Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tyler Seguin No Longer Haunts Leafs

"Does it hurt to watch Tyler Seguin?"

That's a common question many Leafs fans get, especially as Seguin launches an offensive assault on the league.

You may have heard this before, but the Maple Leafs traded the draft pick that eventually became Seguin. The Phil Kessel trade is rarely discussed so don't feel bad if you didn't know this fact. Oh, what's that? You've heard that before. Of course, because by law the Kessel-Seguin swap needs to be brought up EVERY SINGLE DAY. For eternity.

But unlike other painful trades of the past that continually hurt Leafs Nation's collective psyche (like the Tom Kurvers-pick-that-became-Scott Niedermayer deal that everyone was reminded of as Cody Franson crept up on a Kurvers points streak record), the Seguin trade doesn't hurt. And I'm not just saying that because the Leafs have killed off any feelings I still might have inside of me.

Monday, November 10, 2014

What to do with Cody Franson

From the press box to the top defensive pairing, Cody Franson has come a long way in his four seasons as a Maple Leaf. Now in the final year of his contract the Leafs have to decide whether he's a key piece for their future or whether he's expendable.

For a while it looked like Franson was merely a bottom-pairing defenceman with a good shot capable of racking up points on the power play. Now Franson has become the Leafs best possession defenceman while playing alongside Dion Phaneuf on the top pair. When Franson takes the ice the Leafs gain a shot advantage they haven't enjoyed in years; the team controls 50.1% of all shot attempts with Franson, and fall back to their customary shelled selves when he takes a breather.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

2014-15 Maple Leafs Season Preview

The 2013-14 NHL season gets underway on Oct. 8 with the Leafs and Canadiens renewing rivalries, and what better way to get set than a season preview giving you the five reasons to be optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic about the Leafs' chances?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers

Last year might have been my worst season at predicting sleepers in the history of this blog. But I somehow still ended up winning my fantasy league, so that should give you some reason to trust my predictions this season.

If you want to do a little more digging yourself you should check out the official 5MFF fantasy hockey strategy guide as well as a handy primer to using advanced stats to crush your opponents. If you want to blindly trust my analysis jump ahead, I appreciate your faith.

As always sleepers are defined here as any player whose production this season should exceed the output of their draft position. So while this list may not have many obscure players, they should all be quality value picks.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

2014 Fantasy Hockey Team Names

Bad News Berezins
As you get older many more and more things begin to take increasing importance in your life: family, work, house, dogs (I will begrudgingly list cats as well), etc. It's perfectly understandable if you have less time to devote to fantasy hockey, so I get it if life gets in the way of researching sleepers or developing a killer draft strategy or learning how advanced stats can help win your league. But no matter how little you pay attention to fantasy hockey, the one non-negotiable area of your life you absolutely cannot neglect is your team name.

Luckily, I'm here to help. Or, more accurately, my friend Mike is here to help. Below is a list of the best of his 2014 creations. I have added a few that were floating around the internet, but these are probably 95% Mike's creations.

So although your kids may take the No. 1 spot in life's priorities these days, after naming little Katniss or baby Apollo, there's not much more important than naming your fantasy hockey team.

If nothing on this list suits your fancy check out all the fantasy hockey team names from 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010. As always, feel free to add your own creations or anything else you find in the comments below.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Is Montreal in Danger of Losing P.K. Subban?

The Montreal Canadiens are playing a dangerous game with star defenceman P.K. Subban, and it might cost them.

Unbelievably, the two sides went to arbitration after a deal could not be worked out. Subban has asked for $8.5 million while the Canadiens have countered with $5.25 million. It is possible a long-term deal is worked out before the arbitrator hands down a decision, but if not the two sides with be bound to the one-year deal awarded by the arbitrator. Afterwards, the Habs will be unable to sign Subban to a new contract until January, 2015. Subban is eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2016.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Does David Booth Still Have Top-6 Potential?

Once again it looks like the Vancouver Canucks' trash is the Toronto Maple Leafs' treasure. Last year the Leafs snagged Mason Raymond on a bargain deal and this year Dave Nonis went to his old team to pluck the freshly bought-out David Booth on a one-year deal worth $1.1 million.

Raymond was highly motivated in his stint in Toronto after being tossed aside by the Canucks, producing 45 points for a measly $1 million. Raymond's 19 goals as a Leaf was his best output since scoring 25 in 2009-10. The hope with Booth is that he can reclaim some of the form that saw him net 31 goals with the Panthers way back in 2008-09.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kyle Dubas Hiring a Ray of Hope for Toronto

The Boston Red Sox ended an 86-year World Series drought after hiring a 28-year-old executive named Theo Epstein, and after the Maple Leafs hired 28-year-old Kyle Dubas as assistant GM on Tuesday there is hope a similar miracle might work in Toronto.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Best and Worst Contracts of Free Agency Day 1

By Tuesday night, GMs had spent nearly $500 million on UFAs. As always, a ton of that money was spent recklessly and was used to sign future buyouts. Amidst the chaos there were some reasonable deals and some outright steals.

Here's a recap of some of the worst and best contracts handed out on the first day of free agency.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Leafs Off-Season Game Plan: Goalies

The Leafs finished last season ninth in team save percentage, meaning after years of wandering in the wilderness they have finally solved their goaltending problem. But nothing is simple in Toronto and even the team's biggest strength comes with plenty of tough questions.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Leafs Off-Season Game Plan: Forwards

The Maple Leafs problem isn't scoring goals, it's keeping them out. But after being a top-10 team in goals scored from 2011-2013, the Leafs were middle of the pack last season suggesting defence isn't the only area in need of an upgrade.

The Leafs rely heavily on Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk and many nights live and die with their power play because apart from those two first liners they have trouble generating chances at even strength. A total revamp of the defence is the first priority this off-season but so too is creating a more balanced attack up front. Thankfully, the forwards need more of a tweak than a gut job.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Leafs Off-Season Game Plan: Defence

Despite great goaltending, the Leafs allowed the fifth most goals in the league last season. Sadly, that isn't surprising. The Leafs haven't been better than 18th in goals allowed since the start of Lockout I.

Finally, they have some goaltending, so the bulk of the work will come in revamping the defence (and hopefully firing Randy Carlyle). It won't be easy, but there are plenty of options out there, many of which don't include trading Jake Gardiner.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What We Learned from the Conference Finals

We're only a few weeks away from crowning this year's Stanley Cup champion and we have learned so much on this journey. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Will Bolland be Leaf for Life?

Dave Bolland wants to be a Leaf for life, and a fellow Mimico boy might help make it happen.

“I’d like to get him signed,” Brendan Shanahan told the Toronto Sun a few weeks ago. “He’s the type of player I like, the type of player we need."

There's a lot to like about Bolland. He comes with a winning pedigree, grit, leadership, and the type of blue collar work ethic that plays well with the Toronto crowd. He's the type of player that does the little things that help a team win. But that doesn't mean the Leafs should break the bank to keep him.

According to Steve Simmons, the Leafs don't want to pay Bolland any more than the $4.2 million a season they are paying Tyler Bozak. That means there's a disconnect between the two camps, because Darren Dreger reported at the end of February that Bolland could be looking for as much as $5 million a year, and maybe more.

With close to $49 million already committed to only 12 players next season, giving Bolland anything more than $4 million a year means the Leafs view him as a core piece, rather than a complementary one, like he was in Chicago.

That would be a major mistake.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

What We Learned from the Second Round

A team of destiny Montreal Canadiens are one round from the Stanley Cup Final. Really, hockey gods? This is how you treat me after a life devoted to hockey? I am a broken man, please do not add to my sorrow.

Sorry, loudly questioning my faith in humanity over here. So, what did we learn from the second round?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

#FancyStats Q+A with Eric Tulsky

Noted advanced stats pioneer Eric Tulsky killed some time on Twitter recently with a helpful Q+A on #FancyStats in hockey. Links to articles with more detailed information on the topic in question are provided for those looking for more information than is available in 140 characters.

This is not the first time Tulsky has taken the time to explain advanced stats concepts in more detail to his followers, and a previous Q+A was collected by other noted advanced stats enthusiast Tyler Dellow.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What We Learned from the Opening Round

One of the most exciting opening rounds of playoff hockey in recent years is sadly over, and the inevitable letdown of round two begins tonight.

What did we learn from the opening round?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Leafs to Hire Brendan Shanahan as President

Heads have yet to roll in Toronto after another monumental collapse, but Tim Leiweke is about to make the first major change, hiring Brendan Shanahan as president.

Damien Cox of the Toronto Star broke the news, and while he didn't report the exact details of Shanahan's role, explained that it will extend beyond over-seeing general manager Dave Nonis and the hockey department.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Carter Verhaeghe Scouting Report

The Leafs have signed 2013 third-round draft pick Carter Verhaeghe to a three-year entry-level contract. Verhaeghe will report to the Marlies and join the team for the remainder of the season on an amateur tryout contract.

Verhaeghe improved considerably this past season, exploding for 82 points in 65 games, nearly twice as much as he scored as a 17-year-old. He finished the season ranked 21st in OHL scoring, well behind the 128 points of another Leafs prospect, Connor Brown.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

15 Signs Your Team is in a Death Spiral

We're at that point in the season, ladies and gentlemen: The inevitable Toronto Maple Leafs Death Spiral. This event is so common that there are telltale signs that every Leafs fan knows. If you're wondering whether your team is in a Death Spiral, consult the handy chart below.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Will Leafs Experience Drop Off with Reimer?

Winners of 15 of their past 22, the Leafs will have to continue their surge without the efforts of No. 1 goalie Jonathan Bernier, who left Thursday's game against the LA Kings with a lower-body injury.

Although the injury is not considered serious, Bernier did not practice with the team ahead of Sunday's matchup against the Capitals. The Leafs also recalled Drew MacIntyre from the Marlies to serve as James Reimer's backup.

At this point there is no timeline for how long Bernier will be out, and the task of guiding the Leafs down the stretch and into the playoffs could conceivably fall upon Reimer, the man who Bernier has soundly beat out for the No. 1 job this season.

But should Leafs fans worry? Is the drop off between Bernier and Reimer as steep as the numbers so far this season suggest?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Were We Wrong About Tyler Bozak?

One of the most debated Leafs signings in recent years, Tyler Bozak is nearly on a point-per-game pace in year one of a five-year deal and could surpass his career high in points in considerably fewer games.

But has he really improved?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Canada Wins Sochi Gold in Dominating Fashion

canada olympics gold medal
There wasn't the high drama of 2010, instead there was pure domination.

Canada defeated Sweden 3-0 to win gold at the Sochi Olympics, becoming the first country to win back-to-back gold medals since the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and have now won three of the last four golds in Olympic hockey.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Canada-USA Semi-Final Preview

shea weber canada usa olympics
Canada-USA: A rematch of the 2010 Olympic final with a berth in the gold medal game on the line. It doesn't get any better, unless the game was being broadcast at a proper time and we (self-centred) Westerners didn't have to burn through our employer's bandwidth to watch the action.

Just like in Vancouver both teams have taken drastically different paths to their showdown. So who has the edge? Let's break it down.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Canadian Olympic Watch: Don't Panic

drew doughty canada
Only in Canada can an undefeated round robin turn into a crisis.

Canada has yet to lose a game heading into the elimination portion of the tournament, but the problem is they aren't beating teams by enough and haven't looked as dominant as they should. Canada looked sloppy early against Norway, and only managed to win 3-1; they pummeled Austria 6-0, soothing the nation's collective nerves somewhat, but then barely eked out a 2-1 overtime win against a stifling Finnish team.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Players to Watch at the Sochi Olympics

zach parise olympics USA
National pride was on the line for Canada in Vancouver four years ago and a similar pressure exists in Sochi for the Russians. The added element to this year's Olympics should make for another memorable hockey tournament.

But there is more to these games than just Russian national pride and/or Canadian interloper heartbreaking. There are plenty of players with things to prove or compelling storylines of their own.

Here are some of the interesting players to follow during this year's Olympics.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Is Connor Brown a Legitimate Prospect?

connor brown leafs otters
Very rarely does a sixth-round pick turn himself into a legitimate prospect. But as Leafs prospect Connor Brown continues his assault on the OHL, more and more fans and scouts are beginning to wonder whether Brown's scoring prowess will one day translate to the NHL.

Brown is leading the OHL in scoring with 31 goals and 92 points through 45 games and is on pace for nearly 140 points. No OHL player has surpassed 130 points in a season since Patrick Kane scored 145 in 2006-07.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Book Review: Keon and Me

dave keon leafs book
For decades, quite possibly the greatest player in Leafs history, Dave Keon, has been on self-imposed exile from the team. In Keon and Me: My Search for the Lost Soul of the Leafs, Dave Bidini goes searching for the Maple Leaf legend.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Evaluating Dave Nonis' First Year in Toronto

dave nonis leafs
On the one-year anniversary of his hiring as Toronto Maple Leafs general manager, Dave Nonis is witnessing his team implode. Toronto has only two regulation wins in their last 23 games and only four in the 30 games since a 10-4 October.

After making the playoffs last season the Leafs have taken a gigantic step backwards in 2013-14, although they are miraculously still in a playoff spot thanks to a terrible Eastern Conference.

Now seems like a good time to evaluate Nonis' first year on the job.

Friday, January 3, 2014

What to Expect from Tim Gleason

tim gleason leafs trade
On the day of the Winter Classic the Leafs made a trade, consummating the oft-talked about John-Michael Liles for Tim Gleason swap with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The deal is a lateral move, both teams dealing overpriced defenders with two additional years on their contracts, but one in which the two players might provide better results with a change of scenery.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Winter Classic All Style, No Substance

winter classic leafs red wings
The Winter Classic is really, really cool and breathtakingly beautiful. It also really sucks.

Don't get me wrong, walking into the Big House and looking around at the enormous crowd as the snow fell and the teams took to the ice is a moment I'll never forget and it was every bit as magical as you expect. Magic doesn't keep you warm, however, and about five minutes into the game you start to question your own intelligence.
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