Monday, November 7, 2011

Tim Connolly - Ol' Splodeybones!

Tim Connolly was signed to play between Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel on the top line. His skill and speed make him a great compliment for these two players who have both started the season on fire. Playing between these two players right now would be an ideal situation for any center in the NHL.

Too bad for Tim, then.

You see, Mr. Connolly suffers from something all athletes dread - the injury bug. It isn't really something you catch, but something that just seems to follow you like a spectre in the night. Once you are labelled as injury prone, it can be a nightmare to overcome. Just look at Joffrey Lupul and his career up to now.

Tim Connolly has only played six games for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, and now he is going to miss another week or two of action due to an "upper body injury". Since the Leafs are being vague - as always - about the injury, and based upon his history, I think it's safe to assume that Connolly was outside and was hit by a light breeze, which then gave him a concussion.

Connolly can have a big impact for the Maple Leafs. It's too bad that his injuries continue to prevent him from being a regular in the NHL. At least his contract is a short one?

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Blog

It's been awhile since I've posted about the Maple Leafs, but that is because I haven't really had anything to say. I have been thinking of starting a new blog where I post about things other then the Leafs. Movie and TV reviews, personal musings, politics, anything.

Instead of creating a new blog, I have decided I will be posting that stuff here along with any Leafs related articles I write. Hopefully, with the draft and free agency just around the corner, I will have a few things to say about my favourite hockey team.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Kris Versteeg and the Leafs

Last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers played a tough, hard-hitting contest in Philadelphia. It was a very important game for both teams. The Flyers are trying to finish the season in first place in the Eastern Conference so they can have home ice advantage in the playoffs. For Toronto, just getting into the playoffs is the mission. Seeing two teams so apart in the standings play each other is usually an easy game to call, but not with so much at stake.

Despite all of that, the game may have meant more to one player. A player seemingly cast aside for "not fitting in"; a player who was pushed out the door by Brian Burke.

Kris Versteeg was a Maple Leaf for only 53 games. That seems like a short period of time to see if a player is the right fit on a hockey team. It seems even shorter when consider Versteeg's age (24) and experience.

Statistically, it is hard to say that Versteeg was a poor player for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was on pace to score more then 20 goals and 50 points on a team that doesn't have many players capable of putting up those numbers. His plus/minus of -13 wasn't great, but the Maple Leafs were a struggling team before trading away Versteeg.

Still, management decided that Versteeg was expendable and decided to move him. The trade and the return the Leafs received for him have already been debated to death. The major factor was that Versteeg was not a fit with this Toronto team. Could it be that Burke and the Leafs staff wanted Versteeg to play with Kessel? On a team with clearly defined roles, it isn't hard to imagine that Ron Wilson and Brian Burke didn't like Versteeg as a third line player.

For a player who had just won the Stanley Cup, it must seem odd to have two teams in quick succession cast you aside. The Blackhawks, fresh off of their Stanley Cup win, had serious salary cap issues and Versteeg was not the only player moved to fix the problem.

With Toronto, Versteeg had to wonder what was preventing him from working out. He is a quick player with great hands and a solid shot, and can play good defence when he wants to. On a team that lacked obvious offensive talents, you would think that Kris Versteeg would be an important top six forward.

Whatever the reason for his departure, Kris Versteeg has never said a negative thing about his situation or the Toronto Maple Leafs. If he had any feelings of anger at the team, he certainly got his revenge by scoring two goals last night. The Leafs won the game on a late goal by Darryl Boyce, but Versteeg certainly showed off his talent and showed that he was doing what he (according to Burke) failed to do in Toronto - fitting in.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Time for change?

Brian Burke may have to consider firing his friend this off-season.
It has been a long time since I last posted. It has been hard for me to write anything about this team that hasn't already been said, and it is difficult for me to write about this team as it continues to struggle.

Entering this 2010/11 season, I had very high hopes. With improved goaltending, a new captain, and a few more players up front, I thought this team would be competing for a playoff spot. Instead, the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves fighting to stay out of the draft lottery.

It is hard to say if this version of the team is any better then the team we saw struggle to compete last season. Between Giggy and the Monster, our goaltending has been only a small percentage better. Our defence has Brett Lebda continuing to give the opposition opportunities to score while Mike Komisarek gets paid a boat load to be, at best, a third pairing defender. The offence has moments where they look good, but then the team gets shut out by Dwayne Roloson. Seriously, Roloson must love it anytime he sees the Leafs are coming to town. I cannot remember him ever playing poorly against us.

This is not really what I wanted to talk about, really. What I did want to talk about was the coach of this hockey team, Ron Wilson.

Throughout the last three seasons, two things have been consistent with this Maple Leafs team. The powerplay has been anemic and the penalty kill has been an absolute joke. Both of these failures, at least from what I've seen, can both be blamed on the current coaching staff of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This has been a huge frustration for me. I am not angry that the team has struggled, but that the powerplay has continued to look the exact same over three years with Kessel replacing Mats Sundin on the side boards. The coaching staff has failed to move players around and change to look of the powerplay despite the lack of success.

I remember when Paul Maurice was behind the bench, the Leafs started out with the cross crease pass to Tucker. As teams keyed in on that move, the powerplay shifted to focus more on an umbrella with Sundin on the side boards. When the powerplay struggled, the team tried different things instead of just staying with one system.

With Ron Wilson behind the bench, the players have changed completely but the results have stayed the same. I know this current Leafs team was not expected to set the NHL on fire, but they have looked absolutely pathetic on some nights. I think a coaching change needs to happen. This team may not be a lock for the playoffs right now, but is better then 26th overall in league.

Will Ron Wilson be the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs next season?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I got NHL 11!

I just picked up NHL 11 for my PS3. I cannot wait to get home from school to start a franchise with the Leafs. The inclusion of the CHL should make Be-A-GM mode even deeper. Ultimate Team also seems like a fun mode to play around with, especially if I can get some friends to play with on the Playstation Network.

Last season, I was a sporadic poster. My goal for this new Leafs season is to post at least once a week, starting with training camp. Considering that I am now in college for journalism, maintaining this blog should be good practice.

Now I'm off to play some NHL 11!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Versteeg to the Leafs? Yes, please!

Here I am, preparing to sit and watch the 4 hour bore-fest known by TSN as "Free Agent Frenzy" tomorrow to see what our Toronto Maple Leafs do to improve, and out of left field comes this message - "Leafs Acquire Kris Versteeg". It took a second to sink before I reacted to the news...

Awesome. For weeks we have heard stories about how Brian Burke has been searching for a top six forward, a player that can step in a contribute right away. Names from Marc Savard and Nathan Horton to Brayden Schenn and Bobby Ryan have all been thrown about. Many of the rumours have been incredibly far fetched and illogical. Now, we have seen Burke and the Leafs HQ come through, bringing in a genuine top six forward who has already proven himself to be a good offensive performer.

I am excited to see that the Leafs have managed to bring in a player like Kris Versteeg. Versteeg is only 24 years old and exploded onto the scene in 08-09. Last season, the Blackhawks added some players and Versteeg was bumped to the third line, playing with John Madden, and he still was able to put up over 40 points and score 20 goals despite limited ice time. Versteeg is good in his own end, and has great offensive instincts. He may be a little small, but that hasn't limited him so far in his career.

The cost for Versteeg is what makes this deal amazing. To get him and prospect Bill Sweatt from Chicago, the Leafs gave up Viktor Stalberg, Chris DiDomenico, and prospect Philippe Paradis. Out of the three leaving Toronto, only one has played time in the NHL (Stalberg) and none looked to be more then third line players - something the Leafs have plenty of. This deal works for Chicago because they still needed to clear some cap space, and Stalberg should still be a good player for them on their third line.

The best part is that the Leafs were able to keep Tomas Kaberle. Since his no-trade clause was lifted, it has seemed like a certainty that Burke would peddle Kaberle. Many thought that the only way the Leafs could add a legitimate top six forward was if Kaberle was part of the deal. Now, the Leafs have added that top six forward and kept Kaberle. Burke can now move Kaberle to continue improving our group of forwards, or he could keep the smooth skating defenceman and longest serving Leaf and start working on a contract extension with him.

By adding Versteeg, the Leafs have improved offensively and now have more options going forward towards "Free Agent Frenzy". I have to tip my hat to Brian Burke and the Leafs for this pleasant surprise.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Free Agent Food For Thought

I haven't posted in awhile, but I plan to start back up as we get closer and closer to the new NHL season.

Anyways, it was great to see the Maple Leafs name Dion Phaneuf as captain. I know some are saying he was the only choice and questioning the timing of the move, I think that it was a smart decision. When in Calgary, Dion was obviously being groomed to for a leadership role. He is a very passionate player on the ice, and I think he can set the tone for others to follow.

The Leafs also released their new jerseys. Not a complete overhaul, but the new jerseys are very nice. If you haven't had the chance to see them, here they are!

Now, onto the topic I came here to talk about. I was on Hockey Buzz reading that the Leafs are going to target both Marleau and Kovalchuk. Now, both are great players, but I have learned to take anything a certain rumour blogger writes with a grain of salt. Plus, I don't think getting either player is a great idea.

Hear me out. Yes, Kovalchuk is probably the best goal scorer in the NHL after Ovechkin. Yes, Patrick Marleau had an amazing regular season for the Sharks this year. Adding either player would certainly boost the offensive abilities of the Leafs.

However, both Kovalchuk and Marleau are expensive players. Kovalchuk is going to be looking for a long contract with $10 million per year, while Marleau will probably be looking for $7 to 8. The Maple Leafs do not have a lot of breathing room under that salary cap, and I believe we need to add more then one player to increase the quality of our top two lines.

Instead of looking for one player to fix our offensive woes, I think the Leafs should look for a 30 goal scorer and one or two 20 goal men. This might not be possible with just free agents - a trade may be needed. With all the rumours floating around about Kaberle, though, I think Brian Burke is already working on this.

So, who do I think the Leafs should be gunning for? One name I've heard is Nathan Horton. Horton is a proven producer who still has some upside. He is the big body we need to improve our powerplay, and 27 or more goals three times in his career. Last season, Horton put up great numbers and could have put up a career high in points if not for injuries. The rumours of Kaberle going to Florida continue to pop up, so maybe this move is already being discussed.

Who do you think the Leafs should look to bring in? Would you rather see them bring up players from the Marlies and their other prospects? Post below and let me know!