Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Leafs Defense

First one quick thing, looks like I was right all along about Demitra going to Vancouver. Some radio station said that he will be signing a 3 year deal worth $12 million. More to follow on that.


Today I'd like to write some more about the Toronto Maple Leafs. Specifically their defense. As it stands right now they have 10 NHL calibre defensman, who will be on the team next year? Check this out:

1) Tomas Kaberle: Well barring any shocking trade (which Kaberle would have to agree to - NTC) Kaberle will be on the team next year as the teams #1 defensman. Any dummy knows that.

2) Pavel Kubina: The Leafs still have a window to trade this guy before his NTC kicks back in August. I would expect him to be on the team next season. Here's a guy who finished with over 40 pts last season. 11 Goals and 29 assists and was + 5. Not bad. In fact when you look at what other high profile d-men did last season, Kubina stacked up well. And given the amount of money that ws thrown around at UFA defensman this summer, Kubina's salary which was once considered overpayed is now about right for a guy who plays big minutes and throws the body. Down the stretch (trade deadline and on) Pavel Kubina was the Leafs top defensman on a lot of nights and on a lot of nights he was the Leafs top player. (Most notably his 2 goal performance in which he scored the OT winner from behind the net....anyone wanna help me with who that was against?)

Just to compare statistically, look at how Kubina faired compaired to some other NHL defensmen:

Kubina: GP 72, G 11, A 29, PTS 40, + 5, mins 23:55, GWG 4
Whitney GP 76, G 12, A 28, PTS 40, -2, mins 22:26 , GWG 1
Redden GP 80, G 6, A 32, PTS 38, + 11, mins 22:12, GWG 1
Pronger GP 72, G 12, A 31, PTS 43, -1, mins 26:00, GWG 4
Timonen GP 80, G 8, A 36, PTS 44, E, mins 23:34, GWG 1

Not saying he's necessarily better than Pronger, and there are other d-men who put up over 50 points this season, but clearly the stats would indicate that Kubina is in the same echelon with a lot of these players. Consider that Kubina logged big minutes on a team that finished 24th out of 30 and was +5 compaired to Whitney or Pronger or Timonen who were all on team's with good records. Also Kubina's 4 game winners is no fluke as he was clutch after the trade deadline as mentioned.

Kubina should be on the team if you listen to the comments made by Cliff Fletcher and Ron Wilson but I don't see him as an untouchable and I could see Fletcher moving him while the window is open and his NTC is not in effect if there is a deal that he can't refuse. I imagine it would have to include a top prospect or a good young roster player.

3) Anton Stralman: Here's a guy who showed a lot of promise in his rookie season, he's still really young and still needs to work on his game. Along with Kaberle, Kubina, and McCabe, Stralman has the most offensive potential. He'll be on the team.

4) Jeff Finger: Avs leader in blocked shots and hits last season. Also the Avs leader in ice time (on average per game) in the playoffs. Howeve Finger was benched for 5 games in the playoffs in favour of the more veteran players. According to Leafs TV's Paul Hendrick's (I play hockey with this guy, or rather against) It was Al Coates and Ron Wilson who pushed Fletcher to sign Finger and although there has been a lot of heat from Leafs fans over the Finger signing, there's no doubt Finger will be on the team and I think a lot of Leafs fans might change their opinion by mid season. On the other hand Wilson, Coates, and I could be wrong about Finger....We'll have to wait and see how he performs.

5) Jonas Frogren: This is an interesting one. He was Stralmans defense partner with the Swedish National team and was considered one of the top defensive defensman from the SEL. We'll see how he faires in the NHL but as a defensive, strong positional player he should have an easier time adapting. I'm not expecting him to be a stud but a solid 5-6 guy, kind of like what Lilja is for the Red Wings. He may or may not make the team.

6)Ian White: Logic would suggest that White should be on the team again. However with this logjam I could see him being one of the guys bumped out. Ian White has his ups and downs. He's a good puck handler and with time and space he can pick up some speed and rush well and make good passes. But his size is an issue and he gets beat in the corners, loses a lot of battles, gets
caught out of position etc. These are exactly the types of things Finger, Frogren, and Schenn are not known for.

7)Bryan McCabe: I think the Frogren and Finger signings would indicate what has been speculated for a long time. McCabe is done in T.O. Fletcher has to honour McCabe's contract and invite him to training camp, but he has no obligation to play McCabe. I would bet money that McCabe will eventually waive the NMC and I have no idea what kind of return the Leafs will get for him. (More on this when McCabe trade rumours start swirling)

8)Carlo Colaiacovo: Coco! I love Coco, I like his open ice hits, remember when he leveled Bertuzzi at centre ice 3 years ago. Remember when he decked Guerin cutting across the middle, 3 years ago. Too bad this guy is always hurt, he actually missed the last 8 games of last season with some type of tear in his leg. He's dealt with concussions, and all sorts of injuries. I think if he could stay healthy he's a top 4 for sure, but we'll see what happens there.

9)Staffan Kronvall: Good player. He's been NHL ready for a while now, I would like to see him get in there and get some more NHL games under his belt. He could be a valuable defensman. He likes to hit, maybe doesn't posess the offensive capabilities of his brother but certainly likes to play with that physical edge. I could see since Fletcher has been mostly drafting and trading and signing for speed and/or size that Kronvall might get the edge over a small guy like Ian White. On the other hand Kronvall has always been a bit lower on the depth chart so he'll need to have a monster camp to leap frog some of these guys. I see him starting with the Marlies as a top 2 guy in the AHL.

10)Luke Schenn: Luuuuke! I went to the draft in Ottawa and I was pumped to see the Maple Leafs move up in the draft to take Schenn. Schenn likes to hit and and plays a good defensive game. I don't think he'll make the team because of the depth but this could be better for his development. On the other hand, who knows, if he comes out and is one of the top guys at camp its possible that he makes the team. Ron Wilson said in his press conference before Schenn had even been drafted that there is nothing wrong in today's NHL with having an 18 year old defensman step right into the NHL and start learning at that level. I especially think this would be true for a defensive d-man who is already positionally sound and just needs to work on his size (in terms of weight) and speed, as opposed to an offensive d-man who still needs to learrn the game.

So that's it for today.

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