Friday, August 6, 2010

Wanted: Anyone Half Way Skilled on the Left Wing

While Brian Burke and our Toronto Maple Leafs have made some positive acquisitions this off-season, there is much more to be done before any Leafs fan can be confident that a playoff birth is even a potentiality in the upcoming season. Trading for Kris Versteeg was a way of adding what may prove to be some top 6 skill to the team. Then, with Colby Armstrong we can see some added grit from a player TSN has called the Brian Burke prototype. Earlier this summer Burke brought in Mike Brown who, if he makes the roster will give Toronto supplementary strength. However, for the sake of solidifying a quality right wing, Toronto sacrificed Viktor Stalberg’s speed and offensive hockey sense on the left side.

From many of the Leafs blogs I've read and from the conversations I've had with Leafs fans, most have argued that Toronto’s major need is a top line centerman. Many still have a desire to make a trade for Marc Savard, risking his long contract and history of injuries. Personally, I think the Leafs have a much larger problem on the left wing than the center position. Tyler Bozak is closer to being a number one centerman than Kulemin is to a first liner on the left.

From the players we brought in this offseason, only Marcel Mueller is a conceivable LWer and I say that very cautiously. Listing our players by position, I can illustrate the Leafs' strength on the right wing and its weakness of the left. The center position, while still a problem, is less dire and thus can be addressed afterward.

RW: Phil Kessel, Kris Versteeg, Colby Armstrong, Mike Brown, Colton Orr, Joey Crabb...(ha.)

C: Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, Mikael Grabovski, John Mitchell, Brayden Irwin, Christian Hanson (if he is resigned), and Mike Zigomanis...(ha.)

LW: Nik Kulemin, Freddy Sjostrom, Luca Caputi, and Marcel Mueller.

From what I can see, Toronto only has one NHL caliber left-winger. Kulemin, who played first line minutes for much of last season after robbing Alexei Ponikarovski of his spot, has proven himself to be a good two-way player who will help Toronto in the long run. Unfortunately, a Kulemin type player ought not to be on the first line, nor should he play first line minutes.

An argument can be made that Freddy Sjostrom is a second NHL caliber LWer in the Maple Leafs’ roster, but only as a fourth liner who is mostly used for the penalty kill and defensive situations.

Put frankly, Luca Caputi was a disappointment last year. While 9 points in 28 career games is not a horrible statistic for a 21 year old, last season was supposed to be a tryout and he did not prove himself to be good enough for an NHL roster. That being said, this season is a new opportunity. Viktor Stalberg blew us all away last pre-season and was awarded a spot on the team based on that performance. We can all hope Caputi will do the same but it's likely he will need more time to develop.

Finally, we come to Brian Burke's newly acquired Marcel Mueller. There isn’t too much information out there about him, but I do know that he was signed to a two-way contract. This will give Ron Wilson some flexibility, giving him the opportunity to spread out Mueller’s time between the NHL and the farm.

As we can see, Toronto is temporarily troubled on the left wing. However, there is one player I would love to see help solve this problem. Because of the fiscal difficulties in Dallas, James Neal is available for trade. Whether this is where Burke decides to trade Kaberle, a multi-player deal could send some of our lower salary contracts over as well for some additional offensive skill. Toronto has a superfluity of players under contract between the Leafs and Marlies and could therefore put together a package good enough to land a player skilled enough to play alongside Phil Kessel.

Another development in the Kaberle rumors has turned towards LA and Brayden Schenn. As a left wing prospect, he could be a potential player to fill this void. It’s widely speculated that Burke was trying to move up the draft order in 2009 to get Luke’s younger brother on the team. Whether this is an available means to such an end, time will tell.

Personally, I would rather Neal in a Leafs uniform next year since he is older and a proven scorer. Because of Neal’s low salary, a second round pick in 2011 would give Burke the opportunity to offer-sheet James Neal against the financially vulnerable Stars. This would be the best case scenario in acquiring a quality LWer to play with Phil Kessel. It may be a harsh move but at the end of the day, business is business.

Next we can turn to center


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Intimidation At Its Best

First off, Bone's Corner is now on twitter: check it out, follow, etc.

Secondly, surprising news coming from Vancouver regarding the Leafs. Our most intimidating Maple Leaf has been involved in a bar fight in Vancouver. No, it's not Colton Orr, nor is it Phaneuf, Exelby or Schenn. Okay, maybe it's the Leafs' least intimidating player; I hope I didn't offend Wallin, Mitchell or Stalberg.
Friday night Mikhail Grabovski was involved in a "minor altercation" as told by Brian Burke while commenting on the situation. He may be too injured to play for the Belarusians as well as for the Toronto Maple Leafs but at least he's up for nice bar brawl now and then. It's nice to see the NHL going down the same path as the NFL, having a new player getting arrested each week. Recently, the Edmonton Oilers' injured goaltender Khabibulin was arrested for speeding by 20 miles an hour while drunk.
I'm proud of our boys.... I've always thought any press is good press. (Unfortunately the sentiment of sarcasm is next to impossible over the internet.) Usually I enjoy figuring out how hockey players become injured outside of hockey with Joe Sakic cutting himself on his snowblower and Eric Johnson crashing during a game of Golf-Cart Polo, but maybe I should instead be focusing on what they do once injured. Maybe soon Johan Franzen will get engaged in an ironic bout against a mule. We can always hope.
I don't know who he was fighting, however it's safe enough to speculate one of the Kostitsyn brothers was involved...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Leafs Doppelgangers

In the spirit of Doppelganger week I thought that along with my oh-so-precious-Leaf-fan girlfriend, I would put together a collage of fantastic Leafs Doppelgangers.

First off, Grabo along with Charlize Theron in Monster. Grabo may not be a killer prostitute, but he does score for money...

Second off, Rosie O'Donnell and XLB. This one speaks for itself.

I still think it would be more frightening to hear Donald Trump's catch-phrase "You're Fired" from Brian Burke.

For those of us who watched the epic show Prison Break, Charles "Haywire" Patoshik played by Silas Mitchell along with Gustavsson. It's always been my understanding that goalies have some sort of "quirk". If Haywire were to play hockey, like Gusto, he would definitely be a goalie.

This might be the most spot on. I was going to put up Radulov but seeing Colton Orr with a black eye called for a brown bear. Follow my logic? Nope.

Two major parts of my childhood. Bert taught me life lessons and Kaberle... well... passed to McCabe.

Thanks for bringing your buddy, Gustavsson.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Introducing: The Sjo-Stopper

Once again, apologies for the lack of posts lately. Where I last left off, there was no Phaneuf, no Sjostrom, no Giguere and to put it quite frankly, no Luke Schenn or Rickard Wallin. Since the two trades involving the Calgary Flames and the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks, there has been a transformation of spirit, hitting, and skill taking over the Toronto Maple Leafs dressing room. When I was informed of the trade I was acting as the lead member of the FLQ, Jacques Rose in the Montreal Model UN reconstruction of the Canadian Cabinet during the October Crisis. I was informed of the new trade intel via blackberry from a friend of mine. It has now been just over a week since the team changing trade and this is how I see the team at this point.

Sjostrom - the Bone proclaimed new nicknamed "Sjo-Stopper" was quite an underrated pick up for the Leafs. His presence seems to have excited Rickard Wallin - since the trade they have both been on fire. I'm hoping the two of them together on the PK will actually turn out to be a success. All of the players we received in the trades have in some way excited someone else on the team. Wallin is no longer a healthy scratch caliber player (Well, I used to think he would be a healthy scratch for the Marlies). He has finally been playing well not only defensively but also with strength low in the corners of the offensive zone.

Schenn - right now his improvement is in a league of its own. He's been playing better and better throughout the year however that's not saying much since he wasn't NHL material at the beginning of the season. Now however, he's hitting, shooting, and talking on the bench like a future captain should. The great thing about Toronto media is that when you play well, boy do they play it up. Especially with Luke Schenn since he is such a top prospect for the Leafs future.

Kadri - last night was probably the most excited I've ever been to sit in front of the tube for a game. Watching him play his first shift and spring Stalberg on a breakaway was an incredible feeling. However, the next shift, the kid got hit hard in our defensive corner. After that, he was no longer really a threat. When he was going up against their defensemen in battles for the puck, I was genuinely scared for his health. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think Kadri needs to take a couple pages out of Jason Blake's books and learn to play with speed but still avoid the hits.

Kessel and Bozak - like I said in my previous post, Kessel's defensive faults drive me up the wall but how can I complain when he puts up numbers like 7 points in his last 3 games and 10 in his last 5? Although he runs away from any hit coming towards him, he still has that shoot-first mentality that compels him to rip the shot whether or not he even has his equilibrium. Phil shoots from no matter what position; he just likes to score goals. Another positive is his willingness to make that pass when there are too many people covering him - cue Bozak. Bozak has been in the right place at the right time a lot this season. With 11 points in his 15 games up in the show, the two of them make good linemates. Also, with 28 hits in his 15 games, he offers a physical presence to the Leafs' first line that opens up room for Kessel. With Poni's size on the other wing, the line has been quite strong in the few games it's been together.

If these factors, along with the strong play by in net Giguere continues, the Leafs might actually have the opportunity to close the gap between them and...well...not last place. Our largest difficulty this season has been our penalty kill and if the Wallin-Sjostrom tandem can come together as a shut-down pairing then Burkie's trades will have been a roaring success this late in the season.

Let's hope for the best,

I decided to show the least interesting interview... ever.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Let's Chl(ORR)oform Their Goalie

Yes everyone, here's the introduction of the Leafs' new offensive strategy. Instead of putting a man in front to screen the goalie, let's sneak a rag of the stuff in the mask of the guy, he'll never expect it! At this point I think that's a last resort if I've ever heard of one, but I'm starting to be so annoyed by this team that I have trouble watching the whole game.
But in all seriousness, I have a couple very short points to make:

1) I've found myself disliking every line composition that involves Kessel. No matter how much he passes and creates plays, his defensive faults are too painful to watch. When he was with Blake and Stajan I disliked the line and I still dislike it with Kulemin and Bozak. If anyone is an avid enough reader of mine to be with me since the very beginning of my bloggerhood, they would know that my first call as a line was Blake, Bozak and Kessel. I'm still very much an advocate of that line since Blake is still on the verge of converting his chances into numbers. Last night, his speed excited the team after some depressing goals in both the first and second periods.

2) So Chloroform is the new strategy for the team, but here's the new strategy for Leafs fans and TV watchers - tune in during the third period. It really is the only necessary period to watch. The Leafs are painful to watch for the first two and they start to work to tie it up once the opposition has a false sense of security. We've stolen five or six points this year like that.

3) Hey Ron, have you noticed that Wallin is bad? Like, I mean really bad. Keep him out of the line up. I don't care if he's friends with Gusto. He may be rated "81" in NHL 2010 while Hagman is an "80" but I saw through the bullshit. Sit him like you did yesterday.

4) Don't trade Mayers until the last possible day. If he's going to play like he did last night to fight for a trade, I would love to keep him as long as possible. Although Primeau can't accept a pass to save his life, Orr can!! That goal last night made him seem like a goal scorer; a slow, hard hitting, scary human being of a goal scorer. Orr was running around hitting everything that moved last night and scored an absolutely great goal. Very happy to see that guy playing the way he has this year. He's for sure one of my favourites. His ability to fight along the boards for the puck definitely took me by surprise.

5) Message to Burkie - don't look into Kovalchuk. I seriously don't like him and if we lose one more first rounder I'm going to start cheering for Stamkos and the Lightning who have a future.

Anyway, let's hope it picks up and this new strategy is put into place.
Go Leafs Go

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Leafs Aren't My Best Buds - get it?

I apologize for the long hiatus in posts. I decided to have a long christmas vacation with lots of eat, a bit of drink and a superfluous amount of shinny. Oh the life we life, eh?

When I left off, we had just played Buffalo on December 21st, which might have been the most exciting game of the season. Stalberg was called up and played well only to get injured. Then we lost a lot. Then Carolina actually caught up to us in the standings... and here we are.

The Leafs are starting to get hard to watch. Kessel's slump is just painful at this point, and Hagman's harsh decrease in point production is doing so much that his trade value is even dropping. What to do, what to do? I actually heard talk yesterday of taking Kessel off the power play and at this point, I think that might just be a good idea. Although he's a solely offensive-minded player (with no regard for ANY defense), he struggles to break into the shooting lanes. Even with a quick-release as deadly as his, he's not getting the puck through. If he's not getting the goals, it's because they're putting a lot of emphasis on his side of the ice both at full strength or on the PP. Thankfully, on the other side of the ice we have Ian White or Beauchemin (on the PP). Get them the puck.

We've heard it from all the media: the Leafs are being killed/killing themselves by special teams. They start calling into question Ron Wilson's skill as a coach (and penalty kill specialist) or Brian Burke's criteria for a team but this isn't the way to go about Leafs criticism. I do my best to try to avoid this because Wilson has no one to put out there on a penalty kill and Burke has no one to trade other than draft pi- nevermind.

In regards to the power play, my only advice would be to stop putting on full lines. If they seem to have figured out our first line to the extent every team in the league has at this point, switch it up a bit. With Kessel in his normal spot, the high boards on the goaltender's right hand side, the goalie knows where the shot is coming from. There needs to be more movement instead of a stagnant umbrella set up that feeds Kessel for a shot that's going to be blocked. Leafs need to get it down low, pull a defenseman off the slot area, then push it to the point and get a shot off. It sounds easier than it is, but our opposition does it to Luke Schenn every time he's on the ice.

The penalty kill is a whole other story. Let's look at the power play goal last night by Eric Staal. Who was on the ice? Hagman, Mitchell, White and Exelby. We just have a really weak team. Yes, we could put Kulemin out as a big body to block shots but at the end of the day, neither the Leafs first nor second line PK unit is strong enough to compete. I know it's halfway through the season, but what needs to happen isn't an overhaul of the players, but a mastery of a PK system. If the diamond doesn't work, give small box a shot. If that doesn't work, large box and so on. It can't get any worse can it? I dunno, ask LA a decade ago.

Anyway, Go Leafs G.... oh who am I kidding.