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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.
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:
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.
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:
This is the third article in a series looking at the Toronto Maple Leafs organizational depth by position. Thus far I have completed my review of goalies and defensemen and next up will be a look at the organizational depth at the center ice position. Since most forwards can play multiple positions and often do throughout a season, I will do my best to categorize players as center, right wing or left wing. For example, I am not including Nazem Kadri in the center evaluation. Although Kadri plays center with the AHL Toronto Marlies, he has almost been exclusively a winger in his stints with the Maple Leafs which suggests that he will be a winger at the NHL level.
Center’s on 2011-12 roster:
The Ottawa Senators ended the 2010-11 season in 13th place in the Eastern Conference and 26th place overall in the NHL and looked to be on track for a painful rebuild. As they entered this past season they were picked by many analysts to be battling for the first overall pick, not the playoffs. Well Brian Murray, Eugene Melnyk and the rest of the Senators organization proved everyone wrong by making the playoffs and they were one win away from eliminating the first place NY Rangers in their first round playoff series.
Now that the Toronto Marlies are one win away from the Western Conference Finals in the Calder Cup playoffs, many people are beginning to draw comparisons between last season’s Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs. But is this a fair comparison?
I will be posting a series of articles looking at the Toronto Maple Leafs organizational depth by position. I started the series last week with goaltenders and I am continuing from the net out and going with defensemen next.
Defensemen on 2011-12 roster:
Cody Franson (RFA)
I will be posting a series of articles looking at the Toronto Maple Leafs organizational depth by position. Brian Burke says that he likes to build his teams from the net out so that is where I will be starting.
Goalies on 2011-12 roster:
Jonas Gustavsson (UFA)
Goaltending was a major issue for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011-12. The Maple Leafs signed James Reimer to a 3 year deal after a great stint with the big club in 2010-11 and Reimer looked to be the answer in goal for the Leafs. However, he struggled after suffering a concussion early in the season and never was able to get back on track. Gustavsson looked very good at times this past season but consistency continues to be his biggest issue. As he heads into unrestricted free agency we can be fairly certain that he won’t be back with the Maple Leafs for the 2012-13 season.
There is no doubt that the goaltender is the single most influential player on any hockey team and rivals that of a quarterback in football for how much impact the position has on the game. Although having good goaltending does not guarantee success, not having it is a recipe for failure.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been a prime example of this over a seven year stretch in which they have not made the playoffs. Some will argue that the Maple Leafs just haven’t iced a good enough team to finish in the top eight in the Eastern Conference, which is a debatable point. What is not debatable is how inconsistent and below average their goaltending has been over that time period.
When James Reimer jumped into the Maple Leaf goal in the 2010-11 NHL season and posted an impressive 20-10-5 record with a 2.60 goals against average and a .921 save percentage it looked like the Maple Leafs finally had there answer in goal. Reimer looked so good in that he was rewarded with a 3 year deal at $1.8 million per season. Unfortunately Reimer suffered a concussion early in the season and never appeared to recover.
With the conclusion of the NHL Draft lottery last week, reality has begun to set in for Toronto Maple Leaf fans as they were not able to move up to the first pick in the upcoming draft. I thought I would take some time to look back at past fifth overall picks to see what kind of player the Maple Leafs might expect to get with this draft position.
I reviewed the last 33 NHL drafts from 1979 - 2011 and there are some very recognizable names that have been drafted with the fifth pick including Scott Stevens, Jaromir Jagr and Phil Kessel. There are also some names that I have never heard of like Daniel Dore.
In performing my analysis it was important that I made things as statistically driven as possible. To do this I developed the following player rating criteria:
100 – Star player: top 3 forward, top pair defenseman or an elite starting goalie.
50 – Good player: top 6 forward, top 4 defenseman or a starting goalie over multiple seasons.
25 – Role Player: forward or defenseman with 200+ games or a goalie with 100+ starts.
10 – Depth Player: forward or defenseman with 51-199 games or a goal with 51-99 starts.
5 – Minor League Player: forward or defenseman with 1-50 games or a goalie with 50 or less starts.
0 – Bust: drafted player with zero NHL games.
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