Raking Leafs

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


Favs, unknowns, and the like

In the spirit of David Johnson's recent list, I've put together one of my own for a little summer time fun.

Anaheim - Getzlaf, Perry and/or Penner. Take your pick, they’ll be around for a long time. Moen was a surprise on the checking line with Rob Niedermayer and Pahlsson. George Parros gets a mention for hailing from my NJ high school alma mater.

Atlanta - Pascal Dupuis – The guy impressed a couple years back during Minnesota’s long playoff run (the year before Gaborik started getting hurt) with a great shot and an eye for the net. Eventually he should be able to regain that form. Zhitnik gets honorable mention because he is Zubov-silky on his skates.

Boston - Bergeron obviously. When you are 18 and still surprise the hell out of everyone in the league, something tells me you’ve got intangibles. Second choice is Marc Savard. After suffering through offensive purgatory with the Flames, he finally got a breathe of fresh air in Atlanta, only for no one to give him any credit. Oops.

Buffalo - Everyone’s favorite team to dissect last year, and a divisional rival, its tough to find a favorite or an unknown. So I’ll go with Michael Ryan. He should break 50 pts this year. Timmy Connolly is my favorite. A thinking man’s player.

Calgary - Mark Giordano for the sole reason he scored two against his hometown Leafs last season. I’d never heard of him before that night, and I’ll never forget him now.

Carolina - Erik Cole is an unbelievable hockey player. He’d get more credit if he was a canuck.

Chicago - Brent Seabrook. Two years ago Seabrook came out of nowhere with a crazy +/- on a crap team. For a rookie, that is reason to pay attention. Duncan Keith gets honorable mention as well. Enigma Radim Vrbata also deserves a mention, as he seems to have found a home, if only he could be consistent.

Colorado - Wojtek Wolski – one of the best hockey names around. Overshadowed by GWG Svatos and Calder candidate Stastny, but I prefer his game overall.

Columbus – David Vyborny – the guy is a maestro at times. Great to watch.

DallasLoui Eriksson – Ever since I heard about him disrespecting Mike Modano, I took a liking to him. If a rookie is that confident, I can’t wait to see what he can do with line 1 minutes. The other Lundqvist gets honorable mention for helping create one of the best goalies in the world.

Detroit – Hank Zetterberg – Top 5 forward in the league. I wish I got to watch him more often. Hopefully a chronic injury won’t impact his play too much. Tomas Kopecky gets a nod for being an effective big man on a team I presumed lacked size.

Edmonton – Joni Pitkanen is the real BIG D signing by the Oil. Another out of nowhere surprise from a few seasons ago, this guy is only going to get better. Potential is just astronomical.

Florida - Olli Weiss and Horton get more ink, but Rostislav Olesz is one slick player. Born in Oct 1985, he is still developing and should break out with a solid year, if this franchise keeps it together.

Los AngelesKopitar. All it took was seeing him dismantle Neidermayer and Pronger for goals during the opening week last season. Dustin Brown’s game is like a bull in a china shop. Very effective if he can stay out of the box a bit more.

Minnesota – I exposed my affinity for Kurtis Foster earlier this summer. Nolan Schaefer is a curiousity at this point, because he was schooled by one of the best goalie coaches in the game in San Jose.

MontrealLatendresse could be what Lindros never became. That is saying quite a bit, but the power moves this guy has at his age are incredible. Once he learns to utilize his size in more situations, watch out.

Nashville – Jim Balsillie. I keed. Letting Steve Sullivan go on waivers still hurts. If Radulov gets a full season worth of line 3 ice time, by the end of the season he’ll be line 2. I believe its called a knack for scoring.

New Jersey – Travis Zajac. I saw some of the sweetest passes I’ve ever seen from this guy last year. One-touch redirects through his legs right on the tape. Just sick. If Lou fosters the chemistry with Parise, which I think he will, these two might just keep the Devils' post season streak going.

NY Islanders – Trent Hunter and Chris Campoli. Both are young and unfortunately stuck on the Islanders.

NY Rangers – Michal Roszival is a hidden gem. Though I don’t know how he is still unnoticed after his post season last year. Girardi is another name to learn. His awareness and deft passing on transitions was impressive. Ryan Callahan will also surprise with his offensive contributions in a limited role.

Ottawa – Mike Fisher has been a favorite for a while. I like his speed, tenacity and smarts.

Philadelphia – Mike Richards. Less glamorous of a player than Jeff Carter, but his hard-nosed approach more than makes up for it. Should rebound nicely this season.

Phoenix – Keith Ballard. Speed, smarts, fighting majors, puck carrying, big shot. You name it, he’s got it.

Pittsburgh – Ryan Malone. Home town pressure seems to weigh on him, but has great potential. Jordan Staal was my pick for Calder, mostly because his shot is deadly. Go check his shooting percentage. Scary good.

San JoseBernier, Clowe, Michalek, Pavelski, Rissmiller, Goc, Carle, Pickles….This team is ridiculously stacked.

St. Louis – Erik Johnson. Can’t wait to see what this kid can do against the big boys.

Tampa – Dan Boyle. A key cog in the super power play. Logs huge minutes. Always seems to be around the puck. Can score on the rush. He finally was recognized this past year as a Norris candidate. Nick Tarnasky is a favorite because I’d like to see him skate with Poni and Antro.

Toronto – Kyle Wellwood He can confound entire teams with his wizardy. Could become an Adam Oates if given a sniper to dish to. Matt Stajan is a close second. He is so close to putting his skills together to become a very good line 2 player. When he winds up with the puck on the break out, it is a sight to behold.

VancouverLuongo. Watched him play unbelievable hockey for years in Florida and no one noticed. He finally gets his due now that he plays in a market that cares. Very Brodeur-esque, in the way he leads from his crease.

Washington – Wake me up when there is anyone other than the Alexs.

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Blake to skate with Wellwood

Finally, some real speculation from Maurice about on-ice possibilities, and some prudent thought behind the idea as well. Maurice is liking the idea of Wellwood operating down the middle with Blake on his wing. I like this train of thought because Wellwood's abilities are maximized when he is playing his natural position. Sure he did okay with Mats, but he didn't look comfortable and would sometimes force plays or would hesitate and miss a play you know he could make. Kyle is Adam Oates reincarnate, except with better wheels. Lets not stifle the boy.

So if JFJ once again got a player who won't be playing on Mats' wing, it is easy to surmise that Mats will be playing with Pony and Antro. Stajan will be anchoring the third line paired with Steen. Then the fourth will probably be some combination of Bates and Boyd with perhaps Williams making the squad.

I'd throw Kilger with Wellwood and Blake. He can skate with those two and can provide much needed size along the boards. Tucker should play with Stajan and Steen and capitalize on their playmaking ability. Or maybe Pohl.

Overall, those line combos seem pretty solid, though I continue to lament the lack of fists in the regular line up. But it's early, and maybe our D depth can be converted to a more hard-nosed top 6 forward.

Who am I kidding?

UPDATE - Apparently my brain is still on vacation. As pointed out in the comments (thanks, btw), Mark Bell is still a Toronto Maple Leaf and will most likely make the team out of training camp. So the above is incomplete to say the least.

I'd still put Mats with what PPP calls the Soviet Bloc. Wellwood and Blake could use Bell instead of Kilger, though Chad might get a chance to play on line two a some point in the season. Steen and Stajan should have Darcy as the trigger man. That leaves Boyd and Bates with Kilger, which was a line that was very effective last year. So right now I'm thinking the lines look something like this.


Doc Hoc seems to think Blake and Tucker will be winging Sundin. I don't see that happening for more than a handful of games but I could see that as a PP unit, unless Wellwood gets better at drawing defenders and/or scoring when he has the puck at the left post.

UPDATE 2 - I've tried to avoid CBA discussions for a while simply because I wanted to think about the actual sport of hockey, but a recent discussion at Tom Benjamin's House of Hockey Horrors is worth a read. Tom is being proven correct in his analysis of the CBA's effect on the league's talent market place, an analysis he has maintained despite a steady stream of mainstream opposition. It may only be the NHL and an opinion on a labour arrangement, but I consider it an act of courage and an example to be followed. It can be extremely difficult to be true to your beliefs in the face of overwhelming criticism. Kudos Tom.

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