Toronto Seeks Redemption And Validity in Buffalo

After the Leafs came out flat for the better part of two periods on Wednesday against Phoenix, they will need a substantially better effort against the Sabres tomorrow in Buffalo. Media is blaming the Grabovski line for the -3 they laid in the 2nd period. Wilson is blaming the defense(*cough*Finger*cough*). But a better reason is the busy schedule and the fact that the Leafs don't have the time to address any of the nagging issues left over from the October/November melt down. Among those, the obvious deficiency on the penalty-kill, the free-falling power-play and the general defensive positioning of the team.

As long as the Leafs continue to forecheck and get the puck out of their own zone at the right times, they can get back to winning. Pretty easy to type from where I sit, but with the holidays around the corner and families to think of, these players may still have 4 more games before then to plummet to that final spot in the East again. There are 2games against a Buffalo team that always presents a problem, a game against a Boston team that continues to embarrass Kessel and the Leafs as well as a 1 off against the Islanders. The Leafs could either be sitting pretty in 10th or licking their wounds in 15th. I'll try to get another article or 2 in before the holidays, but if I don't have a great week!


Leafs Simply Have To Fix The Penalty Kill

I know this isn't news to anyone, but the Leafs powerplay is still rock bottom and letting in goals at the worst possible times(ever?). While the Leafs are way down on the number of penalties they take compared to last year, their ability to kill them has gotten substantially worse. I literally cringe every time they take a penalty, I have that little faith in their abilities. When looking at the stats to write this, I was amazed to see that the PK is equally atrocious at home and on the road. I was at least hoping that their penchant to lose at home may have been precipitated by an extra bad PK there. Nope. Their PK is actually fractionally better at home at 70.8%, compared to 70.4% on the road. That just leads me to believe two things: the PK coaching is really bad and we don't have the players to play the roles. Ranked 13th being short-handed 119 times, the Leafs have let in 35 goals. That's practically 1 in 3 PK's lets in a goal.

I don't think people should be running around screaming about making the playoffs when we can't kill a penalty. Playing in fear of taking a penalty and loathing going on the ice to kill it, will not get the Leafs above 8th. What do they expect in the playoffs? That they can score 5 goals a game for 16 wins? Living in Victoria, I don't get much insight as to how the Leafs actually train for their jobs, but with the schedule this month there will be a whole lot of optional morning skates without much coaching or direction.

I think it's easy to get caught up in a streak or a decent short term record. Although at times it may make watching the season unfold a little more painful, I like to take the games one at a time. What worked? What didn't? Then, how is that looking over time? Short term; what a great kill of a double minor in the first period last night! Over time; the PK is looking worse every game. The Leafs are guaranteed to let in one short-handed goal per game. That doesn't really add to the entertainment value we've been promised as fans, either.

So, just in case you get too excited about jumping past some teams and sliding into the playoffs in the final week of the season, keep watching the penalty kill and hope that Ron Wilson can do something before it's too late.


Leafs Rebound Against Atlanta

Tonight the Maple Leafs showed the forecheck that made Ron Wilson famous. The first and second periods saw the forwards chasing hard in the opposing corners and finishing checks. The goaltending was passable with a few in-tight saves made by Vesa Toskala near the end of the first period, showing the rest of the Leafs corps that he was in the game and willing to win. As the game went on Toskala slowly lost control of his rebounds and needed to be bailed out by his oft-times maligned defense. Blake's new found lust for the net has waned a bit, but he still wants to throw the puck at it as often as possible.

The main story to me, unlike the fawning broadcast crew, is the schizophrenic play of Mikhail Grabovski. I'm not sure that the management and coaching staff could show much more confidence in this kid. So the proverbial ball is in Grabbo's court. It's finally time to man-up. I do believe I saw several signs of it tonight. Although the play he converted on wasn't as spectacular of the ones he either passed up shooting on or missed the net completely, it does mark a goal for two games straight for the future line-mate of Phil Kessel. Yeah, I said that. When are they going to give Kessel a shot with Grabovski. He's a fantastic area passer and Kessel has shown he can hit the tape of a moving target from 100 feet. I'm not sure I understand how they haven't played together, even on the powerplay, when Blake was on the first line for weeks. Even when it was painfully obvious that the Americans weren't clicking.

Here and There

Kessel had a great game after wetting his pants in Boston

Rickard Wallin returned.......to do absolutely nothing

The Leafs penalty kill came through in the third when it really needed to, although it it was only 1 for 2 on the night

The Leafs could not convert on a 5 on 3, but settled down to eventually score moments after a powerplay late in the third

Showing someone actually cares every game, Hagman blocked a puck point blank at the blueline, 5 on 5, with a 5 - 2 lead

Looking Forward

The Isles will most certainly play Roloson on Wednesday December 9th. I'm not sure that it will be enough. The Islanders are coming in playing .500 over the last 6 games, only averaging 2 gpg. Her's hoping Vesa can pull off another game before he goes Mr. Hyde again


Leafs Can Recover From Latest Slaughter

I have to be honest; I fast-forwarded through the better part of Saturday's Leafs game in Boston. The first sign of the apocalypse was when Tuuka Rask got the call in net for the Bruins. Every time the Leafs face a player that they cast aside in a nonsensical trade, that player is destined to have an amazing game......EVERY TIME. This is a parallel curse to that of any Toronto born player coming into the ACC under the age of 30 must score a hat-trick. And these anomalies are not going to be present every game. Ergo the Leafs can't possibly stink all the time. Remember that the Leafs performance against the Bruins had absolutely nothing to do with the horrid down-low coverage, undisciplined play and subsequent ineptitude in penalty-killing, or complete disinterest in playing at all. It was all just a little bit f head-games based on Tuuka Rask being much better than all 3 of the goaltenders the Leafs have attempted to trot out as first string netminders(and to anyone thinking that Gustavsson is better, he's not, not yet).

Let's get to the point of the post today; the guaranteed recovery from the absolutely embarrassing display in Boston. It's really quite simple. The Leafs need to get back to the way they played against the Montreal Canadiens. A hard-hitting forecheck that gave no quarter. A defense that was willing to collapse and block shots(as opposed to screening the goaltender and deflecting the pucks into the net). A little bit of pride never hurt anything either.

So what do I see for Atlanta when they are in Toronto Tomorrow? Oh crap, I just remembered that Antropov was given away for a late second round pick and probably has a hat-trick to prove against Brian Burke. Well, let's call it 5-2 Atlanta.


Why Are The Leafs Winning Now?

There's some really great reasons the Leafs have seemed to turn around their play of late.

  • Their penalty killing, while not fixed, is looking a lot more aggressive at the points and in the corners. Every member of the PK is blocking shots, regardless of the size of their paycheque. They're also getting the puck over the blueline when they get it. This may sound simple, but recall a few games in November and you will remember many pucks making it to the blueline, but never past it.
  • An team-wide investment in defense. Nikolai Kulemin is finally getting credit for what he has been doing all along. You know why he hasn't been sent down to the Marlies(like many have screamed for)? Koolaid forechecks hard and backchecks harder. He's better than any other Leaf at rubbing out an opposing player before they get to our blueline in the neutral zone
  • The Leafs have turned the forecheck up all the way to eleven. Keith Primeau is opening up space for his linemates after moving up to the third line. The fourth line is doing what they are built for; pounding defensemen into the glass and laying the groundwork for the other three lines. Colton Orr has a game winning goal, 'nuff said
  • Jason Blake knew that if he was going to turn his game around he needed to start from his own net forward. Blake has been playing great on the fourth line and all his defensive efforts has lead to more chances offensively. Scoring two even-strength goals off of brilliant passes from Grabbo surely has his confidence higher. Evidence of this is the five alarm wreck around Mathieu Garon when Blake was looking to complete the hat trick
  • Turnovers are down, but definitely not gone. I think that Stempniak's extra work on the penalty kill has sewn up some of his turnover issues. Also, taking him off the point on the powerplay has brought his turnover rate down as well.
  • Crisp hard passes out of the zone, you just can't beat them. Even Komisarek has got his poop in a scoop with his first passes. And this leads to......
  • Luke Schenn's ice time is down. I'm not sure on this, but if anyone can tell me, is Luke back playing on the proper side? Schenn is composed with the puck again and making hard chips along the boards that had him stymied so far this season. He's also laying opposing players out on the boards. His pinches are more calculated and his shots are getting through and not rushed. Apparently the Leafs coaches still want to see more offense out of him, but at least he's trying responsibly now.
  • Francois Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle continue to quietly lead the team. Much has to be said about Ian White, too. At the beginning of the season he was the only good player. Now that the rest of the team has caught up, he's quiet. Which is great, because that means he's still a part of the solution and not causing new problems. Thanks for help leading us out of the worst funk in franchise history, Ian.
That's about how I see it. What did I miss?



Well the Leafs found a new and improved way to platoon goaltenders..........in the same game. All lame jokes aside, our number one goalie is now Joey MacDonald. MacDonald showed that he can play competently in front of the "conscientious" Leafs defense, but still needs to show that he can play in front of the "perpetual turnover machine" defense. The defense were clearing pucks from the crease after rebounds and not panicking in the corners. The two biggest culprits of blue line turnovers, Stempniak and Blake, had their backs covered. Although Grabbo decided the game hadn't been exciting enough and left a drop-pass bomb on the Montreal blue line with 2 minutes left to go. Again the much-tightened defense corralled the puck and sent it to center.

If we can play a complete game like this against an also-struggling Steve Mason, I may still be able to shave before New Years. Only 3 wins to go to reach 10. Let's go Leafs, let's go for double digit wins this season.

Is it just me or is Phil Kessel looking like a hell of a setup man? Is anyone still wondering if this kid relied on Marc Savard? Seriously, Kessel is a point per game playing with Matt Stajan, the second least obvious first-line center behind Shawn Horcoff. Good for Stajan, though. That's the second breakaway snipe in a week. Thanks for stepping it up, Matty!(I'm sure he reads my blog).

So is anyone missing the lateral sweeps through the slot of John Mitchell yet? Not me. Hanson was guilty of a few turnovers, but otherwise is playing great 4th line energy player-style hockey. This also allows Primeau to pop up to the third line, where he has been a force in the corners. Overall I like the current make-up of the team. They came back after being shut out and played the same style of forechecking hockey and beat the second-coming of Patrick Roy last night. Not sure if anyone has ever actually said that about Price before, but it seems he has those expectations. All told last night was the most enjoyable game of the year for me and look forward to a few more of that caliber before seasons end.


It's A Crying Game

After reading an article from Slamsports, a particular quote jumped off the screen at me. Toskala said, “It was a minor tweak. I just have to get it out of my head that I’m not afraid to jump on that side. That will come with practice.” The last thing I am looking forward to is The Vesa playing with any trepidation. I'm not sure my heart can take it. As far as tonight's game, I am almost positive that Carey Price is due a complete meltdown. I remember that precious game last year when Caring Carey cried talking to the press about how terrible he had been that night losing 5-2. Hey, there's nothing wrong with having a wee cry. I think it showed a lot of balls being honest in an interview. With Jeremy Roenick retiring, who else is going to say it as it is? Jeff Finger is in tonight, replacing the vaguely injured Gunnarsson. If anything, there might be some more shots getting blocked with Finger and Komisarek back in the lineup. Let's look for a tighter defensive outing and more saves of shots from outside the top of the circles; that's Toskala's job letting those in.


My Face Is Itchy

Well, after 2 months and 6 victories I still have the beard that I promised to grow until the Leafs won 10 regular season games. With their penchant to lose mightily in Buffalo I'm not sure whether I should think that the Leafs are "due" to win in Buffalo or accept the inevitable. I would imagine that (My name is) Jonas is starting tonight, so there is a good chance that the score will be 4-3. I don't really have a lot to say today, besides mentioning how unprofessional I look at work with the Unibomber-style facial hair. I did shave off the Whoville jaw tufts as I had to visit a client onsite one day. So now I look like DeNiro in Deerhunter, without the forbidden relationship with Meryl Streep. I'm still wondering if any graphically-minded person in the Barilkosphere might want to give me a hand with a banner. If so please contact me. I'd like to add some professionalism to an otherwise passionate project. Thanks for listening.


Daddy, No More Pull-Ups!

Those classic words were the final words spoken in the movie 2012. Never before has such a monumental movie been summed up by one line of dialogue. Why do I mention it here on my hockey blog? Because these words were spoken after a world wide catastrophe happened and 98% of the human population was wiped out. Kind of how the Leafs season is going so far. Let's accept the inevitable here. The Leafs are second last in the league, are playing the last team in the league tonight(The 'Canes are last only because the Leafs have a game in hand), and the fans are left with the exciting prospect of playing for last in the league. Oh yeah, the Leafs don't have a first round pick in the draft next year.

Don't get me wrong. I still watch every game and get excited every time the Leafs come back from a one - nothing deficit to tie it and eventually lose. Phil Kessel has cheered up my household greatly. I now only swear too loudly and bother the neighbors in the third period when the game is finally out of hand as Toskala lets in another back-breaking goal. Nope, we're all full of good cheer and pessimistic optimism here at Far Away Leaf.

Now for those of you who haven't seen 2012. Let's just say that we may still yet get our Pull-Ups Moment(tm). The clouds will part, the shine will shine through and the Leafs will open the first round of the playoffs. They will look up and Daddy Burke and say, "Daddy.....no more pull-ups!". And we as a nation will CHEER!


They Deserved A Better Fate!

I, for one, am tired of hearing it. With a tired Calgary team, they couldn’t take advantage of it. Why? Their team game still isn’t anywhere close to being there. Their polar opposite special teams definitely didn’t help. The Leafs came into the game with the 3rd ranked powerplay and it’s the first time I have seen it function as such. In a game against Anaheim they brought their powerplay percentage up by clicking 5 times. The Leafs needed 42 minutes and 23 seconds to get a powerplay against Chicago the Friday night, mostly because you need to forecheck and frustrate the opposing team to draw penalties.

The Leafs penalty killing continues to be atrocious. So every time they take a penalty it’s a sphincter agitating proposition. Not to mention Toskala has not quite redeemed himself after just one competent game. After facing few shots and the Leafs pressing hard, Toskala once again failed to hold his team in the game. Then let’s take a penalty, down 2 late in the 3rd period. This is the familiar recipe for a 5 – 2 Leafs loss.

Don Cherry, who would have to practically wear my ass as a hat to get me to agree with him lately, is spot on in his assessment of Rickard Wallin. Where has this guy been so far this year? I know he’s supposed to be a third line checker with a slight offensive upside, but he has done nothing. Basically, he’s wasting a roster spot. Speaking of which, there has been a gross mismanagement overall of the roster. Jamal Mayers was one of the only men on the ice in blue that looked like a hockey player. He’s been sitting out, not due to an overflow of talent in the roster, but of some idea that he isn’t benefitting the team? I like Primeau in the line-up as well as Orr, but who should be sitting? Wallin as it is right now. Primeau wins face-offs, Orr beat the living snot out of McGrattan(great fighting name by the way) and the usual fall-guy, Kulemin, is the only forward who finishes every check and backchecks. Lets give the Wallin experiment a break, shall we?

With 3 total wins there is a time to admit defeat. How about now? Our goaltending saviour is human, our $4 million backup has the worst numbers in the league and our expensive back end can’t keep a puck out of the net. Let’s get the kids up to the big team. I shelled out for Center Ice this year to watch my favourite team play. I have only seen it happen half of the time. Last year’s team that never gave up is gone. We’re looking at winning over 70% of the rest of the season to get into the playoffs. ENTERTAIN ME ALREADY.



I read today that Toskala is "happy" with his performance and said it was his best start of the year. That is saying a lot about how far Vesa has come since platooning with Raycroft two seasons ago. Raycroft and Toskala were easily the two most deluded goaltenders in the league when they played together. It was never a reflection on them when they lost and they always felt "great" about their performance. If I had that first goal scored against me in NHL 10, I would be emailing EA and saying there was a glitch in the game and could they please fix it. No NHL caliber goalie should let that in. Ever. Seriously, Vesa, they showed us footage of you practicing fundamentals with Allaire in a montage(MONTAGE!) on HNIC. I'm not going on too much about this other than, I hope Jonas Gustafsson learns to love it in Toronto despite losing. He is only under a one year contract and the Leafs are moking it very hard to put him in a situation where the better bid would be coming from the TML office in


How Quickly They Forget

Just one short week ago the Maple Leafs were winless and at the bottom of the league. Well, they are still at the bottom of the league, but have put together three solid games, one win and two OT losses. I'm not sure what part of that modest success would make Niklas Hagman think that he needs to do a pass across the middle of the ice from a prime shooting position with bodies going to the net. There are WAY too many drop passes for a team with maybe 3 players that could be classified as "skill players". Seriously, let's keep it simple stupids. Hit the net when you shoot from a decent angle that doesn't make the puck leave the zone if you do miss. Get somebody over 5'10" in front of the net to pound home some rebounds. I'm not dissing their overall play, but remember what brought the slight return from the basement; hard work and a solid forecheck. That goal with 37 seconds left, short handed, is not going to happen very often this year. As a final note; can the Leafs go ONE game without a power play goal against?(Yes, I know they have had one game without a goal against on the PP, but come on). My last, LAST P.S., does Toronto really have the number 3 powerplay right now? A lot of things change when you play the Anaheim Ducks!


From Out Of Nowhere

One of the reasons it's sometimes hard to be a Leafs fans is the level of expectation that comes with an over-saturation of information. Being a sports fan in general is all about the unexpected things that can happen within an environment bound by strict rules. One thing Leafs fans don't really get to see is something happen that wasn't already thought about, predicted, reviewed, panned or just plain-old bitched about. Other NHL teams have had small surprises, like the Oilers' Sam Gagner on 2007/08. Or huge surprises, like Steve Mason winning the Calder trophy with veteran-like numbers last season. I tried being scientific about finding who the last great surprise in Toronto was, but our spotlight on prospects is a little too bright too. How many teams, in any sport, has a prospect system under as much pressure. Jiri Tlusty can attest to the pressure and the down side of being under a microscope. Back to that last surprise sensation; I would have to say the last stand out that made the camp with little fanfare would be Tomas Kaberle. Some of you may say, "What about Luke Schenn?". I would say that so far he hasn't been an impact player and really won't ever be a gamebreaker in the league. I see Schenn as more of a Adam Foote-type or Robyn Regher-like player that can give some guys some stitches in the crease. But that time hasn't come yet. What's the Leafs next big surprise? I'm, not sure, people like us little bloggers almost make that impossible now-a-days.


Who's The Better Burke Team?

Going into Anaheim, one has to ask which is the better Burke team. Obviously, since Anaheim has a win, they are the better team. I'm not facetious there, either. Coming in at 3-5-1, they still have a better record than the Leafs. Their Achilles heal has also been goaltending, with Giguere not living up to his contract for quite some time. Hiller has matured into a starter, sporting a .921 S% and a 2.72 GA average. This doesn't stop Anaheim from having only 3 plus players on their current roster. Anaheim has 2 bonafide power forwards with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf is under-performing and being outscored by Teemu Selanne. Corey Perry is a point-per-game in 9 games but is a -2. Anaheim is currently 24th in the league at 2.33 goals per game, well about Toronto's 1.88. the only team scoring less goals per game than the Leafs is Nashville at 1.70, but they have 3 wins this season. All these stats aside, who has the better chance of winning tonight? Toronto, hands down. Seriously, how can they not win at this point. They made their point that they were the worst Leafs team ever Saturday with the longest opening to a season without a win or a tie. Get ready for a win, Leafs fans!


Take That Vancouver!

The Maple Leafs took their 6 days off and banded together in order to bring their west coast fans something to cheer about; 25 minutes of good hockey. Unfortunately they also brought their atrocious penalty killing and undisciplined play. Almost full ten minutes of the first period was spent on the penalty kill. Not quite full because Vancouver scored twice on the power play. While McDonald was steady, he wasn't brilliant. It did prove that goaltending isn't the Achilles heal that the media and fans have been grousing about. Putting all your eggs in a basket that has 17 NHL wins is sad day for this franchise. So is wringing your hands waiting for a goalie with no wins to come back and play backup. This team has been losing games. Hopefully the 3rd period is something to build on. While Wilson makes his willie-nillie benchings and scratches, this team is feeling lower and lower. Sooner than later Burke has to make up his mind if he has the team he told us he made and if he has the right motivator running the show on the bench.


On Enemy Soil

The Leafs wind their way onto the ice tonight at GM Place. And in true Leafs fashion the game has been scheduled at 4pm PST. I'm sure that the 18,000+ Canucks fans have already started blogs just to complain about the injustice of having to drive in non-rush hour traffic in order to go to a game(updating them live on their iPhones). They'll also have to turn their hydroponic operations over to their third cousins for the entire afternoon which may end up in a bum crop for the year. All truth aside, not being a superstitious man, I will be wearing a Leafs jersey all day and explaining my Beard-in(tm) to everyone I meet to somehow affect the outcome of the game over 27 kms of ocean. I am growing the beard until 10 Leaf wins have been attained. If the Leafs can find a stride on this road trip there is an outside chance that I won't be Santa's doppelganger by Christmas. Barring that I won't be taking any ID pictures either. Popping out now to get pumpkins to smile and slowly rot on our front porch....somewhat like the season so far. Have a great Once-a-Year-Chance-To-See-The-Leafs-in-Vancouver Day!


Random Thoughts And Generally Judging Without Merit

The Leafs last played to a degrading and debilitating loss last Saturday to the Rangers. A game where their early season problems manifested once again. Those being:

  • The inability to score first or in the first period
  • Forget secondary scoring, where's the tertiary scoring?
  • The lack of trust in there goaltender following a soft goal
  • Forwards not coming back for defensive coverage
  • Not being able to clear pucks over the blueline from 5 feet inside it
  • Players being arbitrary healthy scratches
  • John Mitchell not hitting the net and being somehow exempt from being scratched
  • Jason Blake shooting from 1 degree angles and thinking no one has ever tried a wrap-around and what a great plan it would be

All of this may sound frightfully similar to last year. And the biggest change is that quite a bit of scoring left with Nik Antropov, Pavel Kubina and (not-so-much) Dominic Moore. Not to mention the offense that left with unsigned AHL players that signed elsewhere. Here's a good time to mention that Anton Stralman is looking pretty serviceable in Columbus. Not looking any worse than, say, Jeff Finger or Garnet Exelby. Honestly, the money playing on the back-end is making the people who signed them look horribly inept. The only signing starting to take a little shape is Beauchemin. After a horrid first week, he has settled down and is only turning the puck over at the offensive blueline 2 or 3 times a game. Most of those turn overs are actually a change in the coaching style this season. I've heard that Wilson is asking all(good grief, WHY?) of the defense to stand up on the boards and keep the puck in the offensive zone. This is landed a few of the defense in hot water and a slash in the minus column. The hard part will be watching players that are not already good at this(Beauchemin, Kaberle) trying to get better at it(Komisarek, everyone else). I think that Burke thought this might be a little easier transition that it has actually been. Racking up 7 losses probably wasn't in the Powerpoint Presentation at the opening day meetings. The last thing I want to comment on is the obvious kid gloves being used with Luke Schenn. They constantly have him changing partners and monitor his time. That's all well and good, keep the faith in him. But for crying out loud stop switching sides. Especially when I know that there is an obvious push from within the coaching staff for Schenn to improve offensively.

I encourage EVERYONE to join the beard-in
I encourage EVERYONE to join the beard-in

Oh, the picture I promised of the beard-in is above. I used my cell-camera which is almost as good as a burnt log writing on a flat rock. I know, it's not the camera's fault.


Old Man Winter

I have started my own personal sit-in for the Maple Leafs playing woes. Just before the season started I decided to stop shaving. I thought that I would stop shaving until the Maple Leafs got their first Regulation win of the season. After the Montreal season opener I thought one game might be a little silly as they could have fluked out a win that night and raised my games-won to 10. After last night's debacle, the Leafs are a paltry 0-4-1 and look to have another slapdown coming this evening from the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are 3-1-1 on solid goaltending(?) and bring in a cast of under-rated muckers and scorers. The long and short of my sit-in/beard-growing is that I was being a little cup-half-full for a change and thought that there was no way I would be unshorn into December. Right now I have a 2 week beard that my wife is finally used to. The unfortunate part is that I haven't given the hair a cut in the same amount of time and I am stating to look like Dr. Phil.

Last year the Leafs iced a team that at least entertained and tried like hell until the final horn. The year's Leafs look lost, like "the system" has somehow eluded them. Are there any quick fixes to Burke's allusion to the post-season? A few, really. How about working on penalty killing, for one? Ron Wilson joking about icing the puck is the first time I thought, "You know that you're actually making fun of your staff and not the players, right?". And the endless debate on whether there is a problem with Vesa Toskala(there is) isn't helping the fact that the forwards don't backcheck deep enough into there own end. We are having the same problem as last year of turning the puck over 6 feet inside our own blueline when trying to get it out.......5 on 5. For all the changes to personnel, the system is still either not being adhered to or the system doesn't work. Team defense is not a concept that is being embraced in Toronto. Half-fullers will tell you that the team (mostly the defense) needs more time to "gel". Are you kidding me? October is the month as the Leafs have a few times with 5 days between games. Bag skates are something my Midget coach did when we sucked. Mostly because in 1986 there was no such thing as a "system" in minor hockey. When you have guys making millions to play a game, do you really think that a bag skate is going to "wake them up"? Hopefully being down after tonight until a Saturday rematch against the Rangers, they can work on the defensive play that has made Toskala look so horrid.

In the meantime (and in-between time) are there any bloggers willing to join me in my Beard Protest? I didn't have the presence of mind to take a picture, but I will later tonight and put it up with this post. Is anyone out there good with Photoshop? I was thinking of using whatever pic I get up as a new banner(or at least an avatar).


The Race For The "C"

So as the three alternate captains vie not-so-secretly for the the captaincy, we can watch their performances over the next month and see who's winning. Komisarek took several penalties last night, the most heinous one being an unnecessary elbowing penalty with minutes left in the game, allowing Montreal to tie it. Komisarek had been the focus of the refs all night and should have been may aware of his physical play being under scrutiny. Definitely 15 minutes in penalties is not leading a team to victory. The one thing a team famous for coughing up third period leads could use from it's leader is composure in the dying minutes - Komisarek minus one Captain Token. Beauchemin overextended himself and took unneeded risks pinching all night. I know that the Leafs strategy this year is to crowd the boards with the defense on the forecheck, but a veteran offensive-defenseman should know when to pinch - Beauchemin minus one Captain Token. Tomas Kaberle was wheeling all night and distributed the puck quickly and sharply throughout the game. Kabby accumulated one assist and was the catalyst for Stajan's second goal. Plus one Captain Token. So as far as I can see it, Kaberle's composure under pressure and team play mentality have him in an early season lead for the Captaincy.

Side notes:

Each fight in last night's game ended up giving Montreal momentum and their fourth line dissected the defense and was huge on two goals.

Toronto's face-off percentage was atrocious outside of Wayne Primeau, who had a 78% on the night.

John Mitchell missed the net an estimated 314 times. If he backs through the slot with his legs spread one more time I'm writing an angry letter. Also, he was under 50% in the faceoff circle and a minus 1

Beauchemin and Schenn being a minus 2 is hopefully not a sign of things to come.

Mikhail Grabovski had an assist and was a plus 1 with 20:14 of ice time. Put him with Stalberg for a shift or two, you won't be disappointed. (Or at least get Kulemin back in the line up)

Do we really need Rosehill AND Orr?


Who Will Be The Leafs Next 50 Goal Scorer?

Not since Dave Andreychuk in the 1993/94 season has a Maple Leaf scored over 50 goals when he scored 53. Going into the new season there's a pretty good chance that we won't see 50 goals scored by one line, let alone one player. So how will the Leafs attain their next prolific scorer? If it's through the draft then fans will be waiting until well into the 2000-teens for the next player to cap 50. In my estimation we haven't drafted that scorer yet. Could that athlete come via free agency? Well, there aren't too many players capable of doing this. Would we be able to pick up, Heatley, Iginla, Ovenchkin or Lecavalier? Not likely and no, thank you. At this point it would be great if we could have another 30 goal scorer. The last Leaf to score at least 30 was Mats Sundin in 2007/08. We won't be seeing a 50 goal man for quite some time and from I-don't-know-where, but here's hoping that one of or young guns can challenge the 30 goal plateau!

Don't forget to read this and more at the resurrected blog Buds Banter!


Will Brian Burke Land That Top Six Forward For The Leafs?

With summer on the cusp of fall Brian Burke has had a busy summer. His spring was pretty busy too, reaping rewards from the College system. Looking through the roster as it stands, or may stand, when October rolls around, the first two lines may look like this:

Kulemin - Grabovski - Hagman/Ponikarovsky

Blake - Mitchell/Stajan - Stempniak

One thing the Leafs are not short of are options. Those options, though, have only four players scoring 20 goals or more. Those options max out at 25 goals for Jason Blake. Jason Blake isn't defensively responsible enough to play top line minutes, although his -2 wasn't the end of the world. Burke is taking a huge chance that one of Mitchell or Grabovski can play against other teams' best players and still produce offense(not that I am on the Mitchell-is-a-solid-two-way-player train).

This brings me to the title of this installment; Will Brian Burke Land That Top Six Forward For The Leafs? What options are out there? From the free agent pool:

Maxim Afinogenov at 29 made $3,500,000 in 2009

Alex Tanguay at 29 made $5,375,000 in 2009

Mike Comrie at 28 made $4,000,000 in 2009

Not a really thick crop. Comrie is a center and we're thick with those. Also Comrie doesn't have a great team player reputation. Jason Blake would have to pummel him in practice.

Trade possibilities are, of course, endless. But what makes a trade make sense? Not losing any prospects or picks, getting a young player that can produce offensively in the next 2 to 3 years and maybe having to pick up some salary in the process. I went through all the wings in the league on NHL.COM and didn't see any players that I would personally fawn over. Obviously the rumors abound and it will be interesting to see what Burke does, especially now that Tomas Kaberle can no longer be traded. I think the roster will get October and the better part of November to find itself before Burke starts looking at what is available on the market for wingers. Here's hoping we get that one piece that gets the Leafs over 93 points this season. Yes, I am that optimistic.


NHL 10 Demo: First Thoughts

Well August 20th is the new Christmas. The NHL Demo came out this morning and here are my thoughts after playing through a period of Be A Pro on Hardcore settings as a RW Playmaker:

The Upside:

- The new passing is as advertised; a lot harder to connect a tape to tape pass, but the possibilities are limitless with more control over the power of the pass.

- I completely forgot about the slowing down of the speed of play because I had so much more control over my player.

- The goalies animations are impressive and they follow the puck much better. I have already seen a "bat the puck away" desperation move that was also batted out of the zone out of the air by the defenseman

- The puck stays loose and the physics are no longer run by the players' internal magnets. There were a lot of realistic goal-mouth scrambles that didn't always turn into a goal.

- One of the two goals I scored was a sweet cross crease one-timer that was setup from the opposite corner from behind the net, that I didn't have to call for. The offensive awareness of the AI has improved a great deal

The Downside:

- There's going to be a massive learning curve for me; the passing, while awesome, will take a lot of getting used to

- I got a penalty using the new "mush the guy in the boards like NHL 2K3" feature, for doing it 3 seconds after the puck left the area. DO NOT mash on the Y button until it works, you'll get burned

- I will miss destroying guys with a cross-rink hip check; the hit assist is gone

Remember that all of this was one game, before work, on Hardcore. You can play however you like. You can turn down the new features and all the 2K veterans will cream over the sliders for all the effects of the game. I have no real negative comments on this Demo so far. I will play a tonne more in the next few days. I probably won't do another review as there will be eleventy-billion out by 5 pm today. I cannot wait for the full game(and of course October 1st Leafs vs Habs!)!

{edit} Oh Yeah, I got drafted 10th overall after the game with A+ Position, D+ Teamplay and A+ Stats. Started the game ranked 15th overall. The D+ Teamplay was helped by the penalty taken for smooshing a guy agaiunst the boards without the puck


Will It Really Happen?

Well my looking back was a good time, let's look forward! Below I'll list my Top However-Many-I-Come-Up-With highlights of next season:

1. Luke Schenn will hospitalize 3 men, one of which will be a Penguin (seeing his penchant last year for exploding Malkin and rag-dolling Kennedy)

2. Mikhail Grabovski will get 75 points next year

3. Kulemin scores 20 goals (10 against Carey Price)

4. Tyler Bozak returns to Junior form and makes the team out of camp

5. I find better ways of utilizing Youtube


Did It Really Happen?

So the season is over for real now. Now the question I have for myself is: did this season really happen? What did the average(read: non-games-going) Leafs fan get out of it? My list is below:

1. Luke Schenn blew our pants off with his stay at home, Adam Foote-like, bone-smashing hits
2. Mikhail Grabovski wowed, bored, then wowed us again as he worked through getting his work ethic consistent(honorable mention; Grabs double flipping off the Habs fans)
3. The emergence of Niklas Hagman as a leader and bonafide two way player with offensive upside
4. Nikolai Kulemin turning into the next Michael Peca(when Peca didn't suck)
5. Ian White (and his mustache) being so overrated that I almost gave up on life
6. Poni having a career year and making it possible to trade Antro at next to nothing
7. Brian Burke bringing his own personal brand of dynamite to the head office
8. Pogge completely destroying any chance he had of being a Leafs starter(yes, the ridiculous way that Wilson/Burke played him didn't seem fair....but it helped in assessing his progress, as it made Pogge accountable and revealed how he would respond to pressure down the road)
9. John Mitchell being a potty-mouthed third liner playing on the first line
10. Matt Stajan absolutely shitting the bed after a freak eye injury(if the rest of the team had only allowed him in their pretending to be European, he could have had an 80 point season)
11. Jason Blake rebounds with a 63 point season and plays with the grit of a wet rat(yes, I like him again)
12. Jeff Finger passes the 100 game plateau, earns eleventy-billion dollars per game
13. Boyd Devereaux, other than being a metal-head, proves he still belongs in the NHL, so the Leafs will probably let him go

You know, I thought this list would be short and to the point. After rambling for 13 points of fact, maybe I will pick this up again another day. Three posts in three months. I'm starting to look like He Score/He Shoot, but without the humor.


Final Finally!

Although I've skipped the entire playoffs, I thought I'd pipe up to let everyone (one at the most, heh) know that I am still around. Going into tomorrows game I have little emotional attachment to it other than the fact that the Stanley Cup will be won. My wife did notice that my swearing was up a bit on Tuesday when Pittsburgh let in their only goal against. This lead me to believe I must want Pittsburgh to win. Better yet, I want Detroit to lose. I've been told that a dynasty sets the bar by which other teams can be measured. I think it gets boring for the fan that is heavily vested in a favorite team. In the 80's I actually got bored of the Oilers in the finals every damn year. It's like, hey, we get it, Datsyuk was drafted eleventy-billionth in his draft year and wow, isn't Detroit's drafting AWESOME. Step aside, old man, give the kids a shot. Or better yet, how about a Canadian team actually win a Cup in the next 10 years. I won't get into that ex-NBA commisioner's ideas of selling the game to Americans that are more interested in betting on bowling than watching a Stanley Cup final, but let's just say I'm still waiting for my chance to jump off my couch when a Cup is won. Even if it's not the Leafs.


Ducks/Wings Game 6

I'm back from holidays and watching non-stop playoffs!!!!1!! The game last night had the Ducks' signature style on it, but with the won ton penalty-taking excluded. There is a key element to the style of players that the Ducks have on board. A ability to play a system and the willingness to stick to them. Watching the Ducks get the puck from behind the net to the boards and out over and over is a sight to behold after watching the Leafs stall at the blue line again and again. Once the puck is in the neutral zone, the team spreads across the zone to defuse any trap-like qualities in their adversaries. This is something that Burke should be bringing to the Leafs in short order. I think watching the Ducks in the post season will give us a good idea about where the Leafs are going in the next two years. Not that I'm saying we'll have a Pronger and some Niedermayers in the next two years, but maybe some Getzlafs and Perrys. Here's hoping. And, oh yeah, Ducks won and I am pulling for them for Thursday(I can't stand Detriot fans).


Brief Playoff Chime

I thought I'd pipe up a little before I ship out........I watched the Calgary game last night. As an avid Leaf fanatic(ALF), I whole-heartedly support Mike Cammalleri's hit to Martin Havlat.

Having Mike come back and score a goal was nice, too. One thing I'd like to see less of is dim-witted defensemen pushing players into their goaltenders. This cost Calgary the game and the Oilers the cup when M.A. Bergeron broke Roloson in the finals. With the Calgary game ending poorly, I was excited to watch the Bruins get their poop-in-a-scoop in the third to throttle the Habs. Yes, I hate the Habs more than Boston so I'm rooting for the Bruins. Hiller getting a shutout against the "powerhouse" Sharks was a treat. I like that he got the shutout, but does anyone know why Giguere isn't playing? Has he sucked that bad? This is his time of year. That huge jersey and his bear hug on rebounds are legen-(wait-for-it)-dary. Those are all the games I watched last night, I should be watching the 'Nucks game when I get home. I want to cram as much playoffs in before I leave for N.O. I also want to cram a few NHL09 games in too. Own an XBox and play NHL09? Add me! My Gamertag is Haeyena


DING! Seasons Done!

This is an NHL size, regulation net(pictured here with Matt Stajan inside it just before his "roughing" penalty). For some reason (the tank?), the Leafs were unable to bury about 43 empty net shots last night. It's not that I have to live the rest of my life knowing that I watched the game that handed Cujo his dubious record, it's that it will be that last memory I have of Cujo. Well, it better be. Cujo is not a viable option for the backup position next year. A saving grace from last night is that Dom Moore was once again thrown around like a ragdoll and didn't accomplish much. I'm waiting to see what that 2nd round pick turns into so we can HAHA the Sabres a bit more. Can you tell my passion is waning with the tailend of the Leafs season. Draft day is the next big day for Leafs fans, then July 1st. Until then I will hunker down and watch Calgary in the playoffs. I'll be off for a holiday in sunny(?) Louisiana and Mexico for the core of the playoffs, so there won't be much happening in between the first round and the finals around here. But know that I will be drinking swamp water thinking of my tens of fans!



I read the other day, through a link on PPP that Boyd Devereaux was a metal head and owned his own record label. Well, my inevitable link to that information, is that he must have had ball-bearings in his head to try and skate the puck up the middle on the penalty kill with his teammates going for a line change. Other than that play, the Leafs played a decent defensive game, despite the shots differential. The defense did a fantastic job of clearing the crease, making Gerber look a little better than his rebounds should have allowed. Jay Harrison did a great job in the defensive zone (all terms American)corners and in front of the net. Ian White is becoming less and less visible lately. The only other complaint I have about the play last night(and in the past few months) is every time I hear Stajan's name I see him laying on the ice or just picking himself up. Can someone please hire this kid a full time strength coach for the summer? Preferably this nice young man:


Buffalo Blues

Cujo pooped the proverbial bed last night. Perpetuating this young Leafs team getting effed in the "A" by their goalies early in a game. I can't remember seeing much of a defensive breakdown on the first goal. A 41 year old not covering his post is kind of in-excusable. Of course the highlight of the game is Dominic Moore getting one-punched to the ice by Schenn. Not sure what he was thinking there as he must know first hand how strong this Schenn kid is. One thing Moore does not lack is balls. Choice making skills may be a distant second on his attributes list. The almost comeback falling short is par for the course. How many 4 goal comebacks should we really expect from a team that has iced rookies for a league high 340 man games this year. Should I be wanting to harm myself because I can't wait for the return of Martin Gerber? (Don't answer that).


Predictions Are For Carnac

Well, I know I don't stick to much of a format here, but I think predicting results of the game should be left to the professionals. And by professionals I mean fictitious comedic embodiments of fortune tellers by dead comedians. I find it hard to figure out how to attack this blog each day(when that happens). I think I'm a fairly witty guy that hits the mark here and there. I'm also very opinionated, but try to stay away from the "Did you ever notice how this one thing sucks and you should all hate it like I do" vitriol. That left me predicting Deveaux and McCabe would act like a hockey players last night. It was definitely a case of wishful thinking on the case of Deveaux and bitter fan-dom on the case of McCabe. Although I did giggle a bit when I first saw McCabe wearing a hamster cage at the beginning of the game. I was thinking. "Aww, look at him, he's trying so hard to make the playoffs. He's playing through the pain." Douche. You can never make me like McCabe again! I lost faith in him when Chara tossed him like a rag doll years ago. Anyways, I know that you ALL dislike McCabe as much as I do. And if you don't you should. Because he sucks............


Deveaux Hat Trick!

Sportsnet emailed me every Canadian team's starting lines except Toronto's. I am predicting Andre Deveaux score his first NHL goal. There's no reason why a guy his size can't smack a goal line tap-in after 20 games. He has 11 in the AHL in 28 games. I just watched on Leafspace that he gets more ice time in the minors, so maybe Ronnie could pop him on the first line with Mitchell and Blake. You know, 2/3rds of our old FOURTH line. I would like to start today by officially pleading to have Hagman back. At least have him drop every opening face-off puck. How about getting him on the bench? Maybe Grabs can start scoring again with a heaping helping of Hagman. I will miss Kulemin tonight. I can't wait to see who they put Grabs with, Stempniak probably. Here's the overall prediction; McCabe scores(not saying which net), Deveaux takes the NHL seriously and a)wins a "fight" b)scores first goal, Leafs win 3-2, Schenn has a sunburn and creams everything in sight.


Blake A Swell Guy? *Flop*

Yeah I took it to Blake yesterday, but I am now officially flip-flopping. This would be my third or fourth flop on this guy. My favorite part of last nights game was after Blake scored what would turn out to be Mitchell's goal. He skated to the bench to slap (fist pump) hands and wound up for the first high-five. It more resembled a punch. I wonder if the person on the other end of that pump/slap/high-five? Grabovski? Does anyone know? That would RULE. Apparently Grabs and Blake hugged it out in front of the cameras after yesterday morning's workout. The competition level being raised seems to have helped. Everywhere but the powerplay. While they controlled the puck for long periods of time in the Tampa zone, there were no real scoring threats. They did give the Tampa penalty kill a few nice chances. After the half way point of the game it turned into The Luke Schenn Show. I'd actually been thinking lately that Schenn has gotten a little less noticeable. Schenn knocked about 8 players senseless last night and pulled a sweet spinnerelli at the left(off)point to walk the puck in for a shot. I am sticking with my conspiracy theory of the Super-Secret Schenn Producing Offense Project. I keep seeing Schenn do things on the ice that don't seem quite natural for him. Such as pinching at the point or trying to unleash a slapshot. His wrist shot is quite effective and he is getting better at getting shots through where they were hitting shin pads and producing break aways before. Here's to a 10 goal season next year. ANd Ron/Brian....I'M ON TO YOU!


Back From The Sickness

I've been off for a week with what I'll call "Hockey Sadness". It makes me sad that Jason Blake doesn't get along with Mikhail Grabovski. The saddest part of that is that they are two of our heavyweights with our current lineup. Though I can't vouch for the actual reason for the dust up, I would imagine it had something to do with who had the longer scoring drought recently and this didn't make either one of them laugh. Blake makes a comment about being a ten year vet, while leaving out he's actually only played decent hockey in 4 of those years. I'm sure Mikhail let him know that with his signature two fingered salute. Other things I've missed blogging on; Mikhail's almost hat trick, Kulemin's foot goal, Ondrus trying to fight everyone, Oreskovic being ok, 8 - 6 win over the Flames?????, Gerber being ok-ish, and the Leafs being a zillion points out of the playoffs.

The End.

Or IS it?


Lack Of Star Factor Apparent

On a night when your favorite team is playing against a true bottom feeder, playing their rookie goaltender, it's a great time to notice that they no longer have any gamebreakers. Jason Blake was already on a downslide before Moore left, Antropov carried his line and I think there is a missing persons out on Stajan. Watching Matt Stajan play lately makes me miss Alex Steen(which is grounds for removal from my blogging privileges). The lack of a true difference maker was appallingly clear sitting through the give-away-fest last night. Alfredsson walking in and blasting a slapshot over Cujo uncontested spoke to the inadequacies of this floundering Leafs team. I am thinking that the tank may be started in earnest for all those waiting for it. Gerber is set to start against the Islanders tonight. Watching two teams with nothing to lose should be a spectacle similar to 2nd graders fighting under the monkey bars. Hopefully we can at least get a 7-6 blowout instead of waiting 2 periods for a goal, as has been customary the last month or so. Prediction: 5-2 Islanders.


Cujo to Start, Van Ryn Done

Cujo will get the start for the Leafs tonight. This will add fuel to Don Cherry's idea that Gerber is a little emotionally soft and couldn't handle the taunting he would be sure to receive. After reading an article saying Mike Van Ryn needs knee surgery, I was left wondering if we'll ever get to see what he can do for us. Van Ryn will go for surgery for a torn MCL and should be able to resume skating in 8 weeks. Next year will be another debut of sorts for Van Ryn with the Leafs. Probably to a much larger role. Hopefully he can stay healthy. I've watched after each of his returns(3 in total) and Mike never holds back and has no fear of the corners or of being hit. This is something that Brian Burke should recognize and want to keep around.

Gerber a Sens-Killer?

I truly hope that he can be. Although the common joke at PP is aboot losing every game for the rest of the season( and Gerber's hand in helping do that), I just don't find it fun or entertaining. Like losing to the s'Oilers, down 2 defensemen. It's taken me two days away from the slaughter to blog about it. It hurt that much. My Father being an avid s'Oilers fan doesn't help either. I am hoping that Gerber can take it to the Sens tonight, just so I can have a fun game to watch. I'm not overly excited about dropping games to such douchey teams. One thing that can make this time of the misery and woe a little more enjoyable is the watch the young talent from the minors get their break in the big league. I look forward to Phil Oreskovic beating the poop out of a Senator. But who will it be?


Gerber Spectacular

We've seen it before from the other side. Gerber can either shut you down or just shut down. Last night was shut you down night. Quite a few shots went wide on Gerber, making him look better. There were actually two exploding sticks that kept him safe on sure open-net goals, as well. It was also another "Who the hell is this John Mitchell kid and why didn't you call him up earlier" night. I've been hard on Mitchell all year, not quite understanding the allure to the coaching staff. He can skate, pass and, when it suits him, shoot the puck. Last night he held the puck while screaming behind the net, passed it to the point and it resulted in Kubina's 13th goal on the season. Usually Mitchell would have held that and passed to a waving opponent's stick, but this time the hockey gods saw the pass through. The end result was still funny, though. It only could have been better if the game ended in a drum solo.


Jeff Hamilton Set To Make Debut

Diminutive forward Jeff Hamilton will make his Leafs debut tonight. I have yet to figure out why. Why sign a guy who was out of a job yesterday to play for a team with Gerber in net(read: bound to lose). Where are the kids I keep hearing about? When I read "Jeff Hamilton" my brain computed it as "Ryan Hamilton". You know, the huge left wing that we traded Earle for? I find this very curious.

Gerber Gets The Start

Gerber gets the start tonight. One of the saddest things about the Gerber pickup is that I can no longer take the satisfaction of knowing that at least the Leafs didn't have a goalie as bad as Gerber......That being said though, I think Gerber's going to do really well tonight, only letting Ovechkin score twice. I have a feeling that our defense will be pretty piss-poor. I am waiting to see who else dresses tonight with Antro and Moore gone. Tim Bits was sent down and I haven't heard anything of him being called back up yet. Kaberle is still hurt, but White can fill in. White looked sort of uncomfortable back up front, anyways. Ben Ondrus will be called up filling in for Hagman, who is still feeling the effects of Witt's cheapshot. Prediction Leafs 4-3


Moore Leaving

Semi-Official word is that Moore is being moved for sure. Contract negotiations have stopped and Burke is looking for the best deal to move him.(source TSN.CA online audio stream)


Witt Sucks, Stapleton OK

Dear Brendan Witt,

It's not our fault you play in New York. I hope Don Cherry doesn't defend you on Coach's Corner. It would be the last straw for Grapes and me. Don Cherry said, "What a WARRIOR! Look, he comes back after getting stitches on a losing team! Good old CANADIAN boy!" Guess what, Hagman has 19 goals and is pretty much our best player besides Blake, on a losing team. That's guts on a non-playoff team, not head-hunting people because you broke your stick. Was Hags going to score a goal if he got by you? Maybe. Does he deserve to have brain damage? Of course not. I really hope for Hagman's sake that it's a broken jaw and not a concussion. My greatest hope is that the Leafs keep Hagman off the ice for the rest of the season. DO NOT bring this guy back this season to get his bell rung again like Van Ryn. Let's not ruin a career that's really just taking off to put him in danger again.

On a more positive note, I would have to disagree with PPP's early assessment of Tim Stapleton. Other than donning the fattest number in Leafs history, he actually kind of reminds me of Steve Sullivan. You can be compared to worse small Leafs. I think he was fore-checking great and actually threw a few Blake-like hits behind the net. He had more than a few chances that didn't bounce his way. Stapleton's passing ability is apparent and obviuosly he can shoot a dec ent wrist shot if you saw the shootout. I'm not going to bother commenting on the goaltending, other than to say, "Go under the knife now and give my heart a rest, Vesa."


Stapleton Makes Debut

Tim Stapleton will make his Leafs debut(about time!) and Stralman will be on his 43rd call up this year. Anyone know how Sifers is keeping his job? Stralman's callup will be followed by his going back down to the farm Saturday when Mike Van Ryn and Tomas Kaberle return against the Senators. Any takers on A) How long Kaberle remains a Leaf and B) What injury Mike Van Ryn will sustain against Montreal on Sat Mar 21, 2009?

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

After singing Kulemin's praises for months now, I was ecstatic to see him play as well as he did last night. He easily was the Leaf with the most jump. While watching the recorded game on my PVR, I noticed that I hadn't recorded long enough if the game were to go into overtime. With 3 minutes to go in the OT period my TV froze and a stifled "Awwwwwwwwwwww" came from my lips. I hustled to the computer and watched the Game In 6 Minutes. I re-watched the entire set of highlights, wondering how the Leafs stayed in the game as long as they did, having 2 shots in the first period. After the huggy, kissy time between Ian White and Markus Naslund(?) had fired up the crowd, the game took no discernible turn. Kulemin had 4 shots last night and deserved at least 2 goals for his efforts. Before even sitting down to watch the replays, I was wondering if Wilson would be smart enough to use Kulemin in the shootout. Turns out he was and Kulemin scored on pretty much the same shot he could have gotten off during his earlier break-away if it hadn't been for a missed hooking call. One last thing of note for me was a FOURTH solid outing in a row from Vesa Toskala. The ting to watch for here is if he starts to wane in the next 4 or 5 games it could be a flare-up of his bum hip. Why not have the surgery now? Why not, indeed. TANK!


We'll See Mark Bell Tonight?

Brian Burke said that some of the guys on the Marlies deserved a shot in the NHL....maybe just not with the Leafs. Here's Mark Bell's chance. Here's betting he scores if he plays......


Who Should Go

Here's a shorter list today of who has to go, for the sake of the future.

Nik Antropov: This move will break my heart a bit, only because Nik is finally healthy all the time. We've been waiting on potential to shine through to actual production and that is happening this season. Too little, too late? Yes. Actually the timing couldn't be better. I've heard rumblings(mostly from wishful Edmontonians) that Nik could end up with the Oilers. They need a big fella there at center(like every other team) and him plying with Hemski would be interesting. What could we get for him? Burke is looking for a first rounder and a cup cozy. He'll probably get it.

Jason Blake: Guaranteed rental for a playoff team. Thanks for finally coming around Jason, but we're not going to make any noise in the post season for quite a while and that's not something that bodes well for a 35 year old(not if you want a cup, anyways). What Burke could get back for Blake is irrelevant. Let's not get greedy, there is a $4 million salary to dump here.

Dominic Moore: I know I may take flack for this one(I like him, too). He plays bigger than his size, plays with emotion and could net 50pts this season. He is also 28 and hasn't shown that he can play as he has been on a consistent basis. Another thing to wonder is if Blake is gone, is Moore's production gone with him? Basically, I think we might get a decent second rounder and maybe a player for the Marlies.

Alexei Ponikarovsky: Poised to have another groundhog day-like season of roughly 45pts, some team may need a 2nd/3rd liner that can jostle(I'd like to say "bang" but with Poni I would be lying if I said that) in the corners and pot the odd goal from 2 feet of the crease. He can block out the sun, so screening a goalie wouldn't be a problem on the powerplay. I don't think Poni's stock is ever going to rise above what it is, but saying that, he is a consistent contributor, just not an elite player. I am sure a 2nd rounder or marginal prospect in return would be ok. Moving forward, he is a an ok 3rd line winger, but I'm not sure what he kind of money he makes to completely kibosh keeping him as a minor roll player.

Tomas Kaberle: Yeah, I know he's been around forever, is cheap for how he performs and is amazing for an 8th round pick, but He's not at an age that he will be around when the Leafs actually get good. Once this contract is over he will want more $$. He gave the Leafs a hell of a home team discount on the last deal, cinsidering what M32?cCabe got. What are the odds that he will do the same when he is 32? Kaberle is one of the few assets the Leafs have that can garner an immediate and future return. I'm hoping they can get an actual asset instead of a draft pick. (sorry, people, I'm not sold on having Tavares, even if we could get him).

Pavel Kubina: I've always liked Kubina. The only problem with trading him is I think any GM worth his salt will try to low-ball Burke on him. If that's the case I would rather keep him. He has been getting steadily better(both with points and being physical). Being realistic can you get another 6'4", 244lb defenseman with a Stanley Cup Ring in the next 3 years to replace him? My guess is no. If you are going to keep one veteran forward and defenseman, Kubina should be that defenseman. All that being said, I am fairly sure that Burke will find a dance partner to trade Kubina to. Just like everybody else, I keep hearing San Jose still wants him(he'd look good there).

Matt Stajan: Ok, Matt is officially this generation's Gary Valk. He's basically on the team to talk to the media and say the right things. I have missed him on the ice and have no idea why he continues to be on a line with Antro and Poni. We won't get much for him, but at least he'd be gone. Not sure what it is, but something bugs me about him. I get tired of seeing him flop to the ice when he "hits" someone.

I may have started coming off a little wishy-washy with Kubina, but these are my picks to go.