Epilogue/Prologue for the Leafs

It is very easy (and fun) for us Leaf fans to get caught up in the short term. Especially when that short term sees the Leafs and Habs battle it out in a showdown on Hockey Night in Canada. There is no other word to describe then ‘fun.’ and maybe – ‘intense.’ But with both Leaf and Hab fans must realize (and many do) is that all of this – the playoff race, the showdown, the melodrama in Montreal, the inconsistency/injuries in Toronto – are all very much meaningless. [Note: this article, written on Friday April 6th, might be posted AFTER the results from the Habs/Leaf game]The simple fact of the matter is that both teams won’t stand a chance against the Sabres in the first round. both teams will likely draft between 12th-16th in the first round of the 2007 draft. both teams have a lot of question marks about their future.

The leafs simply look all at once too uptight and tired since the month of April began. They have been scratching and clawing with an injury-riddled line-up since the beginning of 2007. Now in the month of April, they looked tired and stiff. the leafs are hardly going into the playoffs with any kind of momentum. After huge wins against the East’s elite in March, they have simply run out of gas. Even if they pull out a win against Montreal, their inability to clear the puck on the PK, Raycroft’s high glove side goals, and their inability to either hit the net or not make the goalie look good and hit him in the chest with a shot will come back to haunt them.

So let us a look at leafs from a short term and long term perspective …

short term

The playoff chase:
It is just this simple: leafs must beat the habs at home (and win their 9th straight home game) IN REGULATION. any other result including a hab loss in OT/SO would mean the leafs are eliminated. The Isles must get 3 pts or less in their next 2 afternoon road games against the Flyers and Devils – both teams playing for nothing. If the Isles win both games, the Leafs will be out even if they beat Montreal in regulation.

That is it in a nutshell. if the leafs make it, they face Buffalo in the first round with Peca in the line-up and maybe Wellwood. And although Cox thinks the leafs might have a better shot than the Isles/Habs at beating the Sabres, the buds don’t stand a chance (but would at least have a shot if they make it in).

Long term

From a long-term perspective what are we to make of this season?

positives:

– Coliacovo/White: They are among the two of the most creative young D-men in the game. Coliacovo has 7 goals, is 6th in rookie D-scoring and has played half the games of the guys in front of him on that list. White is 2nd in that department and 3rd in plus/minus. both are surprises – Coliacovo returning from his perpetually-injured past, White has come out of ‘nowhere’ (well for those who dont follow the Leafs anyways).

-Tucker’s best season yet and he has proven to be a solid 2nd line winger and PP contributor. He was resigned for a very reasonable contract and gives the Leafs some of the grit they need.

– Maurice is clearly a good coach and got more out of this lesser-skilled and frequently injured team than anyone could possibly hope for. The Leafs have learned his systems and they have paid off since Jan. as they have beaten better, more skilled teams by simply forechecking hard and outworking them (and yes, even outskating them sometimes – and that is unheard of for a Leafs team)

– Sundin can still produce (despite his goal scoring slump) and is one of the best leaders in hockey.

– the Leafs have a surprisingly deep offense from the 2nd line on down. The 3rd/4th liners like Battaglia, Devereaux, Kilger, Pohl have been huge for the leafs and considering their smaller contracts, will be even bigger when it comes to next year’s cap space. Combine them with the 4 young Leaf forwards (mentioned below) and Tucker and Sundin (mentioned above), and you have 10 effective Leaf forwards.

– the Leafs do in fact have a very solid core of young players: (forwards) Wellwood, Steen, Poni, Antropov, Stajan, (defencemen) Coliacovo and White. In the next couple of seasons we’ll see the likes of Tlusty, Williams, Earl, Kulemin (sp), Kronvall, Cashman, Pogge, etc.

– McCabe might be overpaid but he does produce offensively every year. However, Kaberle is definitely in the top 10 (i would say top-5) defencemen in the NHL. period. The fact that he has returned from his very serious injury is perhaps the best news of all for the leafs this year.


so-so’s (yet to be determined):

– what to make of Raycroft? He is still young, still learning the game. but he is too inconsistent to be the starter of a team that a) wants to make the playoffs and b) wants to go far in the playoffs. still, at $2 million, a guy who can give you 37-38 wins and keep you in most games isn’t that bad (can you imagine his win total if he won more shootout contests?!).

Leaf fans and non-leaf fans alike simply must watch the hyperbole they spew (both positive and negative) about this guy. it is just not that simple or black and white either way.

– JFJ: yes, JFJ is a so-so. I think he has refined himself a little bit as a GM. He has made many good moves – mostly smaller ones – and he has made a few big ones as well (start with Maurice, moving the AHL team to Toronto, and go from there). maybe he is becoming a better GM. maybe he is going to develop a shrewd and creative track record. we’ll know, if he keeps his job and after the free agency period, just how shrewd and creative he can or cannot be. so far, the results have been mixed at best.

– cap space: The situation with the cap is by no means clear cut. some could say the leafs are doomed here and after the McCabe and Kubina signings there is certainly room for an argument for that. But with the Sundin contract situation still up in the air, the raise in the cap ceiling and with all these smaller contracts still undetermined, it is IMPOSSIBLE to say that the Leafs are screwed at this point.

– Hal Gill: Admittedly, i was very rough on this guy to start the year (and he certainly had a very rough start to the year to say the least). However, as the year progressed, he has surprised me and a lot of people by having his best offensive season yet (20 pts!) and he has been a responsible, effective guy in his own end. Although the lack of speed and his contract is still an issue that is gnawing away at his positive attributes, with 2 years left on his contract and with his contributions, Gill is not the make-or-break issue for the leafs here.

– Perreault/Peca: the most JFJ should do here is sign one of them and for less than $2 million a year (and for no more than 2 years). Certainly keeping both is not a good idea unless they sign for less. Peca is a solid leader, good PK guy. The Leafs clearly missed him on the PK this year. Perreault is the best in the business on the face-off and has better offensive numbers than Peca, but is not as reliable in his own end (although winning faceoffs in your end certainly help from a defensive standpoint). Letting go of both wouldn’t be a big deal IMO, but signing for more than they are worth would be a classic JFJ mistake.

– Farm system: it has definitely improved depth-wise and talent-wise over the last few seasons. Despite what hockeyfutures might say, the Leafs’ farm system is in the best shape it has been in decades (which isn’t saying much really). The solid drafting must continue, but the process of restocking the farm system could always be accelerated by trading one of your elite NHL players (missed opportunities include Tucker and McCabe). It will be difficult to do considering the lack of tradeable, older assets on the Leafs (Kubina’s contract is huge, Antropov and Poni are other options).

– Karl Pilar: why do I mention this 29 year old, injury-riddled player? Because
I still believe that this guy has the potential to be a solid NHL defenceman. he is capable of putting up decent offensive numbers from the blueline and has always been solid in his own end. Hopefully next season he will be a feel good story like Coliacovo was this year.


negatives:

– Simply put, the leafs need to find a way to do the impossible: trading either Kubina or McCabe. it won’t happen, but if it does, it would a) probably bring in some future assets, b) clear up some huge cap space for the leafs, and c) get rid of the two-way blueliner redundancy on the blueline (i’d take Coliacovo and White over Kubina any day. heck i’d take Danny Markov and the injury-riddled Bryan Berard over Kubina).

– Jeff O’Neill: he had an improved season but was still invisible on most nights. He could have been an interesting trade deadline move, but even at the meager salary he is making for 20 goals, its time to free up room on the right side and in the cap for someone younger – my choice: Jeremy Williams (a nice line for next year: Tucker-Wellwood-Williams).

– Wade Belak: please WAIVE WADE!!!

– back-up goalie situation: now is the time to acquire a more effective and solid back-up. Joseph, Garon, Toivenen, Markannen are all slight upgrades IMO (Toivenen seems very intriguing if Boston lets him go). But a slight upgrade here would get the leafs and extra few wins. How HUGE do a few extra wins for the Leafs look right now ?

– A top line winger for Sundin is still needed. Another route to pursue would be to get a top line UFA centreman to replace Sundin when he leafs. But the acquisition of a Smyth or a Gomez can only occur after some cap space has been cleared. And if the UFA period is characterized as an unreasonable bidding war, having a GM like JFJ making those bids make me cringe just a little bit.


78 Responses to Epilogue/Prologue for the Leafs

  1. 92-93 says:

    Pretty good article by Berger along the lines of this article: http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=6648

    "For anyone to even think that Saturday's game is a clash of titans is pure delusion. A fantasy in the absence of any meaningful reality. It is simply a convenient quirk in the schedule between a pair of staggering teams that have shown no willingness or ability to go for the kill. Choke may be too harsh a term, but not overly so."

  2. LEAFSLEAFSLEAFS1967 says:

    wow i actually agree with you for the most part.

  3. muckies says:

    Lets' afce it, Toronto has to trade a D-man, and Edmonton can't attract any free-agnets, and want a D-man.

    To Edmonton: Kubina 5 million
    To Toronto:  Lupul  2.5 million

    Edmonton gets a legit #1 guy that can shhot, skate and play edmonton style D in front of his own net. Toronto saves 2.5. million and gets a player for the top line that can finish and imrove the PP

  4. LeafyMcLeaf says:

    Actually just finished reading that when I got to this comment.

  5. flamingsenator says:

    i like it…….makes total sence….

  6. 92-93 says:

    ok. listen, i dont think we are as far apart on this as maybe my previous comments have suggested. but i still strongly disagree with you on a lot of parts and what you choose to emphasize.

    no question JFJ is not that great of GM. no question that MLSE is not allowing him to operate autonomously or at least autonomously enough.

    no question that the Domi signing – and the Belak one among others – were terrible signings.

    Allison and Lindros (and Peca) i've already addressed with you and you know my position. and it was the Nieuwy and Roberts situation that actually gave me an ounce of admiration for JFJ. the amount that both of these guys were asking (especially Niuewy) just did not fit under the parameters of a team that was cutting payroll from $60 million to $39 million in one offseason. JFJ's cutting ties with these 2 guys also created not just cap space, but roster space for the Steens and Wellwoods to come in.

    it was one of the best decisions he made coming out of the lockout. the worst? clearly Domi (some would say Belfour as well but the guy was coming off a dominating year against the Sens in the playoffs as well as 37 wins and 10 shutouts, go figure).

    the point where i really disliked JFJ came after the last draft. the Raycroft deal had an odour to it – although i still think it is too early to tell if it was good or bad because Rask hasn't played an NHL game. but it was the Kubina signing and the no-movement clause to McCabe that made me realize that JFJ has no will of his own, no creativity, no bargaining abilities.

    With the deals to Kaberle and Tucker – both very good deals for the leafs – it stands to reason that he could be a good GM. but with Kubina and Gill and McCabe (and Domi and Belak's lesser signings), there is just too much doubt surrounding his GM-ing capabilities.

    but back to the original argument you made about MLSE – i think they are the bad guys in all of this too, but not because they dont want to win, because they dont know how to win or have the personnel in place to know when to leave a GM alone or which GM to hire. They figured it out with Colangelo but not with their flagship franchise. hey it sucks to be a leaf fan sometimes (i'm sure after tonight or tomorrow that won't statement change much).

  7. 92-93 says:

    i’ve already proposed an offseason Toronto-Edmonton deal around the deadline period.

    I think the Leafs have to include a player like Poni or Stajan along with Kubina to make any deal with Edmonton stick. and I think Edmonton has to include either one of their first round picks from this year and/or one of their prospect centremen in any deal with the leafs.

    I wouldnt mind getting Lupul but I am not sure Edmonton is willing to part with him just yet despite his struggles.

  8. 92-93 says:

    oh, and the Leafs PP's problem this year was injuries. Once you have Tucker, Wellwood, and Kaberle in the line-up, you have a top-10 PP. without them, you get one that is ranked 15th-20th in the league. Coliacovo and White will get better on the PP along with their other younger forwards. i dont think the PP is the issue for them. if anything, its their PK.

  9. HabsRUs says:

    I guess it depends on the referee, there is some bias towards certain teams. Every referee has a favorite NHL team and most likely, its either Toronto or Montreal, whether they admit it or not.

    I agree about the couple non-calls on the Habs in their recent games. But this issue is certainly not black and white. Leaf fans will notice those calls, while Hab fans will be angry about our own. I could have sworn in some games that the refs have been completely against us. I will agree on one thing though, the Sundin incident in that 5-4 Montreal win (i think that was the game) was pretty blunt. There should have been a call there. If I recall, Sundin was even bleeding.

    Those types of calls are the most noticable because its near the game's end. However, throughout the entire 60 minutes there are usually bad calls (or non-calls) evident as well. Those calls work on both sides.

    I will agree that Toronto has experienced some poor luck in "big games", dating back to 1993 and that incident against the LA Kings. You want to talk about karma? Well get this…. If Toronto defeats Montreal tonight, it looks like their playoff hopes will rest on the shoulders of  SCOTT CLEMMENSON. Now, talk about bad luck there. New Jersey has locked up 2nd place, Brodeur has broke the record, and its "highly" rumored that Marty will get the day off tomorow. Wow… What a time for the Devils to take a "day of rest"

    Just another note here: I was recently talking to my Uncle in Toronto. He's a die-hard Toronto fan and will attend tonights game. He told me that he felt a strange feeling in the air today. He said "Its just a strange feeling, and a strange smell in the air. Its almost like something good is gonna happen."

    I replied, "Nope im sorry, that strange feeling means the Hockey Gods have made the trip to Toronto, and will be out in full force tonight."

    Go Habs Go! (please)

  10. HabsRUs says:

    Oh.. and this comment is in the wrong place. It was meant for the other thread where my other comments are lol

  11. ShadysBackRJ says:

    why should we be looking for a good backup when we need a good starter?

    raycroft has just lost the most important game of the season for us because he cant catch

    sign a starting goalie before you sign a backup

  12. ShadysBackRJ says:

    why should we be looking for a good backup when we need a good starter?

    raycroft has just lost the most important game of the season for us because he cant catch

    sign a starting goalie before you sign a backup

  13. 92-93 says:

    ok. but what about Joseph? he is definitely starter material. he could Raycroft a run for his money next year. what do you think?

  14. 92-93 says:

    no prob.

    for the record. the Habs were robbed tonight. the penalty that Wellwood 'drew' in the 3rd period was clearly a dive on WEllwood's part. Now i've always maintained that the Habs have the hockey gods on their side and they are very good at diving … but tonight, it was the leafs that were the divers and that makes me ashamed.

    i'm a leaf fan but i am a hockey fan first. as great and exciting (and stinky) as tonight's game was, that dive near the blueline was horrible. you have to either call both or call the dive.

    its a hard thing to admit right now, but i cannot go on and on about hab diving and good luck and run away when i see it go right for the Leafs.

  15. The-President says:

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, I hate Raycroft, he is the worst #1 goalie I have ever seen. 4 goals on 20 shots when the season is on the line, the guy has no heart at all. He always looks like hes confused, I don't care about his Calder season, I don't care that he is still young, he just plain sucks, no way around it. I don't know what to do of we make it to the playoffs, I say we play Aubin, and just bench Raycroft. I went to the Islanders game the other night, every goal he gave up was a joke. I can't wait till hes out of Toronto. Way too inconsistent.

  16. darcysucker says:

    I hate the leafs, and it sucked seeing them beat the habs last night, specially after some very questionable calls by the refs, back to back 5/3’s come on? Anyways, I blame the habs they put themselves in a position where 1 game would decide their season, so it’s their fault. Most of all I blame Guy Carbonneau, who’s made many mistakes, and when asked what the problem with his team was he would usually say “I don’t know” that’s not the way a coach is supposed to answer, he’s supposed to try to solve the problems with the team, manage the team! Another big mistake was benching Kovalev at the end of the game, he was doing fine, yet he got no ice time in the Powerplay, he always put koivu, ryder and koivu, granted ryder scored 3 but he also turns it over in the offensive zone by trying to make plays, the only thing this guy can do is shoot. Anyways, enough about the habs.

    About the leafs now, I find they’re a very well coached team, and do have some good young players, (wellwood, steen, ian white…) but I also find that JFJ has done a horrible job, the leaf’s succes are due to Ken Dryden, and what’s left of what he’s done, he’s the one who drafted these guys. As for the leaf’s 3rd/4th line it’s full of guys who should be in the AHL like Kilger, Deveraux and Battaglia, Kilger and Deveraux are major has beens, guys who were top prospects who didn’t pan out, why cause they have no work ethic, look at Kilger, best shot in the nhl and a very fast skater with size, how come he can’t score 20 goals a season? It’s a big mystery. He’s a guy who’s been to a few teams and has always underachieved. Same with deveraux. This is besides the point, but does anyone remember what mccabe did at the last leafs/habs game where at the end of the game, time had run out, for no reason he sucker punches andrei markov, and doesn’t get penalized for this or suspended.

  17. ShadysBackRJ says:

    i think they shouldve done that last offseason

  18. LeafsJaysRapsBillsManU says:

    Ken Dryden was the Leafs’ president. He wasn’t their GM and he wasn’t responsible at all for anything on the player personnel end. As for McCabe’s sucker punch, what exactly does that have to do with anything? How is that at all relevant to discussion? You easily could have concluded with “I enjoy chicken fried rice” and that there would have been equally topical to what you did write. Habs got outworked last night and they were defeated. Begin took a stupid, needless penalty at the end of the 2nd and that very well might have cost them the game. Both teams looked soft defensively (Raycroft was atrocious) and the (ever so slightly) better team won. It all might be a moot point come 3:30 if the Isles beat the Devils though.

  19. lukeleim says:

    I think Jeremy Williams and Pavel Kubina for Lupul is pretty even.

  20. 92-93 says:

    well, for Lupul and a 1st round pick (or, a centreman prospect).

  21. 92-93 says:

    Well Joseph is older so there are some risks. but you look at his last two full seasons (one in Detroit and one in Phoenix) and he has won 30 games both years, the second behind a shoddy Phoenix D.

    this year he just didnt get the starts necessary to win 30 games. his GAA and save percentage were inflated, but again, Joseph is the kind of goalie that can keep a team in a game if they are competitive. and the leafs certainly are competitive. it would buy some time to see what Raycroft can do until Pogge or someone else comes along. i say someone else because there are opportunities like Toivenen out there that the Leafs should be pursuing.

  22. 92-93 says:

    hahaha. i like how you put all the positives about the leafs at the door of an ex-hab. a guy who hasnt been in the organization for years. how can you say that he, and not quinn and barry trap, who drafted Steen, Coli, White, Wellwood, etc. … just one of the most ridiculous cases of homerism i've ever seen.

    lol.

    the fourth line guys you mentioned are the reason why the leafs are still fighting and looking at the scoreboard on a Sunday. other teams would die to have those guys and their stats on their fourth line. just do yourself a favour and look them up yourself.

    Devereaux single-handedly prevented your habs from scoring in the last 10 minutes. his stanley cup experience shone through.

    4th line guys:

    Battgalia – 12 goals, 31 pts…………………………….500K

    Kilger – 14 goals, 28 pts (17 goals last year)……….900K

    Devereaux – 8 goals, 19 pts in 38 games ………….450K

    Pohl – 13 goals, 29 pts …………………………………450-475K

    i love it when non-leaf fans like you and muckies show how little they know about the game or about the leafs. there is so much you can trash the leafs on, but you guys go at PRECISELY the aspects of the team that make them strong. its hilarious.

  23. 92-93 says:

    well, here is my attempt to stay on topic: i heard that chicken fried rice is loaded with trans fat. so watch out.

  24. 92-93 says:

    spurred by one of the dumber posts on this thread, there is one positive about Maurice's squad and that is their deep offense – both with the forwards and D-men. suprisingly, the leafs are one of the deepest teams in the league in terms of offense.

    earlier in the year, i kept saying how offense wouldnt be the problem but after the Peca signing, many leaf and non-leaf fans said that the team wouldnt be able to score (Mirtle included in that group too). i didnt get it then, and i dont get it now.

    ….

    Sundin leads the way in goals and points, 34th in the league in pts, top-30 in points-per-game, etc. … this despite his injury and 'struggles.'

    the Leafs have:

    3 guys with 50 pts or more including 2 defencemen who will always make their PP look dangerous

    7 players with 40 pts or more (with Stajan, Steen, and Perreault just falling short of 40 pts this year). included in this group is O'Neill, who has been benched and will likely be released to free agency, Tucker and Wellwood, both of whom missed a significant amount of games this year and should easily put up 60 points or more in a healthy year.

    – 12 players with 30 pts or more (with White, Pohl, and Kilger just falling short of 30 pts). when you have your 4th line guys producing this many points, you've got a pretty productive offense. included in this group is a 'has-been' like Battaglia, Antropov – who missed a significant amount of games and was on pace for approx 25 goals and 50 pts, and Steen – who, in his sophmore season, rebounded after a very poor start. 

    – in terms of points, injured guys like Kubina, Peca, Colaicovo would have had more points if they had played the full season. Kubina was a disappointment, Peca was on his way to eclipse his poor regular season stats with the Oilers, and Coliacovo would easily have had 30 pts and 15 goals if he played the full year IMO. Even Gill had a career offensive year (very unusual).

    The Leafs have one of the deepest offensive bluelines. White and Coliacovo are good 2-way blueliners on top of McCabe and Kaberle (not to mention the possibilty of Pilar for next year).

    5 players with 20 goals or more, with Antropov just short with 18 goals, McCabe and Steen with 15 goals each.

     – FOURTEEN players with 10 goals or more –  and this number would be higher if Devereaux, Coliacovo, and Kubina played full seasons.

    now if only the leafs could find a way to keep the pucks out of the net. Solution: trading Kubina, acquiring a better, top-4 stay-at-home blueliner (re: doing what they should have done last offseason), and a better back-up who can take the #1 job away from Raycroft would help.

  25. Jrugges2 says:

    Lol, Funny someone calls anothers post unintelligent, or ignorant, by using the made up word of, " Dumber. " I don't recall that even being a word where I come from. Fortunately ignorance is just when someone has the capability of learning the problem just hasn't learned or doesn't want to solve the problem.

  26. darcysucker says:

    yup it is a mute point, neither the habs or leafs made it, and quite frankly none of the teams deserved to. My point being the dryden thing is that during his day, or the past (before JFJ) they built a good team, and the success now is a bit of a carryover from that, sorry if I don’t have my facts about the leafs exactly right. As for the 4th liners and 3rd liners, a lot of teams have decent 4th liners and 3rd liners. And sorry about the mccabe thing, it was off subject, but I just wanted to rant about it since I really dislike the guy, him and obviously darcy tucker, but besides that I think Sundin is awesome, and so is Kaberle. Good luck next season

  27. 92-93 says:

    where DO you come from????

    Definition of 'dumber':
    1. lacking the power of speech (often offensive when applied to humans): a dumb animal.
    2. lacking intelligence or good judgment; stupid; dull-witted
    3. dumb down, Informal. to make or become less intellectual, simpler, or less sophisticated: to dumb down a textbook; American movies have dumbed down

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dumber

    Your last sentence is particularly apt  – did you just not WANT to look it up to see if its a word before you made this rather sad post?

  28. 92-93 says:

    the most impressive Marlies from this year:

    1. Staffan Kronvall – amazing performance from a guy who is +2 with 16 pts (compare him to the plust/minus stats of Harrington and Harrison)

    2. Robbie Earl – barely in the top-10 in Marlie scoring, but has shown more consistency this year and more talent than most of the other forwards combined.

    3. Jeremy Williams/Karl Pilar – only played a few games but played huge in those few games.

    4. Jamie Siefers

    5. Justin Pogge – typical rookie year, funny how people are already writing him off.

    ……

    Next year:

    1. Jiri Tlusty

    2. Kulemin

    3. Pogge – will continue to shine and get better

    4. Vorobiev/Stralman – will one of these guys finally come over and show us what they can do?

    5. Aubin – solid right wing scoring machine in the Q.

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