Olympic Trade Freeze: Busier Than NHL Trade Deadline?

January 30, 2010

by Eric Warren… With only a 63-hour window between the end of the Olympic trade freeze and the official NHL Trade Deadline, there is likely to be more activity leading up to midnight on February 12th than we think.

The reasoning behind this is simple. Teams who are looking to make a move with non-Olympic players will want to take advantage of the time to allow new acquisitions to mesh with their new teams.

While there are quite a few names being thrown around out there, we are likely to see some unsuspecting players shuffled around to make some cap space.

Brian Burke of the Maple Leafs has been quoted as saying that he would be willing to take on some salary for other consideration, and while many think that the Pension Fund would never allow him to take on added salary just to hide it in the minors, I disagree.

By all accounts, the “Teachers” are all for rebuilding as long as they are assured that it will be into a contender. Despite the Board of Governors wanting to make money, they are also well aware of the fact that a winning team, a playoff team, could create even more of it.

OK, back to the trade talks.

Several players in the league have no-movement clauses. The Notables are, Tomas Kaberle, Ray Whitney, Niclas Wallin, John-Michael Liles, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Paul Kariya, Marty Turco and Vincent Lecavalier.

Whitney, Wallin, Turco and Kariya all become unrestricted in July. If Wallin was half smart, he’d wave his no trade….quickly.

Dallas has an interesting problem in that they have four goal tenders, including Turco an Auld who become un-restricted this season, who’d a ‘thunk ?

The Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves in a bit of a unique position as well. Garnet Excelby and Jamal Mayers have both requested permission to seek a trade on their own. Both are un-restricted free agents in July. While both players could provide value to a team in certain area’s, the Leafs will not get any kind of value in a trade, so I can’t see Brian Burke breaking a sweat trying to help them along.

Stajan, Poni, Van Ryn and Toskala will also be gone. Stajan, Poni via trade most likely, Van Ryn and Toskala to free agency.

The “Big Four” restricted free agents in Toronto, ( White, Gustavsson, Hanson and Kulemin ) will all re-sign. White will get a sizeable raise and Kulemin and Hanson will get one-way deals for two to three years with nominal raises. Gustavsson, will also get a one-way deal and a raise, likely in the neighborhood of two years and $4 million plus bonuses.

I can’t see anyone really having a fire sale. As bad as some teams are right now, it is increasingly difficult in a hard cap environment to just wheel and deal like the good old days.

I could go on for hours about who could go where, who I would like to see in Toronto and who I would like to see gone, but let’s be honest, no-one wants to do that much reading all at once.

So, here’s your chance. Who do you think will move this year? Forget about the cap, there is almost always a way to make it work.

Just sit back, scratch your head and ponder. Let me know what you think below!

Toronto Maple Leafs Head Into the New Year with New Hope, Bright Future.

January 4, 2010

by Eric Warren… Some time ago (April 1st, 2009), Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke issued a statement that missing the playoffs in a “hockey mad” city, was like being kicked in the groin. At the time, no Burke led team had failed to make the playoffs for seven years.

He did go on to say the Leafs can and will spend to the cap and will be looking to get back into the playoffs as soon as next season.

That was 10 months ago.

To date, the new Leafs GM has acquired Phil Kessel, a handful of talented young prospects, including Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak, and a potential superstar goal tender who goes by the name Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson.

The Leafs, currently sit just five points back of the New York Rangers for eighth place in the Eastern Conference . With just one more game to play before the official half way point in the season, after the terrible start that the team endured, and a never ending revolving door in net, all in all, I’d say they are doing fairly well.

Coach Ron Wilson, who has taken a lot of flack over the team and it’s brutal start, is starting to look like some what of a genius. If the Toronto Maple Leafs do make it to the post season this year, he will have forever cemented himself in Leafs Lore, no matter what becomes of his team beyond the here and now.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, may actually make the playoffs this season. I would honestly not be surprised. This team has shown me, that on any given night, if everyone shows up, they can beat any one.

The question that is burning a hole in my otherwise calm, easy going mind is…what’s next?

If the Leafs make the playoffs this year, and lets face it, no one can honestly rule them out. Does that change anything, or everything when thinking about the future of the team? Does Brian Burke go from visionary to reactionary overnight?

What I mean is, if they taste some post season success, will he deviate from the “plan”?, or will he smell blood and go after immediate success for next year?

This concerns me some what. I’ve seen this before, and I genuinely don’t know enough about Burke to make any kind of assertion as to what he may or may not be thinking.

For the first time in a long time, I not only enjoy watching the Leafs play now, but the    “baby steps” that Brian Burke has taken so far, have me excited about watching the team play next year, and beyond. I really hope that Brian Burke stays the course of the Blue and White ship, even in the face of sudden success.

Tie Domi: the Greatest Toronto Maple Leaf of All Time?

December 20, 2009

by Eric Warren… Right about now, there are a few hundred Toronto Maple Leafs fans gasping for air. Tie Domi? The greatest Leaf of all time? Are you nuts?

There are numerous players in the annals of Toronto Maple Leafs  lore who are perhaps deserving of the moniker. It depends in large part, I suppose, on your own personal criteria.

For example, my criteria obviously does not include points, for the most part.

To me, Domi was perhaps the greatest Toronto Maple Leaf Ever simply because everything he did while he played here was about the team.

To begin with, he was a tough guy, pound-for-pound perhaps one of the best fighters in the history of the game.

In 1,020 career NHL games, Domi logged 3,515 penalty minutes. Although they weren’t all fighting majors, a lot of them were. During his 16-year NHL career, he was involved in over 330 fights.

Fighting couldn’t be the only reason for my arriving at such a lofty decision, though. Another big part of it is the reason for the fights. Domi rarely ever backed down from anyone. There were several up-and-coming players over the years that went looking for him, trying to make their mark against arguably the league’s greatest enforcer.

He only fought for the right reasons. If some new kid was looking to “cut their teeth” and went after him, he was usually willing to oblige.

Or, if someone went after one of his teammates and it was either a dirty play or a bad mismatch, Domi was there. Always.

Tie Domi has become very well known for several different incidents during his colorful career. A few that come to mind include the infamous “fan fight.” Who can forget the awesome “Ulf Samuelsson knockout?” This is probably one of the greatest highlights of his career—an apparently very shrewd Pat Quinn sent Domi out to take a penalty shot!

Domi was always very active in the community here as well, with visit to local charities, children’s hospitals, and a myriad other events that numbered in the hundreds.

He was never a prolific scorer, although towards the end of his career here in Toronto, he figured his hands couldn’t take the fighting anymore, and he was actually pretty entertaining with the puck on occasion.

Tie always bled Blue and White, ALWAYS. So much so that in 2006, when the Leafs bought out the remainder of his contract, he retired, saying that he just couldn’t see himself wearing anything but the Blue and White.

To me, he is the greatest Toronto Maple Leaf of all time!

Tomas Kaberle: Scoring Threat or Defensive Liability?

December 7, 2009

by Eric Warren… Once again, I am weighing in on Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle.

Before I go any further, and all you Kaberle fans skip to the end and chastise me for picking on him, hear me out.

Tomas Kaberle and Phil Kessel are both almost having point-per-game seasons, each having just one point less than their amount of respective games.

This, of course, bodes well for a Leafs team that has struggled to find the net, although they regularly outshoot opponents and lead the league in shots per game.

My concern is not his offensive numbers (obviously); my concern is that he is listed as a defenseman. As such, he is a minus seven.

The only D-man ahead of Kaberle in scoring is Mike Green of the Capitals.

He has 30 points in 28 games, is a +10, and has 18 penalty minutes, compared to Kaberle’s six.

Of the top 10 in defensive scoring in the NHL, two players are on the wrong side of the plus/minus: Tomas Kaberle of the Leafs, and Alex Edler of the Vancouver Canucks.

This is not an issue that has gone unnoticed by coach Wilson, regarding Kaberle’s poor defensive play.

Tomas’ ice time, though second in defensive scoring in the league, is 29th overall among defensemen at just over 23.5 minutes per game.

Second on the Leafs behind Beauchemin in ice time, the two are tied in plus/minus at minus seven.

Only Komisarek is worse at minus nine. (Komisarek has played eight fewer games, but is just coming off of injury.)

I like Kaberle. He’s a good player. He is a good puck mover, for the most part, and has good vision up ice.

I feel that if he wants to graduate to the next level—to be considered a potential “Hall of Famer” without ever having played on a cup-contending team—he simply needs to be a better, tougher, more defensive defenseman.

On a team that struggles to score and keep the puck out of their own net, it makes more sense to me that the defense stays at home.

Luke Less Than “Schenn-Sational”: Sophomore Jinx, or Under Achiever?

November 17, 2009

by Eric Warren… Luke Schenn must be banging his head against a wall right about now. If he isn’t, he should be.

Shenn was drafted last year by the Leafs, fifth overall , and was touted in many hockey circles as a ” Blue Chip-Blue Liner “.

When I first saw him play during the pre season last year, I said to myself, “Self, this kid looks like he’s going to be pretty good.”

I have got to stop talking to that guy!

All joking aside, after about the halfway point of last season, Luke Schenn all but disappeared. Once the euphoria died down, and the season wore on, he became just another struggling Toronto Maple Leaf player.

Schenn, has two points in 17 games so far this year, and just 20 shots. He also sports a +/- of minus-five. Which puts him tied for fourth worst on the team. He is still four spots ahead of Mike Komisarek, though, who is a minus-9.

Schenn is going to be one of the premier players in this league in years to come, there is little doubt in my mind of that, but he has got to shake this “sophomore jinx” that he has fallen into.

It isn’t good to see that kind of under achieving on a regular basis, but he isn’t the first player to go through it, there have been a great many of them that have gone on to be great players.

Ron Wilson has been quick to leap to Schenn’s defense in the past, but I think it may be time for young Mr. Schenn to spend some time in the press box for a couple of games, and see if that helps wake him up a little!

Toskala Is Still Our Number One Goalie

November 10, 2009

by Eric Warren… This quote was issued by Leafs GM Brian Burke in downtown Toronto yesterday, and while Jonas Gustavsson will get the start tonight in goal against the Wild, I have to ask:

Has Burke gone off the deep end?

Here we have a team who is staring to come around. Starting to play good, solid, consistent hockey, and then we have an occasionally-idiotic GM make one statement that could bring all that crashing down.

Now, I suppose that may be a little bold, I mean I am Canadian!

But gosh, Brian, why would you puff out your chest and exhale onto the house of cards that is the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team?

Geez, I’d better settle down and have a nice hot chocolate or something, is it too early for a beer?

Here’s the way I see it: Everything is finally going the way it was apparently supposed to go right from the start.

The players are playing well together, the goal-tending is getting better with each game, and the team seems to be buying into the Ron Wilson system.

So why rock the boat by stoking the fire of another goalie controversy?

Brian Burke’s Fuzzy Picture Starts To Come Into Focus?

November 10, 2009

by Eric Warren… I am a huge Toronto Maple Leafs Fan. Really, I’m like 6′2″ tall and 225lbs!

I was less than enthused when I heard Brian Burke was coming to town, it isn’t really that I dis-liked the man, but he had the aura of a cocky young business exec who was trying to climb the corporate ladder and would probably eat his young on the way up.

I don’t like people like that, and he’s got ridiculous hair (of course, that may be jealousy speaking).

The fact of the matter is, this is not his first kick at the can when it come to building a contender, say what you want about the man, he’s here for a reason.

Brian Burke knows what it takes to do the job, and is getting used to life in the pressure cooker that is Leaf Nation .

After the return of Phill Kessel, and getting 10 out of a possible 14 points in the last seven games, including, their first three wins of the season, things are starting to look good for the boys in blue.

You can go all the way back to October 17 against the Rangers if you are looking for a turning point.

From that game on, they have looked like a different team. With The Monster and Toskala both sidelined due to injury, Joey Macdonald was the starting goaltender and for some reason that seemed to spark the team.

I don’t think it was because the players necessarily believed MacDonald is a better goalie than either Gustavsson or Toskala, more like there was suddenly no distraction as to who was going to be starting.

The Leafs currently sit tied for 28th in the league in points overall, with Florida. Although, they haven’t surrendered a power play goal in more than four games (the last one one was the OT winner in Buffalo by Tim Connolly), they are still dead last in the league on the Penalty kill.

On the flip side however, they are second to only the Flyers on the power play.

In the first seven games of the season (before Oct 17 ), the Leafs had scored only 14 goals and allowed 30.

In the last 8 games however, they have scored 26, and allowed 22. The difference has been like night and day.

The Leafs chances of making the playoffs were certainly not helped by their disastrous start, but don’t count them out just yet.

With 67 games left, they would need to win probably 42 of them for a total of 95 points to make the playoffs, and while it may seem like a daunting task, it is certainly not an impossible one.