Raking Leafs

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


Magically Delicious

I'm not some sort of hockey blogger Robin Hood, but both Offwing Opinion and Battle of Alberta missed the opportunity to credit FiveHoleFanatics, aka Hello Hockey Fans, the source of the excellent celery resource they took the time to highlight.

Nice work...uh...Cantaloupehalves?

UPDATE - Stupid brain. You're fired. I meant to use a Fruit Loops reference, but I like Lucky Charms so I won't change the title.


Hometown Envy?

Call it the Curse of the Blue Kool-Aid. The thing is, anyone outside the GTA is discouraged from discussing a player's desire to suit up for the Leafs. To do so opens them up to a barrage of insults, mostly insinuating that the root of their opinion lies in blatant jealousy
I categorize it as something else. And credit is due to Erin Nicks of the Ottawa Sun for this conclusion;
The fact remains that if a team invokes a player's emotional desire and uses it as a persuasive selling point for their club, you have to give them credit. It's a great card to play if you've got it in your back pocket. And in this new-era NHL, you really need to use every trick in the book.


All well and wood

Last week James Mirtle published a feel-out post, asking his readers to make some predictions as to which players will surprise the rest of the league. I was tempted at the time to herald young Master Wellwood as a player who would put up numbers that would stop the monocled-Steen talk when it comes to the Leafs. I resisted because, frankly, I don't like to feed the Leaf-trolls. However, after seeing the Toronto Sun's article today, I felt compelled to re-visit the question: How good will Wellwood be during the 06-07 season?

Last year, Kyle put up 11g-34a-45pts in 81 gp, for a 0.55 production rate, with 22 pts coming on the power play. I'm not going to institute the scientific method to come up with a prediction, but several 'soft' variables point to a big increase in production.

First, the Leafs look to be far better equipped to score at even strength. Simply from a tactical viewpoint, Quinn barely adjusted to the new rules, and appeared content for at least half of the season to merely gain the red line then dump and change lines. 5-on-5 offense was virtually non-existent, by design. Scary, I know. Under Maurice, I anticipate a game plan that contemplates offense and defense in all three zones while at even strength for the entire season. This alone should provide a healthy boost in production by the crafty top-9 center.

Second, almost half of Wellwood's points were scored a man, or two, up. Assuming the Leafs, and the league, maintain a similar pace of penalties, in conjunction with Wellwood starting the season on the powerplay, there is reason to believe this figure will increase as well.

Finally, Wellwood himself offers reason to believe,
I really don't remember standing out and being a star in any game or anything like that...I'm going to go into camp with the attitude that I can be more patient with myself
Given Quinn's well known predilection for not giving rookies much of a chance, the pressure to perform was understandable. Without that pressure, and some added confidence with a new two-year one-way deal, Kyle should really start to mature as a play maker. And if Maurice actually gives him steady linemates?

Oh right, so I'm supposed to make an actual prediction after all that rambling. Barring injury, knock on (well)wood, a 50% increase is well(wood) within his capability. So I'll say 23g-49a-72 pts.

UPDATE: Eight days later, Ken Campbell of the Star is thinking Wellwood will put up somewhere in the area of 80 pts. It must be nice to have access to players and the coach so you can ask them questions. Maurice is thinking of slotting Kyle as the second line center flanked by Alexei Ponikarovsky, Nik Antropov, Darcy Tucker, Jeff O'Neill or Alexander Steen. Maurice is also thinking of using Kyle on PP1.

Ken does a good job of extracting some quotes from Kyle ("Playing there, you definitely get a ton of what I call free points."), and gives an update on the Matt Stajan situation ("You can put on all the muscle you want, but if you lose your speed you're not going to be effective. Hopefully I can keep my speed and at the same time, I'll be stronger on my skates and stronger along the boards.")

Ken, it was nice working with you.


The fabled "plan"

Our plan was to put together a club that's more resilient, better at adapting to whatever style that's being played," Ferguson said. "We are going to promote a more up-tempo style but also we need to be better in our zone - collectively. And better through the neutral zone, being a puck-possession team and eliminating turnovers, helping our goaltender see less odd-man rushes, limit chances. And get on people and create troubles in the offensive zone.
and Tucker is kissing some ass
Raycroft was a very astute move by John to find a young guy that was rookie of the year and can have a great career, he's only 26 years old, heck, what else can you ask for

$2.5m, $875k (one way), $901k, one left and Daly

It is official. JFJ really does have a Peca, and I'm glad he does. At first I wasn't sold on the idea of Peca joining the Leafs, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Peca fits the new-NHL mold better than both Lindros and Allison. He also should be a capable cog in Maurice's puck-pressure system. On the production side, Peca leaves something to be desired, but on the defensive side he should handle the opposition's top trio well. And when mis-matched Peca's line should be able to create more offense than you would think.

It'll be interesting to see who Peca is paired up with. Steen perhaps? Though maybe Maurice should spread out the defensively responsible players. I'd like to see Stajan's skating ability used in conjunction with Peca's smarts (even though I like Stajan down the middle). Kilger would be a nice forechecking comrade. UPDATE: Tucker even wants to be on his line.

A prediction to note comes from Howard Berger claiming "I'm convinced the Toronto Maple Leafs have landed one of the gems of the 2006 free agent market." He could be right, because Peca is what usually defines a great free agent; an impact player. His contributions should translate to an overall marked improvement in team play.

JFJ also inked Wellwood to a two year, one-way, $875k average deal. I'm still puzzled about the initial two-way offer. Was it to get Wellwood in to negotiate a two year term? Who knows? Kyle stays up. Good enough.

Carlo accepted his qualifying offer of $900k, though it still appears to be a two-way deal, just like Harrison, Bell, and Newbury. Carlo, Harrison, Bell, White, Woz, and Kronwall will be fighting for two spots on the big club. Matt Stajan remains the only unsigned RFA. As of this writing, the roster is set at $42.8m.

I'm interested to see which Marlie forwards stick with the club. Does Earl, Williams, or Bates make it?

Possible Leaf Lines
(UPDATE:That Simmons is one smart cookie)

excess: Belak, Williams, Earl, Suglobov, Ondrus, Westrum

Possible Leaf Pairs

excess: Woz/Harrison/Bell/Kronwall

And on a somewhat related note (Kulemin) check out the set on Bill Daly and his reported stance on how this will all work out.
Our position is that while we think the transfer agreement is important and beneficial to the sport, if it doesn't get done the players are going to come here anyway.
Damn, son.

UPDATE - David Johnson has a Leafs off-season report up today as well.


Eanie Meany Miney, NO!

Since today's Leafs news is dominated by speculation regarding Lindros (give him $1m and be done with it) and Allison (to play devil's advocate, when he finally got back in shape at the end of the season, he was much more effective at ES. And it is hard to argue with a pt per gm. Still I'd prefer to go in a different direction) I figured I'd throw out some stuff I've had on the backburner for a while.

First, what is Maurice going to do about the shoot-out and Five-on-Five? Admittedly the first cost us the post-season, and the second would've made the post season very very short. Shoot-out drills and instruction better be on the itinerary from the first day of camp until April.

Was surfing YouTube, and someone put up some Carlo hits on Bertuzzi, Svatos, Comrie, and Guerin. This would be a great year for Carlo to be a big contributor.

Oh yeah, I noticed a visitor from Belo Horizonte, Brazil translated this here blog. Ginga Leafs! Ginga! (sorry, I don't know any Portuguese). And Hello to Poland, Spain, Uruguay, Singapore and Czech Republic. Also, greetings to the DoJ (it wasn't me) and Globe&Mail (it was me).

Also, there are some recent additions to Leafblogdom that you should check out. I've updated the roll on the right, but Pension Plan Puppets and LeafClub deserve name drops. Definitely check them out.

Possible Leaf Lines

excess: Bates, Belak, Williams, PECA?

Possible Leaf Pairs

excess: Woz/Harrison/Bell/Kronwall

Raycroft, Aubin, Tellqvist

And just because it is Friday....Party on Wayne! (update: after all of the 'Party On, Garth(Snow)' quips following Long Island's Unsound Shuffle, I feel a bit psychic)

p.s. did you find the secret link in this post?


Luke out of the mix

Well, that's one less mistake-prone veteran defender fighting for a spot on a crowded blue line and potentially stealing ice time from the Marlies D corps. And it only cost us a conditional pick. I'm assuming the condition was making the playoffs, so maybe it didn't cost us a thing.

It shakes out like this. Trade Klee for Suglobov because Klee was leaving at the end of the season as a UFA. Get Richardson for a conditional pick, and then not meet the criterion and essentially get Suglobov for free. Something out of nothing. I'll take it.


Time to digest

Ok. So JFJ moved to shore up the blue line with Kaberle's Czech mate Kubina and hulking Hal Gill, rather than bolster forward corps. I can't say I'm thrilled with the acquisitions or the contracts, but I'm not overly upset either.

Gill is reasonably priced, durable, good for twenty minutes a night, big, and has hopefully adapted to the speed of the game. His size got him in unnecessary penalty trouble last season, so hopefully he can avoid repeating those mistakes. I do remember him playing much better when the buds hosted the Bruins in March and when they went to beantown in April. Overall this is an average signing and ranks a 'Low' on the excitement scale. UPDATE: For an unbiased (or more biased) opinion, SISU of team Zissou quips "Yes, *that* Hal Gill - the guy that moves like an 800lb grizzly bear. Wait... grizzlies are deceptively fast. He moves more like a grizzly that has been hit with a tranquilizer dart, but hasn't thrown in the towel just yet."

Kubina is over-priced at $5m per, but I guess that's what having your name on the Cup gets you. Don't get me wrong, Kubina is a solid player and a former fantasy sleeper but he played through a major funk last year. That stretch could be attributable to the atrocious goaltending the 'Ning were getting, but Kubina was a fantasy bust for most of the season. He scored the second least amount of goals he has in the last seven seasons. And I suspect most of his assists are courtesy of prime ice time on the PP, given his previous A totals. From what I can recall, he isn't the best puck mover either, though it isn't an obvious weakness. Overall, Kubina makes the team better but is getting too much money. UPDATE: To quote a pro-scout "It’s surprising that he received five million per, for four years. Toronto has invested much in its defense."

Hopefully Tomas is excited and these two can become a premier world-class pairing. And if Kubina/Kaberle become something special, this was a great signing, even if it does cost a bit more than it should have. And after all the Kaberle-to-Edmonton talk, this is a solid gesture to repay Kaberle's loyalty and make him one happy Leaf. And I think Kaberle should be the one making more money. Can buds swap contracts? No, but Pavel can buy dinner on the road for an entire season.

Would I have done the same thing? No, I would've went in the opposite direction. Elias definitely. Samsonov perhaps. Maybe even Shanahan. I was leaning towards McKee and Frank Kaberle. Maybe sign Kubina for $4 per and trade some defensive assets for some first line winger. From an internal perspective, getting scoring makes the most sense because of the abundance of young Buds on the blue line. But from a talent availability perspective, i.e. reality, apart from Elias, not much was up for grabs, so there goes my master plan.

But it is only July 5, and the roster is incomplete, with hints of more forwards to be added. So we shall see. Lindros better not be the best option for the first line. Anson Carter is a decent option, but I saw too much of a listless, wait-for-the-other-guy-to-show-some-hustle, floater during his time as a Ranger. And putting the puck in the net and reading the Sedins' isn't rocket-science, so I just hope if he ends up a Leaf he doesn't return to his old habits.

Possible Leaf Lines

Possible Leaf Pairs

Raycroft, Aubin, Tellqvist

P.S. - What I am most eager to see is how Maurice shapes this team and what traits he imprints into their style of play.

P.P.S. - Leave Stajan in the middle. He is twice the player at pivot that he is on the wing.

P.P.P.S. - Maurice is talking about using Belak up front, but the Berg-Belak pairing worked out not too bad last year, so maybe a Gill-Belak pairing could work. Or not. Maybe a Gill-White pair? I don't know where Gill fits in the new NHL or on my team. I think I'm still in denial on this one. Harrison could've done what Gill is going to do.

And the real doozie - Are Kaberle and McCabe going to remain together? And if not, who gets PP1 and who is relegated to PP2? If Kaberle gets the prime time, McCabe and Kubina can pay him under the table.

UPDATE: Antropov doesn't seem to have opted for arbitration.