Thursday, July 7, 2011

Leafs Blog...

Okay! This is crazy. So many Leafs fans that I know and from what I've been reading across the internet and twitter are really upset at the fact that the Leafs never made that big splash this offseason and now are claiming to be pretty much done, save some minor signings before the season starts. Well I can definitely sympathize, and as a Leafs fan I can't say I didn't have my hopes set on Steve Stamkos as well (not so much Brad Richards but I wouldn't have complained). But I am going to tell you that I think the Leafs will be a playoff team this year and here's why...

First off I like the depth we have now. Ya, "depth" can sometimes be a buzz word that's used to describe mediocre teams, granted. But I look at some teams that have been succesful without having much star power in the line up, I consider the Nashville Predators mold, or the Buffalo Sabres (Pre-Pegulla) who were able to throw out 3 lines of balanced attack up front, solid defense and got timely goaltending and were able to be competitive teams. I am not claiming that the Leafs are cup contenders but they are looking like a playoff team.

Take a look at this line up, as it stands right now:

Joffrey Lupul - Tim Connolly - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Nazem Kadri - Tyler Bozak - Colby Armstrong
Mike Brown - Phillipe Dupuis - Jay Rosehill

Dion Phaneuf - Cody Franson
John Michael Liles - Luke Schenn
Keith Aulie - Carl Gunnarsson/Mike Komisarek

James Reimer
Jonas Gustavsson

*IR Wildcards - Matthew Lombardi, Colton Orr
+ Joe Colborne, Matt Lashoff, Luca Caputi all have a good shot to make it along with a couple surprise underdogs at camp

Now, what I like about this line up is this - even with Brad Richards or Steve Stamkos in for Tim Connolly this is not a Stanley Cup contending team. More likely to make the playoffs? Absolutely, but still not a contender. So we didn't get "that guy" this summer. This is not a huge concern for me. What I really like about this line up is that management has left room on the roster for Kadri to get a significant role if he is able to play well enough to take it. If not, that role could be occupied by Colborne or another Leafs prospect. There is room for good young players to develop and get some playing time. If you listened to the comments made by Dave Nonis on July 1st, he said that the Leafs made some offers to 4 or 5 UFA's but they were not going to go out and sign a bunch of guys to long term deals at inflated rates and take ice time away from the young core they've put together. I have to agree with this because the team is so young and these guys need more time to gel, and to develop. Remember that there is no quick fix....

I'm gonna take you all back to about, 10-11 years ago, there was a time in Leaf Nation when Leafs fans were pissed off because we were a guaranteed playoff team each year but had no chance to compete for a cup against the likes of New Jersey, Detroit, Dallas, Colorado. Many Leafs fans were pissed off at the quick fix efforts put forth by Pat Quinn and his predecessors who traded away the following players:
Fred Modin, at the time a 30 goal man in Tampa,
Mike Johnson, the leading scorer of the Coyotes (60+ pts)
Steve Sullivan, 30 goal man with Chicago
Alym MacCauley, some Selke consideration and wore the 'A' in San Jose
Jason Smith, solid stay home d-man and captain for Edmonton
Brad Boyes, hot shot up and comer in the Sharks system

The list goes on to a lesser extent and I may be forgetting a couple other big ones, but the general concensus at this time is that if we had waited another year or two this group could have become a really good team, but we dealt them all away to make way for aging vets like Owen Nolan and Dmitri Khristich. Now Burke and co. are holding onto the young guns like Kadri, Kulemin (rumored in the Mike Richards would-be trade) and Leafs fans are not happy that we didn't bring in "that guy". Well I'm gonna tell you all that this is a good thing.

This is going to be a young line up again and were gonna see what kinds of strides they can take this season. I know a lot of people will say "its the same team that missed the playoffs last year". And if everyone was roughly 27-30 last year, then I would agree, this team will miss again. But all the key guys are here are 26 and under except for a couple, like Grabovski and Armstrong who are still both under 30. So keeping that in mind, I am of the mind that the majority of the players in this line up will only be better this season, and the additions of Connolly, Liles, Franson, and Lombardi, although not pocessing the sex appeal of Steven Stamkos are all quality NHL'ers which only make the team deeper and stronger. Really the biggest wild card here is James Reimer, and if he can even play close to the level that he played at last season with a certain amount of consistency (because its a lot to ask that he plays that good all year, we can expect some ups and downs or else he's winning the Vezina) then the Leafs should be a playoff team.

Again, if you take one point away from this blog, let it be that there are no quick fixes, let this group have another year together, then re-evaluate and improve on it some more next offseason. Then repeat that process and improve again in the following offseason. I expect the core players from this group to be Cup conteders within 3 years. Patience. I like this team, and so should you.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Philly.... better now? Even without Richards and Carter?

Its hard to say that a team is better after losing two centers as great as those guys... here is their line up right now:

Claude Giroux - Daniel Briere - Jaromir Jagr
Scott Hartnell - James VanRiemsdyk - Jakub Voracek
Wayne Simmonds - Max Talbot - Brayden Schenn
Jody Shelley - Blair Betts - Ian Laperriere/Adreas Nodl

Kimo Timmonen - Chris Pronger
Matt Carle - Brayden Coburn
Andrej Mezsaros - Matt Walker/Andreas Lilja

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

I don't know if Schenn would make the team, but I think he'll get a good look, if he can't make it then they'll have a good mix that can take on that role on the third line, Laperriere for sure. Anyways is this team better even though they lost Carter, Richards, and Leino? I mean, consider that Voracek put up 38, 50, and 46 points in his 3 seasons in the league. If he even puts up similar production that would be solid. JVR looks poised to take that next step, especially after how he looked in the playoffs (better than Richards and Carter). Jagr is a wild card, Simmonds and Talbot should be good role players, and Schenn is another wild card, if he can play at an NHL level and progress throughout the year this is a hell of a team. Defense is of course solid and deep, and best of all for Philly, goaltending no longer a concern.

Look at the Wild and Sharks after the 2 big trades

I like this trade for Minnesota. Marty Havlat is a solid player but not nearly the goal scorer that Heatley is. In the last 3 years Havlatt has stayed healthy and has scored a total of 69 goals (avg 23 per year), Dany Heatley during that same time has scored 104 goals (avg 35 per year). But I guess the Sharks wanted to free up some cap space and make a shake up trade at the same time.

As for the other trade, Setogucchi for Brent Burns, I like what the Sharks did there, but Minnesota did need a fwd so its a pretty solid trade for both sides.... Anyways heres a look at the two rosters as of right now (although more moves might be made)

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Devin Setogucchi
Kyle Brodziak - P.M. Bouchard - Giullaume Latendresse
Eric Nystrom - Matt Cullen - Cal Clutterbuck
Brad Staubitz - James Sheppard - Darryl Powe

Nick Schultz - Marek Zidlicky
Greg Zanon - Clayton Stoner
Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding

- I don't know if it makes them a playoff team, I definitely like the Kaberle to Minnesota rumors. The Wild could definitely use another quality d-man but other than that I like their forwards a lot. I think the Havlat/Heatley upgrade and addition of Setogucchi up front helps to offset the loss of Brunette to the Hawks. Brunette was the 3rd top scorer on the team last season behind Koivu and Havlat.

And here's the Sharks:

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Martin Havlat
Ryan Clowe - Joe Pavelski - Logan Couture
Torrey Mitchell - Michael Handzus - Jamie McGinn
John McCarthy - Ben Ferriero - Tommy Wingels

M.E. Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Justin Braun - Jim Vandermeer

Antti Niemi
Antero Niittymaki

I don't know about the depth up front for the Sharks. But if Couture builds on his rookie year they're looking pretty good. Still, I think the Heatley trade might be to free up a couple mil to replace role players lost like Ben Eager and Jamal Mayers. Also there is no rush for this team to get those players, they could add them at the deadline. But with Brent Burns in there, you have to love San Jose's defense.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 2nd: Top 50 remaining UFA's

Black Friday is over and Brad Richards signed this morning. Here is a list of remaining UFA's

CENTERS (Top 10)

Tim Connolly, 30 (TOR)
Jason Arnott, 36 (STL)
Vinny Prospal, 35
Chris Drury, 34
Brendan Morrison, 36

John Madden, 38
Rob Schremp, 25
Rob Niedermayer, 36 (EUROPE)
Kyle Wellwood, 28
Patrick O'Sullivan, 26

WINGERS (top 15)

Simon Gagne, 31 (LAK)
Teemu Selanne, 40
Jamie Langenbrunner, 35 (STL)
Nikolay Zherdev, 26
J.P. Dumont, 33

Alex Kovalev, 38
Alex Frolov, 29
Chris Clark, 35
Anti Miettenen, 30
Cory Stillman, 37

Sergei Samsonov, 32
Ethan Moreau, 35
Mike Grier, 36
Petr Prucha, 28
Wade Belak, 34

DEFENSE (top 15)

Tomas Kaberle, 32 (CAR)
Scott Hannan, 32
Bryan McCabe, 36
Niclas Wallin, 36
Anton Stralman, 24

Ian White, 27 (DET)
Shane O'Brien, 27
Steve Eminger, 27
Kent Huskins, 32
Anton Babchuk, 27 (CAL)

Radek Martinek, 34 (CBJ
Matt Gilroy, 27 (TBL)
Steve Staios, 37
Brent Sopel, 34
Craig Rivet, 36

GOALIES (top 10)

Tomas Vokoun, 34 (WAS)
Chris Osgood, 38
Marty Turco, 35
Ray Emery, 28
Pascal Leclair, 28

Ty Conklin, 35
Thomas Greiss, 25
Martin Gerber, 36
Joey MacDonald, 31
Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, 27

Leafs current roster

Updated July 4....

Joffrey Lupul - Tim Connolly - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Nazem Kadri - Matthew Lombardi - Colby Armstrong
Jay Rosehill - Tyler Bozak - Mike Brown

Dion Phaneuf - John-Michael Liles
Cody Franson - Luke Schenn
Carl Gunnarsson - Keith Aulie

James Reimer
Jonas Gustavsson

+ Colton Orr, Mike Komisarek, Matt Frattin, Matt Lashoff, Luca Caputi.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Leafs Making a play for Stamkos

This is obvious. Think about it. July 1st is almost over and Burke hasn't signed a single guy. He hasn't even re-signed his key RFA's like Luke Schenn, Tyler Bozak, Clarke MacArthur. He let Tim Brent walk away without even tendering him an offer. Burke wasn't even in Canada on July 1, he went to Kandahar for charity. He went because he knew there was nothing to do today except have his assistants make a pitch for Brad Richards and wait for the other teams to use up cap space. They're not wasting even a couple million on any minor signings, those can come later in the summer, right now Burke is getting ready for a huge offer sheet.