Monday, September 21, 2009

Rating the Leafs young guys:

Who is gonna make this team and who's gonna be cut? Tough call! I like the young guys but there is not enough room for all of them. Burke said he likes the idea of carrying 8 defensmen, on a 23 man roster that means only 13 forwards will make it out of camp.

So who's in, who's out. Here is some speculation:
(Kessel on IR to start the year)

These 9 veterans feel like a lock:
Matt Stajan
Jason Blake
Alex Ponikarovsky
Mikhail Grabovski (not a veteran but a lock anyways)
Niklas Hagman
Lee Stempniak (I don't want him, but I think the veteran will get a spot)
Colton Orr
Wayne Primeau
Jamal Mayers

That leaves 4 spots. If you figure Johnny Mitchell and Nikolai Kulemin are coming off fairly impressive rookie years and listen to the comments made by Ron Wilson then you have to figure they will make it.

Which leaves 2 roster spots. Here is who is still fighting for it, in order of most to least likely:

1. Tyler Bozak - I like his 2-way game and his speed. He seems like a really smart player, and he looks NHL ready. Might have to play unfirmiliar position at wing to make it though.
2. Rickard Wallin - veteran is supposed to be a real character guy. Kills penalties, backchecks hard, plays a physical game, and did I mention defenively aware? Feels like a Ron Wilson type 3rd line centre.
3. Christian Hanson - Big guy, built like a power forward. Likes to go to the trouble area's, in front of the net, in the corners, digs for rebounds, hits. Not an amazing skater, which could hurt him, but he looks quicker than he did at the end of last season.
3. Victor Stalberg - Speedster, looks faster than Jason Blake out there. Known in college for his defensive abilities as well as his offense, and has been given a lot looks by Wilson, being the only guy to have dressed in all of the first 3 exhibition games. That 3 is not a typo, I think its a tossup between Stalberg and Hanson, both guys bring different things to the table.
5. Jason Allison - long shot to make it, but has been producing some pts in pre-season. Allison looks rusty to me and has been stripped a couple times trying to beat another player with simple dekes. But his play in the corners and some of the passes he's made is vintage Allison. At this point I'm still not ruling him out.
6. Jiri Tlusty - I had such high hopes for Jiri Tlusty after his monster January with the Marlies, but he has been underwhealming in camp. Maybe another year in the AHL wouldn't hurt him. I still consider him a monster prospect and a guy who could become a 30 goal man in the NHL some day. Don't forget, most Red Wings don't make the big club until they're 22-26 range. Extra time at the American level won't hurt Tlusty's development. Another good example is Bobby Ryan!
7. Nazem Kadri - Fancy guy, I like the looks of him and I like the way he plays. Ron Wilson hasn't cut him yet, but I really see him as a long shot. Wilson has made comments that Kadri might be a little bit too small/light at this point.
8. Jay Rosehill - I think he's a big surprise in camp. This guy came out of nowhere, at least to me. I didnt have him on my radar coming into Leafs training camp but he has been an absolute beast. Look out for this underdog because Wilson likes him too.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Doc Hock on Phil Kessel and the Leafs

Phil Kessel coming to Toronto would be an awesome thing for the Leafs. I'm not going to go into all the details of what's going on in regards to Burke re-acquiring his own 2nd round pick etc. You can look that up if your lost right now.

Now, there are still rumours that to trade for Kessel, the Leafs would need to include Tomas Kaberle and he'd have to waive his NTC. I want to keep Kaberle. There was a suggestion that the Leafs could flip Luke Schenn in a deal for Kessel. Both guys are 5th overall picks in the last couple years and are really valuable and it would be the cheaper player going to Boston. I want to keep Schenn.

Best route is the offer sheet. The risk of course is that Chiarelli would just match the Leafs offer and deal with his cap situation when he has to. A lot of people have suggested that Burke could make an offer sheet to Kessel on September 30, because on October 1st all teams MUST be under the cap, making it impossible (in theory) for Boston to match.

Here's the problem with that theory. Kessel is injured right now and could be placed on LTIR since he's out until November or possibly December. His salary would not go on the books until then and it would give the Bruins an extra month to move salaries around by trade or demoting players to the minors.

So the bottom line is, Chiarelli has got some options and keeping Kessel is completely up to him right now. Which is why Burke may have to make a trade. Although, if he offers up enough $ (and stays within the 1st, 2nd, 3rd round draft pick compensation) he could make life really difficult for the Bruins.

Go Leafs Go! And read my predictions for the season below.


Like last year, and every year I bought the late August edition of the hockey news, with all their forecasts. And like last year I plan on making them look sick with my predictions. We can all remember last year when I called them out for underrating the Bruins and I picked them for first, THN picked them for 10th in the East. Now I don't wanna jinx myself here are my picks, and the picks for a special guest writer on my blog: My boy Phil, better known on the internet as 'King-Canada', he's a regular on forums, and one of the smartest hockey guys out there.

Scott's picks (aka, aka Mojo19) Beside my picks are THN's placement of each team.

Western Conference

1. Detroit Red Wings (4)
2. Vancouver Canucks (3)
3. San Jose Sharks (1)
4. Chicago Blackhawks (2)
5. Calgary Flames (5)
6. Los Angelas Kings (12*)
7. Edmonton Oilers (11*)
8. St.Louis Blues (9*)

9. Minnesota Wild (13)
10. Anaheim Ducks (6*)
11. Phoenix Coyotes (15)
12. Columbus Blue Jackets (8*)
13. Dallas Stars (7*)
14. Nashville Predators (10)
15. Colorado Avalanche (14)

Eastern Conference

1. Philadelphia Flyers (4)
2. Boston Bruins (1)
3. Washington Capitals (2)
4. Carolina Hurricanes (6)
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (3)
6. Toronto Maple Leafs (11*)
7. New Jersey Devils (5)
8. Tampa Bay Lightning (10*)

9. Ottawa Senators (9)
10. New York Rangers (13)
11. Atlanta Thrashers (14)
12. Montreal Canadiens (8*)
13. New York Islanders (15)
14. Buffalo Sabres (7*)
15. Florida Panthers (12)

Okay, I just want to comment on a couple of my picks that some of you may find a bit crazy.

Los Angelas - Playoffs?
Ya, I like the make up of their team. I know they only really added Ryan Smyth and he's not a 70 point man anymore, but he will be a good addition. But mostly I like the young group they have and the team leaders (Kopitar, Brown, etc.) are all pretty young. I think they'll be an improved team just 'cause.

I don't think there are any other real surpises in the West from my picks. But let's look at the wild, wild East.

Flyers first place?
Yep. Emery is a question mark, that's true. But I'm jelous of the make up of this team. Lots of weapons, lots of good two-way players, and a good mix of vets and young guns. Pronger really solidifies the back end, which was already very solid.

Champs in 5th?
Well, I could interchange the Pens and 'Canes but I think those two teams will be 4-5. Besides, I already feel that the Flyers will have a stronger season so that automatically puts Pittsburgh at 4th at best. They are a strong team, don't get me wrong. I think the top 5 teams in the East are pretty much set.

Leafs and Bolts over Habs and Rangers?
Ya, its a tough call. As always the the East has that mushy middle and it will be wide open. The difference from 6th to 11th is usually only a few wins. If you look at what Tampa and Toronto have done with their defense, you have to give them a look this year. Everyone knows I am a Leafs fan and I may be bias, and I'll admit to that. However, listening to the comments made by Burke and Wilson, the goal for Toronto is to make the playoffs and I think this could be an underrated, well coached, team that will make it. Tampa adding Ohlund and Kurtis Foster gives them some legit defense that they lacked last year, and the probability of Hedman coming in really solidifies them and gives them potential. I like their forward group on paper but they need to be organized. Also a breakout year from Steven Stamkos could be huge.

As for the Rangers, I don't like the looks of their team on paper, losing their top 3 scorers from last year (Antropov UFA, Zherdev released, and Gomez traded for Higgins. Drury was 4th in scoring then Naslund at 5th is now retired). That's a lot of weapons. I'm a huge Gaborik fan, and Kotalik will bring some secondary scoring but I think Gaborik needs to have a healthy year at his best and Lunqvist needs to do what he does best nightly to give the Rangers a chance. I can't count them out but couldn't write them in there right now. Montreal I think has a pretty solid team on paper too, and could make it. They'll be in the mix but I don't see them being better than Tampa, New Jersey, and Toronto.

Phil's picks (aka King-Canada)

Western Conference

1. Calgary Flames
2. Chicago Blackhawks
3. San Jose Sharks
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Vancouver Canucks

6. St. Louis Blues
7. Columbus Blue Jackets
8. Anaheim Ducks

9. Dallas Stars
10. Edmonton Oilers
11. Los Angeles Kings
12. Colorado Avalanche
13. Minnesota Wild
14. Nashville Predators
15. Phoenix Coyotes

King Canada:
"The Calgary Flames got a huge boost on defense with J-BO so they are the western champs since San Jose in my opinion isn't will slightly decline due to shattered confidence. The Blackhawks will finally overtake the Red Wings as division champs with Hossa switching teams. 5-8 made it last year and I believe will make it again (good young teams, solid overall). Dallas will improve but with a weak defense corp they will miss the playoffs. LA and Colorado will improve but not enough to play in the spring. Phoenix I think everyone has been pegged by everyone to finish 30th overall...and Balsillie is willing to pay 242.5 million to buy em haha wow..some would call that charity. Bettman your an idiot!"

Eastern Conference

1. Philadelphia Flyers
2. Washington Capitals
3. Boston Bruins
4. Pittsburg Penguins
5. New Jersey Devils
6. Carolina Hurricanes
7. Florida Panthers
8. Tampa Bay Lightning

9. New York Rangers
10. Montreal Canadiens
11. Toronto Maple Leafs
12. Atlanta Thrashers
13. Ottawa Senators
14. Buffalo Sabres
15. New York Islanders

King Canada:
"The Flyers were nasty last year, this year they got the nastiest defenseman out there in Pronger so watch out for these guys. Not to mention full seasons from Briere and Giroux will cement them as the crème of the crop out East. Boston moves down because they will be without Kessel AND Krejci for 1-2 months beginning the season. This will cost them points but fortunate for them the North East division sucks. Pittsburg could have the 2nd most points overall but with Phily in their division they get shafted to 4th. Florida towards the end of the season were one of the hottest teams and I believe they will improve enough to make the post-season with a healthy Vokoun. Tampa Bay vastly improved their defence and will have a concussion free season for Mike Smith who holds the fort just enough to squeeze in. The Rangers discover that Gaborik is actually as fragile as advertised. The Habs totally revamped the roster but overpaid in the off-season for a smaller team (werent they small already?). Finally the Islanders still remain on the bottom because not even John Tavares can help this horrible team."