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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.


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.