Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Michael Traikos of the National Post,
On Saturday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs will play the Montreal Canadiens in the last game of the regular season. It has been a long time coming. The past few months have been excruciating to watch and likely worse to be a part of as Toronto has tumbled down the standings and lost more games than imaginable.
So expect a deep sigh of relief from both fans and players when the buzzer finally sounds on what was just a miserable season.
Goodbye 2014-15. And good riddance to a team that, thankfully, we do not have to see anymore.
Goodbye Peter Horachek, who deserved better when he took over interim head-coaching duties from Randy Carlyle in January. Goodbye Dion Phaneuf, who was one of the worst captains in the history of the franchise. Goodbye Phil Kessel, who may not even score 25 goals this season. Goodbye Tyler Bozak, a No. 1 centre who really wasn’t. And goodbye to Colton Orr, who we forgot was still playing hockey.
Goodbye to a roster of broken and missing parts.
The Hockey Central at Noon team had scathing commentary regarding Wednesday’s Maple Leafs game and the entire season, one that Toronto checked out on a long time ago.
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
The real question that surrounds the Maple Leafs as this irregular season creeps to its awkward conclusion is this: Who goes with Horachek? And how many? And how quickly?
There is one game left to play and president Brendan Shanahan has yet to declare whatever his plans are for general manager Dave Nonis.
An announcement of some kind is expected early next week.
The popular thing to do would be to fire Nonis.
That would momentarily appease a disgusted fan base.
This is basically his team, with leftovers from his friend, Brian Burke.
The team has proven to be dysfunctional, lacking in self-awareness and leaderless.
There isn’t a boatload of prospects on the verge of becoming something.
The contracts of Phil Kessel and captain Dion Phaneuf have hamstrung the Leafs both today and going forward.
From the inside, Shanahan has come to understand all that has happened to this Leaf team and has worked closely with Nonis.
"They are the least likable group of professional athletes I think I’ve ever been around. Just the way they play, outside of the arena, the way they come across – they come across as the opposite of plucky underdogs that are trying really hard even if they’re not quite good enough. This is talented guys who are getting paid enormous amounts of money who stopped trying a long time ago and are kind of laughing at everybody. That’s a bad vibe if you’re a consumer."
-Stephen Brunt of Sportsnet. Scott Lewis of Sportsnet has more.
... love the spin coming out of Toronto that Mike Babcock will charge over to the Leafs following this season. Yes. MLSE can make him rich but, for pity’s sake, he’d be inheriting a team that is chaotic in the boardroom, directionless and spiritless in the locker room and is at least five years away from competing for a playoff spot.
Sure, Babcock likes a challenge as much as the next guy, but let’s get real here. If he decides to leave Detroit he’ll have his pick of jobs, and stepping into that toxic waste spill in Toronto won’t be at the top of his list.
-Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province where you can read more hockey topics...
Jason Spencer of the Brampton Guardian reports on a talk Ken Dryden recently gave.
Most of it was non-hockey related except for this...
Seeing as Dryden was president of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1997-2003, Benmergui couldn't help but ask right out of the gate about the flailing hockey club.
Dryden suspects the continual poor play is a result of the club being haunted by former team owner Harold Ballard, describing him as an "irascible" and "provocative" character.
"When things weren't going well, his way of dealing with it was bravado. When the Leafs would lose, instead of sounding a little bit contrite or determined or something his way would be to kind of laugh at the bad news and say, 'Ah, it doesn't matter, I still go to the bank every day,'" said Dryden, 67.
"(Ballard) had this public persona that really stayed with the Leafs and stays with them to this day of where, that when you get down to the crunch moment, and it's an extra point in the standings or an extra dollar in the bank, that you go for the extra dollar in the bank."
He added that the public comes to resent the message about money over championships.
from Mike Strobel of the Toronto Sun,
Nashville Predators are selling out home games faster ’n a scalded hound.
They’re at 26 already this season, a record. Those Tennessee hicks are making the storied Leafs look sick.
Likely, you remember guffawing in 1998 when the NHL expanded to a small city best known for Hee Haw.
Well, he who laughs last ...
The Predators were expected to draw 17,113, a full house, for their game against Montreal Tuesday night — not all of them there just to see forward Mike Fisher’s wife, country star Carrie Underwood, and their new baby.
It’s a raucous crowd, too, known for being in their seats when the puck drops and for frequent standing ovations.
The Leafs, on the other hand, suffered their worst attendance ever at the Air Canada Centre against Minnesota on Monday night.
from Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun,
The Leafs don’t always get these things right, but the pre-game tribute to honour veteran Eric Brewer for playing in his 1,00th career NHL game was a nice, well-deserved touch. Sure, he has only played 10 games with his latest team, but any NHLer who makes it to the thousand mark should get his due — and the traditional silver stick that goes with it. The video tribute was first class, playing tribute to a defenceman who has represented Canada eight times in his career, including a member of the gold medal winning squad at the Salt Lake City Olympics.
more on the Leafs and watch the ceremony below...
from Jonas Siegel of TSN,
Kessel scored twice on the 16th of December. He doesn't have a multi-goal game since, totaling only seven in 42 games. That's a paltry 14-goal pace for a player who's topped 30 goals in each of the previous five full seasons.
His production in that time-frame (Dec. 17 – Mar. 21) is stunning to behold. Entering Saturday's play Kessel ranked:
• 247th (tied) in even-strength goals (3)
• 336th (tied) in even-strength points (7)
• 142nd (tied) in total points (20)
• 158th (tied) in total goals (7)
The numbers are even less flattering when narrowed down to just the New Year.
Kessel has just three even-strength points in 2015 – a stretch of 35 games. He does not have an even-strength assist since the calendar flipped over from 2014.
He has as many even-strength points in that same span mind you as fellow Leafs Brandon Kozun, Trevor Smith and Roman Polak and less than Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli, who were traded just before the Mar. 2 deadline.
from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
Peter Horachek has tried everything to light a fire under the big-name, small-effort Maple Leafs.
Now the heat is really on them, starting with a game against an old rival with playoff aspirations on a Saturday night. If the highest-paid Leafs aren’t pumped when they skate out on Canadian Tire Centre ice to face the Senators and their Hamburglar goalie -- with some diehard fans on hand -- then they truly have no pulse.
“We’re NHL players,” said winger Phil Kessel after Friday’s practice. “You’re paid to do that job and you’re held to that standard. It’s your job to work hard and try your best. Obviously, lately, it hasn’t been great. But we’re paid to work hard, try your best and I think guys do that.
“It’s an important game for them and you always want to try and knock teams out of a playoff spot.”
The Sens need a win to sustain their late-season drive and add to the Hamburglar hype of Andrew Hammond, now with a record of 12-0-1.
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.
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