Raking Leafs

Mixing metaphors and casting cliches about hockey and the Maple Leafs for the ether's pleasure since MCMLXVII.


Regretting Rask

This made me cry. Never ever trade the WJC player of the tournament ever again.

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To All The Party People....

I've Got The Brand New Doo-Doo Guaranteed
Like Yoo Hoo
I'm On Like Dr John, Yea Mr Zu Zu
I'm A Newlywed, Not A Divorcee
And Everything I Do Is Funky Like Lee Dorsey
Well, It's The Taking of Pelham, One, Two, Three
If You Want A Doodoo Rhyme Then Come See Me
I've Got The Savoir Faire With The Unique Rhyme
I Keep It On And On, It's Never Quitting Time And
Strictly Hand Held Is The Style I Go
Never Rock The Mic With The Panty Hose
I Strap On My Ear Goggles And I'm Ready To Go
'Cause At The Boards Is The Man They Call The
Pull Up At The Function And You Know I Kojak
To All The Party People That Are On My Bozak
I've Got More Action Than My Man John Woo
And I've Got Mad Hits Like I Was Rod Carew

You Can't, You Won't And You Don't Stop
Ad Rock Come And Rock The Sure Shot

damn, what a goal.


Not His Fault

I hate this Kaberle NTC/"Hanging Around" meme. Couldn't come up with a more damning title? Why not "Kaberle screws franchise for not waiving NTC." That would've been less obvious.

Don't lay this debacle and desperate attempt to regain squandered assets at his feet. Burke made his play for Kessel, gambling the future for a return to the playoffs. Not sure why a gamble was necessary when so much foundational work had yet to be accomplished. Don't blame Kaberle. Don't blame Kaberle. Blame Burke and his ego. Blame Fletcher and his lack of long term committment (Hollweg for anything is laughable). Blame JFJ has year to year battle for survival (note to self-WJC players of the tournament are not to be traded).

When will a long term committment to sustained franchise on-ice success emerge from the halls of MLSE? When, I ask? When?! I don't care about success rates of draft picks making the NHL. I want to enjoy atleast having the chance to evaluate and perhaps watch the growth of a crop of draftees. Is that too much to ask?



There is no spoon

Dana Sinclair, where have you been all season?

Brian Burke, why did it take twenty games to hire a shrink? Check that, why wasn't a shrink hired last season? I suppose what I assume as a given for a first class flag ship franchise is not always so.

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Blackhawks' Saviour?

Looks like Burke has a dance partner in Chi-town.

Pinned to the mat, the only leg on the rope Burke has is cap space. But he should skip on Sopel and poach a younger player. Cam Barker would be a coup. Patrick Sharp would be nice. Getting a pick would be icing on the cake. Who should leave town? No one under the age of 27.

Sopel is a powerplay guy with a shot. He has been exposed as a poor even strength player throughout his career. The Leafs have no need for a player in that mold, let alone a player with as many miles as Sopel. Unless there's a first rounder in it.

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The Song Remains The Same

(I was going to post the below yesterday. Then they score the first three, pad their lead, score late to re-take the lead....you know the rest. Hence, the below)

In response to Burke pointing out the positives today in the NP, I'd like to point out how the culture remains the same with my trouble Leafs. Allow me to explain.

Though many of the talking points are in themselves true, what is not true is that Burke is accomplishing what he set out to do. Fighting Majors and playing the system do not change a team culture, and that is what truly ails the Leafs. As an aside, I think Orr could be a major factor in changing the culture. He can provide mojo, swagger, confidence, which is a necessary ingredient in what follows.

Attributes that have sickened fans since the lock out remain. Slow starts, and the resulting catch up. Seldom leads are squandered. Opposition teams playing their back-up. This could be summed up in being easy to play against, but it is more than that. Much more.

I'm not sure the Leafs grasp the concept playing the game. I'm not talking about playing a zone, or driving the net, or executing a one-timer; the minutae, while vitally important, but still minutae. I'm talking about the big picture. The theory of playing and winning a game of hockey.

Players jumping the boards and winning every battle for position or the puck, in succession for every skater through the entire shift. Siezing the opportunity presented with every second on the ice to to beat your opponent, to win the game, to have no mercy. This is how a team imposes it's will, and this is how any good team wins games. This is usually achieved through a process called "learning how to win." Not a lucky bounce, or a broken stick, or "we had several good chances..." This takes preparation and execution. Positioning, Fore-thought. Anticipation. Effort. But it also takes a sense of 'the game', situational awareness if you will.

Granted the Leafs can impose their will at times but the opposition is also allowing it to happen, already staked to a comfortable lead. If this imposition occurred at the beginning of a game, and then throughout, when the opposition is also trying to take control of the game, when the battle should be raging, then I think we'd be getting somewhere, making some concrete progress. But that big picture seems to be missing.

Where is the emphasis on getting a lead? Is there an understanding of the importance of a lead? Of imposing their will on the opposition? Of trying to win the game, not just to have a 'successful shift" so you can avoid blame?

I don't have any answers, but I think I've got a good handle on the problem.

Update - Make Ian White the Captain already. He is truest to the team of any Leaf for the past three years. Last night's loss is another example of his leadership. Not sure why he was on the bench for the final shift in regulation...



Schenn the new Richardson?

Both early first round picks. Both physical defenders, slated for greatness. Both rushed into the league. We know how Richardson turned out. I have much higher hopes for Schenn. Hopefully Burke can steer this situation away from repeating itself.




To answer a rhetorical question posed by Steve Buffery of Sun Media, the line of Poni-Grabbo-Kulemin is Ski-Min. Pronounced Schemin'

That is all.



Bouwmeester, Tavares, Burke and Reducing Turn-Around Time

Forgive me if my hypothetical plan has been articulated before, as I'm not as available to PROcrastinate as the years go by, but I think there is a chance for a quick turnaround in Leafland. Bear with me as I dream a Leaf dream.

First, the media needs to start floating the idea of Brian Burke's dying dream of signing Jay Bouwmeester in the offseason. Jay might get traded before the season is through, but if he doesn't sign a new deal, he should be free to walk. Granted 29 other teams want to sign the mobile hulk, but he would be an instant superstar in a Leaf uniform which is something that might be on his mind if I can read way too far into his father's comments about hockey in South Florida. I'll have to check the '09 UFA/FA list for other potential targets.

With Bouwmeester on the blue line, that would allow for Kaberle, Kubina and Van Ryn to be moved for assets. Kaberle is the most marketable, Kubina is the 'extra piece' for a SC contender. Van Ryn has been a pleasent surprise, but he just can't seem to stay healthy, and a defensemen with concussion issues won't be much use in the current mode of the NHL that doesn't permit wingers to be slowed down when chasing a puck to the end boards, but I digress. Bouwmeester, Schenn, Finger, Mighty White, Stralman, and Sifers makes a nice top 6. If keeping Kaberle and Kubina is possible, I'd go for that option, but I think the asset return for those two out weighs what they could provide two seasons from now.

The next element is to move assets for assets. This is a common meme, one that I have half heartedly accepted but now is a course of action I fully embrace. The only untouchables are Schenn, Kulemin, Antropov, Stajan and Schenn. The returns should be blue chippers and picks. Quantity should not be the focus, though if the deal makes sense I'd agree with several servicable players to stop gap the youth development.

The fire sale should contribute to the next element; tanking for Tavares. The Maple Leafs need a star draft pick. Too long have we watched players of world class ability move to the far reaches of the NHL, leaving barren the heartland of hockey. No longer! Burke needs to make this happen. If the lottery hands the second pick to the Leafs, pick the Swedish Pronger and work a deal with whoever picked Tavares to swap. Please, hockey gods, somehow make this happen.

Next, Burke needs to capitalize on the weakened finacial state of Tampa Bay, Phoenix and obviously, Florida. If it is a salary dump trade for a high caliber player, make it happen. Two dimes and a nickel for a quarter is always a winner. If it is an offer sheet to take advantage of a salary situation, make it happen. Scavenge. Predate. Burke needs to show his superstar colors in the ripe situation that is developing in the NHL.

If most or all of these elements come into play it would be possible for a last in the League to Play-off team turn around, a la Philadelphia via Holmgren, within a season or two. The D would be solid. Depending on what moves takes place will determine the strength and depth of the forward corps. If Toskala isn't moved, he can get a team to the play-offs. If he is moved, goal tending would be a big question mark. Pogge is looking less and less like the answer, and Rask is starting to blossom.

The Leafs don't have much waiting in the wings, but they do have some pieces. Tlusty should come around. Jimmy Hayes could develop quickly, and with his size could contribute soon. Chris DiDomenico is the type of player Burke should like. Victor Stalberg is a big body with speed. Brent Aubin could be a steal or a dud.

This might be the irrational musings of a fan who covets having a star blue liner that could be avaiable while hoping his team can re build effectively. As of now, I am unsure if these destinies are mutually exclusive. The next few months should be interesting.

01/15/09 UPDATE - Add Zetterberg to the wish list. According to this CBC article, Hank Z has rejected a Hossa money type contract over 10 years. From that, I feel comfortable interpreting that Hank isn't going to take a home town discount. And I don't blame him. He has been one of the best performance to salary bargains in the league for how long now? And not to read too much into a situation, but Zetterberg has been performing below par this year on my fantasy squad. Earlier in the year I attributed this ebb to a Cup hang over, but there might be more to it that than. Hossa is in town now. The Wings will be Pavel's team as soon as Lidstrom is done, and maybe just maybe Hank wants to run the show somewhere else. Perhaps in Toronto? Lead a turn around. Harder the challenge the greater the reward....And all he would cost the Leafs is Cap Room.

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A non-MSM Sundin Update

Courtesy of Raking Leafs intrepid New York Rangers correspondent.

Via HF Rangers Board

I don't have much to add apart from having an intelligent and in depth conversation about hockey with one of hockey's greats during drinks, dinner and taking in a game from a luxury box is pretty much a Make-A-Wish for any hockey junky. I know I'd screw it up and think of all my insightful remarks afterwards while stewing about the off the cuff jibberish I had let slip out of my mouth. But that's another story entirely.

Sundin is going to fit right in nicely in New York.



In the beginning....

Leafs 3 - Wings 2

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs


The physical play in all three zones is what really surprised me. Finishing the forecheck, stopping the skater in the neutral zone and putting the winger on his seat in the d zone is exactly what you want to do. If we see that 80% of the time I'd be amazed. And all of this in your face play led to a rusty Red Wings squad give the puck up uncharacteristically often, all the way back to the d making a first pass in front of Osgood.

Kubina PPG unassisted. Pinching with the first period winding down was an excellent decision knowing that if the puck got by him the Wings wouldn't have enough time to do any damage. The tenacious puck pursuit down low was great to see while a man up. The Osgood pass had a little to do with it as well.

Moore roofing it over a sprawled Ozzie after another scramble on the edge of the crease. Kulemin made this goal with this pass back to Frogren, receiving from a linemate behind the goal just above the goal line in the corner and pivoting inside and going with the puck and dishing back to the line while eluding his defender who ended up in no man's land. Fantastic instinct.

Kulemin with a shimmy shake following a nice puck poach after Steen's pressure on the forecheck forced a ill-fated pass. Nice to see that kind of raw skill in a Leaf, let alone his NHL debut. No promises, but this kid might have the 1000 yard stare when given a scoring chance.

Toskala looked very sharp after getting fortunate with an early rush that ended with a twang off the post. Captain apparently for the game as well.

Antropov drew a pro's powerplay after taking a cross check to the base of his back. I wonder where he picked up that move?

Holmstrom pawned Carlo first, then Schenn on the crease for his two Tomas specials. Dude is like an Akido master or some sh!t, the way he transfers weight, maintains balance and composure while guiding a loss puck past a professional goal tender. Carlo and Schenn had respectable games beyond those two lost battles. Carlo looked rusty at times, and his tendency to get caught while changing direction appeared twice, but other than that not bad. Schenn was authoritative on the body but made a couple passing errors, which is to be expected.


Puck Drops in 60

Apparently there is a Leafs game tonight or something. And people seem to be somewhat excited about it.

I know this guy is.

I'll be watching the Versus broadcast in HD down here south of the 49th. I have to say that without Versus I would never get to see an out of market NHL game in HD. That is why I'm happy to promote the channel. Now if only my cable provider would make room for the NHL Network HD and Center Ice HD my quest for deluding myself into thinking I'm still in Leafland would be complete. But alas, these things take time and I'll have to wait until the Second Great Depression is over to see 82 Leafs games in HD. But enough of my plight.

Anyone in GTA who would like to win season tickets to the Leafs should head down to Yonge-Dundas Square and take in the game at the live outdoor broadcast. I'm not sure if hockey players are still dangling from billboards as I write this, but that might be worth the trip too.

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