Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Craig Custance of ESPN,
Maybe the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing better under Peter Horachek and perhaps there will eventually be a payoff for their improved defensive play, but right now it's painful to watch.
The Maple Leafs lost their seventh consecutive game, this time 2-1 in the shootout to the New Jersey Devils. That's how bad it's has gotten: the Devils team that couldn't buy a shootout win last season beating the Leafs in shootouts.
Toronto team president Brendan Shanahan was in attendance and, if nothing else, he's learning a lot about his team during this stretch with the only reasonable conclusion that they are much worse than we originally thought.
read on for Burnside on Hawks/Kings, LeBrun on Spezza returning to Ottawa, Strang on the Capitals and Powers on the Blackhawks...
added 3:50pm, Reports say Phaneuf was injured on Ottawa, perhaps in a fight. Watch below...
from Mike Johnston of Sportsnet,
Phaneuf doesn’t have an easy contract to move because he’s being paid like a franchise defenceman despite the fact he isn’t playing like one. His salary cap hit is $7 million annually until 2021, which means if the Leafs were to move the 29-year-old, they might have to retain some salary to get a deal done — depending on what Dave Nonis and Co. get in return.
Anaheim Ducks: This one might seem like a long shot, but consider this: Ducks GM Bob Murray has made 13 separate trades with the Maple Leafs since 2009. Francois Beauchemin is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and the salaries of Sheldon Souray, Eric Brewer and Ilya Bryzgalov are coming off the books at season’s end. The Ducks will have room on the blue line and money to spend. Phaneuf could do great things playing beside Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen or Cam Fowler – three of Anaheim’s outstanding young defencemen. Phaneuf would also add some muscle to complement a smooth-skating defensive corps.
Potential trade chips: Matt Beleskey, Devante Smith-Pelly, Nick Ritchie, Shea Theodore, Nick Sorensen
four more trade destinations...
13:49 Toronto Dion Phaneuf - Fighting - 5 minutes
13:49 Toronto Dion Phaneuf - Slashing - 2 minutes
13:49 Ottawa Milan Michalek - Slashing - 2 minutes
13:49 Ottawa Milan Michalek - Fighting - 5 minutes
What a season this has been for the Leafs. At one point, adding Eric Staal seemed like a dream scenario, maybe even for both sides. Now? If you’re Eric Staal, why on Earth would you want to bother getting involved with Toronto at this time?
-Jeff Blair of Sportsnet where you can read more on this topic.
Ah, the timeline. In Edmonton, they’re still in about Year 2 or 3 of a successful rebuild. The problem being, they started five or six years ago.
In Toronto, they’ve painted themselves into a corner where they may have to start completely over. That means a good year of getting rid of assets before beginning at rock bottom again.
-Mark Spector of Sportsnet where you can read more on both teams.
from Jonas Siegel of TSN,
Phil Kessel plunged his head in his hands like he had so many times in the past.
These astounding runs of futility have become all too familiar in Toronto.
The only question left to determine in that regard this season is whether another such stretch of failure costs the Maple Leafs a spot in the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 seasons. It's looking with more and more certainty like that will be indeed the case.
"It's similar, isn't it," said Kessel, seated in his stall with an air of exasperation. "Same stuff keeps happening. I don't know what to make of it anymore."
Still astoundingly punch-less offensively (and increasingly losing an edge in goal), the Leafs lost for the 13th time in 16 games (3-13-0) Monday night, clocked by the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference. Toronto has been outscored 59-29 during the month-long unraveling, which started, oddly enough, against these same Hurricanes on Dec. 18.
from Mark Zwolinksi of the Toronto Star,
- Interest in Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel by unidentified clubs, and Joffrey Lupul from the Dallas Stars.
- Ryan O’Reilly available from Colorado for a defenceman (Jake Gardiner or Cody Franson) and top-six forward Nazem Kadri or former University of Denver star Tyler Bozak). Phoenix is said to be hot on the O’Reilly trail, though, with all-star defenceman Keith Yandle offered.
- Trade talk aside, the Leafs are reportedly focusing on re-signing Franson and hard-working forward Mike Santorelli.
The speculation will only increase if the slide continues. The Leafs have lost 12 of their last 15 to drop seven points out of a wild-card berth, and seven points from the NHL’s bottom five overall. That could make them sellers at the March 2 trade deadline, and candidates for the draft lottery.
What it also makes the Leafs is a band of players under extreme pressure to prove they’re better than the numbers show, fighting mentally to keep the trade talk from becoming a distraction.
from Jonas Siegel of TSN,
The steam oozed off of Dion Phaneuf in the minutes after yet another demoralizing loss, the 12th in 15 games for the sputtering Maple Leafs.
"It feels awful," said Toronto's captain, displaying an unusual bit of public fire after a 3-0 defeat in St. Louis, the capper on an empty trip. "It feels absolutely terrible. I don't know what more I can say than when you lose games, when you go through stretches like this, it's awful."
A hellish four-game road swing ended with four losses and amazingly, for a team that recently led the league in scoring, just a single goal scored. Toronto was outscored 12-1 on the week-long trip through L.A., Anaheim, San Jose and then St. Louis. Not one forward found the back of the net at all, Roman Polak posting the only goal Thursday in San Jose.
"We're cold as ice right now," said James van Riemsdyk, stuck on 19 goals this season.
The list of Leafs gone dry is lengthy.
from Damien Cox of Sportsnet,
Tear this thing right down and start over.
Start over? START OVER?? Again? You can hear the groaning of Leaf Nation when that’s even suggested.
But there’s really no choice, and to think otherwise is to pretend....
The team appears to own one young player, Morgan Rielly, who has the earmarks of both stardom and leadership, and that’s it. Outside of Rielly, there are young promising players, but not enough of them.
This isn’t a franchise that owns Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar and just needs Justin Williams and Mike Richards to join in and point the way to a championship.
So to build a championship team with the Leafs, priority No. 1 has to be to find other players similar to Rielly, or better.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org