Leafs Cut Steve Thomas

The Toronto Maple Leafs have let go of Steve Thomas who was with the team on a tryout basis.

Source: http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1128204610807&call_pageid=968867503640&col=970081593064&t=TS_Home

I understand why the Leafs decided to go in this direction. Thomas is 42 and his best days are behind him. He did not have a guaranteed deal and with the Leafs having limited cap room, simply could not afford to add yet another guaranteed contract. And in exhibition he was simply not as productive as hoped, especially compared to the team’s younger players. I do not have a problem with this move as there is a chance he could be brought in at a later time if injuries hit.

The problem is that for a player who worked his tail off, provided needed leadership and did a fine job mentoring some of the youngsters there during training camp, I think he deserved to make the team. Unfortunately the team is saddled with contracts for Clarke Wilm, Nathan Perrott and could not afford to add yet another bit player. I think he would have been a great player to have around. Though his production may be limited on the ice, i think Thomas would have been a great mentor to many of the young players still trying to establish themselves in the NHL. His experience and leadership are undeniable. The other problem I have is that though he worked hard, played decent hockey and proved to be an asset in many areas, he was cut, but players who take penalties, play inconsistently, dont work hard every shift will get to be placed on the top line playing with the team’s top player.

There are some who think highly of Nik Antropov and Alex Ponikarovsky but for them to be on the Leafs top line is insulting. The arguments are plentiful. They are young still, they are big, Antropov has skill and was a former top 10 pick, Pony has decent speed and uses his size, etc ,etc. But the problem I have is that we have seen simply too many poor plays and lazy penalties from these two to warrant top line status. These two were given this opportunity to play on a scoring line a couple of years ago along side Joe Nieuwendyk. The results were Antropov with 13 goals and Ponikarovsky with 9 and a combined 1 goal in the playoffs.

I understand the Leafs lack of depth on the wings warrants their place on the 23 man roster. I understand that they at times bring some good things to the table. But I as a Leaf fan have had enough of them playing significant minutes and similar minutes to the team’s top players like Mats Sundin. After 7 years, Antropov has proven nothing. Ponikarovsky unfortunately does not have the hands to play a top line role. Why the coaching staff shows the kind of loyalty to these two is a mystery in itself.

Coach Pat Quinn mentioned on Thomas that it was a difficult decision from the heart to let him go. But at the same time, the coach shows a soft spot in his heart to play Antropov and Ponikarovsky alot and in key situations. You could also say the same about blueliners Aki Berg and Wade Belak who seemingly have won over the hearts of the coaching staff despite being ill-equipped to take on significant minutes.

This has also meant that Kyle Wellwood will not start the year with the Leafs. That is unfortunate as he was one of their leading scorers during exhibition and showed the kind of skill that is tailor made for the new opened up NHL. He certainly has to work on things like strength and defensive play but is he really any worse than the likes of Antropov and Ponikarovsky who are regulars in the penalty box for lazy penalties?

Quinn is a great coach and really i should not be questioning what he is doing. However when you see a former Hart Trophy winner like Eric Lindros playing with Tie Domi and Chad Kilger and the likes of Antropov and Ponikarovsky skating with Sundin and getting some special teams minutes, it makes you wonder.

I understand all coaches have different philosophies, but I always thought ice time was earned and not just handed to players. There is little to no evidence that warrants the kind of loyalty that the coaching staff shows to players like Antropov, Ponikarovsky, Berg and Belak.

Unfortunately management is to blame with their poor draft record, foolish spending habits and their ineptitude in developing home grown talent. It has left them with an abundance of average to below average players. Antropov is going to need a big year to not only stay on the Leafs top line beside Sundin, but to stay in the NHL altogether. If after 8 years, the players still doesnt get it, that is the time to part ways. For Ponikarovsky, it isnt all bad because if he doesnt keep pace on the top line, he can fit in as a energy role forward who can kill penalties. But he still has to produce something if he is going to get the ice time. I was disappointed to see him get roughly 15 minutes a game in the playoffs and do nothing within that time to warrant it. Berg I have nothing against. He is a decent player on your 3rd defence pair. It is how defence coach Rick Ley uses him that bothers me. Berg is a player easily exposed but Ley loves to use him anyway. After the debacle with Jason Smith, Ley is to me a poor judge in talent. Even after mistake after mistake, Berg is out there regularly at the expense of younger players. And as for Belak, I will be disappointed if he lasts 5 games playing regularly on defence. At the rate he takes penalties, that could simply kill Toronto’s chances at a playoff berth. It isnt just that he takes penalties at a high rate, he takes the same ones over and over again and continuously complains to the refs about it.

I am however very happy to see other youngsters like Alex Steen, Andy Wozniewski and Steffan Kronvall make the club. Those were spots well deserved. And it is nice to see Matt Stajan pick up his play and he too should get some decent playing time. And the time is now for Carlo Coliacovo to prove he is worthy of full time duty in the NHL. But I hope that these youngsters are up with Leafs to play and not caddy for those who seemingly get 5th, 6th and 7th chances to stay in the lineup. I think in order to move along the transition of the Leafs from free spenders to a team that procures and develops their own assets, if the kids make the team, they should play. I would much rather see their mistakes, their bumps in the road and them learning on the fly than players who have already been given that opportunity several times over.

These kids are the ones who beat out veterans Bryan Marchment and Thomas for jobs. Suffice to say they earned their spot with the big club. Now with that, this should mean they get to prove their worth on a nightly basis when the games really counts. Obviously the Leafs are trying to win but at the same time, for the greater good of the team, the kids should play, be allowed to learn and really push the franchise to a better future. If the team decides against that and continues to stick with players who are not earning their keep and keep the kids twisting in the wind, then “the plan” that is so often stated by management is nothing more than a charade to mask their Ballardesque ineptitude.

23 Responses to Leafs Cut Steve Thomas

  1. JannettyTheRocker says:

    Good move by Leafs. Although I have great respect for Steve Thomas, the Leafs need to move towards having a more youthful team. Over the last number of seasons they have signed older veterans in an attempt to contend for the Stanley Cup and haven’t had success. It is time to build a team around the youth they have in their system, and to acquire youth thru trade and/or draft……Also, letting Marchment go was a good move as well. The Leafs have many prospects who need ice time, and by giving ice-time to players who are on their “last tour of duty”, they aren’t doing any good for their future…………………So, I must say, this is my first positive post towards the Leafs. Great moves, now, stick with this youth movement.

    Oh Yeah…..GO OILERS GO!!!

  2. Flyer_Dman says:

    Are the leafs going to have Owen Nolan this year? When will he be back?

  3. bammer91 says:

    ya his days have past….but sorta dissapointed because he probably will retire now

  4. bartsch says:

    Sad that Thomas didn’t make the team, he was and is a Leaf favourite, but it was for the right reasons. Time to build from within. I do agree about the Ukranian and Kazikstan (sp?) boyfriends being on the top line, but its only because of their size along with Mats. I guess its really a “hope-and-see” basis. With the new rules perhaps Quinn is hoping that while you have these 200+lb 6’5 players skating down the wing and the cut down on obstruction that penalties will be called ten-fold because most defencemen will simply not be able to stop such a large trio. We can only hope and see. But why is Kilger on the team? I dont recall reading his name once on TSN.ca, mapleleafs.com or sportsnet.ca about the leafs… not even once! Wellwood should be on the team, not Kilger. Sickening.

  5. Ace_Bailey says:

    We don’t need another journeying veteran. We’ve had enough of those in years past with the likes of Roberts and Niuewendyk. They helped but they didn’t have the same fervor that the youth of other teams. Now that Thomas is out this gives Wellwood a legitimate shot at making this hockey club. He’s a rising star with blossoming offensive potential.

    As for Kilger, he has a role to play on this team. He’s an excellent penalty killer and he is sound in a sandpaper checking role.

    …Although the Marlies are holding a tryout for Bates Battaglia. I think he should be in our checking role instead.

  6. JeffBurnz09 says:

    It was the right move. Thomas would be a leader, and was popular in Toronto, but there’s nothing he’ll do on the ice that a younger player can’t do. At some point you have to throw the young guys in there and let them learn, and since you probably won’t get much more from Thomas than you would a rookie, it’s a good time to get a young guy in there.

    It won’t go over well in Leaf land, but it’s time to re-build and go with the youth. In the past, the Leafs could put together good teams by trading or signing free agents…but with the salary cap system, drafting and youth will be even more important. The fall back plan was for the Leafs to take a run at Iginla, Thorton or Lecavalier next off season, but you saw what happened with those guys. Their teams locked them up as soon as possible…The Leafs don’t have anyone like that right now, they don’t have any can’t miss young assets.

    It’s time to rebuild, there’s really no other way around it.

  7. Tomato_84 says:

    NO…Owen Nolan is no longer a Leaf. He is a free agent…or soon to be free agent. His paper work was filed before the buyout deadline, there was just a debate on how much the Leafs owed him (if anything).

  8. canadaownshockey says:

    I am in no way, shape, or form a Leafs fan, I agree with this move. I have an ennormous amount of respect for Steve Thomas, gotta respect what he did.

  9. UWSensFan says:

    Wellwood spending another season in the AHL is not necessarily a bad thing. Look at what’s happened to Spezza. I remember when the Sens management toyed with him back in the day…sending him back to the minors even though he was near the top of the pre-season scoring charts. I thought he was ready. The point is, he wasn’t. When he was called back up for the Jersey series (conference finals), he showed that he had earned his spot on the roster. It wouldn’t surprise me if Wellwood were called up late in the season and bloomed in about the same way. Remember that Wellwood and Spezza are very similar players, and that they’ve often had point totals that are extremely similar. What’s probably best for him would be to have Quinn (or whatever assistant best applies) tell him exactly what they want him to change, for him to take it seriously and make strides to improve on those areas in the AHL. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back up with the big club later in the season…yes, he is that good.

  10. Leaf_fans_can_blow_me says:

    What the heck? Weren’t the leafs in the middle of a youth movement? What the heck are they cuttin’ 42 yr. old Thomas for? I’m very dissapointed with JFJ.

  11. JeffBurnz09 says:

    Carlo Coliacovo got sent down today. I’m not a Leaf fan…at all…but I have to wonder exactly what direction, if any, is this team trying to go for? They’ve had this guy for a few years now and he’s still not making the team. Is there any plan for this team? Or are they going to throw a team together with whoever they can get every summer?

  12. DarkPhoenix says:

    So much for the “youth movement”. Colaiacovo and Kronwall were just cut, and Quinn’s got to cut one more forward; bet on it being Kyle Wellwood, which means after the incredible play of the kids, Quinn still managed to find a way to dress a maximum of ONE rookie in the lineup.

    Quinn’s got to go before anything changes. What the hell are Kilger, Wilm and Perrott doing in this lineup? Not to mention that this puts either Berg or freaking BELAK in the top 4. Brilliant…

  13. Mullet says:

    Colaiacovo and Kronwall were both cut by the Leafs today! They were both sent to the AHL! Wozniewski, Wellwood and Steen remain though!

  14. Aetherial says:

    The Leafs only had room or so many rookies.

    Wozniewski simply played better than Colaiacovo and Kronvall. They deserved to be sent to the minors and it was best for the team.

    Steen and Wellwood both outperformed Thomas. With about 4 fringe forwards already signed… why spend any more money for another?

    Finally, these moves may not be final or long term. Guys may be sent down and called up within the first couple weeks… injuries may also change the picture.

    for now though, looks like they kept the best 3 young players they had this pre-season. There is no reason to *wonder* about this or criticize.

  15. mojo19 says:

    Leafs signed Bates Battaglia

  16. garyroberts7 says:

    They need a stay at home defenseman right now. I think we would be lacking in size if we took Colaiacovo.

  17. toronto77 says:

    where did you get this information

  18. mojo19 says:

    Blurb in the Toronto Sun on Sunday.

    He signed a 25 game tryout contract with Marlies, to play for Paul Maurice, his coach from Carolina.

    He’s trying to get his career back on track. I say good for him.

    Supposedly, if he plays well in his 25 games with the Marlies, and the Leafs feel he would be useful to them, he will be moved up, if not he could be resigned by the Marlies or let go.

  19. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Wozniewski, and Steen both made the team. That’s two rookies. Wellwood still hasn’t been sent down to the Marlies, and will get in a few more games with the Leafs to see if he’s ready – that’s three. This is also Stajan’s first full NHL season. Not quite a rookie but still very young – that’s four.

    The Leafs defense is: McCabe, Kaberle, Klee, Khavanov, Wozniewski, Belak/Berg. That makes Belak or Berg the #5 or #6, not top four.

    Quinn knows a hell of a lot more about hockey than you. You can’t even seem to count to 3.

  20. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    I feel bad for Thomas, he showed he can still play, but the Leafs need to move in a more youthful direction. With Steen making the team for sure, and Wellwood getting at least a few more games to show management he’s ready, there was simply no more room for Thomas at this point.

    It’s still possible Stumpy will be offered a contract in the future if the Leafs make a trade that ends up freeing a spot on the forward lines.

    What’s a mystery to me is what is your problem with Ponikarovsky and Antropov. With Mats at center they are a very big bunch who have a chance to do very well the new NHL rules, and who have shown a lot of signs in the preseason that they’ll thrive. Quinn doesn’t like to load up the first line with all the best players. He likes to spread them around so the opposition can’t focus on one line.

    As far as your comments on Lindros, you have to remember that he plays on the powerplay as well. He will get a lot of minutes no matter what line he plays on.

    Quinn has looked very smart the past couple of games with the way he has setup his lines, so maybe you should wait until a couple of weeks into the season to judge how things work. If they don’t work, changes will be made, but since things have been working well, there’s no reason to complain about Quinn, other than you being bored.

  21. mcpickl says:

    no, thats not possible. hes been touted by all the fanatics on here as a Calder contender


  22. The_Cramp says:

    Its funny cuz we had this topic about prospects and expected rookie of the year for the 05-06 season. And the guy who posted the article was really stating carlo would be a calder contender this year and he got cut… Same old story in T.O…

    I have a question for the Leafs fans, I drafted Lindros in my pool(something like 16th rank ) and was wondering if he will really play with Chad Kilger!!!!!! I think I’m scewed….Can you tell me what he looks like at training and in pre-season cuz I didn’t hear a lot about him lately….Man! Chad Kilger!!!!

    *Shakes head remembering Chad Kilger when playing for Habs*

  23. Aetherial says:

    Yeah he might, who knows.

    Quinn mixes lines all the time, Lindros will no doubt get some time with at least one scdoring winger this year.

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