Raking Leafs

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


Japers' nails the 3

Following up on a post from last week, I found Japers' has written an excellent post on amending the NHL points system. I particularly like the idea of giving the full 3 points to a team that wins in a 5-on-5 10 minute overtime period, as the game being played at that point is still hockey. Once it goes to a shoot-out, the full 3 points can't be given to just one team, as it should be, but the losing team still gets something for playing 70 minutes of even hockey.

Second Thought - Though, I think a team should earn atleast a point for making it through regulation tied, so I'm not sure how I feel about the 3 points for an OT win anymore. (that took all of 20 minutes) 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.


Leafs earn a win

TOR vs CAR 03/21/06

Leaf Lines
Poni-Antro-Suglobov (19)

Leaf Pairs
Berg-Luke (or Luke-Berg, which I like the sound of, but isn't positionally relative)

Notes - O'Neill was running the stairs before the game, and it looked like it might have worked. His forecheck was on time as he laid the body early and often. He was jumping into the play and should've buried a beautiful chance set up by a backhand pass from Sundin, after he noodled his way around one and then drew the second defender. He even won the puck a few times along the boards. For that, he earned two points. Maybe the old man just needs to warm his engine before goes out for a drive? Maybe he doesn't want to remember playing like an oaf during most of his possibly last season in the NHL? And maybe he wants to keep his job?

Tellqvist was sharp for most of the game, but was also fortunate, as he lost sight of the puck on several occasions to the point of spinning wildly during sustained pressure by the 'Canes in the third.

Brendan Bell had a solid NHL debut, skating 14:00, and contributing from the blue line on an early fore-check by Stajan, Wellwood, and Ondrus. Khavanov and Bell did have one shaky shift when they were pinned in the zone, but the duo escaped the situation with no damage done. Apart from a breakout pass or two, Bell was steady and not trying to impress, something I like in a rookie defender.

Suglobov made his Maple Leaf debut tonight displaying wheels and hands that could be useful. He did have one awful shift on which he turned the puck over on consecutive posessions with a drop pass. But, seriously, what am I worried about? The Leafs frequently turn the puck over just as they enter the offensive zone, slowing to make some low percentage nifty pass. I have to admit there is some definite potential in the trio of Poni,Antro and Aleksander, as they generated a solid scoring chance early in the game, but until they learn eachother the line could be a liability. Antropov hasn't played alot of pivot this season, and Poni hasn't been himself the last two or three weeks, so maybe I'm being harsh on the newby. Hopefully Maurice can straighten Suglobov out quickly.

UPDATE - JABS makes a good point about Wellwood's unsung heroics last night. He makes another good point. Domi who? Put him behind bench if you have to, just keep him off the ice. Unless he starts running the stairs with O'Neill, then he can stay.

And to all those Allison bashers...Shut up! We have first line centers A and B, so let's not complain about the wealth. Allison hadn't played NHL hockey in like a decade because of his whiplash issue, but now that he has found his stride he can be added to the list of good moves by Ferguson. And is it just me, or have Jason and Mats come to an understanding regarding ice-time and leadership and all that machismo crap that is a pain in the ass but is also the reason they are good players? I'm not talking locker room feud, but there seemed to be a coldness between the two for most of the season when both were playing, but they definitely seem more on the same page of late.

And let me just say that the team has been performing at a level recently that is pleasing to this fan and many others. This morphing into a decent team makes me wonder where this type of effort was for months at a time, but it also lessens my concern for the future of the franchise.

And Quinn finally embracing the youth movement beyond the resentful roster spots for Steen and Wellwood? Pat, thank you. And you can thank Maurice.

Strachan and the Classics

...the Leafs are a team trying to convince its fans that making the playoffs and getting drubbed in the first round is a wonderful feat, a heroic achievement of mythic proportion, ranking up there with the labours of Hercules. Then again, if mythical allusions are to be used to explain the way the Leafs have handled this season, perhaps references to Leda and a swan might be more appropriate.
Did Al just say the Leafs are fucked? I think he did. 500 points to team Strachan.

Weekend Game Recaps

TOR vs. NYR 03/18/06

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs

Notes - "Coach says shoot, so we shoot. Not from anywhere dangerous, mind you. But it is proof we are not tuning Quinn out." The preceding imaginary quote is courtesy of one disgruntled Leafs fan who attended his one and only Leafs game of the year at MSG. That would be me. First game Stajan hasn't played all year. Truth be told, Lundqvist had a monster game, and the Leafs didn't have a game plan to effectively contain Jagr. Which is kind of sad, considering how other teams key in on McCabe during the man advantage but the Leafs can't respond in kind. Belfour wouldn't have done much better. On the plus and personal side, it was great to see old buddies who made the trip down to NYC.

TOR vs. PIT 03/19/06

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs

Notes - Poni out with the flu. Power outages; two. Kilger is a great asset to this team. Not only is he making peanuts ($475,000 according to TSN, $190,000 less than Belak) he finishes his checks, which is more than I can say for the majority of this team. It is getting so bad in Leafland, and even Penstown, Yahoo doesn't consider writing a recap worthwhile. Even Vancouver Canucks Op-Ed recently expressed a little sympathy for Leaf fans; a watershed event for sure.

In not conceding the season, and to exploit a convenient play on words, I'm wondering if the Leafs are conceited.


Logic may return to NHL standings

Finally. I've been saying this since ties became no longer sufficient to satisfy us fans. And during the owner lock-out last year the solution became very clear as I spent my time watching the English Premier League.

When teams tie, they each get a point, which punishes both teams for not winning outright and gaining the 3 points for their own team, while denying points to the opposition.

Now, Strachan has been wrong before, but after this season demonstrating how many extra points are being awarded for the same number of games, the need for change is undeniable.

Traditionalists will be upset. The magic number of points to get to the playoffs will be all wonky. The Presidents Trophy maybe won with 180 points. But all of these traditional constructs are arbitrary. For me, the game itself is more important than numbers associated with expected outcomes. I'd rather see a team that wins in regulation way ahead of a pack of teams that need OT or now the shoot-out to get the job done. I'm even in favor of 3pts for a regulation win if the NHL went back to accepting regular season ties.

And just imagine the how active the standings will be. The onus to win will be even more immediate in the final months of the season. It's a win-win in my mind. Come on, NHL. I dare you to agree with me.

Anyways, this is my vote for the standings point system to be re-evaluated and redistributed logically.
TOR vs. BUF 03/16/06

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs

Notes - After a scoreless first period the Sabres' broadcast team notes this is the first full period of play between these clubs all season where the Sabres haven't scored. YIPES!

The game was played very cautiously by the Leafs, wary of their abysmal performances in upstate NY. The game finally opened up a bit in the third period.

The Leafs were handed a chance for the second straight game for penalties to decide the outcome of a game. This time it was Drury who was sent off for a double-minor (Bleed, Allison! Bleed!) However, Ryan Miller is not Tim Thomas. Miller shut down Tucker on a beauty cross-crease feed from Allison.
Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle set a franchise record with his assist on Sundin's power-play goal. It was his 40th point with the man advantage this season, topping the 39 by Larry Murphy in the 1995-96 season.
TOR vs. BOS 03/14/06

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs

Notes - Richardson looked asleep during the first goal against. I'm not too sure I'd stick with the Luke/Berg combination. Kaberle with an amzing assist on Sudin's first. Quinn should activate Tomas much more often. He can fly and makes our mid-speed attack worrisome for the opposition. Please have a bottle of Dom sent to Nick Boynton's home. Domi fights LaCouture. Ondrus fights Travis Green, a Leaf that should never have gotten away. The Leafs actually win a shoot-out. Czerkawski looked dangerous for a few shifts. Apparently he feels he didn't get a fair shake in Leaf land. In other news, apparently life isn't fair for floaters who don't give 100% every game.


Weekend Games Recap

TOR vs. NYI 03/10/06

Leaf Lines

I didn't get the pairings

Notes - Domi sat due to lack of effectiveness. Ondrus showing alot of jump, which is exactly what this team needs. Belak has been pinching at the right times, injecting his physicality without sacrificing team defense. So far, so good. Richardson takes over the #22, and immediately the sweater looks better. I was a little harsh on the trade, but Richardson is definitely servicable. Belfour with a great game. In honesty, I didn't pay too much attention to the game, as I had it recording and decided to rewatch it if it was worth it. You can guess what happened. All I can say is it is a good thing DiPietro won POW honors.

TOR vs. TAM 03/11/06

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs

Notes - O'Neill sat due to lack of effectiveness. Luke supplying the sandpaper. Got beat behind the net once, but other than that, a marked improvement over Klee. Belak with another mistake-free game. Delivers hits when pinching and has back-up. Wade even went after Dingman following the hit that hurt Khavanov's shoulder. Tellqvist Solid. Buy-Out-Belfour! Stajan with a monster game. Made amends for passing on a 2-on-1 in the first with a shorty near the end of the second on another 2-on-1. Allison looked possessed in the third after scoring the gimme goal off the misplay in the corner by Boyle (?) He played as if under the influence of a shooter's brain, as he repeatedly looked for his shot; a trait I have seen out of him for maybe 6 periods all season.


pseudo-carnival, in vogue

A2Y has a great trade deadline round-up, which ostensibly is the next installment of the Hockey Carnival. I posted a Notice a few weeks ago to submit entries for Hockey Carnival 20, but I didn't get any. Not one...Woe is me. As it happens, I have to withdraw my name from the hat for the next little while; my job will be demanding more of my time than usual in the coming weeks. Don't cry all at once. You'll short-circuit the intranets.

Tom put up a interesting dissection of trade deadline trends in the new-NHL, and trends in the new-NHL in general. It is a good think piece. What I am wondering about is the new division-heavy schedule and how it will play into standings movement. I'm not sure if it will have any effect at all, but it is a factor to keep your eye on in the coming weeks.

I'll have more on the past weekend games and the upcoming game week later on.


Bottom Line

MLSE's super season includes a CNE soccer stadium pried out of taxpayers, an Oshawa arena pried out of taxpayers, control of Union Station taken over by a casino-seeking team that includes Larry Tanenbaum, and a near-sellout of the new condominium project beside the ACC. Plus, the gradual switch of Leafs hockey over to pay-per-view, on their own channel, has gone seamlessly. And those are only some of the corporate highlights; the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan no doubt is greatly pleased.
Trade deadlines come and trade deadlines go and fans may vent at their team's lack of direction or intent, but none of it really matters to MLSE. The mighty money-making machine will roll on uninterrupted.


Klee shipped to the Swamp for high scoring winger

The slow-footed defender was not one of my favorite Leafs, to put it mildly, so I like this move. Klee was an above average defender in the old NHL, but with the new enforcement standards emphasizing speed and agility Klee's utility took a hit.(Update - Admittedly his last three games for the Leafs were his best all season. He pinned guys to the boards, and wasn't called for a stick penalty.)
Aleksander Suglobov, on the other hand, was the leading scoring for the Albany River Rats of the AHL this season with 48 points(25g, 23a) to go along with 52 PIMS in 51 games.

Luke Richardson comes to Toronto to retire

Well, that is it then. MLSE needs to make the playoffs this year, not that there is any realistic shot of doing any real damage.

So instead of amassing draft picks the Maple Leafs will once again be helping other teams rebuild.

If anyone cares to listen, the NY Rangers set the precedent on how to quickly rebuild. Yes, it takes sacrifice. Yes the team will probably miss the play-offs. But look what happens when you get hordes of draft picks and prospects.

And if Luke Richardson is sold as anything but a, and I quote, "short-term Band-Aid"....oh yeah, and Ondrus was sent back down...I'm going home. I am so pissed right now.

Leafs sign Alex Foster

Don't know much, but I know....I'll find out.

UPDATE - 21 years old, 5'11", 200 pounds

82 points in 72 games with Bowling Green including 25 multi-point games.

His father, Dwight, played ten years in the league with Detroit and Boston.

I'd guess it is straight to the Mariles for Alex in order to replenish the troops. Not a big move by Ferguson, but that is the way you build a team. Piece by piece.

Unidentified flying NHL team spotted

Who the hell was that? I have seen every Leaf game this year, save two games before getting DVR back in November, and the team hasn't played with that level of intensity since the opening week versus Ottawa. I couldn't believe how energetic and competitive and just plain better the team looked last night. Maybe the Leafs are like a college student who shines after leaving that make-or-break term paper to the last minute. Or maybe last night was the spark from three cans of Red Bull, and by Friday the buzz will have worn off and our college buddy fails the term. Whatever the case might be, last night was an exciting game.

Kaberle was at his best. Sundin got in the groove. Wellwood actually slapped a puck, rather than his usual finesse shooting technique. Tucker continued his 'best forward on the team' performance. The entire team was hitting, skating hard, beating the Habs to loose pucks, and generally dominating the play for the majority of the game. This lead to the penalty parade which the Leafs capitalized on.

Ondrus was called up and fulfilled his expected role very adequately. I'd like to seem him get more chances to stay up.

Ferguson was satisfactory during the intermission last night. He has a plan, a plan that I think I would agree with if only he would articulate it. He won't be making the same Leetch/Francis-for-way-too-much mistake again. He will make a deal, if "a deal" is there to be made; moving bodies just to move bodies isn't improving the team.

Tucker for prospects should not happen. Tucker finally has earned the respect of the rest of the league this year with his offensive production and leadership. He deserves to stay if he wants to. Besides, the team needs him.

Ferguson also seemed to indicate that McCabe will be a Leaf in 06-07. In an ideal world Bryan will realize he isn't Gonchar, who lead the League's point production from the blue line since 99-00 (if I remember correctly) before getting $5m/yr from the Penguins. He should be happy with a four year deal at $4.25m. Very happy.

There was an online poll during the game last night that had about 50% of the voters wanting Belfour traded away. Now, I think his contract is cumbersome for next year, but maybe with the team playing like it did last night he can play like the Eddie of old for the remainder of this year. He thrives off the team's energy, and I can envision him getting his mojo back. Without a doubt it is a gamble when trading him would bring in viable assets, but if I were to gamble on any Leaf, Eddie would be my choice.

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs

Best question asked by the broadcast team(who seemed giddy last night): Why do we have goal judges in the NHL?


Ferguson waives Czerkawski

In a move sure to be hailed as genius (cough), Ferguson has waived frequent healthy scratch Marius Czerkawski.

Hopefully, he won't stop there.

Concede This

Since pleas have gone unheeded, perhaps Maple Leafs management will listen to cold hard facts and the resulting elementary conclusions when spoken by the revered Eric Duhatschek
The Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that nominally considers itself in the hunt for a playoff spot, are 28th overall since Dec. 1, with a 12-18-2 record, good for 26 points. For the mathematically challenged, it means only the Chicago Blackhawks (26 points in 35 games) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (19 points in 35 games) have had worse records than the Leafs since the beginning of December. Toronto's recent slump has been noteworthy, but the cold hard facts are, their freefall began a long time ago — and should send a clear message to Leaf Nation and the man in charge, John Ferguson Jr., that the time to start the rebuilding process is now, not next summer or sometime in the far-away future.
And if Ferguson doesn't figure this out, and get permission to act accordingly, then "It is simple"; changes beyond the roster are needed.


But it also is time for some of the younger guys to step up. They have the opportunity to make an impact here and now. The opportunity is there to take the next step.

How do they do that?

By showing some edge and character. In other words, start hitting people.
Doug Gilmour

Open Letter

You’ve got deep problems with this Club. You know it, I know it, and most Leafs fans know it. Do the right thing. Show leadership, make the tough decisions and the subsequent changes as are clearly needed, and at least try to build for the future at the trade deadline. Obviously making the playoffs are next to impossible with the Club in its current state. Save face for the organization and rid the non-contributers and show the fans that you have the balls to build a young team that will strive in future years.
Rick Couchman,
TMLfans.ca Senior Publisher


From the makers of NHL Watch and the invaluable Daily Slate comes Buyers and Sellers, the trade deadline tool of champions.

Though I disagree with the Maple Leaf analysis, it is a great summary of the league.

Kukla's Korner is the most up to the minute hockey blog in the known universe, so I highly recommend him as the first click of your day...and probably your last as well.

TSN's deadline page is the conventional place to go for transaction information, like Jani Hurme getting his waddling papers.


Accolades continue for Pogge

Justin Pogge #1 in CHL. Mark Staal is #2. Luc Bourdon is #3. Bobby Ryan is #4. Cam Barker is #5



The Carnival of the NHL #20, will be taking place here. Please send submissions by next Thursday, 03/09/05. Hopefully I can approach maintaining the renowned standard of this fine blogging tradition. We'll see what happens.

Worst Road Team in the NHL kicks Leafs' ass at ACC

Though I could barely contain my excitement heading home to watch the game last night and despite thinking I would have alot to say after the Olympic hiatus, last night's mistake-filled performance left me uninspired. Not to take anything away from the Capitals, as they out-hit, out-thought and out-worked the Leafs most of the game.

Don't count me as someone who thought the two week break would solve the Leafs' problems. Far from it. But I was hoping to see an improvement in overall team smarts, as the little things that have killed this team all year can't continue to happen if we plan on sneaking into the top 8. Needless to say, after 0:37 my optimism was dashed.

Eddie played one of his weakest games all year. He was late to the puck on many occasions, and the score could've been far worse if it not for pucks shot wide or right into his chest.

Lindros was knocked about several times in the first period, and I don't recall him laying the body in turn. He definitely was rusty, as he lost several break out passes off the end of his stick. He even gloved a puck in the air behind Brent Johnson, negating a goal. But rust is to be expected after missing 20+ games.

The TSN crew noted that Sundin admitted he is "looking for his legs" which is as accurate an analysis of what is missing from Mats' game as you will find. He used to be a oak tree down low or cutting in from the wing. Now he predictably goes around the back of the net for the wrap around to avoid the power-hockey which was his specialty.

Tucker played another great game and is one of the few sources of offence Quinn can rely on. His set-up on Antropov's goal, after some crafty work with Allison along the boards directly behind the Washington cage, is a prime example of where Toronto's production has been and will be coming from. In his 20 games since mid-December Tucker has 18 points (11 g, 7a) which is by far the most productive Leaf over the same span, save for Allison - 16 points (4g, 12a), Kaberle - 16 points (3g, 13a) and Sundin - 19 point (3g, 16a)over their last 20 games played.

Kaberle continued his strong play and seemed to have a little bit extra in his swagger, probably a result of his play in Turin(o), as he walked in behind the man marking him at the blue line after keeping the puck in, got the puck back and fired from the slot. In the third, he had another offensive foray without the puck which resulted in another good scoring chance. And the best part was his initiative forced the Capitals to respect his shot, giving McCabe some room to look for his. Of course, McCabe then saw a shot that wasn't there, resulting in a back-breaking shorty with less than a minute to go in the second period.

Berg and Khavanov were back, with the former smartly taking the body when AO was coming at him. Woz replaced Kronwall. I would've kept Harrison and Kronwall around. Klee sucks it, and Woz fumbled the biscuit almost every time he got near it. McCabe not only set-up the shorthander, he also wasn't helping much in front of Eddie and was called for an obvious dive. As a whole, the Leafs blue line corps gets a grade of C- for the night. Did I mention Klee sucks it? Just making sure.

Earlier this season, much was made of the 'identity' of this Leafs team. Would they adapt to the new enforcement standards after toeing the line of legal obstruction for years? Would they shore up the defence in their own zone? Would they find their even-strength offense? Many felt the team didn't have an identity. I beg to differ. The 05-06 Leafs have an identity, it just isn't attractive to put it kindly.

Maybe this embarassing campaign, which in all likelihood will end up with the team missing the post season, will force Leafs' brass to get serious about building a winner, and not just a team that makes the playoffs (Hurting MLSE in the pocketbook might be the only way to get through). I can hope, can't I?

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs

Maybe I was inspired afterall. Or maybe it's because all the managers of my office are at an off-site meeting for the entire day.