Feb 2, 2010
For a recap, Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White to Calgary for Dion Phaneuf, Frederik Sjostrom and defensive prospect, Keith Aulie. When the dust was still floating on that deal Burke and his bandits headed down the West Coast and pilfered Jean-Sebastien Giguere from Anaheim in exchange for Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake. In one fell swoop Brian Burke had completed changed the dynamics of his dressing room. The attitude was altered and the average age of the team had dropped by four years. What the Leafs G.M. accomplished over a Sunday brunch takes some teams years to do.
Fast forward from Sunday's trades, to the first game against New Jersey on Tuesday night. Phaneuf stepped onto the ice for his first shift and immediately set the tone for the night. The Devils knew to expect to get hit, HARD, whenever they skated down Dion's side of the ice and his new teammates took his cue and also played hard. This game was, for all intents and purposes the most "complete", "start to finish", "sixty minutes of full effort" game that this Leaf team had played all season. Sure there were some good games, but for several minutes in each they forgot to play. On Tuesday night, no one forgot to play.
Brian Burke still has some deals to make and as long as he has Dave Nonis working with him, I would think that the other 29 teams in the league should be wary of this Butch and Sundance working up in Toronto.
Jan 28, 2010
In past years, when the leafs were this close to the bottom, we'd be talking about the potential of drafting a top prospect. This year is different because the potential draftee was fast-forwarded via trade in to Phil Kessel. Then again, being 11 points out of a playoff spot & having 28 games left to play doesn't completely shut the door on the post-season. The problem with the team is that they're just not good enough; essentially shutting the door o the post-season. This situation negates both the "Tank Nation" and "White n Blue - Tried n True" talks.
One might think that player-movement may spark up some Leaf talk. The leafs are pressed for cap space, so adding players in hopes of making a run for the post-season is out of the question, so player subtraction is the only option. Unfortunately, one of the most coveted Leaf assets in Tomas Kaberly has a no-trade-clause, and looks to be unwilling to be shipped out of town. To make things worse, The General Manager, Brian Burke, will not ask Kaberle to waive his NTC. When you look through the roster there aren't many big name players on the team that would garner enough attention to make a significant impact on the current or future rosters. The Leafs have a roster full of hard-working players. Each of the hard-working players would only garner a late draft-pick or possibly a lost-cause prospect. Neither trade-type discussions would arouse much interest.
Maybe the Leafs fans can discuss the off-season early. There's bound to be some excellent unrestricted Free Agents coming up as of 2010; The only problem with speculating in these cases, is that we're so far away from the opening of Free Agency, that any acquisition-talk would most likely be in vain.
So, here we sit, in hockey purgatory. All the standard mainstays of hockey discussion are exhausted for the boys in blue. All I can do is wait and hope that something interesting presents itself before the Stanley cup is awarded.
Jan 22, 2010
The question has now become one of what to do to penalize the player, Cormier. There are many calls in the media for police involvement, and if the scenario played out the way I first described it, then it is certainly a police matter. But this heinous hit didn't occur on a city sidewalk, it occurred in a hockey rink during a game of Major Junior hockey. The league involved, the QMJHL is tasked with providing the punishment and that's where it should stay. There can't be police involved in all altercations that occur on a playing field, although there are certainly exceptions. If the police were to investigate this incident and decide to file charges then where does their involvement stop? Should a baseball pitcher be charged with assault with a weapon for intentionally throwing a ninety mile-an-hour fastball at a batters head? How about charging a basketball player with assault for giving a hard foul to an opposing player taking a shot. A slap to the arm or chest is assault is it not? When playing soccer, defenders regularly perform sliding takedowns to remove the ball from an opponent. While they likely get carded for the play what if the opponent was injured in the process? Should the defender be charged by police? Then there is UFC and boxing where the ultimate goal is to beat the hell out of your opponent, is there a need for a police presence in the ring?
The answer to all those questions is NO. The participants involved have accepted some level of risk in playing their sport competitively, yet some people still want to see police enter the hockey arena and tend to on ice matters. Is this really a venture that you want pursued? Once started there is no turning back, and it won't stay on the ice. The door would been opened and all sporting plays would become liable and punishable in a court of law. What would the punishment be for a tripping infraction? On the ice it's a 2-minute penalty, but on the sidewalk it's worth a fine and a court date. Should the local police detachment be meeting players at the end of each game and handing out court summons and tickets?
No, instead of police involvement, a pro-active approach needs to be taken that starts from the NHL and works its way down through the feeder leagues. OHL Commissioner David Branch set a precedent when he suspended Michael Liambas of the Erie Otters for the rest of the 2009/2010 season. He carried on and suspended Windsor player, Zack Kassian, 20-games for an extremely hard hit on Matt Kennedy. Branch ruled the hit was borderline "okay" but the suspension is more for the predatory nature of the hit. Kennedy had not touched the puck, his head was turned and he was vulnerable, he was prey for Kassian to take out. This suspension is suppose to send a message about respect on the ice for other players. Colin Campbell and Gary Bettman can take a lesson from David Branch on how to send a message to its players.
In my opinion, the Cormier hit on Tams is worse than the Liambas check from behind. So what can the QMJHL do that has bite? It should be a given that his Junior career is finished, but as a first round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils it is quite possible that Patrice will be playing in the NHL next fall. This doesn't really seem fair does it? In instances like this, all leagues need to have a common policy where they acknowledge each others suspensions. So if the QMJHL decides to suspend Cormier for the rest of his Junior career and he has 2 years of eligibility left, then he should be out of hockey everywhere for that time frame. Playing in the NHL shouldn't be an out-clause to a Junior suspension.
But in this instance, I believe it may just be.
Jan 15, 2010
Who gets held responsible for this result? Brian Burke can't be blamed because an astute fan knows that Rome wasn't built in a day and they'll grant some grace to Mr. Burke since he's only had one NHL draft and one off-season at the helm of the franchise. He is methodically placing building blocks within the organization knowing that the sum of the parts, when all in place is greater than the part itself on its own and he doesn't have all his components yet. Ron Wilson can't be blamed because he just got a rousing vote of confidence from his boss in declaring his job secure for the foreseeable future. Plus, he isn't that bad of a coach. The rookies that are being bounced from the AHL to the NHL and back again can't be blamed since they are just expected to learn from their callups and attempt to light a fire under the contract player who is keeping their roster spot warm for next season. We can't blame the media or the fans, though many do try! So what does that leave?
The only people responsible for this result is the players themselves. Perhaps they all needed a dictionary to know what the definition of truculence was and the book still hasn't made its way around the dressing room. Maybe they are still having trouble adapting to Ron Wilson's type of game. It is after all, only the second season. (insert sarcastic laugh here) Ron can coach and teach, but the players are having a difficult time executing. Why? I don't know, if I knew the answer to that question I'd be employed by the Maple Leafs right now and be correcting it. What I do see though is a team not willing to engage. To win the battles, you have to be in the battles and on a lot of nights this season the Leafs have too many spectators on the ice. I'm not going to name players, but we all know the usual suspects. When the puck is in the corner the defenseman needs to be the first player in and the first player out. When he hangs back hoping to hit the offensive player he's already lost the battle because the puck has been moved and the hit now puts himself out of position. On the forecheck, the forward needs to be the first to the puck and not hanging back hoping to hit the defenseman because the defense has already moved the puck and once the hit is made that forechecking forward now has a long way back for an effective backcheck.
Here's where the Jekyll and Hyde personality comes in. When the Leafs do play aggressively and are the first team to all the puck battles they usually win the game. When they show up second to all the puck battles they are usually behind the play all night and lose significantly. Again, here's where Burkie gets frustrated, when the team plays aggressively and executes Ron Wilson's game plan the goaltenders look great and the players can play and compete against the best teams in the league. So the players can win, when they want.
For this season, I don't believe there is any solution. There is a silver lining in knowing that we have some good young prospects just about ready to make the jump. But for now just hope the team can get enough wins to get Boston a pick that's outside the Top 5 or Top 10 and look forward to the next one ... yet again.
Nov 15, 2009
Mar. 11, 1995
Mar. 11, 1995
Oct. 6, 2006
Oct. 6, 2006
Nov. 21, 1995
Nov. 21, 1995
Feb. 28, 1998
Oct. 3, 1993
Oct. 3, 1993
Feb. 28, 1998
Oct. 6, 2006
Oct. 3, 2001
Feb. 8, 2003
These are the numbers that should be retired in my opinion not simply "Honoured"
The Number 14 is a totally different topic and I can honestly say it's an embarrassment that this number is not "Honoured" never mind "Retired" so I'll leave that be for now.
The Number 1
Johnny “The China Wall” Bower:
Turk “The Fabulous Fat Man” Broda:
The Number 4
The Number 7
The Number 9
Charlie "The Big Bomber" Conacher:
Ted 'Teeder' Kennedy:
The Number 10
George “The Chief” Armstrong:
Nov 14, 2009
Carl Gunnarsson takes a break during opening day of the 2008 Toronto Maple Leafs Prospects Camp. (DAVE ABEL, SUN MEDIA)From that, he can learn how he would avoid making the same ones and possibly pass that information along to his mates. Healthy scratches for the point of sending a message always has the hope that the player, while observing the game has an epiphany moment and realizes what is missing from his game.
Nov 8, 2009
Where do they go from here?
Oct 27, 2009
Backstopping a team that was "struggling" to say the least, and a team with a penchant for falling behind, the Monster stoned Teemu Selanne with a gutsy poke-check at the side of the net in the early minutes. Moments later he made the save of the night with a sprawling post to post pad save of an Erik Christensen one timer, much to the chagrin of the less than full Honda Center.
The Leafs fragile make-up was still evident as they did give up the first goal for the 9th consecutive game, but something was changing, and for those of us with eyes to see, it was visible. Gustavsson would not be beat easily, nor would he allow a soft goal on this night. Instead the message was clearly sent to his mates, we have a chance to win on this night! No soft goals, no two goal deficits...only timely saves when his teammates needed them most.
I've heard more than one pundit over the last few weeks use the cliche, "show me a good goaltender and I'll show you a smart coach!"
“Monster save by Jonas Gustavsson that was the game breaker in Toronto’s 6-3 victory over the DucksFor one night at least, Leaf fans, management and their coach, can feel that they do know what they are doing and they do have a plan.
On this morning RW is once again a smart coach, having his defense in the right positon, his line combos exquisite, the power play finely tuned, while potting a bushelfull of goals, all under his watchful eye, using his system. Oh yes, coach Wilson was pleased last night.
For this one morning there will be no talk of why certain players, including Gustavsson, were not in the opening day line-up. No, instead the talk will turn to what went right when the Monster single handedly took the proverbial 800 lb. gorilla and shucked it aside.
Years ago, there was a bumper sticker made popular in Boston that read, "Jesus saves, but Espo scores!"
On this night it might be apropos to say, Jonas saves pucks and RW too!
Oct 26, 2009
Former NHL enforcer Tie Domi and partner Christine Hough-Sweeney, "Toughy Houghy" as she was known in her skating days, closed out Sunday night's performances with an energetic routine to The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." (Gerard Chataigneau/FSC-SportIms)What has been seen, cannot be unseen.
As I peruse the world wide web viewing all sorts of video, images and written reports in an attempt to absorb as much information as I possibly can, that adage is something that I try to follow. If I don't recognize the link, I don't click on it. If someone sends me a video link with high recommendations, I don't click on it without first searching the topic to see if a similar web link shows up in the results. It is with that care that I have avoided viewing some very graphic and disposition altering videos and images on the internet.
I wish I had applied that same credo to my television viewing experience about four weeks ago. It was with some apprehension that I turned the TV on for my daughter and asked if she wanted to watch hockey and figure skating at the same time. I figured it would be great for a lark to watch guys like Tie Domi, Bob Probert, Ken Daneyko, Claude Lemieux, Stephane Richer, Glenn Anderson, Craig Simpson and Ron Duguay trying to figure skate along side some of Canada's beautiful figure skaters. Beauty and the beast I was thinking to myself.
Western connection - Olympic gold medallist Jamie Sale paired with Hockey Night in Canada analyst and Stanley Cup winner Craig Simpson. (Gerard Chataigneay/FSC-SportIms)I was not prepared for what would happen next! CBC's Battle of the Blades was not the hilarious train wreck that I anticipated. Sure, watching Tie figure skate with Tuffy Hough-Sweeney is still funny, but Tie is actually figure skating. The last image I have of Tie Domi is him pounding on an opponents head and working him into the "spin cycle" that he liked to use. Now I can't seem to get his graceful skating out of my head! Ken Daneyko and his partner, Jodeyne Higgins were eliminated from the Charity competition this week. In his exit speech Ken Daneyko compared the feeling he got from figure skating to his experiences winning the Stanley Cup. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, a man known for finishing his checks ... HARD, had enjoyed his brief foray into figure skating.
Shae-Lynn Bourne and Claude Lemieux rock out during their performance Sunday, Oct. 4. The red-and-black clad couple opened the show. (Gerard Chataigneau/FSC-SportIms)Then, there is Craig Simpson and Jamie Sale. Jamie is a taskmaster at her craft and her skating medals and championships are testament to that. With those qualities, she has somehow managed to turn Simpson into a pairs figure skating partner. I didn't know what a "Waltz jump" was until Craig did one on Sunday night. That is another image that will forever haunt me. To cap this all off though, Claude Lemieux, a Stanley Cup winner, a Conn Smythe winner, a warrior and arguably one of the dirtier players to ever play in the NHL. Claude and his partner, Shae-Lynn Bourne are also skating as well as any figure skating pair can. Watching Claude "emote" while figure skating ... well ... I seem to recall Claude emoting while playing in the NHL too, but it sure wasn't like this!
What has been seen, certainly cannot be unseen and unfortunately, I may actually be enjoying watching these Ex-NHLer's figure skating with their partners.
Oct 25, 2009
The "Hockey Gods", who are they and why do they hate the Leafs?
A common phrase that everyone has likely heard from time to time is that, "The hockey gods will find a way to balance things out". This comment is usually bandied about when a normally good team starts off slow, or a normally bad team starts of really well. But what happens when a habitually "bad" team makes all the right moves on paper to be a better team, but for some reason can't get over the hump to success. Where do the hockey gods fit into this scenario?
Mike Komisarek, making a difference for all the wrong reasons.The Toronto Maple Leafs are playing some really bad hockey to start the 2009/2010 season. Even when they play well enough to potentially win, something occurs that enables them to lose convincingly. Take for instance Saturday October 24, and the game against Vancouver. In the 3rd period, a period in which for the first time the Leafs appeared able to dominate a game, they were handed the opportunity to change the tide of the game when for several seconds a couple of Leafs were staring at a wide-open Vancouver net. The only thing between them and a tied game was a bouncing puck, that miraculously jumped over their sticks and laid flat for the Canucks defense to clear out. Now, any player will tell you that some games you get the bounces and other games you don't, but what is happening that the Leafs aren't getting any bounces at all? Even when a break is given, the numerous posts hit on the empty net for example, the end was never in doubt as the puck jumped right onto a Canuck stick at an opportune time and it was buried to end the misery for the Leafs. Is this the work of those infamous "Hockey Gods"?
Francois Beauchemin, uncharacteristic give-aways and bad decisions have specifically lead to goals against.The players the Maple Leafs have on roster should be better than what they are. The acquired free agents were all coveted by other teams and were difference makers on their previous clubs. (That description pretty much describes, Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek.) As a Leaf, the performance given by these players while still being difference makers, are making a difference for all the wrong reasons. Untimely and uncharacteristic give-aways and bad decisions have specifically lead to goals against them. Last season on their respective squads those players were regularly making big plays to bail out their hockey team, why not now?
Are the Leafs players waiting for Phil Kessel to make an appearance as the saviour and completely forgotten how to play until he arrives? The team cannot be as bad as the current record indicates. I believe it is safe to suggest that the presence of an omnipotent "Hockey God" is a mere fallacy. If the players all play well, minimize mistakes, take more shots, practice what is being preached to them, then it should work out that the teams fortunes will eventually turn for the better.
But, in the off chance that some ever-present Hockey deity does exist, then I think the Leafs should consider making a sacrifice to the Gods. May I suggest Jason Blake to start!