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    Unrelated Update: New signing Brayden Irwin to play tomorrow night against Atlanta (link).

    #36 in Blue and White is proving to be everything his number-sake Anton Stralman never became in Toronto. Hear me out, Andrew R.

      13

      The Torontosaurus Rex for Week 23 is fitting and also notoriously absent from the only Leafs extra time loss in the last seven overtime/shootout games. In that loss, the Maple Leafs and Penguins tied a dubious NHL record, one night after the Leafs/Rangers surpassed 100 overtime games in the NHL this season.

        685

        Pride, youthful enthusiasm, new contracts and job opportunities for next season continue to provide more than enough hop in the Leaf step as they look to make it eight wins in their last ten and seven in their last eight at home when they play host to the Rangers at the ACC tonight.

        323

        I have been listening and watching Toronto media members discuss the Maple Leafs and am honestly beyond annoyed at their commentary and observations around the Leafs performance since the trade deadline.  I am not even certain if this is “blog worthy” (shameless “sponge worthy” reference), but I have officially reached my “B.S.” tolerance threshold.

          34

          The most common complaint I hear from fans, media and even some hockey people revolves around the point system and the three point game.

          Having done extensive point system analysis, alerted of a record shootout pace and declining overtimes, coupled with a scoring dip to the lowest goals-per-game average since prior to the lockout, a conclusion seems to come simple enough.

          44

          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.  Sue me.  Instead of discussing an individual player, I’m going to make some more general team-wide observations.  Don’t like it?  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. and  the counter staff will be happy to refund in full the money you paid for these charming and entertaining visits to my mind.  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;  it’s your fault for reading that promise in the first place.

            121

            After tonight’s snoozer, let’s move on to a bigger and better subject.

            Some of you may have watched a surprising Norway side battle Switzerland to the bitter end for a quarterfinal birth in their final preliminary game at the Olympics; if so, try to recall a 5’7, 160-pound speedster working a stick as tall as the man himself.

            114

            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.

            17

            #NHLAnagrams have been a big thing on twitter over the past week, and what a riot we’ve had. Some of the creations have been strictly comical (Daniel Alfredsson = An Idle Ass Fondler), some have been ridiculous (Brian Burke = Urban Biker) and others have fit so perfectly, you would think that it was by some magical force that their name and anagram had come to be (Zdeno Chara = A Hazard Cone, Vesa Toskala = aka Lost).

            With the Toronto Marlies seven points back with 12 games to go, I’m torn as to my thoughts of the post-season and based on the Marlies’ anagram, Realism Torn Too.

              45

              Once again, a hit to the head results in a dangerous play. Now that the NHL is looking to add a new “head-shot” rule, it seems the hits are becoming more glaring and frequent than ever before. There are many opinions behind the events. Some feel now that the head-shots are public, players are doing it more often because it is in the back of their minds, while others feel it is a total lack of respect in the game that leads to inexcusable and vicious contact.

                55

                As the playoff hopes gradually continue to fade for even the most optimistic of fans, the focal point of the Maple Leafs over the last few weeks has been on the stellar play of several key young players. Bozak, Kulemin and Kessel have been dynamic and dangerous in spurts as the team’s first line, building chemistry together and showing real signs of promise. Caputi, Hanson and Stalberg are giving indications that they could be part of a solid supporting cast someday, with strong board play, good size and tenacity in chasing down loose pucks. On the back end, Gunnarsson has been nothing short of a tremendous surprise, coming in mid-year as a 23 year old rookie, but playing with the poise of a 10-year veteran in over 21 minutes a night. But today, the focus will be on the more subtle progression of a another young blueliner who is reminding Toronto fans why the team took him with its highest draft selection in 20 years.

                  21

                  First and foremost, let me apologize for my absence.  As some of you may know, I am in school completing my Sports Marketing degree, and things have gotten really hectic in crunch time.  I am also organizing a golf tournament for this summer in Strathroy, Ontario.  Anyone who would like to golf can get in touch with me anytime.

                  You know, another season of hockey is winding down.  At least, it is in Toronto with the Maple Leafs.  While the sun has been shining and treating us to above average weather the past week or so, it does come at a price.


                  It has become all to accustomed.  As soon as the sun begins to melt the snow, and the grey, dull sky is replaced by a ray of sunlight, you know that the Maple Leafs aren’t long for this world.  That the season is just about wrapped up, and lockers will soon be cleaned.

                    165

                    The NHL has finally done something right this decade. Hits to the Head will now officially be punished in the league, which offers up the option of suspending players more frequently should the violent collision continue.

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                      Just some quick thoughts after the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 overtime win over the Bruins:

                      Assist for Phil Kessel is his first point in 5 games against his old team

                      Bozak continues to progress

                      Carl Gunnarsson had another solid game with a goal and a +3 rating

                        135

                        - Tim Brent and Jay Rosehill have been recalled from the Toronto Marlies, while Sjostrom and Mitchell are doubtful for tonight’s game against the Flyers. Brent is a player Burke knows quite well from his years in the Anaheim Ducks organization, whom the Leafs signed this past offseason. Tim has always been a very productive player at the AHL level who has yet to make that successful transition to the NHL. However, he’s only 25 years of age with a strong two-way game and some decent hands, so this may be his chance to surprise.

                        0

                        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.

                          517

                          With the Olympics wrapping up (and in the process Canada securing the record for most gold medals, capped off by our Men’s and Women’s hockey teams), the focus among hockey fans now shifts to the NHL trade deadline.

                          While there are few untouchables on the Maple Leafs’ roster, speculation is that only a handful of players are likely to be dealt between Monday and Wednesday. Here’s a look at some of the speculation surrounding the most-talked about candidates to swap jerseys.

                            338

                            Seeming lost in all the hype and fervor over the Olympics was the recent return to action of one Chris Didomenico. A surprise selection for the 2009 World Junior Championships, Didomenico suffered a badly broken leg in the QMJHL Finals, an injury which had many questioning his ability to return.

                            As the updates came in, Didomenico continued to show excellent progress in his rehabilitation.  His efforts were finally rewarded last Wednesday when, in his first game back with Drummondville of the QMJHL, he scored a goal and added three assists. As of this writing, Didomenico has recorded 2 goals and 4 assists in 3 games.

                            Breathe easy, Leafs’ fans.  It looks as though “Dido” is back on track.

                              580

                              The most important person involved in the Mike Green snub from the Canadian Olympic team is perhaps the defenseman himself.

                              Reasoning used by the Canadian contingent isn’t likely similar to that of the general public, although the overwhelming sentiment of a lack of defensive game (often incorrectly portrayed as ‘liability’ in some circles) seems to be mostly prevalent.

                              And it’s a falsity.