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Peter

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Brayden Schenn on Leafs Radar; Final Predictions

I went two for two in my Conference finals predictions taking Detroit and Pittsburgh. But virtually all writers took those two teams. Now they're on again for a Stanley Cup rematch which is sure to be filled with excitement.

Without further ado, my final prediction for this years Stanley Cup Finals...Pittsburgh in seven games.

I know not many people are taking the Penguins in this matchup, but I've just got a feeling. They're a good team that can beat anyone on a good day. And as long as the Red Wings are ailing, that's what I'd call a 'good day'. Penguins will win, but they'll do so with a bit of luck on the way. They're surely going to need it, and I'm sure many Red Wings fans will refer to this finals as 'the Cup that got away'.

DRAFT APPROACHING

Just under a month now until the NHL entry draft. Just like all Leafs fans, I'm filled with excitement over what Brian Burke might do on draft day.

However, there is still the distinct possibility that Burke doesn't move up. Today he spoke with the National Post, telling them that he's keen on Brayden Schenn and may be targeting him too. I suppose when you've given yourself a massive task in trying to get John Tavares, you may as well have a decent backup plan.

"We like [Schenn] irrespective of his lineage," he said. "But the fact that he's Luke's brother has some appeal." That's what many Leafs fans are saying too.

When the Stanley Cup finals conclude, I will make my predictions for the results of the first round of the entry draft. It's going to be a fun four weeks.

Don't forget to make your own predictions in my Top Fifteen draft competition.

Bam. Three for Four on the Round Two Predictions.

My second round predictions were as follows: Chicago in six, Penguins in seven, Red Wings in five, Boston in six.

Well, I got the first two perfect. Woo for me.

Red Wings? It wasn't as easy as I imagined, but they still got the job done.

Boston just fell short of an amazing recovery after going down 3-1 in the series. This series showed that both teams involved have a lot of faults to them. Unfortunately for the Penguins, that doesn't include goaltending. No more feasting on rookie netminders in the third round.

So now we turn the page, and head right into round three. Here are the predictions.

Penguins and Hurricanes match up in what will be a very exciting series. Two disciplined teams with similar makeups. Both teams can win this series, but only one can advance. I'm going to say Penguins in six.

Looking West, we have the vets versus the kids. Can you guess what my prediction is going to be? Yes, the Red Wings. But don't be surprised if next season the Blackhawks are the better team. I have to think experience wins out, and hence I will take Red Wings in six.

Man oh man, that would mean Red Wings versus Penguins in the finals. What a poor sap Hossa would look like if the Penguins won.

The Leafs are the Best!

You heard me right.


Credit to Jeffler from the Leafs forum for bagging this gem.

Trade Rumours Asunder!

After a relatively slow week or two it appears that the Leafs rumours front has picked right up.

Elliotte Friedman was heard on the radio saying that the rumour going around right now among GMs is that Toronto would trade their #7 to the Lightning, recieving back Ryan Malone and the #2 pick. Malone is a financial burden that the Lightning would like to have off their hands as he is under contract for 4.25 million a season until 2013.

Friedman claims that a large handful of GMs believe that this deal will go down. Interesting.

Brian Burke spoke to the media this morning and denied that such a proposal had been considered, at least by the Leafs. However, he did confirm that the Lightning have asked for Schenn and Kaberle to be included in the deal for the #2 pick.

Howard Berger said last night that 'nothing on the roster' should get in Burke's way for dealing up to try to get Tavares. Once again, he needs to be reminded that having the second pick probably doesn't affect the Islanders plans to draft Tavares. Hey, I could be wrong about that, but until I hear they want Hedman, I'm convinced they're fixed on Tavvy.

Link Ticker

Tavares Tire Kicking

Last night Howard Berger wrote on his blog that the asking price for the 2nd overall pick is our first rounder, Schenn and Kaberle. However, he described this as a 'loud whispering', likely meaning it hasn't come from any official source.

This is also the case with the speculation that Victor Hedman is the favourite of the Islanders brass. In fact, once Pierre LeBrun mentioned it on Hockey Night in Canada, publications started to spin it that LeBrun's claims were more than just speculation.

Unfortunately, the information we get online is tailored in specific ways and is shot around the internet in lightbeams, ending up twisted and garbled when it reaches its destination. But such is the reality with Tavares speculation, because like a game of telephone, everyone is part of a long chain of information sharing.

So Schenn, Kaberle and our 7th for Tampa Bay's 2nd overall pick? How does that sound?

Give me a break.

While the price will be high for the second overall pick, its hard to imagine anyone, even Burke, making a ridiculous trade like that for a player who hasn't played a single game in the NHL.

It's even more ridiculous that these two rumours, firstly that the Islanders want Hedman and secondly that Tampa Bay have set a price for the #2 pick, have been connected as one in a sort of Grand Strategy of Burke's.

I don't know how anyone can say Garth Snow is leaning towards Hedman. Especially since, as I wrote last week, the Islanders are hosting a first overall pick promotion. This clearly stands as evidence that the Islanders management are on the same page as its fans: Tavares would be the best selection in this years draft.

I'm in no position to say whether or not Brian Lawton has set an asking price for the #2 pick. I can tell you this though: Schenn is going nowhere. Kaberle perhaps. Our #7, certainly.

But as the Leafs management has said, you can't fill one hole by creating others. Certainly not when you don't even know if Tavares or Hedman will be left on the board at the second pick.

Link Ticker

Luke on the Pine; Other Stuff

If you're tuned into the world of hockey then you'll be watching the Canada-Russia Gold Medal game at the World Championships. As I write this the first period is coming to a close. Tune in.

Once again, our boy Luke Schenn is riding the bench. Since the additions of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brayden Cobourn, Schenn has been the odd man out. Apparently he's just trying to 'soak it all in'. Well I don't know if he's really soaking any more in than the equipment managers would, because he's not on the ice. Oh well, who would've expect him to be there in the first place?

Link Ticker

That's all I've got. Things are moving slowly right now. Enjoy the hockey today.

Isles to Hold First Overall Pick Contest

GM Garth Snow and the New York Islanders announced today that the Islanders will be holding a contest to ask fans what they would do with the No. 1 pick overall.

Whatever the strategic purpose of this is, the main pull is promotion. My inclination is that if Snow is willing to hold a contest, it means that the first overall pick isn't going to be traded. I suppose that puts a damper on Burke's Tavares Quest.

But wait, what if Snow takes Hedman? Well, if he does he's going to be upsetting more than a few fans who stepped up to buy season tickets. The Islanders sales department has seen a "300-percent increase in phone calls and e-mail inquiries over last year at this time" and on pace to see 90 percent of its season tickets renewed. In other words, the first overall pick sells. And it sells well.

And for the Isles fans, its not Victor Hedman who sells, its John Tavares. A Newsday poll conducted showed that Tavares was favoured 10-1 over Hedman. So really, this competition is going to be a reaffirmation of that support.

So it becomes a lot clearer now why Snow refused to say who he was leaning towards for this year's draft. Not for trade leverage. Not to buy more time to make a decision. Rather, for promotion.

Link Ticker

Second Round Preview and Predictions

I didn't make any predictions for the first round, but I'll have to begin in the second round because of all of the interesting matchups that have come about.

Boston Bruins vs Carolina Hurricanes: The Bruins have to be the the favourite in the conference. They're the Red Wings of the East. For the Penguins and Capitals, that means they'll only be able to beat them when they're on their top form. I say Bruins in six.

Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins: The series to watch for round two. Begins Saturday - keep in mind that it's at 1 pm ET. The playoffs are about defense, so you have to give the Penguins the edge here. When you think of the Penguins offense, you only need to look towards the opposition's defense and goaltending to see if the other team has a chance. Vharlamov, you better be ready for this one. Penguins in seven.

Detroit Red Wings vs Anaheim Ducks: A re-match of the 2007 Western Conference finals. Ducks and Wings both know how to get it done in the postseason, and goaltending will be put to the test. Osgood vs Hiller? You have to give the edge to Hiller right now. The Ducks will have to keep up their scoring if they want to beat a very good Red Wings team, and I think they'll be pressed to do that on a nightly basis. Red Wings in five.

Vancouver Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks are doing an amazing job in all aspects of the game this playoffs, and it paid off with a first series victory over the Flames. They outhustled and outchanced the Flames, and proved that they can play beyond their years. Led by the 20 year old Toews, the Blackhawks are already proving why they will be a force in the West for years to come. Blackhawks in six.

Burke, Wilson and Nonis All Smiling

San Jose out in the first round. Vancouver blasting into the second. Anaheim showing shades of their Stanley Cup champion form.

All three occurences are to the surprise of the naysayers, and the delight of our very own Brian Burke, Dave Nonis and Ron Wilson.

Wilson was labelled as a coach that could develop players well but couldn't lead them to the later rounds of the playoffs. Todd McLellan was brought in to help lead the Sharks to a longer postseason, but it didn't happen this year. Hey, at least they didn't give us any false signs, dropping the first two games of their opening round series against the Ducks.

Those Ducks were built in part by Brian Burke, and though he isn't responsible for the drafting of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, his other moves have panned out well. Current Ducks starter Jonas Hiller is proving his reliability as an NHL starter, while Bobby Ryan is emerging as one of the future 'Big Three' on the Ducks, playing with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Chris Pronger, a free agent signing by Burke, has been a rock for the team.

Burke didn't build the Ducks, but he put them over the edge, and contributed to a solid foundation for the future. So much for his supposed departure from the organization while it was 'in shambles'. To think that people were calling for the Ducks to retool and send Niedermayer or Pronger elsewhere on the trade deadline, and they've knocked off the President's Trophy winner.

Our V.P. of Hockey Operations and ex-Canuck GM Dave Nonis, can be credited with luring Roberto Luongo to Vancouver in lopsided trade with the Panthers that sent Todd Bertuzzi the other way. Nonis also hired Vancouver's benchboss Alain Vigneault, who won the Jack Adams trophy for top regular season coach in 2007.

While Wilson may have been a part of the choking problem in San Jose, he certainly wasn't it's central feature, as demonstrated by this year's first round collapse.

Burke and Nonis certainly take pride in the work they've done with their past clubs, and they can crack a grin as the monsters they created take on a life of their own.

Quick Hits and Hearing the Crickets

Hey all, not much going on in Leafland at the moment. I wake up each morning hoping to read that Burke has done or said something of interest, but he's kept quiet after shocking the hockey world with his Tavares Manifesto.

For now, we bandwagon and cheer for other teams. Who's everyone backing this offseason? I'm half-heartedly supporting the Penguins, but I'm also a huge fan of the Capitals and this year's edition of the Bruins. That might have something to do with the shellacking they handed the Canadiens.

Link Ticker:

And just so we're all on the same page, yes, I know Burke is pursuing Jonas Gustavsson. We should hear more about that in the weeks to come. Word is that he's making up his mind between Dallas and Toronto. I apologize for not posting on this. I have been busy in recent weeks.

Burke Openly States He's Fixed on Tavares; What Now?

The New York Islanders won the draft lottery tonight, giving them rights to select first overall in this year's entry draft.

I've said all along that the Islanders haven't made up their mind on whether they want Tavares or Hedman. If they're really fixed on Tavares, which might be the case as an Islanders representative has been spending a lot of time in London with Tavares and the Knights, then I'm not sure Burke can do anything to wrestle the top pick from Garth Snow's hands.

Then again, Burke has been through this before. In Hartford, he was able to move up to the 2nd spot to grab Chris Pronger, and with Vancouver he moved up to get both of the Sedin twins. As Jim Kelley reports, Burke is not blowing hot air when he says he wants Tavares.

It's hard to imagine what it's going to take to land him, but believe me Burke will mount one hell of a campaign.

Leafs fans, be ready to see Burke overpay for Tavares. Keep in mind, if you want to see this team being led by a top end offensive talent for years to come, then you should be cheering Burke all the way along.

Tavares Tuesday: When the Finalists Cash Their Coins

Note from Goose: Today we are joined by Bradley Garton who will be discussing the Leafs bleak Tavares hopes. I found him on the street and got him to write this post on a piece of paper. This is what he said.

Afternoon folks. With all the draft draw mayhem Goose has been out tracking the final seconds in the race for the Tavares Cup. That being said, I've been drafted to fill in the void between postings; I figure it's the least I can do, the best being my incarceration for the alleged tampering of bingo machines.

So, at long last, Toronto's race for the Tavares Cup has come to a statistical, if not definite, close. It's at this point where, looking back, I think we may all have pressed our imaginations a little too hard against the cold, hard wall of reality; that Tavares is about as likely to become a Leaf as Evgeni Malkin is to be nominated into the House of Commons. This isn't to say we were wrong for dreaming, just that those bright, puffy clouds bearing the number 61 paved the way to much sadder, smaller figures.

Feeling obligated to do what I can to help the fans, I've been doing my best to keep the dream going. Investigating the rules for the draft lottery I learned there are 1001 possible draw combinations and that only 1000 of these are assigned to the bottom 14 teams. So, I called up the big guy Gary Bettman with the hopes that if that one extra number is drawn, John will be evenly distributed between all 30 teams for the 2009-2010 season.

So far he hasn't returned my calls, but my hopes are high.

So keep your chins up folks, and to John: I hope you're looking forward to the 8 periods you may just be spending with us next year.

Would Burke Trade Up in the Draft?

Interesting article from the Toronto Sun. They like to stir things up, and there's probably not a lot to it, but for what it's worth it's an interesting notion.

They're claiming that Burke "is expected to take a run at the top overall pick (and John Tavares) by attempting to trade up. His trump card? The organization has the monetary resources to spice up a deal, especially with a financially strapped team."

I highly doubt that Burke would be able to wrestle the top pick from the Islanders, who are in dire need of a superstar like Tavares. I think the first pick this year is untouchable, and certainly out of the price range Burke would consider.

Nevertheless, if Burke believes that the player he wants will be gone before 7th, he might have to move. It's unfortunate that this situation might cost us something big, when we could have easily fallen a few spots in the draft by just losing a bit more.

Nonetheless, we are where we are. I say we just stay 7th. We'll get someone good.

I'm going to do a full first round preview, but if you look at the rankings, we're sure to get a very good player at the seventh pick. He'res my projecting of the first seven picks, assuming that the Islanders win the lottery.

1. John Tavares - NYI
2. Victor Hedman - TBL
3. Matt Duchene - COL
4. Magnus Paajarvi-Svennson - ATL
5. Evander Kane - LAK
6. Jared Cowen - PHX
7. ? - TOR

Who will the Leafs select?

There are certainly a few names that Toronto could consider, including Brayden Schenn, Jordan Schroeder, Nazem Kadri, Dmitri Kulikov, Ryan Ellis, Simon Despres and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Out of those, the most likely to be considered are Schenn, Schroeder and Kadri, all forwards.

Of the teams in the top seven, the most likely to trade their pick for stars in their prime is probably either the LA Kings or Tampa Bay Lightning.

If either of those teams were to win the lottery, thus giving them the first pick, they would consider moving it for the right price.

Leafs Settle for Seventh Pick

The Leafs played their last game of the season against their provincial and divisional rivals, the Ottawa Senators. What should have been a satisfying way to finish the season turned out to be a large headache for some hoping the Leafs would move up in the draft.

Last night, the team just needed to lose against the Seantors and have Pheonix and Los Angeles win, in order to find ourselves slipping into the 5th overall pick in the entry draft. That would have then given us a marginal, 8% chance at winning the first overall pick. While the two other teams won their games against much better opponents, the Leafs found a way to win theirs, negating the other two team's advances in the standings.

So the Leafs will enter the draft with all likelihood the 7th overall pick, unless we win the draft lottery with a 4% chance of getting moved up to the 3rd pick.

Last night's win should have been a vindication to most Leafs fans. We have a nack for beating the Senators when the teams meet up last, whether it's in the regular season on playoffs. It was a storybook finish to an otherwise meaningless season. Boyd Deveraux capped his poor season off with a hattrick effort to push the Leafs over the Senators one more time, and just like that it's golfing season for both clubs.

Many people are upset that we don't get that 8% shot at Tavares, a better chance at a franchise player than winning a doughnut with your next Roll Up The Rim To Win coffee.

Let's be realistic, though. Is Burke's rebuilding plan going to rely on the luck of a bingo-style lottery draw? Or is he, like many GMs before him, going to build a contender by taking the situation that's presented to him?

Leafs Basically Eliminated, Pogge Project Sputtering?

With the Leafs loss against the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night, the team became as close as it's possible to being eliminated from the playoffs. Essentially, the Leafs need to go 6-0 in their last six games, and Florida and Montreal need to lose all of their games for us to make the cut. There were a few calls for a playoff run not so long ago, but the longer the season progressed, the more clear the team's fate became.

It was unfortunate, again on Saturday, to watch Justin Pogge struggle so mightily. He let in six goals and was pulled in the second period. Curtis Joseph swapped in, a reversal of the previous evening in which Joseph was yanked for Pogge. In both cases, the relief netminder shut the door fairly well and let in only one goal.

It sucks to see Pogge fail so miserably, but it's not as if this loss told us anything we didn't know already - he's not ready for the NHL. Some, including Howard Berger, believe that Pogge's try with the Leafs may be coming to an end, with Burke likely opting to sign a proven goalie and move forward from there. I can see that happening, but I also don't think they're throwing the towel in on Pogge by any means.

Pogge was sent down to the minors, but will likely return to back up Joseph in Wednesday night's tilt against the Flyers. Or maybe the management is going to take their chances starting Olaf Kolzig, perhaps?

To quote Pension Plan Puppets, referring to a picture of Joseph coming on for Pogge, "Is that a has been going in for a never was? God I hope not."

Same Picture, Different Caption for Leafs

As usual, our Leafs are going on a late-season charge and find themselves failing to be a playoff team or a top five draft picker. Here is a picture depiction of our team's winning and losing in relation to the .500 mark:

Last three Leafs seasons. I couldn't get a graph for the 2005/2006 season, unfortunately.

For the three seasons previous to the current one, the message from the Leafs organization was one of ambiguity. The team being ran by GM Ferguson appeared to be trying to make the playoffs, yet you'll hardly find a fan who was confident in the job he was doing or the idea that a plan for the future was in place.

But this year, to hell with it. I have more faith in Burke than I ever did with Ferguson. Sure, we probably won't be grabbing a franchise player this year, but Burke isn't going to rely on one pick when it comes to rebuilding this team. Everyone knows this, but sometimes we all get caught up in our draft positioning, myself included.

The bright side of this team winning, as many reporters have already noted, is that it puffs some confidence into our young guys.

And though this team is going on a late season charge, it's not for the same reason as the years past. The scenario looks the same, but you're not thinking clearly if you want to say it's for the same kind of reasons. First of all, Ron Wilson has been telling his team to work on a nightly basis, all three periods. He has not fully accomplished this yet, but he's doing well so far. Secondly, the reason we are jumping around in the standings is not because our veterans decided to show up - it's because of our young players. And you can hardly predict when youngsters are going to find their game. It's not their fault it was at this time of year, when the Leaf's playoff hopes are null. That's just the way it goes.

If we have any sort of expectation for Burke, it should be to build this team in whatever means he has available - and if that means he doesn't get to be one of the first pickers in the 2009 draft, so be it. Good GMs like New Jersey's Lou Lamirello or Detroits Ken Holland have proven that you don't need those picks to win long term. And likewise, GMs past like Mike Milbury of the New York Islanders have proven that you can do a whole lot of nothing with them too.

Leafs Only Play One Day a Week, Sign Didomenico

Our Leafs once again go out and blast the opposing team on a Saturday night. Let me remind you of several past blastings this season:


Sat, Nov 1 NY Rangers W 5-2

Sat, Nov 8 Montreal W 6-3

Sat, Nov 22 Chicago L 4-5 OT

Sat, Nov 29 Philadelphia W 4-2

Sat, Dec 20 @ Pittsburgh W 7-3

Sat, Jan 31 Pittsburgh W 5-4

Sat, Feb 7 @ Montreal W 5-2

Sat, Feb 14 Pittsburgh W 6-2
Sat, Feb 28 @ Ottawa W 4-3 OT

Get my point? And now we beat Calgary 8-6, again on Saturday, to top it off. This team is so random.

DIDOMENICO DETAINED

The Leafs have signed Chris Didomenico to a three-year entry level contract. He will likely report to the Toronto Marlies at some point this year or the next, as the Leafs begin to assess Chris and mold him into a true NHLer.

Undrafted in the OHL, Didomenico tried his luck in the QMJHL, trying out and making the Saint John Seadogs. He continued to surprise by putting up great numbers in his sophomore year, and then was traded to the Drummondville Voltigeurs. He was selected for the 2009 Canada U20 World Junior squad, much to the surprise and delight of Leafs fans.

Didomenico's journey to this contract was one filled with surprises. As a smallish player who stands at 5'10, there will still be doubters of his NHL potential. The Leafs took a chance on Didomenico by drafting him in the 6th round in 2007, and until we see him suit up in the big leagues once and for all, the doubting will probably continue.

Here's hoping he can prove the doubters wrong yet again.

One Source Claiming that Schenn is Available

I apologize in advance. I couldn't let this one just slide.

eBay is claiming that Luke Schenn is now available.











Current price is set at 10 dollars. The Coyotes might just be able to scrounge up the funds.

Ron Wilson Rips Into Howard Berger

From the Islanders post-game press conference. Priceless.

Critical Juncture in Leaf's Tavares Hopes Has Arrived

John Tavares broke the record for most career goals in the OHL tonight, a record previously held by Peter Lee at 213. John came into the game tonight against the Windsor Spitfires with just two games remaining and one goal behind Peter Lee's total. He tied that marker early in the game. He then broke the record, and added another one for good measure.

Once again Leafs fans are reminded how poor our draft positioning is at the moment - that is, because we really want the first pick to secure Tavares. Sure, every team in the league would like John. But the Leafs really have nobody to turn to on offense to be that go-to guy. Sooner or later, John Tavares will be a that kind of player for an NHL franchise.

And this is why it's important that we lose, at least, our next three games. You see, the next three times the Leafs play will be against teams who are surefire top 10 draft pickers in this year's draft. At least two of these teams will be in the top five, and good money has all three of them in that prestigious group. Those teams being the Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. If we can somehow lose to all three of these dreadful teams, we will be closing the gap on that last place spot.

Here's the rest of Toronto's Tavares Cup faceoffs:

March 9 - @ Ottawa
March 10 - vs. New York Islanders
March 12 - vs. Tampa Bay
March 17 - @ Tampa Bay
April 11 - Ottawa

Not a whole lot of opportunity left for us set up other Tavares Cuppers to leap-frog us.

We might have to do it ourselves. We're surely poised to do it, seeing how depleted our defensive core is looking, and the challenging matchups we face down the stretch.

We can hope to lose to the following teams:
Calgary (1 game)
Florida (1 game)
Montreal (2 games)
Buffalo (2 games)
Washington (1 game)
Philadelphia (2 games)
Boston (1 game)
New Jersey (1 game)

A good solid 11 losses in total. Should help the cause.

So in the best case scenario, with us losing all TC matchups as well, we go 0-16 from here on in. If we did that, the last place Islanders would need to go 7-7-1 to catch us.

There's a small margin for error, and we also have to keep in mind that the other bottom dwellers could take the 30th too, but there's always hope.

If you don't like seeing the Leafs lose, I'm sorry to break your heart. It's true that it's nice to see the Leafs get rewarded for their efforts.

But I'd much rather the Leafs draft a franchise forward and put this futile season behind them, right now.

Leafs Grab Jeff Hamilton, Call Up Ondrus, Start Gerber

The Leafs are negotiating a contract with Jeff Hamilton to play for the remainder of the season with the Maple Leafs.

Hamilton was a free agent, and will help fill the roster spots that were vacated by Dominic Moore and Nik Antropov.

To fill up that second spot, the Leafs have called up Ben Ondrus. The hard hitter had served as the captain of the Marlies for this season. He had not played in a single game with the Leafs up to this point.

And we're set to see Martin Gerber in the crease for tonights tilt against the Capitals, who will be getting Alex Ovechkin back.

For some odd reason I actually think Gerber will be good for us - but I really shouldn't speak too soon. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt - he came into this season as the clear starter for the Senators, and seems to play extremely well in spurts of 20 games or so, then goes back to being bad.

Leafs Deadline Shouldn't Surprise Many

Brian Burke was very clear about his job going into this deadline.

He told us he wanted to get back the picks that we lost with Fletcher at the helm. He got exactly that - two second rounders and a fourth rounder - the two rounds we had no picks in this year.

He told us he was going to try to take on salary for picks - he did that with the Kolzig and Heward deal to secure the fourth round pick.

He also told us he was reluctant to move Kaberle. He followed up again.

He also only moved the players which were pending UFAs that have some value. Not surprisingly he's leaving the rest of work til the summer, where he can maximize player's value the smart way.

If he traded either Kaberle or Kubina to a certain ten teams, Burke would have always wondered what the other 19 might have put together. I don't know why this didn't cross my mind, but it makes sense that he would want to wait until the summer to take advantage of a larger market.

Burke is showing a certain amount of patience I'm not sure many believed he had. Yes, he is bold, but he is just as patient. Just like the kind of hockey player builds his teams around, Burke plays on the edge but has the smarts and demeanor to get the job done right.

Tlusty is Still Blasting

Jiri Tlusty already took AHL player of the month of February, but he wasn't stopping there.

The Toronto Marlies beat the Providence Bruins 6-4 last night. Or should I say, Tlusty beat the Providence Bruins. He had a point in all six of our goals - two goals and four assists.

Jiri Tlusty was the Leafs first pick in the 2006 draft - thirteenth overall. He has bounced between the Marlies and Leafs since last season, but has for the most part remained in the AHL with Ron Wilson behind the bench.

While success in the AHL doesn't always translate into success at the next level, let's not forget that Tlusty wasn't impressing anyone when he broke into the AHL two years ago. Now, that's another story.

Read about the game here.

Deadline Day Recap and Reflection

I know we didn't get the big blockbuster we want or a first rounder for Antropov, but I'd still say we've come out of this deadline much better off.

First of all, Burke made it clear that he's not taking any shit from players over contracts. Either you get paid for the role you know you are, or you're out of town. Dominic Moore just doesn't deserve 2.5 million plus.

In Martin Gerber we get an interesting goalie who could give us some good games and some bad ones. He's never been consistent, but since he won't be under much pressure in Toronto, he might be playing with some effort. Most people thought the second time through re-entry waivers would be a waste of time, but surely enough the truth came out about Toskala's hip injury.

We've managed to round up two second rounders (one from the Antropov trade to the Rangers, one from the Moore trade to Buffalo), a fourth rounder (from the trade that brought Heward, Kolzig and Andy Rogers) and a conditional pick in 2009 (again from the Antropov trade).

Three trades is just about what we should have expected out of today. Teams just aren't into blockbusters now that the salary cap is on pace to be lowered. There is a future-oriented consciousness in the minds of NHL GMs that just wasn't there in recent years. It's unfortunate, and it made for one dry deadline day.

But Burke has made it clear that his big moves will probably come in the offseason. Fair enough, we've got the time. The best way to counter years of short-sightedness in the Leafs organization isn't to act rashly. Evidence that Burke only traded these two players because of their UFA status is because Ian White was not moved. Moore and Antropov went for 2nd rounders, which is what was offered for White. Why was White not traded? Because he's under contract until 2011.

For a deadline day that didn't have much excitement, I was pleasantly surprised by Burke's demeanor.

No big blockbuster for us. No Bouwmeester. No Pronger. No Giguere. Nothing that The Fraud (to borrow the term from PPP, I mean Eklund) made up.

Picks, yes.

I really wasn't sure if Burke would try to pull some trades to get this team contending by 2010-2011, but it looks like he's taking his time.

After all, his six year contract gives him lots of that.

Leafs, Burke Deadline Madness Has Begun

Trade deadline today at 3:00 PM. It's going to be a day of madness.

This is the first time in a while that the Leafs have been big sellers at the trade deadline. Burke, however, is not feeling the heat on this deadline to make any rash decisions. He's got the GMs in the league held ransom and has no reason to unload unless he gets what he wants.

Burke said himself he would only make trades if his lofty demands were met. And you never know, a lot of them might be.

He's been downplaying today because he might not end up making more than two or three trades. It really depends, but it could be more like four or five.

It will be especially interesting to see who the Leafs take back, player wise. Burke said one of his positions of strength going into this deadline is that the Leafs can take back salary. It's also speculated that the Leafs might make a claim for Martin Gerber who will be placed on re-entry waivers today, because of Vesa Toskala's nagging injuries that could have him out for the rest of the season. I don't see it happening, but who knows.

The Night Before the Deadline

Thought I'd share my post from the Leafs forum of earlier this week. I figured that the occasion needed a poem to it.

Twas the night before the Deadline, when all through the league,
Not a GM was stirring, not even McPhee.

The trade bait was set on the table with care,
In hopes that a blockbuster soon would be there;

The Leafs fans were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of first rounders danced in their heads;

With TSN on the TV, and a computer on my lap,
Dregger calls trades and Eklund spews crap

That's all I've got. Merry Deadline Day everybody!

Moore Talks Break Off

According to Sportsnet..."no new talks are scheduled nor does it appear they will be."

Dominic Moore has been solid for the Leafs all season and most Leafs fans believed he would be here to stay. He made the most out of a good situation, and I'm sure Burke wanted to keep him, but just not at the price he was asking for. Because this is the first contract Burke is negotiating with a Leafs player, he wants to set the tone right, and not overpay for someone he deems a 3rd or 4th liner.

I imagine Burke wanted this out of the way as he continues to field trade offers tonight and tomorrow.

Burke will be in the battle room at 6 am tomorrow, ready by the phone. Should be a very interesting day.

Moore Saga Will be Over Soon

As things stand, Dominic Moore has not yet budged on his estimated request of 2.5 to 3 million a year.

Leafs GM Brian Burke has apparently tabled a 1.5 million contract for, it's believed, three years.

Burke's team formula includes two bottom lines of inexpensive plumbers that play a good, hard two-way game. Dominic Moore, understandably, wants to see himself as a bit more than that. And I'll give him credit, I've watched him play since he was on the Penguins, and I saw a guy with some really nice hands. He likes to think of himself as a third liner who can jump on the powerplay.

He's looking for Darcy Tucker money for those extra intangibles he brings to the team. Just ask Ryan Malone, the king of that business. A hard worker with the willingness to go to the net, sacrifice his body for his team, hit, shoot and go into the corner. All that landed him a 4.5 million a year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Apparently Burke doesn't want to pay that kind of money for a guy who would likely be relegated to the fourth line in years to come.

Moore had better play his cards right, or he might end up like Anson Carter who pushed for that big three million contract and ended up playing himself right out of the NHL.

Hopefully the saga can be resolved tonight so Burke can consider offers. You have to think if Burke doesn't come to a solution by early evening, he'll tell Moore to pack a suitcase before he turns out the light.

UPDATE: Dominic Moore will sit out tonights game against the New Jersey Devils. As will Nik Antropov. Looks like we've seen the last of Nik in the Blue and White, and possibly Moore.

Leafs and Bruins Closing in on a Deal?

UPDATE: Burke denies the rumour.

Reports yesterday indicate that the Boston Bruins are working on a deal to pluck Tomas Kaberle from the Leafs.

Allegedly, the offer presented was a 1st and 3rd rounder in 2009, as well as Joe Colborne, the Bruins first pick in the 2008 entry draft.

Colborne was the 16th pick overall at the draft. He's got the size, but doesn't play an overly physical game. He's a work in progress, that's for sure.

The fact is that Burke hasn't exactly jumped at this offer. Which is good for us, because what we'd be getting here simply isn't enough. Colborne is unproven, and the Bruins pick in this year's draft will be late in the first round - outside the realm of sure-fire NHLers, and into the one of calculated risk.

This is good news, though. This is closer to what the Leafs want, and shows that the GMs get the message - the Leafs want a BIG package for Kaberle. It'll be exciting to see what gets thrown at us in the days to come.

Battle of Not-hockey-o; Leafs Chasing Mediocrity?

I'd like to take this opportunity to shoot down two stupid topics that have been beaten to death by the mainstream media since the lockout.

STORY NUMBER ONE: The Battle of Ontario Isn't Good Any More!

Well, thanks for that update. I've read about four articles in the last few days informing me that the Battle of Ontario is just not the way it was before. Really? I figured that since the Maple Leafs haven't made the playoffs in four years and haven't played a playoffs series against the Senators in longer, that notion would have faded into the background.

No, since the Senators have joined the Leafs in the basement of the Eastern Conference, apparently the story has new legs to it.

STORY NUMBER TWO: The Leafs are Mediocre and Won't Get a Good Draft Pick!

The Leafs have won three games, and they've taken teams to overtime for five straight. Thus, they apparently are going to go on an amazing winning streak from now until the end of the season. This story is clearly employed to upset the ever volatile Leafs fans, who get pulled up and down, left and right by the media whenever the Leaf's direction in the standings is uncertain.

For a while, the media was relatively quiet about things because the Leafs were consistently bad. But now that we're seeing some turbulence, it's time for the Toronto media to blow things out of proportion.

BURKE ON THE TRADE DEADLINE

Found an article in the Vancouver Sun regarding the nonsense which is the trade deadline. If you're wondering why the GMs of the NHL are as silly as they are this time of year, Brian Burke has your answer.

Friday Leafs Tidbits: Kaberle Inquiries, Tavares Cup, Bob McK.

KABERLE STILL ATTRACTS INTEREST OUT WEST

Alec Brownscombe is reporting that the Flames made a solid offer for Kaberle. Because Kaberle doesn't want to go to the West, there was no further discussion and Burke said no. It is not known whether the offer was enough to get the job done. Check the Leafs Hotstove Twitter page for more. I will have to get Twitter some time.

THE BEST INSIDER

Bob McKenzie did an interview with Toronto Sports Media yesterday. Notably, he shot down the notion that Goligoski or Whitney to Toronto was even being discussed. There was a lot of interesting stuff talked about in the interview. I like listening to Bob McKenzie because I know he always speaks from the heart. He is impartial, connected, and level-headed. He also mentioned that he expects the trades to pick up before March 4th, with GMs franticly trying to get the job done before the sellers can hold them ransome on deadline day for large prices.

CREME DE LA CRAP

Leafs beat the Isles 5-4 in the shootout. Callup Stapleton gets the winner. Wonderful to see Stapleton get some success, because he's been incredibly prolific and consistent in the minors. He deserved this callup for sure, and I hope the Leafs find a spot for him on the roster. He got a hard look in training camp this year, and next year it will be the same. The guy came out of nowhere and is surprising people at every level of hockey he plays.

This put the Leafs a whopping 17 points ahead of the lowly masters of the basement, the Islanders. Their name suits them right now: they're on their own little island, in a league of their own (they would only be good in the AHL), and they're waiting to see who gets voted off the island on March 4th. I've become indifferent to the Leafs-Isles losing rivalry, because we just aren't as bad as them. Look at either teams roster and come back and tell me who you think has more talent. 17 points ahead, one point ahead, it's all the same. We won't ever be 30th in the league at this stage.

FINAL WORDS

An intriguing article over at Maple Leafs Hotstove regarding the Whitney trade...allegedly the Leafs almost became part of a three way deal, and something could still go down. Check'er out.

And last but not least, vote on my new poll: How many first round picks will the Leafs have in this year's draft? While it's likely we'll have at least a second by the end of March 4th, Burke may be able to dangle our assets on draft day.

One Leafs Prospect for the Scrapheap

Reports out today are saying that Dmitry Vorobiev of the KHL, the Leafs fifth round selection in 2004, has been banned from the league due to having a history of heart problems.

This news comes on the heels of the tragic death of player Alexei Cherepanov who collapsed suddenly mid-game due to heart failure. Tighter regulations are being enforced by the league in an effort to rebuild its credibility and accountability, two things the KHL hasn't exactly oozed.

Brian Burke has stated that Vorobiev is not in the Leafs plans anyways. Hockey's Future had ranked Vorobiev the Leaf's #4 prospect, although I often question that website's neglected ranking system.

Quite a crop of youngsters we have ready to jump into the NHL, eh? Truly pathetic.

Cheers, We Lose

For the remaing portion of the season in front of us, most Leafs fans will be watching their team stumble through games and rotate in the standings between sixth, fifth and fourth last place in the league. It is, after all, a top pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft that we're setting our sights on.

For the more hardcore Leafs fans among us, we're also hoping that the teams below in us in the standings win more games than us, so to prove our own draft position. That means, like a Proline ticket, we're cheering on teams we'd never dream of.

Fist pump in the air, the Thrashers dumped the Rangers. Hooray, the Islanders just took the Bruins to overtime.

While this is all good and fun, it's rather depressing for some of us. This league is about winning, not losing.

And it's also true that even if the Leafs rebuild, the window for winning a Stanley Cup will be smaller for us than it was in the past. Unless the Leafs scouts continue to bag excellent prospects in the draft, it'll be hard to hold onto our best players as they demand raises and long contracts.

In the current economic climate, most franchises are trying to come to terms with the reality that the salary cap may be shrinking in the years to come, and are being more selective on who they do and do not retain.

That means the teams with real chances at going for the big prize are going to foolishly hit the markets to sign the league's premium players to inflated, extended contracts. Meanwhile, the fans of teams that let them go delusionally laugh off the fact that their stars have left for money that their team was too smart to hand out.

The league is getting way too technical, and it's becoming too much a financial war. I don't like thinking about the cap, or who we won't be able to retain five years after we draft them.

I just want to enjoy some hockey.

Leafs Fire Renney

Looks like we got another coach fired. New York Rangers coach Tom Renney was given the axe today, the day after his team fell to the Maple Leafs in overtime by a score of 3-2. It turns out it was the straw that broke the camel's back.

It's still in our recent memory that Michel Therrien was fired after the Leafs totally embarrassed the Penguins 6-2 on February 14th, scoring five goals in the final frame.

Is it really that embarrassing to lose to us? I guess so. We're certainly not the reason these two coaches were fired. But admit it, if your team is supposed to make the playoffs and loses to the lowly Leafs, you've got reason to pout.

Kubina Will Not Be Traded Before March 4th: Report

According to Howard Berger, Pavel Kubina has not and will not provide Brian Burke with a list of ten teams he would waive his no-trade clause for before the March 4th trade deadline.

“Pavel wants to stay with us; he doesn’t want to waive his [no-trade] clause or give me a list of teams, and that’s fine with me,” said Burke on Sunday night as the Leafs took on the New York Rangers.

This is in line with my trade predictions from February and January. I did, however, anticipate that Kubina would provide a list of ten teams, so this news surprised me slightly.

Keep checking back for further speculation and reporting. The trade deadline is just nine days away.

In other news, further evidence that Prime Minister Harper is a Leafs fan.

Kaberle's List of 10 Teams

News reports came out yesterday stating that Tomas Kaberle would go to the Boston Bruins if the right offer was tabled.

This is actually not news at all, because Kaberle's list is apparently comprised of Eastern Conference teams. Whether there is any exception to that is uncertain.

Here is, likely, *drum roll please* what Kaberle's big bad top ten list looks like:

1. Boston Bruins
2. Washington Capitals
3. New Jersey Devils
4. Philadelphia Flyers
5. Montreal Canadiens
6. Florida Panthers
7. Buffalo Sabres
8. New York Rangers
9. Pittsburgh Penguins
10. Carolina Hurricanes

Look familiar? Now let's look at the possibility of each one of these teams trading with Kaberle.

Boston Bruins - Whether Boston could package a good enough deal to land Kaberle is unknown. What the Leafs would be glad to have: Brad Marchand and a pick.

Washington Capitals - Certainly would be a nice addition for Washington, but nobody said Washington needed powerplay help either. Leafs would be glad to have: 1st and Sami Lepisto or another pick.

New Jersey Devils - Rumours were that the Devils might try to bring back Niedermayer, so if and when that doesn't happen they could go for Kaberle. Leafs would be glad to have: 1st and Matthias Tedenby/Matt Corrente.

Philadelphia Flyers - It's not clear whether Timmonen is enough to get the Flyers deep into the playoffs, or through the neutral zone, for that matter. This is the same scenario as last year, in which the Flyers offered Carter and a first. What they could put together really depends. They're tight against the cap, so would Burke even talk if the Flyers wanted to send him a large salary? Leafs would be glad to have: Claude Giroux and a pick.

Montreal Canadiens - You can cross these guys off the list because Gainey couldn't wait and signed Matthieu Schneider.

Floriday Panthers - Can anyone say Kaberle-Bouwmeester blockbuster? Florida gets a guy who's already signed, and has already shown how well he mixes with Bryan McCabe. Florida may be forced to unload Bouwmeester, so who knows what could happen. Leafs would be glad to have: Jay Bouwmeester, but it would take more than just Kaberle. Kaberle and Antropov for Bouwmeester? Still might take more than that. Okay, Kaberle, Antropov and a 2nd round pick. Is that enough yet? If the answer is no, I hang up at this stage. If Bouwmeester couldn't happen, the Leafs could try to get Ellerby which has apparently fallen a bit out of favour with the Panthers brass.

Buffalo Sabres - They've got enough cap space, and Kaberle could fit nicely. Leafs would be glad to have: Nathan Gerbe and 1st.

New York Rangers - No cap space. They won't get it done. They're screwed in this situation. Wade Redden is to this season what Bryan McCabe was to last.

Pittsburgh Penguins - Kaberle would look great in a Pens uniform. The already potent offence wouldn't say no to Kaberle, but the priority will probably be to find a winger for Crosby. Leafs would be glad to have: Alex Goligoski and 1st. Goligoski rumours have been circulating already, as well as Whitney.


Carolina Hurricanes - They could use the boost as they're a borderline playoff team. Leafs would be glad to have: Zach Boychuk, which is a pipedream slightly. Otherwise I don't think Canes could put together a good enough offer.


Who's really in contention to land Kaberle here? My opinion, and this is pure speculation, is that the teams with the best chance at Kaberle are the Flyers, Panthers, Sabres and Devils. Barring that, perhaps a Western team will throw an offer at Burke.

Anything can happen.

Mats Downs the Leafs

Sundin Night in Canada ended in a dramatic fashion as none other than Mats Sundin was the third shooter in the shootout for the Vancouver Canucks with the game on his stick.

Being the clutch player he was, he came down the middle, faked the shot and went upstairs on his backhand. He did it with ease after a game where he clearly was not.

Given a standing ovation by the ACC crowd during a video-dedication, Sundin was visibly shook up. He took the faceoff after that brief moment teary eyed.

Despite the share of boos every time he touched the puck, there were also large numbers of fans who insisted on cheering in concert with the booing to drown them out.

Overall I'm satisfied by the fans response to the return of Sundin. And Sundin can relax now that it's all done.

Mats, thanks again for the 13 years of service.


UPDATE: To quote a Canucks fan from my Facebook account: "XXXX XXXX thinks that the Canucks win may have been scripted."

Trade Deadline Predictions

Today I'm going to give my predictions for the moves the Leafs make on or before March 4th. When the deadline passes, it will be interesting to see how I fared. Without further ado:

FORWARDS:
Jason Blake - GOES - Burke will find a decent offer, then reflect on the prospect of never having another opportunity to move him, and then acts.
Nik Antropov - GOES - He will attract interest, and won't be receiving a new contract.
Alexei Ponikarovsky - GOES - Having a good season, but really too timid to fit into Burke's formula.
Dominic Moore - STAYS - This one is dead simple. He knows his role, and he plays it well. He has an incredible hockey IQ and will surely be receiving a new contract offer.
Niklas Hagman - STAYS - Has proven his worth as a good overall player with some offensive flash.
Lee Stempniak - STAYS - Nobody wants him. He will certainly improve with better linemates. You know he's as frustrated with himself as fans are.
Matt Stajan - GOES - He's a young, good player, but Burke will find the right offer.
Mikhail Grabovski - STAYS - Showed some serious promise at the beginning of the season. Has excellent hands and speed, but must learn consistency.
Nikolai Kulemin - STAYS - Has earned his spot with the franchise for the forseeable future. A trophy of successful Leafs scouting.
John Mitchell - STAYS - Young, and considered one of the unofficial 'untouchables'.
Jamal Mayers - GOES - I think Burke gets a decent offer and parts ways with this veteran.
Jeremy Williams - STAYS - Young guy who just needs a bit more time crafting his overall game.
Brad May - STAYS - He came in to give a bit more grit. He'll retire at the end of the season.
Jiri Tlusty - STAYS - Not a chance Burke will get rid of this guy. Huge upside.
Ryan Hollweg - STAYS - Burke will fail to trade him.
Andre Deveaux - STAYS - Will return to the NHL once gaps need to be filled after March 4th.
Kris Newbury - STAYS - Deserving a look at the NHL level.
Boyd Devereaux - GOES - Doesn't serve much purpose for the young Leafs.

DEFENSEMEN:
Tomas Kaberle - GOES - Despite Burke's reluctance, he will get the right offer.
Pavel Kubina - STAYS - Kubina keeps the backend respectable, and acts as the puckmover that Burke sees as essential.
Ian White - GOES - Is getting a ton of minutes to display his worth league-wide. Burke will get a decent offer.
Jeff Finger - STAYS - Doesn't earn his salary, and there will be limited interest. Burke will hold on, for now.
Mike Van Ryn - GOES - The only reason he ended up in Toronto is because of the necessity to move McCabe's contract. He's injury prone and Burke doesn't want that.
Luke Schenn - STAYS - Duh. A 22-minute a night teenager.
Jonas Frogren - STAYS - A nice snag from Europe. Plays the Burke style.
Jaime Sifers - STAYS - Youngster who will get his chance.

GOALTENDERS:
VESA TOSKALA - STAYS - Burke will field offers, but honestly, what choices does he have in net for the rest of this year?
CURTIS JOSEPH - STAYS - Will end his carreer in Blue and White.
JUSTIN POGGE - STAYS - Needs more time developing in minors and likely to recieve a new contract in the summer.

Read my January predictions to see how stupid or insightful they were.

The Tavares Cup!

With there being virtually no chance of the Leafs making the playoffs this year, I think it not to be rash to suggest that the last stretch of the season is a competition between who can be the worst team possible and get that #1 pick in this year's draft, barring a successful draft lottery.

Who will be the Biggest Loser? Like golf, the Tavares Cup is all about who can rack up the lowest score. Let's take a look at the competitors:

True Cup Contenders:
New York Islanders
Atlanta Thrashers
Toronto Maple Leafs
Colorado Avalanche

Runners Up:
Ottawa Senators
Tampa Bay Lightning

Thanks for Coming Out:
Los Angeles Kings
Phoenix Coyotes
Nashville Predators

Right now we sit five points ahead of the Atlanta Thrashers, who occupy 29th place, and 13 points ahead of New York. This is actually much, much closer than I expected. Once the Leafs got off to a .500 start in the first month or so, I thought we might have to settle for anywhere from the 8th-15th pick. Seems like we're at least going to try to make a run at the Cup.

But what's this? The Islanders and Thrashers seem to be making some big moves to worsen their rosters for a Cup run. The Thrashers recently traded Schneider to Montreal and the Islanders traded Comrie and Campoli to the Senators. This proactivity by these two teams means that they're serious about winning the TC this year, and the Senators are not. And I couldn't be happier that our divisional rival still thinks it can make the playoffs. Make it happen, Burkie.

Brian Burke celebrating the Leafs first Tavares Cup in franchise history.

Sundin Night in Canada

Well folks, the night has come. Mats Sundin returns to the Air Canada Center, except this time he wont be wearing a Leaf on his jersey. He will be wearing a big C with a whale stuck on it.

My one wish is that the Leafs fans show some class and cheer him. I'm divided over whether the fans at the Air Canada Center will boo or cheer. One part of me is saying that there's no way a Leafs legend such as Sundin could be booed. But another part tells me that the 'betrayal' of Sundin is still fresh in the minds of Leafs fans.

Instead of thinking the fans will cheer, or they will boo, I'll go for a mixture of the two.

I think at the end of the day Sundin will be loved by this city and respected as one of the greatest to don the uniform. Maybe not among the greatest players ever, but out of this franchise, he's been one of the best.

No matter how they treat Sundin on Saturday night, he'll know how the city really feels about him. He knows that if the team was still a competitor, he'd be sitting on the other bench, ready to slog his guts out for the Blue and White.

There's a reason he said this would be 'just another game'. It's because he's going to block all of the negative out, and finish his career with class. He'll get a chance to reflect when he hangs up the skates.


The Toronto Sun is asking Leafs fans to cheer for Sundin. I'd say he deserves it too. However, I just don't know how many ACC attendees they'll be able to reach out to in time.

Rick Nash to T.O.? Not So Fast Says the Spec

I'm well aware that the Hamilton Spectator chose to publish this article two weeks from the trade deadline because it would create the most stir among their minions, when really they have nothing to report, but I'll give them a link anyways.

It has all you'd ever want - rumour speculation about a big name player going to Toronto, and the usual making fun of Leaf fans for thinking they're the center of the universe.

Yes, damn those arrogant 15 year old fans for wanting to see a hometown boy come play for their team. Damn them.

Read what the Spec thinks of the prospect of Nash coming to Toronto when he hits free agency in 2010.

Attaboy, Tlusty! 5 Goal Game With the Marlies

Jiri Tlusty potted 5 goals tonight in the Toronto Marlies 8-5 win over the Syracuse Crunch.

That's a franchise record for goals by a Toronto Marlie. Impressive! The jury is still out on this guy's NHL potential, but this is good news.

We really need him to become an offensive force for this young, rebuilding team to have an impact in the coming years.

The Leafs took Tlusty 13th overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Read more about the night over at the Marlies website.

Tank for Duchene?

Just thought I'd mention an article I found on ESPN about Matt Duchene. It talks about why he sticks out (or doesn't, for that matter).

So for all the folks who are starting to see that the Leafs really might have to settle for the third pick in the draft, it's not all doom and gloom. I would be extremely happy if the Leafs could get Duchene. I'm sure he's a guy that Burke would like too.

He isn't a player who would have an impact immediately, but he's the kind that could blossom into that go-to guy down the road (think: Jeff Carter, Mike Richards).

Of course, once you're in that bottom five, you're part of the lottery system in which all five have a chance at the first overall pick. We just need to stay in that pack and we're gold. Anything can happen!

POGGE BACK IN NET

Reports today are saying that Justin Pogge will be back in net for the Leafs when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday. This is another home game for Pogge, and he'll want to rebound from second straight loss to the Sabres, and third straight loss in total.

Pogge played well against the Sabres, except in the first part of the opening period. To be honest he just doesn't look ready for the NHL level, and he has a lot of holes in his game.

One notable problem is how early he goes down, which gives the shooter more time to aim upstairs. Hopefully with time he can play the style that he prefers, not necessarily what the NHL goalie coaches are telling him to do.

It's believed that the coaches are reluctant to start Joseph, so we may not see him play for a long time. The only reason Pogge isn't the backup is because Burke thinks he doesn't 'deserve' to be in the NHL, just yet. Probably good not to hand Pogge an NHL job until he can prove he is the real deal.

It's also widely believed that Burke will re-sign Pogge in the summer, when he becomes an RFA.

News: Pogge Called Up Again for Buffalo Rematch

Justin Pogge was called up to the Toronto Maple Leafs today, and may be starting in net against the Buffalo Sabres.

This is interesting because Pogge's last start was against the Sabres. It will also be the first time he plays in front of the home crowd at the ACC. This is not a coincidence, as the Leafs management continues to cross-examine his strengths and weaknesses in certain situations.

It will be good for him to play again versus the Sabres. Perhaps he can get into his groove against an opponent he's faced before. The pressure will be on, now that he's playing in front of disgruntled Leafs fans.

In his last outing he made 40 saves against the Buffalo Sabres despite getting very little defensive help.

This is his third NHL start, as he continues to be brought up to start single games and then returned to the AHL to play for the Marlies.

UPDATE: Pogge will be with the team for at least a week. There are three games in that span, and Pogge will be at least practicing with the Leafs. Leafs prospect James Reimer will be taking Pogge's place in goal for the Marlies.

Power Rankings Updated

Made another update to my Leafs Power Rankings. Check them out now.

Kubina, Kaberle Set the Table for Trades

Multiple sources are reporting today that both Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina will waive their no trade clauses, if asked.

So far this season, Burke has been very civil about the matter, stating that he will never ask them to waive their no trade clauses because they were earned.

Now it seems that Kaberle and Kubina would rather choose where they get traded to now, before Brian Burke is given full control in the summer. You see, the no-trade clause gives Kaberle and Kubina the leverage to approve where they go. However, a part of this clause states that if the Leafs fail to make the playoffs, they can be traded in the summer.

Kaberle's agent has already made it clear that they will cooperate with Burke's plans, were he to get a trade offer that benefitted the Leafs organization.

Kubina and his agent are a few steps behind, but it is believed that they will follow suit. Kubina and Kaberle have been friends for many years, and Kaberle was part of the reason Kubina came to Toronto. Kubina reiterated after the Leafs Skills Competition this weekend that he would be happy to stay, but willing to cooperate with Burke's plans, if that meant trading him.

As excited as I am for the Leaf's youth revolution to begin, I will feel a little deflated seeing Kaberle and Kubina go. They've been, for the most part, a treat to watch, and it will be sad to see such talent go elsewhere.

Kubina exercised his no trade clause in 2008, preventing a trade that would have sent him to the San Jose Sharks.

Kaberle also exercised his no-trade clause last year, preventing the Leafs from getting Jeff Carter, but he can be forgiven. He was simply following in the footsteps of the other players, who agreed to continue with the Leaf's 2008 playoff push. A quality guy like him will be hard to replace, but I will respect whatever Burke chooses to do.

Yea Moore, Nay Antropov; Schenn Picks Up

Yesterday, Brian Burke once again surprised nobody by opening his mouth when asked what's on his mind.

He told the media yesterday that the team is likely to negotiate a new contract with Dominic Moore, and seek to find a new home for Nik Antropov, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

As I wrote in January, these two actions are no surprise. Moore knows his role. So does Antropov, but he is, at best, the poor man's first liner.

Howard Berger wrote that it might not be the best policy to show his disregard for one of his players, in terms of trying to maximize Nik's trade value. This is partially true, seeing how teams now know that Burke is pressured to make a move now. But that doesn't change the fact - we're talking about Brian Burke.

Spector reports that it's hardly news to GMs that Antropov is on the block. I agree that a few loose cannon comments out of Burke's mouth won't affect the way teams percieve Antropov as a player.

And what is also true is that, in a Gaborik-less trade market, Antropov will be a forward sought by many teams.

First Goal Isn't The Only Thing Schenn Picks Up

The Toronto Star reports this morning that Luke Schenn alongside the other rookies were on hook for this year's rookie dinner tab.

"I just ate my steak and watched the guys order what they wanted...I can live with it. You're only a rookie once in the NHL."

It's good to hear about a little team bonding. They've got to get closer as a team if they want to work on their team cohesion going down the stretch. The tough thing is the fact that several of the players at that table might be gone by the end of the month. Such is life in the new NHL though. Just business as usual.

Congrats, Luke Schenn

There isn't anything better to me in pro sports than watching a wide-eyed rookie with a smile across his face the size of the Atlantic after his first taste at success in the bigs. As a hockey fan, when a young player scores his first NHL goal he's like a kid on Christmas morning. Try wiping that smile off his face!

It was Christmas for Leafs rookie Luke Schenn last night. He picked up the puck from the side boards near the end of the first period and fired off a wrist shot, Luke Schenn style, just looking to get the puck on net. And what do you know? It squeaked through, giving him his first career NHL goal.

The reaction was something to behold, both on the ice and on the bench, from Luke and from his teammates. It's obvious to even the most casual observer that the kid is well-loved, as with every bit of success he experiences, his teammates celebrate with him. As his smile spreads, so his teammates smile. And as he lifted his arms in jubilation at the first milestone of his young career, the spirit of his teammates rose as well. As he sat on the bench through the commercial time out, soaking it all in, he couldn't wipe the childlike grin off his face.

There's nothing like it. Soak it up, Luke; enjoy it for all it's worth and never forget the joy you felt in that moment. It is one of many milestones you'll get to in your career, but it will be one of the sweetest. So etch it permanently into your memory and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. You deserve it.

Merry Christmas, kid.

Down Goes Cowen

Just a small update here. Top prospect Jared Cowen blew out his knee yesterday and will be out for five months.

For a youngster trying to push himself up the NHL rankings, this is a devastating blow. Maple Leafs Hotstove recently made a good argument as to why the Leafs should draft a D-man this year. Check it out.

He is widely considered a top ten prospect for this year's draft, and hands down the number two defensive prospect, behind Swedish Elite League defensemen Victor Hedman.

Cowen was one of the last players cut from this year's U20 Canadian World Junior Team. He would have been a great addition, and will certaintly get his chance next December. That is, unless his team needs him that badly.

Brayden Schenn Love, Power Rankings, Pogge, Pickups

Poll: Will Kaberle Get Moved Before the Trade Deadline? Plus Last Week's Results

In this week's poll I'm asking you to reflect on the recent developments surrounding the Leaf's Tomas Kaberle. He is likely to still recieve lots of interest from playoff contenders despite his broken hand that will keep him out until late February/early March.

Burke, however, has made it clear that he's not eager to move Kaberle. A guy of his calibre is hard to replace. It only makes sense for Burke to trade Kaberle if the return is high and future oriented. For example, were the offer Karl Alzner or Thomas Hickey and a draft pick, it wouldn't be a bad move for Burke to make.

In last week's poll I asked you who the Leafs would pick, were they to draft third in 2009. In other words, I wanted to know who the number one guy is to Leafs fans after Tavares and Hedman, the consensus top two for this year's draft. Not surprisingly, a majority of you picked Brayden Schenn, the younger brother of current Leaf Luke Schenn. Brayden will definitely be scrutinized by Leafs scouts in the upcoming months, if not already. He is ranked 5th by NHL Central Scouting, right around where the Leafs might pick.

However, I must say that there probably is one guy who is far and away more talented than Schenn. His name is Matt Duchene. A prolific scorer for the OHL's Brampton Batallion, Duchene played for Canada's U18 squad and was one of the last cuts for this year's World U20 competition. I'm confident that if we had the third pick we would take Duchene, but if the Leafs hover around the 4-7 mark, we might be able to get Schenn. What a great thing it would be for Brayden to play with his older brother.

Rankings Reassessed

I've done another update to my power rankings list. In the last update I had Nik Antropov in the number one position. Who's the new number one? Go to the power rankings now.

Plyons Protecting Pogge

Justin Pogge was back in net against the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday as part of the Leaf's 'plan' to gauge what the blue-chip prospect is made of. You might think it's hard to gauge a goalie when the defence in front of him plays like a bunch of pylons. The fact is there, though - in spite of alowing five goals, Pogge was able to stop 40 other chances. That, in front of the defensive support he received that night, is simply remarkable.

He's a very athletic goaltender, and with time he will learn to use his body to cover the angles and conserve his energy. He won't say it himself, but he probably wishes he could get just a bit more help back there. If you're Justin Pogge, you hope the Leafs rebuilding plans begin from the back out.

Kronwall Claimed

Staffan Kronwall was claimed by the Washington Capitals today on re-entry waivers. Burke knew he was taking a risk by doing this, but it's probably for the best that Staffan gets a shot to play in the NHL, where he belongs. It's a shame he never got going with the Leafs, but we wish him all the best.

Burke's Kaberle Conundrum

As the countdown to the trade deadline kicks into motion, one thing which seems to have been taken for granted thus far, doesn't seem such a sure thing any more.

That is, the notion that Kaberle would be packing his bags for prospects and picks come the March 4th deadline. Broken hand and all, in likelihood Kaberle will be full in play at this year's trade deadline.

Yes, he almost got moved prior to the deadline last season, but that was on Cliff Fletcher's watch, a man given permission to blow the team up. Burke, it seems, might be planning on using a scalpel to repair this team, not a jackhammer.

Sure, it's a hell of a fun time to see what kind of return our top players might yield on the deadline, but then there's the reality that Burke might actually like some of those players staying put for the near future.

After all, Kaberle is a top-end offensive defenseman with a reasonable contract. He's a player that teams such as Ottawa and Tampa Bay wish they had. Both clubs actively sought to get a top end defenseman this summer, and they failed.

What do those two teams also have in common? They were picked to make the playoffs. Both will not see the postseason this year.

Burke himself stated that the problem with moving Kaberle is the truth that he would have to spend all offseason looking for a replacement. Maybe that's a challenge he just doesn't feel up to.

The fact is that Burke is only going to move Kaberle if the offer knocks him off his feet.

Last year the team was ready to trade him away for Jeff Carter and a first-rounder, but Kaberle exercized his no-trade clause and the motion was nixed. Now it seems the drag of losing has eroded Kaberle's reluctance to consider a trade.

If an offer similar to that of last season comes along, then Burke might just move on it. And come on, people, Kaberle isn't old.

Friday Thoughts

Leafs Whoop Raycroft

Although a lot of us want to see the Leafs stumble their way into a high draft pick, it's perfectly normal to enjoy the Leafs light up Andrew Raycroft seven times. Our starting goaltender of two seasons ago, Raycroft made sure to let in at least three a game, and were it not for the potent Leafs offense of the time, the wins would have come few and far between.

Tavares Night

I'm off to watch the London Knights as they visit the Kingston Frontenacs. Tavares has 14 goals and 22 points in his last eight games, and has been on fire since being traded from the Oshawa Generals to the London Knights. I'm also excited to watch the Knight's Nazem Kadri and the Frontenac's Ethan Werek of Kingston, two of the top forward prospects in this year's draft. Taylor Doherty of the Fronts is another interesting player, who before the mid-season rankings, was considered a mid-to-late first rounder. He's now ranked 71st in North America.

Landslide

Well, last week I asked the readers whether or not they think the Leafs will name a captain this season. 89 percent of you believe they won't. Well, fair enough. If the Leafs do name a captain, Brian Burke will have something to do with it. I know Wilson isn't going to name someone a captain if he thinks Burke might look for trade offers for that person, so until Burke takes them off the table, Wilson likely won't budge.

Leafs With Third Pick

In this week's poll, I'm going back to the 2009 entry draft. It's on every Leaf fan's mind, and it can't come soon enough.

We all know that Tavares and Hedman are going 1-2 in the draft, but after that there will be a degree of variation. So, theoretically, were the Leafs sitting with the third pick, who should they take?

Offers to Burke Improving; Who Stays, Who Goes?

According to the Toronto Sun (via. Spector), Burke admits that the calls he's getting for his assets are starting to interest him. Just yesterday, Burke was asked whether Antropov was a trade asset, to which he replied "my priority is not to improve his trade value. My priority is to get him playing better so he can help the Toronto Maple Leafs win some games right now." Right. I think we're getting a little too wordy here.

Who Stays?

Dominic Moore - F - I don't care what Eklund thinks, Burke is not going to give away Moore. Doesn't matter what the 'buzz' is, I'm sure the interest to move Moore does not exist within the franchise. He is a superb role player who works hard and has decent hands. A perfect third liner; that is, if he's truculent and beligerent enough for Burke. He's quickly winning over the fanbase, and despite what rumour gatherers might hear about who may or may not be inquiring, he's probably one of the players who stays put through the rebuilding phase. That is, unless he can tangibly prove his intangible assets as a player (read: Mike Commodore at 4.3 mil, Ryan Malone at 4.5 mil) and seek money elsewhere.

Jason Blake - F - I just don't think anyone wants that contract, despite his recent strong play.

Vesa Toskala - G - Contract is a problem. As is the market for shaky goaltending. I think Burke fails with this one, but not for lack of trying.

Pavel Kubina - D - Burke will not part with both Kubina and Kaberle at once. Kaberle will bring the picks, Kubina will keep the team respectable.

Lee Stempniak - F - Burke won't want to hurt Fletcher's feelings by undoing his last move as interim-GM.
He'll let Stempniak show what he's worth next season.

Well that's just ridiculous! I thought Burke was going to burn this roster to the ground? Well, he may. But it won't all happen before the trade deadline. When the summer comes, the roster changes will continue.

Other shoo-ins for the stay list: Schenn, Hagman, Kulemin, May, Mitchell, Grabovski, Finger, Van Ryn.

Who Goes?

Nik Antropov - F - Perfect time to trade Nik to a market that contains no big-time forwards. A desperate GM will have to roll the dice on Nikky.

Tomas Kaberle - D -Will attract some seriously eye-popping offers. We'll never get a Jeff Carter offer again, though. *sniff*

Ian White - D - White's age, contract and strong two-way play makes him a nice addition to any team. Shouldn't bring much back in return, though.

Alexei Ponikarovsky - F - Will bring back a lot less in return than people expect, but likely to be traded.

Jamal Mayers - F - A lot tamer than the Mayers of past seasons. Might attract some interest from teams looking for leadership.

I Just Don't Know

Matt Stajan - F - I have no idea if Stajan is going anywhere. For the most part, he's avoided the trade talk because he's had a good season and is seen as a solid team player. Whether he fits into Burke's plans really remains to be seen.

Your Two Cents

At this point I'm going to ask you to put yourself in Burkes shoes. What do you do with this roster? What do you expect to get in return for our assets?

Pogge Auditioning Begins

SPORTSNET.ca is reporting today that the Leafs will start Pogge between the pipes when they face the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

Ron Wilson says that Pogge will then be returned to the AHL, and didn't specify when he plans to use him next.

This essentially turns Joseph into a lame duck backup goalie. He now knows that he's only around to fill the roster position, and so that Wilson doesn't necessarily need to force Pogge into playing, were Toskala to get injured or lose his starter's role.

Once again, Pogge is getting his chance to shine in another Leafs road game. You can expect Wilson to keep Pogge well clear of the boo-birds in the ACC for most of the season. Whether it's the experienced CuJo or the youngster Pogge does not matter; Leafs fans will boo a bad goaltending performance. A wise decision indeed made by Mr. Wilson as he tries to build up the young netminders confidence.

Word is that Pogge will be part of a rotation that will send him back and forth between the Marlies and Leafs. I can hardly expect, were Pogge to keep winning games, that returning him to the Marlies would be in the goalie's long term interest.

And if Toskala gets moved at the trade deadline, such a 'rotation' might not be between the NHL and the AHL but between the big club's bench and crease.

Pronger to Leafs Rumours Swirling

The talk of the town this weekend is that the Leafs might go after Chris Pronger before the trade deadline. Yes, the possibility is there, but the logic is not.

Nick Kypreos suggested recently that if the Ducks continue to fall down the standings, GM Bob Murray might be tempted to get some serious return on a trade that would send Pronger elsewhere.

This trade rumour is probably the imagination of someone who could see it happening. Sure, Burke just traded with Anaheim to get Brad May, and the Leafs have tried to make trades with Anaheim in recent memory (such as the Bobby Ryan trade), but this is one for the scrapheap.

First of all, it's unlikely that Toronto could possibly put together a package better than any of the other teams, and believe me, if Murray was shopping Pronger there would be at least 10 other teams inquiring. Don't think for a second that just because Burke knows Murray well, he'll have the edge in winning a Pronger race.

And who said Pronger would be on the block anyways? If anything, Anaheim will use Pronger to keep it in the playoff race, and if a trade were to take place, it would be during the offseason when more cap is available.

Don't look into this one too much. The Leafs should be going for a player who's 10 years younger than Pronger, in Jay Bouwmeester. But we're not likely to get him either.

Will the Leafs Name a Captain This Season?


That's the question I'm asking you in this week's poll.

To be honest, I have no idea why Ron Wilson hasn't done this yet. One of the things he has constantly called his team out for is their lack of consistency and leadership.

Seeing how proud Ron Wilson is of himself, it's hard to explain why he hasn't created some sort of leadership hierarchy to give his team a bit more form. While the topic of naming a captain this year has gone out the window ever since Wilson chose a system of rotating assistants, it's not too farfetched to imagine he wants a captain while the going gets tough for his team in the second half.

Then again, if you're Wilson, you don't know how long your leaders are going to be sticking around. Both Kubina and Kaberle have attracted interest from clubs around the NHL, while other potential leaders such as Dominic Moore and Jamal Mayers might not necessarily be in the team's long term plans.

It's certainly not easy to predict what will happen in this second half, but if I'm the coach I want the players taking a bit more responsibility.

Last week's poll results are in, and a staggering majority (four people) of you believe the Leafs will finish between 20th and 25th overall. That's not an unreasonable prediction, seeing how the Leafs have spent most of the season in this range.

Anyways, please vote on the new poll. Also, read my power rankings. I don't know how many people actually know it exists yet.

A quote from yesterday I liked, by Mike Ulmer of mapleleafs.com as he referred to the Leaf's rebuilding plans. "How much time will this take? We are talking about a wait that began in 1967. The cavalry, relatively speaking, is just over the hill. What we do not yet know is the size of the hill."