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Entries with the tag: kessel
For the first time this season, The Leafs are below the 500 mark. The talk around the city is that scoring is the problem and that criticism is not without merit (especially after being shutout 3 times in the last 6 games).
When the Leafs began the season 4-0-0, goals were aplenty. In those first 4 games, the Leafs scored 16 goals. In the 10 games since, they have scored 15. So naturally, the criticism wanders towards the area that was present before but is absent now.
But let’s be honest here. Outside of Kessel, the Leafs’ top 6 isn’t actually a top 6. It’s a collection of forwards who would slot 4 through 9 on virtually every other team in the NHL. Bozak is a prime example of this phenomenon. The City of Toronto has been all over the Leafs’ Line 1 Center to start playing like one, when that is not what he is (not yet anyways <- that’s the fan in me talking). Versteeg, Kulemin, Grabovski and MacArthur are no different.
Thing are quiet in Toronto today. 12 games in the Leafs are 5-5-2 and this city is fully aware of the fact that being at the 500-mark 82 games in will mean no playoffs once again. Some early season thoughts:
– The most dangerous player on the ice for the Leafs night-in and night-out.
– The only form of secondary scoring the Leafs have. He also leads the Leafs in points with 10.
– The Leafs’ best D-Man so far, no contest. Kaberle’s been solid offensively but Schenn has brought it at both ends of the ice. Not only that, he leads all Leafs’ D-men in +/- (4) and hits (42).
– Toronto’s goaltending tandem of Giguere and Gustavsson has been a major reason why Toronto has been in so many games this season. If they gave Gustavsson as much goal-support as they have Giguere, they’d be well above 500 right now. Want proof? The Leafs rank 12th in GA/G at 2.5.
*Orr and Komi made those pink skates look more masculine than Clint Eastwood.
*The Leafs attempted 92 shots last night. Only 36 hit the net. The Leafs defense fired 17 shots from the point that were blocked. And even when they got through several of them missed the net. A lot of these missed shots came on the powerplay. The Leafs Powerplay percentage ranks 24th in the league at 11.9%. The Leafs need to hit the net if that number is to improve.
There is a part of Leaf Nation that will never be able to live down the fact that one of the 1st Round picks that they gave up in the Phil Kessel trade turned into Tyler Seguin.
This isn’t about Jared Knight. Nor is it about the 1st Rounder next year (unless of course it ends up being Adam Larsson or Sean Couturier) because thankfully, the Leafs are playing well enough to avoid that catastrophe so far.
This is about Seguin.
Leafs (5-2-1) vs Bruins (4-2-0)
The Toronto Maple Leafs are actually ahead of the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference standings. The Bruins do have 2 games in hand, however, making this the proverbial 4-point game in the battle for division rank.
The Leafs put an end to their 3-game skid on Tuesday against Florida, thanks to a missed Goalie Interference call on Colton Orr and yet another Phil Kessel goal. The Leafs hope to retain that top spot in the Northeast Division with a win against the same team who traded them Kessel a little more than a year ago.
Panthers (3-3-0) vs. Leafs (4-2-1)
The Leafs need a win tonight. Badly. Or else the team might just find itself on a tailspin to oblivion and the City of Toronto will push the panic button.
The Leafs’ 4-0-0 start raised eyebrows across the NHL. Brian Burke haters disappeared in that span as well. Gone was the criticism of the Kessel trade which flooded talk radio all the way into September. Gone was the criticism that Brian Burke failed to bring in a top line forward in Free Agency. Or the idea that stashing Kadri in the minors for another season was not the right move.
If the Leafs lose tonight, look for those critics to come back out of the closet. Not only that, but guys like Versteeg, Armstrong, Brown, Zigomanis, McArthur will all be exposed to the pressure-cooker that is the Toronto media.
This isn’t the first time someone has told Tomas Kaberle to shoot more. He may be a world-class offensive d-man. He may be able to move the puck up the ice and quarterback a powerplay better than almost anyone on the planet. But his shortcoming as an offensive d-man is his reluctance to shoot the puck.
Kaberle ranks 52nd in the league in Shots on Goal among defensemen with 10 on the season. Let’s do the math here. 30 Teams. 2 Defensemen on each team’s top PP unit on the points. That’s 60. Take away 2-3 d-men away from that number for guys like Ovechkin and Kovalchuk manning the points as forwards. Kaberle ranks 52 out of approximately 57 guys on the points of top PP units. By the way, his partner on the point, our Captain, ranks 1st among all d-men with 24 SOG.
Now there will be some among you who say, “well, Kaberle’s job is to set up Dion’s shot on the right or Kessel’s shot on the left.” Well, there is no light way to put this so here it is: You are idiots. This conversation is for people who actually understand hockey.
As of today, our Powerplay ranks 16th in the league at 14.3%. The Rangers drew 10 minutes in minors on Thursday, yet we failed to convert on one. And Kaberle is largely to blame.
Leafs (4-1-1) at Philly (2-3-1)
The Leafs have something to prove this game. After a 4-0-0 start, the Leafs have lost the last two games: An overtime loss to the Islanders which the Leafs dominated from start to finish but could not pull out the W; and a regulation to the Rangers in which the Leafs looked more like the team from last year than the team that began the season with the franchise’s best start in almost two decades. Which team will show up?
The heart says: This year is different. This year the Leafs will be a top 8 team in the East.
The head says: on paper, the Leafs are the worst team in the Northeast, and that means another year out of the playoffs.
We fall in love with the Leafs too easily. Already there is clamor around the city about the playoffs. Talk radio is flooded with how fast, how much more defensively responsible this team is. People are posting the current NHL standings on Facebook Profile pictures, calling for Kessel to win the Rocket Richard, calling for Giggy to win the Vezina.
Leaf Nation is the Charlie Brown of the NHL. We keep believing Lucy won’t take the playoffs away. But she will. And we will fall flat on our faces once again.
I heard a caller on the radio the other day talk about the effect the Phil Kessel trade has had on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Most people think that the trade was a disaster for the Leafs, but I was a proponent of the trade when it first happened. However, I did not think Brian Burke needed to give up 2 first round picks to get Kessel because he had the threat of the offer sheet and only needed to give up a first, second, and third round pick if he were to go that route (I know Burke lashed out at Kevin Lowe for the Dustin Penner offer sheet, but the biggest issue he had with Lowe was that he didn’t approach him first about a deal; he felt blind sided). That being said, I do not want to sit here and discuss how good or bad that deal was. Back to the caller, he made what I thought to be a great point, he essentially said that if Burke did not make the Kessel trade, some of the other deals he made later in the year probably would not have happened since the Leafs would have most likely been tanking the season and playing for Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin. So to judge Burke solely on the Kessel trade would not be fair. You need to look at the effect of that trade on the other moves he has made and I tend to agree with him. Thus, the Leafs most likely would not have made the Phaneuf or Giguere trades, which essentially brought the Leafs their young captain and also ridded them of bad contracts (Blake, and I would argue Stajan, and White as well).
According to Pittsburgh Insider William Depaoli, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been scouting the Toronto Maple Leafs in the past month. Head scout Derek Clancey has been seen at Air Canada Centre many times with winger Alexei Ponikarovsky being a player of interest for the Penguins.
Alexei Ponikarovsky (Getty images)
Ponikarovsky, 29, is a big winger (6′4”, 220 lb) with great hands that has 15 goals and 14 assists for 29 points in 48 games with the Maple Leafs this season. Poni is in the final year of his contract that pays him $2.5 million this season; his cap hit is $2.1 million.
The Kiev-native had a career-year last season in Toronto, recording 23 goals and 38 assists for 61 points in 82 games. He would surely complement well Evgeni Malkin on the Penguins’ second line who is forced to play with pluggers Maxime Talbot and Ruslan Fedotenko. Talbot only has five points in 25 games this season, while Fedotenko only has 16 points in 47 games this year.
The Penguins also need help on the power play; as of today their power play ranks 29th in the league with a dismal 14.8% efficiency. You have to wonder what’s wrong in Steel Town when you have talented players like Sidney Crosby, Sergei Gonchar, Evgeni Malkin, Bill Guerin and Alex Goligoski on your first unit. With his large frame, quick hands and great vision, Ponikarovsky would certainly help the Penguins in that department.
Ponikarovsky, a fourth round (87th overall) pick of the Leafs at the 1998 NHL entry draft, has spent his entire career as a member of the Maple Leafs.
Does Brian Burke envision him as a core player of the Leafs’ future success or does he use him as a trade-bait to get back some of the high draft picks he traded to acquire budding star Phil Kessel from the Boston Bruins before the start of the current season?