Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fletcher-Sundin Summit has Happened

Howard Berger of The Fan590 reports that the much talked about meeting between Cliff Fletcher and Mats Sundin occured on Wendnesday afternoon in Raleigh. Fletcher is likely meeting with mnay people in the organization in order to initiate some planning for the future but the meeting with Sundin has additional significance.

The Leaf media horde has been obssessed with a Sundin trade and has hounded the Leaf captain for the past 2 months about whether he would waive the no trade clause in his contract. This is the same group of dilusional reporters that has speculated for years that Sundin wanted out of Toronto. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. Sundin does not want to be a rent-a-player. He has indicated that he would not get much gratification from winning a Stanley Cup in a uniform he is uncomfortable wearing. He is not a mercenary-type in the mold of a Roger Clemens or Peter Forsberg. And he is not about to walk this summer as speculated by the same misguided media.

Fletcher did report back that he and Sundin had a lengthy discussion on a number of issues including Sundin's future. Neither Fletcher or Sundin will comment publicly on the discussion over the next month. Of course this will not stop the media from continuing to hound both men.

So what does this all mean? What is significant is that Fletcher did not announce that the Leafs would not be trading Sundin. Had he made that public then all the speculation would end (and shift to other veteran players). Fletcher is very fond of Sundin and my guess is he would be almost as reluctant as Sundin to accept a trade. However, both men understand how a trade can change the fortunes of this team.

I don't think Fletcher will trade Sundin unless someone brings him an offer that literally will blow his mind. Should that happen then Fletcher would likely be able to convince Sundin to go. And whether he re-signs with the Leafs in the summer depends on whether Sundin's comfort level in a new city changes if that team goes deep in the playoffs. If Sundin is not traded then he will be signed for another 2 or 3 years over the course of the spring or summer.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Losing Streak Ends at Eight

On Sunday we got the "scoring monkey" off our backs. Tonight we said goodbye to the "losing monkey" as the Storm defeated the Vaughan Flames 3-1. Everything went right tonight - good goaltending, enough scoring, a powerplay, and the ability to hold a lead.

The Storm's revamped lineup continually pressured Vaughan and created good scoring chances and some goals. In the first period Amanda and Mari combined for one of the nicest goals on the season on a high wrist shot by Mari over the goalies shoulder. Near the end of the second period Vaughan scored a powerplay goal after several unsuccessful attempts by the penalty killers to clear the puck out of the Storm zone. However, early in the third period Lauren N moved in from the point to score while on a man advantage. It was Lauren's second powerplay goal in the past 2 games. Jackie finished the scoring with on an empty net.

Next game is in Orillia on Saturday.

Pogge vs. Rask

When Ferguson traded Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft he essentially decided that Justin Pogge was a better prospect than Rask or would develop sooner. Pogge is in his 2nd year in the AHL and Rask is a rookie. At the AHL All Star break here are their numbers:

24 games
16 wins
3 losses
4 overtime/shootout losses
2 shutouts
2.27 G.A.A
.910 Save %

22 games
16 wins
5 losses
0 overtime/shootout losses
0 shutouts
2.33 G.A.A.
.898 Save %

Not much difference really. Pogge's save percentage is better. They play on two of the strongest teams in the AHL so neither has an advantage in that area. Still too early to tell. I bet both will be better than Raycroft real soon.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Storm Comeback Falls Short

The Storm finally discarded that albatross they had been carting around for the past 4 games by scoring three times against Clearview. The Storm fell behind by three goals but came back to tie in the third period. It was a sloppy game but the Storm never gave up and slowly chipped away at the Clearview lead.

Rebecca opened up the scoring with a long shot that just fooled the goalie. With 7 seconds left in the 2nd period Kailee crashed the net off the faceoff and shovelled the puck past the Cleaview goalie. In the 3rd period on a powerplay, Lauren N fired the puck from the point through a crowd to tie the game. It looked like the game would end in a tie but with just over a minute left in the game a Clearview player picked up a loose puck in the corner, skated to the front of the net and jammed the puck past Bianca.

It was an unfortunate ending but at least it wasn't another 1-0 game. As well, it shows that this team hasn't completely forgotten how to score.

Do the Maple Leafs Have to Trade Sundin?

The last few Stanley Cup winners (as well as their opponents in the finals) have consisted of excellent core players (ie., with big salaries), excellent cheap young players, a great goalie and smattering of role players that don't cost too much. The Leafs don't have too much of these things right now.

I think everyone realizes that the key to rebuilding the Leafs is unloading anyone who doesn't fit in any of the above categories. Lets ignore no trade contracts for the moment. Sundin can be a keeper because he earns his pay and he could be traded because his market value is high. And lets face it the most tradeable players are Sundin, Kaberle and Antropov for the very reason is they are good value. The least tradeable are McCabe, Blake, Kubina and Tucker because they are grossly overpaid and have long-term contracts.

Fletcher's goal over the next month is to create some cap space for the future and collect more young talent. So trading the dead weight will be difficult not just because it will be difficult to find a dumb manager to take them off your hands but the cap even prevents the dumb ones from making this mistake. A team that has only $2 million in cap space cannot take on Blake's salary without unloading at least $2 million in excess salaries. Calgary has been rumoured to be interested in Sundin but would expect Toronto to take back Tanguay to take on Sundin's contract. Not exactly what the Leafs have in mind.

So don't be surprised if the Fletcher isn't that active at the trading deadline even if players agree to waive the no trade provision in their contracts. When you are rebuilding you trade anyone who you think will get you back more than you are giving up. So a Steen or Stajan should be moved if the return is good enough. However, these aren't the players who are likely to go anyway because they are still "works in progress" where teams are looking for depth. So some of the Leafs larger players could move to help contenders (Kilger, Gill) though some of the larger players are hurt (Ponikarovsky, Bell). In fact your only untouchables should be Toskala, Colaiacovo and Stralman. That's because the team would be a disaster without Toskala in net and the two young defenseman still have huge upsides.

So there you have it. Trade who ever you can. Don't expect the Leafs to move the big contracts. They will have to be unloaded by either waiving the players and sending them down to the Marlies or buying them out.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Unusual Shirt

1-0, AGAIN!

Mother Nature was kind to us to start the Huronia hockey weekend but the Puck God was not so nice. The weekend started off in Midland to face the North Simcoe Head Lice. A familiar pattern settled in quickly. The Storm pressed and produced good scoring chances but no goals. The opposition gets a break and wins the game.

The refereeing was a factor in this game. There were 12 penalties in a very tame game. A total of 7 roughing or body checking penalties were called as any incidental contact resulted in an infraction. The frequent whistles and disrupted lines affected the flow of the game until the 3rd period when the referees finally put away their whistles and let the players play hockey. In the game before, the same referees called 18 penalties which is more than one every two minutes.

The winning goal was scored while the Storm was playing 2 men short and of course the penalties were borderline.

Friday, January 25, 2008

NY Rangers Retire Brian Leetch's Number

Brian Leetch was the best defenseman to play for the Maple Leafs since Borje Salming. Unfortunately he only played 15 games for them.

The one thing I noticed was Tie Domi (far right) was involved in the ceremony. Sort of odd to see him in a Ranger sweater when he claims he is such a die hard Leaf that he bleeds blue. Also why would be involved in the ceremony when he only played 82 games for the Rangers over 3 season. You never know with Domi, he may have lobbied for an invite.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Worst Sportscaster Ever

Richard Peddie is so Creepy

In the video below, at the 4-minute, 43-second mark of the Fletcher press conference, Peddie unmistakably begins mouthing along with Fletcher as he reads his statement. Cliff says: “I’d like to thank Richard and the board for making me…” and then Peddie’s lips start moving. Peddie looks away from Fletcher, then turns his attention back to him at the 5:09 mark of the video. And, again, he begins mouthing the words Fletcher is speaking…. “move the club ahead to the next level so it can compete with all the top teams in the league, so it can eventually lead to playoff success.”

Did MSLE write Fletcher's remarks. Is Peddie still pulling the strings? It makes you wonder. Until Peddie is completely out of the picture I wonder how much will change for the better.

UPDATE: It has been reported that the media approached Peddie regarding his strange behaviour at the press conference. He claims it is a nervous habit that he has. I prefer when his lips move and nothing comes out over when he actually says something.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

John Ferguson's Legacy with the Toronto Maple Leafs

Below is pretty much all the transactions by John Ferguson during his tenure as Maple Leaf general manager. Much blame has been put on Richard Peddie and the MLSE board for the current state of the Maple Leafs. But it was Ferguson who came up with these trades and negotiated these contracts. Very few have worked out in the Leafs' favour. So many of his free agents signings are now out of hockey. There haven't been a lot of trades but they have all included draft picks.

August 29 - Leafs named John Ferguson general manager.
September 27 - Signed free agent Ken Klee for 1 year.
October 28 - Signed free agent Clarke Wilm for 1 year.
January 10 - Claimed Craig Johnson off waivers from Anaheim.
February 11 - Traded Ric Jackman to Pittsburgh for Drake Berehowsky.
March 3 - Acquired Brian Leetch from the Rangers for Max Kondratiev, Jarkko Immonen and a 2004 draft pick.
March 9 - Acquired Ron Francis from Carolina for a 4th round 2005 draft pick.
March 9 - Signed a retired Calle Johansson.
March 9 - Claimed Chad Kilger off waivers from Montreal.

Season lost to lockout.

July 31 - Acquired Jeff O'Neill from Carolina for a conditional 2006 draft pick.
August 6 - Signed free agent Tie Domi for 2 years.
August 6 - Signed free agent Jason Allison for 1 year.
August 11 - Signed free agent Alexander Khavanov for 1 year.
August 12 - Signed free agent Eric Lindros for 1 year.
August 18 - Signed free agent Jean-Sebastien Aubin for 1 year.
September 10 - Signed free agent Mariusz Czerkawsk for 1 year.
November 6 - Traded Nathan Perrott to Dallas Stars for a conditional 2006 draft pick.
February 11 - Resigned Thomas Kaberle for 5 years.
March 8 - Acquired Luke Richardson from Columbus for either a 2006 5th round draft pick.
March 8 - Traded Ken Klee to New Jersey for Aleksander Suglobov.

June 24 - Acquired Andrew Raycroft from Boston in exchange for Tuukka Rask.
June 29 - Re-sign Bryan McCabe for 5 years.
June 30 - Bought out Tie Domi and Ed Belfour.
July 1 - Signed free agent Pavel Kubina for 4 years.
July 1 - Signed free agent Hal Gill for 3 years.
July 18 - Signed free agent Mike Peca for 1 year.
July 18 - Signed free agent Bates Battaglia for 1 year.
October 7 - Signed free agent Signed Boyd Devereaux for 1 year.
January 10 - Claimed Travis Green off waivers from Anaheim.
February 27 - Acquired Yanic Perreault and a 2008 5th round draft pick from Phoenix for Brendan Bell and a 2008 2nd round draft pick.
February 27 - Sign Darcy Tucker to 4 year contract extension.

June 23 - Acquired Vesa Toskala and Mark Bell from San Jose for 2007 1st and 2nd round draft picks and a 2009 4th round pick.
June 26 - Signed free agent Simon Gamache for 2 years.
July 2 - Signed free agent Jason Blake for 5 years.
July 10 - Signed free agent Scott Clemmensen for 1 year.
January 11 - Claimed Dominic Moore off waivers from Minnesota.
January 22- John Ferguson is fired.

Same Score, Different Team

It was a different night, a different arena and a different opponent but the final result was the same. The Storm managed to lose yet another game by the score of 1-0 to the Aurora Panthers.

With each game, the team plays harder and has begun to dominate games without scoring a goal. The Aurora coaching staff were very complimentary of the play of the Storm team and admitted they had stolen a win. Because of a few illnesses, there were new line combinations that worked out very well. The line that stood out was a new combination of Jessica R at centre between Maryssa and Marley. The line was dangerous all night and stripped Aurora defensemen of the puck on a regular basis. Kendra also played an exceptional game and could not be faulted on the goal that ended up being the only goal in the game.

Fortunately the team continues to be very positive despite the mounting losses. And there is a lot of positive things happening with this team. The goaltending has been quite good and has allowed more than 2 goals only once since the new year. The defense has been doing a great job in moving the puck out of the defensive zone up to the forwards. As a group the forwards are likely the fastest in the division and continue to put pressure on opposing teams. Now if only someone would score.

This weekend are two long road games to Midland and Camp Borden. Hopefully the roads will be good and some scoring will materialize.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

So What's Next?

This season has actually been a revelation in terms of unmasking just how much of an effect the MLSE board — and Larry Tanenbaum and [MLSE president] Richard Peddie especially — have on the running of the Maple Leafs. First, there was the whole senior adviser ridiculousness in the summer, which culminated in last weekend's revelation that the deal was basically in place to bring in Scotty Bowman but Peddie decided three weeks before the season he wanted to see where the team would go.Then during the Leafs' first tough stretch, there was Peddie again, this time making ill-advised (read: stupid) comments that hiring Ferguson was a mistake. Finally, there is now the entire “Fire JFJ” saga which has gone from a seeming no-brainer move last summer to a daily drama that has made Ferguson a figure of sympathy and MLSE into a classless monolith that can't even fire a GM properly.

First it appears that Fletcher is only here on an interim basis. That could still change. What is his mandate? Is it to make a run at the playoffs or start rebuilding? Has the MLSE board changed its view on rebuilding the team? Does everything have to do through Peddie and then the board? Will Mat Sundin finally agree to a trade or will he stick to his pathological desire to stay a Leaf? Because there isn't much else to trade.

Gord Kirke (an excellent hockey person) is leading the search for a new GM and not Fletcher. Will the new GM still report to the board through Peddie? Will he be free to make hockey decisions without interference? The MLSE press release states that the new guy will have complete autonomy and should be "a long-term builder and a short-term fixer". Thank goodnes Punch Imlach is not available.

I'm not optimistic as long as a pension plan is the majority owner of the team and every decision is based on revenue and profit.

Monday, January 21, 2008

New Maple Leaf GM Announcement May Be Wednesday

The Fan 590's Howard Berger reports the MLSE board of directors held a lengthy meeting earlier today at the Air Canada Centre, hoping to iron out the details of a contract for Fletcher. He is looking to assume a presidential-type role (not interim), with full authority to hire the next general manager of the Maple Leafs. Cliff would remain at the top of the hockey department, and would have meaningful input into all matters relating to the team. Final authority, however, would be the domain of the GM, as in all functional organizations.

Fletcher is apparently looking for the MLSE board to move aside once a budget is in place. That means no approval of trades and free agent signings.

One further snag is minority shareholder and company chairman Larry Tanenbaum, who was instrumental in Fletcher being dismissed by the Leafs in May, 1997. Though no one will confirm this, it is believed Tanenbaum does not want Fletcher to return. In the latest round of his on-going internal squabble with CEO Richard Peddie, Tanenbaum is apparently trying to rally enough board members to offset the directors affiliated with Peddie, and the company’s prime shareholder, the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan.

I'm not thrilled about bringing Fletcher back. He had his good points but also a lot of weaknesses. But I do like the idea of eliminating all the political interference. If that can be accomplished, even my dear sweet mom would stand a chance to improve the Leafs.

Giants over the Packers

From Coming to America (1988)

Just call him Eddie "Nostradamus" Murphy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Toronto Maple Leaf Team Photo - 2007/08

All Stars by Nationality

Here is the breakdown of 44 All Star Game players by nationality:

Canada 23: Jason Arnott, Martin Brodeur, Brian Campbell, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Dany Heatley, Shawn Horcoff, Jarome Iginla, Ed Jovanovski, Duncan Keith, Vincent LeCavalier, Manny Legace, Roberto Luongo, Rick Nash, Chris Osgood, Dion Phaneuf, Chris Pronger, Mike Richards, Martin St Louis, Marc Savard, Jason Spezza, Eric Staal, Joe Thornton

Russia 7: Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Gonchar, Ilya Kovalchuk, Andrei Markov, Evgeni Nabokov, Alexander Ovechkin, Sergei ZubovSweden 4: Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg

Slovakia 3: Zdeno Chara, Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa

USA 3: Rick DiPietro, Scott Gomez, Paul Stastny

Czech Republic 2: Tomas Kaberle, Tomas Vokoun

Finland 1: Kimmo Timonen

Slovenia 1: Anze Kopitar

Over half the players in the game will be Canadian. Which makes me think that an interesting format might be Canada vs. The World. The number of Russians in the NHL has dropped off considerably as many are choosing to stay at home and play in the Russian Super League. There will be only 7 Russians in the All Star Game but considering there are only 31 Russians in the NHL this year, that means almost 25% are All Stars. Slovenia has only produced one NHL player ever in Anze Kopitar and he is in the All Star Game.


Storm Shut Out Again

The Storm had another very strong effort but once again came up with no goals and no points as they fell to Orillia 1-0. Aside from a 3-goal effort against Scarborough game, the powerplay continues to be unproductive. The team had 3 powerplay opportunities against Orillia and produced few good scoring chances. The closest the Storm got to scoring was a backhand shot by Sheri that beat the goalie was went off the post. After the game the frustration was evident in the faces in the dressing room. However, the players are doing the best and we all have to be patient until some forwards find the back of the net.

Friday, January 18, 2008

You Can't Put the Blame on the MLSE Board

Buried in a story from Dave Perkins in Wednesday's Toronto Star is this little tidbit from JFJ:

"The worst thing we did was finish a point out of the playoffs last year and get the 13th draft choice. The year before we missed by two points and got the 13th pick, which we traded away,'' said Ferguson, clearly indicating that a team gone deep in the tank can at least take solace in eventually landing a top draft choice.

"That wouldn't be the worst thing in the world,'' he said of a quality pick, adding that a plan to sacrifice present for future as a method of rebuilding was proposed a couple of years ago – presumably to the same Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment board of directors now said to be shopping his job around.

"That plan was not approved."

So what JFJ is suggesting is that had been allowed to blow up the team they would have been much better. I do feel some sympathy for the guy as he is being allowed to twist in the wind. But I can't accept that his plan would have worked because a capable GM would have still pulled off some good deals. I can't think of even one. Look at all the players he signed or traded picks for that aren't even playing in the NHL anymore - Lindros, Allison, O'Neill, Francis. Or just overpaying for players that aren't producing much - Belfour, Raycroft, Blake, Kubina, Tucker, McCabe.

Fire Richard Peddie

You can sign the online petition here.

Very Nice Goal By Rick Nash

Sharks Bite!

The Storm played one of their best games of the season but again couldn't put the puck in the net. The dominated that Barrie Sharks but lost another game by a 1-0 score. Not that there weren't some good chances as the Storm badly outshot the Sharks but there goalie came up big. In one play Marley was stopped point blank from in front of the net. Same thing happened to Lauren N on the powerplay. Mari and Sheri also had great chances. The Storm played a very aggressive game and had a season high 5 penalties which impacted on the flow of the game and the lines.

Next game is on Saturday against Orillia. If they team keeps playing this hard they will have to have more success.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

First Mcdonalds Ad was Pretty Creepy

Now how abuot this McNugget ad...

Vintage Maple Leaf Ad (1937)

It was a disappointing period in Maple Leafs history as the Leafs did not win the Stanley Cup between 1932 and 1942 but you could get into the Gardens for less than a dollar.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Is Ovechkin's Contract Too Long

James Mirtle who writes for the Globe has done a lot of analysis on the impact that the Ovechkin contract could have on Washington by the time it expires. Some people are calling Ovechkin O-Rod because its hockey's equivalent to the Alex Rodriguez contract.

Since he entered the NHL, he has been the league's most prolific goal scorer. Mirtle points out that only two modern players, for instance, sit ahead of his .632 career goals-per-game average (Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux). And the fact he's notched 252 points in his first 207 NHL games. But Ovechkin's 13-year contract expires when he turns 35. It's a risky contract because the history of the NHL suggests that 50 goal scorers do not remain as elite players for that long of a period.

Only 87 players in NHL history have scored 50 goals in a season, and that's a group that includes the majority of the game's top-producing players of all time. If you eliminate the 18 that are still active the number falls to 69. Here are some interesting stats:

1. Over half had their last 30-goal season before turning 31.
2. 78% had their last 40-goal season before turning 31.
3. Eleven of the 69 played their last 60-game season before turning 30.
4. Average age they last played 60 games in a season: 33.3
5. Average age they last scored 40 goals in a season: 28.5
6. Average age they last scored 30 goals in a season: 30.5

There is no way of knowing when Ovechkin's production will drop off. Brett Hull and Marcel Dionne were productive for a long time. Mike Bossy and Cam Neely did not last nearly as long. But they were all great players.

This contract has no risk for the player and lots for the team.

My Top Candidates to Take Over the Maple Leafs

1. Scotty Bowman
Bowman is a no brainer. He is the most knowledgeable hockey person on the planet (including myself). Some will argue that Bowman at 75 is too old and that his success has been as a coach not as a manager. The value of bringing Bowman into the organization is that he gives the Leafs instant credibility. There are many hockey people that are not interested in working here because it is so dysfunctional. That perception changes once Bowman is in charge. He will not need to be around for a long time, only to rebuild the organization from top to bottom. He is the best judge of hockey talent in the league and will be able to evaluate what assets to keep and which ones to move out. Bowman could be enticed to come to Toronto but not until the off season. He is committed to Detroit until June.

2. Ken Holland
Holland is recognized as the best manager in the NHL. The Red Wings consistently win. They know which players to draft, trade or sign. Detroit is really the only big market team that seemed to transition into the salary cap world without any bumps. That has not been the case for the other big spenders New York, Toronto, Philadelphia, Colorado and St. Louis. I doubt Holland would want to leave the great Red Wing environment. I get the feeling even money might not entice him.

3. Brian Burke
Burke is quite the blustery individual and like Pat Quinn tough enough to deal with the Toronto media frenzy. Burke has plenty of experience as a player agent, manager and NHL executive. He showed a lot of savvy in building a Stanley Cup team in Anaheim so quickly. But Anaheim is on the west coast so Burke lured to Toronto because of its location and history.

4. Darcy Regier
I love what Regier has been doing in Buffalo. He has always kept his team stocked with young, good, cheap talent before there was a salary cap. His only misstep was the loss of Drury and Briere in the summer. It's hard to know if there was anything he could have done to retain them and trading them at the deadline was never a consideration when you have a shot at the Cup. On Buffalo players are held accountable for their performance. In Toronto that has never been the case which is why the Leafs are a great team to play for unless you want to win. You wonder if Regier would be interested in coming to Toronto. When the franchise was brankrupt and in trouble, I would have said definitely yes. But maybe not any more.

5. Lou Lamoriello
New Jersey is the only franchise that can match Detroit's success over the past 10 to 15 years. Lamoriello is a big reason they have all those Stanley Cups during that period. Now he has had some help over that period since his team owned the greatest goalie in the game (Martin Brodeur). Lou had enough sense to hang on to Brodeur unlike Mike Millbury who traded away Roberto Luongo who has taken over from Brodeur as the NHL's best goalie. The only reason Lamoriello would leave the Devils is for the challenge in turning around the leafs.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Age 1 to 100

Dangerous Situation

When will the chaos end?

Pink Rink

For those of you who like their pink laces, pink sticks, pink hockey socks and pink tape, how about playing on pink ice?

The Norfolk Admirals played the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL played the first Pink in the Rink event on Saturday.The surface, along with other events during the game, was designed to increase breast cancer awareness and education. The event also helped raise money for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization that helps breast cancer survivors and encourages research.

Is it So Important the Maple Leafs Act Right Now?

More often than not, the media circus surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs is more entertaining than the team on the ice. The media hype goes into gear during modest winning streaks, losing streaks and every Leaf playoff game. The latest hype has to do with the lame duck manager and coach and it seems the consensus is that both be fired immediately and rebuilding start right away.

I'm not sure why the urgency. The season is lost and so is next season at the very least. But opportunities are lost by not acting right now? Well, as I see it only trading Mat Sundin. He is a unrestricted free agent at the end of the season so no trade is possible during the off season. But no trade is possible now since he has a no-trade contract. Sundin has clearly stated he intends on staying but it doesn't stop the media from speculating that he would go. Other than Sundin all assets are locked in for next season and could be traded during the off season as long as they don't have a no-trade contract and there is a buyer out there.

The argument against making a move is that the list of possible candidates is larger during the off season. Some teams will allow you to approach personnel under contract during the summer but will not provide permission during the hockey season. So right now the list of candidates for manager and coach is quite small - ie., hockey people not working in hockey (mostly on radio and TV). More knee jerk reactions is not what this team needs. They need a solid plan devised by the best manager that is available out there.

It's also interesting how the Scotty Bowman story exploded over the weekend. The media search for the next Leaf GM or President (the media provides this service for free) landed on Bowman's doorstep. He was interviewed by Hockey Night in Canada and revealed his involvement in the Leafs' abandoned search for a consultant over the summer. This actually is not a new revelation. Bowman is a guest analyst every Tuesday morning on The Fan 590. He has been asked about the search on numerous occasions. He always indicated on The Fan that he wasn't very eager to leave the Red Wings and never indicated he would have taken the position of President if it had been offered. He was clear he never would have taken the consultant's position.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Storm are Edged Out by Scarborough Tournament Champions

The Storm came away from the Scarborough Tournament with 4 very strong games and began to realize their potential. The Ottawa Ice were the Pool B winners with 3 straight wins coming into the semi final game with the Storm. It was a close battle with the Ice squeaking by with a 2-1 win.

Ottawa scored early in the game and picked up a second goal in the 2nd period. The game also featured a penalty shot which was called when a Storm player fell on the puck in the goal crease. Kendra came out to challenge the shooter who rang the puck off a post. With 3 minutes remaining in the game, Mari finally put one behind the Ottawa goalie. The Storm pulled their goalie and were generating some great scoring chances when the buzzer went to end the game.

In the other semi final game, Whitby edged out Barrie by a score of 2-1.

Championship Game:

Ottawa 5
Whitby 0

Latest Maple Leaf Rumour

The second coming of Cujo may take place if Toskala's groin continues to give him problems. Stay tuned.

For the Sake of Humanity

Storm Qualify for Semi Finals

Although the Storm lost the final game in the round robin portion of the Scarborough Tournament, their record in the previous games was good enough to move on to face the powerful Ottawa Ice in the semi finals.

The game against Barrie was similar to the regular season games between these teams featuring fast, open and clean hockey. Barrie open up the scoring mid way through the first period when a Shark forward banged in a rebound past Bianca. However, Sheri scored only 11 second later as she crashed the net off the faceoff. Late in the second period, Barrie scored their second goal on a feed from behind the net. The two team exchanged some great chances in the final period by the score ended 2-1.

The line of Genevieve, Marley and Maryssa had some excellent chances but couldn't get one past the Barrie goalie. And the line of Sheri, Amanda and Lauren F crashed the net all night long.

Final Pool A Standings
1. Barrie 3-0-0, 8GF 1GA, 22 PIM
2. North York 1-1-1, 6GF, 3GA, 8 PIM
3. Mississauga, 1-1-1, 4GF, 5GA, 18 PIM
4. Scarborough 0-3-0, 3GF, 12GA, 36 PIM

Saturday, January 12, 2008

History of First Round Maple Leaf Draft Picks

Well it appears that the Leafs will end up with a high pick in Amateur Draft this June. Coming last doesn't guarantee the first pick anymore because it's based on a lottery. Below is a 20-year history of Leaf first round picks. Even when they keep their pick, the player doesn't become the impact player you would expect from a first rounder. If they can move some players this year for a first round pick, it will be the first time since 1989 that they will have more than one pick in the first round. Those picks didn't turn out so well anyway.

Year, Prospect, Rank
2007 – Traded for Toskala
2006 – Tlusty (13)
2005 – Rask (21) trade for Raycroft
2004 – Traded for Leetch
2003 – Traded for Nolan
2002 – Steen (24)
2001 – Colaiacovo (17)
2000 – Boyes (24) traded for Nolan
1999 – Cereda (24)
1998 – Antropov (10)
1997 – Traded for Clark
1996 – Traded for Yushkevich
1995 – Ware (15)
1994 – Fichaud (16)
1993 - Jonsson (12)
1992 - Convery (8)
1991 - Traded for Kurvers (turned out to be Niedermayer)
1990 - Berehowsky (10)
1989 - Thornton (3), Rob Pearson (12), Bancroft (21)
1988 - Scott Pearson (6)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Storm on a Streak

The Storm tied Mississauga 0-0 tonight and are now undefeated in the past 3 games including the first 2 games at the Scarborough Tournament. Goals were harder to come by in the second game of the day although there were numerous opportunities. The Storm put on tremendous pressure in the 3rd period but couldn't get the winning goal. The best chance of the game was with 0:35 remaining in the game when Mari found Jackie alone in front of the net but was unable to get a good shot away.

Kendra earned her second shutout of the season and for the 4th time this season the Storm had a penalty-free game.

The other game in Pool A had Barrie defeat Scarborough 3-0. The standing are:

Barrie - 4 pts, +6
North York - 3 pts, +4
Mississauga - 1 pt, -3
Scarborough - 0 pts, -7

Storm Stomp on Scarborough

The opening game of the Scarborough tournament was against the host team and they turned out to be quite hospitable. A rejuvenated powerplay scored 3 times to power the Storm to a 5-1 win, the biggest win of the season. Mari lead the way with 2 goals and 2 assists. Jackie had 2 goals and Genevieve had the other goal.

Much of Thursday night's practice was dedicated to cycling the puck on the powerplay and it was obvious the lesson sunk in. Both of Jackie's goals as well as Genevieve's goal were scored on the powerplay. The Scarborough defense was totally confused and continually left the front of the net open allowing Storm forwards to skate right into goal crease.

The other Pool A game was Barrie over Mississauga by a score of 3-0. Standings are:

North York - 2 pts, +4
Barrie - 2 pts, +3
Mississauga - 0 pts, -3
Scarborough - 0 pts, -4

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What's Happened to Darcy Tucker?

With everything that has gone wrong for the Leafs this season, the one thing that stands out for me is Darcy Tucker. GM John Ferguson showed complete faith in Darcy by nearly doubling his salary and giving him a no-trade clause in his contract. There was some basis to the contract since Tucker has a reputation as a hard-nosed irritant with 6 20-goal seasons.

So with all that security, Tucker is on pace to score 8 goals and 19 points, his worst season since he broke in 11 years ago. I had a very bad feeling when Tucker was signed last year. He's a small player that plays a physical game. I thought even if he was slowed by injuries and age, he would at least provide some passionate leadership. Instead we got nothing. Absolutely nothing.

No scoring. No body checks. No passion. No leadership. Nothing. Each game he just goes through the motion of pretending to be a professional hockey player. He seems perfectly happy to collect his paycheck and go home every day to drive his kids to school or hockey.

That's how life goes for members of the country club they call the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Tonight Chelios Becomes 2nd Oldest Player in NHL History

Chris Chelios' age on Monday was 45 years, 347 days. That's significant because it's the exact age at which Moe Roberts played his final NHL game in 1951. Chelios is currently third on the list of oldest players to participate in an NHL game, but the next time he takes the ice (tonight's home game against Colorado will be the first opportunity), he'll pass by Roberts for second place on that list. Gordie Howe is the oldest player ever in the NHL, playing his final game at age 52 years, 6 days.

If you don't know who Moe Roberts is (he was a goalie), that's because he only played 8 games in the NHL. The first seven of those games came by the time that Roberts was 27 in the 1930s. On Nov. 25, 1951, Chicago's Harry Lumley was injured during a game against Detroit. The call went out to Roberts, who was the Blackhawks' assistant trainer. Roberts played the final 20 minutes of the game and didn't allow a goal.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Storm Bounces Back for a Win

The Storm won its second game of the season up in foggy Camp Borden with a 1-0 squeaker against Clearview Ice Cats. Although the score was close, the Storm dominated the play. In fact, the Ice Cats failed to register a shot on net in the first period.

The winning goal was scored by Jessica R who fired what looked like a knuckleball that the Clearview goalie was unable to handler with 0.2 seconds in the second period. Bianca shut the door and earned her first shutout of the season.

The new line of Sheri, Amanda and Lauren F played a strong game and had quite a number of scoring chances throughout the game. All three line played with a lot of energy and provided very few scoring chances for the opponents on this night.

Storm Starts New Year With a Loss

Storm literally had a battle on their hands against the hoodlums from Orangeville. Orangeville jumped into an early 4-0 lead and coasted to a 4-1 win. The game had 11 penalties with Orangeville receiving 8 including 2 game misconducts.

During the last 2 periods the Storm played even with Orangeville and in fact out scored them 1-0. The lone Storm goal was scored by Mari on the powerplay. A number of forwards continue to be unable to capitalize on scoring opportunities. Hopefully that will change soon. Other strong performers were SK, Rebecca, and Amanda.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Juniors Win 4th Straight Gold

Matt Halischuk scored the overtime winner to give Canada a 3-2 win over Sweden. Canada took an early 2-0 lead in the first period but couldn't hold off the Swedes in the 3rd. The tying goal was scored with just 38 seconds left and the Swedish goalie pulled for an extra attacker.

Goalie Steve Mason and defenceman Drew Doughty were named to the tournament all-star team.

Canada has only lost one game over the past four tournaments.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Canada in Gold Medal Game!

The Canadian juniors beat the undefeated Americans by a score of 4-1 to advance to the championship game tomorrow. This was really unexpected as the Canadians although balanced lacked experience and star players. In fact, two leading scores John Tavares and Steven Stamkos are only 17 years old and received limited ice time.

Goalie Steve Mason was Canada's player of the game and lost a shutout with less than 7 minutes remaining in the game. Canada was out shot by the Americans 34-25. The Americans ended the game playing 5 on 3 with two Canadians in the penalty box. Strangely, the Americans never pulled their goalie for a 6th attacker.

Canada will play Sweden for gold. The Swedes beat the Russians 2-1 in overtime. Last year it was the same match ups in the semi finals only the Russians beat Sweden and Canada won over the Americans after a 7-round shootout. The Russians and Canadians had met in the gold medal game for 3 straight years.

Time for the Toronto Maple Leafs to Raise the White Flag

So here we are at the half way point of the NHL season and the Toronto Maple Leafs are not even at .500 (16-17-8). In fact they are 26th out of 30 teams. Even the most loyal Leaf fan knows this team is not going to make the playoffs for the 3rd year in a row. John Ferguson knows it and is probably busy updating his resume.

I've posted several views on what is wrong with the Leafs - over value and over pay players; trade away draft picks leaving them too reliant on free agents; poor work ethic; not physical enough; horrible team defense. Few players are performing as expected. I considered who was performing "Above Satisfactory", "Satisfactory" and "Below Satisfactory" and this is how I rate the team.

Above Satisfactory: Sundin, Toskala, Antropov, Gill, Devereaux

Satisfactory: Kaberle, Stajan, Steen, Ponikarovsky, Kubina, McCabe, Kilger, Colaiacovo, Belak

Below Satisfactory: Tucker, Bell, Blake, Wellwood, Raycroft, White, Wozniewski, Tlusty, Pohl

Just not enough quality to win on a consistent basis. The only solution is to dismantle this team much the way the Flyers did it last year. Let's face it, once Sundin's play declines they will drop to the bottom of the league. The time to start rebuilding is over the next few weeks leading up to the trading deadline in February.

So who should they trade and who should stay? Better yet, who is tradeable in the NHL marketplace?

Raycroft is not tradeable with 1 year left in his contract because I doubt any GM sees him as a starting goalie and no one is will pay $2 million for a backup.

Few teams can pick up high salaried players because of the cap. Anyway McCabe and Tucker have no trade contracts and I doubt they would want to leave the country club atmosphere. That's why they signed here.

Perhaps you can move Kubina. Someone would have to find over $2 million in cap space for the rest of the season.

If you can teams looking for some grit going into the playoffs then move Gill, Devereaux, Kilger, Belak and/or Bell for draft picks or prospects.

But the player who has to be moved is Sundin. He needs to be persuaded to waive the no trade provision in his contract. Many GMs would be eager to give up a very good package to land Sundin considering his durability, production and leadership. I would expect you can get what Nashville gave up to land Forsberg last year. With so few prospects in their system, it's a trade the Leafs have to make.

So I would hang on to Stajan, Steen, Kaberle, White, Colaiacovo, Ponikarovsky, Antropov, Tokala, Tlusty and who ever you can't move.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Canada Moves on to Semi Finals

Canada's junior team got enough offense today to move on to the semi-finals on Friday against the undefeated Americans. Canada beat Finland 4-2 in a very close game. Goals came from John Tavares of the Oshawa Generals, Steve Stamkos of the Sarnia Sting, Brad Marchand of the Halifax Mooseheads and Stefan Legein of the Niagara IceDogs (in the empty net).

John Tavares now has 4 goals and 1 assist with very limited ice time. Guelph Storm defenceman Drew Doughty had two assists and was named Canada's player of the game.

The other semi final game will be between Sweden and Russia.

NHL Winter Classic 2008

The outdoor game at Rich Stadium yesterday was an excellent idea. It got the NHL world-wide coverage and positive coverage for once. It was front page news every where. Too bad it was going opposite a couple of college Bowl games. It showcased the NHL's premiere talent, Sidney Crosby and he did not disappoint. You could see how excited the players were to be playing a game outside just like when we were all kids but in front of 72,000 people. The snow flying around only added to the game.

Some people have been critical of the game. They thought it was boring and poor quality hockey. The game reflected the original roots of the game and although the play was slower than usual due to the conditions, it was great to watch. I love to watch NFL football in a snow storm because the challenges presented by weather make the game different than most and to me more interesting. Although I wasn't thrilled about all the delays to fix the ice and resurface in the middle of periods. When I played in outdoor rinks we would put a pylon over holes and you just skated around them. The game took 3 1/2 hours to play.

Now I watched the game in the United States and therefore got to watch the NBC coverage. They used the game to promote their NHL schedule which begins January 20th. NBC used Bob Costas to cover the game and had Mike Milbury doing colour commentary. I thought Milbury was terrible. The low point of the telecast was a promotion for the January 20th game which is between the Boston Bruins and NY Rangers. NBC showed an old clip of Milbury when he played for Boston, where during a brawl he climbed into the stands to fight with a Ranger fan and beat the fan with is shoe (see video below). Obviously this was done with Milbury's consent and he appeared proud of the moment. The piece was an embarrassment for the NHL and only took away from the landmark game being televised.
UPDATE: NBC is happy with the ratings so we can expect more outdoor games in the future.