Raking Leafs

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


White out?

There is an interesting dynamic in the main Leafs stories of the day that offers a hint of what the D corps will look like at the start of the season. On one side, there is Ian White, who seems to be the fans' first choice, and several bloggers', after his remarkable 12 game audition to end the season. Ian is saying all the right things today in the Sun, including
I took the opportunity and showed them I could handle the pressure...It was an eye-opener and I cherished every moment. But there will be five or six guys fighting for two spots in camp. The odds are not great, but they are better than they would be on a lot of other teams...I'm getting a little more credit than I was before, but I can handle the big guys and play at this level whether I'm 5-10 or not...I think times have changed and a lot more smaller guys can play in this game.
Then there is head coach Paul Maurice dropping the names of who I assume to be his early favorites for the open spots beyond the top paid top four of McCabe, Kaberle, Kubina & Gill.

We identified at the end of the season the areas where we most needed to improve and they were mostly on the back end, the goaltending and the defense....We re-signed Bryan McCabe, who was an unrestricted free agent, to a five-year contract. We also signed veterans Hal Gill and Pavel Kubina and that has really strengthened our defense...Tomas Kaberle, Carlo Colaiacovo and Wade Belak return along with Staffan Kronwall who suffered a knee injury at the start of last season. So, we're getting younger on defense.

Carlo is the no-brainer. But Kronwall and Belak? Let's hope Maurice has an open mind about this, because I don't agree with this early assessment of who should suit up for the big club.

There are several other notable quotes from Maurice in the nhl.com article, regarding setting a foundation and assigning roles early, improved physical preparedness in reaction to the slew of injuries experienced last season, the depth of the organization's on-ice talent, being difficult to play against, and kudos of Aubin.

So, the season seems to be shaping up as a likely improvement over last year's campaign. And with the feel-good stories about O'Neill getting his head back on straight (I'm reserving judgment on how his legs will rebound from taking a year off) we just might make it to the dance.

UPDATE: I'd be remiss if I didn't link to Ulmer's background story on blue-chip goal tending prospect Justin Pogge. When JFJ traded Rask at the draft, I was worried the team had given up the better of the two creasemen in waiting, especially after Rask had that amazing performance with 50+ saves at the WJCs and subsequently being named best goalie in the tournament. Some figured Pogge should've won the award with his two shutouts, but considering the team in front of Pogge, Rask seemed to be the more 'outstanding' player. And part of me still believes this. But after reading about Pogge's hard-knock childhood, and the strength of character he has developped, I'm very excited to witness his potential flourish.


Leafs' camp shorn by Maurice

Leafs' training camp will be streamlined this year, as new head coach Paul Maurice sharpens the focus and purpose of the pre-pre-season. "You don't want to have to slow down," says Maurice about the change which reflects his aim of reducing time expended on the 'learning curve' of younger players, which hopefully translates to time better spent. And speaking from experience of Maurice-run training, Jay Harrison notes, "the tempo will be hot about 30 seconds after we pick up our sticks."

Good. Hopefully some of the extra time created by paring down the number of camp attendees is devoted to the shoot-out, which very well could be the difference between making the top-eight and golf. And with fewer players come fewer choices for line combinations, which is a good thing, though I don't really know how Maurice will construct the line. Last year, the Leafs ignored the signals of change and were passed by other teams who reinforced the consequences of each tug and hook with extra PT before the first puck was dropped.

Leafs goaltenders are also making news today, as they skirt league rules regarding team sanctioned training by attending Steve McKichan's goalie camp. Not that I mind. McKichan, goaltending coach for the Leafs, is largely responsible for Raycroft becoming a Maple Leaf, and anticipates great things for young Razor after having extensively seen Raycroft in a Bruins sweater.
He has a huge upside. I think from what I've seen of him, he can still be 20 to 30 per cent better than what he was in his rookie year... He's seeing the puck very well. He's moving very well. He's doing a great job of following the puck and controlling rebounds. I think he's looking exceptional
Hearing that makes me feel a helluva lot better about the upcoming season.


I suck at tag

But I have an excuse. I've been vacaying, fly-fishing the Frying Pan and Crystal Rivers in beautiful and nostalgic-for-Calgary Colorado. Here is the initial tag. (dude, the plural form is wrong on purpose. otherwise I'll have fledgling yard care providers showing up here looking for the simplest of instruction after googling the standard form of the phrase.) A list of wacky things about me would be virtually impossible to whittle down to a mere five. Here it goes(I like long odds apparently):

1.) Born in Montreal. Moved to Calgary during the Flames' first season in the city, and grew up disagreeing with my friends who "hated" Gretzky. Moved to New Jersey the summer before the Flames won the Cup, though I did get mad cred from my upperclassmen when I strolled into school wearing my Mullen #7 jersey the day after (even though I didn't get to watch it; more on this later). Moved to Kingston after the Rangers won the Cup to attend university, where I was finally in control of the television and could watch all the hockey I could handle.

Up until this point I either was too young to watch much hockey, except HNIC's second west coast game, didn't have cable, or only had basic cable which didn't carry hockey, or atleast hockey I had prior association with.

It was this new, unfettered television landscape that fostered my love of the Leafs. In Kingston, you get to watch the Leafs, Habs, and Sens, and living with Leafs fans, and one in particular, pretty much cemented my fate.

Ok, so how is that for whacky? Not so much. And not so much five things, either, eh? But whatever, the 'tag' moment has moved on without me. But moving around alot makes team allegiances confusing and conflicting. I suppose it is more of an answer to how a Leafs fan ends up in New Jersey.

I guess this could considered whacky for a Leafs-blogger: I've never seen a Leafs home game in person.

JFJ, I'm waiting patiently for my press pass, accomodations and plane tickets. For two.

Oh yeah, I don't have access to pre-season games, so don't expect write-ups from me. Thank you Center Ice package.


Nice title

When I returned to my unflushed toilet, notepad, and pen, I found this. Some shit just writes itself I guess!
Judging by the tone of the author of the post, I'm guessing the title isn't an homage to yours truly. Hey, I can't fault the guy. He's from Cornwall, which stinks so bad it could drive one to distraction. Some shit indeed writes itself. However, it must be said that if you can get past the anti-Leafs slant, it is a great read. Reality Check [via] has compiled a top ten of Dubious Leaf Facts. Most interesting;
2 - For the Leafs the Entry draft has never held much consequence. Maybe that is why they traded their #1 pick in '91 to New Jersey five games into the 1990 season for well travelled defenseman Tom Kurvers. They were 0 and 5 at the time, and for reasons still not known, panic struck. Kurvers was decent enough to keep the Leafs from last overall. Too bad. The first pick that year was Eric Lindros. NJ used Toronto's 3rd pick to choose Scott Neidermayer. First rounders that year included Peter Forsberg 6th, Alexei Kovalev 15th, and Markus Naslund 16th. One may suggest that hindsight is 20/20, but foresight is priceless. Pay for an expensive scout - he may tell you that a certain draft down the road is loaded!
Ouch. Scotty D would've been nice. But atleast the Habs fan author could agree JFJ has been correcting the mistakes of the past.

Addressing what prompted this dubious list, I'm not sure how I feel about Belak getting re-upped. His skill-set is limited to put it mildly, but that is no surprise. Belak is a known quantity. But to compare simliar talents still holding a roster spot in the new-NHL (Eric Goddard, John Erksine, Dan LaCouture, Eric Boulton, Eric Cairns, Andre Roy, et al) Belak is practically a renaissance man. Forward and Defense?! Give the man a raise! Oh, right.

Wade's value to the team is probably attributable to the ridiculous eight games against division rivals. It should be six, but whatever. Belak's salary, assumed to be about $665k, doesn't look so bad when you consider Andre Roy is getting paid $1m per year. The 'yippee, it isn't the worst contract in the league' defense isn't bullet-proof, but give me another sentence or two.

I checked the remaining salaries of the above listed players, and the nearest comparisons (games played, # of MAJs, +/-, and pts) were in the neighborhood of what Wade was paid last season or less, and have a few less year of experience. Most comparables on the Major Penalty leader board are new to the league and signed for the minimum. The Leafs don't have much toughness in the pipeline, so keeping Belak around is somewhat of a need.

The tripe that Belak is being overpaid is just that. At $665,000, or slightly more, Belak is a serviceable tough guy, who most likely will play approximately two-thirds of the season. Good enough for me.