Leafs Not Getting Value From Lee Stempni-Ache….

December 30, 2008

by Ben Dover… In the minds of most Toronto fans thought they were getting the best of the deal. Alexander Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo were both huge underachievers for the organisation, Steen had at trade time only lodged two goals and two assists in his twenty-odd games and Colaiacovo due to his constant injury problems, the most dispensable of Toronto’s packed blue line.

At the time of the trade, Stempniak was performing quite well for St Louis, 13 points from 14 games made up of three goals and 10 assists. However, since joining his new team, Stempniak has struggled to keep the momentum going. After 15 games with the Leafs, Stempniak has only two goals and five assists, an almost 50 percent decline in production in a similar time frame.

So what can be attributed to his loss of scoring fortune. Obviously, joining any new team can have its curtailing affects. New coach, teammates, strategies and location, all go hand in hand in settling a player. Finding a comfort level in a new organization is a huge hurdle to overcome, more so playing in hockey-mad Toronto.

The truth is though, that professional hockey players need to be mobile and ready for upheaval. Professional athletes can be traded and moved at any minute, and are expected to perform regardless of the shift.

Could it be that Stempniak is skating on a lesser line, God forbid, a lesser team? Stempniak started out on the second line with Grabovski and Hagman, displacing Kulemin. As much as Wilson hoped, the line just was not generating any chemistry.

Wilson gave Stempniak his fair chance up front and he now finds himself since the game against New York on the fourth. Since joining the Leafs, his shots on goal percentage has dropped to 0.063 and his shots fired to 32, 11 less than his time with St. Louis at the start of the season. Arguing that his skating partners are not the strongest is tough, as Hagman and Grabovski have been one of the better and most consistent of the Maple Leafs this season, combining 22 goals between them.

Before the game against the New York Islanders, Stempniak told reporters “It seems like I’ve been getting some chances, but I’m just not cashing them in.” Stempniak is going to have start cashing in big time if he plans on having a future with the Maple Leafs. His $6 million, two-year contract is being paid for bigger things. The goals better start coming or he will find himself on Brian Burke’s chopping block in the not-too-distant future.

D-League Team in Toronto?

December 30, 2008

by Frankie Anetzberger…

Bryan Colangelo has flirted with idea of brining a D-League team to Southern Ontario. He would like to have one handy to keep an eye on young talented players. This idea probably had something to do with Jamario Moon, who made his way through the D-League. Moon actually made more of an impact in the Continental Basketball Association than he did in the D-League. But what would intrigue Colangelo to do this? There are only so many Jamario Moon’s around and bringing a D-League team to Toronto may not be the answer.

The Developmental League was founded in 2001 with all of the teams located in the southeastern part of the United States. Since then, most teams have been located in the western part of the United States. Unlike the NBA, players are eligible for the D-League at eighteen years old. In the NBA, you must be at least nineteen years of age to be eligible. Each D-League team is allowed twelve players, 10 D-League players and 2 possible NBA players. NBA teams may call up D-League players throughout the year by means of a Ten-Day Contract. This agreement is specifically made for players called up from the D-League. The NBA team will assign a player a ten-day contract which lasts at least ten days or three games, which ever comes first. A team can sign a player to a ten-day contract only twice. After the second time, the team must sign the player for the rest of the year at the minimum NBA salary.

The league has had its flaws. None of the original nine teams are still around and teams are liable to fold anytime during the year. Most of the successful teams are based around successful NBA franchises. For example, the Los Angeles D-Fenders are the D-League affiliate for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Austin Toros are owned by the San Antonio Spurs and are in no position of being folded.

Bryan Colangelo is looking to bring a D-League team to Toronto so he can keep an eye on players. First of all, I don’t think Colangelo has enough power to just flop a D-League team in Toronto. Secondly, I don’t think a D-League team in Toronto would be successful. If Colangelo wanted team that he could keep an eye on, he should try an ABA or CBA team. Jamario Moon gets credited by making his name in the D-League but he really made his name in the CBA. He put all of his best numbers in the CBA and played the most in that league.

Toronto has enough trouble getting their NBA running like they should; I think a D-League team would just be another thing to worry about for Bryan Colangelo.

Cheick Kongo to Mostapha Al Turk: A Ball for a Ball

December 29, 2008

by Jon Grilz … It takes something special for a grown man to yell out the phrase, “Oh momma!” to his television screen. The annual Victoria Secret fashion show is one. The annual Lingerie Bowl is another. A man receiving a vicious knee strike to the testicles the other.

Just under three minutes into the first round of fight against Mostapha Al Turk at UFC 92, Kongo received an unintentional knee strike to the groin. A strike sufficient enough for the heavyweight to take some of his allowed five minutes to regain his composure, and for his testicle to drop out of his abdomen.

Fight again began, the slightest high pitched sigh could be heard from the newly crowned soprano Kongo, who avoided going for the clinch in favor of protecting his reason for living.

The two fighters pawed at each other as Al Turk seemed to be having no success at taking Kongo to the ground.

About a minute later, Al Turk found himself on the receiving end of an “unintentional” knee strike right to his goodie bag. Referee Steve Mazzagati separated the two fighters and could be heard saying, “I hope that was an accident.”

Al Turk too took a bit of time to get the taste of his own ball out of his mouth before fighting resumed. Kongo eventually won the fight at 4:37 of the first round, which made for one of the longest first rounds, just over seven minutes, in modern UFC history.

There is no doubt that there was some extra ice needed by both fighters in the locker room after the fight.

So, was either knee intentional? You be the judge; see the video here.

Will Andrea Bargnani Ever Become a Star?

December 29, 2008

by Abdi-Fatah Ismail… He has all the tools to become perhaps the most skilled big man in the league, but lately I’ve been getting the feeling that this will probably never happen, especially in Toronto.

Why, you ask?

Here is a player from Europe making a transition to the NBA, and he’s got a lot of pressure on his shoulders. To me, he can make that transition, but he won’t do so playing behind the likes of Chris Bosh, maybe the best power forward in the league, and Jermaine O’Neal, the man who was the best power forward in the league.

Bargnani is not better than these guys yet, but one thing the best big men in the NBA have received early in their careers is playing time or, in other words, time to grow. They have had time to make mistakes and learn from them. No matter how hard you work in your off time, it’s nothing compared to real game play.

In his rookie season, Bargnani averaged 11.6 points per game, which is more than Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, and even Kevin Garnett. However, one thing these three players had after their inaugural season was more playing time, which went up dramatically in their second seasons along with their numbers.

Bargnani’s numbers, on the other hand, have gone down, along with his playing time. Asking a young, big, and relatively new NBA player to learn a new position (he constantly moves between SF and C) makes it an even tougher transition.

One position he never plays in Toronto is the power forward spot, his natural position, and the one he was drafted to play.

Bargnani has no clue where his minutes are going to come from, and I don’t think the coaching staff does either. One thing he does do is play well when he starts and when JO isn’t in the lineup. For example, he had a 16-point performance off the bench in Oklahoma Friday night after JO had gone down with a sore left shoulder.

I’ve heard the cliché many a time that you have to earn your playing time. However, with Bargnani, I think he earned a lot of it after his rookie season and he plays much better defense than Bosh and JO in the backcourt.

He was third in the league in blocks for a short time before his spot in the starting lineup and playing time were thrown out the window as he was delegated to backing up Jamario Moon. (Are you kidding me?)

I understand you can’t give Bargnani a starter’s role or even significant minutes with Bosh and JO on the same team. The Raptors have been losing a lot lately, and there have been rumblings out of Toronto to trade Bargnani. If that happens though, GM Brian Colangelo will regret the deal as long as he lives because Bargnani will become a household name with almost any other team.

However, you can’t keep him and have him play behind Bosh and expect it to happen. Maybe after Bosh opts out of his contract and signs elsewhere, then you can start building around Bargnani, but until that happens there will be no Bargnani and definitely no consistency out of him.

Leafs Attempt Critical Corner against Caps on Way to the Cup

December 28, 2008

by Graeme Boyce… A few days ago, and a mere week after the debacle in Boston, we saw yet another debacle as the Leafs went down to defeat against the last place Islanders and a few days before that the Leafs were soundly clobbered by the Stars.  All Leafs fans knew (and were expecting) a clobbering, due to the road trip and their collective sore legs, and all hope for a victory was quickly dashed in the opening minutes.

The debacle in Long Island proved statistics mean nothing.  Any team can win on any night.

So, onto Washington.  And Alexander Ovechkin. The teams played recently and the Caps won, but it was close.  Prior to this game, the hometown team was also honouring a former Leafs speedster, Mike Gartner.  This could only serve as inspiration.  Oddly, it did seem like Grabovski was inspired out of the gate—though likely for another reason: Ovechkin.  I doubt they like each other.

Hagman scored a beauty to open it up, a real nice pick in the top corner off a broken play.  Yet “broken” only because in the confusion Grabovski caused controlling the puck deep all opposition eyes were on him and not Hagman who was patrolling near the circle.  Perhaps like a shark.

Luckily, for all concerned, Toskala did not let the first shot in, and played well throughout the first, without the threat of Pogge ensuring his dismissal.

The Leafs were not thinking about the previous two (or three) debacles, nor thinking about upcoming games against the Thrashers or Sabres.  Nope. They were off to a good start and quite focused on the task at hand: beating the Capitals in their own vaunted arena.  Especially Ovechkin.

Too bad about Stajan, yet I was truly hoping Mayers would step up, or Williams.  However, it seems the latter has now been taking shooting lessons from Antropov.  In the first period, the Leafs should have gone up 2-0, but Williams shot it into the chest of Theodore.  Nonetheless, despite this, the game progressed nicely.

Kulemin was finally showing some spark, since the outset of the season when he offered some serious promise.  After the debacles, maybe he was told to.  With Schenn still down (due to Ovechkin), it is refreshing to see a new defender, Sifers, come in and replace the injured budding star.

As a Leafs fan, given our history over the years, you can really see a goal coming a mile away in the dreaded dying seconds of any period… so, as the Leafs were flubbering around in our own end as the second was coming to a close, who else was causing havoc in the span of 10 seconds?  Ovechkin.

Yes, a puck that went right through Toskala.  That shot set the scene for the third.

After getting a goal against the lowly Islanders the other night, Stempniak needed to keep his scoring streak alive.  Getting away with a little goalie interference in the second likely helped.  He had his chances, so did Grabovski.  Stempniak and Grabovski need to shoot more, and on the net.

Blake should have come through though at the end of the day.  I predict Deveaux and Williams are not going to stick around much longer, nor Kulemin—but the players who I thought let the team down were Kaberle and Kubina.  I am not going to mention the play of Antropov, or should I say Mr. Invisible.  Actually, I think Poni had a better game.

Kaberle never demonstrates “brilliance” (yes, there is an occasional decent rush, and an occasional decent shot, but surely tossing the puck out from behind the net to a rushing forward late in the game is simply bone-headed. Not since the days of Bob McGill playing back there have I seen a gaffe like that.

Kubina needs to learn (a) to deliver the snapshot, and (b) stop taking penalties.  When Schenn comes back, I would keep Sifers up and deal Kubina in a heartbeat.  In the meantime, we are back home for four straight and first welcome the Thrashers, then the Sabres.

So, we will be out of this minor slump soon enough.

Nik Antropov: Maverick or Goose?

December 28, 2008

by Melissa Hashemian… A couple of years ago, you would never hear about Nik Antropov scoring big goals for the Leafs. In all honesty, the only time his name was ever brought up was when analysts listed the Leafs’ injured players.

He always seemed to sustain some kind of minor abrasion throughout the season, and from what I remember, he was the 6″6 player who failed to create many constructive plays and fell down every time someone touched him.

Things have changed significantly since then however, as Leaf Nation is finally getting to witness the real talent of the 230lb forward.

Antropov was drafted 10th overall (first round choice) by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. He was 18 at the time, and in many eyes was thought to become one of the future stars of the organization.

As years go by, his stats continue to amaze us.

Antropov registered 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in the ‘05-’06 season, 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) in ‘06-’07, and 56 points (26 goals, 30 assists) in ‘07-’08.

With the rate he’s at, Antropov should finish the ‘08-’09 season with a tremendous scoring percentage and perhaps even twice as many points as last year. He’s improved considerably over the past few seasons and has introduced a new kind of life to the game of hockey.

With half of the season gone, he’s already posted 13 goals and 16 assists for a total of 29 points. He leads the team in goals, game-winning goals, and is tied for the team-lead in points (29) with Matt Stajan.

He’s also had a five-game point streak from October 18-28 this season, where he registered four goals and two assists for six points. Pretty good for a player on a team that’s all about reconstruction and development lately.

He’s a passer, a shooter, and now an avid goal scorer. It’s pretty clear that there are still a few veterans left that can be relied on to make a difference on this young team. Antropov is a leader, the Maverick, so don’t be surprised if he acquires the “C” status either.

Swedish captain? How about one from Kazakhstan instead?

His efforts have illustrated the beginning of a new and improved era in Toronto and I foresee a good kind of change in the future.

The only question left to ask is: Does Brian Burke see him in his Maple Leafs canvas?

That itself is an entirely different story, yet I can say right now that removing Antropov from the roster will be a definite mistake.

Fans can only wait and see what Burke’s next move will be. Will he be eyeing the pawn or go straight for the king? Whatever he does, we may hear checkmate very soon.

The Leafs: A year in Review

December 28, 2008

by Bryan Thiel…

Doing a year in review for most teams is always pretty interesting. Most sports (aside from Baseball) feature a regular season that spans the last part of one calendar year and the first part of another, while the “offseason” is anything but that.
Each month however, a definitive event seems to happen though that will sculpt the fortunes of the immediate future of the team.
For the Leafs, those events not only defined their season in 2007/08 and how they began 2008/09, but the future of the organization as well.
January: When 2008 began for the Leafs, they were a disappointing 15-16-8, and they were a team plagued by inconsistency.
Because of this (and the futility put forth by the Franchise over the past few seasons) the axe that everyone had been waiting for fell.
On January 22nd, the Toronto Maple Leafs relieved John Ferguson Jr. of his duties as General Manager of the team and put Cliff Fletcher back in charge on an interim basis, in hopes of clearing the deck in preparation for the thirteenth General Manager in club history.
February: February of 2008 was an interesting month for the Leafs: Mats Sundin refused to waive his no-trade clause, claiming that he had no interest in being a rental player for a cup contender, Tomas Kaberle prevented the Leafs from acquiring Jeff Carter and a first round pick from the Philadelphia Flyers, and Pavel Kubina seemed to become the direction of everyone’s ire (which incidentally helped his play pick up).
The moves that Cliff Fletcher was able to make however were short of any serious consequence. All three of his trades happened on February 26th (the trade deadline of that season), as fan-favorite Wade Belak and Chad Kilger were sent to Florida for 5th and 3rd round draft picks in 2008 respectively, and Hal Gill was sent to eventual-Eastern conference champion Pittsburgh for a 2nd round draft pick in 2008 and a 5th round pick in 2009.
March: The month of March became an audition period for players to prove that they belonged with the Leafs for the following season. There was more of an emphasis put on the young talent that the Leafs did have (although it wasn’t much) and speculation ran rampant over who would be in and who would be out.
Strangely enough the Leafs held an 8-5-0 record in March; their second-best record of the season to their February mark of 8-4-1.
April: The rumor mill regarding the Leafs’ GM search begins to swirl following a third-straight season without playoff hockey with whispers of Doug Armstrong and Brian Burke being amongst the interested candidates.
The Leafs did little of note, aside from finishing 0-2-1 in the last four games of the season.
May: May led to a little more rumor mongering amongst the Leafs, while it also signaled the end of the Toronto career of Coach Mo.
On May 7th Paul Maurice was fired as Head Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, ending his Leafs career after two seasons (highlighted by a 90-point, 40-win 2006/07). Over the next few days it was rumored that Toronto had asked Vancouver about the possibility of negotiating with Dave Nonis about his availability.
Aside from that one noteworthy firing, it was just another month of rumors in Toronto.
June: With the draft approaching it looked more and more like Cliff Fletcher was either going to be with the Leafs for a longer-than-expected haul, or wasn’t just clearing out the cupboard, but stocking it as well.
While he wasn’t stocking the cupboard early on, he did institute on of the chefs, bringing on Ron Wilson as the team’s next head coach. Wilson also brought in Al Coates as director of player-personnel, reconnecting with a man he helped build a cup championship with in Calgary.
As the draft approached, the roster received a bit of a boost on the Friday night, as Jamal Mayers was brought in from the St Louis Blues in hopes of adding some desperately-needed leadership to a lineup expected to be missing Mats Sundin the upcoming season, as well as a bit of grit.
The following day the Leafs traded up at the NHL entry draft to select Kelowna Rockets defenseman Luke Schenn with the fifth overall draft pick; the first defenseman taken by the Leafs in the first round since Carlo Colaiacovo in 2001.
As the team prepared for free agency, a few familiar faces were cleared off of the roster. Beleaguered tender Andrew Raycroft was relieved of the final year of his three-year contract, fan-favorite Darcy Tucker was bought out, and Kyle Wellwood was left to go on his jolly way in hopes that the Leafs could find some able young bodies to fill out their roster.
July: After Canada Day, things started to get a little strange in LeafLand.
For one, everything that was old was new again as Curtis Joseph was back in the fold for the Leafs, offering an experienced tender to take some time off of Vesa Toskala’s hands, and offer a brain for Justin Pogge to pick.
Cliff Fletcher then went out and replaced the departed Tucker and Wellwood with Niklas Hagman (4-years, $12 million, 27 goals with Dallas the year before) through free agency and the much-sought after Mikhail Grabovksi through a trade with Montreal.
Fletcher also turned a few heads with his signing of defenseman Jeff Finger to a four-year $14 million deal, but Leafs fans were assured that Fletcher and Wilson knew what they were doing in acquiring the veteran of four AHL seasons, as well as signing Jonas Frogren from the Swedish Elite League.
Fletcher then made another controversial move in acquiring Ryan Hollweg from the New York Rangers for another draft pick, forcing fans to question what these draft choices actually meant to the team.
August: With the summer winding down, the rumors and questions continued to swirl in Toronto as to who the next GM would be, whether Mats Sundin would come back or not, and whether the Leafs were destined to be bottom-feeders or a middle-of-the-road team in the NHL’s upcoming season.
There was also a bit of controversy as Cliff Fletcher made public not only his thoughts that Nik Antropov was Toronto’s only top-six forward, but that Bryan McCabe would be better suited not to come to training camp at all.
September: As Ron Wilson opened his first training camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Fletcher alleviated some of the financial stress on the Leafs, trading McCabe on September 2nd to the Florida Panthers for Mike Van Ryn.
The trade was long-rumored to be a package deal, but once the papers were signed it turned out to be a one-for-one swap, leaving Toronto with an over-loaded blueline heading into training camp.
The confusion was only heightened as Luke Schenn made an indelible impression on his teammates and the fans, earning himself a spot with the Leafs.
October: With the Detroit Red Wings coming off of their Stanley Cup win, the Maple Leafs opened the season up with a new-look and a new-attitude under Head Coach Ron Wilson in Detroit.

Wilson had the Leafs watch the opening ceremonies of the Wings’ season as a reminder to roster of why they’re here and why they’re being paid to play the game.
Following a 3-2 win over the rival Red Wings, the Leafs finished the month with a 4-3-3 record, with Luke Schenn earning the opportunity to stay with the Leafs following his ten-game tryout.
November: On November 22nd, the first of a (expectedly) high amount of moves took place. Cliff Fletcher sent Alexander Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo to the St Louis Blues in exchange for Lee Stempniak.
The initial idea behind the move was that Fletcher wanted to add some speed to the lineup, while Steen and Colaiacovo’s poor play and paved their way out of Toronto.
Many however, thought it was a precursor to this next move.
Seven days later, months of turmoil and speculation were put to an end. After his requested release from the Anaheim Ducks and a brief courtship with Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, Brian Burke was named the General Manager of the Leafs, replacing interim-GM Cliff Fletcher.
Burke is in Toronto for the long haul with full autonomy. Over the next six seasons, it’s expected that Burke, right-hand man Dave Nonis, and a cabinet filled to the brim with hockey knowledge can bring the Maple Leafs back to respectability.
December: As the Leafs struggled to a .500 record approaching Christmas, they received some bad news following a 7-3 win in Pittsburgh over the Penguins on December 20th.
Vesa Toskala’s bothersome groin tweak began acting up once again and he’d be unavailable for Monday, December 22nd against Atlanta.
So the following day (Sunday) the call was made for the second time in his career.
After an emergency call-up last season in San Jose where he didn’t see any action, Justin Pogge would be getting his first NHL start in Georgia against the Thrashers the next day.
The World Junior Champion went on to stop 19 of 21 shots in a 6-2 win, paced by fellow AHL call-ups Jeremy Williams (who, with a goal and an assist in that game), had seven points and five goals in six December game and Jamie Sifers (filling in for an injured Luke Schenn) logging a solid 15 minutes of ice time.
Since his coronation, Brian Burke has stated that “the future is now” and that the Leafs will have an out with the old and in with the new attitude come the New Year.

There are going to be a lot of questions heading into 2009 including who is on their way out, when will this team be competitive again, and will Burke’s proclamation of “bigger, tougher, meaner” work out for the Blue and White Buds?

As the old cliché rings true, only time will tell.

Whatever that time tells us though, 2008, for better or for worse, will be known as the year that laid the groundwork for the Leafs future.

Whether that future is bright or not though is up to them.

Turning Over The New Leafs

December 27, 2008

by Peter Toth… Christmas came early this year for Leafs Nation. After 34 games played in the NHL regular season, the Toronto Maple have established themselves as a club that can; not only play with the big boys, but beat them as well, and handily in some cases.

So far, the overachieving Maple Leafs have beaten Detroit, Boston, New Jersey, NY Rangers, Montreal, Edmonton, Philadelphia, LA Kings, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh – all teams that are playing at or above .500 and most that are considered to be Stanley Cup contenders. Lopsided wins include 5-2 over the Rangers, 6-3 over Montreal, 5-2 over Edmonton, and 7-3 over Pittsburgh.

Sure, the Leafs have had their share of holding the short end of the blowout stick with 8 losses by three or more goals, but most of games they did not win (13 out of 21) have been close ones.

In total, the Buds have 14 wins, 14 losses, and 6 OT losses for a points total of 34, just three points back of the Buffalo Sabres who currently occupy the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

While visions of Stanley Cups aren’t dancing in their heads, the Leafs have shown many signs of confidence and determination, qualities portrayed by playoff contenders, and not amateur draft lottery participants.

With the departure of Mats Sundin, along with a cast of castoffs, the main question at the beginning of this season was “Where will the goals come from?”

It seems that every player, new and old, has stepped up and partly filled Sundin’s large shoes. If fact, as a whole, the Leafs team has so far surpassed its offensive output from the last season by an enormous 35 percent based on projected statistics, that would give them 305 goals for 2008 - a 3.72 goal per game average!

Of course, this projection is based on players continuing at their current pace – especially players like Jeremy Williams (five goals in seven games). Most likely, the Leafs will finish off the season with 250-270 goals under their belt.

Either way, in 2007, the “old” Leafs scored only 228 goals. Ottawa, the top offensive team in 2007, had 258. Mind you, current offensive leaders Boston, Chicago, and Detroit are currently on a pace to score 299, 296, and 296 goals respectively this season. So 2008/9 may indeed be remembered as the season of the “juiced” puck, especially if the “new” Leafs score anywhere close to 300.

So, the answer to the question “Where will the goals come from?” is “from EVERYWHERE!”

The table below shows a comparison of the two teams, the New and Improved Leafs of the current season vs. the Old Leafs of a season ago.

This year’s numbers were projected by taking current (after 34 games played) totals and adding projected totals (totals per game times 48) from the remaining games.

2008/9 Projected

G

A

P


2007/8

G

A

P

Matt Stajan

22

49

71


Mats Sundin

32

46

78

Nik Antropov

31

39

70


Nik Antropov

26

30

56

Alexei Ponikarovsky

27

36

63


Tomas Kaberle

8

45

53

Tomas Kaberle

5

53

58


Jason Blake

15

37

52

Jeremy Williams

39

16

55


Alexander Steen

15

27

42

Niklas Hagman

26

29

55


Pavel Kubina

11

29

40

Jason Blake

18

34

52


Alexei Ponikarovsky

18

17

35

Lee Stempniak

11

41

52


Darcy Tucker

18

16

34

Mikhail Grabovski

29

22

51


Matt Stajan

16

17

33

Pavel Kubina

17

27

44


Bryan McCabe

5

18

23

Dominic Moore

17

24

41


Kyle Wellwood

8

13

21

Mike Van Ryn

11

23

34


Ian White

5

16

21

Nikolai Kulemin

14

17

31


Boyd Devereaux

7

11

18

Ian White

15

12

27


Chad Kilger

10

7

17

Jeff Finger

6

19

25


Dominic Moore

5

12

17

John Mitchell

5

19

24


Jiri Tlusty

10

6

16

Anton Stralman

3

20

23


Mark Bell

4

6

10

Jamal Mayers

3

9

12


Anton Stralman

3

6

9

Jonas Frogren

5

5

10


Andy Wozniewski

2

7

9

Jaime Sifers

0

8

8


Carlo Colaiacovo

2

4

6

Ryan Hollweg

0

7

7


John Pohl

1

4

5

Luke Schenn

0

6

6


Simon Gamache

2

2

4

Andre Deveaux

0

5

5


Jeremy Williams

2

0

2

Jiri Tlusty

0

0

0


Kris Newbury

1

1

2






Robert Earl

0

1

1










TOTAL

304

520

824


TOTAL

226

378

604












GAA SV%




GAA Sv%
Vesa Toskala


3.30 .882


Vesa Toskala


2.74 .904
Curtis Joseph


4.10 .843


Andrew Raycroft


3.92 .876
Justin Pogge


2.00 .905


Scott Clemmensen


3.90 .839


The following observations are notable:

This season’s squad can potentially have seven 20-goal scorers versus two from last season.

Nine or more players could top the 50 point plateau this season compared to four from a season ago.

Jeremy Williams could score 40 goals if he keeps up his current pace, although 20-30 are more likely if he gets ample ice time.

Matt Stajan would replace Mats Sundin (even the initials are the same) as team points leader with an almost point per game total similar to the Big Swede.

Nik Antropov would get 14 points more this season in effect silencing critics that believed his 2007/8 points total was elevated because he played on the same line as Sundin.

Ponikarovsky has the opportunity to double his points output over last season to a very respectable 60-70.

Kaberle, Kubina, and Blake are all on par for this season, but are most mentioned in trade rumors so they likely will not greet the season’s end in Leaf uniform.

All players that have remained with the club, with the exception of Jiri Tlusty, should exceed their offensive output from a season ago.

Newcomers Hagman, Stempniak, Van Ryn, and Finger, all look to have solid numbers as per management expectations.

More focus needs to be placed on defense and goaltending must improve. Justin Pogge may be the answer along with a possible Burke trade.

All-in-all it has been a successful, albeit unexpected, start to the season for the boys in blue and white and Leaf fans have enjoyed their lion’s share of exciting and entertaining hockey. The work ethic displayed by the young Buds on most nights, along with the direction the team is headed, is reason enough for all Maple Leafs fans to finally hold their heads up high and cheer on their team. The ability to beat any team on any given night gives hope to Leafs Nation, that playoff aspirations for this season are not just a pipe dream, and that the light of a Stanley Cup in the tunnel of disappointment and despair might in fact be nearing ever so closer. One just never knows.

For the mathematically inclined…

THE WINNING FORMULA is rather a simple one:

SUCCESS=((CF+RW)/BB+(NH+MG+MVR+NK+JS+RH+AD+(LS x 2)+(JF x 2)+CJ+JP-MS-AS-DT-BMcC-KW-CK-CC-AR-SC)xWORKETHIC

Check out The Zen of Toth

Has Justin Pogge Proven Himself NHL-Worthy?

December 27, 2008

by Shane House… Before a few nights ago, Justin Pogge was a goaltending prospect for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sure, people were touting him as the next great Leafs goaltender, but until a few nights ago, all the proof we had was his World Junior Championship performance three years ago.

Although it was a great performance, it was three years ago—and since then, Pogge has been toiling in the minors with everybody wondering if he would pan out like everybody expected.

Well, a few nights ago all that changed when Justin Pogge made his first professional start in the NHL against the Atlanta Thrashers—and did not disappoint. While receiving some of the best defense that the Toronto Maple Leafs have played all season, Justin Pogge also played stellar.

He played his angles really well, he moved across the net with general ease—and for it being his first NHL game, he showed a lot of poise and kept his nerves in check when the pressure was on.

So what does this mean for the Toronto Maple Leafs?

It shows that the organization was right in believing that Justin Pogge does have the capabilities to be a good goaltender in the NHL. In the one game Pogge played, he showed the potential to be a N.1 goaltender, while showing more room for growth as an NHL hockey player.

What it also shows is that the Maple Leafs might have a goaltending controversy in their near future. Although Vesa Toskala has played better lately, his overall inconsistency throughout the season leaves room for improvement or in this case, makes room for a little bit of competition in between the pipes.

I honestly do believe that for now, Toskala’s job is safe. He has two years left in his contract and as of late has been good enough to keep his job for this season.

When he is on his game he can play as good as any goaltender in the NHL, and I feel that Pogge needs a little more seasoning before he can handle full time duty playing an NHL schedule.

But as of now, it is too early just yet to tell whether Pogge can play this well for the rest of the season—but with Curtis Joseph showing his age and Vesa Toskala playing inconsistently all season, Pogge is making a case to stick with the big club.

MONEY MAKERS – WEEK 17

December 27, 2008

by Mike De Marco… overall record: 58-50-3 (Power Picks 13-4)

Being the last week of the NFL season, it can be difficult to predict many games as spreads are skewed based on certain scenarios. For instance the Giants are getting 6 and a half points in Minnesota, something that would never take place on any other week. So with that in mind I will try to handicap the games as best as possible.

Arizona – 6 over Seattle: (Power Pick)
The Cardinals locked up the NFC West weeks ago, but I like them for other reasons. They have not played well for weeks and you can bet every cent in your piggy bank that they do not want to enter the postseason on a losing note. I expect the starters to play at least a half, and I am not worried to have Matt Leinart as my quarterback in the second half. The Seahawks packed it in weeks ago. This is the easiest game on the board.

Indianapolis +3 over Tennessee:
If I know one thing, it is that Peyton Manning will get some time in this game, the question is how much? The Titans have locked up the AFC’s number one seed but I still expect their starters to play some, as they have a first round bye and don’t want to have their starters idle for three weeks. Having said all of that this was a game the Colts had circled all year and want to prove to the league that they are a definite sleeper come playoff time. Take the Colts.

San Francisco -3 over Washington:
With the news of a permanent hiring for Head Coach Mike Singletary you can bet he will have his players ready for this one. The Redskins have lost all hope after a quick start to the season and have to make the long trip out West for a game they just want to be over. Singletary really wants a victory to take with him into the off season.

Other Selections:
Atlanta -14 over St. Louis:
Falcons still have a shot at the NFC’s number two seed. Best performance here.

Dallas +1 over Philadelphia:
Dallas wins and their in. I don’t trust McNabb in big games.

NY Jets – 3 over Miami:
Winner potentially takes AFC East crown. The slipper falls off for the Dolphins.

Houston –3 over Chicago:
The Bears defense is a shell of what it was, the Texans score more than enough.

Bowl Selections: (4-0)

Wisconsin +4 over Florida State
Northwestern/Missouri Over 66
LSU +4 over Georgia Tech
Check in New Years Eve for all New Years Day Bowl Action!!!!

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