Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Spector at Fox Sports,
The stumbling start of the Toronto Maple Leafs has Toronto fans and media whipped up into a near-panic over the club’s performance and lamenting the few options available for management to improve the situation.
Most pundits appear to have absolved Leafs general manager Brian Burke for his club’s struggles but their apparent willingness to give Burke a pass has drawn criticism from one of their one.
Author and former Toronto Globe and Mail columnist William Houston has in his retirement started up a new blog called “Truth & Rumours”. In his inaugural post Houston not only blames Burke for what he considers poor decisions on the part of the Leafs general manager but also scolds the Toronto sports media for their unwillingness to criticize Burke after spending months praising him.
In a season already filled with bad news, the Toronto Maple Leafs received another helping on Friday.
Defenceman Mike Van Ryn is expected to announce that he has decided to undergo extensive knee surgery which could potentially spell the end of the 30-year old’s NHL career.
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
What’s so wrong with Burke’s Leafs? A better question might be: What’s right with the Leafs? The answer: Next to nothing.
Of all that is confounding, though, in this early season dive is the play of the Leafs defence. That was supposed to be the strength of the club. Francois Beauchemin, the veteran, at $4.2 million US a year. Tomas Kaberle, the puck mover, at $4.25 million a year. Mike Komisarek, the hit man, at $4.5 million a year. Luke Schenn, the rock solid kid, at $875,000 a year. Ian White, underpaid and underappreciated, at $950,00 a year. And after that, the collection of Jeff Finger, Garnet Exelby and Mike Van Ryn, the extras and the injured at $8.5 million.
An expensive, experienced NHL defence at more than $23 million for the season. One of the highest-paid bluelines in hockey. Good enough for Beauchemin to get a Team Canada summer invitation. Good enough for Kaberle and Komisarek to be considered sure things for the Olympics come February, although the Komisarek ballot has to be in some doubt now. Good enough to not lose by tennis scores most nights.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
...even today, Burke has no qualms about the price he paid to get Kessel out of Boston last month—a pair of first-round picks and a second-rounder.
“Well, if I had known we’d be 0-6, I still would have done that trade,” Burke told ESPN.com on Wednesday. “I can’t draft a player who is going have that kind of impact this year in this draft. This is about being better this year. But I’m not annoyed at any reaction from the fans. When you’re 0-6, you should be grateful they’re still coming to the games.”
Because the Bruins do own that first-round pick this year, you can forget the Leafs pulling the plug early, if at all. No point making that pick look even better for Boston. Instead, I suspect Burke will continue to try to improve this team. One NHL GM told ESPN.com on Tuesday the Leafs boss had contacted him and undoubtedly others. But when your team is winless in six games to start the season, great deals are hard to find.
“The ones that are calling, it’s not a helpful group,” Burke said of talks with other GMs. “I haven’t got anything but anchors thrown at me. We’re not in a hurry. If I didn’t think this group could get the job done, I’d be more concerned. But I believe in the group.”
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Burke has traded away one of the early picks in June’s entry draft. And it’s one thing to trade away a first-round pick, it’s another when that pick could be converted into Taylor Hall or someone of that ability.
And the more the Leafs lose, the more focus there will be on Kessel to make certain the deal is not the embarrassment that it’s starting to look to be.
Yes, the draft watch already has begun in earnest, and yes, with 76 games still to play, with almost everything about this Leafs team looking wrong, there is little even an optimist can believe after a promising pre-season.
This team can’t score, can’t defend, can’t kill penalties, can’t stop pucks, and can’t pick first in the draft.
from Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail,
Here’s the thing about the Maple Leafs’ close-to-historically – and for some of you no doubt hysterically – lousy start to the season. Forget about the Phil Kessel trade, at least until the guy takes a shift. Kessel? Draft picks? Lottery picks? The Leafs’ crisis is much more immediate than that.
Mike Komisarek, who started to hear the boos Tuesday night before the rest of the Leafs, said it was a matter of “winning 1-on-1 battles and making five-foot passes.”
Still, it’s tough to see where individual battles will be won with this group. The only professional, non-panicky game they’ve received from a goalie this year came from Jonas Gustavsson and he’s hurt. He is the only one who can save this thing from becoming even more pear-shaped and, considering his lack of track record, ought to scare the crap out of you.
The Leafs have forwards who think truculence means taking a holding or hooking penalty in the offensive end – the Avalanche’s first power-play goal came with Alexei Ponikarovsky in the penalty box for a holding call behind the Avalanche goal. They have lots of guys who can fight – but that’s kind of a non-starter when the other team is kicking your butt playing within the rules, no?
from Damian Cox of the Toronto Star,
...But you sure don’t go out of your way to comfort the enemy, right?
Well, apparently, if you’re the Leafs, you do.
Mired in a depressing five-game winless streak to start the season, the game operations staff thought that with the Colorado Avalanche in town Tuesday night it was a perfect time to pay tribute to Darcy (Sideshow Bob) Tucker, one of the feistier, most popular and more publicity-conscious Leafs to play in Toronto in recent years.
First came a generous video collage 10 minutes into the game and then a loud ovation, to which Tucker responded by standing at the Colorado bench and waving to the Air Canada Centre faithful.
All that was missing was a bouquet of roses.
While the fans clapped and the Avs players tapped their sticks, the players who currently skate for the Leafs sat stonefaced on the bench or stood motionless on the ice.
“No impact on us as players at all,” insisted veteran winger Jamal Mayers.
from Greg Wyshynski of PuckDaddy,
Like the source of Taco Bell’s ground beef and the possibility of a “Lady In The Water” sequel, the potential for Toronto Maple Leafs Coach Ron Wilson losing his job at this point in the season is something I’ve refused to contemplate.
added 12:27pm, from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
Reeling from their worst start in almost 20 years, the 0-4-1 Leafs called up centre Tyler Bozak from the Marlies, apparently benching forwards Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman and sitting goalie Vesa Toskala out with a lower body injury.
”Why not?,” coach Ron Wilson said of the high-profile benchings. “We need more from everyone, we’re giving opportunities to younger guys.”
from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun,
Is it a case of the players tuning out Wilson’s message?
Should Toskala and a handful of other underachieving veterans be Marlie-bound?
Whatever the Leafs do, the product thus far has been unacceptable.
“A lot of people are upset at our start,” general manager Brian Burke said during a second-intermission interview with New York television. “They are worried about what we are going to do.”
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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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