Luke Schenn.

              Fab and I discuss our choices for Torontosaurus Rex, and boy, did Fab ever make a stretch this one …..

              We like to give our guests the opportunity to choose their own intro theme music … while Brian’s is more recent, we’ve given Fraser’s request for Rage a different twist.

              StickWork

              Download as mp3

              Enjoy the Leafs/Carolina game and make sure to view Micheal Aldred’s preview – despite the warnings.
              [email protected]
@katshockey

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                Big thank you to Mark Seidel, Chief Scout of North American Central Scouting and contributor to The Hockey News, for taking the time to chat about the upcoming 2010 NHL Entry Draft. His agency’s latest rankings can be seen here on THN. This time around, Leaf fans won’t be having the opportunity of watching one of the draft’s elite youngsters, such as projected top pick Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall, fall into their lap. But nonetheless, the draft is always a hot topic in the hockey world.

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                  It is unfortunate that I must formally announce the death of a beloved ideology by a faction of Leafs Nation. Actually, it’s not unfortunate … it’s about time, really …

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                    With news of the trade to re-acquire Toronto’s 2010 2nd round selection, rumors and speculation of a looming offer sheet have been a hot topic of discussion among Leaf fans and around the NHL. Among the many RFA’s, the three most prominent and likely targets appear to be Boston’s Phil Kessel, Buffalo’s Drew Stafford and New York’s Brandon Dubinsky. Here’s the latest news pertaining to that trio.

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                      Kicking off the week with another update on a whole lot of nothing around the NHL: The Leafs get ripped in ESPN’s Ultimate Team Standings, P.J. Axelsson signs with Frolunda, CBS Sports assigns offseason grades for the Northeast Division, and Kaberle bought out?

                      • Update #1: Rumors of a Calgary -Toronto trade involving Anton Stralman.
                      • Update #2: RDS confirms it. Stralman and Stuart to Calgary for Wayne Primeau.What the heck?

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                        A month into the offseason, one thing can be said for sure about the steps the Toronto Maple Leafs have taken toward rebuilding the team:  credit Brian Burke with having a plan, and sticking to it.

                        The beginnings of that plan are clearly reflected in the sweeping changes to the goaltending and defence corps this summer, as well as a noticeable infusion of truculence.

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                          Christian Hanson’s getting ready to make his NHL debut tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers. Tyler Bozak is pretty much signed, sealed and delivered. But according to multiple news outlets, Brian Burke’s just getting warmed up. Next on his list: Boston University’s Matt Gilroy and Northeastern University’s Brad Thiessen.

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                            Coaches Corner maybe becoming increasingly irrelevant as the staunchly patriotic Don Cherry rambles about musings better suited to an age when every player was nicknamed “Butch” and that a Swede was something related to jokes about corners. But as Cherry provides the antithesis to contemporary hockey analysis I once more find myself agreeing with his misty eyed old school view of hockey in the wake of Don Sanderson’s tragic death. Sure I may find a lot to fault Cherry with, but the way in which he handled Sanderson’s passing was touching and unerringly appropriate at a time when fighting found itself once more centre stage for bandwagon discourse.