Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
So if the water keeps rising, and it’s rising very quickly around the Leaf enterprise right now, Burke may ultimately get pushed into doing something he is dead set against.
The guess here is that Wilson has 10 more games to show some noticeably positive results.
The team is healthy, particularly the key players, Wilson was lucky enough to have a pure scorer in Phil Kessel added in early November and he’s working with a team that isn’t overly inexperienced.
The club, however, was dead last in defence and penalty killing last year. It still is. Youngsters like Luke Schenn, Nikolai Kulemin and John Mitchell are going backwards or sideways.
Whatever Wilson and his assistants are preaching either isn’t getting across to the players, or it’s a game plan they can’t execute.
from Damien Cox of The Spin,
Two things seem abundantly clear this morning.
One, this notion that sending big-money Leafs to the minors — Jason Blake is the most obvious target — will somehow fix what ails the club is just wrong. Blake may not be much use this season, but unless he is clearly a detrimental figure in the dressing room, just getting rid of him is essentially pointless and probably just symbolic.
Unless you have a replacement, dumping a player isn’t much of an answer.
Two, whatever is wrong with this team, Ron Wilson seems powerless to fix it.
The Leafs were the worst defensive team in the NHL last season and the worst penalty killing team. Today, they are the NHL’s worst defensive team and worst penalty killing team.
from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
Gary Roberts was highly respected as the Maple Leafs fitness fanatic in his playing days, but now he wonders if poor conditioning is a reason his old team is near last place.
Speaking on former Leaf executive Bill Watters’ radio show on AM 640 yesterday, Roberts specifically cited struggling defenceman Luke Schenn as a player who didn’t train properly in the summer.
“Why is Luke struggling so much?” said Roberts, who has been doing some personal training since he retired last year for among others, top pick Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning. “He looks like he has been riding the bike all summer. If you ride that bike all the time, you’re going to get slow and you’re going to get hurt. It’s the worst thing Luke could’ve done, if that’s indeed what he did. I don’t know for sure, I don’t talk to the guys and it’s none of my business.”
Roberts declared his bias for former Leafs strength coach Matt Nichol, who was replaced with Anthony Belza during the summer and kept prefacing his comments as those of an observer and not a Leafs insider. But it’s his impression the Leafs changed from an anaerobic approach under Nichol to aerobic.
from Joe O’Conner of the National Post,
Burke’s goal going into the season was to make the playoffs, and the general manager believed he had the team to do it. That team has three wins in 19 games and, as it reaches the quarter-pole of the NHL season, is tied with Carolina for last place overall, with 11 points.
“How would I rate the season? Obviously, it is incomplete,” Burke said. “There are certain aspects of our play that have not lived up to our expectations, or even close to it, and there are some other positive signs.”
On the bright side for Burke is the Leafs’ work ethic, their conditioning, and the players’ willingness to stick up for one another like they did in Ottawa two nights ago, in a fight-filled contest featuring ample amounts of the truculence the GM holds dear.
Burke said the culture around Toronto has changed from passivity to a willingness to push back. And he went on to praise the power play, which is among the best in the league; his old college pal and Leafs head coach, Ron Wilson, for getting the team prepared to compete game in and game out; and Phil Kessel, for being the prize he thought he was getting when he traded two first round draft picks to Boston to land him.
from Robert MacLeod of the Globe and Mail,
It appears the on-ice futility is finally starting to catch up with the Toronto Maple Leafs, cashbox kings of the NHL.
For the first time since moving into the Air Canada Centre 10 years ago, the NHL’s richest franchise confirms that it has been unable to lease an unspecified number of the facility’s 152 luxury suites for Leafs games this season.
Yet the team does not believe this is the first sign that fans are growing weary of the product.
“We’re certainly aware of the tipping point theory,” Richard Peddie, president and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the team, said yesterday. “We have not experienced it. But listen, winning is the best thing you can possibly do. People want to be entertained, but they want to be entertained and win. We know we’ve got to turn things around, and we will.”
Colton Orr vs Matt Carkner last night.
from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun,
Yes, they played well enough to win in this heartbreaking 3-2 loss to the Senators.
But with just three wins in 19 games, moral victories aren’t worth a damn any more, especially when the script never seems to change.
And now, the difficult questions need to be asked.
First off, when was the last time a Maple Leafs goalie stole a game for this team the way the Sens’ Pascal Leclaire did last night, especially in the third period when he turned aside all 15 Toronto shots at a time when the ice seemed steeply tilted in favour of the visitors?
Answer: Maybe you have to go all the way back to (gasp) Andrew Raycroft. Who’d have ever thought that?
Secondly, can someone possibly help out Phil Kessel on the offensive end?
from Damien Cox of the Spin,
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 63 losses for Wilson during his Leaf tenure against 37 triumphs. Of those 63 defeats, 18 have been through either overtime or a shootout.
Of a possible 200 points, Wilson has achieved 92 for a “winning” percentage of .460.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is not good. The optimism from Wilson’s hiring is gone and it sure doesn’t feel fresh.
The tone? Well, the idea was that a teacher was coming to town, a no-nonsense bench boss who would make sure everything, from defensive zone coverage to the laundry, was done correctly. Wilson spoke of a new culture, an end to any sense of entitlement players might have, something he called the blue-and-white disease.
Interesting, then, to hear Wilson discussing on Monday the need to start benching players who make major errors early in games and punishing players for egregious errors.
Shouldn’t that have been happening, oh, 100 games earlier?
from Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun via the Toronto Sun,
You see, it was Burke who threatened the Bruins with a Group II offer sheet before making a deal for winger Phil Kessel in September.
The Leafs could easily be sitting in the same position if they don’t get the 25-year-old Swede signed. Gustavsson, who is making $810,000 (all terms US) on a one-year deal this season, has emerged as the club’s No. 1 goalie ahead of Vesa Toskala.
There would be more than an NHL GM or two who wouldn’t mind put the screws to Burke by signing The Monster to an offer sheet worth $5 million a season.
Gustavsson was the most sought-after free-agent goalie on the market before he signed with the Leafs last summer. Every team in the league scouted him. Most made a pitch for him. The Stars thought Gustavsson was going to sign there to push Marty Turco for the job.
“Don’t think for a second there wouldn’t be a lineup of teams again offering up big money if he gets to restricted free agency,” said a league executive.
from Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star,
Who knew the Eighties would be looked back on fondly as the good old days?
Or that the Toronto Maple Leafs would try to emulate them?
You remember the ‘80s: Mullets, glitter-rock, linebacker padded shoulders on ladies, cocaine and the absolute nadir for Leaf hockey – 56 points in ‘81-82, 57 points in ‘85-86, 52 points in ‘87-88.
Toronto, following Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Calgary – another of those ‘80s Tribute Nights, Wendel Clark and Russ Courtnall saluted on this occasion – is on pace for a 50-point season circa 2009-2010, if the calculations of someone who dropped math in Grade 10 can be trusted.
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 email@example.com