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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.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, spiralling of late with a 2-7-1 record in their past 10 games, will to right the ship at home tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers.Â Â The Leafs will also be looking for revenge in this matchup, having been on the receiving end of a 6-2 thrashing at the hands of the Flyers only a week ago.
With the World Junior Championship gold medal game taking centre stage tonight (7:30pm, TSN), Leafs’ fans can be forgiven for overlooking tonight’s matchup against an inconsistent Florida Panthers squad (7:00pm, Sportsnet).
Coming off a disastrous mini-road trip out West, featuring losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, the Maple Leafs will look to inject some confidence into their lineup with a victory against the visiting Panthers, who sit only 4 points ahead of the Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings.
- On Leafs Lunch this afternoon, it was mentioned that rookie forward Viktor Stalberg has been medically cleared to play and will suit up against the Calgary Flames tonight. No official word yet on who will sit out.
- Forward prospect Chris Didomenico will re-join the Drummondville Voltigueurs and continue his rehab process after suffering a gruesome leg injury late last season. He has been back on his skates for about 2 weeks now, but is not expected to see game action until late February – early March.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a rebuild, or a re-tool, whichever you prefer. Â In any event, a process such as this requires a team to have a plentiful prospect pipe, ripe with blue chippers are all positions. Â The Leafs certainly may not be plentiful when it comes to blue chip prospects, but they do have a few who are developing quite nicely.
And you just never know when and where a potential blue chipper may come from.
If drafting has taught us anything, it’s shown to be far from an exact science. Â Can’t miss prospects turn out to be busts occasionally, and sometimes late round picks have proven to be key components for a team, just ask, among others, Tomas Kaberle, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Viktor Stalberg.
Okay, while he may not garner enough adulation to be put in a group with some of the NHL’s top stars, there is plenty of reason to believe he may in fact one day be worthy of the mention.
Just a quick update:
The Maple Leafs have recalled Viktor Stalberg from the Marlies and are sending down Joey MacDonald, as Jonas Gustavsson is ready to back up Vesa Toskala Friday night in Buffalo.
Probably a good idea to start Vesa on Friday. Give Jonas an extra night off (hopefully, anyway) and keep Toskala away from the Bruins Saturday, as he’s had trouble with them this season.
Viktor Stalberg has been recalled by the Toronto Maple Leafs today. Stalberg is the leading scorer for the Marlies, with 8 goals and 13 assists for 21 points in 19 games. There are rumors circulating that he will take over Jason Blake’s position on the 2nd line with Mikhail Grabovski and Niklas Hagman. There is also the possibility that Jonas Gustavsson will get one of the Leafs starts in goal as they prepare for 3 games in 4 nights beginning tomorrow night in Buffalo.
Micheal A. Aldred
The big club’s off until a Friday night date with the struggling Hurricanes, so let’s take this opportunity to review the progress of several Maple Leafs’ prospects across various levels and highlight upon the season’s surprises and disappointments thus far. The verdict: fairly encouraging results early on across the board.
The Buffalo Sabres are first in their division with a 7-1-1 record, first in the league with average shots per game (36), and have won every game in which the opposition out-shot them. Ryan Miller also holds the best goals against average (1.60) and save percentage (0.944) in the NHL. The Leafs visit them tonight in an effort to try and ruin many of those stats.
The Maple Leafs deserved better in tonight’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars. It was frustrating to see another strong effort come up short. The Leafs really need to start pulling out some of these close games if they want to get back into contention.
They can’t afford to lose those games “that they deserved to win,” because it doesn’t seem like they are good enough to win the games “they should have lost.” Take a look at the Montreal Canadiens; 5 of the their 6 wins this have come in overtime or shootout. Instead of being 6-6-0, the Habs could easily be 1-6-5. However, they’ve found ways to pull out those close games. I hate to say it, but it’s a sign of a better team.
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.
Bad goaltending is now blamed on an injury. The Leafs have called up rookie James Riemer who will be sitting on the bench tonight as Joey MacDonald gets the nod. Vesa Toskala has apparently suffered an undisclosed injury after last night’s 7-2 loss (my bet is a fan clubbed him Nancy Kerrigan style) and is now out. Toronto’s top two goaltenders (arguably) are now sidelined. Gustavsson is expected to return sometime next week.
The Maple Leafs are creative. You have to hand it to them for finding new ways to lose games all the time. In the home opener against Montreal, it was sloppy turnovers and poor special teams leading to a blown late third period lead. On Saturday night, they decided to pack it away early against the Caps before going on a late run at the end to make the score more respectable. Tonight, it was a listless effort physically and emotionally, creating virtually nothing in the way of offense and falling victim to a pair of strange plays.
Despite eight new faces in tonight’s season opening lineup against the Montreal Canadiens, many of the recurring themes of futility from last year were evident again in the 4-3 overtime loss. Poor defensive zone coverage, poor penalty killing, questionable moments in the net, and the snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory late in the game. Despite the disappointing loss, there were a few bright spots: namely the play of the top line led by Matt Stajan and Viktor Stalberg.
According to TSN, Stalberg has made the team and even found himself on the top line. Talk about getting the opportunity to showcase your talent. He’ll start Thursday’s opener against Montreal on a line with Jason Blake and Matt Stajan.
It may be righteous laughter because you’ve been saying it all along: “Toskala won’t bounce back this year”.Â It could also be nervous laughter because you think to yourself: “no way he keeps this play up…right?”.Â It may just be maddening, maniacal laughter as you cry out: “well we all knew this season just could not get off to a perfect start for my Maple Leafs”. Any way you cut it, there is no satisfied, back-slapping laughter celebrating the accolades of Vesa Toskala.Â This is what you would have hoped for among the legion of Toronto supporters to start the 2009-2010 campaign.Â Sadly, our Finnish tender has left us wanting.Â Tonight’s 7-6 debacle against the Buffalo Sabres was just more of the same.
The Leafs improved their preaseason win total to six tonight at the ACC.Â These are the final chances for some of the young hopefuls, and they are not going to go away easily.Â Strong nights from Jonas Gustavsson and Viktor Stalberg were the headlines of this matchup.Â Even the defense corps has a rookieÂ strutting his stuffÂ as Ron Wilson deemed Carl Gunnarsson their “best defenseman tonight”.
An interesting question was brought up by Dave Hodge yesterday morning on TSN’s The Reporters amid the Phil Kessel whirlwind that erupted over the weekend: if Peter Chiarelli wasn’t interested in matching an offer sheet at the dollar figure to which Burke eventually signed the 21-year-old, described by Sports Illustrated’s Michael Farber as “a one in 500 chance,” why didn’t Burke submit the offer sheet and pay but a third rounder instead of an additional first round draft selection? Farber seemed convinced not only that Chiarelli wouldn’t match but that Burke’s decision to go the trade route instead of offer sheet avenue was to save face, anticipating the charges of hypocrisy he would encounter linking back to his response to Kevin Lowe’s offer sheet submission for Dustin Penner that ultimately went unmatched while in Anaheim.
The following is both teams lineups for tonight:
Viktor Stalberg – Matt Stajan – Robert Slaney
Jason Blake – Jason Allison – Jiri Tlusty
Alex Foster – Tim Brent – Bill Thomas
Jamal Mayers – John Mitchell – Darryl Boyce
*Kyle Rogers may play
Garnet Exelby – Ian White
Jeff Finger – Juraj Mikus
Carl Gunnarson – Andy Rogers
I had the privilege of a great view from the Gold section, ten rows off the ice to witness a fairly decent game with plenty of positives. It was my first time in the lower bowl, so it was certainly an exciting and interesting experience to see how the other side lives. Impressive performances carried over from the rookie tournament by Tyler Bozak, the game’s first star, and fellow collegiate rookie Viktor Stalberg.
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