Raking Leafs

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

10/15/2006

Ma Bell, I got the Ill Communication

TOR vs CAL 10/14/06



Leaf Lines
Poni-Stajan-O'Neill
Tucker-Sundin-Wellwood
Kilger-Pohl-Steen
Bates-Suglobov-Belak

Leaf Pairs
Kaberle-McCabe
Gill-White
Bell-Harrison

Raycroft


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.

9 Comments:

  • At 2:21 PM, Blogger Zanstorm said…

    ..phone is ringing...oh my god...

    Love the Beasties!

    I agree with you on all fronts here. Tucker is so valuable, and is proving it even more this year.

    I still gotta tip my hat to the Leafs' drafting abilities. Here I thought they had lost all their young talent due to acquiring big money stars at the trade deadlines, but they still have guys like Bell, Colaiacovo, Wellwood, White, etc, who all look great out there. I am impressed.

    What a night for the Leafs and Sundin on Saturday! That was one of the better regular season games that I've seen in a long time.

     
  • At 2:40 PM, Blogger ninja said…

    Good point. The 2001 draft was awesome in hindsight; Carlo, Pilar, Bell, Harrison, Wellwood. 2002 wasn't shabby either with Steen, Stajan, White, Immonen & Kronvall.

     
  • At 4:24 PM, Blogger laura said…

    I thought Cassie was awesome- especially the situational commentary. And it was great to hear a woman's voice in a man's environ.

     
  • At 1:04 AM, Blogger reality check said…

    What drafting abilities? Gimme a break! Other than Wellwood, Stajan, and Steen, the remaining names mentioned are projects at best and only figure into the Leafs lineup due to injury. Though they are showing some promise, it is damn early into the season to get excited about Ian White and Jay Harrison.

    The Leafs are playing more inspired hockey for now, but have met few opponants who are in full stride. They have let in 10 goals in the past two games. Let them get 20 under their belt before making pronounciations of this magnitude. Yikes.

     
  • At 11:30 AM, Blogger ninja said…

    RC, the Leafs scouting department is vastly improved and is now recognized as a vital component to team success. Admittedly, this has only been in the last few years, but the '01 and '02 drafts have yielded several NHL-quality players, and a major reason why they play because of injury is because those two drafts loaded up on D men. And depth through the draft is never a bad thing.

    And don't forget; Kaberle was 204th overall. Even when the draft wasn't a priority, the Leafs still landed an all-world talent.

     
  • At 1:45 PM, Blogger reality check said…

    I disagree! When you draft a player of Kaberle's quality 204th overall and he pans out, it isn't good drafting, it's just dumb luck. When 30 teams pass on a player seven times over, you can hardly call the team choosing him shrewd. Late bloomers are in every draft, from Robitaille to Ryder. It's when a team jumps up and takes a major flyer on a player, who's far from a sure thing in the opinion of many, in an early round and he blooms that you can quality drafting smarts.

    Going back to 2002, other than Steen and Stajan that year, the Leafs have little to show. Their scouting department is now run by the Craig Button, the same guy who let Marc Savard, J.S. Giguere, and Martin St. Louis get away from under him in Calgary for peanuts.
    GM Ferguson was in charge of the Blues accounting for their last place finish a year ago. I wouldn't exactly be confident in that duo, especially after they let Rask go to the Bruins for a goalie who they could have picked up off waivers.

    By comparison, the Habs have 21 players from those 4 drafts in their system, 17 currently playing for Hamilton. Half of the players on the farm have return value and are under 2 or 3 year deals. Of those, 4 could be pencilled in on any given night without looking out of place.

    Hopefully Toronto realizes the value of it's system soon. The reason they have been so thin in prospects and light on scouting talent is that they have traded most of their picks away for years. Seven times in the last 14 years, they have had no 1st round picks and often no second. I wouldn't go applauding them so quickly into the season, so much can change drastically, and these so called promising players could fritter away like so many before them.

     
  • At 2:38 PM, Blogger ninja said…

    RC, well said.

    But JFJ was asst GM in St.Louis, and has little to do with where the Blues are now. That is an ownership issue more than anything else, driven by a desire to maintain a meaningless streak of making the play-offs.

    Button let Savard and St.Louis go because they weren't panning out under the system the Flames were operating under, not to mention the entire league. Small and quick wasn't the recipe for success. It was the recipe to the infirmary. I got nothing on Jiggy, though.

    But you can't criticize trading Rask when it was JFJ who was in charge when he was drafted. And Raycroft on waivers? That is not even close to true. O'Connell was already gone by that point. Not to mention JFJ drafting Pogge, and this year's Tlusty. But I'm not going to regurgitate Berger's post from yesterday.

    And I'm not going to argue about the definition of good drafting, as the only measuring stick that matters is if the prospect ends up a NHLer. But I'll ask you this; if getting Kaberle at 204 isn't good drafting, what would you call picking Datsyuk (171) and Zetterberg (210) in the late rounds?

    Admittedly the Leafs are early on in re-stocking their cupboard from years of care-free donations to the rest of the league. But comparing it to the Habs' system doesn't denote failure on the Leafs' part. Shit, if the Leafs were anywhere close to the Habs' system depth, I'd send my condolences.

     
  • At 4:04 PM, Blogger reality check said…

    Drafting Kaberle was pure luck. If the twelve picks made before him all panned out, then obviously they were onto something. All 12 crapped out. So you're saying the scouts got wise ten rounds into the draft - that's ridiculous. Whichever scout, and there are many in an organization, discovered and scouted Kaberle must be commended. To say the Leafs drafted well is nuts. The draft was a failure in '96 and they were just lucky to get him. Same as the Habs with Ryder, the Wings with Zetterberg and Datsyuk, and the Kings with Robitaille, if the teams thought so much of them, they'd have been taken way higher. After two rounds, it's practically a crapshoot anyways. Some teams have the habit of getting lucky more often as they scout deeper and longer. Ottawa built their team up looking at players over 20, and the Devils found success in Rafalski and Madden the same way.

    As for JFJ's tenure in St.Lou he was in charge of overseeing the scouting department. That was the major bragging point when he was brought to the Leafs, he was astute iand knowledgable of all hockey ranks. Take it for what it's worth - where's his Ace?

    Regarding this beauty - "If the Leafs were anywhere close to the Habs' system depth, I'd send my condolences", I'm lost for words. All I can say is that during the rookie tournament held in Toronto prior to training camp, the so called baby Leafs beat the Habs in both games by one goal. The average age of the Canadiens participants were a full two years younger. Only six players having played with hamilton Bulldogs were in the lineup. The Leafs sent the Marlies - it's everything they have. The Habs have 8 signed prospects playing on other AHL teams and some scattered throughout the ECHL. Your sympathy card ought to go to Ottawa, if not back to yourself. The Sens could not put a team in the tourney, they didn't have enough North American prospects signed to ice a team.

    You can't say that the Leafs are "early on restocking their cupboard" and then say the Habs picks don't measure. Maybe you've benn dining on Kraft Dinner too long to recognize real meat!

     
  • At 4:44 PM, Blogger ninja said…

    I'm not saying the Habs picks don't measure. They've been re-stocking, slowly building from within for years. The two teams aren't comparable in this regard. Or in other words, the Habs are way ahead of the Leafs when it comes to drafting and developing talent.

    The Leafs do however have a percieved accelerated development effect occuring, simply because prospects were kept off the big buds because of all the aging stars that played. Now they are getting their chance, and proving they belong.

    Regarding Kaberle, I completely disagree. He was chosen because his attributes fell outside the paradigm for an NHL defender. Too small was the reason he fell so far. Same thing with the Wings' pair. Drafting "outside the box" wouldn't qualify as pure luck in my books.

     

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