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Tyler Bozak

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So the curtain comes down on the 2009-2010 Maple Leafs season. I know many readers are upset because we as Leaf fans must once again adopt and follow an entirely different team as a sort of playoff hockey avatar in order to fully enjoy the postseason (I find the only way to really get in to it is to pick a surrogate rooting interest). The angst is ramped up in Leaf land as well because the team finished so low in the standings, yet come draft day the guys clustered around our table won’t be studying anything more intently than the lunch menu, because we won’t likely have a pick for the first day and a half (unless Burkie has a miracle relating to a certain Czech defenceman tucked up inside those French cuffs).

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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.

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    Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to even themselves up with a few clubs by securing two points in a win against the Philadelphia Flyers in their final home game of the season. Meanwhile, Philly is trying to keep their playoff hopes alive in a crucial night in which the Rangers, who trail the Flyers by two points, are also playing and looking to oust the Flyers from the post-season picture.

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    Prior to the lockout, undrafted college free agents were a rare, straight to NHL commodity. Either serving out their apprenticeships as minor league signees or plying their trade overseas, few players transitioned directly from the ranks of college hockey to the NHL without enduring prolonged development curves. However, in a post-lockout landscape where GM’s clutch their most valued assets and superstars to their clubs with dynasty length deals, and where dollars and ice time are apportioned in equilibrium, graduate aged (or younger) players progressing from the NCAA as free agents are providing comparatively cheap labour in an increasingly scrutinized marketplace.

    Not too surprisingly, considering both his hockey heritage as a former captain of the Providence College Friars and his somewhat condensed timetable for rebuilding the Leafs, Brian Burke has been one of the first to plunder the verdant college market in recent seasons, in turn providing a quantum shift from the conventional dominance of the CHL at the junior level.

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      Lost amidst all the drama of today’s Tomas Kaberle situation is the game between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at the ACC (7pm, TSN).

      Coming off a 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, the Leafs will look to reverse their fortunes with a better defensive performance against their rivals, who lead the Northeast division.

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        Jimmy HayesRemember Jimmy Hayes?  He was the Leafs 2nd round pick in 2008, a burgeoning power forward who struggled last season in his freshman campaign with the Boston College Eagles as he adjusted to the NCAA game.

        Consider those struggles a thing of the past.

        Hayes was fantastic in the Hockey East Championship this past week as his team captured their ninth tournament victory, an NCAA record.  Oh, and you may be interested to know that his 2 goals and 5 assists (in 4 games) led all tournament point-getters.

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          Submitted by Michael Stephens (a.k.a.  Baumgartner)

          Apparently Sidney Crosby still lives with Mario Lemieux. Anyone else find that weird? Dude, you’re almost 23. You’ve got a Stanley cup ring, an Olympic gold medal, an 8.7 million dollar per year salary (to say nothing of the endorsements). Damn man, move out already. But I digress…

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            The Torontosaurus Rex for Week 22 has been at the scrutiny of many debates. By becoming this week’s honoree, he completes a cycle.

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              Submitted by Michael Stephens (a.k.a. Baumgartner)

              The Toronto Maple Leafs have the League’s worst penalty kill, sporting a 73.0% success rate. They have been shorthanded 252 times this season, surrendering 68 goals. Through 71 games this season, they average 3.5 penalties (252ts/71gp) each night.

              Around January 15th, this vaunted penalty kill was even worse, an abysmal 68.9%. Ron Wilson was smugly talking about how he had to teach his boys how to flip the puck down the ice and out of the zone.

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                The Toronto Maple Leafs look to put a streak together tonight, while the Devils are seeking control of the Atlantic division. Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel each have 6 points in their last 4 games, while Nikolai Kulemin is showing signs of becoming a promising top two line player with 7 points in his last 5 affairs. He has arguably been the Leafs’ best player for the second half of the season.

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                  I attended practice at the MasterCard Center for Hockey Excellence, watching a loose group of players reveling in the 4-1 win over their provincial arch rivals. It all began with a loose skate, just a warm-up involving firing some pucks off the boards along the way.

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                    Tyler Bozak is Happy.  You Should Be Too.

                    Tyler Bozak is Happy. You Should Be Too.

                    Twice in the last week – once after the Tampa Bay game, once during the first intermission of the Oilers game – we’ve had the opportunity to watch Tyler Bozak do interviews for television. Twice during the past week, he’s stood there in the hallway outside the Leaf dressing room, spiky hair soaked with sweat, talking first to Paul Hendrick, then to Elliotte Friedman, with a giant freaking grin on his face. The big grin on his face tells you that Tyler Bozak is a happy young man. He’s got six goals and eleven assists in twenty-three games as a twenty-three year old rookie centreman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he’s making $875,000 with another 2.8 million dollars worth of bonuses on the table. Of course he’s happy. Why the hell wouldn’t he be happy?

                    The big grin also tells you he’s a young man. Those of a certain age can’t help but be struck immediately by Bozak’s youthful appearance. He seems to have a little acne here and there, which makes him look even more like the kid behind the counter at Taco Bell than he otherwise might, but more than anything else you can see the excitement of a young man in his eyes and in the corners of his mouth when he simply cannot supress the grin that wants to get out. Doing those interviews, you can tell that he is absolutely stoked, the way only a young player – who hasn’t been doing this sort of thing since Chelios was a child – can possibly be.

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                      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.

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                        Ever since the Leafs’ late-offseason acquisition of Phil Kessel, his performance has been (understandably) heavily-scrutinized in the face of the hefty amount of futures given up to secure the extremely talented winger.

                        Kessel’s season has, in some ways, mirrored that of his teammates, with periods of great productivity followed by periods of near-invisibility. However, considering a host of issues which seemingly stood in the way of a productive season, including significant shoulder surgery, causing him to miss out on training camp, and the lack of talent surrounding him, the Leafs’ young sniper has produced at a rate which, in the context of the aforementioned factors, is actually quite impressive.

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                          We have all had a few days to digest Sunday’s trades, but there is still a well of untapped implications.  Here’s a closer look at the forwards involved: both the outgoing Leafs and our lone newcomer.  Be sure to check out Garrett’s excellent pre-game analysis here before tonight’s tilt with the New Jersey Devils.

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                            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.

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                              The Leafs took to the ice today in preparation for Martin Brodeur tomorrow night. It featured some interesting one on one drills for a few key players, and one defenceman who claims the future of his career and the Maple Leafs would be better suited if he were traded.

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                                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.