How Will This Trade Help More Than One Area Of The Leafs?

January 31, 2010

by Shane House… Oh my goodness did it finally happen?

Did Brian Burke finally make that big trade, that blockbuster move that defines the Maple Leafs for the next 5-10 years?

Wait…..this all sounds so familiar… (Phil Kessel trade)

But I digress, these are the blockbuster deals that Leafs fans have been waiting and pleading for all season.

First Trade

Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom, and Keith Aulie for Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Ian White and Jamal Mayers.

Second Trade

Jean-Sabestien Giguere for Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake.

Now these are quite the trades for Toronto considering that four of the six players leaving Toronto are forwards, but the Leafs do get tougher and they do get a lot younger, now being one of the youngest teams in the league.

But the best part of this trade is that Brian Burke addressed some key issues with the Maple Leafs that have been plaguing the team all season.

Goaltending, the penalty kill, and a big, hard-hitting defenseman.

Lets start with Phaneuf.

Although he has been slumping and in the doghouse this season, Phaneuf is one of the most exciting defenseman in the game. He has a massive shot from the point, and brings a physical presence to the blueline, something that Mike Komisarek was supposed to bring and something that Luke Schenn was supposed to learn.

Giguere is a former Conn Smythe winner with a Stanley Cup ring to go with it. Although he has been struggling this season, he still has played much better than the other two goalies Toronto had on there roster. He will be reuniting with former goaltending coach Francois Allaire whom he had his best success with, so expect good things coming from the goaltender.

The under-estimated part of this deal is Sjostrom. He is a penalty-killing winger that is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL. He will instantly make the Maple Leafs penalty kill better with his presence.

Finally there is the wild card out of all these deals, Aulie. He is a former World Juniors gold medal winner who is a monster in the back end at 6-foot-6. He hits hard and is not scared to drop the gloves if he has too.

Overall the Leafs did a good job at addressing there major needs. But the one issue that needs to be addressed more so now then ever is there sputtering offense.

In total, 57 of the Leafs 148 goals scored this season so was traded in the span of three hours.

But luckily, Brian Burke did state in a Leafs press conference that he is not finished making trades and that until the next deal is done, those positions will be filled with scratched players and rookies looking to make a mark.

Most likely those rookies will be Viktor Stalberg and Christian Hanson from the AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies.

So even though the Leafs did lose a fan favourite in White and two of the Maple Leafs leading scorers in Stajan and Hagman, the Leafs got help in three areas of their game that have been severely lacking.

Let’s hope in the next couple weeks, these players can gel well with the players that they already have.

What Should We Expect from the Toronto Maple Leafs Next Season?

July 23, 2009

by Shane House… This passing season, the Toronto Maple Leafs were, in my opinion, one of the most interesting teams in the NHL.

Sadly though, it wasn’t for all the right reasons.

Some nights, the team would come out and give it there all and be a team that was very hard to beat. No matter what the situation was, they would never give up.

But that was what the issue was as well, the situations.

Although they never gave up in games, which is a very admirable quality to instill into a hockey team, they made a lot of mistakes.

Mistakes that made for a lot of games to be both blowouts and games that were blown in the third period.

Surely two qualities that gave Brian Burke both headaches and a lot of sleepless nights.

The question was, what caused those breakdowns with the team?

The answer is simple.

There was a lack of toughness, and the defense would falter because of it.

Sure sometimes there would be a lack of offense and sometimes it would be the goaltending.

But once again, that can be attributed to the fact that the players had a lack of toughness and were pushed around when the game was on the line.

This fact was shown every time the opposing offense was in the Maple Leafs’ defensive zone.

So, what did Brian Burke do to rectify the situation?

He paid for toughness.

He bought it in free agency with the additions of Colton Orr and Mike Komisarek, and he traded for it with the acquisitions of Garnet Exelby and Colin Stuart.

Collectively last season, these players had a total of 452 penalty minutes, with Colton Orr being third in the league with 193.

Although all of these players are not the most offensively gifted, they do bring some much needed grit and toughness to a team that displayed neither last season.

So, what can we come to expect from the Toronto Maple Leafs next season?

The first thing we can expect is our goaltending to get much better.

Vesa Toskala will be coming in to training camp with a healthy groin for the first time in two years. But instead of him being the clear cut No. 1, he will be pushed by Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson, who was signed out of Sweden this summer.

With that type of goalie competition, combined with a bigger and badder defense, it will mean that there will be less pucks being put into our net.

The second thing we can expect to see is a major spike in the number of fighting majors the Toronto Maple Leafs will be getting.

As I said before, the Leafs bought their toughness this summer with the signing of Colton Orr and Mike Komisarek. Both are not scared to get into the face of their opponents and stir up some trouble.

Finally, the third thing you can expect, and this is not a good part, is for there to be more growing pains.

The Maple Leafs are still a young and maturing team that is low on talent. They still don’t have a No. 1 center or a top end scorer that can consistently put the puck in the net.

Plus, their defense is going to be learning off of each other again because of the additions of Komisarek and Exelby and the loss of Kubina.

So, what should we expect overall?

We will be seeing a much tougher team that will be better and tighter defensively, and will always be in the face of the other opponent. Sadly though, the offense will waiver on some nights and will still be very inconsistent once again.

But look for those blowouts and blown leads to happen a lot less throughout next season.

I think that is something that Leafs fans will be very happy to hear going forward.

I have a new blog, check it out you can go to http://shanegordonhouse.blogspot.com/

Leafs Draft Analysis: An In Depth Look

June 30, 2009

By Shane House… Going into this year’s draft, there were a lot of expectations for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Brian Burke held a season ending press conference saying that he would attempt to move up in the draft and attempt to go after John Tavares, which essentially got every Leafs fan excited for the future and excited for the draft.

Of course once again, Leafs fans were let down. Burke did not move up in the draft and didn’t pull off a miracle in getting John Tavares. But still there was hope to look forward to. Luke Schenn’s brother Braydon was projected to go fifth overall. So still there was hope for a big deal that would see the Leafs move up and get Braydon Schenn.

Once again Leafs fans were disappointed and the Los Angeles Kings did not part with their pick.

So what were we to do next?

With the seventh overall selection, there was a lot of speculation that the Leafs might still trade down to get Zack Kassian, while also getting more draft picks.

But instead of something exciting happening, the Leafs uneventfully drafted Nazem Kadri of the London Knights. A good player and a solid prospect, but not what Leafs fans exactly imagined. He is a small forward with a lot of skill and a nose for the net. Not your typical Brian Burke player. Plus to boot he was a Montreal Canadiens fan, which to be honest, didn’t sit with me well.

So after Friday and Saturday passed, I looked at who we got and was puzzled. I didn’t know how to take it. No big names and nothing flashy. So I thought I would give it a couple days and wait to see how I felt about the draft after I sat on it for a while.

What I came up with is that the Leafs had an amazing draft, taking all players that would fit the mould of a Brian Burke team. Kind of like the draft, none of them are flashy or the types of players that jump off the page, but if all pan out, will each contribute in a big way with the team.

Here is my scouting report for each player drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2009 NHL Draft.

1st Round, 7th Overall - Nazem Kadri – London Knights – C

56GP – 25G – 53A – 78PTS – 31PIM

Nazem Kadri is a tall, lanky prospect who has the potential to be a number one center down the road, something that the Maple Leafs have not had for some time. His stick handling is considered to be one of the best from the draft and is also considered a clutch playoff performer, scoring 21 points (9G and 12A) in 14 playoff games. Finally, before his jaw injury, people worried about his toughness. But after coming back from a broken jaw after only missing 17 games, there is no question that he can play through the pain, which obviously caught Brian Burke’s eye.

Player Comparison: Marc Savard

2nd Round, 50th Overall – Kenny Ryan – USNDP – RW

53GP – 21G – 20A – 41PTS – 44PIM

Kenny Ryan is a strong skater that plays a very solid two-way game. He is very hard to knock off the puck because of his big size and is a very hard worker in the corners. One thing to note is that he is also very gritty, with Darren McCarty being his favourite player growing up. The difference between the two is that he is also very fast on his feet, being one of the fastest to come from the United States National Development Program.

Player Comparison: Todd Bertuzzi

2nd Round, 58th Overall – Jesse Blacker – Windsor – D

67GP – 4G – 17A – 21PTS – 54PIM

Although at first it does not look like it, Jesse Blacker is a great two way defender with great defensive presence and an ability to always be in position. He is good in the corners, almost always being able to come out with the puck. He also has an under-rated ability to move the puck, something that was not able to be shown with limited ice time last season. Finally, unlike most two-way defenseman, he is a really sound and fast skater, being able to skate back on the rare occasion that he is caught out of position.

Player Comparison: Dennis Wideman

3rd Round, 68th Overall – Jamie Devane – Plymouth – LW

64GP – 5G – 12A – 17PTS – 92PIM

Even though Devane was unranked by most NHL scouts, this pick makes all the more sense when you look into it. Jamie Devane was one of the biggest fighters in the OHL last season, getting into 14 fighting majors last season. What that also tells us is that in playing 64 games, he only got 22 actual penalties, which means that he is not dirty by any means. One thing you can count on with this kid is that he will come into every game playing as hard as he can while doing everything possible to win. The two big knocks on this kid is that he is not a good skater and has no scoring touch, but in all honesty, I really don’t think Burke drafted him for his gracefulness and scoring touch.

Player Comparison: Chris Neil

5th Round, 128th Overall – Eric Knodel – Philadelphia Jr. Flyers – D

51GP – 13G – 32A – 45PTS – 30PIM

The first thing that stands out about this kid is his size, standing at 6′6″ while weighing an astonishing 216 pounds. That size is very rarely seen from a high-school kid. Another thing that stands out about the kid is his ability to shutdown opposing players, saying that he takes a pride in always having a good plus/minus. Finally, and the most important reason why I think Burke drafted him, is his heart. He is the type of guy that always has a team first mentality and is always willing to do whatever needs to be done to win, which means that Burke can mold his 6′6″ frame into whatever style player he wants, something that is very hard to find in a hockey player.

Player Comparison: Pavel Kubina

6th Round, 158th Overall – Jerry D’Amigo – USNDP – RW

44GP – 19G – 24A – 43PTS – 53PIM

Jerry D’Amigo was ranked 67th by central scouting for this year’s draft. So why did he fall so far? The reason is because of his decision making. Although he does possess great offensive abilities and great puck-handling skills, he sometimes has the habit of losing focus which in turn hinders his decision making on the ice. Plus not to mention his defensive game could use some work. But still, you cannot deny his scoring potential and his tenacity with the puck, being another player drafted that has a lot of heart and leadership abilities.

Player Comparison: Brian Gionta

7th Round, 188th Overall – Barron Smith – Peterborough - D

34GP – 0G – 2A – 2PTS – 57PIM

Son of former NHLer Steve Smith, he is considered more of a project at this point. But standing at 6′4″, there is potential here. He has a great physical aspect to his game, being able to dish out crunching hits. Besides that there is a lot of work to be done here. His positioning is average at best and his skating leaves a lot to be desired. But I imagine with more playing time in the OHL next season, a lot of those issues will be addressed.

Player Comparison: Greg Zanon

2009 NHL Mock Draft 2.0

June 22, 2009

By Shane House… A lot has been going on in the NHL over the past month. Jim Balsaille had his third attempt at purchasing an NHL franchise and moving it to Hamilton thwarted by Gary Bettman. Sidney Crosby and company finally fulfilled their destiny by winning the Stanley Cup, and as always, Alexander Ovechkin won multiple awards at the NHL awards ceremony, only this time in the great city of Las Vegas.

But now with all of these events finally out of the way, the next event on the agenda is of course the draft.

There is still a lot of speculation out there regarding the draft. A lot of players are still quickly rising and dropping in prospect ranking, and there still might be trades going on in between now and when the draft starts on June 27th.

But once again, without further ado, here is my personal Mock Draft, the second edition.

1. The New York Islanders will select John Tavares of the London Knights

This is actually a much harder decision for this team than most people would think. John Tavares is a world class talent, but so is Victor Hedman. This pick will all boil down to one thing. Does Garth Snow want to rebuild the team, or rebuild the fan base? Both players can be building blocks for the future, but let’s be honest, only one will bring in the fans.

2. The Tampa Bay Lightning will select Victor Hedman from MoDo (Sweden)

Once again this is a much more complicated pick then one would anticipate. Yes this team needs defense and yes Victor Hedman would help them with that problem. But the issue here is whether or not they trade out of the spot to dump salary. This team has too much salary for next season and General Manager Brian Lawson need to address that before the start of next season. So as for right now, the obvious choice is Hedman. But don’t be surprised if that changes in between now and the draft.

3. The Colorado Avalanche will select Matt Duchene of the Brampton Battalion

This to me is a no brainer for the Avalanche. Joe Sakic is coming to the end of the line and they need somebody to replace him. Matt Duchene is a fast, hard working player who is a playmaker and leads by example. Best part is that he has arguably the best wrist shot out of any prospect in this year’s draft. Sound a little familiar?

4. The Atlanta Thrashers will select Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson from Timra (Sweden)

This was a hard decision because the Thrashers are a team that needs a lot of things. But the most important thing this team needs is a solid first line. They already have two thirds of it with Bryan Little being the center and Ilya Kovalchuk manning the right. So drafting Paajarvi-Svensson makes perfect sense. It would finally complete a first line that has been incomplete for some time.

5. The Los Angeles Kings will select Evander Kane of the Vancouver Giants

This team is scary enough as it is with the amount of blue chip prospects it has in its system. With this pick, they are adding another one. Evander Kane is a fast power forward that with a year or two of strength training will become a premier power forward in the mould of a young Owen Nolan.

6. The Phoenix Coyotes will select Jared Cowan of the Spokane Chiefs

The Coyotes are dealing with a lot of issues regarding their security as a franchise in Phoenix, but nobody can deny that they are a team with a lot of security in the prospect department. This team will add another one in Jared Cowan. He is a tough, bruising defender that is a year or two off, but when he is ready, will add that extra bit of grit and attitude that will take this team to the next level.

7. The Toronto Maple Leafs will select Braydon Schenn of the Brandon Wheat Kings

The Maple Leafs are not a team that usually has a lot of prospects. But with the signing of Christian Hanson and Tyler Bozak towards the end of the season, the center position is now a position of strength in the prospect department. But still, Braydon Schenn is too good of a talent to pass up at this point. He is a solid player that brings grit, toughness and most importantly, scoring talent to the table. Besides, when has Brian Burke ever turned down the chance at having two brothers playing on the same team (examples being the Sedin twins and Niedermeyer brothers.)

8. The Dallas Stars will select Scott Glennie of the Brandon Wheat Kings

With the second Wheat Kings player in a row being taken, Scott Glennie is an extremely fast forward that has a great shot and is one of the best finishers in the draft. He has the ability to make plays with his speed and has the ability to put the puck in the net. Although this pick is a bit high, he is still a player that has the potential to be a star in Dallas.

9. The Ottawa Senators will select Ryan Ellis of the Windsor Spitfires

Some people have the highly skilled offensive defenseman falling towards the middle of the draft, but it will be very hard for Ottawa to pass on his offensive abilities. He has a great shot from the point and has the ability to quarterback the power play, something that this team sorely needs. Look for Ellis and there other defensive prospect, Erik Karlsson, to be running their power play for years to come.

10. The Edmonton Oilers will select Zack Kassian of the Peterborough Petes

The power forward from Peterborough has the potential to be a very nasty, tough to play against type of player in the NHL. That is something that the Edmonton Oilers have been missing for a long time from their game. He has great hands and even better size and with a little work on his foot speed, will be a very good power forward in the NHL.

11. The Nashville Predators will select Jordan Schroeder from Minnesota (WCHA)

Another great pick by the Predators, Jordan is a little small, but makes up for it with his skill and speed. He had a great combine and showed a lot of doubters that he has the work ethic and mental toughness to deal with the daily grinds of the NHL. Also, with playing in the WCHA, he is already used to playing with men, something that will greatly help his development down the road. The Predators get a steal in taking him this late.

12. The Minnesota Wild will select Carter Ashton of the Lethbridge Hurricanes 

This draft might be known more for its toughness than for anything else, Carter is another power forward that might be the dark horse of this draft. He is a big-bodied power forward that is very intense while playing. He is also known as a player that is very easy to coach and is willing to do whatever his coach asks of him, something that people in the Minnesota franchise covet in a player.

13. The Buffalo Sabres will select John Moore from Chicago (USHL)

Easily one of the most rapidly rising prospects in the draft, John Moore is considered as the premier skater in this draft, being able to skate like the wind. He also possesses a great first pass, something that the Sabres were having a lot of problems with from there defense last season.

14. The Florida Panthers will select Dmitry Kulikov of the Drummondville

Most people will be surprised to see him fall this far, but the Florida Panthers will be more than happy to snag him at this spot. Especially with the big possibility of Jay Bouwmeester leaving for free agency come July 1st.

Kulikov is the type of player that is not great at one thing, but is good at everything. He has a good shot, great first pass and most importantly, is positionally sound. Look at Kulikov having a shot at making the NHL right out of the draft.

15. The Anahiem Ducks will select Peter Holland of the Guelph Storm

One thing that you can tell about the Ducks is that when they draft someone, usually they have two qualities. One being they are big and two being that they are always tough to play against. Peter Holland matches both of these qualities to a T.

Not only does Holland possess great hands, but is also a really good skater that works every shift. Look for Holland being on the Ducks second line two years from now.

16. The Columbus Blue Jackets will select Simon Despres of the Saint John

The Columbus Blue Jackets are finally start to come around. They have a great goaltender in Steve Mason. They have a good offense being led by Rick Nash. Now all they need to do is start piecing together a defense.

Simon Despres will be the first piece of that defense. He is the type of player that is always reliable in every situation and has very few problems in his game, the only knock on him being his skating ability. But look for Despres to be patrolling that blue line a year or two from now.

17. The St. Louis Blues will select Nazem Kadri of the London Knights

The St. Louis Blues do not need a center that badly, but with a top ten prospect falling so far, there is no way they can say no to drafting him. He has the potential to be a top center in the NHL and personally reminds me of a Scott Gomez type of player where he is an amazing playmaker and has a good ability to find open players in scoring position. Not to mention he has great skating ability as well.

18. The Montreal Canadiens will select Louis Leblanc from Omaha (USHL)

The Canadiens have always been a fan of drafting francophone players and this is no exception. Leblanc has great hands and if he had to, could probably stick handle his way out of a phone booth.

He will take a couple of years getting to the NHL seeing as he is attending Harvard college next fall. But trust me, this highly skilled center will not make it to his senior year.

19. The New York Rangers will select David Rundblad from Skelleftea (Sweden)

Ever since Brian Leetch left the New York Rangers, they have never had that great defenseman that can just get the puck to the net. David Rundblad has the potential to be that guy in the future.

He has an amazing shot from the point and an equally good first pass from his own zone. He can quarterback a power play with the best of them and with a little work, could be a premier offensive defenseman for years to come.

20. The Calgary Flame will select Jacob Josefson from Djurgarden (Sweden)

The only position that the Flames are lacking offensive output is the center position, so drafting a player at that position only makes sense. Besides at this point of the draft, Josefson is the best player available.

He has great skating ability for his size and is solid at both ends of the ice. The only knock on him that will make him drop in the draft is he has to get stronger in order to be an effective player in the NHL.

21. The Philadelphia Flyers will select Robin Lehner from Frolunda (Sweden)

For over a decade this team has been unable to find a star goaltender to play for them and in order for this team to contend for the Stanley Cup, this team needs a top tier goaltender to take them to that next level.

So that’s why this pick makes sense. Lehner is another product of the Frolunda goaltending factory which has turned out goaltending prospects on an annual basis. He easily has the potential to be like a Lundqvist type of goaltender where he uses his size and positioning to take up a lot of the net.

Not to mention he has a quick glove hand that can steal goals from even the best shooters.

22. The Vancouver Canucks will select Stefan Elliot of the Saskatoon

With Mattias Ohlund most likely leaving in free agency, there will be a need for a possible successor to be in the Vancouver system and Stefan Elliot has all the potential to be that replacement.

He has great hockey sense and has the ability to always be in the right position to make a play. Not to mention he has amazing hockey intelligence, being able to see the play before it happens. With another year or two of development, he has the potential to be the anchor of this already strong defense.

23. The New Jersey Devils will select Tim Erixon from Skelleftea (Sweden)

The New Jersey Devils have always been a defensive minded team so that’s why this pick seems so right. Although he has some offensive upside, Tim Erixon is for the most part a defensive defenseman that has the potential to be a great shutdown defender in the NHL.

He is very safe with the puck and always makes the right play, something that the New Jersey Devils always preach to their players.

24. The Washington Capitals will select Zach Budish from Edina (Minn.) High School

For the past two seasons, the Capitals have gone heavy on defense, so that’s why they will most likely take a forward in this year’s draft. Plus with the amount of pure talent already on the team, it would make sense to draft a much more gritty player to complement the skill they have.

Zach Budish is a very big, gritty forward that is not scared to get into the face of the opposition. His foot speed could use some work, but his good hands and ability to get in front of the net will be a welcome addition to the team.

25. The Boston Bruins will select Chris Kreider from Andover Academy (Mass.)

Chris Kreider was born and raised in Massechusetts, is now attending high school there, and this fall will be attending Boston College to play hockey. It only makes sense for the Bruins to take the power forward.

He has good hands and a good ability to get to the net. The only thing lacking in his game is his skating ability but that will be addressed this fall at Boston College.

26. The New York Islanders will select Oliver Ekman-Larsson from Leksand (Sweden)

The Islanders need to eventually address their problems on defense and where better to start than with Ekman-Larsson. He has great offensive instincts and has one of the best first passes in the draft. Not to mention that he has a booming shot from the point. Would make a great pairing with Mark Streit on both even strength and on the power play.

27. The Carolina Hurricanes will select Calvin de Haan of the Oshawa Generals

Although they did make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, they did not do it with a skillful defense. That’s where Calvin de Haan comes in. He has a very good shot and even better passing ability, not to mention he is very fast making him a big asset on the power play.

The only knock on this guy is his defensive positioning. He can get away with it in the OHL because of his speed, but will have to work on it in order to make the NHL.

28. The Chicago Blackhawks will select Drew Shore from the USNTDP

There is nothing really special about the forward. He has above average abilities in almost every aspect. What makes him such a good prospect is his willingness to do the dirty work and the drive he has to win.

He will do everything it takes in order to succeed and that is something that all coaches look for in a player. Plus he is great on the penalty kill and even better in the faceoff circle.

29. The Detroit Red Wings will select Kyle Palmieri from the USNTDP

Once considered a top 15 prospect in the draft, is stock dropped because of a less-than-stellar combine.

But regardless, Palmieri is a blue chip prospect that the Red Wings will not pass up. He is a great stick handler that when put into any situation, will never be a liability.

Give him a couple years to develop in the system, and he will be a potential second line center.

30. The Pittsburgh Penguins will select Carl Klingberg from Frolunda Jr. (Sweden)

The new Stanley Cup champs are a team that has a good balance of skill and grit. But one thing that is still missing is a winger to play next to Sidney Crosby. Klingberg has an amazing shot and has offensive instincts past his age. Plus not to mention that he is a very strong skater and is not easily hit off the puck.

The one thing that is keeping him from being a top prospect in the draft is his lack of defensive responsibility. He sometimes forgets to play his position at both ends of the ice.

Also, I have a new blog and if you want to check it out you can go to http://shanegordonhouse.blogspot.com/ and see all my articles starting from March 7, 2009.

Five Things To Expect from the Toronto Maple Leafs Come Offseason

April 20, 2009

By Shane House… Brian Burke has not only stated that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be going through a series of rapid changes this season, he has also stated that the Maple Leafs will make the playoffs next season.

Both are statements that make an impact on Toronto fans everywhere, but only one seems far fetched. I would love to believe that the Maple Leafs will make the playoffs next season, but I have yet to see all the players that will be in that potential playoff caliber line-up.

Regardless of what I believe, this is what Brian Burke believes. He believes in the Toronto Maple Leafs and in this team. I not only find his straight forward remarks entertaining, but I also find them refreshing and honest. You can’t help but respect his honesty and direct approach towards the media and fans.

With so much going on with an organization that has usually remained dormant and quiet at this point of the season, people can’t help but speculate what will happen this offseason.

Being a die-hard fan of the Maple Leafs, I can’t help myself either. This is a team going through a lot of change and I want my two cents.

Despite how many have a chance of being right, these are my predictions on what Brian Burke will do this offseason.

1. Jonas Gustavsson will be a Maple Leaf

As I was aware from both the Brian Burke’s press conference and a Mark Smith article, the Maple Leafs are avidly seeking the services of Jonas Gustavsson. The only other threat for signing the player is Dallas, but Gustavsson’s agent has stated that his client not only wants to play in the NHL, but have a chance to start.

Brian Burke has gone to Sweden and had a meeting with Gustavsson and told him he would have every opportunity to take the starting position from Vesa Toskala.

With money being no option (both Dallas and Toronto offered a $900,000 entry level contract), playing time and team staff are the only two things that Gustavsson has to decide on.

Judging how he has stated that he wants to play, look for Gustavsson to be in a Maple Leafs uniform very soon.

2. Brian Burke will try to move up in the draft to get John Tavares

Ever since the Leafs season began, I have dreamed of the thought of having Tavares in a Leafs uniform. he is the type of elite player that the Leafs sorely missed this season and is a player that Burke is not scared to go for.

“We’ll immediately attempt to move up,” Burke said during a morning news conference. “We’re going to talk to everyone between us and the first pick and see what the landscape is. We’re going to see what it costs and we’re going to try and move up.”

In the press conference, Brian Burke also spoke very highly of Tavares. He talked about how he shows the will to win at whatever cost and how he is very strong down the middle.

I personally have never seen Burke talk so highly of a prospect, not even about Chris Pronger or the Sedin twins when he traded for them.

Make no questions, Brian Burke will do everything in his power to make this happen. It all matters on how much he has to give up for him.

3. Either Tomas Kaberle or Pavel Kubina will be traded this offseason

Even though this seasons play may not have dictated it, Toronto’s strength is still defense.

On top of the always solid play that comes from Kubina and Kaberle, the Leafs also have the emergence of Luke Schenn, a continually growing talent in Ian White, and quality play from Jeff Finger, Jonas Frogren and Mike Van Ryn. Not to mention the players that are waiting in the minors in Jaime Sifers and Phil Oreskovic.

So with all of this depth at defense, and the Maple Leafs ready to move up in the draft, look for either Kaberle or Kubina to be traded this offseason. Both have clauses in there contracts that give the Leafs till July 1st to trade either player, and they both have given Brian Burke a list of teams that they would like to be traded too.

Whether it be for another first round pick, for another player/prospect or to help them move up in the draft, one of these players should be gone by July 1.

4. Michael Cammalleri will be a Maple Leaf

Close to the end of the season, while having contract negotiations with the Calgary Flames. Cammalleri was interviewed and asked about his contract negotiations and whether or not he was interested in going to the Maple Leafs.

I don’t have the exact quote, but he stated that if the Leafs were willing to match the offer that Calgary put on the table, then he would sign with the Leafs. If not, then he would come back with the Flames.

So with that statement, a door opened for Brian Burke to sign an impact player that he can build around.

Although Cammalleri is small, he is still a very skilled player that isn’t scared to get dirty. He can score goals in bunches and can fit well on a line with almost anybody.

The only problem here is once again money. Michael Cammalleri is looking for around $5.5-to-6 million a season for a long-term deal. General Manager Darryl Sutter is looking to give him around $4.5-to-5 million per season.

I could see Calgary giving him around 5.5 million seeing has Cammalleri scored 39 goals while giving Iginla a legitimate partner to work with.

The issue here is Brian Burke. He is obviously targeting players to sign but is also looking to keep the team salary down. Depending on how much Cammalleri is offered by Calgary this offseason will determine whether he is in a Flames or a Maple Leaf uniform next season.

5. Expect Brian Burke to sign two impact players come July 1st

Brian Burke is not a patient man nor a subtle man. He is not scared to be vocal when he is frustrated or going after what he wants. In his end-of-season press conference, he stated that he will be aggressive this offseason and a lot of changes will be made.

After hearing this, my mind went crazy trying to comprehend what the Maple Leafs line-up is going to look like. But seeing as it is still only the playoffs and the offseason hasn’t even started yet, my mind drew a blank.

One thing I did realize is that the Maple Leafs will have a lot of salary cap room at there disposal come July 1, so money is not much of a factor.

With a combination of a General Manager looking to make changes and a lot of salary cap room, we will not only see a different team, but we will also see multiple impact players in a Leafs uniform come July 1.

I am not saying who because I honestly have no clue what is going through Brian Burke’s mind. All I can say is this off-season will be a very entertaining one for the Blue and White so expect the unexpected come July 1 and you wont be surprised with what comes out of it.


I have a new blog and if you want to check it out you can go to http://shanegordonhouse.blogspot.com/ and see all my articles starting from March 7, 2009.

Maple Leafs Players That Have Overstayed Their Welcome

March 27, 2009

by Shane House… The Toronto Maple Leafs are a team that is not known for their drafting. It is a simple fact for any Maple Leafs fan to realize. But another thing that the Leafs have a habit of doing is keeping players for too long.

Whether they be prospects, veterans, or free agent signings, the Leafs have a habit of keeping players in hope that they turn it around to make the GM not look like a screw up.

But most of the time, they never turn it around, and instead of contributing on a consistent basis, they just remain there.

Anyways, here are some players that are a part of the Maple Leafs that they should just finally give up on and let go.

Ben Ondrus

I never really had a lot of hope for Ondrus. With the minor-league Marlies, he is a gritty, two-way leader that is able to put the puck in the net.

In the NHL, he is slow, unskilled, and forces himself to fight almost every game just to contribute in the NHL in some way.

I believe that he will always and forever be a career AHLer who will never have any sticking power. He will rather stick with the Marlies for the rest of his career or move to Europe. Either way, the Leafs need to make room for another player to have his chance.

Career NHL Statistics: 51GP, 0G, 2A, 2PTS, -19, 77PIM

Bates Battaglia

I personally love Bates and even have a drunk cap with my buddies called the Bates Battaglia helmet of awesomeness, but this respected veteran has become a career AHLer and I honestly can’t stand it.

He was a great player pre-lockout. But the new NHL has made his lack of speed really stick out. I hate to say it but it is time for him to make his way out of this organization and let a younger player get his shot.

Hopefully, I am wrong and a team picks him up looking for some veteran leadership.

Career NHL Statistics: 580GP, 80G, 118A, 198PTS, -34, 385PIM

Kris Newbury

Not a lot of people know this, but Newbury was acquired in the deal that saw Owen Nolan come to the Maple Leafs. Yeah I know, tragic to think about.

But at first, I was actually impressed. In his first stint in the NHL, he showed all the tangibles to be a solid, gritty forward. He had speed; he had the ability to put the puck in the net; and he had a nasty streak that coaches love.

But after that season, he seemed to loose all of that and, instead, turn into a Darcy Tucker-type that is out of position, barely contributes, and, most importantly, can’t score. He is 27 now and shows no signs of improving.

Once again, it is time to let this career AHLer go and make room for a younger player to develop.

Career NHL Statistics: 44GP, 3G, 3A, 6PTS, -3, 60PIM

Boyd Devereaux

Was drafted sixth overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 1996 and has never really panned out as the power forward as most hoped.

Instead, he developed into a fourth liner who is good on the penalty kill.

Nothing wrong with a player like that. He plays hard every game and brings grit to the bottom line.

The problem here is the fact that the Leafs have those types of players all over their line-up. The only difference is that most of those players are better.

So when the Leafs go into next season still rebuilding, who would they rather have in their line-up?

A skilled player they signed as a free agent, a young stud that will have a chance to develop and get better, or Boyd Devereaux? I think you can guess which choice Leafs’ management will make.

Hopefully Devereaux will find an NHL team looking for a defensive player, but most likely, he will be put back into the minors, just not with the Toronto Marlies.

Career NHL Statistics: 619GP, 61G, 109A, 170PTS, -1, 203PIM

So there you have it. As good as these players might be and as much potential as they might have had, they have been with this organization too long.

Something tells me that Brian Burke will most likely let these players go, maybe keeping one behind to have some veteran presence on the Marlies.

I have a new blog and if you want to check it out you can go to http://shanegordonhouse.blogspot.com/

Is Martin Gerber Playing Himself Into a Job Next Year?

March 15, 2009

by Shane House… With the exception of last night’s 8-6 win, Martin Gerber’s play in net has been solid. In every game that he has played, he has given the Leafs a chance to win.

He has also shown that he still has the ability to make the big save when needed to.

Before this, when he played for the Ottawa Senators, he showed no confidence. Even while playing with the AHL team, the Binghamton Senators, he only had three out of five possible wins and a 3.15 GAA.

Those type of numbers really could harm your chances at sustaining an NHL career.

But luckily, Brian Burke was in the market for a goaltender to replace Vesa Toskala, because neither Curtis Joseph or Justin Pogge seized the opportunity to start.

So it was a match made in heaven.

At worse, Martin Gerber could have just finished out the season on an average note and walked off into the sunset to never be heard from again.

Instead, Martin Gerber might as well have saved his career so far—showing that he can still play at a high level. If he can keep this up, he might be playing himself into a longer stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

With the expected retiring of Curtis Joseph at the end of this season, and the obvious fact that Justin Pogge is just not ready for the NHL yet. It looks like there will be an opening behind Vesa Toskala next season.

The only problem I could see happening with this is Gerber not accepting that he would be a back-up for this team. But hopefully, he is willing to accept that. Because by the looks of it, Vesa Toskala needs a little competition in net, and Martin Gerber is just the type of goaltender who could give it to him.

I have a new blog, and if you want to check it out, you can go here

Newest Leaf Phil Oreskovic

March 10, 2009


by Shane House… The huge Phil Oreskovic made his NHL debut last night in a 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators and I have to say, he played a good game. Even though he was a minus -1 and only played 8:21, he showed what it takes to play in the NHL. He showed toughness, tenacity and used his size well as a defensive defenseman.

But what do we really know about the big defenseman?

The North York, Ontario natve started out playing for the Brampton Battalion in 2003 and played 3 1/2 years with the team before being traded to the Owen Sound Attack for a late playoff run.

After that early exit from the OHL playoffs, Oreskovic joined the Toronto Marlies to help them finish out the season and until last night has spent the past 1 1/2 seasons with the team, posting very good numbers for a defensive defenseman and being a plus player for both seasons.

In 2006, Oreskovic was voted by the coaches of the OHL as both the hardest hitting player and the best defensive defenseman.

He has devastating body-checks, good ability in the corners and is never afraid to get his hands dirty. He is also good at clearing the front of the net, especially in Penalty Killing situations.

So why doesn’t he have a full time job already in the NHL?

Well the thing that is holding him back is his offensive ability. His skating ability is adequate at best and struggles offensively in almost every aspect. He sometimes even has struggles handling the puck in very high pressure situations, which is not allowed in the NHL.

Hockey’s Future Rating - 6.0

Shane House’s Rating - 6.5

Analysis - If he can solve his offensive problems and handle the puck better, Phil Oreskovic will be a solid defenseman in the NHL who can handle playing in one of the bottom defensive pairings while playing on the top penalty kill. But that is if he can overcome his offensive woes.

Player Comparison - Cory Sarich

Phil Oreskovic - 1987/1/26 - 6ft3 - 217lbs

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Top Ten Toronto Maple Leafs That Could Be Gone Come Trade Deadline

February 18, 2009

by Shane House…

With trade talks heating up and the Trade Deadline looming in the not-to-distant future, teams are shopping around looking for the best deal.

Seeing what assets teams are willing to give up or seeing what future assets teams are willing to give up.

Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs will be most active.

They are in the midst of a rebuilding season where the goal is a high draft pick.

Most likely John Tavares but the Islanders are probably going to win that race.

Regardless, the Leafs have a lot of assets that they are willing to get rid of in order to gain as many prospects/draft picks they can.

Here are the top ten players that are available come trade deadline:

10. Lee Stempniak

When the Leafs traded for Stempniak near the beginning of the season, I thought that we got a legitimate second-third line player who could score 20-goals a season.
Sadly, it hasn’t panned out that way.
Ever since arriving to Toronto, he hasn’t been playing with the confidence he showed in St. Louis and has dropped right off the map.
I don’t see there being a lot of demand for him, but he still has the potential to bounce back and can provide depth for a playoff team that doesn’t have a lot.
Will most likely stay but don’t be surprised if he fetches a mid-round draft pick when the Trade Deadline rolls around.

9. Anton Stralman

When this guy came over to Toronto from Sweden, some people were comparing his talent to Niklas Lidstrom even, but the Leafs made a mistake that might have screwed this kid right up, they rushed him into the NHL.
He wasn’t ready.
He wasn’t used to the speed and size of the NHL yet.
He showed glimpses of excellence in some games, but they were usually over-shadowed by major mistakes and bad misfortune.
Besides, can you really see him fitting into a Brian Burke type of team?
I don’t think so.
I think that he will be traded, if not this season then eventually because the Leafs might have jumped the gun on bringing him up from the AHL and ruined his confidence.
Look for him to be sent to a team that has a rebuilding defense for another prospect.

8. Jason Blake

Most people have counted Jason Blake out at the Trade Deadline, because he apparently has too big of a contract and is not worth the money.
What people seem to be forgetting is that ever since late November, Blake has been on fire scoring at a point-a-game pace …
… He may not be cheap, but the Leafs might trade him now for another player that has a big contract or just offer to pay some of the contract every year till it runs out.
Either way the Leafs could be able to get out of his contract if he keeps playing well, but in all honesty why get rid of the guy, he is producing and playing very well.

7. Dominic Moore

A fan favorite and for all the right reasons: Dominic Moore has been the biggest surprise of the season.He went from a borderline fourth line player to a solid two-way player who can play on second-third line—not bad for a waiver wire pick-up.
His value cannot get any higher at this point and with a $900 thousand contract is probably the best deal a team can get.
It is all just a matter if whether Brian Burke likes him or not.
If he does, then he will stay.
If not then he will receive a lot of demand on Trade Deadline.
Look for a team to pick him up for a second-third round pick.

6. Justin Pogge

I guarantee I will get a lot of arguments about this one, but hear me out.
Every time that the Leafs have called up Pogge, it has been against a team that, at the time, had problems scoring and instead of waiting till the Leafs moved Toskala at the Trade Deadline and giving him consistent playing time at the end of the season, they bring him up for one game and send him back.
Now, me being a Leafs fan, the thought of even considering trading Pogge is brutal to think about.
Brian Burke said he had a plan, but he never illustrated it to the media.
Maybe he is bringing him up to show teams what the kid has or maybe he has a plan that has to do with developing the goaltender.
Either way, this idea is an interesting prospect.
We can trade him now and get something guaranteed back or we can wait it out and see if he can develop.
It is all up to Brian Burke, but if for some reason he does trade Pogge, look for Toronto to get a big prospect back or an experienced player that is in his prime.

5. Alexei Ponikarovsky

Ponikarovsky’s contract is over at the end of the season and with a big overhaul being predicted for the team, it is almost a guarantee that he will be traded—it’s just a matter of where.
The issue here is Poni’s lack of consistency.
When he is hot, he is a good player. When he is cold he is almost absent from the ice.
Right now, Ponikarovsky is cold, which means that he will not sell at a high price, which Burke will not like.
Regardless of how he is playing when the Trade Deadline comes, he will be dealt.
Look for him to fetch a third round pick; maybe a second round pick if he can get “hot.”

4. Pavel Kubina

Controversy surrounded Pavel Kubina during the off-season.
Everybody thought that he would be traded, because the clause in his contract that if the Leafs didn’t make the playoffs that there would be a small window of opportunity where he can be traded.
I am guessing when this window was open; Kubina was on pins and needles.
Luckily for him, he wasn’t traded and is having a good season.
The problem is the team is still not doing well and Kubina is once again swirling in trade rumours.
Brian Burke asked both Kaberle and Kubina for a list of teams that they would be willing to lift there no-trade clauses for.
At the end of the season, the no-trade clauses will be once again lifted and then Kubina will have no control of where he will go, so I am guessing that he will give his list eventually.
Look for Kubina to fetch a first round pick and a lower pick, along with a conditional pick for next years draft.

3. Vesa Toskala

At the beginning of the season, Toskala was considered to be the Maple Leafs best player, but after consistently playing poorly all season, he is looking more and more like he will be gone by the end of the season.
Burke has already called Toskala out in the media and said he was fed up with his play.
The only thing yet to be determined is whether he will be leaving at Trade Deadline, or at the end of the season.
Vesa Toskala is still a good goaltender and looks like he just needs a change of scenery.
The problem is, because of his contract and the lack of good play, his value is not very high. Burke will still receive offers for Vesa Toskala, the issue is that they might not be to his liking—the offers being too low or just unacceptable.
Brian Burke is a smart man though and I am sure that he can find a way around the situation.
Look for Vesa Toskala to fetch a second-third round pick, along with a conditional pick in this years or next years draft, depending on Toskalas personal performance for the team.

2. Nik Antropov

He’s the most talented forward on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The problem is he is also one of the most inconsistent.
Nik Antropov is a huge body that is almost impossible to move from the front of the net.
When he is on, he has amazing puck-handling ability and is hard to stop. When he is off, he makes mistakes and the only thing you notice is his lack of speed.
This is the second person that Brian Burke has called out, saying that Antropov’s play “does not warrant a new contract,” meaning that if Antropov wants to stay, then he should step up his play.
Ever since the comment was made, Antropov’s play has gotten better, just not amazing.
I am guessing that Brian Burke said that to get him to play better so he would get more in return for the big forward.
Antropov is relatively cheap for a top six forward and is impossible to move from the opposing teams net.
Look for Antropov to get a first-second round pick, along with a prospect and maybe a conditional pick as well. Matters how well he is playing when he is traded.

1. Tomas Kaberle

Kaberle is easily one of the top 15 defenseman in the NHL.
He has always been able to produce no matter who he has played with and his stats this season are suffering, because of the mediocrity of the team.
He can run any power play and has one of the best first passes in the NHL, but the issue here is that the Maple Leafs are making there team younger and Kaberle is there top asset.
Kaberle has already handed Burke the list of the ten teams he is willing to be traded to which means that he will he traded eventually.
The only issue is the fact that Kaberle’s hand is broken and there hasn’t been a return date set, meaning that his value might drop slightly when the Trade Deadline rolls around.
Still, Kaberle will receive the most interest for a defenseman behind Jay Bouwmeester and will give Toronto the most assets coming back our way.
He is a top defenseman who, for his skills, has one of the best-valued contracts in the NHL, only making 4.25 million for two more seasons.

Note To Ron Wilson: Start Playing Curtis Joseph

February 13, 2009

by Shane House…

When I heard at the beginning of the season that the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Curtis Joseph, I knew we weren’t getting the Cujo that we used to have. I understood that. But we were still getting a solid goaltender who had a bit left in the tank.

All I was expecting from him was 10-15 starts and maybe eight wins if I was lucky.

But what I didn’t expect was Vesa Toskala playing as poorly as he has.

Vesa Toskala is our starting goaltender until he is traded, or he serves the remainder of his contract, but why must he get every start?

He hasn’t really warranted it, to be honest. His play has been lacking in almost every way. He doesn’t stay in the butterfly and his mechanics are completely off.

Perhaps worst of all, he isn’t playing with any passion. It is completely missing from his game. He doesn’t seem to make that extra effort to make the save, like he did last year.

So if you’re hockey coach and you see that play coming from your goaltender, wouldn’t that make a case to start the backup for a couple of games?

I know the Leafs are playing Vesa to show off to other teams that he can play, but why play him every game?. The least you can do is play Curtis Joseph now and again.

He goes months in between starts and receives most of his playing time when Toskala plays crummy (which has been happening more and more as of late.)

This will be the final season for Curtis Joseph, regardless of what happens. So why not let ad old dog have his day. He has earned it, and unlike Vesa Toskala, I see a lot more passion still left in Cujo’s game.

So, Ron Wilson, listen up.

Give Curtis Joseph some playing time! He may not play amazingly (although right now he is keeping you in the game against Tampa Bay,) but he plays with passion and he plays with his heart on his sleeve. Maybe if you give him a start or two, it will show Vesa Toskala how he has got to play, and maybe it will give Bryan Burke something to work with come trade deadline.

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