Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Jonas Siegel of TSN,
Every morning for the final month of 2014, Leo Komarov woke up and hoped he simply didn't have a headache.
That was life with a concussion for the Maple Leafs' 27-year-old winger. He called it a "weird feeling", this existence of being not quite awful, but never quite right, either. There were the small headaches that became sporadic throughout the day. There was the newfound sensitivity to lights and movement. It was strange, though not completely unfamiliar.
"It wasn't fun," said Komarov on the first day of 2015, feeling better in recent weeks. "I could do everything I'm used to doing, it's just something wasn't right."
This was not the first concussion for Komarov. He had two "small ones" in the past, he says. One time, he was even knocked out on the ice, but well enough, apparently, to play the next day.
The Leafs took no such chances, though. Operating under a new climate of increased sensitivity to head injuries in hockey (and pro sports), they held Komarov out for 14 games. He was allowed to skate four days after he was first clipped by Alex Ovechkin, didn't feel quite right after and was kept on relative rest for the next couple weeks.
from James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail,
Changing the coach isn’t a panacea. It won’t transform this roster into a world beater, one full of hearty back checkers and diligent crease clearers. But what it may allow for is a glimpse of what these players can do in a system that isn’t so risk-averse and under a coach that can effect some positive change territorially.
Season after season, Carlyle’s impact appears to be a negative one over time, as this is the third year in a row the Leafs have been progressively outshot more the longer he has tried to implement a solution to that very issue.
That’s likely the easy part of the issue facing Leafs management at this point. The tougher challenges come when you take a closer look at the Leafs personnel. What do you do with a roster that has some big (and bad) contracts, some key pending free agents and not nearly enough good two-way players?
Especially with so little available, via trade or on the open market?
Looking back, the curious thing about Shanahan’s first off-season with the Leafs is it amounted to a mild vote of confidence for what was in place, despite the warning signs.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
The Maple Leafs are the test debate for analytics, unless the Minnesota Wild are for opposite reasons. But let's focus on the Leafs, who hold a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and blew a 4-2 lead on Sunday at Florida en route to a 6-4 defeat.
On the one hand, the Leafs lead the NHL in goals per game and the naked-eye test indeed reveals a team that seemingly can score at will from at least three forward lines. On the other hand, both poor puck possession stats and the naked-eye test for those who watch enough Leafs game also reveal a team that at times has no clue how to defend or protect the puck. So what's going to give with this team?
Surely being No. 1 in the NHL in scoring should matter, no? Or does being so mediocre once again in terms of the sexy stats doom this club? One thing's for sure, there's never a dull moment with the Leafs right to the end of this season.
other topics include Burnside on the Devils and Oilers, Custance on the Ducks and Strang on Carter Ashton...
Richard Panik of the Toronto Maple Leafs left the game after this hit from Scottie Upshall of the Florida Panthers.
He will not return.
video via Sportsnet,
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Sure, teams endure ebbs and flows during an NHL season. That is the nature of life during an 82-game journey. But does any team subject its fans to wilder mood swings than the Toronto Maple Leafs?
A week ago we were lauding the Leafs as one of the league's hottest teams, a team that had looked into the abyss after a 9-2 loss to Nashville and emerged stronger for it. With Sunday's 4-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, however, the Leafs are trending toward that abyss once again.
The loss was their third straight, and they have been outscored 15-5 during that stretch, again looking like a team without much of a clue. The Leafs travel to Dallas for their final game before the Christmas break, but it's hard to imagine much merriment for them as they again struggle to determine just who they are.
read on for more from the ESPN crew, including Strang on the Wings, Custance on the Stars and LeBrun on the Rangers...
both via Hometown Hockey,
After a Hall of Fame career, Doug Gilmour returns to his hometown to coach the cities beloved Kingston Frontenacs and somehow proves the adage that you can take the boy out of Kingston, but you can’t take Kingston out of the boy.
Though he declines credit, he played a lead role in changing the course of the game. Now he faces a task that, by scale, seems reasonably within reach: reversing the direction of a franchise with hockey weather but not much else in its favour lately. He will forever talk about “team” and “staff,” but ultimately this will be a summit of one and lonelier than that moment on the ice in Nagano.
The self-education of Brendan Shanahan: to be continued.
-Gare Joyce of Sportsnet on Brendan Shanahan. Read much more from Joyce on Shanahan.
from Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun,
Perhaps it’s time to cut Maple Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf some slack instead of cutting him up all the time, as the media and Leafs fans tend to do in abundance. Myself included.
Guess what? Whipping boy Phaneuf is a plus-14 this season. The Leafs captain has also been on the ice for 54 goals for, tied (heading into Tuesday’s game against Anaheim) with Calgary’s TJ Brodie for the NHL lead. And playing along defensive partner Cody Franson, Phaneuf almost always plays against the opposition’s top line.
Everyone dumps on him when the Leafs are in the doldrums. But when things are going well (as they have since a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 20), the praise hasn’t come with the same frequency. Maybe it’s the having-a-Hollywood-wife thing. Who knows.
6.5 out of 10 for me.
from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
Expectations are bound to be a challenge when William Nylander makes the transition to the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Just how much of a challenge could depend largely on how the next couple weeks unfold at the World Junior Championship. When Nylander stepped onto Canadian soil with the rest of his Swedish teammates Tuesday, he found himself in possession of a unique opportunity.
He is both the Leafs top prospect and Sweden’s top centre for a high-profile tournament being played at Air Canada Centre.
That means the spotlight from two continents will be pointed in his direction.
It will be the first time most hockey fans in Toronto see him compete against kids his own age. Having the opportunity to compare him to his peers should underscore why the 18-year-old was selected with the eighth overall pick in June.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org