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It’s that time of year again. Â The most wonderful time of the year. Â No, not Christmas, and no, you won’t see any of those silly Staples commercials.
It’s time for the NHL playoffs.
The annual spring tournament that features some of the most exciting hockey of the season. Â It’s Â triple overtime games that rage on long into the night, games so long that you’ll hope you saved some sick days. Â It’s players skating through pain, all for the common goal of lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup.
And the great fans of the NHL, well they have the best seat in the house.
Around this time of year, especially the first round, marriages are postponed. Â Assignments are left on desks unfinished. Â Scheduled are cleared, or built around. Â Kiss your wife or girlfriend, and tell her you’ll see her in a few months, a better person than when you last saw her.
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.
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.
Mike Peca, also known as the little engine who could, has officially called it a career today. The 35-year oldÂ grinding leaderÂ playedÂ 864 career gamesÂ with the Canucks, Sabres, Islanders, Oilers, Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets.Â During that time, he talliedÂ 176 goals, 289 assists and 798 penalty minutes.Â Â On two seperate occasions, he reachedÂ the Stanley Cup FinalsÂ (Buffalo in 1999 and Edmonton 2006).Â He also helped Canada capture the gold medal at the 2002 Olympic Winter games in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The second half of the season is underway, and the Maple Leafs continue to struggle. Naturally, speculation has begun to shift to what can be done to improve the roster, and which buyers on the market may have interest in what the Leafs have to offer.
Happy Boxing Day, hockey fans!
It’s a great day for hockey here in Leafland. Â The World Junior Championship Tournament, featuring the Leafs’ highly-touted Nazem Kadri, officially gets underway this afternoon as Canada takes on Latvia. Â Following the tournament opener, we are in for a treat Leafs take on their long-standing rival, the Montreal Canadiens. Â And for those who are able to remain awake after all the holiday parties of the past two days, the Edmonton Oilers will visit the Vancouver Canucks in what should be a typical Saturday night Western Conference barn-burner. Â Does it get any better?
Now, onto the Leafs-Habs preview:
Just wanted to share a fantastic bit of work done by Nights, one of our many enthusiastic and intelligent readers, who evaluated how the NHL landscape would look without the first 8 games of the season during which the Maple Leafs struggled mightily. Great work!
By: Gus Katsaros
Prior to the season starting, I had written about the impact of schedules. In particular, as the Leafs face the Habs tonight after playing the previous night, while Montreal is rested. Interesting enough, the last time this happened, Toronto beat Detroit 5-1.
Schedules make a big difference in the results of NHL teams fates during the season. In some instances, it could be the difference between a playoff spot and a tee time (and I thoroughly enjoy both â€“ FORRRREEEE!!).
Leafs fans have been waiting for John Mitchell to step up and start burying his opportunities to legitimize himself as a top 6 forward, where depth is lacking. At Wednesday’s practice, he received that opportunity and looks to excel at it as he was paired up with sniper Phil Kessel to establish some chemistry before Friday night’s matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes.
… they didn’t give up the fight.
Maple Leafs’ fans should be very pleased with the effort displayed in last night’s 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Â Although another loss is disappointing on the surface, there is much to feel good about in regard to the team’s play following a week’s break. Â It is not often that one can look at a loss as a game to instill confidence; however, last night’s game should serve to do exactly that, among both players and fans alike.
After a seemingly endless week of postulating, panicking, and debating with the fervent passion that only hockey-starved Leafs fans can display, it is finally gameday.Â While the prevalent hope amongst Toronto followers is that the winless streak gets broken tonight, there is a veritable maelstrom of other stories convoluting that one simple wish.
Joe Bowen checks in from Vancouver and discusses the current predicament for the Leafs in goal. Leafs brought four goaltenders with them to Vancouver. Brian Burke discusses his lack of interest if he meets with Gillis or not.
Make sure to catch Danielâ€™s Rangers/Leafs preview.
I’ll be attending my second Marlies game of the season today at Ricoh Coliseum at 3:00 PM. They try to avenge a loss last night to divisional rivals, Rochester Americans in the second half of a home-and-home.
Watching games, got me to thinking about perspective.
EDIT: Brad has a great take on this situation as well!
It seems just a few months after an investigation was done on the Maple Leafs regarding the Vancouver Canucks Sedin twins prior to free agency day, the Leafs face yet another potential charge for tampering. Once again, it involves the Canucks, and Vancouver’s GM Mike Gillis is not standing back this time.
The Maple Leafs continued their shaping of the NHL roster with another four cuts on Sunday. Top prospect Nazem Kadri will be going back to the OHL’s London Knights, Jonas Frogren and Christian Hanson will report to the Toronto Marlies, and Andy Rogers has been released. By my count, that leaves 30 players left (including Kessel who will be placed on the long-term injured reserve), meaning there will be another 6 cuts in the near future.
The window dwindles. And so what?
I’m not a proponent of trading the smooth skating 31-year-old Czech native, yet not inflexible to believe the right offer would send him packing. Not so much due to lessened mobility, but because of the skill set he delivers and the fact there are other solutions that retain his services, yet keep the rebuild’s momentum.
But what’s the rush? What happened to the rebuild? Why all of a sudden is there a heightened sense of urgency in turning this ship around and would Kaberle bring the elite forward for the rebuild? What about drafting and development?
Fans clamored for a proper rebuild, understood it takes time to accomplish that, yet threw that out with a few well-placed signings. Turn around time seems to have gone from long term, to quick, fast, do it all now and get rid of that Kaberle to do so!
Assuming the only option to improve the club is by trading Kaberle alone is not entirely accurate. There are other alternatives.
It wasn’t long ago when Todd Bertuzzi, Markus Naslund, and Brendan Morrison were the talk of the league. They were arguably the best line in hockey during the 2002-03 season as the trio not only set career highs, but collectively posted 119 goals and 133 assists for 252 points. Not bad for one line. But since the lockout and the Steve Moore incident, every single one of their careers began to go downhill with a heap of steam.
The Maple Leafs are under investigation for tampering after an interview with Ron Wilson on June 30th in which the head coach hinted that the Leafs were interested in the services of the Sedin Twins. The Canucks have not filed the suit, and until the investigation is concluded, Brian Burke refuses to make any comments about the situation.
On a similar note, the league is now under investigation for possible anal retentiveness.
The Montreal Canadiens have acquired center Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt, and Mike Busto from the New York Rangers in exchange for Chris Higgins, Doug Janik, Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko.
Also, reports out of Sweden suggest the Sedin Twins have each signed a 6 year $6M dollar/season contract. It was announced on CBC Radio and discussed on TSN but is considered to be a false report at this time. The Canucks offered them one last offer before going into free agency tomorrow, the Sedins (to the public knowledge) have yet to accept or decline the offer.
Celebrating a decade of squandered potential and faded dreams, the draft of 1999 turned out shallower than an infantâ€™s paddling pool, yet despite being regarded as an acrimonious footnote in league history the draft of â€™99 also served as an unlikely backdrop to one of the most meticulously engineered pre-draft coups ever.
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