Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Late Season Surge: Mirage or Reality?

leafs kessel bozak bffs
There was a point where I truly believed the Leafs late season successes were harbingers for the following seasons. This led me to believe that all the Leafs really needed after both 2006 and 2007 was a capable goalie. Well, I was totally wrong. The problems afflicting the team ran much deeper than that. At that point I was still blinded by the pre-lockout Leafs who consistently made the playoffs and on occasion looked good enough to seriously contend. I was probably blinded then, too.

When I began to realize the deep-seeded problems afflicting the Leafs during 2008 I prayed the Leafs did not excel when the pressure of actually making the playoffs disappeared. Unfortunately, this was the time they did win, ruining the strength of their draft picks. I was a full supporter of Tank Nation over the past two seasons. They needed to fully re-build or else they would never win a Stanley Cup.

Now, most of this season has been very difficult for me to handle (I will go into further detail at another time of just how I dealt with the futility). And now the Leafs are transforming into the late-season good team that somehow appears every season when the pressure is off. Usually this is not indicative of how the team will play the following year. So, is this year any different? Is the Leafs performance over the final months of this season a mirage or is it a sign of things to come?

This is no mirage.

Stop laughing.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Nazem Kadri vs The Guelph Storm

nazem kadri london knights
Last night I went to my first non-NHL game in years. I once saw a Junior-A game as a kid where there was a few fights and as the opposing player was being thrown out the crowd began to chant ‘hey, hey, hey, goodbye’. I was already hooked on hockey by that point, but that certainly made both hockey and fighting infinitely cooler. After that I’ve caught a few random non-NHL games here and there, but I can’t pretend to be an avid follower.

It’s not that I think poorly of any sort of hockey below the NHL, it’s just that I prefer to pay money to see the best players play. But with a top Leafs prospect poised to make a deep run in the OHL playoffs I thought it was time to dust off the ol’ scouting cap and watch the Leafs’ next 100 point scorer cut his teeth (a guy can dream!).

The whole point of this little adventure was to watch Kadri live. This was actually the second time I’ve seen him play, since I was lucky enough to randomly catch his brief one game emergency call-up to the Leafs (February 8th against the Sharks). He held his own during that game, but I wanted to see him play against his peers. I wanted to see him dominate. Yes, that’s how far this season has fallen for me as a Leafs fan. I’ve resorted to travelling across Southern Ontario to watch the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dig Up, Stupid: Can the Leafs Escape the Cellar?

leafs basement
Since the lockout the Leafs have made a yearly habit of turning it on over the last few months of the season, which is usually when they’re almost assured to miss the playoffs. Over the past five years the Leafs record is 54-38-8 after February. If they played at the same pace over the course of a full season they would record around 95 points. That’s good enough to secure a low playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately, these brief moments of success are responsible for a modest climb in the standings, which result in worse draft positions, something dreaded by the former Tank Nation.

This year the Leafs are 9-6-1 since February. They’ve won 3 in a row and 6 of their last 7. They are still in last place in the Eastern Conference, but not by much. Technically, they’re still alive for the playoffs, although, realistically they certainly aren’t. But it’s pretty amazing that a team that’s played as poorly as the Leafs have are only 12 points behind the eighth placed team. Is nobody else winning games in the Eastern Conference?

Their recent success also means they are slowly closing in on some of the other bad teams in the East. They are only four points behind the Lightning, the Hurricanes, and the Islanders; five points behind the Panthers; seven points behind the Rangers; and nine points behind the Thrashers. Gaining the points to surpass the Rangers and Thrashers is doubtful, but the Leafs play both teams twice before the end of the season, so it isn’t totally outlandish.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How To: Getting Rid of Rats

brent seabrook blackhawks concussion
It’s almost funny how poorly the NHL’s image has suffered since the Olympics. It didn’t even take a day after I posted about Ovechkin and Cooke for another player to violently injure an opponent. James Wisniewski (not Andy Wozniewski, he sucks even worse), a defenceman for the Anaheim Ducks, raced in from the blueline to deliver a retaliatory check on Chicago Olympian Brent Seabrook. Earlier in the play Seabrook laid out Corey Perry in what maybe should have been a penalty, maybe not. Hard to say really. It certainly wasn’t anything to lose your mind over. The refs didn’t call anything, so Wisniewski took matters into his own hands. Seabrook didn’t have the puck. In fact, the player he passed to had enough time to pass the puck. Seabrook was unsuspecting. To compound the matter, Wisniewski leapt from his feet and launched Seabrook into the boards from a few feet away. Seabrook was out before he hit the ground. It was sickening.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ovechkin Adds to His Rap Sheet

brian campbell blackhawks
The NHL must hate prosperity. After making a big splash in America following the wildly exciting Olympics (where we defended our national identity, no biggie) the NHL has followed with a nauseating few weeks.

I wasn’t really going to bring this up because I don’t like to dwell on these sorts of incidents and I've already criticized Ovechkin's style of play, but Barry Melrose was on PTI today and was an absolute troglodyte. He made hockey fans everywhere look like a group of brain-dead, gorilla juice-heads out for blood.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Do the Hawks and Flyers Really Need a Goalie?

flyers goalies suck
This year’s trade deadline was especially boring despite having a record 31 trades involving 55 players. The most exciting trade was Wojtek Wolski (the next Polish Prince?) for Peter Mueller – not exactly the most riveting trade. However, the lack of intrigue was not totally surprising. The major players (such as Kovalchuk and Phaneuf) moved prior to the deadline, which left only secondary players available. Put it this way, the most sought after player at the deadline was Ray Whitney. Not exactly a sexy name. What did surprise many people was the lack of movement made by two teams considered serious contenders for the Stanley Cup, Chicago and Philadelphia.

It is clear that the weakest point of each team is their goaltending. How weak is up for debate. Both teams were rumoured to be aggressively pursuing a legitimate number one goalie at the deadline and both were unable to land said prize. Is this a bad thing? Does either team truly need a goalie to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup? Let’s look at each team individually.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sick Muzzy: Bringing Back the Stache

movember leafs moustaches
Today is the first in what could become a series of guest posts by friends of ours. Don't take it as a sign that we're getting lazy around here. Today we'd like to introduce our good friend, Ted Rigby, speaking about an issue very near to our hearts.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Tomas Kaberle: The Last of the Muskokans

tomas kaberle leafs
For the third consecutive year, Tomas Kaberle’s no-trade clause has interfered with the Leafs’ plans of dealing the veteran defenceman. Leading up to the deadline Kaberle and his agent reiterated their stance that they would not waive the clause or provide Brian Burke with a list of teams Kaberle was willing to play for. Burke also maintained that he would not ask Kaberle for a list of teams since he felt it necessary to honour the NTC based on Kaberle’s loyalty and dedication to the organization. That’s why it was somewhat surprising to hear that Kaberle provided Burke with a scant list of three teams that he was willing to accept a trade to on the day of the deadline.

The three teams have not been identified and at this point their location is purely speculative. In the past, Kaberle’s name has been linked to Boston (Kaberle for Kessel, which I feel would have been fair for both teams) and Philadelphia (the famous Kaberle for Jeff Carter and a first round pick deal in 2008).

Providing Burke with a list of three teams doesn’t provide the bombastic GM with much leverage, so it was not surprising to see the blueliner stay with the Leafs past the 3 pm trade deadline. Plus, since the Leafs will certainly miss the playoffs this year there will be a period between the draft and mid-August where Kaberle’s NTC is gone and his input into his future location becomes irrelevant.

What’s more interesting is why does Tomas Kaberle insist on staying in Toronto? Does he feel a tremendous sense of loyalty to the team? Does he feel leaving would be abandoning the team? Does he want to stay and help the team re-build? Does he genuinely like Toronto as a city? I don’t really understand why anyone, especially someone over 30, would want to stay in a situation like Toronto’s. Don't they want to win? Isn't that important? I don’t think Kaberle’s insistence upon staying is based on his tremendous loyalty to the team and the city, but is based more on his comfort in Toronto.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Deadline Deals Since 1980

The NHL trade deadline has become a full day media event in Canada. It’s crazy. Sportsnet is producing ads for their deadline show that have the analysts comparing the race to break stories among networks to the competition they faced as players on the ice. Doug MacLean yells about trades, something like, “instead of making bad trades today, I get to praise them!”

TSN is pretty awful on deadline day, too. James Duthie makes smart-ass remarks, while we watch Darren Dreger and Bob MacKenzie text on their blackberrys for 8 hours. Spectacular television. That being said, I do like watching for an hour near the actual trade deadline to get a nice recap of the day’s trades and to see if there is any sort of flurry near 3pm. I don’t need to watch each trade analyzed for an hour until the next trade occurs.

It hasn’t always been this way.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...