Leafs prepare for trade deadline

The Maple Leafs wrapped up a couple of days of pro scouting meetings in Tampa Bay this week with an eye to the Feb. 28 NHL trade deadline.

“I remind our guys that anything can happen,” vice-president of hockey operation Dave Poulin said.

“Zdeno Chara has won a Norris Trophy in Boston, but he has also been traded once and signed as a free agent once. The same with a guy such as Marian Hossa.

“In some cases, when a name comes up on our screen, we’ve been watching the player since he was 16. We have a curve and a full ratings scale on them.”

Poulin was joined by senior VP David Nonis, assistant GM Claude Loiselle and pro scouts Mike Penny, Steve Kasper and Rob Cowie. GM Brian Burke dropped by on the last day. Penny and Cowie usually cover NHL and minor pro games in the Western time zones, Poulin and the others in the East.

“By now everybody has seen everybody,” Poulin said. “I saw about 180 games last year, but that’s amateur games as well (those scouting meetings were last week). We’re gathering and deciphering info all the time. If you look at the afternoon Marlie games in Toronto, you’ll see many team scouts there (who then go to watch the Leafs).”

Though all NHL games and some in the AHL are on the tube, Poulin says there is no substitute for scouting a game live.

“The TV camera will only show you what’s happening around the puck,” he reminded. “Most of us will go to a game and sit on the side of the rink that faces the benches. You want to see how the player does away from the puck, what his interactions are with the coach and others.

“Being there also gives our team a presence. A guy like Mike Penny has worked at every level and knows the equipment guys up to the GMs. Steve has been a player, a coach and an agent. Cowie knows so many people in the game.”