Raking Leafs

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


Tomas "Clutchosity" Kaberle Returns

TOR vs MTL 10/28/06 - T.M.L. Recap

TOR vs ATL 10/30/06 - T.M.L. Recap

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs


To-Mas! To-Mas! To-Mas! After the last two games, I think it is safe to say that Kaberle's groin issue that kept him out of the pre-season is all healed up. I hope he can keep it up and show the rest of the league-that mocks him as over-exposed because he is a Leaf-that he truly is world-class.

Another story of the past two games has been the return of Antropov. He seems to be working well on the fourth line with Bates and Pohl. I'm not going to pin any hopes on Nik providing more depth, but IF he can stay healthy he should be a solid contributor and maybe push the players above him on the depth chart. A Capitalized and Bolded 'if'.

Speaking of the depth chart, Bates Battaglia is a great addition to this Leafs team. Talk about earning ice time. Bates, your drive is exactly what some of these lackadaisical Leafs need to see.

I'm worried about Peca's hip. He has hobbled off too many times for me not to. Great PK work last night. Those two clears two men down in the second basically decided the game.

Kilger almost had a 'goal of the year' candidate early against Kari 'Peachtree' Lehtonen, as he dove and swung at a rebound early in the first only to be robbed by Kari's glove.

Scary moment last night when Stajan went down at center ice from an knee on knee hit. Stajan is flying right now, and is basically our #2 center. Can't lose him.

I'm wondering about Steen's attitude. He seems to choose the glory play rather than the smart play. Whether it be in his own zone or while shooting and usually not choosing the better option to pass, or going offside, or what have you. Alex, you aren't going to get back to Sundin's wing playing the way you are. How about trying to get Stajan some points? He is your teammate; despite whatever competitive relationship you may have.

Bell is coming along nicely, and ripped a great shot on the rush. I'd like to see him get more minutes with an actual defenseman as a partner, but as long as he sticks with the club, I'll be happy.

Jeff O'Neill actually looked fast last night, scoring on a quick transition turnover. See Jeff, once you get the speed working, you can show off your poise with the puck and shooting ability.

Sundin and Tucker continue to do their job and do it well. But to be honest, I'm scared of over-paying for Tucker. His skill set is that of a young man's repertoire, and though he has been a bargain thus far, with the salary cap, the Leafs can't afford to get him back for all his hard work. Of course, his production this year has been stellar, but he isn't exactly creating a ton of chances, save for Kaberle's second in Montreal. UPDATE - Holy crap, a talking head outside of t.dot giving Darcy Tucker any kind of respect?! Well, if begrudgingly agreeing with Maurice's characterization of him as "an ever-present pain in the ass" is respect, it is a start. Of course, kudos should go 'the Dude' who reasonably considers Tucker's new role of "goal scorer." Silly me thought after last year, Tucker wouldn't still have to be the NHL's Rodney Dangerfield.

Leafs still shouldn't overpay him, though.

And finally, Kyle Wellwood. Nice shoot-out goal, but it is his even strength play that has me worried. He seems frantic on the puck and scared of attracting attention from defenders, which means the defensive scheme teams are employing against him is working. I don't know how to fix it, but it is something to watch. His point last night was awarded for deflecting Mats' shot off his knee, which Tucker eventually stuffed in, so Kyle isn't out of the (well)woods yet despite recording his first point in five games.

In the media today, Simmons picks up an argument I somewhat attempted to make here about a month ago, attempting to dispell the myth that Quinn didn't have a clue when it came to the draft.

Also, I've been getting google alerts lately and today one led me to Protrade PowerRankings which has the Leafs 17th (-6) on 10/30/06 - Be sure to check out Tampa Bay's blurb. And check out CBC Forecaster's look at the rookie crop as well as Mike Chen's piece on the same topic.

Finally, I wanted to draw attention to swami skillz of the mad hockey blogger who predicted the 6W-7L October for the "surprising" Leafs.

UPDATE - If you don't know the story of Terry Sawchuk's unfortunate end, or even if you do and want to tweak your morbid bone, check out Lowetide.


Memo to Personnel - Lame 'motivational poster' slogans

-Skate. Hard. Or get off the ice.
-Own your end of the ice.
-Know where the opposition is at all times.
-Mental mistakes will not be tolerated.
-Take pride in your defense.
-Shoot first, ask questions later.
-Win the first three 50/50 puck battles of each period. I don't care how, just do it.
-6-8 hits delivered per period, preferably in the first and last five minutes of each period. No exceptions, irregardlessibly of the score. (edit: I want a hit every shift until the act of hitting becomes a habit. If ANY player passes up the opportunity to lay the body on the forecheck, they miss a shift.)

I wrote these on Wednesday, but they definitely still apply.

P.S. - WTF is going on with OnTheWings? Nevermind.

Thank you, sir! May I have another?

TOR vs OTT 10/26/06

Leafs Lines

Leaf Pairs


What can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment, or a masochist as one ever-so-obliging ex once noted. And in this regard, this Maple Leafs team sure doesn't disappoint. I'll spare you the nightmarish stats, because I expect a certain level of sophistication of my readership when it comes to all things Leafs. But I will say the worst part of taking up residence in the red light district is that Raycroft is playing quite well. You can't fault the guy when he is being screened or hung out to dry on almost every goal. And at a certain point you have to give credit to the shooter (hat tip to Mr. Corvo and Mr. Spezza). But when Bryan "pay me like the leader I'm not" McCabe is fumbling along the boards for the puck with ZERO pressure and ends up hooking a forechecker to start the game, it doesn't bode well.

And to digress for a moment, if JFJ gives out one more 'no-movement' contract I'll shit myself. On his desk. Do you see another competent GM in the league handing these candy clauses out like it is Halloween? It can be good to think outside the box, but I would think when you give a clause like that, you get to pay the player less. It is called negotiating. ne·go·ti·at·ing. Because honestly, does McCabe look like he is worth his contract, even with his offensive output of last season, when his decisions are so awful? But enough dwelling on mistakes already made.

One positive to take from last night was my girlfriend noting that Leaf-killer Dany Heatley resembles the one and only Alfred E. Nice hat-trick, bub. Why not try it against an entire NHL squad. You call scoring while Belak is back on a two-on-one a real goal. Ha! Go drive Spezza home from the rink.

As for blue and white positives, Bates and Poni played great games, creating chances with hustle and persistence. Maybe Sundin should be playing with these two. Along the same line, Wellwood's game is starting to deteriorate on the wing. Perhaps he needs to be more involved on the other side of the puck to spark his offensive creativity, which has been very predictable since Mats night against the Flames.

So, it's off to Montreal on Saturday, followed by a Monday, Wednesday, Thursday swing through the South East, and finishing up in Buffalo next Saturday. My optimism is limited to hoping for 4 points through those five games.


Week 4 Rankings Round Up

TSN - week 4 - 12th (-3)

CBC - week 4 - 18th (-3) (updated 10/30/06)

CP - week 4 - 12th (---)

CBS - week 4 - 13th (--)

SI - week 4 - 11th (+5)

David Johnson - week 4 - 22nd (-3) (updated 10/30/06)

Sonny Moore - week 4 - 11th (-1)

FOX - week 4 - 10th (---)

USA Today - week 4 - 22th (-8)

Yahoo! - week 4 - Found Romig. Still no rankings

I'm leaning towards USA Today's formula which has the Leafs 24th after last night's 6-2 loss. The Leafs definitely don't look like a top 16 team.


Half Assed

Until I see a Leafs game where they play the heralded 'up tempo' style from the outset to the final buzzer, I won't be writing full game reports.

When it takes Sundin smashing his composite stick on the cross bar in frustration after almost thirty minutes of hockey to get the team going, I'll be putting in half an effort as well.

If the Leafs don't realize their only fighting chance is to take the game to the other team, I'll be lallygagging on my own end too.

When the team realizes their job is to win hockey games, which entails winning three consecutive periods of hockey through effort, intensity, execution, intimidation, responsibility, and not being assured more powerplays than the opposition, I'll think about doing whatever it is I did that attracted readers to come here.

Case and point; Bates Battaglia skated on the first line simply because no one else was working hard enough.

The first period last night was a fucking disgrace.

Arm Chair GMs: Pay Attention

The below is the actual office wall of an Assistant GM of an actual real life MLB team. On the board, each team and all of its players are represented (minor leagues are on another wall), along with position, throwing arm, and other pieces of information that facilitate the identication of team strengths and weaknesses to identify possible trading partners. Pretty hi-tech, eh? Well, it got said team to the post-season.


You mean we have to play an entire 60 minutes?

TOR vs COL 10/18/06

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs


After blazing out of the gates and taking an early lead on a beauty team work goal (I don't care what the official score sheet says) from the seldom producing fourth line courtesy of Belak board work, a Pohl pass, and a Bates blast to the top corner, the Leafs disappeared. Literally. Well, that isn't possible, but last night might be what you'd expect if it was.

Defensive zone play was horrible. Play smart, stupids! For a "veteran", Gill made the rookiest of mistakes when he rushed out to check the puck along the boards deep in his zone, only for the puck to change directions and find its way onto Liles' stick and past Raycroft. Holy crap was that play bad. The broadcast even picked up a "Nice play, Hal!" from the crowd.

Raycroft kept this game closer than it should've been. I lost track of how many amazing saves he made. My faith in his abilities grows with each game. Each good scoring chance is becoming less and less of a 50/50 proposition.

The team defense is trending in the opposite direction. Kubina can't come back fast enough. Did Bell start the exhibition with Kubina? I'd like to see how that works. Sorry to say it, but Harrison isn't looking too good. He acquitted himself much better last season.

Peca drew a couple of cheap penalties last night, skating over an Avs' stick and getting the tripping call. I believe the term is veteran savvy.

I think Steen idolized Forsberg as a kid, because he is delivering big hits in situations he should be absorbing them. I love this kid on the fore-check. UPDATE - I just noticed on TSN IceChips that Maurice might change Steen's role on the team. Intrigued? I am. Maurice also hinted at mixing up the D pairs. Ku-bin-a and Ka-ber-le (sing it to 'Ebony and Ivory')

Stajan played a solid game. Consistency isn't there yet, but it is coming along. I'm thinking Steen needs to join the young guns line, and move O'Neill to Peca's wing. Those two lines, while effective in a "not giving up much" sort of way, are lacking in chemistry. When chances are generated, it isn't the defense doing to the stopping, if you catch my drift.

Wellwood pissed me off all game. For all the talk about not focusing on simply getting Mats the puck, that is all Kyle did on the rush the entire game. Kyle, you don't want a memo in your mail slot.

For the Avs, all I have to say is Svatos is a little bitch. That dive when Gill was about to check him; L-A-M-E. Watch out for him.

raking note - I won't be blogging this weekend's games.


Week 3 Rankings Round Up

TSN - week 3 - 9th (+10)

CBC - week 2 - 15th ( +3) (seems to be updating on Fridays)

CBS - week 3 - 13th (+8)

SI - week 3 - 16th (+8)

Sonny Moore - week 3 - 10th (+3)

FOX - week 3 - 10th (+10)

USA Today - week 3 - 14th (---)

Yahoo! - week 3 - Found Romig. Still no rankings

UPDATE - Sportfilter's Skydivedad put together Rankings (16th) for the first three weeks of the season. A little early with the coach of the year talk, but I have to admit, the same thought has already crossed my mind. Looking forward to November's rankings.



Non Stat(us) Quo

First of all, I want to thank Chris Young over at JABS for picking up on a passing comment I made about Wellwood's ability to draw penalties, and expanding on that thought. Leave it to a pro to show a novice how it's done. Following up on this, I tracked the game on Saturday (as did ESPN apparently. I really have to give ESPN another chance since I wrote them off for dropping the NHL), but the numbers weren't too telling; both Poni and Tucker drew two calls.

I think some interesting names will fill out the top of the penalties drawn leader board on the Leafs and the League. As Tom Benjamin notes, perhaps the League doesn't want these stats made public. Tom also wants to know whether the ensuing powerplay results in a goal. This would fill in the picture of the infractor; quantifying the concept of 'costly penalties'.

Along the same lines, an article in the Denver Post suggests new Wild director of hockey operations, and luckiest young sports fan in the world Chris Snow, intends to track ten new statistics to determine their value. In particular, he is interested in tracking first and second assists.
Maybe there is a player who, say, has 85 points, but 50 of them were second assists, and vice versa," Snow said. "Did that player really have much impact with the goal that scored, or did he just touch the puck and the guy with the first assist did all the work?
GM Risebrough somehow wants to apply quality to the hits stat.
That's one stat, for example, I've been frustrated by," Risebrough said. "I don't think that stat has been very accurate. You'll see some guy credited with a lot of hits, who you know isn't a very physical player. So maybe the question should be: What kind of a hit was it? Did it have a big impact at a particular time of the game? Those are the kinds of things, in hockey, that are harder to quantify but maybe with more analysis, we can gain something from it.
I'm curious to see what other stats Snow will be tracking, and if penalties drawn is one of them. For my money, that definitely illustrates an individual's value to the team.


UPDATE - Eric McErlain's first effort at NBCSports.com picks up on this idea of stats that can reveal individual player value beyond the status quo.

UPDATE 2 - I know I'm not the first person to realize the value of penalties drawn, but it felt pretty good to be at the root of posts from three of my favorite bloggers.

And I wanted to brag on the Leafs for their Shots Per Game average leading the League so far this season with 38.8%.


Ma Bell, I got the Ill Communication

TOR vs CAL 10/14/06

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs


I used to really enjoy how the Calgary Flames played the game. Their tenacious forechecking style put teams on their heels and fear in their minds. But the Flames peeked in the twilight of the clutch and grab era, and seem to be clinging to the same formula. A disappointing season is very possible, as other teams tweak their systems for more offensive output. I feel for Flames fans, because the Leafs had blinders on last year as well, and installing Playfair doesn't seem to be enough of a change of direction. Regardless, the Flames fought back valiantly from a penalty plagued performance in the first period to take the game to overtime. But it was to be the Leafs' captain's night.

Mats "GWG" Sundin netted career goals 498, 499, and 500, with the milestone marker coming in overtime while a man down. It was a treat to watch his curtain call when he skated out for the first star announcement, and a shame that during Satelitte Hotstove it was suggested Mats be dealt at the deadline for assets if the Leafs are out of a playoff spot. Sundin should never don another sweater.

His first came on the powerplay, as McCabe delivered the biscuit off a fake slapper-pass, something I hope Bryan continues to do. With Bryan drawing extra attention on the PP, he needs to dump to the open man. It is a basic tenet of any space-creating game, one I learned playing field lacrosse. The second came late in a period, something the Leafs were often a victim of last season, restoring a one goal lead. The third was an allegory for his time with the Leafs; unassisted gamewinner.

Tucker scored from his office on the powerplay from Wellwood. He should've had another from Wellwood, but Darcy was a step behind a brilliant feed from Kyle as the diminutive converted winger cut across the goal to the right and passed back against the grain through a defender's legs. Tucker sparked the team early with a questionable hit on Yelle, despite being penalized, and by drawing a penalty shortly thereafter. I sure hope JFJ can re-sign Tucker. It would be shame to lose all that he can bring to a game.

Steen opened his account with sticktoitiveness, batting the puck into the net while on his knees in the crease with a defender draped on his back. With Poni, Steen and Stajan starting to roll, O'Neill progressing, and with Tucker and Kilger producing as well, the next facet that needs to click is defensive production.

During Coaches Corner Don Cherry (clip) really opened my eyes to the travesty of Lidstrom winning The Norris Trophy last year, while "The Dion" wasn't even nominated, with the highlight coming in the comparative hit stats graphic. Dion, you're my pick this year, unless someone else steps up. You deserve it, even if you have a let down this year.

Cassie Campbell was great in her color debut on HNIC. Her situational commentary was excellent and impartial. Hopefully she will get another chance to show her broadcasting chops soon.

But, the highlight for me, and the reason for the above title before Sundin demanded the attention, was the play of Brendan "Ma" Bell. Despite the fact he finished the night -1, he displayed quick feet and a simple straight forward game. I wish I had seen him during exhibition play or with the Marlies last year. He would be an excellent 5/6 blueliner on this squad, perhaps even supplanting Gill on the second pair with White, his old Marlies partner. I'm eager to see how his play evolves over the next few games.


The hat is on track

I just wanted to say I agree with Duhatschek on his scoring scheme laid out in his Friday the 13th article "Wild about Jacques."

His is worded like this:

With so many games being decided in extra time, it creates a scenario where some games are worth two points in the standings and others three. For consistency's sake — and to create an extra incentive to break those ties in regulation — wouldn't it make more sense to award three points for a victory in regulation; two points for an overtime/shootout win; one point for an overtime/shootout loss; and zero points for a regulation loss? As revolutionary a tweak in the scoring as that would be, it would provide consistency from game to game and night to night...

and this is mine:

So, I'm back to 3 pts for a REG win, 2 pts for an OT or SO win. 1 pt for not losing in regulation.

All the traditionalists out there can thank the owner-induced lockout and alternative sports entertainment such as the English Premier League for the idea.

Just imagine the standings, and how teams that win in regulation can leap frog over divisional opponents who need extra time to get the job done. Take a look at the EPL standings to get an idea. Top teams will really be "top" teams, while middling squads will be where they are supposed to be.

Kesler Karma

Ryan Kesler needs to find wikipedia and a memory bank.


TOR vs NJD 10/12/06

-Went to the game. Leafs didn't start playing until after they were scored on. Aubin was rusty. Stajan was on fire. Apparently O'Neill can still shoot. Who knew? Peca was sluggish. Suglobov on the top line was not a good idea. Third period was atrocious. I felt like I was sucked into a timewarp.

-Leafs got one powerplay opportunity and suffered numerous bullshit calls against them. Home opener anyone?

-If Maurice is comfortable with Belak on D, play him more. Kaberle and McCabe can't log the minutes they did last year in the new up-tempo scheme. Kaberle looked gassed on several occasions, and was made to look foolish deep in the corner late in the third. And I don't blame Tomas.

-White needs to move the puck on transition turn overs a beat sooner; teams are keying on him and his limited reach makes him vulnerable. This led to a goal, and almost did against the Panthers.

-Poni and Stajan are a pair. Nice tinkering. Those two are a force at even strength. Keep them together please.

-I'm tired and pissed off. I'll re-watch the game and give a better effort at a recap/analysis. But I'm heading to another Mets game tomorrow, so it won't be posted until the weekend.

-6-3 going into the third. I still can't believe it.


MSM Slacking - Power Rankings not updated by Tues/Wed

TSN - week 2 - ___

CBC - week 2 - 15th ( +3)

CBS - week 2 - 21st (+2)

SI - week 2 - 24th (-1)

Sonny Moore - week 2 - 13th (+15)

HockeyAnalysis - week 2 - N/A

FOX - week 2 - 20th (---)

Yahoo! - week 2 - Romig where are you?

CBS and SI get the scratch-n-sniff stickers this week.



Auld Stingy as Leafs Hunt Panthers

TOR vs FLA - 10/09/06

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs


It's getting tough to find glaring fault with this team that Maurice has formed and JFJ has put together. Last night was a dominating performance against a very deep Florida Panthers squad. Auld, and the horse-shoe somewhere in his nether regions, was the only reason this game wasn't the Leafs to lose after the first and not a blow out after the second. And after getting frustrated for 50 minutes, the team tied it up and finished it off via their nemesis; the shootout. By the way, that makes Sundin three for three in taking the puck in alone from center, a huge improvement from last year.

Eddie didn't get the start for the visitors, but I'm sure he had alot of inside tips for Auld on Leafs' shooter tendencies. Gary almost deflated his former team with a last ditch effort with a couple of seconds remaining in the middle frame, but just missed connecting on a re-direct off a rush. Joe didn't repeat his performance of when he last played at the ACC. I didn't see the play where he got hurt, so I'll just assume it is his wonky back.

I have a hunch Ric Jackman carries a big grudge for being let go for, of all people, Drake Berehowsky. He annihilated O'Neill in the first with a clean hit, and then left his feet for a hit on...I think Kilger, which earned him two minutes. Maybe if we ask nicely, he'll come back now that Kubina appears to be out for a while. Riiight. But I'm hoping Bell will be back.

So far this year, the Leafs are reminding me of Leafs' opponents of last season, as they continue to draw penalties with even strength speed and pressure. Sure Sundin drew calls last year, but not too many others did with any regularity. How many penalties has Wellwood alone drawn with his speed and puck handling on the rush going directly at defenders? I'm thinking at least one per game, maybe more. If he keeps this up, and getting over 24 minutes TOI I think he might, along with producing points, that is two huge weapons from a player of, how did Cox put it, "uncertain capabilities," or some such shit. My girlfriend could see the pedigree on Wellwood's GTG, noting the slight hesitation as he came down on the puck, getting Auld to go down early and providing himself a better angle.

Steen is really coming around after a sluggish camp, preseason and first couple of games. He pulled a sick stop/pivot move early in the second that I'd like to see again. And he showed good chemistry with Stajan later when the two almost combined for a beauty goal. This is a pair that should see more ice time together.

Ian White again demonstrated he knows when to hold em, and knows when to rifle the puck. In one short sequence he let loose three shots in quick succession because he knew there was good traffic in front of Auld. Good stuff. I hope he can withstand the targeting he is receiving from opposing teams. Gill provided a little moral support after Gratton boarded White. Maybe Ian can teach Kaberle to look at the goal when deciding whether to shoot, as Tomas gave up the chance to shoot when Auld had no idea where the puck was after a strange bounce off the end boards, and decided to make a pass, great as it was, to Tucker at the side of the net where Auld just happened to be standing. If Kaberle had shoot anywhere on the left half of the net, there was nobody there to stop the puck. Oh well. He did have a nice three touch pass sequence with Sundin on the powerplay where he ended up shooting. I've imagined that play before with McCabe and Kaberle, but McCabe's return feeds leave something to be desired. Bryan should really work on faking the slapper to pass motion.

UPDATE - On a fantasy hockey tip, snatch up Kopitar if he is still available in your pool. Yes, he is an obvious choice with 2g 3a in 2 games, but it is his TOI that is really impressive. A rookie forward averaging over twenty minutes a game is on par with the Crosbys and Ovechkins of the world. Also, his first goal came while walking around Chris Pronger from the right wing, making it look easy. His second came by forcing Neidermayer into no mans land and shooting, deflecting the puck off Beauchemin on the Ducks' goal. Two goals while two of the best are defending him = No brainer.

Shootout, Bloody Shootout

TOR vs MTL 10/07/06

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs


So far, not so good. The Leafs fail to defend a lead heading into the third, and wind up on the crappy end of another shootout.

The Leafs seemed to have the edge as their effort might be surprising teams. This aggressive play is translating into more shots, as they continue to fire the puck. But as you can tell from who Maurice had on the ice to start the game, defense must come first when playing against the crafty Hab counter-attack. Just ask the Bruins, the Habs can sleep on you and still take your money.

But even the heady Habs had trouble with the Maple Leaf powerplay that was circulating bodies and the puck with jaw-dropping speed and accuracy. If the Leafs can add yet another wrinkle to their powerplay of constant movement, could their powerplay be even better than last year? Its possible. For Montreal, their powerplay looked pretty good. Markov's pass was perfectly measured for Souray to blast the puck perpendicular to the goal line. Not that he needs it, but the shorter route takes that much less time to get by the goalie. Watch for that set next time we play Montreal.

As for individuals; Woz went down. Steen seems to be finding his game. Mike permafrost Johnson scored the GTG for the Habs. Kaberle continues to shoot. Sundin scored on a penalty shot again. Get used to the phrase "Wellwood to Tucker." Raycroft again was solid. Matt Stajan opened his 06-07 account, and continues to be put in key situations. Kaberle and McCabe played monster minutes with 32+minutes each, which is something I was hoping Maurice wasn't going to do.

I'll take the point, but it should've been two.

UPDATE - And for RealityCheck's sake, I should openly concede that I possibly might've maybe under-estimated the Habs chances this season. They appear to be a very solid squad. My comments about Habs D injuries seems to have angered the Hockey Gods. Never a good thing early in the season.


Leafs feast on Gerber, Sens

How 'bout them mighty Sens? And their FA goalie...with his eyes closed.

more later...

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs


UPDATE 10/09/06
- I guess it's later. There isn't much left to be said about this game. Gerber stealing the game was the official story of the first match-up, but I thought the Leafs' shooters made Gerber look good. The second game, the Leafs' shooters exposed Gerber as someone who gives up softies. But this isn't a Sens' blog, so let's talk about the good guys.

Kilger is picking up right where he left off. Some media types are calling him unheralded, but I'll let it slide...or does posting every reference to Chad constitute 'letting it slide'?

Bates Battaglia. This is exactly the kind of effort O'Neill should be giving. Maurice brought Bates in for a specific role, and Bates is executing. Keep it up.

Ian White makes Gill's puck-handling skills seems less nerve-rattling. Sometimes, I think he'd make a great forward. The Sens definitely were targetting the rookie blue-liner, and got a few good licks in, but all that did was fire him up to walk right by some checker and waltz in looking for a pass or shot. This one play demonstrated tremendous patience with the puck, and I'll be looking for more of the same.

Woz - this is being written after the Montreal game - please hurt yourself so Harrison can step in.

Pavel Kubina is starting to win me over with his strong play in the Leaf zone, as well as his odd offensive foray. I'm not sure he is worth the money, yet, but he is on his way to acquitting himself of the naysayers.

Wellwood had a so-so game.

Tucker was back from whereever he was on opening night.

O'Neill is still not impressing me, but he did make a couple of checks and fire three pucks on net, and moved up a line during the game for a change(with Stajan and Tucker), so he is progressing in the right direction.

I think Leaf fans need to convey a huge 'Thank You' to Mike Peca for signing this summer. Finally, a player you can actually see defensively read the play and make the right play for the puck. He'll be having a very solid year if he manages to stay healthy.

Mats continued his strong play. His feed to Poni, though nothing spectacular, was exactly where it needed to be.

Poni might have to slide back to the 2nd or 3rd line and let Tucker skate with Sundin and Wellwood. I'm a huge Poni fan, but his asset is skating full speed and putting pressure on a dumped puck. He might be better suited with Stajan and Bates.

I still have faith in Pohl. He is getting limited opportunities at the moment with less-skilled linemates, so I think he is still trying to adjust. I thought he had good finish in his seven games last year, and didn't see much play-making ability. I hope that isn't what is expected of him now.

Oh, and on a team note - keep those sticks in the passing lanes! I haven't seen so many easily intercepted passes from a Leafs team in for-like-ever dude.


Go check out the snarky oddsnark's season preview. Apparently the Leafs are "rebuilding."

The Hockey Gods are smiling down on someone over at Center Ice. The "We'll be right back/Good Night!" music has been changed. No longer will I wake up on the couch, having fallen asleep trying to watch West coast games during the week, and be startled by the heavy rock berating my head. Funk it up, as I always say. UPDATE : David Singer over at the excellent Ice Block agrees.


Power Rankings Round Up

TSN - week 1 -19th

CBC - week 1 - 18th

CBS - week 1 - 23rd

SI - week 1 - 23rd

Sonny Moore - week 1 - 28th

HockeyAnalysis - week 1 - not up yet, though a Player Ranking system was mentioned as a new feature.

FOX - week 1 - not up yet.

Yahoo! - week 1 - Romig where are you?

looking up the old Ranking Round Up posts, I found this that made me chuckle:

No matter who you have starting, sit them against the Senators.(1:1) It ain't worth the +/- set back you'll suffer. Or the GAA influx for your goal-tender.(1:2) Whoever on your team, or on the waiver wire, is playing the Blue Jackets, (pick them up and) play them.(1:3) Even your scrub defenseman who has been in a slump.(1:4) And any Redwing who has decent ice time. (1:5) Those lucky bastards get to play that "franchise" eight times this year. After today, you still have 6 more chances.(1:6)

Be not afraid to try your luck on a rookie.(2:1) Half of the league point leaders are rookies.(2:2) And look beyond Crosby, Ovechkin, Vanek and Phaneuf; there are plenty of other youthful contributors.(2:3) Be very afraid of former stars whose career is on the decline and did not play competitive hockey last year.(2:4) Their groins should be afraid as well.(2:5) Especially stupid, over-confident goalies that didn't play last year.(2:6) And over-the-hill player/owners.(2:7)

The game is faster.(3:1) Puck movement has been liberalized.(3:2) Wear facial protection if you want to help your team.(3:3) Unless you're Eric Boulton. Then don't wear any protective equipment whatsoever.(3:4) Scoring is up.(3:5) Players are not afraid of the crease.(3:6) Call the rule book.(3:7)

That's my word.


Can we get a do-over?

10/04/06 TOR vs. OTT

I'm having trouble coming up with how to start this post.

The game started well, but it was all downhill from Poni getting stoned all alone in the slot. The powerplay was a dud, though Wellwood filled in just fine for Allison. Mike Fisher should be a Maple Leaf. Neil embarassed Gill. I was getting a drink for the Schubert wrap around. So was Raycroft. Sundin's penalty shot should've been a tripping call - he got the shot off, but his legs were taken out, which is the only call Domi got right last night. And Alfredo selfishly scored into the empty net; nice captain the Sens have there.

So many disappointments - Gill; get used to the phrase "can't turn and go." McCabe; the blue-line turnstile. Holy crap did he get too much money! Woz; makes me nervous whenever he has the puck. Where is steady Harry?!. O'Neill; see below. Steen; What? Are you upset you aren't the chosen one (Sundin's rookie winger) anymore? Grow up already! Tucker; You call that leading by example?

So few bright spots - Sundin; dictionary definition of one-man show. Wellwood; still feeling out the wing, seems hesitant to look for his shot, which is why I think Sundin elected to shoot on the only clear two-on-one in the game for the Leafs; he didn't want to get a return pass. Kaberle; if Tomas wasn't here, it would look ten times worse. Peca; finally a consistent thinking-man's player out there. Pohl; keep at it, Johnny, it will come. Battaglia; if he keeps skating and hitting like that, Bates will be this year's Chad Kilger. Raycoft; not bad considering the sieve in front of him.

Very different coaching style - Lines were changing every time they came over the boards. Apart from Poni-Sundin-Wellwood, every different combination was deployed. Peca skated with Kilger and Battaglia. Pohl skated with Kilger and Sugar. Stajan shared time with Battaglia and Kilger. Tucker and Steen floated on the right side amongst these three lines, with O'Neill getting the odd shift.

Coach not up to speed yet - Needs to learn his player's personalities and the team personality in general so he can spark them. Seemed a bit like an akward dance at times last night; not making the right step at the right time. Needs to study up on division teams' tendencies. Defensive zone not much better than last year. Maurice has a TON of work to do. Tempo, while good, can't be sustained at the moment.

The need to cut the dead weight - O'Neill has to go. He thinks he's entitled to stay in the NHL. Times have changed, bub. You had your free-ride last season. Put-up or shut-up and accept your...I'll put it nicely...conditioning stint with the Marlies. Explore all the options you want, Jeff, but right now I'm not sure you'd make the Marlies squad!

And if Harrison is placed on waivers, and consequently snatched up by anyone, and Wozniewski stays, as this Koshan article suggests, count me in on the JFJ lynch mob (I know its only one game, but the Leafs have to represent). I don't know if I can stand losing another Jason Smith type player. Woz is more "proto-typical" but he ain't any good under pressure. At least, I haven't seen it yet.

More of the same tonight, and for many nights after that. Nice summary of what is to come, courtesy the MadHockeyBlogger.

I'll be at the Mets game tonight, so I won't have anything posted until I can watch the recording from Ottawa.


When was that?

Lou Lamoriello has been re-crowned Geniusest GM of NHL land. All hail Lou and his nimble side-stepping of the salary cap. And to the letter of the CBA, there is nothing to complain about. But if a clause that wasn't fully fleshed out, though its intent is crystal clear, allows Lou to slip his self-woven salary noose, then count me out of the cheering section.

Swapping Malakhov for Korolyuk isn't a problem, in my mind. The transaction put on show Lou's resourcefulness and flexibility. Trade one salary for another, while getting emergency call-up depth costing a first rounder as payment for the accommodation. Fine. The Sharks get a pick for dealing with the Devil.

What I have a problem with is Mogilny's contract getting wiped. Not that I would argue with an independent medical evaluation and its mountain stream purity. Nor would I argue with the fact that Mogilny's hip prevents him from playing in the NHL. Understood; Mogilny has a bum hip. I'm a huge fan of AlMo, but his physical abilities diminished beyond the point of utility while in the Blue & White. When exactly did Mogilny's ailment become "long term"?

The problem is that his hip prevented him from playing in the NHL last year too. Which raises the sarcastic question; Does Lou have to pay Alex for last year? Not to mention Mogilny's hip prevented him from being re-signed by the Maple Leafs after the 03-04 season. And if you accept the above statements as true, somehow Mogilny's hip didn't prevent Lou from offering him a $7 m contract.

The CBA directly addresses signing aging stars and is very explicit, if lacking in thoroughness, when dealing with the issue of those salaries applying to the salary cap. Player retires, counts against the cap. Play in the minors, counts against the cap. Get signed while injured and unable to play, GM gets out of jail free.

I guess the drafters of the CBA didn't think to include a "sentimental GM overpays for damaged goods" exclusion. Lou should be thanking his lucky stars, or Bettman or some over-worked and under-paid CBA proof-reader, because his biggest GM boo-boo just went bye-bye despite the intentions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

And let me just clarify that if it can be proven that Mogilny's long term injury somehow became long term while under contract with the Devils, rather than the condition existing prior to Lou signing Mogilny, I take everything back...and Lou is the geniusest.