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The Toronto Marlies had a great season and although they were swept in the Calder Cup final on the weekend, they had an excellent playoff run as well. What is most impressive with the Marlies playoff run is that they have done it with a minimal amount of AHL “veterans”. Other than Mike Zigomanis, the rest of the squad is made up of legitimate NHL prospects.
The Marlies great run is getting Leaf fans thinking about how their success might translate to the big club next year. There have been some recent cases where AHL success from the previous season appeared to help the NHL clubs with big improvements the following season. Most recently the Ottawa Senators jumped up 18 points in 2011-12 after their affiliate, Bighamton Senators, won the Calder Cup in 2010-11 and the Montreal Canadiens had a 14 point jump in 2006-07 after the Hamilton Bulldogs won the Calder Cup in 2005-06.
I decided to look back at 18 seasons from 1991-92 to see how NHL teams fared the year after their AHL affiliate played in the Calder Cup finals. I used difference in points from the previous season as my criteria for judging “improvement” at the NHL level.
I recently completed a series of articles analyzing the Maple Leafs organizational depth at each position. After completing that exercise I thought it would take some time to rank the top 25 prospects in the organization and give some projections. For each player I give their ceiling, a projection and for the top 15 prospects I also give a comparable player.
1. Jake Gardiner, D
a. Ceiling – top pair defenseman, Norris trophy candidate
b. Projection – top four defenseman, 40+ points
c. Comparable – Dan Boyle
2. Matt Frattin, F
a. Ceiling – 30+ goal scorer, All-Star forward
b. Projection – top six forward, 20-25 goals
c. Comparable – TJ Oshie
This is the final article in a series looking at the Toronto Maple Leafs organizational depth by position. Thus far I have completed my review of goalies, defensemen, centermen, and left wingers, which leaves us with right wingers to finish things up. As I stated in my previous articles, most forwards can play multiple positions and often do throughout a season. I will do my best to categorize players as centers, left wingers or right wingers. For example, I am including Nazem Kadri in the right winger evaluation. Although Kadri plays center with the AHL Toronto Marlies, he has almost exclusively been a right winger in his stints with the Maple Leafs, which suggests that he will be a winger at the NHL level.
Right Wingers on 2011-12 roster:
Second of a two-part preview of the 2012 Stanley Cup finals.
History: The New Jersey Devils boast three Stanley Cups (1995, 2000, 2003) and plenty of experience. Although goalie Martin Brodeur is the only player on the roster to win all three titles, Patrik Elias has captured the last two. According to Puck Daddy, the Devils are the best No. 6 seed in Eastern Conference history, and one of only three to crack the century mark (the others being these same Devils in 2004 and the Rangers in 2006, both of which had 100 even). Furthermore, while the team’s trapping system has changed, its building blocks of defense and goaltending have not.
It is time to complete my playoff predictions today by looking at the Stanley Cup finals. Here are my first round predictions, here are my second round predictions and here are my semi-final predictions. These predictions haven`t gone well. I have a 5-9 record, which is worse than a random coin toss should be able to do. I see that as a success in Gary Bettman`s aims for the NHL. One thing Bettman wants is parity. Essentially this means that no team is better than any other. There are no best teams. Anyone can wind up in the Stanley Cup finals. It can be an eighth seed versus a sixth seed. Neither of those teams is particularly memorable but they will give us a Stanley Cup final. It may be the worst Stanley Cup final in terms of the talent playing in it - its major competition here is 2006 when Carolina and Edmonton met in the finals. Those two teams have only been good enough for one playoff berth since that year. The fans do not get a memorable Stanley Cup final. They are cheated by the NHL system. Their prize is a potential shutdown of the league for the beginning of next year.
First of a two-part preview of the 2012 Stanley Cup finals.
History: The L.A. Kings are in rarefied air for many reasons. It’s only the second Stanley Cup finals berth in franchise history. Second, they’re only the second No. 8 seed to ever reach the finals (the other was the 2005-06 Edmonton Oilers, who lost in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes). Thirdly, this is only the fourth time that a team from California has reached the finals; the other two berths were by the rival Anaheim Ducks, who won the Cup in 2007 and lost in the 2003 finals to the New Jersey Devils. The Kings are undefeated on the road this postseason (8-0), becoming the first team to go unbeaten away from home on the way to the finals. Finally, this is the lowest combination of seeds (the Devils are the No. 6 seed) in the Stanley Cup finals since the NHL switched to the current format for the 1994 postseason. (It’s hard to determine official conference seeding before then.)
The Memorial Cup concluded yesterday. I wrote about the round robin results here. Here are the results:
Shawinigan 6 Edmonton 1 - Tie Breaker This game wasn’t close. It was unlike the round robin game between these teams that Edmonton won 4-3. Shawinigan took a 6-0 lead and Edmonton scored a late game to prevent a Gabriel Girard (undrafted). Morgan Ellis (Montreal prospect), Kirill Kabanov (NY Islanders prospect), Michael Bournival (Colorado prospect) and Anton Zlobin (undrafted) all scored a goal and an assist in a balanced attack. Brandon Gormley (Phoenix prospect) added two assists. Henrik Samuelsson (2012 draft eligible) scored the Edmonton goal. Laurent Brossiot (Calgary prospect) was the losing goalie.
This past week, Bob Mackenzie indicated on TSN Radio that the Maple Leafs would not be interested in goaltender Roberto Luongo. This seems to be a sentiment echoed throughout the media and I happen to agree with it. Don’t get me wrong, I think Luongo is a great goalie and will be good for the next five years at least, I just don’t think the Maple Leafs are interested in someone of his age with that type of contract.
About a month ago I posted an article suggesting that the Maple Leafs target two goalies in free agency: Josh Harding and Scott Clemmensen.
I still hold the same opinion as I did then; the Maple Leafs need to give James Reimer a chance to be the starting goalie they think he is, but if he falters they need a proven veteran backup that can carry the load. Harding and Clemmensen both fit the bill and they should be had with short term, low cost contracts. The Leafs must also consider how well Ben Scrivens has developed at the AHL level. And although they will not go into the season with only Reimer and Scrivens as the only two goalies on the roster, he just might be the starting goalie at some point next year.
On the one hand, the Phoenix Coyotes should be thrilled that they made it to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history. On the other, they should be disappointed that they were dismissed in five games by a team that finished two points behind them in the Pacific Division during the regular season.
But the biggest regret for the Coyotes should be the fact that everything that worked during series victories against the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators failed against the L.A. Kings. (More on the royal juggernaut during previews for the Stanley Cup finals.) In 11 games against the Hawks and Preds, the Coyotes allowed 21 goals (1.9 goals per game); in five games against the Kings, they allowed 14 (2.8 goals per game). Consider the flip side to that equation: they only scored eight goals in five games against the Kings (1.6 goals per game) compared to 29 goals in the first 11 games of the playoffs (2.63 goals per game). So they scored 1.3 fewer goals per game and allowed 0.7 more goals per game. Not a recipe for success.
This is the fourth article in a series looking at the Toronto Maple Leafs organizational depth by position. Thus far I have completed my review of goalies, defensemen and center icemen in the organization and that leaves us with wingers to round things out. As I stated in my previous article, most forwards can play multiple positions and often do throughout a season, I will do my best to categorize players as centers, left wingers or right wingers. For example, I am including Nazem Kadri in the right winger evaluation. Although Kadri plays center with the AHL Toronto Marlies, he has almost been exclusively a right winger in his stints with the Maple Leafs which suggests that he will be a winger at the NHL level.
Left Wingers on 2011-12 roster:
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