Raking Leafs

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


Pohl signs one-way deal, JFJ a step ahead?

Johnny on-the-spot Pohl signed a two-year contract for close to the league minimum. I'm really happy Pohl is getting his shot this year. I was really impressed with his focus and finish around the net during his seven appearances last year.

And JFJ is making news today, and not for the typical 'bash the young GM' reasons. Apparently bean-counting isn't Ferguson's only talent. The Leafs' GM stars and sings....just kidding...has put together an "informational tool" to help "sell players and their representatives on the qualities of living and playing in Toronto."
"Good for them," agent Pat Morris of Newport Sports said yesterday. "They are the only (team) to do it."
Sounds like a simple, logical, brilliant, step-ahead idea in this new age of liberalized player movement due to the new CBA and established player's off-ice lives taking precedence over hockey. So, even if its socially unacceptable to give JFJ some credit, you might want to alteast do so in the privacy of your own head.

Also, here is the complete free agency rules and regs from the new CBA. [via]

And could Gary Roberts be the solution to the Domi issue? Could we re-sign Tie and trade him to Florida for Gary, straight up? I'd do that in a heart beat, even if we get 40 games out of Gary. Update: But would Keenan? Probably not. And JFJ should not give Keenan anyone else or a pick higher than a fourth rounder. Sorry, I got caught up in the moment there.


TNT (Tomas, Nik, & Tie) and some other stuff you might have heard about

First of all, don't mess with Tomas. Reports of him being "furious" after hearing the Pronger rumors are justified. Tomas could've waited to sign for more loot. He took less because he wants to stay with the team, and that gesture should be reciprocated. Besides, I'd rather have someone reaching their prime than having someone with their prime in the rearview. The whole idea of giving up Kaberle and one of either Steen or Stajan or Wellwood is just bad team management.(UPDATE - go check out Pension Plan Puppets for a look at the numbers-side of this argument) Pronger is an awesome player, but his addition with the subtraction of Kaberle and a forward actually makes the team worse. This team needs forwards, and giving up young, cheap, serviceable and productive forwards for an albeit HOFer is still a step in the wrong direction. The Leafs should pull their offer off the table, in my opinion. Just go get Elias and McKee.

Next, Nik Antropov has always been an injury risk, and the new CBA gives teams a way out and players less job security. Apparently, the number of games played is held in account when tendering offers to RFAs. As Nik has played less than the requisite 60 games in the last season, the Leafs are allowed to offer a two-way deal. Tough break for Nik. He presumably will take the team to arbitration to fight the slap in face $95,000 possible salary in the AHL. But perhaps he shouldn't consider it a slap in the face, and more of a wake up call.

In the same story, and still not officially confirmed, apparently the decision has been made to...wait for it...cut ties with Tie Domi. We'll see what happens.

Sorry about the lack of updates this past eventful weekend. Camping tends to put a damper on internet activity. I don't remember who called it, but somebody pegged the Tlusty (easy to spell - just remember T-lusty) pick months ago. Nice work. And Ovechkin and Malkin's linemate in the second round. Atleast you know he knows to how play away from the puck.

And Raycroft for Rask. I initially didn't like giving up Rask. I wanted to see Pogge and Rask develop into Hasek and Roy. But that dream was never going to happen. I'll take a few years of development, a Calder trophy, and as puckupdate says an "Ontario native with something to prove". I consider it to be a good "buy low" move. It could turn out to be a steal, it could turn out even, or it could cost the franchise dearly (especially if Pogge doesn't pan out). It is a gamble, but it definitely isn't a bad bet, and drawing conclusions now is way premature.


HF Draft Preview reviewed

Hockey's Future released their Leafs Draft Preview yesterday, and as usual it is an excellent resource. However I have a few observations that might add some context to their summations.

The acquisition of Suglobov is praised for displaying the team's willingness to be a 'seller', but tempered by
The fact that the Devils, a team with a history of building through youth, was so willing to give up on the enigmatic winger should raise some flags about his long-term projections.
Now, there is nothing factually wrong about this presumption. However, when Alexsander was acquired he mentioned how he was excited to come to a team with more of a focus on offense. I take this to imply he didn't enjoy his time in the Devils' system and its rigid defensive scheme. And yet he still was scoring at almost a point-per-game pace. So, although I remain cautious on Suglobov, I can definitely see an upside that might surprise most doubters. He is a project, but almost certainly not a lost cause, especially with the youth/development-oriented Maurice manning the helm. (Suglobov's Marlie play-off goal/fight performance is definitely encouraging.)

Next, the defense is addressed with this less-than-flattering comment
On defense, other than Carlo Colaiacovo, the organization's defensemen are more impressive in quantity rather than quality.
Now, that doesn't sound like a comment that saw Harrison play like a young Jason Smith at times. Nor does it sound like much credit is being given to Ian White who proved to be good puck-mover and point producer at the NHL level, as well as a blooming powerplay quarter back.

HF also takes issue with the rooks who played most of the season up with the big buds.
While players like Kyle Wellwood and Alexander Steen performed well last year, they don't project to be the top-line players to replace the Mats Sundins of the organization.
I agree Steen isn't a scoring-line type of player (he is as fundamentally sound as they come, but I'm not sold on this offensive instincts yet), but I disagree with the take on Wellwood. Kyle can flat out play the game. Remember, he did beat out Spezza for the scoring title in 04-05. Give him some time and he'll be scoring more than his share for the team.

HF predicts James Sheppard of the Q to be selected with the 13th pick(#10 on sportsnet.ca top 60). T.M.L 1967's mock draft has the Leafs selecting 6'3" Patrik Berglund (#19 on sportsnet.ca top 60) or Ryan White (#18) or Kyle Okposo (#11)

UPDATE - Thirteenth overall picks from the past 20 years. Notables - Dustin Brown, Ales Hemsky, J.S. Giguere, Matthias Ohlund, Phillipe Boucher.

UPDATE 2 - David Johnson of HockeyAnalysis has a great Off-season Preview up.


No Need for Domi?

They don't need a veteran with ties to the ownership whose presence could fragment the dressing room. And they don't need a seven-minute-a-night leader.
I have no qualms with Ulmer's assessment of Domi's potential contributions, unless his mysterious shoulder injury really was hampering his production. But since that is an unknown factor, we'll have to judge what Domi might give us next year based on this past season, and that wasn't much of anything.
With a gaping hole in net and wafer thin depth at forward, the last thing Leafs general manager John Ferguson Jr. should be occupying himself with is replacing Tie Domi
I'm not sure the hole is gaping, as I'm not in favor of making a big splash for a goalie, but I'm coming around to the idea of a $2m per type of guy. With the news of the salary cap increasing by approximately 13%, there is more leeway for JFJ to play with. But back to the man of the (witching) hour.
But Tie Domi was a fourth-liner who openly spoke about himself as one of the Leafs leaders, a 20-point a season guy who falsely saw himself as a difference maker. His biggest impact on a series came in 2001, when he elbowed the New Jersey Devils' Scott Niedermayer and changed the course of a playoff the Leafs were on the edge of winning.

Frankly, I'm shocked and honestly pleased at how this article is so matter-of-fact. Kudos.

Regardless of the arithmetic of buying out and replacing Domi, which by the way is negligible one way or the other, the real issue is building a winning team. And the answer to that riddle doesn't include Domi. Atleast, not anymore.

UPDATE - On the draft front, Sportnet has a Top-60 Prospect list that should come in handy. And from the random idea department, I wonder if Don Cherry would ever publish his preferred 'home town' picks before the draft, given how he is always harping how Ontario boys are overlooked by the Leafs. Come on, Don, give us a list of even just three names. Or better yet, give your list to JFJ privately and help the guy out.

UPDATE 2 - Spector has a gem of a quote from JFJ. Get this, Fergie says "that Domi's play wasn't 'positively affected by the changes in the NHL's rules' and that they're looking at his situation. He said that Tie was signed for two years and that he's been a solid contributor to the team both on and off the ice. He said he was aware of the reports saying that the team was looking at buying him out, but added "don't believe everything you read."

Congrats to Spector for taking the plunge into full time freelance hockey journalism. Be sure to visit his site and click an ad or two. I still can't believe he maintained such a high level of excellence when it was only a part-time gig for him. Them military boys are amazing sometimes.


Is it getting drafty in here, or is it me?

Google Maps, NHL Teams. NHL Teams, Google Maps. That feature alone is worthy of a mention. Courtesy of NHLDraftNET, pet project of Z Leonsis and possibly a member of the 90s rap/rock-punk/funk trio "The Beastie Boys", and a work in progress that I will definitely be checking in on during the coming weeks, especially on draft weekend when they will be live-blogging from Vansterdam. Thanks for thinking of me. I appreciate it. Now how about an extra ticket to B.C.? I keed. I keed. Not really, but it is impolite to ask, or beg.

And welcome to any and all new readers. I noticed some traffic (checking Statcounter info is quite fun if you've ever had the pleasure) from far away places, and thought I'd pass along a 'Hello' to Prague, Cze., Durham, U.K., and National Taiwan Normal University, even if you just ended up here while researching "mythical allusions in leda and the swan."


Tellqvist optioned

Mikael played well last season and was the statistical favorite over incumbent Edward Belfour the Billionth during the regular season(which is to say, the only games the team played). Save for the Montreal melt-down, Tellqvist looked to have graduated to Maple Leaf starting goal-tender, so this move was elementary for team management.

This leaves the Leafs with Tellqvist and J.S. Aubin, late-season hero extraordinaire and almost a TML saint, as the team's only NHL-ready puck stoppers. Which is fine by me. There have been calls to sign a big name free agent goal tender, or to trade some young guns (trade Wellwood and I'll cry) for a big name goal tender who is still under contract. I say 'Nay!' to this course of action. As Duhatschek points out in his blog entry (dated June 1, 2006-I'd link to it, but that doesn't seem possible) in regard to Tampa Bay's signing of two unknown NHL assets to shore up a porous goal-tending brigade,
More than anything else though, the Lightning have clearly been monitoring the NHL playoffs this spring and, based on the changing cast of goaltenders suddenly thrust into the spotlight, concluded that net-minding solutions can — and often do - come from unexpected sources.
I'm glad Eric noted and an NHL team acted upon this new reality. With the new rule enforcement standards, shut-outs are more now than ever a function of team defense rather than goalie heroics, thus reducing the importance of having a Hasek-type door-shutter and emphasizing the need for a more cohesive team in front of the crease.

In other words, one's perception of 'a proven NHL net minder' isn't what it used to be, and that viable options are available outside of the league, and especially in Europe where open ice and less obstruction has been the norm for years.

What all this means is that less team resources should be alloted for goal tending as had been the norm in the past. Good goalies are still a critical element of team success, but the impact they have on the outcome of a game has ebbed.

If next year the team is playing an incredible game and the weak link is obviously in net, a la the 2005-06 Edmonton Oilers, then make a move...maybe. Just don't put the cart in front of the horse.