Kukla's Korner Hockey
from William Houston of Truth & Rumours,
The Leafs will get an occasional victory this season. They’ll put together a good effort, and the opposing team will mail it in.
When the rookie Jonas Gustavsson gets healthy — he’s expected to start tonight against Anaheim Ducks — he could make a bit of a difference.
Phil Kessel will score some goals when gets into the lineup, but don’t count on a lot of production from him given the caliber of forwards he will be working with.
The guess here is Toronto will win between 25 and 30 games. That will give them a lottery pick, perhaps No.1, which will go to the Boston Bruins as part of the Kessel trade.
And Burke will continue scramble to sign free agents.
That’s no way to build a championship team.
from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun,
So, what is wrong with the Leafs? More to the point, what isn’t.
At this stage, the Leafs likely would need to post a .620 winning percentage to reach 93 points and the final playoff spot in the east….
This team has serious issues, including overrating its talent base. It has become the butt of jokes around the NHL. And Burke knows it.
“I’ve had sleepless nights the past 2 1/2 weeks because I hate to lose,” Burke said yesterday here in Anaheim, where the former Ducks general manager returned to face his ex-team tonight for the first time since becoming Leafs president last year.
Burke reiterated that he is not about to tear up the blueprint. Eight games, he said, is not enough time to evaluate. He pointed out that, during his first year running the Ducks, his team went through a seven-game losing streak and still made it deep into the playoffs.
“But for some reason, losing streaks seem to be magnified at the beginning of the season,” he said.
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
...as the club flew to southern California after the game and contemplated four more contests on the road over the next seven days, there was at least a smidgen of hope that perhaps, like receding flood waters, the worst is over.
That, of course, may be a mirage. Good teams playing bad teams often play down to their level, and the Canucks are considered one of the better squads in the Western Conference and didn’t deliver a virtuoso performance last night. Luongo did, however, making 35 saves and adding a new wrinkle of frustration for Leafs head coach Ron Wilson.
“Tonight (Luongo) found his game,” said Wilson. “If we’d played him two weeks ago we might have scored six goals.”
Easy now, Ron. With his team having scored just three pathetic goals in the past three games, the circumstances necessary to produce a bucketful of scores from his stone-handed group would go beyond a so-so goaltending performance at the other end of the rink. Try soccer nets.
via the Sporting News,
Jim Thomson played for Ron Wilson in Anaheim, and the former Duck thinks Wilson is the reason for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ early-season struggles. He was a guest on Off The Record, and ripped his former coach.
“Ron Wilson is not a good coach,” Thomson told OTR in an interview picked up by TSN.ca. “Where it breaks down is he can’t motivate players, he doesn’t know what to do with players when there’s controversy and they are losing.”
Thomson was especially critical of Wilson’s handling of sophomore defenseman Luke Schenn who has struggled this season.
“When he calls out Luke Schenn three games into the season, a young player who’s their future, and starts beating the hell out of him ... You don’t call a player out in the media, you go behind closed doors,” Thomson said.
from Matthew Sekeres of the Globe and Mail,
Despite an NHL-imposed gag order to cease and desist from public comments, Toronto Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke painted the rival Vancouver Canucks as whiners and tattletales yesterday.
Burke, the former Canucks GM who is returning to his former haunt for the first time since assuming leadership of the Maple Leafs in November, admitted yesterday that he erred in allowing a team-produced video – in which he floats inaccurate trade rumours about Vancouver players – to appear on the club’s website. But Burke also insinuated the Canucks are responsible for the brouhaha, and that the whole incident could have been settled privately had Vancouver GM Mike Gillis called him and not the NHL head office.
“All the commentary on this has come out of Vancouver,” Burke said on the eve of a showdown between the teams at GM Place tonight. “Not a word out of Toronto.”
from Tim Wharnsby of CBC,
The feud between the general managers of the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs hasn’t filtered down to the dressing rooms yet.
But the scene at GM Place will be intense if Canucks general manager Mike Gillis and his Leafs counterpart Brian Burke catch a glimpse of each other prior to game time on Saturday.
The two men don’t like each other and their relationship only soured further when Gillis twice filed tampering charges against the Leafs in the past six months.
from Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star,
The party was mostly hush-hush, a players only affair. This party was a much-needed break from so much doom and gloom surrounding the daily process of trying to gel as a team, and get that elusive first win.
So the players went all out.
The best costume?
“What did the guys say ... Jamal Mayers? Yeah, I’ll go with that,” said Luke Schenn, referring to Mayers, who came as Michael Jackson.
Mayers in fact, had his costume professionally prepared, right down to spray-painting his face to more resemble the late King of Pop.
from Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun via the National Post,
Toronto general manager Brian Burke says he sees no need to clear the air with Vancouver counterpart Mike Gillis over tampering allegations when the Canucks meet the Maple Leafs on Saturday at General Motors Place.
In fact, Burke isn’t even sure whether he and Gillis will speak at all this weekend.
“I know there was a lot of yapping going on in Vancouver the last little while, but you noticed none from Toronto,” Burke said in a phone interview Thursday when asked about the apparent bad blood between the two organizations. “I’m certainly not going to pour any gasoline on a fire that as far as I’m concerned doesn’t exist. When other organizations talk or complain about the Leafs, I ignore it by and large.”
from Jim Kelley of Sportsnet,
It should also fall on Burke to recognize that truculence is not a synonym for skill and that if you’re going to add toughness to allow your skilled players to play better, you better have the skilled players that will benefit from the added option. The Leafs didn’t have those players -or at least enough of them-before Burke got to Toronto. They don’t have them now.
If you want to stretch fact to the edge of opinion, I would argue that Burke is also wrong in assessing the Kessel deal with Boston. His argument is that he couldn’t get a player of that age and skill level for less than the three draft picks (two firsts and a second) he surrendered to the Bruins.
I admire and respect a man who stands by a belief, but that’s not the same as doing whatever is necessary to get what’s necessary to survive and prosper. I don’t steal, but I can’t say I never would, not if there’s a loaf of bread available and my family was starving. A person does what he or she has to do. Burke knows that, every man does.
And no matter how he chooses to defend the Kessel trade, he overpaid. He paid a price for Kessel with the idea that he wouldn’t be paying with the possibility of a first overall selection in the 2010 Entry Draft. It seemed both logical and defensible at the time, but it wasn’t exactly a given. Burke bet that he made enough moves in the free-agent market to assure he won’t put the franchise in that position. The standings could change, but for now at least it appears he could lose that bet.
from Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun,
They are still the engine that drives the ratings for Hockey Night In Canada, no matter how ugly it gets on the ice.
But for how much longer will the Maple Leafs be foisted on the majority of the nation each Saturday night?
The deeper the struggling team’s slump gets and the greater the level of anger rises in Leafs Nation, the closer CBC executives will look at how many homes the team reaches on Canada’s most-watched weekly sports program.
Much like the team itself, the broadcaster realizes it’s too early to panic just three Saturday nights into the NHL season. It doesn’t hurt that the Leafs continue to draw big ratings and will continue to do so in the immediate future with all-Canadian matchups coming up.
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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