Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Toronto Maple Leafs: After 50 games

The Maple Leafs once again went 3-5-1-1 over the past 10 games. Obviously a pattern is setting in here. The past 10 games have been characterized by very weak goaltending. Vesa Toskala has played anywhere from alright to awful. Goalie coach Cory Hirsch suggested that Toskala has a chronic groin problem. Ron Wilson suggested that same problem last month. That has to be a worry since he is under contract for another year at $4 million. Justin Pogge was brought up for a game and spent most of the game going down. He just did not look like he was even close to ready for the NHL. So I'm starting to think that the Leaf's best goalie may be Curtis Joseph. How scary is that?

Jason Blake has come alive and is now leading the team in goals (17) and tied with Nik Antropov with the lead in scoring (37 points). For those who think that he is now tradeable - get that thought right out of your mind. He has 3 years left on his contract with a cap hit of $4 million. With the cap likely to fall in the coming seasons, no general manager is looking to add long term contracts. Blake has merely guaranteed that he will not be bought out or sent to the minors. But the Leafs's best player is Luke Schenn. Clearly he has the gained the confidence of the coach who is giving him lots of minutes. Unfortunately all other young players have faded in the second half. That doesn't mean they should be written off but rather their development will not be as rapid as Schenn's.

Seems more and more fans are blaming Ron Wilson for the Leaf's poor performance. Either they are buying into Don Cherry's bombastic views about the coach or they are over-rating the talent on this team (for a change). I find that Wilson has been tough on the veterans but forgiving on the younger players. He continues to play them and notes that mistakes are part of the learning process. He certainly has rewarded good play with additional ice time (just look at Jason Blake).

I'm looking forward to the trading deadline deals next month. You probably won't see players with big contracts move (Toskala, Blake, Kubina) but certainly veterans like van Ryn, Antropov, and Ponikarovsky may leave for the right offer. I also doubt Kaberle will be traded. At $4.25 million he is a bargain. Still if someone offers the equivalent of what Philadelphia put on the table last year (Jeff Carter and a 1st rounder) then he could be moved.