Thursday, April 29, 2010

For Sale: One slightly used future goalie phenom

I can just see the following ad in the NHL's summer Buy and Sell magazine:

FOR SALE, one 23-year old, franchise goalie, low mileage, body in mint condition, former first round draft pick, CHL Goaltender of the Year, Calder Cup championship, Calder Cup MVP, World Junior gold medalist, World Junior MVP.  Best offer.  Call Pierre.

Pierre Gauthier has a tough decision to make this summer.  What to do with Carey Price.  Probably the right decision is to move him but that seems to be a tough decision for the franchise to make.  No one wants to admit they made a mistake.  Just ask Brian Burke whether he would still make that Phil Kessel trade.

I don't think Price should be traded because he has been beaten out for the Canadien starting job by Jaroslav Halak. There are lots of good reasons why you might hang on to both for now.  But there is one very good reason for trading him now - bad attitude!  Maybe Price has spent too much time reading Montreal columnists declaring he is the next Patrick Roy. However, his reputation has taken quite a hit and for good reason.

He has resorted to whining, sulking, poor sportsmanship, throwing temper tantrums, too much partying. These are things some coaches and managers might overlook if you deliver on the ice but Price has not. For me the last straw would have been the Game 4 against the Capitals. Washington' Jason Chimera had just scored his team's fourth goal to put Game 4 to bed.  After the goal Price fished the puck out of the net and fired it directly at the celebrating Washington players, thumping one of them on the butt. He later admitted to doing it intentionally. Within the next five minutes, Price cross-checked Brooks Laich in the back. Then as Nicklas Backstrom skated by the bench after scoring the Capitals' second empty-net goal, Price swung his stick at Backstrom.

These acts earned Price two unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties.  The refs missed the Laich cross-check.  Price exhibited a level of immaturity volatility that should have to concern management.  They have a choice - either wait for him to mature and develop or make Price someone else's headache. I know what I would do.

I know that Bob Gainey was very committed to Carey Price.  I suspect that Gauthier will also be reluctant to give up on 23-year old  that might still be a franchise player.

Vancouver Canuck fans may be the worst in the NHL

Over the years the rest of Canada has had a real hate for the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans.  But after 6 years of not seeing any playoff action, the hostility has subsided to certain extent. Like most fans those in Toronto and Montreal can be quite obnoxious.  Add to that is the CBC's obsession with teams in the two largest city and you can understand why there has been resentment over the years.

But you have to admit the Vancouver Canucks and their fans have done a great job in filling in that void.  During the playoffs they have accused to league of favouring American team for better ratings in the U.S.  It has been suggested that since Mike Murphy (who works for NHL and reviews disputed goals) used to play and coach for the Kings, that's why he disallowed that obvious Sedin goal in Game 3. The fix is in!

No fan base is more blatantly abrasive in it's relationship with other fans. You badmouth their team, they come back at you even with non-hockey related remarks. You criticize the Sedins, one hundred of them mock your city. Knock Luongo, two thousand will jump all over you because of your mascot, jersey colour, cresting, you name it.

The whining is incessant from players, fans, management. Just look at the Alex Burrows/Stephane Auger incident. Canuck fans will tell you the referee got off because of anti-Vancouver bias. But Alex Burrows is the reigning league whiner, diver and irritant.  Realistically who are you going to believe on this one?

Earler this season, a fan attending the Calgary Flames/Vancouver Canucks game at GM Place aimed and fired a green beam from a laser pointer at the mask of Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. Who would do such a thing?

Let's not forget how several years ago they held a rally to support Todd Bertuzzi. Obviously the league was showing their anti-Vancouver bias by trying to make an example out of a player who almost killed an opponent (after all Steve Moore survived the attack).
So I have mixed feelings this playoff season when I see the Canucks with a shot at going deep in the playoffs.  Of course, the conspirators in the NHL head office will make sure that will never happen.  Right?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Here are my second round NHL playoff predictions

Well I was 5-3 in the first round.  My pet monkey Skippy was 6-2.  Who would have predicted that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd seeded teams in the East would all get knocked out?  Obviously not me. Well here come by second round picks.The big shocker for me wasn't the Caps but the Devils.  I think what we can conclude is that Brodeur although still a very good goalie, can no longer carry the Devils.  The Devils are getting old. Also Kovalchuk is not the impact player he thinks he is.  He couldn't carry Atlanta into the playoffs and he didn't seem to give the Devils an edge either.  So I'm thinking Ovechkin money is out of the question for this guy.

Pittsburgh (4) vs. Montreal (8)
Sid is smoking hot but so is Halak. This should be interesting. I wonder if Washington is one of the teams that looks great during the regular season but not that good in the post-season? Anyway despite the shot advantage that Washington had over Montreal, the Canadiens played better as a team and could give the Penguins trouble.  However, Pittsburgh has the experience as defending Stanley Cup Champions.

The edge has to go to Pittsburgh

Boston (6) vs. Philadelphia (7)
Both team got great goaltending and played a very physical style during the first round.  Rask was exceptional and the Bruins have Marc Savard cleared to play though who knows if he will have an impact after such a long layoff. The Flyers have key players hurt (Carter and Gagne) but have a surprise scorer in Claude Giroux. At the end not much to chose between the two.

Bruins have the edge in goaltending so I'm going with them.

San Jose (1) vs. Detroit (5)
I was surprised to see San Jose get stronger as their series progressed and they really outplayed Colorado by a significant margin. Craig Anderson kept it close.  Although the Thornton-Marleau-Heatley line folded like a cheap table (only 1 goal) it didn't matter.  The second line of Pavelski-Crowe-Setoguchi had a surprising strong series with 9 goals which is what you need to go deep in the playoffs- scoring depth. However, Detroit is not Colorado.  The Wings are healthy and starting to flex their muscles. Zetterberg and Datsyuk have 11 goals between them.

Detroit should continue San Jose's playoff futility.

Chicago (2) vs. Vancouver (3)
This will be the best series of the second round.  A rematch of last year but things are different.  The Sedins have become dominant players, the Canucks have secondary scoring in Bernier and Kessler, and Luongo is playing like he is the best goalie in the league. Injuries on defense is a concern.  Meanwhile the Hawks are deep in scoring and have one of the best defenses in the NHL.  Goaltending is their only weak link. This series should go deep.

I like Vancouver.

Scouting Report: Ben Scrivens

The Maple Leafs continued to build goaltending depth by signing college free agent Cornell golie Ben Scrivens. He won the Ken Dryden Award as the top goaltender in the ECAC and had the nation’s best save percentage (.934) and was tied for first in goals against average (1.87).

In one stretch Scrivens recorded consecutive shutouts against Havard, Brown and Union and finished with the third-longest shutout streak in NCAA history, going 267:11 without recording a goal.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Luongo has the best save of the playoffs so far

43 Years of Maple Leaf Frustration: 1979-80 Season

At the end of the 1978-79 season Harold Ballard dismissed general manager Jim Gregory after 10 years of competent management despite owner interference. Well Ballard never actually told him he was fired.  Gregory was up at his cottage that summer when he got a call from Bryan O'Neill who told him that the Commissioner, John Ziegler, wants to talk to you about a job. O'Neill asked, 'You're not working for the Leafs anymore, are you?' That's how he found out he had been fired. When he drove into the city he found Punch Imlach had already moved into his office. Imlach's crony ,Floyd Smith was hired to coach.

Imlach second stint with the Leafs was very contentious. He implemented a dress code which required that all players wear a jacket and tie when in the Leafs' offices. Tiger Williams was fined $250 for not wearing a tie, and the fine would have doubled for a second offence. Players were no longer allowed to drink beer on plane and bus rides back from road games.

Imlach quickly butted heads with Leafs captain Darryl Sittler, using confrontational tactics to try to undermine his influence on the team. Imlach also disliked Sittler's prominent role in the NHL Players Association; during Imlach's first stint with the Leafs, he was well known as an ardent foe of the union and its executive director, Alan Eagleson.

In September, Imlach went to court in an unsuccessful attempt to get an injunction to stop Sittler and teammate Mike Palmateer from appearing on the TV show Showdown. Sittler had a no-trade clause in his contract and, through his agent, had insisted on $500,000 to waive it. With Sittler apparently untouchable, Imlach traded Sittler's best friend Lanny McDonald to the pathetic Colorado Rockies on December 29, 1979 for Pat Hickey and Wilf Paiement. In response, Sittler ripped the captain's C off his sweater, later commenting that a captain had to be the go-between with players and management, and he no longer had any communication with management.  An anonymous player told the Toronto Star that Ballard and Imlach made the trade specifically to undermine Sittler's influence on the team. Tiger Williams was traded to the Canucks for Bill Derlago and Rick Vaive. Pat Boutette was shipped off th Harford and Mike Palmateer was sent to Washington.

Imlach also reached into the past signing one time nemesis 39-year old Carl Brewer in a move that infuriated the players and raised eyebrows around the league. Brewer returned to the Maple Leafs on December 26, 1979. Many players on the Leafs felt that Brewer was a spy for Imlach. In Brewer's first game, many of his teammates were openly hostile to him. Brewer's defense partner was Borje Salming, and Salming refused to pass Brewer the puck.

In March 1980, after Floyd Smith was injured in a car accident and acting coach Dick Duff led the team to two lopsided defeats, Imlach named himself as coach. Imlach was able to get the Leafs to squeak into the playoffs, albeit with a record five games under .500—the first of 13 straight seasons without a winning record. The WHA had collapsed going into that season and the absorption of the four surviving teams ensured the Leafs would still limp into the playoffs.

Imlach named assistant Joe Crozier as his successor as coach after the season.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Scouting Report: Jussi Rynnäs

We are working on a translation.

Toronto Maple Leafs prospects are ranked 6th in the NHL

Hockey's Future website has rated the Leaf organization 6th overall in terms of prospects. This is quite a tournaround for the organization.  Two years ago after John Ferguson was fired, the Leafs' prospects were ranked 28th. By last year they had moved up to 18th. They have a set of criteria for consideration as a prospect.  For example a skater who has not played in 65 NHL games before the completion of the season of his 24th birthday; or, if a goaltender has not played in 45 NHL games before the completion of the season of his 24th birthday. There are different criteria for European and NCAA players.

The Maple Leafs also have 2 players among the top 50 NHL prospects. Nazem Kadri is rated 13th overall and Jonas Gustavsson is rated 24th.  On a depressing note, Tuukka Rask is rated 4th overall. Thanks JFJ.

Strengths: Prior to the start of this season, the Leafs prospect list was a list full of question marks. But it has become clear that the Leafs at the very least have some talent to work with in the coming seasons. First and foremost would be OHL star Nazem Kadri, who has come on in the second half of the season after a slow start in London. Two other forwards that appear to have a future with the Leafs are former collegians Tyler Bozak and Viktor Stalberg. Jerry D'Amigo, one of the stars for Team USA at the 2010 WJC, is another promising forward currently in the college ranks. The acquisition of Luca Caputi adds another solid forward with some size, a trait valued by Leafs' GM Brian Burke. In goal, Jonas Gustavsson has emerged as a legitimate future starter.

Weaknesses: Where the Leafs may lack future support is along the blueline, with trade deadline acquisition Keith Aulie and Carl Gunnarsson representing the only current prospects of real magnitude at defense. But, considering where the Leafs were after last season, the future is looking brighter. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nazem Kadri, C, 2. Jonas Gustavsson, G, 3. Tyler Bozak, C, 4. Carl Gunnarsson, D, 5. Viktor Stalberg, LW.

Friday, April 23, 2010

43 Years of Maple Leaf Frustration: 1978-79 Season

Although the Leafs on the ice were a close-knit and talented team led by captain Darryl Sittler, the off-ice escapades of owner Harold Ballard unfortunately continued. Late in the 1978-79 season Roger Neilson was actually fired as head coach by Ballard. There was outrage throughout the players, media, and general public. Ballard then relented partly because he couldn't find a replacement. Ballard wanted Neilson to enter the next game with a paper bag over his head (to be "the mystery coach") but Neilson refused and coached the next game as if nothing had happened.

The Maple Leafs had hit a wall even under Neilson.  The team once again finished 3rd in the Adams Division and 5th in the Prince of Wales Conference. After defeating the Atlanta Flames in the Preliminary Round of the playoffs, the Leafs were swept by the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Montreal Canadiens, in the Quarterfinal Round.

After the 1978-79 season, Roger Neilson was again fired and this time Ballard dismissed general manager Jim Gregory as well in a surprising but ill-advised move. Gregory had built a very competitive team despite the meddling of his owner but could not get the Leafs into the Cup finals. During the Gregory era the Leafs qualified for the playoffs eight out of ten years but only advanced beyond the Quarterfinals once.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

43 Years of Maple Leaf Frustration: 1977-78 Season

Jim Gregory had done a good job in building a winning team on a limited budget. He brought great people throughout the organization. After three years of elimination in the quarterfinals, Gregory decided to make some changes to compete with the elite in the league - Montreal, Boston and the Islanders. Errol Thompson and two 1st round draft picks were traded to Detroit for Dan Maloney (and you thought the Kessel trade was bad). Inge Hammarstrom was traded to St. Louis for Jerry Butler. Dave Hutchinson was picked up from Los Angeles. The most significant trade was moving defense propect Randy Carlyle (and a future Norris trophy winner) for veteran Dave Burrows. These deals sacrificed the future to provide the Leafs with more toughness and a veteran presence on defense. During the 1977-78 season, a journeyman defenseman named Ron Wilson would split time between the Leafs and the Newmarket Saints. Wilson would eventually be named the 18th Head Coach from the time the Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup.

In addition, Red Kelly was removed as coach and replaced by Roger Neilson who was one of the most innovative coaches the NHL has seen. Under Neilson’s coaching, the Leafs combined a mix of strong defensive systems with their own brand of physical intimidation. Neilson had a strong core to work with as Darryl Sittler continued to develop as a player and leader. He finished 3rd in scoring with 117 points, a team record. The team finished 4th in their Conference and 6th overall with 92 points.

The Leafs had their greatest success since 1967 under Neilson. They swept Los Angeles in the preliminary round of the playoffs and finally beat the Islanders in the quarterfinals in Game 7 on Lanny McDonald’s overtime goal. But this gritty team, a mixture of skill players and grinders, were no match for the Montreal Canadiens of that era and were knocked out of the playoffs by the Guy Lafleur led Habs.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A history of Leaf 1st round draft picks

The most frustrating aspect of the Maple Leafs' past 43 years is their unwillingness to hang onto first round draft picks.  Even in the era of the salary cap where every team desperately clings to their first round picks, the Leafs continue to flip them in questionable deals.

Year, Prospect, Rank
2011 - Traded to Boston for Phil Kessel
2010 - Traded (2) to Boston for Phil Kessel
2009 - Nazim Kadri (7)
2008 - Luke Schenn (5)
2007 – Traded (13) to San Jose for Vesa Toskala (used to pick Lars Ellers)
2006 – Jiri Tlusty (13) traded to Carolina for Philippe Paradis
2005 – Tuukka Rask (21) traded to Boston for Andrew Raycroft
2004 – Traded (19) to the Rangers for Brian Leetch (used to pick Lauri Korpikosk)
2003 – Traded (21) to San Jose for Owen Nolan (used to pick Mark Stuart)
2002 – Alex Steen (24) traded to St. Louis for Lee Stempniak
2001 – Carlos Colaiacovo (17) traded to St. Louis for Lee Stempniak
2000 – Brad Boyes (24) traded to San Jose for Owen Nolan
1999 – Luca Cereda (24)
1998 – Nik Antropov (10) traded to the Rangers for a 2nd round pick
1997 – Traded (4) to the Islanders for Wendel Clark (used to pick Roberto Luongo)
1996 – Traded (15) to Philadelphia for Dmitri Yushkevich (used to pick Dainius Zubrus)
1995 – Jeff Ware (15)
1994 – Alex Fichaud (16)
1993 - Kenny Jonsson (12) traded to the Islanders for Wendel Clark
1992 - Brandon Convery (8)
1991 - Traded (2) to the Islanders for Tom Kurvers (used to pick Scott Niedermayer)
1990 - Drake Berehowsky (10)
1989 - Scott Thornton (3), Rob Pearson (12), Steve Bancroft (21)
1988 - Scott Pearson (6)

43 Years of Maple Leaf Frustration: 1976-77 Season

The 1976-77 season went very much like the previous season. Leafs finished in third place in the Adams Division with a record of 33 wins, 32 losses and 15 ties for 81 points. Once again they place 5th in the Prince of Wales Conference and 7th overall.

Prior to the season the first Canada Cup was held in September 1976.  The star-studded Canadian team won the tournament with Darryl Sittler scoring the winning goal in overtime against Czechoslovakia.  Sittler continued his play as one of the top forwards in the NHL along with winger Lanny McDonald. The two players finished in a tie for 8th in league scoring.  The 1976-77 season also saw the debut of Mike Palmateer and Randy Carlyle as Leaf rookies. In particular Palmateer stabilized the Leafs' goaltending situation.

On February 2, 1977, Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Ian Turnbull would be the first player in NHL history to score five goals on five shots.

In the playoffs, once again the Leafs defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the preliminary round 2-1 before falling to the Philadelphia Flyers in six games in the Quarter-finals. The pair of Sittler and McDonald were dominant in the playoffs,  In 9 games Sittler scored 5 goals, 16 assists and 21 points while McDonald scored 10 goals, 7 assists and 17 points.

The Bryan McCabe Humiliation Award goes to...

Dan Boyle!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Candidate for goal of the year

The Swiss League's Thomas Deruns of Servette Geneve yesterday scored on a trick play during Game 4 of the Finals against SC Berne:

43 Years of Maple Leaf Frustration: 1975-76 Season

The 1975–76 Toronto Maple Leafs season saw the Maple Leafs finish in third place in the Adams Division with a record of 34 wins, 31 losses, and 15 ties for 83 points. That was good for 5th overall in the Prince of Wales Conference and 7th overall in the league.  The Leafs were finally developing into one of the better teams in the NHL although not yet a match for the league elite of Montreal, Philadelphia and Boston.

The team was lead by newly appointed captain Darryl Sittler who was developing into one of the league's young stars.  Sittler finished 9th in scoring with his first 100 point season, the first Leaf to reach the 100 point level.  Other Leaf stars were Lanny McDonald, Tiger Williams, Errol Thompson (with a career high 43 goals), George Ferguson, Ian Turnbull and Borje Salming.

On February 7, 1976, Sittler set the NHL record for most points scored in one game when he recorded ten points (six goals, four assists) against the Boston Bruins. At 49:27 of the third period, Darryl Sittler scored a goal and earned the 9th point of the game. Sittler broke the NHL record for most points in a game and would go on to earn another point to set a new record with 10 points in a game. It's almost 35 years later and the record still stands.

Meanwhile behind the scene team owner Harold Ballard continued to rock the boat for his GM.  During the previous season, Ballard publicly blasted Dave Keon, saying that the team wasn't getting good leadership from its captain and vowing never again to agree to a no-trade clause in a contract, as he had with Keon. When Keon's contract expired at the end of the season, Ballard made it clear that there was no place for him on the Leafs.  The 35-year-old Keon was told he could make his own deal with another NHL team, but any club signing him would have been required to provide compensation to the Leafs. Ballard set the compensation price so high that other teams shied away from signing him, even though the Leafs had no intention of keeping him. In effect, Ballard had blocked Keon from going to another NHL team. In August 1975, with the Leafs still controlling his NHL rights, Keon jumped to the World Hockey Association, signing a deal with the Minnesota Fighting Saints.

In the playoffs, the Leafs defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins two games to one in the Preliminary Round before losing the Quarter-Finals in seven games to the Philadelphia Flyers.  The Leafs did give the Flyers a rough go losing in seven games in 1976. During the 1976 Quarterfinals against the Flyers, Red Kelly utilized his ‘Pyramid Power’ theory as a psychological ploy. Kelly had his players believe that pyramids were a source of energy and strength. The Leaf coach then placed small pyramids under the bench and in the dressing room. All this was to no avail as the hated Flyers won the bitter quarterfinal series in 7 games.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

That grey line between head hit and clean hit

Because the rules are fuzzy people are debating whether this hit was clean. The NHL and Colin Campbell have no problem with this hit and Andy Sutton will not face any punishment.

Andy Sutton doesn't have the cleanest rap sheet so the following post-game interview doesn't help his image much at all.

A look back at the 2009-10 Maple Leaf season

I haven't done a retrospect of the Maple Leaf season that just came to an end but here goes.  There wasn't a lot of highlights in a season where you finish 29th overall. It was a pretty ugly season.  They just have to finish higher season because handing over two lottery picks to the Bruins would be devastating no matter how Brian Burke tires to spin it.

The Good
  • The college free agents do not appear to be a bust but are still a ways off from being regular NHL players. The closest appears to be Tyler Bozak has great hands and vision on the ice.
  • The gamble to sign Jonas Gustavsson looks to have paid off and he may become a number 1 goalie over the next 2 seasons. The rookie goalie had a lot to contend with and showed a lot of grit.
  • The Dion Phaneuf trade was a winner from day 1.  Spare parts were moved for a young solid defenseman.  Phaneuf may be overpaid but he is a physical presence, has a great shot and a leader - all things the Leafs desperately need.
  • John Ferguson actually drafted some decent players.  Swedish players Carl Gunnarsson (7th round, 2007) and Viktor Stalberg (6th round, 2006) showed great skill and will be Leafs for many years in the future. Nikolai Kulemin (2nd round, 2006) blossomed into a solid two-way player.
  • Although he faded in the latter part of the season, for much of the season Tomas Kaberle was the solitary star on this rebuilding team.  He was their leading scorer until March and generated much of their offense. Many believe he has played his last game as a Leaf but if no one offers Burke a 1st round draft pick then he will be back.
  • Brian Burke was able to unload to bad contracts in Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake, two contracts I thought would be impossible to move.
 The Bad
  • Burke gambled that Vesa Toskala would bounce back and be able to return as their number 1 goalie. The warning sign was the last preseason game when the light-scoring Sabres lit him up for 7 goals. That display of poor judgment killed their season. By the time he was able to replace Toskala the Leafs had dug themselves into such a deep hole they couldn't climb out of 29th place.
  • The signings of Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin was supposed to solidify the Leaf blueline.  They did not. Both players has poor seasons and Komisarek turned out to be damaged goods and ended his season with surgery.
  • Burke's signature trade and one that may yet define his tenure in Toronto is the deal that brought over Phil Kessel.  He was so desperate for a player with a scoring touch that he grossly overpaid by sending Boston 2 first round picks and 1 second round pick.  He miscalculated thinking he had sent the Bruins 2 middle round picks. He will never admit it but he would love to reverse that deal.  He will need to come up with a few more Phaneuf and Giguere deals to make up for this one.
  • To me Ron Wilson was a little bit of a disappointment.  At times he was able to get a great effort out of his weak lineup and other times they seemed like the same disinterested team of past seasons. But did he really get the most out of his players?  Lee Stempniak scored 14 goals in 62 games with the Leafs and then 14 more in just 18 games with the Coyotes.  So why couldn't Wilson get that type of production out of Stempniak?
  • I was never impressed by Mikhail Grabovski even though he scored 20 goals last season.  So I was shocked when he was signed for 3 years at $8.7 million.  He plays a similar game as Jason Blake.  I predict he will be moved in the future and there is no chance the Leafs will re-acquire the 2nd round draft pick they gave up for him.
  • Special teams were abysmal. They were 30th on the powerplay and 30th killing penalties. Bad goaltending was a large contributor to the weak penalty kill.  But there is a lot of finger pointing when it comes to the anemic powerplay.  The powerplay works the puck around the perimeter and no one wants to stand in the slot.  Their go to guy, Kessel, stands along the boards and takes bad angle shots.

43 Years of Maple Leaf Frustration: 1974-75 Season

The 1974-75 saw the NHL expand once again adding the Washington Captitals and the Kansas City Scouts.  With 18 teams the NHL moved from two division to four divisions within two conferences. NHL expansion and the WHA diluted the league so much that Washington finished with the worse record in the history of the NHL with only 8 wins and 21 points. The Maple Leafs benefit from realignment and an expanded playoff format making the playoffs despite finishing in 3rd place in the Adams Division (6th in their conference and 13th overall) with a 31-33-6 record.

The Philadelphia Flyers were the new dominant team in the NHL also known as the Broad Street Bullies.  The Maple Leafs followed the lead of other teams by bulking up by adding players like Dave ‘Tiger’ Williams and Dave Dunn from Vancouver.

The Maple Leafs would advance to the 2nd round by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2 games to 1. In the 2nd round the Leafs tried to put up a good fight against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Philadelphia Flyers but got swept in four games.It was obvious that the Leafs needed a lot of work still before becoming competitive.

Tiger Williams rookie card

Did you see the green men at the Canuck game?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

43 Years of Maple Leaf Frustration: 1973-74 Season

By adding Lanny McDonald, Ian Turnbull, Bob Neely, Borje Salming and Inge Hammarstrom, Jim Gregory had managed to bring to the team the equivalent of five first round picks. With those five new players, together with an emerging Darryl Sittler, and new coach Red Kelly, the Leafs were on the upswing again.

After being astute enough to pick up Bernie Parent, the Leafs let him leave to sign with the Miami Screaming Eagles/Philadelphia Blazers of the WHA. However, when the finally got him back the flipped him to the Flyers for goalie Doug Favell and then picked up Eddie Johnston from Boston to shore up the goaltending.  Darryl Sittler was becoming a NHL star and finished 8th in scoring with 38 goals and 84 points. However, with Bernie Parent the Leafs would have become a Cup contender.

They did lose to Boston in the 1974 playoffs but the young Leafs showed much promise. The Leafs, though, were still lacking in toughness and that was especially apparent in a league being dominated by the brutally rough play of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Top fight this season

...according to  The fight was between Rick Rypien and Cam Janssen and took place on New Years Eve.  The fists are almost a blur.

43 Years of Maple Leaf Frustration: 1972-73 Season

After Harold Ballard let some of his most valuable assets jump to the WHA (including future Hall of Fame goalie Bernie Parent), the remaining Leafs were undermanned and demoralized.  To be more accurate many of the players gladly jumped to the new league to get away from the Gardens zoo. All the previous shrewd deals by Jim Gregory went for naught as the 1972-73 Leafs turned out to be one of the weakest Leaf teams ever. At least up to that point in Leaf history since there were many more bad years to come. Toronto finished with the fourth-worst record in the entire NHL, even finishing behind the expansion team in Atlanta. With Parent gone and Plante traded to Boston, the Leaf goalie tandem was Gord McRae and Ron Low.

The Leafs needed a miracle now to start its climb back to respectability. But with the intelligent maneuvering by Jim Gregory along with some creative thinking, the Leafs turned around sooner than could have been expected.  McLellan resigned as coach in 1973 to become the Leafs' assistant general manager. He had missed a portion of the previous season because of an ulcer.  Who could blame him working for Ballard.

That summer, with the Leafs first-round choice in the draft (4th overall), the Leafs selected westerner Lanny McDonald who would eventually become a popular star in Toronto. With the 10th overall pick that Gregory had obtained in a trade with Philadelphia, the Leafs chose tough junior defenceman Bob Neely from Peterborough. And finally in the first round, with the 15th overall pick obtained from Boston in a trade for Jacques Plante, the Leafs were fortunate enough to draft defenceman Ian Turnbull from the Ottawa 67’s.

But that wasn’t all. Because of the 1972 Summit series, NHL executives were now aware that there was a potential pool of players on the other side of the Atlantic. The Leaf scouts, in a rather pioneering move, went to Sweden and brought back with them a superbly skilled 26-year-old winger named Inge Hammarstrom as well as a shy by supremely talented 21-year old defenceman named Borje Salming.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Here are my first round NHL playoff predictions

I've found predicting winners in the NHL playoffs has become a matter of plain luck. Parity has hit the NHL and six teams could be within three points of each other.  There is no clear cut favourite.  At least 4-6 teams could win it all.  There really aren't upsets anymore though if the Montreal Canadiens who squeaked into the playoffs knock off the Washington Capitals that would likely qualify.  All you can do is see how the two teams match up, look at injuries, goaltending match ups and see who was hot in the last month of the season.  However, here are my bold first round predictions. 

San Jose (1) vs. Colorado (8)
I'm so sure San Jose could beat the Hershey Bears in a playoff series.  I'm quite confident that San Jose will not be winning the Stanley Cup this season.  There top line of Thorton, Marleau and Heatley may be the best in the league but they are also the softest line too.  However, Colorado faded in the stretch and may not have enough gas in the tank to beat the Sharks.

Reluctantly picking San Jose

Chicago (2) vs. Nashvillie (7)
Every team has flaws, even the teams at the top of the standings.  Chicago is no exception with their very ordinary goaltending. But Chicago has a potent offense and Nashville can't score so I don't see goaltending tipping the scales one way or another.  Chicago had a lot of players participate in the Olympics which may create fatigue down the line but not in this round.

Confident that Chicago will win

Vancouver (3) vs. Los Angeles (6)
If you were to go by the goaltending match up, I wouldn't know what to tell you.  Luongo has been awful as late despite so competent work during the Olympics.  You hope he comes around for the playoffs but how can you be sure.  However, Jonathan Quick has also faded so who knows.  Both teams have had good offense but you would have to give the Canucks the edge with Sedin twins.

Picking Vancouver

Phoenix (4) vs. Detroit (5)
The Coyotes shouldn't even be in Phoenix let alone finishing with over 100 points and their first playoff appearance in years.  They will go as far as their goalie Ilya Bryzgalov can carry them on his back. Unfortunately they drew Detroit who seem to have finally recovered from a rash of injuries.  They are now healthy and the have one the best records since the all star break.

I'm taking Detroit.

Washington (1) vs. Montreal (8)
Washington has an incredibly potent offense but soft goaltending. However, this shouldn't be a factor against Montreal who just slipped into the playoffs by losing to the Leafs but earning a critical single point in the last game of the season. Washington's problems pale in comparison to Montreal 's. Ovechkin didn't dominate this season but there are so many other good players in that lineup that it doesn't really matter.

Going with Washington.

New Jersey (2) vs. Philadelphia (7)
If you over look all the accolades, Brodeur has been fading for several years now.  But Philadelphia has had so many goalies hurt this season that I keep expecting to see Gerry McNamara in net one game. Philadelphia has underperformed all year though I suspect this has to do more with the big gapping hole in net.  Picking up Ilya Kovalchuk hasn't exactly hurt New Jersey either.
New Jersey by a nose.

Buffalo (3) vs. Boston (6)
This series may go down as the most boring in the history of the Stanley Cup.  Avoid it at all cost. Boston cannot score and Buffalo isn't much better. Throw in some decent goaltending and you have the fornula to keep me asleep until round 2.  Miller is the league MVP which is all you need against the toothless Bruins.

Buffalo all the way.

Pittsburgh (4) vs. Ottawa (5)
Ottawa has had a strong finish to the season once their goaltending situation was cleared up. The Stanley Cup champions have looked flat all year but you can't count out a Sidney Crosby team this early in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh should win

Sunday, April 11, 2010

43 Years of Maple Leaf Frustration: 1971-72 Season

The Maple Leafs barely beat out Detroit for 4th place and the final playoff spot that season. However, the Bruins easily eliminated the Leafs in 5 games in the first round of the playoffs. Paul Henderson had his best year in the NHL with 38 goals and he along with Ron Ellis were selected to represent the NHL against a team of Russian amateurs during the summer just prior to the start of the 1972-73 season.

After Ballard took control during the 1971–72 season, one of the first challenges he faced was the creation of the World Hockey Association (WHA) as a competitor to the NHL. At the time, NHL teams relied on the reserve clause to keep players from jumping to other teams in the league, but the clause couldn't prevent players from leaving the NHL to join a different league.

At the end of the 1971–72 season, the Leafs only had three players signed to contracts for the next season: Rick Kehoe and veterans Jacques Plante and Bobby Baun. But Ballard did not take the unproven WHA seriously as a competitor and so was outbid on the services of several players in the Leafs organization. The biggest loss was goaltender Bernie Parent, a superstar in the making, who was offered a WHA contract with financial terms far beyond what Ballard was prepared to match. Along with Parent, Rick Ley, Jim Harrison, Brad Selwood, and Guy Trottier all left the Leafs for the WHA before the 1972–73 season, as did some minor league prospects in the Leafs' system as well as the team's minor league coach, Marcel Pronovost. Paul Henderson and Mike Pelyk followed a year later.

Shortly after taking control of the Leafs, Ballard stood trial on 49 counts of fraud, theft and tax evasion involving $205,000 . He was accused by the Crown attorney of using funds from Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. to pay for renovations to his home and cottage, to rent limousines for his daughter's wedding in 1967, and to buy motorcycles for his sons (passing off the expense as hockey equipment for the Marlboros), as well as placing money belonging to the corporation into a private bank account that he controlled along with Stafford Smythe. Ballard pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Ballard was convicted in August 1972 on 47 of the charges. Two months later, he was sentenced to nine years in a federal penitentiary. After a brief stay at Kingston Penitentiary, he was moved to a minimum-security facility that was part of Millhaven Institution. He finished his sentence at a halfway house in Toronto, and was paroled in October 1973 after serving a third of his sentence. After his parole, he stated that prison life was like staying in a motel, with colour television, golf, and steak dinners. Ballard even claimed to possess photographs of himself drinking beer with corrections officers and wearing one of their uniforms.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thrashers' Evander Kane is likely a hero in Boston

...after knocking Matt Cooke out cold.

43 Years of Maple Leaf Frustration: 1970-71 Season

The 1970-71 season saw the Leafs’ young defencemen start to mature. Rick Ley, Brad Selwood, Mike Pelyk, Brian Glennie and Jim McKenny were all progressing under the tutoring of the reacquired Bob Baun, who the Leafs had lost in the 1967 expansion draft. In September Jim Gregory moved Bob Pulford to the Los Angeles Kings for two younger players (Garry Monahan and Brian Murphy) as part of the dismantling of the aging team he had inherited. It was also the last season for Johnny Bower and George Armstrong who would both retire.

On February 1, 1971, in a steal of a trade with Philadelphia, Jim Gregory managed to acquire a future Hall of Fame goalie in Bernie Parent. The previous summer, the Leafs were also fortunate to have obtained the veteran Jacques Plante, who would act as the mentor for the young Parent.  Plante carried a incredible 1.88 GAA that season at the age of 41. Besides the young and maturing defence, the Leafs now had some firepower up front including centres Dave Keon and Norm Ullman who both had their greatest offensive seasons in 1970-71.  As well, the Leafs had speedy wingers Paul Henderson and Ron Ellis together with the vast potential of Sittler.

For the first round of the 1971 playoffs, the new-look Leafs were pitted against the New York Rangers, a powerhouse team at the time. Although the Leafs put up stiff resistance, the Rangers won the bitterly contested series four games to two, which was highlighted by one of the wildest scenes involving hockey players in a long while. In Game 2 of the series, in one of the many fights that took place, the Rangers’ Vic Hadfield tossed Bernie Parent’s mask into the Madison Square Garden’s hostile crowd. Leafs executive King Clancy bravely, but vainly appealed to the partisan fans to return the mask, which was never seen again (see 4:00 mark of the video below).

There continued to be a power struggle for control of the Leafs between Stafford Smythe and Harold Ballard and John Bassett. Although Bassett had Smythe and Ballard removed from the management positions, he did not force them to sell their shares, and both men remained on the board. This proved to be a serious strategic blunder; Smythe was the largest single shareholder in Maple Leaf Gardens, and he and Ballard controlled almost half the company's stock between them. They were thus able to stage a proxy war and regain control of the board in 1970. Smythe was once again appointed president. Facing an untenable situation, Bassett sold his shares in the Gardens to Smythe and Ballard for $6 million in 1971. Ballard would be convicted of tax evasion, but Smythe died of a bleeding ulcer at the age of only 50 just before his trial was scheduled to begin. Ballard took control of the Leafs in 1972, winning a battle with members of Smythe's family for ownership of Smythe's shares.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hockey team celebrates championship by beating up coach

Six Slovenian ice hockey players who beat up their American coach after winning a league title were released by the team Thursday.

Mike Posma, a former American Hockey League player who took over as coach last year, was beaten up by his players Saturday following Acroni Jesenice's celebrations for winning the title. The 42-year-old New Jersey native was cut and bruised but not seriously injured.

The team denounced the incident Thursday and announced the end of the players' contracts. Club president Slavko Kanalec said the team was "shocked" and "strongly condemns" the incident.

The team said it also suspended further contract talks with Posma, who reportedly left Slovenia for the United States earlier Thursday.

Slovenian media say that both the six players and Posma were drunk while celebrating the team's third consecutive national league title.

The six players were reportedly angry at Posma because he allegedly told a 19-year-old backup goaltender to drive a car -- even though he knew the man was drunk. The goaltender subsequently crashed the car.
The six then turned on the coach, reportedly beating him with wooden traffic signs that they found by the side of the road.

Earlier this week, five of the six players denied that they attacked Posma, claiming they attempted to convince the coach to go to the police and take the blame for the goaltender's accident.
The Slovenian public and team's fans warmly welcomed Posma when he took over as coach last November. He had previously coached rival Olimpija Ljubljana.

On Friday, Acroni Jesenice beat Olimpija to win its eighth Slovenian league title since the country's independence in 1991. Olimpija has won 11.

Posma played defense for the Utica Devils in the 1990-91 AHL season and later spent several seasons playing professional hockey in Switzerland and Germany.


43 Years of Maple Leaf Frustration: 1969-70 Season

At the age of 33, Jim Gregory replaced Imlach as the Leafs' General Manager and he hired former Leaf player John McLellan as his head coach. It was a positive step forward.  Gregory had moved up in the Leaf organization having had successful stints as coach and manager of the Toronto Marlies.  McLellan had been coaching the Leaf affiliate in Tulsa. The first season after the Imlach era was a learning curve for both the rookie coach and general manager as the Leafs finished out of the playoffs. On March 3, 1970, Gregory traded Leaf legend, Tim Horton, to Rangers in exchange for future considerations which turned out to be Denis Dupere. Horton had played 20 seasons for the Leafs and began a long-term trend where Leaf stars were peddled off to finish their career elsewhere as part of a Leaf rebuild. At one point in the season, injuries to goaltenders forced the Maple Leafs to use an emergency call up from the Senior A Orillia Terriers.  That goalie was Gerry McNamara who would play a more important role in frustrating Leaf fans in the future.

As a result of their low finish, the Leafs were able to draft a young centremen from the London Knights whose hero was Jean Beliveau of the Montreal Canadiens. With their first pick (8th overall), the Leafs selected Darryl Sittler who would prove to be one of the greatest Maple Leafs in the history of the Toronto hockey club. 

That season Bobby Orr became the first defenceman in NHL history to win the NHL scoring championship. He did it by setting a new record for assists with 87 and totalling 120 points.

It was strange season because both Canadian teams missed the playoffs.  The circumstances surrounding Montreal's 5th place finish were extremely bizzare.  Entering their last games of the regular season, the New York Rangers were two points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the final playoff spot. A New York victory and a Montreal loss would have left them tied in points, but the Canadiens had a five-goal advantage in the "goals for" category. In their second-last game, the Detroit Red Wings had clinched a playoff spot and many of their players went out celebrating after the game, despite the fact that they were scheduled to face New York the next day to finish the season. Several Detroit players still had hangovers when they took to the ice against the Rangers.

The Rangers managed 65 shots on Detroit goalie Roger Crozier to amass a 9-3 lead early in the third period. Looking for even more goals, Coach Emile Francis repeatedly pulled goalie Ed Giacomin for the extra attacker though this failed to add to the Rangers' tally and the game ended 9-5. New York now had equal points with Montreal and had four more goals for the season.  The Canadiens played the Chicago Black Hawks in their final game. But Chicago was playing for first place in the division. With nearly nine minutes left in the third period and down 5-2 to the Hawks, the Canadiens would make the playoffs if they scored three more goals regardless of the game's outcome, so Coach Claude Ruel pulled his goaltender for the extra attacker. Montreal failed to score while Chicago scored five times into the empty Montreal net, to win 10–2. The Canadiens, ending the season with two goals behind the Rangers, were out of the playoffs.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

43 Years of Maple Leaf Frustration: 1968-69 Season

Turmoil was always part of an Imlach team and things were no better during the 1968-69 season. In December 1968, Imlach was asked by Maple Leaf President Stafford Smythe to give the coaching job to John McLellan, but Imlach refused and told Smythe to fire him or leave him alone. During the season, Mike Walton walked out on the team, saying he wouldn't play for Imlach again. He returned about a week later. Imlach picked up Brit Selby and Forbes Kennedy late in the season for a playoff drive.

The Leafs finished in 4th place in the East and played the Bruins in the quarterfinals.  Toronto did rebound to make the playoffs in the 1968-69 season, but were thoroughly dominated by the ultra aggressive, Bobby Orr-led Boston Bruins and lost in four straight games - the Leafs being humiliated in Boston by 10-0 and 7-0 scores.  The Leafs lost 4 straight to the Boston Bruins by a combined score of 24-5.  During the series the famous Pat Quinn hit on Bobby Orr took occurred. Quinn was a slow hulking defenseman for the Maple Leafs who caught Orr with his head down and knocked him out. Quinn was assessed a 5 minute major for elbowing on the play, but ultimately referee John Ashley was penalizing him for hitting the game's greatest player, or at least for causing the resulting donnybrook.  Forbes Kennedy, playing in what proved to be his last game, was front and center in the aftermath of the hit. When all was said and done he had set NHL records for most penalties in a game (8), most minutes (38 - since bettered), most penalties in a period (6) and most penalty minutes in a period (34). He was also suspended for three games, reportedly for punching a linesman en route to the locker room.

On April 6, 1969, minutes after the embarrassing playoff elimination at the hands of the Bruins, Imlach was fired by the Leafs. He still had a year remaining on his contract, which paid him about $35,000 a year. In the dressing room after the announcement was made, veteran Leafs Johnny Bower and Tim Horton both said they would leave with Imlach (they both returned the following season, although neither would remain with the Leafs for long). Imlach's assistant, Clancy, had previously said that he would walk away if Imlach was fired, but he was persuaded to stay with the team. Jim Gregory was immediately announced as Imlach's replacement as general manager.

Stafford Smythe announced that ‘the Imlach era is over’. And indeed it was for now.

There was also turmoil off ice. The Leafs were controlled by Stafford Smythe, John Bassett and Harold Ballard. Following an RCMP raid at the Gardens in 1968, Smythe was charged with income tax evasion and accused, along with Ballard, of illegally taking money from Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. to pay for renovations of their houses and other personal expenses. Just before the charges were laid Bassett argued to the Gardens board that Smythe and Ballard should be removed from their posts.  On June 26, 1969; Smythe and Ballard were both fired, and Bassett was appointed president of the Gardens.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

43 Years of Maple Leaf Frustration: 1967-68 Season

As this season come to a close, Leaf fans everywhere aren't sure whether to be optimistic for the future or despair.  After 43 years we've seen it all - except a Stanley Cup.  So we just wait, for the next hot prospect, for the next free agent signing, for the next GM, for the next season.  A two- or three-game winning streak creates a buzz in the city.  But start the season with seven straight losses and fans swear they will never watch another game.  Frustration causes huge swings in optimism and pessimism.  Journeyman players can become heroes while others are booed out of town.  Wendel Clark once said about Leaf fans, you are neither as good as they say or as bad as they say. I plan post the highs and lows of 43 seasons since the Maple Leafs last brought home the Stanley Cup starting with the 1967-68 season.

The season following the last Maple Leaf Stanley Cup was the first expansion year which saw the NHL expand from six to twelve teams.  New teams were Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, Oakland Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota North Stars.GM/Coach Punch Imlach did not fare well in the expansion draft losing valuable players with some curious decision-making. It was apparent that Imlach was too loyal to his aging players who had been with him since 1958. In the expansion draft the Leaf organization lost 21 players including 5 off of the Leaf roster, many were good young prospects. In addition, the Leafs had also sold two farm teams, the Rochester Americans and Victoria Cougars, for the cash.  This robbed the organization of 45 players at the same time the league was expanding.  Many of these players went on to have successful NHL careers.  In contrast, the Montreal Canadiens hung onto their prospects and made older players available.
In an effort to make a run for the playoffs late in the 1967-68 season, Imlach had made an ill-advised trade with the Detroit Red Wings sending Frank Mahovlich, Pete Stemkowski, Garry Unger and the rights to Carl Brewer to Detroit in return for Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson and Floyd Smith. The Leafs in the end fell short in their playoff run and it was apparent that the Imlach magic was gone.
The key player moved in the trade was Frank Mahovlich, a talented and classy winger, a large man with the skills and hands of a pure scorer. Known as "the Big M," Mahovlich was touted as a superstar while still a teenager. Mahovlich also struggled through most of his hockey life with the stress that comes from great expectations.

 The Leafs played the Montreal Canadiens on November 1, 1967 - an important game between long-time foes. Mahovlich played a wonderful game, scoring a goal and adding two assists in Toronto's 5-0 win. He was named one of the three stars of the game. The next day, with the Leafs leaving on a trip to Detroit, Mahovlich got up from his seat on the train, told a teammate he was going home and left. He was soon under the care of the Toronto General Hospital psychiatric staff. He was in a deep depression and, according to many reports, had suffered a nervous breakdown. Mahovlich stayed away from the rink to deal with his condition for more than a month, during which he missed 11 games.

Later in of the season, the Leafs decided to part ways with their big winger. In the biggest trade of the decade.  Like many trades over the next 43 years it failed to make the Leafs better.  They finished 5th in the East and out of the playoffs.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Baseball players can be pretty tough too

Vanderbilt pitcher Corey Williams managed to keep his wits about him and manage the pain long enough to grab hold of the ball, flip it to first and make the play. Later x-rays show that the line drive fractured his kneecap. How tough is this guy?

How good will the Maple Leafs get with experience?

The question that neither Brian Burke or Ron Wilson can possibly answer is whether their current lineup will be contending in two or three years time. Below is the Maple Leaf lineup for tonight's game against the Flyers sorted by number of games played.

Eleven players have played fewer than 200 games. Seven haven't even played 100 games. Eleven players are 25 years of age or younger.  Thirteen players either have played fewer than 200 games or are 25 years of age or less. A guaranteed addition to this lineup is Nazem Kadri who has now played one NHL game.  That is one inexperienced lineup. 

When you consider how much improvement Kulemin has made between game 1 and game 100 or even Stalberg from game 1 to 25, you begin to realize how much different this team might look by the start of the 2011-12 season.

We can only hope.

Kaberle 32 817
Primeau 32 772
Giguere 33 490
Sjostrom 36 420
Exelby 28 406
Phaneuf 24 401
Beauchemin 29 325
Orr 28 324
Kessel 22 289
Grabrovski 26 161
Kulemin 23 148
Schenn 20 146
Mitchell 25 133
Wallin 29 77
Gustavsson 25 41
Gunnarsson 23 40
Stalberg 24 37
Bozak 24 34
Hanson 24 33
Caputi 21 25

Bryan McCabe award for putting the puck in your own net goes to...

Keith Ballard

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fan actually wins car during Islander intermission shootout

Mike Mann won a car during Saturday's Islander victory -- by firing a shot from the opposite blue line through a hole the size of the puck. Incredible:

Olympic hockey memorabilia is pretty pricey

A jersey from the Swiss game for Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics sold for $35,034 at auction. A puck from the gold medal game overtime sold for $13,088. And a tray that held the medals for the women's hockey team sold for $4,990. Wonder how much an empty case of beer would go for ... [AP and CTV]

I'm guessing they are Red Wing fans

Thanks Tina

Whats happened to Tomas Kaberle?

At the half way point of the current season, Tomas Kaberle was the Leafs' leading scorer with 34 points and on his way to a career high for points in one season.  Somewhere in the second half of the season the wheels came off the bus. In the past 38 games he has only scored 15 which over an entire would only be 30 points. That would represent his lowest point total other than his rookie season.  He also has a career low plus/minus of -16. If you think that this stat is skewed by the Leafs' weak performance, well his -16 is the worst on the team and 15th lowest in the NHL. Since Dion Phaneuf has joined the team Kaberle's ice time has diminished and he is now on the second defensive pairing.

His performance has tailed off so much I hate to think what offers he will bring this spring when he can be traded without his consent.  The likelihood of a first draft pick has pretty much disappeared.  However, Brian Burke needs to move his salary to fill other needs in the lineup so he will take whatever he can get.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

An epic hockey brawl

At a Southern Professional Hockey League game last Saturday in Knoxville, 19 players and a coach were ejected after the hometown Icebars and the Fayetteville FireAntz battled for more than six minutes. It was such an epic brawl that Fayetteville was forced to forfeit the game because they could not field a team after its slew of ejections and penalties.

Friday, April 2, 2010

For Andrew Raycroft there is life after the Maple Leafs

Quietly Andrew Raycroft is putting together a solid season as a backup to Canuck starting goalie Roberto Luongo. He has appeared in 14 games with a record of 8-4-1 and career best in goals against average and save percentage. His turn around may be due to low expectations playing behind one of the NHL's best goalies.  But it may have a lot to do with playing in front of a stong Canuck defense.  This season he has faced an average 27 shots per game which is a pretty light load. In 2007-08, his last with the Leafs, he faced an average of 32 shots per game.

This is how the two seasons compare:

Games Record GAA SV%
Toronto 2007-08 16 2-9-5 3.92 .876
Vancouver 2009-10 14 8-4-1 2.21 .920

Just two years ago after being bought out by the Leafs it looked like his career as an NHL might be rather short. At only 30, he seems to have found a home in Vancouver as a backup.