Burke’s Upcoming Moves Must Include Wilson on The Way To The Cup

January 5, 2010

by Graeme Boyce… Now that we - as in players, coaches, executives, owners and fans - have all turned this season’s corner and are heading down the final stretch toward the playoffs, mere months away, I have to wonder how long Coach Wilson will remain with the team.  He’s made some mistakes and, frankly, I haven’t seen any flashes of brilliance.  And if I haven’t seen any, I have to wonder whether the players and the executives feel the same way.

On a larger level, surely Burke is tapdancing in the board room, explaining how his wondrous pre-season moves will pay off for the franchise.  Typically, in business, if you reach specific milestones you are then granted additional funds to stay the course and maintain the objectives of the defined strategy.  I, for one, would love to hear that strategy.  We now know the team is not being built by the draft.

I suppose the team’s confident owners will allow the GM to use the upcoming Olympics as an excuse to not make any moves in the short-term, even though the event will resemble baseball’s vaunted annual mid-winter meetings in Florida.  Had our Leafs clobbered the Oilers, I’m certain change for change sake would have made sense for both teams.

In addition to Lacavalier, one of the other players I thought might have looked good in the Blue & White was Edmonton’s Penner, when he was struggling.  You will all recall how I lamented Burke’s rather quick and feisty comments in the wake of Heatley’s public demand for a trade, as opposed to simply trading for the rather prolific scoring machine.

Instead, we have Kessel - a work in progress.  At least players back in the day, regardless of their prowess around the net, had some personality on which we fans could hang our hats, whether in anticipation of a big hit from a wee man, or simply some flambouyancy… Tiger riding his stick after a stunning goal.  The team today lacks a leader.  It’s obvious this is a huge problem on and off the ice.

It seems to me the individual players are playing like individuals. Have you noticed Kessel won’t pass to Blake and vice versa?  I thought Stalberg had some really decent potential - until his peculiar pass to Komiserek the other night - but with Grabbo and Primeau going down, he will continue to have an opportunity to prove his value, as opposed to sitting in the press box.

To shake things up a little, maybe White should be again moved up to the forward line, seeing as both Bozak and Hanson have been out lately, and Frogren brought back on the blue line.  My other suggestions to Leafs management would include sending down Orr and bringing up Rosehill - sorry to sound like a broken record, but moves have to be made.

On the trade side of things, there’s really not much left on the table of value, except Kaberle - though this is very much in doubt these days, in the wake of d-men left off Canada’s Olympic roster.  However, Kulemin has really improved his overall defensively (at the expense of his goal scoring prowess) and actually I like the recent play of Exelby, despite other writers’ exhortations, so I think those two, as well as Hagman and Stempniak can be deposed in a bundle.

In the wake of the first half of the season, I also have to wonder whether Wilson was given the go-ahead to simply throw in the towel and make the remaining stakeholders not care at all who leaves, young or old, good or bad, to make room for Kadri and D’Amigo next year.  This season has been frustrating - and it has not all been the fault of poor goaltending.

At this point my two index fingers are pointing toward Burke and Wilson.  I really don’t know if they care.  I don’t see any emotion, just the same typical excuses, and I not hearing any plans, not to mention that aforementioned decisive strategy.  You know, the old “we’re building for the future” talk that we are so accustomed to.

At least Harold Ballard wouldn’t be afraid to simply pull the trigger.  Like my mum used to say: Do right, do wrong; just do something.  It’s time for Burke to make me proud, and not use the US Olympic pressure as some kind of excuse.  Well, he can’t because even he admits no one will be betting a red cent on his team in Vancouver next month.

In my opinion, and I’ll say it again, it’s time for a blockbuster trade.  It’s time to shake things up.  It’s certainly time too for Wilson to stand up and accept some of the responsibility, and start to motivate the players, seeing as they can’t motivate themselves, both on and off the ice.

Maple Leafs Dominate, Subdue Wings on The Way to The Cup

November 8, 2009

by Graeme Boyce… Despite their recent play, t’s going to take some time apparently before Red Wings fans realise it’s not about a bad bounce or bad call, it’s about which direction the team is heading.  In the case of their drubbing at the hands of the Maple Leafs, it was obvious the Toronto team had suddenly turned a corner and is heading upward, really.

The so-called Hall of Fame Game proved statistics prove nothing.  Essentially, the better team won, again.  The Leafs were faster, and more accurate, with and without the puck; they hit with relish, they blocked shots like pros, cleared rebounds quickly and stopped the puck from getting behind The Monster all night long.

Indeed, the Wings veteran Osgood had been on a roll lately; now with the result in hand, maybe he was tired, or given his greatness, he just had a bad night.  When neither Pavel Datsyuk nor Henrik Zetterberg, arguably two of the league’s most formidable players who were coupled and played on the same line, could register a point against the Leafs, something has changed.

Most definitely.  After all, playoff-bound Detroit signed Todd Bertuzzi in the off-season, and rely on Kirk Maltby to provide some requisite truculence these days.   Two teams passed each other in the night last night, one going up and the other going down.

The Toronto Maple Leafs took a lead, built the lead and held the lead to win.  Yes, Detroit is a team in decline, but that is no excuse for the tremendous effort displayed by the Leafs, and on the heels of their victory in Raleigh the night previous.  And so with only two wins under their belt going into Saturday night’s game, the odds did not favour Kessel & Co.

Kessel bounced back after a brief slump against Carolina and popped in first goal as a Leaf, with authority, after a shot by Blake had snuck through and was inching toward the line when Kessel smacked it into the twine.  He is inspiring, and refreshing.

Again, the single-most critical factor for the win was in fact between the pipes: Jonas Gustavsson.  He was both solid and spectacular, and dared Detroit’s vaunted offense to shoot.  Speaking of shooting and with authority, I thought Wayne Primeau scored a nice goal, a great shot off the wing, from a nice feed I might add from Colton Orr.

Gustavsson was peppered with 36 shots, and his goals against average improved, rather dramatically, as did his save percentage.   Maple Leafs fans have witnessed a transformation of the team, of a gelling, from idle threats and empty promises to the product of goals, and the chemistry is delivering points, having now rewarded fans with a point in each of their last 7 games.  Magic!

Predictably then, by garnering a few more points over the next week, the team leaps ahead of divisional powerhouses Florida and Atlanta, and will soon enough challenge Montreal and Boston in the Northeast, and dare I say Ottawa… and Buffalo.  Montreal has lost 9 games already.  Boston and the Leafs have lost 7, as have the Rangers.

Playing another great game after returning, Finger delivered a long-overdue goal with a great shot in the upper corner while attacking the net.  (Yes, I dispute the commentator’s call that it might have been deflected.)  As well, hopefully Komiserak did not bruise his hip too badly after colliding with the boards, as his threatening presence is clearly resounding.  Despite an admittedly rocky start, he is making a serious impact, and obviously on several levels.

Minnesota and Chicago are up next.  The latter have lost 5, while the former have lost 10 already.

Maple Leafs Turn Corner in Raleigh on The Way To The Cup

November 7, 2009

by Graeme Boyce… Throughout this recent string of games, the Maples Leafs defense corps has solidified.  They block shots, especially Finger, they hit, especially Komiserak, and they get to loose pucks faster than the opposition, again and again.  Now they’re moving the puck out of their own end quite effectively, though admittedly still making mistakes, while enabling our Kaberle to continue his incredible and award-winning scoring pace.

Now once in the opposing zone, they even rush the net, cause some mayhem and know that the forwards are covering them.  In fact, when caught behind, speed is a key factor in the team’s recent successes, as well as a lucky bounce here and there.  The team is becoming wonderfully threatening, though not overtly rough.  But they really are performing well together, and improving.

The Hurricanes were finally eliminated by Pittsburgh in the playoffs last year.  Paul Maurice is a good coach.  He still brings a good team, yet Toronto simply could not have lost to them, given fight for last place was on, and so the obvious test is Detroit.  Coming soon: Saturday night, and another Original Six game.

Speaking of the forwards, and speaking of Detroit, last season the Leafs started with a win in Detroit, 2-1, and what was mentioned at that time by Coach Wilson was their collective speed.  Not much has been mentioned this season about their speed upfront, until the arrival of young Kessel.

What we the fans should notice is the room off the boards Leafs forwards enjoy, as our guys are coming out of the corners with pucks, and making plays.  Surely you agree young John Mitchell is displaying some impressive flash around the net lately.  He seems better paired with Kessel.

Anyway, most importantly, they are a winning team today.  Oh yes, his name is Gustavsson.  Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson.  Solid as a rock.  Apparently, he’s making some mistakes too, courtesy of a few monstrous rebounds.  The addition of juice upfront in Kessel seems to have revitalized veteran Blake, though Stajan was possibly benched for the latter part of the Carolina game.

The pressure is off Schenn to produce offensively, despite the obvious promise he displayed upfront last season.  However, he’s not been erasing many opposing skaters, though he has been solid too.  But I thought he’d have a few more assists by now. Team trainers and coaches are likely working very closely together to manage and monitor his professional development carefully.

One day I’d like to once again say the Leafs enjoy a player on the blue line with a booming shot, joining the ranks of legendary Al Iafrate and Ian Turnbull.  (Five goals in one game, by a Maple Leafs defensemen.  Yes, I’d like to see that again.)  I’m still waiting for Beauchemin to start lighting it up.  I thought he’d have popped in a few more by now.

Though, surprisingly, Stempniak continues to impress me.  It looks like he has taken ice time on the power play away from Beauchemin in fact.

So, and with victory moments away in Carolina, it was an oh-so-familiar feeling that came over me - and all Leafs fans - when Beauchemin, who was having a great night, chopped away at opposing skates with less the half a minute remaining to get the penalty.

I relied on Gustavsson to save the day.  I’m sure his teammates shared similar thoughts.  But everyone cooly played their part and the day was saved.  It was cool.  Indeed, it was gratifying.  Carolina could have stomped Toronto, and we would’ve heard how Carolina had turned their season around with their win, bringing the playoff contending team back to life in the process.

But … Toronto won.  Toronto won.  The tide has turned.  Bring on the Wings.

Maple Leafs Contemplate Thumping Canucks on The Way to The Cup

October 18, 2009

by Graeme Boyce… After last night’s unexuberant performance against the Rangers, there’s certainly no time like the present to pull the white rabbit from the hat.  No looking back now, what has been done is done and now we must look forward, on the way to The Cup.  The players must dig deep each shift and focus on what matters most: my sanity.

Looking into his crystal ball today surely GM Brian Burke is seeing big and nasty defensemen lovingly splay opposing forwards against the boards, a truly amazing goalie that is flipping and flopping, basically standing on his head, making saves look easy, and of course snipers picking off upper corners and sending pucks through the back of nets.

While he dreams, as we do, for that fateful day in history, let’s just hope he’s still seeing our Maple Leafs players holding The Cup up high.  If so, it’ll be led by Viktor Stahlberg.  I’m sold.

In the meantime, I’d really like to see some appearance of war-like anger among the players and a genuine fervour that is palpable, of an intensity that permeates not only the bench but throughout the arena, and yet given an inability to find and provide that secret elixir, then I’ll settle (once again) for a few strategically placed pyramids to deliver the chemistry required.

While we patiently wait for the illustrious Phil Kessel, I’ve seen blips of hope against these past few teams recently from forwards John Mitchell, Niklas Hagman and Alexei Ponikarovsky.  Likewise, however, Colton Orr and Rickard Wallin have failed to impress me up front, though I admit they’re not making mistakes.

In terms of vertical movement, I’d swap struggling youngsters like Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin for some emerging talent on the farm, whether Joel Champagne, Robert Slaney or Jamie Devane, in addition to Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson.  I’m certain there are administrative headaches to consider, from waiver restrictions to the cap Burke faces, though I assume that’s why he gets paid the big bucks.

I’m waiting for a blockbuster trade from Burke.  He obviously believes Coach Wilson walks iron, and blame and responsibility for this incredible start to the season rests squarely on the players’ shoulders.

This week, yes an entire week, the team, coaches, staff and management, in addition to us fans who pay the bills, will contemplate the Canucks, the next opponent.  Presumably Burke will be personally ramping up his sermons on a daily basis, just so each player is completely sure the sacrifices Burke & Co have made to build the Leafs into such a powerhouse these days.

At the outset, I thought if the team lost, at least those games would be entertaining, you know as promised, like Maple Leafs Sports And Entertainment.

Even the Canucks are without Mats Sundin, so neither team really has an excuse.  The Canucks field as well a slate of youngsters: the Sedins and Ryan Kessler, for example, and clobbered the Minnesota Wild last night, who were capable of scoring solely off Kyle Wellwood’s skate.  But the Leafs are bigger and tougher this year, and more belligerent and truculent too.  It’s hard to imagine what can possibly go wrong.

Well I suppose, with our luck, Canucks management, in a move to inspire fear, will start Andrew Raycroft.

It’d be interesting to be a fly on the wall, and see who among the Leafs players has what it takes during this slump to grab the team by the short and curlies and offer the motivation needed, as opposed to those who will be demanding a trade.  As we in business know and appreciate, it’s always darkest before the sun rises.

The team has hit rock bottom, and the fall from the top is the hardest.  As the Maple Leafs rise from the basement and pass by teams and their fans laughing right now, we fans will remember the age-old adage: he who laughs first, never laughs last, or something like that.  We all have a week to think about it.

Toronto Maple Leafs Set For Clash Against Rangers on The Way to The Cup

October 12, 2009

by Graeme Boyce… Like a heavyweight pugilist, the Toronto Maple Leafs have truly slumbered out of the gates.  The team have certainly taken some solid shots in the opening moments of the season, and look to be gasping early.  The team’s highest paid and highly touted players need to provide some inspiration and enjoy an excellent opportunity against the New York Rangers to provide a array of passes, hits and goals.

With respect to the highly touted players, Colton Orr will definitely by stepping up to the plate against the Rangers, surely to tangle with Donald Brashear, whose own fourth line services were rendered obsolete by his former employer when physical enforcers were deemed redundant and not needed to protect the Washington Capitals scoring talent this season. Their tilt, hopefully several, will be exciting.

At this point in the season, both Orr and Brian Burke need to prove a point.  Notwithstanding some interesting trade talk involving Atlanta and Toronto, Burke is crafting a tough team.  Let’s not forget, Burke is a highly priced piece of talent, and he’s added a lot of overhead in the front office, which was dutifully passed on to the fans with a boost in ticket prices.  Orr is tough, and so is young Jay Rosehill.

The latter, however, is not simply a tough guy, he’s one of the team’s leading scorers.

In the spirit of providing high quality entertainment for fans, especially those left out in the cold during home games, the team’s management also spared no expense and delivered a new and very large outdoor screen a month ago.  In the wake of this activity, as well as extensions renovations, the product on the ice was supposed to be in first place, not last at this point in the season.

Against their Original Six opposition, the Maple Leafs coaching staff will continue their goaltending experiment, of trying to prod Vesa Toskala to greatness prior to trading him.  With the untimely groin injury to budding superstar Jonas Gustavsson, it sounds like Joey MacDonald will handle the duties between the pipes.  The team’s next opponent is Colorado — an Avalanche reserved for Top-5 Toskala.

So, the sleeping giant that is the Toronto Maple Leafs have had their bell rung and fans are demanding a much better performance heading into these upcoming rounds.  Yes, the defense corps are struggling, the offense (which was Top Ten last season) is leading the sleep session, and enough has been said about Toskala.

Perhaps Jason Blake, who is paid too much, and Tomas Kaberle, who is not paid enough, a week ago would’ve made a decent package in exchange for 300+ goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk.  Blake has yet to find the back of the net, but neither has Jamal Mayers, who somehow seems to have impressed Coach Wilson lately and received plenty of ice time against the Caps, or John Mitchell.

Speaking of underachievers destined to see time with the Marlies soon without signs of encouraging improvement, the list would include Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and Rickard Wallin.  Kulemin will be given a chance; he does have a pretty good shot and occasionally has been offering some grit in the corners recently.

The invisible not invincible blue line deserves some exposure.  Goals on the powerplay would help, and not goals against. On-air announcers have been practising “Kaberle to Beachemin… scores” for a couple a weeks, to no avail, except once in pre-season.

Yet it would seem Francois Beauchemin is starting to gel, finally.  Sounds funny to say he needs to improve, playing on a last-place Leafs team.  Ian White is, without question, the team’s steadiest d-man, while Luke Schenn has blundered awkwardly.  The award for most confusing player is won by Mike Komisarek.  Against Montreal, he was on fire.  That flame, that obviously got doused, needs to be re-ignited.  Now.

So, who in the dressing room is providing the inspiration, which would follow in the wake of a thunderous hit, a game-winning goal or a Palmateer-like save, and ultimately provide a win, a first win of the season, for the team, enabling them to see the light, to finally turn the corner and stay swinging until the end?  Wayne Primeau?  Matt Stajan?  Phil Kessel?  Methinks a new addition is forthcoming.

It’s at this point in the season, with just a few games under their belts, that the new Maple Leafs captain is decided.  He needs to accept the responsibiulity of leading the team on the ice and off the ice.  He has a duty.  He needs to start fighting, in the corners, along the boards and in front of the net.  He needs to prove himself, and prove to the fans why he is paid the big bucks after all.

Maybe Manitoba’s 245-pounder Dustin Penner, currently toiling in Edmonton, might make the difference.  On the bright side for Burke, in a few weeks, there’ll be other players on the block.  In the meantime, several Maple Leafs need to display mad skills and NHL calibre performances.  Or else, speaking of Edmonton, Craig MacTavish might prompt some coaching changes in Toronto.  Of course, not before the Olympics.

It’s Back To The Drawing Board For Maple Leafs on The Way To The Cup

October 6, 2009

by Graeme Boyce… Back in the day, Leafs fans could not lament the choices made by the vaunted (venerable) GMs.  The team laced up the skates and fought the battles on the ice they needed to, in the corners, along the boards and in front of the net.  In the wake of winning the Cup, and expansion, fans have waited patiently for the alchemists at the top to bring together the necessary ingredients and for the formula to do its magic.

Let’s take a look not at the examples set by Wendel or Doug, or those before or after who have earnestly tried, but let’s for a moment take a look at Dan Daoust.  A player Toronto snagged from Montreal.  The pundits said he was too small to play in the NHL.  Keep in mind this was an era of clutching and grabbing.  Today, the rules have been changed to make room for small (and big) and gifted players.

Daoust, managed to survive 8 seasons with the Leafs, and to say he was a fan favourite would be an understatement.  He was “small” but played with heart, with grit and with a determination that only Brian Burke can wish for right now from his new acquisitions.  It’s cliche to note that when the Leafs played the Caps the team left their truculence on the bus or they checked it at customs and left it behind.

There was no ferocity last night displayed from the boys in blue, and certainly not to be found on the blue line.  Aggressive play was to be a hallmark of the Leafs team this season.  Burke said so.  Fans have been led to believe the Leafs would be filled with a tenacity, bordering on cruelty, never before witnessed in Toronto.  Dan Daoust on his worst night showed more truculence than Francois Beauchemin has.

Beacuchemin was and is supposed to be a leader.  He is supposed to lead by example, and set the tone, and behind closed doors he was assigned an “A” for his efforts and expertise, and experience.  The Leafs and Beauchemin fell short in their effort against the Caps, and lost an incredibly disappointing game.

There were bright spots against the Caps, however.  So, here’s the good, the bad and the ugly.  The good is obvious: if Vesa Toskala had not let in three goals the Leafs would have won the game.  The bad?  Coach Wilson’s decision to start Toskala.  But the ugly is reserved for Beauchemin.  Garnet Exelby is somewhat excused from his wanderings, his hit hunts, but Beauchemin cannot be excused.

The changes simply required are (and were made) to provide fans a team that plays with heart night after night, which in hockey means shift after shift, to show some emotion, some desire to score and win, to win shifts, periods, games and The Cup.

Okay, perhaps Wilson still hasn’t had enough time to evaluate all the new players on the bench, while adequately balancing the desire of the eager youngsters, so admittedly the towel won’t be thrown in any time soon to save Toskala from his ultimate demotion and eventual trade.

It’s been a slow start but Toronto won the third period… by scoring three goals and not letting any in.  Up front, Rickard Wallin is looking good early, as is John Mitchell, and Mikhail Grabovski is showing some flash.  Jamal Mayers is not, frankly, and neither is the defense core, with the exception of hardened vets Luke Schenn and Ian White.

Colton Orr had better step up to the plate soon.  After all, if the Team is admittedly expected to lose, as Dan Daoust’s teams were too, then at least make it an entertaining loss for the fans during this rebuilding phase and, for those players who expect to sit on the bench for most of the game, like Orr, then at least get the adrenals pumping and show the fans (who fill MLSE coffers and actually pay the players for the privilege of wearing the Leafs jersey) what the word truculence means.

Know thyself.  Lead by example.  Show some excitement, some passion.  Please.  Get the job done: in the corners, along the boards and in front of the net… just like Dan Daoust did, shift after shift and night after night.

Maple Leafs Forwards Set To Reward Fans on The Way to The Cup

August 24, 2009

by Graeme Boyce… Enough has been said about the Leafs new-look vaunted blue line corps, not to mention Brian Burke’s intimations about acquiring a Top Six forward to complete his re-tooling.  So today I’m going to have a look at our current high scoring forwards.

A parade of Toronto GMs over the past three decades are often accused for not giving their young picks a chance to develop, who ultimately bring in over-the-hill vets to appease local mainstream media demands, and recognize the value of the franchise and in a Steinbrenner approach need to see money spent on Owen Nolan or Eric Lindros types, while trading away all promising stars and never building a team for the future.

Flashback: I clearly remember proudly watching each night an “awful” team featuring Rick Vaive and Bill Derlago, and a host of other characters, like Jim Korn and Rocky Saganuik, not to mention Darryl Sittler and Ian Turnbull, though also playing in an era featuring youngsters Jim Benning, Fred Boimistruck and Bruce Boudreau, who in an 81-82 season at least finished ahead of the Red Wings.

Our current corps is now well protected specifically by Colton Orr.  The psychological impact on these so-called smaller players will be immediate.  Orr will enjoy the limelight, as he did in New York.  He won’t score goals.  He will enable Blake and Grabovski that opportunity - and these two are the only players under six foot, fyi.

Blake had 63 points last year.  He really must’ve felt the pressure last year and, frankly, he responded very well.  He’ll score more than 25 goals this year.  Grabovski, in his rookie season last year, potted 20 goals, and was supremely entertaining, in a productive and pesky kinda way.

With all opposition bodies flattened in our new and improved defensive zone, Toronto’s forward will be finding lots of room to skate out and pick up speed across the neutral zone, with and without the puck.  Forechecking and cycling effectively was a large part of the scoring success the team enjoyed last year.

Entering into this fray will be skilled players like Niklas Hagman, Nikolai Kulemin and John Mitchell.  Given some good luck around the net, it’s not unreasonable that Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak and even Poni and might each get 20 goals.  Hagman had 22 last year, Kulemin (who will have more confidence now) had 15, and Mitchell had 12.

Disappointly, Stajan had 15 last year, Stempniak had 14 and Alexei Ponikarovsky managed 23.  If one goes off his butt, like Domi’s infamous goal, we’ll thank Orr accordingly, but hopefully Wayne Primeau snaps home a few, as well as wild card Speaking of wild cards, I predict Jamal Mayers will contribute more than 7 goals… before the Olympics.

With training camp around the corner, one of the youngsters will crack the opening day lineup, from among this group Christian Hanson, (namesake - but no relation) Darryl Boyce and possibly either Tyler Bozak or Jiri Tlusty.

Most likely the latter will succeed.  As opposed to years gone by, now that Tlusty has accordingly been given the time to improve and gain his confidence with recent jaunts in the NHL, he will make an impact.  I didn’t think Grabovski would pop 20 in his rookie season.

So, it’s not unreasonable to expect and believe Tlusty will achieve the same lofty level this year, especially with all the room on the ice, up and down and around open boards; the freedom to wheel and deal like we Leafs fans have never seen before.

Where did that Bruce Boudreau kid end up anyway?

Maple Leafs Should Consider Mayers For Captain on The Road to The Cup

August 16, 2009

“Who’s going to be captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs this year?”  I wouldn’t be out of line recommending Jamal Mayers be seriously considered for the job.  No more rotating the ‘A’, and let’s give Schenn a few years to develop, on and off the ice.

Throughout last season, I consistently commented that Mayers showed a lot of potential night after night, not only for his obvious toughness and passion for the game, but also for his integrity and leadership.  He’s a veteran and demonstrated a willingness to contribute to improve the team in any way possible.  I liked what I saw.

In fact I stated a few articles ago I think Mayers will enjoy a breakout year and provide some much-needed and anticipated finish around the opposing net.

Mayers is a pretty big boy, and quick on the ice, standing 6′1″ and weighing over 200 pounds.  Mayers can score, kill penalties, cycle and mix it up in the corners, and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves.  Oh yes, he’s a local lad, and a product of Western Michigan University, and chose to remain in college when originally drafted by St Louis.

Mayers appreciates his influence among younger players and devotes time as a real role model in the community.  He promotes Ice Hockey in Harlem, for example, and also became a member of the NHL Diversity Task Force and worked with the NHL Players’ Association to help hockey broaden its appeal to young players.  He’s also battled through some hard injuries over the seasons.

Mayers was a member of the 2007 Canadian IIHF World Championship team that won gold in a 4–2 win against Finland in Moscow, and again a member of the silver-winning team in 2008, scoring twice and assisting three more, with a decent plus-six rating.

Therefore, I think the Leafs can benefit by placing the “C” on Jamal Mayers uniform, as I’m sure he’s more than capable of handling the so-called pressure in this big city, and let someone who is deserving actually accept the responsibility.  He’s big and tough, and he’s a fast skater, who has some personality and who can talk to the media, and sometimes gets a little too passionate and takes an occasional bad penalty.

I’m not sure the Leafs need to hand the job to newcomers Beauchemin or Komiserik, or Stajan, and definitely not Kaberle.  Burke’s already said the job is Schenn’s, but not today.  So, I vote for Mayers, despite his potential-filled display of talent last year.

Maple Leafs’ Burke Playing With The Media on The Way to The Cup

July 25, 2009

by Graeme Boyce… Many years ago, and this statement had quite an impact on me, a General Manager, when being quizzed by Toronto media personnel about possible upcoming trades, replied that there was nothing pending but he would in fact consider any move if it improved and thus benefited the team, and presumably ensured a Cup, or at least a fighting chance in the process.

I’ve always shown an unflabbable level of support for Leafs management and believed they knew what they were doing, year after year.  I wonder why in the midst of an interview in the Toronto media, GM Brian Burke would mention the ‘no-trade’ issue, and wonder if it’s a simple red herring, yet one that needs to be stated no matter how close he is to doing a deal, that he is not considering any movement of Kaberle… because he’s not allowed to, because of the no-trade clause.

Lately I’ve read about the cerebral Mike Gillis over in BC, and how Brian Burke decimated both the Canucks and Ducks prospects and draft picks to demonstrate immediate results.

Burke has brought to Toronto a few big men to patrol the Leafs defensive end.  I firmly believe they will make their physical presence known and knock opposing players off the puck, and because our young forwards have been trained defensively well, they will come back to get loose pucks.

Going down the stretch last season, Leafs forwards enjoyed a pretty good, as in productive, finish.  Although a lack of demonstrable ‘finish around the net’ throughout the year, I was impressed by young Christian Hanson.  There’s not been much attention directed at the Leafs’ forward lines this summer, with the exception of mentioning Mr Colton Orr, and a possible excess of left wingers.

Looking down the road, notwithstanding any more trade action, John Mitchell is poised for a truly decent breakout year.  On that topic, Jiri Tlusty is primed to make the jump, and is likely expected to by the coaching staff and management.  He did have a good year, by all accounts, netting 25 goals for the Marlies.

On the Euro tip, and another player mentioned in possible trade rumours (possibly heading to Pittsburgh to be re-united with Malkin), is Nikolai Kulemin.  He popped 15 goals last year and is going to look much more comfortable this year.  But the one guy who I hope has a spectacular year is the rather feisty Mikhail Grabovski.  Both Kulemin and Grabovski don’t shine in the defensive zone, given their +/- stats.

Well, call in the calvary and look what Burkey has done.  He has flatly stated, or should I say implied, Toronto will not have a problem in the defensive zone this year or next.  However, the team has depth, too much NHL-quality depth along the blue line.

By definition, Burke has now improved the team.  He can now rest on his laurels and wait to see what happens during camp.  He’s done his job.  The sizzle on the steak, the announcement we desire, a feared sniper, won’t happen until mid-season.  Until that time, “the job” is the players to lose.

Trade Rumours Heating Up Toronto For Maple Leafs on The Way To The Cup

July 23, 2009

by Graeme Boyce… So I’m having a quiet ale in a nearby pub today and low and behold, a heated discussion breaks out about Brian Burke’s next move.  We all know the Leafs have a few too many tradeable defensemen at the moment, and a dire need for a sniper.

So I’d like to share the highlights of that discussion, as I believe you, like I, enjoyed the passionate speculation, while of course wondering which of these players will be hoisting the Cup above their heads next June…

Jeff Finger is signed for three more seasons at $3.5 million per.  Though he’s tough, and Burke likes ‘em tough, and hails from the Western conference, he could easily be packaged for a forward, along with decent prospect Anton Stralman, if need be, in exchange for Carolina’s Scott Walker.

Well, if that wasn’t food for thought, how about this: Mike Van Ryn, who I like, gets nearly $3 million - yet we have to admit, and although his heart was in the right place, didn’t exactly meet up to community standards at the end of the day - in exchange for Cody Hodgson, if Burkie also threw in Ian White.

It didn’t stop there.  Ten games into the season, and if Vesa Toskala is doing well, then trade him - and let ‘The Monster’ take a run backstopping an underdog’s run to the Cup next spring.  If Toskala performs lousily, then he becomes a backup anyway.

But the best for the last?  Tomas Kaberle for Jordan Staal.  I don’t know about you, but I went positively giddy over that one.  Staal, who’d deliver quite a few goals for the Leafs, is stalled on the Pens’ third line and Gonchar will be gone in a few years, and we know about Kaberle’s skills.

That’s all folks.  But, as you can imagine, it was a great discussion and it’s only July.

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