Kukla's Korner Hockey
From Stephen Johns at The Torontoist:
Tomorrow, for the first time since March 16, 1996, the Toronto Maple Leafs won’t be playing on a non-holiday, regular season Saturday. They play tonight in Buffalo; they won’t be in action again until next Tuesday.
The Maple Leafs’ non-appearance on Hockey Night in Canada is mildly intriguing. The Leafs are a cash cow for the CBC; everyone knows this, even sports reporters who regularly lament the Leafs’ constant presence on CBC Sports’ flagship program irrespective of their on-ice performance (we salute you, William Houston of The Globe and Mail!).
from John Vogl of the Buffalo News,
The scene, to be acted out tonight, usually goes like this: Toronto fans, plentiful in number, will file into HSBC Arena. They’ll be loud. For a while, they’ll be boisterous. Then, when their team lets them down, they’ll trudge back across the border.
But even if the Maple Leafs follow form and lose to Buffalo tonight, Sabres fans might see a sly smile spread across the faces of their rivals. It’s because, thanks to Brian Burke, they have hope.
Leafs Nation has been dreaming of Burke for years, and the wish was granted Nov. 29 when he assumed the roles of president and general manager. The highly regarded hockey guru, who built a Stanley Cup winner in Anaheim, was hired to bring the Centre of the Hockey Universe back to the top of the hockey world.
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
Burke’s mission over the next few months is to recapture some of the draft picks surrendered by former GM Cliff Fletcher in recent months to acquire players like Mikhail Grabovski, Jamal Mayers and Ryan Hollweg, and he can use the fact the club is about $8 million (all figures U.S.) shy of the NHL’s $56.7 million cap to try and get those picks.
How? Well, there are more than a few teams worried about where they sit these days on the NHL payroll chart, with concerns about the economy and a potential drop in the NHL salary cap by 2010 figuring into their worries.
Detroit GM Ken Holland said yesterday clubs are now looking to see what the hockey world – and the global economy – looks like by July 1 next year when the free agent market opens.
“To sit here today and make a game plan, well, how can anybody do that?” he said.
from Mike Ulmer of TorontoMapleLeafs.com,
If I’m Vesa Toskala I’m making a New Year’s resolution.
I will not give up a goal on the first shot.
Toskala has been beaten by the first shot in four of the last five games which, you know, is probably at least one too many.
I know it’s too early for New Year’s resolutions. But if you decide you are going to start doing the right thing, why continue to do the wrong thing until your deadline?...
Luke Schenn: I will remember to buy a tux because I will need something sharp for my moment on camera when they announce the rookie of the year winner.
more and that first goal on the first shot hits a little close to home for me…
From Jay Feaster at The Hockey News,
Brian Burke arrived in Toronto to great fanfare and he wasted little time before demonstrating why he is a media favorite. From quipping that former Leafs captain Mats Sundin has “two dollars less than God” and thus won’t be making a decision based on money, to stating that the Leafs’ third and fourth lines need to bring “belligerence” and “testosterone,” etc., Burkie blew into town like a perfect storm.
While that is the Brian Burke the public and media often see, I want to give you a glimpse into the “other” Brian Burke some of us inside the game are fortunate enough to know: in short, the “kinder and gentler” Burkie.
from Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star,
There isn’t much the Leafs can do now but tend to their injured stars and regroup.
Another frustrating night – one in which they couldn’t dial up their intensity until it was too late – was compounded by injuries to rookie defenceman Luke Schenn and talented forward Niklas Hagman.
Schenn’s loss will be significant – an estimated two weeks with a suspected left leg injury suffered in a collision with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, who certainly had his wrecking ball out last night in the way he was hitting Leaf players.
Hagman took a knee to the head and, while he felt better by the end of the night, he left the game after one shift in the second period feeling “groggy.”
from the Toronto Maple Leafs,
Brian Burke, president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, announced Saturday that David Nonis has been named senior vice president of hockey operations.
“David Nonis brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our hockey staff,” said Burke. “We have successfully worked together in the past, and he has a deep understanding of contractual, legal and financial matters as well as scouting and roster management. He’ll be an asset to our organization in several areas.”
from Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun,
“The way I like my teams to play, we need to get bigger right away,” Burke said as the Leafs finished a 1-2 journey to California and Arizona. “It’s not that we don’t compete, but we’re not able to win some physical battles.
“I think a big part of winning hockey games is winning battles all over the ice.”
That won’t come easily or immediately given that initial trade offers to new GMs in need include an attempt at fleecing. But Burke is too smart for that, and given his belief that players shouldn’t be moved near the holidays, he likely won’t pull the trigger until the new year. Not that there hasn’t been talk.
“I’ve had some marvellous trade offers already,” Burke said sarcastically. “When you take over a team, everybody throws anvils at you. It has been really easy to say no. Trading and upgrading your team is not that easy to do in a cap system. That’s why I’m not making any bold promises or setting time frames.”
from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail,
The latest to experience the sting of Leafs head coach Ron Wilson’s teaching methods were defenceman Tomas Kaberle and left winger Alexei Ponikarovsky. Wilson, unhappy with Kaberle’s play in a loss Tuesday to the San Jose Sharks, kept him on the bench for the entire first period….
Kaberle, who was not told before the game he would be benched, was on the ice for all three Coyotes goals in the third period and finished at minus-3.
“Obviously, it was hard,” Kaberle said. “I take it seriously. That’s the way it is. I have to keep my head up and get my ice time back.”
Wilson, who may order his troops to stay here for a practice today before flying back to Toronto, was not sure Kaberle got the message.
“Yeah, he obviously sent a message back,” the coach said. “He was [minus-3].”
added 11:43am, from Damien Cox at the Spin,
Wilson, armed with a four-year contract, has the ammunition to fight back against that lack of, in his words, “accountability,” and he’s doing it.
Truth is, he’s been dissatisified with the work of Kaberle and Kubina for weeks, the two members of the Leaf defence corps with no-trade clauses in their contracts. New GM Brian Burke is already on record as saying such clauses are “coach-killers,” and quite clearly its in the plans of the Leafs to have both players willing to waive those clauses sometime before March in order to facilitate trades elsewhere that will bring draft picks and/or players to the club….
But the gauntlet has been laid down. And Kaberle, it’s clear, is in his final weeks as a Maple Leaf.
Brian Burke’s certification as Maple Leafs monarch has plural positives for Toronto. For the first time since the Conn Smythe-Punch Imlach Eras, Toronto boasts a commanding leader who gives a face to the franchise.
Smythe and Imlach have 10 Stanley Cups between them. Now an eleventh will be possible once Burke gets the house in order; and that will only take a year.
-Stan Fishchler at the Hockey Journal where you can read more hockey notes from The Maven.
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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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