Raking Leafs

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


Leafs beaten at their own game.

TOR @ MTL 02/26/07

I'm very annoyed this morning for several reasons. I couldn't be more disappointed in the first period last night. I don't think the Leafs recorded one hit. A freakin' disgrace. It was the Habs that played the Leafs' physical style, and it worked perfectly. All this hot air about huge games this time of year, and it took Raycroft getting pulled, and then a drastic (and brilliant) shake up of the lines to get the team going.

Of course, it didn't help matters that the Habs were getting away with murder all over the ice, while the Leafs get whistled for the most innocent of body checks by O'Neill. And where was Belak? Where was the physical response? If the Habs are going to hit from behind all night and get away with it, the Leafs have to put a stop to it. They were so intimidated during the first, I could've sworn I saw trails of urine tracing the routes of everybody in blue and white.

The attempted come back gave me some hope and helped the team's third period goal differential, the line shake up created some surprising results (J Dub is two for two), and Aubin's solid play gave me deja vu, but apart from that it was a thoroughly disappointing evening. Atleast the AP caption writers gave me a laugh.

Toronto Maple Leafs' Wade Belak, right, honks Montreal Canadiens' Mark Streit's nose during second period hockey action in Montreal on Monday, Feb. 26, 2007



Dominant, yet ineffective

Much has been said about the imposing physical play of Sundin, Poni, and Antro, and what has been said should not be considered inaccurate; the line controls the puck along the boards almost at will. However this opinion is just incomplete. If the idea is to score, and I would assume this to be true, and if time of puck possession in the offensive zone was set against the goal production of this line, I don't think the praise would be so forthcoming.

Captain Mats said as much last week, about needing to be "more effective." What he should've said was "either Poni supports the puck and Antro plants himself in front of the net, or vice versa, and nary a scoring change is generated." It drives me nuts watching this line control the puck for extended periods of time with two players facing the boards while a third sits in a position that is either too acute of an angle for a quick shot to be what sports types call 'high percentage,' or blocks a wall-sitter from coming to the front of the net with an efficacy. And to further magnify this deficiency the so called third line of Pohl, Bates, and Kilger(of late) cycle the puck with speed and anticipation.

Anticipation. The word of the day. Sundin, Poni, and Antro lack this attribute when cycling the puck. Of course there are exceptions to this criticism, but ask yourself how many times have you seen the passing lane open up only for Poni to recognize it late and pass after the lane has closed, or Antro waiting for the centering pass so close to the goal line you can see Sundin's facial expression say "Guess I'll have to drive the net for a wrap-around"? And don't get me started on the futility of the line when Sundin is playing away from the puck in the slot, or should I say at the half boards as a safety outlet.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate how often the first line gets the puck deep and plays their shift in the opposition's zone. This contributes to the W column considerably. And they do produce offense regularly, mainly consisting of the ugly variety. But I don't think it is too much to ask that the trio exhibit more chemistry and timing and goals. All three should be appearing as a unit in box scores atleast once a game.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but the P(uck) P(ossessioninoffensivezone):G(oals) ratio ain't what it should be.

BONUS: David 'hockeyanalysis' Johnson has a nice side-by-side-by-side visual and an accompanying analysis of the three popular point distribution schemes. The results are amusing in a depressing way, as the GMs have rejected any change to the current set-up because 'fans love it' 'the races are great' and 'we've changed so much recently' none of which address the inconsistency of awarding three points for some games while doling out only two for others. GMs want to redirect the conversation away from logic to selling hope, er I mean close competition.

I was under the impression that the current system made play-off races less exciting because there was less vertical movement of teams. David points out that the current system is less exciting because the current system doesn't make the races tight enough. This is a point I think GMs will appreciate, simply because if there team is closer to making it, selling hope becomes that much easier.

Link it to their bottom line, and they just might listen.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH: "We will entertain them by walking around the concourse holding hands and skipping around, winking and waving," - Mike Peca responding to Tucker and himself not playing in front of the Nassau Coliseum crowd.

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Tool Time

The Hockey News has a salary cap tracker up. I have no idea as to the degree of accuracy it represents. But I like that the Leafs are at ~ $43,473,000, according to a quick excel summation. nhlnumbers.com paints an even better picture, with the *drumroll* Leafs 06/07 salary at ~ $44,671,000 and the total 06/07 cap hit at ~$42,874,000.

At least it is a brighter picture than a recent Mirtle report of the Leafs being over the cap according to Irish Blues.

I'm going to try and dig into the details of the three versions of the Leafs salary situation and see what I come up with. Or perhaps an update by the team would help clarify the situation and save me alot of grunt work.

BONUS - Check out screenshots of what seems like every Leafs' fight of the season here, if you like that kind of thing. And yes the Newbury head crash is there.



In Mo I Trust

With the recent surge (I hate this word, surge, but wanted to draw attention to it, as it is the flavor of the year because of the political pipe dreams of one President of the United States) up the Eastern Conference standings comes the requisite discussion of what trades the Maple Leafs might make before next week's trading deadline. Some say, trade from your strength; a defender for a forward. Others say, standfast, it ain't worth it.

And I say, listen to the guy who got us here. Coach Mo let it be known recently that he'd prefer no trades to be made, and to make the push for the playoffs with the players that have been with the team all year. Us againt the world, cohesiveness, knowing his players and the players knowing him, however you want to characterize it, this is the 8th place team that Maurice has sculpted from a collection of parts generally thought to be out-matched in the Eastern conference. Making the dance is still far from a given, but the team is trending upward in spite of a myriad of injuries to key contributors, all under the guidance of Coach Mo.

JFJ, you get kudos for getting Maurice to coach the team. So please don't try and save your job by making a move just to make a move. Screw what the Toronto media bandy about as what the team needs. What the team needs is to listen to its coach. And that includes you.



Hockey School

First up, History 167 - Courtesy of Joe Pelletier on the 1967 Cup winning team. Read up, kiddies. The Stajan number transfer idea is something to ponder. (During HDiC, there was a profile of a Pelletier family who have an indoor rink shared with family, friends and neighbors. I suspect Joe is from the same clan, and if so, the weight of his words means much more to me; that kind of history and tradition can't be manufactured.) UPDATE : The blogger formerly known as Reality Check has a two part history of the '67 team, as does this website for the upcoming dinner honoring the team on March 22, 2007 [via]. Google Video has the cup clinching game available for viewing, though the video is missing large chunks.

Next, Capology 101. Bitter points out an outstanding Salary Cap post and spreadsheet up on letsgosabres.com.

There was an NHL Economics 330 demo last night, as the Nashville Predators traded for Forsberg and financial viability. Under the duress of abysmal attendance and market recognition, GM Poile sacrificed a roster player, a prospect, and two draft picks (1st and 3rd) in the hopes of being noticed in Nashville, winning the Stanley Cup, selling more tickets to maintain profit sharing eligibility, perhaps eliminate the desire of ownership to sell and/or relocate.

Finally, a short lesson in relativity. Despite the Leafs having the same amount of points in the same amount of games played as the NY Islanders, the Leafs remain out of the play-off picture because of goal differential (+8 vs. -2)

1. The fewer number of games played (i.e., superior points percentage).
2. The greater number of games won.
3. The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs. If two clubs are tied, and have not played an equal number of home games against each other, points earned in the first game played in the city that had the extra game shall not be included. If more than two clubs are tied, the higher percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, and not including any "odd" games, shall be used to determine the standing.
4. Goal differential

UPDATE - I'm still not sure if the Leafs are in or out.


Is Lou cheating?

The much media esteemed NJ Devils GM is at it again. I've questioned his finagling of the CBA, in particular his Mogilny magic trick, erasing a crippling contract and thus allowing his team to continue its dominant trap-style play in the Atlantic division. If Mogilny's contract had been applied to the cap, it is elementary to assume the Devils would not be where they are today, leading their division by a healthy margin in the era of three point games.

It seems competing GMs are again questioning Lou's adherence to the CBA, this time in regard to long-healed defender Richard Matvichuk. According to sportsline.com's rumor mill(02/12/07 update) :

The New York Post reports aboux six clubs have asked the NHL to investigate the status of Richard Matvichuk. The Devils were granted a long-term injury exemption toward their cap, but it is believed Matvichuk has recovered from his back injury and is ready to play.
Hmm. Matvichuk declared himself fit to play some time ago, and yet somehow the LTI exemption is allowed to remain in effect. Fellow GMs are right to be upset about this blatant and overt disregard of the CBA's intent. However, Lou has out-flanked his colleagues yet again. According to this NY Post article, Lou doesn't have to make a move.

Lou Lamoriello has received break after break from the league on his cap mess, but it's hard to believe even he would go back to that well again, even as the NHL allows him to keep Richard Matvichuk off the cap, regardless of whether or not he is still injured.

Lamoriello doesn't have to remove Matvichuk from the Long-Term Injury exemption until he finds cap space. The league will not determine, whether the summertime back surgery has been rehabilitated and will not force Lamoriello to make space for Matvichuk. Once LTI is granted, the team decides when it's over.

It's unlikely a long-ready Matvichuk will play until only nickels remain on his $1.36 million salary and cap liability. Once the playoffs start the cap no longer applies, so the Devils can suit him up, although Matvichuk must be activated before the season's end, a minimum of one game or a couple rust-removers at some 16.6G per against the cap. Peanuts.
Bollocks is more like it.

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Horse Poop

TOR @ NSH Feb.08/07

Hockey-recap.com seems to be out of commission this week. UPDATE - Hockey-recap will not be available for the remainder of the season due to 'data source' issues. This is unfortunate news, but I personally look forward to the return of The Recap for the 07-08 season.

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs


What had the makings of great game was sullied by a whistle-happy ref crew. Hamhuis' tripping call was legit, but then the next two infractions were borderline at best. Stajan was called for a phantom hold, and Arnott was penalized for being on the ice. I should've stopped watching the game right then and there, because my mood only deteriorated, mostly because the Predators continued to get away with murder, while the Leafs played with more caution. Not a winning combination if both teams are going to be penalized at the whim of the officials.

I don't complain about officiating often, though it does happen from time to time. But when Sundin drops an F-bomb during the post-game interviews in a similiar context, you know with a healthy degree of certainty the game was called in an unfair and unbalanced manner.

This isn't to say the Predators were handed the game, but they definitely didn't win the game themselves. I was impressed with their speed and tenacity, feeling frustrated like when a horse-fly hounds you for hours, swatting at the annoying and elusive pest. But when the fly lands, watch out. The Leafs were by far the more physically dominant team, and yet somehow could not earn a powerplay.

Oh well. Can't win'em all. And I can't wait for the Leafs to play them at the ACC.

UPDATE - I was somewhat surprised to see Coach Mo use Kilger on Arnott. To bad the Preds created mismatches with some quick passing.



Yesterday, tonight, tomorrow, and next year

Or for chronology's sake; tonight, next year, yesterday, and tomorrow?

Huge game tonight. A test game for this squad to see if they can hang with the best. A pride game, for all the guff the East takes, however valid, versus the road warrior West. Stevie Sullivan will be going full speed. Be careful if he is on the PK. Our best chance to is pressure their young defensemen. Gill has to man up on Arnott. And Belak needs to win a good fight tonight against Weber or Hordichuk. And stay out of the box. UPDATE - No Weber. His jaw still hurts from when Moen clobbered him.

Sundin, Antro, and Poni should win the match up against Kariya, Erat and Legwand. Sullivan, DuPont and Arnott are worrisome, as the SOS line doesn't match up well against that line's combination of speed, skill and size. I'm interested to see what Maurice comes up with (Sicking Kilger on Arnott is my best guess). Coach Mo didn't sound too sure of himself when asked about tonight's game.

Darren Dreger dropped a bomb yesterday, hinting that a no movement clause is on the table for Darcy 'An injury waiting to happen' Tucker,
As for Darcy Tucker, the hard negotiation is about to hit full stride. Toronto is faced with handing out another multi-year contract, likely to include a “no movement” clause, based on the past deals agreed to by some of Tucker's teammates.
Stop the insanity already. The only way this makes sense for the Leafs, is if Tucker signs for no more than $2.5m/year. JFJ, give him four years, with maybe a team option for the fifth. Give him the $3.25/year. But don't give him the no movement clause. Please! Other GMs are laughing at you behind your back.

Here is the yesterday...so close.

And I find this arrogance regarding the Leafs near future quite amusing at the moment.

Please forgive the heavy visual content of late.

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I told you already, I suck at tag

P3, or formally PPP, tagged me to join in on Jes' fantasy fun. Calder candidate Theory of Ice has a round-up of all participants.

I've done this a few times before, mostly messing with mullet length for EA NHL franchises. My buddies and I usually all play on the same team, so we each create our 'dream' selves then proceed to crush all comers. This is unusual to most gamers, who prefer the glory of beating one's friends. But I find this is where 'sport' video games distance themselves from traditional FPS, piloting, and RPGs. Chimps can learn patterns, but can they find the trailer on an odd-man rush?

Team: Leafs.

Uniform Number: 22 9

Position: Left handed Right wing.

Nickname: Hunter

Dream Linemates: Brendan Shanahan, Joe Nieuwendyk. They both played lacrosse.

Rounding out the PP: Mats Sundin on the left point. Al MacInnis on the right.

Job: puck retrieval, third man in. The give, on give and gos. Right half boards on the PP.

Signature Move: The unneeded and play disrupting extra pass

Strengths: Seeing the game. Vision. Hockey Sense.

Weaknesses: Execution

Injury Problems: Right hip - degenerative condition.

Equipment: Koho Euro curve. Ugly ass Cooper helmet, ala Joel Otto.

Nemesis: Mario Lemieux. His attitude sucks.

Scandal Involvement: Surveillance video found on YouTube of undetermined NHL player keying Gary Bettman's Lincoln TownCar in the underground parking garage of League headquarters the day before the Maple Leafs play the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mike Emrick notes during the broadcast the following day how well rested the visiting team looks having arrived the day before from the West coast because of a scheduling quirk, quipping "#22 seems to have alot of jump tonight."

Who I’d face in the Stanley Cup Finals: Any Original Six Team.

What I’d do with the Stanley Cup after our victory: No idea. I have no frame of reference. Maybe a day trip to the 'dam. Do they play hockey in the Netherlands?

Would the media love me or hate me? Does the media love unbalanced rants by fringe players who call out the refs?

I think most hockey bloggers have been tagged already. I haven't been surfing as much lately, so I'm not sure who has been, and who hasn't, so if you haven't been, please consider this a tag in your general direction. I'll also tag by name a couple of new Leafs blogs/sites; The Blue Bud, No Pun Intended, and DiehardBlueandWhite. Maybe David Johnson will join in the fun too. Shit, maybe Tom B will throw together a profile and forget about all the negatives for a few.

This is fantasy, right?



The name is Razor


TOR @ STL Feb.6/07

Line Combos

Cool, first youtube video posted successfully.



'Nuff said

TOR @ OTT Feb 3/07

Line Combos

UPDATE - Go check out "Why the Leafs COULD (my emphasis) win the Stanley Cup" Big kudos to David Johnson for having the big cajones to write this.



Young buds starting to bloom

TOR @ NYR Jan.31/07

Line Combos

Fact check - Ian White pounced, but not on a loose puck after a blocked shot. Mighty White read the play, a pass from the blue line after a short cycle in the corner, and jumped the pass. He deserves credit for both the interception and the hail mary pass. Lundqvist ending up in the net after his countryman beat him to the glove side was sweet; the Leafs needed a "buckle down and capitalize on opportunity" win.

Berger got it right; "I saw Ian [White] break up the play in our zone and as soon as he did, I decided to take off. He made a great pass to me..."

How about Poni? After getting blindsided with a late hit from Aaron Ward that left the winger lying on the ice with his face in his gloves, he came back with a vengence.(Berger gets points for noting this as well) First, it was a clean but vicious hit on Malik along the boards that stung the massive Czech. Then it was a power play goal, which couldn't have been planned, but appeared too perfect not to be; a pass across the crease that deflected off of a defender's skate directly into the top right corner. The slo-mo replay showed Poni looking for Antro in the right circle, but just as he passed the puck Ward's left skate crossed the lane. Something to ponder: "The Leafs now are 10-0-2 whenever he hits the scoresheet."

How good does Stajan look right now? The guy is skating like the wind, static-clinging to his man, winding up through the neutral zone ala Mike Modano, winning races for the puck, cycling. Just awesome. Keep it up Matty.

How about that Carlo? Goal-saving swat. Shaking off a late hit/boarding call. Steen is finally showing some confidence and creativity on the regular. That wrister he unleashed in Carolina that rang off the post was wicked. Antropov is just plain mean right now. Pronunciation lesson for Rangers play-by-play: An Trow Pov NOT An Trop Ov. Bates with the awesome back-check. Belak not looking like a liability, but an asset. Last night I was really impressed with his acceleration. That's right, I said acceleration. Pohl continues to impress. His smarts are what got him here, and I love smart players. Newbury is a late season surprise that should really boost the team down the stretch.

And I have to mention O'Neill who is playing his best games as a Leaf right now. Green is meshing nicely, and has already taken over title of Poker Champ. McCabe looks like a new man on the left side. I haven't felt like smacking him upside the head in a while now. Gill was awesome on Jagr.

Raycroft has been ok, too.

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