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Saturday, October 8

Toronto Maple Leafs - Probable causes

 The future of the Maple Leafs is bleak. Every year, the faithful have somehow renewed hope for the upcoming season, and every year the team have fallen short. Every year since the 2005/06 season this has been the case. The legions of fans that do remain faithful is frankly astounding. I do include myself in that number as well, but more and more have been questioning why I should. At this point, it will be the sweet after the bitter, and somehow it will be that much more glorious once we do reach the playoffs. (Yes, at this point most leafs fans would be ecstatic with just the playoffs, let alone hoisting the cup for the 14th time.)

 There's a lot of talk about how this is the way ownership has wanted it, but I seriously doubt that. Because of this nagging feelings I have, and the bitterness of disappointment I felt the need to come up with a few reasons why the leafs have failed. Included below are some of the reasons.

Post lockout - Before the lockout the leafs were very similar to the New York Yankees. We had money to burn, and GM's definitely traded draft picks and prospects for older players that helped the team get to the playoffs. Cliff Fletcher traded a jumble of things to get Doug Gilmour back. I love the killer, and was glad he was back, but have a hard time justifying the trading of first round picks. (The 4th overall pick that NY Isles got from us turned out to be Roberto Luongo.) This would have become a perennial post season team with a real monster in the net. Shoulda, coulda, woulda...but shoulda traded a couple lower draft picks.

Pre-lockout, we get another Gm cast-off from Vancouver in Pat Quinn. I loathe Quinn immensely.
Due to him we lost Steve Sullivan on Waivers (890 Nhl Games, 266 Goals, 416 Assists and 543 penalty mins.)
Pat Quinn traded also traded Alyn McCauley, Brad Boyes and a 1st round pick (Mark Stuart) to the San Jose Sharks for Owen Nolan. Figures for that are 1287 games vs 69, with 233 goals vs 26, 323 assists compared to Nolan's 34 with the leafs, and 643 penalty mins when compared to the 126 a near-retiree rental player had. Horrible trade. He knows it. Prob didn't care much then, and probably still doesn't. The team gained a little in the short term, and lost a lot when he was no longer running the leafs.

 Then there was Adam Mair and what would become the pick for Mike Cammaleri in a trade for Aki Berg. ( Horrible)
 Compare the games played for those players: 1111 vs 606, Goals: 215 vs 15, Assists: 283 vs 70 & penalties: 1092 vs 374.

This man started the trading of picks for the possibility of making the playoffs, and in turn diminishing the leafs future chances to win the cup. (Or even make the playoffs in later years.)

Next, we have John Ferguson Jr as the leafs GM.

He is responsible for one of my personal favorites that could be considered a horrible trade - JFJ traded Tukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft. No real figures are needed for this trade. On one hand we get the Goalie of the future who currently fights for the no.1 spot with the reigning Vezina winner, Tim Thomas. In return we got someone who could currently be considered the water boy and locker room mascot - Raycroft. If John Ferguson Jr had a draft pick he most likely traded it. That's bad, but what's worse is that he also traded future picks so the cupboard would be bare even after his astronomical failures would cause him to be fired. The following is just a snippet of players who could have been/remained leafs but were traded: Maxim Kondratiev, Jared Boll, Lars Eller, Ken Klee, Ric Jackman, Nathan Perrot, Jarko Immonen, etc. What we got back was Expensive contracts handed to underachievers, Jason Blake, and  Vesa Toskala. In my opinion, Vesa was one of the worst Goalies ever. The worst Leafs number one goalie in my lifetime. In fact, both my wife an I used to call him the "tosser".  Even when Vesa was thankfully traded away by Brian Burke, Tosser's last gift to leafs fans was the comment "I can't wait to wash the blue and white off." Good riddance. All of these things makes me despise JFJ more than any other GM so far.

Next was Cliff Fletcher.
He got rid of Hal Gill, Wade Belak, Carlo Colaiccovo, and Bryan Mccabe. I liked all of these players. Cliff, to his credit, was trying to re-stock picks and get rid of players that felt entitled to their roster spot. (The only problem was that all three of those players did deserve their roster spot.) We did get Luke Schenn and Grabovski from Cliff. But, on the other hand could have had Colin Wilson instead of Schenn. Wilson is a really good center. Overall, I'm ok with, wait... I'm not. Lee Stempniak.

This leads us to Burkie. It's kind of final for him unfortunately.
The chances are that Burke will need to answer for JFJ's destruction.

It's a shame that less people know just what Burke has done. He got rid of Vesa Toskala & Jason Blake for a J.S. Gigeure rental. This was huge drop in salary and the removal of a taint/fungus to the locker room. Unbelievable trade.

Hagman, Mayers, Stajan, and White for Aulie, Phaneuf and Sjostrom. Huge trade. Get rid of garbage (sorry Stajan, but it's true) and pick up Aulie and Phaneuf. This was also an unbelievable trade.
Burke dropped all of the old overpaid schmucks and stocked up a bit. He picked up some amazing prospects from Pittsburgh and the Bruins, and got rid of Kaberle. Two thumbs up!
He traded Beaucheman and Versteeg away, which also made me happy, but cannot be counted as good things Burke has done as he originally picked them up. Kinda cancels the pick up and trades after.

Burke's failings: The 2010/2011 1st round pick + 2nd round pick for Phil Kessel.
Sure Kessel will score 30+ most years. In my mind that doesn't count much if opposing teams score a point for every point that Kessel gets. Phil is a bit small, weak and sometimes appears kind of lazy. My wife calls him Cheeseburger. We'll never have Tyler Seguin, or Dougie Hamilton. There's no question that the leafs now have more American players than Canadian, and a couple of bad contracts and liabilities. The future is unclear, and it makes me wonder how many other teams would consider trades with Brian Burke.

Maybe he'll be know as a savior of the team...Or maybe we'll just make the playoffs and trade our future for years to come. Here's hoping.

Thursday, September 29

Drew Doughty

After Smyth was traded back to Edmonton and Penner was traded to the Kings it looks as if there's a good trading relationship between the two teams.

Drew Doughty and the Kings management are still playing hardball with the contract talks, which makes it easier for the Kings management to consider trading him for Ales Hemsky.

Let's be real though. Every team in the NHL would want Doughty. With that kind of bargaining chip you could expect a better trade.

The recent Kings to Flyers trades should indicate what the Kings will give up to win sooner rather than later. Not sure why Drew hasn't seen that part yet. (Hint, take a 1 to 2yr smaller contract and go for broke. Aim for the cup Drew. Your current team is.)

Trade potential - Jordan Staal to the Leafs?

Jordan Staal is a 23 year old phenom that isn't noticed as much as he should be.

On a team that includes the likes of Sid "the kid" Crosby and Evgeni "Gino" Malkin & "Flower" and company it's been a bit easy for him to be overlooked. Even with all of this talent on the Pens Jordan has still managed to stand out. He's already been a finalist for the Selke alongside Datsuk, won gold at the worlds and has already hoisted the Stanley cup. Did I already say he's only 23?

One of the main problem I see for the Pens is being able to keep him. Also, he's yet to break the 30 goal mark. Not being on a top line will do that. When you're killing penalties the ice is a bit tilted to one side and the scoring is less.
If he was able to step out of the monster shadows of Sid and Malkin I'm sure he would be better able to reach his potential. I'd bet my paycheck that he's already thought that as well. Like all good hockey players his main motivation is probably to win and he is somewhat happy on a team that does that already.
That would be fine on its own but the Pittsburgh Penguins are fast approaching a very expensive year - 2013. This is when a lot of contracts for the Pens are up. It would greatly benefit the Pens to drop some cap and get some cheap prospects in the future.

Jordan to either the Toronto Maple leafs or Edmonton Oilers would probably work well.

Jordan Staal on either team would be their number one center. Both teams need his defense and his potential offense. Both teams have some blue (oil) or slightly blue (Leafs) chip prospects. Pieces that could be spared that would help the Pens.

To the Leafs:
Jordan Staal

To the Pens:
Keith Aulie
Tyler Bozak
and a potential pick.

The pens drop a bunch of cap space (not including the raise Jordan is due in two years.)
They also get a top D prospect in Aulie and potential solid 3rd line center. With two top centers, losing the third top center seems a bit of a given. (Plus, I'd prefer to see Sid on the PK more as it's fun to watch. Much more so than watching the cheeseburger that is Ovechkin cherry picking all the time.

There's no doubt at all what the leafs get out of the deal. Hence the need for a potential pick. Base the pick on the Pens standings for next year.
Looking at the roster the Pens need to manage cap space, to get more young d and some good wingers to play beside the pens current top two centers. This trade could work.

The reason we included the Oilers in a possible trade was due to the sheer amount of young talent they've accumulated over the past couple of years. The untouchables on the Oil should be Hall, Eberle, Cam Barker & Nugent-Hopkins. Those four should be the future of that team and will dominate if not destroy for years to come. (Sort of like Pens of the past couple of years or the Blackhawks more recently.)

To the Pens:
Sam Gagner
To the Oilers:
Jordan Staal.

My main thought behind this one was that the kids need defensive schooling. The young guns of the Oilers already know how to score. The pens could probably sign Sam cheaper than Jordan as well.

A different and cheaper Oiler/Pens trade would be:
Jordan Staal for Oscar Kiefbom, Anton Lander and a pick.

Cheaper for pens, deeper lines for Oilers who would make the playoffs much sooner.

No matter the scenario, I'm sure Jordan Staal will step into the limelight to be the face of a franchise. Just not while he's alongside Sidney Crosby. Not to draw this comparison again, but no one growing up with hockey in the 80's wanted to be Messier.
Especially when you have a modern day Lemieux and Gretzky on the same team as well.

Wednesday, September 28

Why have so few said anything...

In Feb 2004, Marcus Naslund got his bell rung pretty good by Steve Moore. A clean or dirty hit, it didn't matter. When a teams star player gets taken down the rest of the team needs to respond, and the Canucks did.

Everyone knows that later in the March 2004 Todd Bertuzzi called Moore out to scrap, and that Moore declined. Steve Moore was taken down by a sucker punch from behind as he skated away from Todd Bertuzzi, and the rest is history.

What I've been wondering for years is why hadn't anyone asked the coaches and Gm more about the incident? I am a fan of Burkie and what he's been able to do for multiple teams, but one thing makes me a little hesitant to fully root for Brian Burke.
I suspected that the coach and possibly the GM of the 2004 Canucks might have called for blood due to the hit on Naslund.
It would go without saying that any coach in pro hockey would have condoned some sort of retaliation. Either directly or indirectly. Maybe Marc Crawford and Brian Burke might not have outright asked the team to step up and be truculent, but if no one did do anything there would have been hell to pay in the locker room.

 I found it interesting that Burkie had offered Steve Moore a contract offer a year after the hit. (When Brian was GM for the ducks.) The other thing I found interesting is the picking up of Steve Moore's brother - Dominic Moore in 2008. Same Gm - Brian Burke, just a different team. Sure Dominic is a good player, but the coincidences are a bit much. It seemed more like an attempt for redemption rather than an eye for talent. Then again, Burke does pick up some decent talent for his teams.

While I don't condone the Bertuzzi on Moore hit in 2004, I fully think it's unfair to lay all of the blame on one player. There is a team, coaches & GM who were/are responsible for the play on the ice. It also makes me wonder what will happen to Sean Avery some day when he backs away from a scrap that he clearly instigated. The instigator rule and recent deaths of some awesome enforcers make me nervous. Hockey without fighting to me is like that March 2004 hit without the blame.