Monday, January 28, 2008

NHL Salary Cap: A Push from the Elite?

Conceptions around the NHL world differ on a newly implemented system – the NHL salary cap. It is a system that guarantee’s hope, even if it is an illusion to some, for less-talented teams that befall the lower class of the league.

The point of this experiment was too create a more competitive and intense league. So the NHL decided to bring in a system that rewards a point for an overtime loss – a tactic giving at least half of the NHL something to lean on. A chance to renew their club and perhaps catch up to more talented clubs like the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs (ahem…what?) to name a few. However, some will argue that this encourages a journey to mediocrity rather than excellence.

The system in place forces team to be more cautious with their spending, thus not being pro-active with their club. When injuries take their toll, teams have a much harder time replacing a woe. This is what often causes teams to wallow in a spiral of wins and losses that come few and far between.

This is something that pushes the truly elite teams out of the NHL. Look at the New England Patriots for example. They are the Mecca team of the NFL, destroying all teams that lay in their path (they will lose the Super Bowl though, this is my wild prediction). They are a team that packages tremendous talent in huge quantity. With the NHL however, we have a more conservative league with less intimidating teams.

But the question pertains, is this a good or bad thing for a league begging for more attention?

For what it’s worth, I think the current system is effective. Here’s why:

While the cap and points system takes away from the more elite teams of the league, it is a process that needs to be fully revved to see its true benefits. Teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets, Phoenix Coyotes and Washington Capitals, to a name a few, or giving a second jump to touch the level of more talented teams quicker. It implements a more competitive league that enthralls 30 teams that all have hope to attain the NHL playoffs. Yes, it inspires some teams to play a 60 minute game to at least attain a point instead of going for all the marbles, but is this really a bad thing?

While the thought of just settling for a point to create an illusion for success can seem like that of a loser league, it is not. While the upper-class teams can’t fully dominate and stand-out as a Mecca among the NHL, the rest of the teams (and fans amongst those teams) are always in a competitive state and all have the sense to win.

Instead of having marquee franchises that emerge from the league, why not have a league that gives everyone a chance at success and ultimately giving them room to grow. Once most of the teams flourish and develop under the new system implemented for them, the league will have a wide-spread display of teams that all have a shot at the Stanley Cup. Instead of having a small batch of favorites, there will be a line-up of teams that will entertain, thrill and excite fans everywhere.

To me, this creates a league with even more excitement because there is no sense of a team that stands out tremendously over another when the top 8 are decided for each Conference. It creates an intense, unpredictable environment that can change based on the spirit of the players, not the money spent on a load of talent.

This is what sports should be about; the determination and willingness to overcome the odds. It is where the poise and determination of the players is truly tested. Don’t get wrong, leagues that boast marquee franchises package all of these important qualities… but not to the same degree. There is no saving grace of expensive, quality -- and quantity -- players to better the odds. They have their limits and they must embrace their true spirit for the respective teams.

In my mind, this is what hockey is about.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The All-Star Game is for the Kids

I've had just about enough of all the talk about "how we can improve the all-star game." Some "experts" have even suggested that we drop the all-star game completely. People always say how the all-star game "isn't what it used to be." The reason is blatantly obvious. All-Star games are for children, and corporate schmoozing. Unless you fit into one of those categories, the all-star game will not appeal to you.

The idea of getting rid of the all-star game is absolutely nuts in my opinion. Young children are now feeling that passion that you once had about an all-star game, and you want to take that away from them? A little selfish don't you think? The all-star game is all about showcasing the talent of the league for the kids! Who cares if the adults don't think it's "exciting" enough, don't watch it! I can remember getting all excited as a kid in preparation for the all-star game, and remember how in awe I was when Owen Nolan called his shot on Dominik Hasek. That, to me, was the greatest game ever. Now that I look back, I see it meant nothing in the grand scheme of things, but man was it ever great when I was younger. That's what I think people need to remember, the all-star game isn't for you, it's for the kids.

So if you are watching the game today with a young child, watch their face as game is on. I will guarantee to you that they will be as interested as they would be if they were watching game seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs. If you're not with a young child, I suggest you don't watch it. The hockey world doesn't need another person angry at the all-star game, there are enough of those working for TSN.

Buffalo Doom & Gloom,Leaf-like (May Blow Up Team)

I would like to thank hockeybuzz's Millertime for this article he has written I loved and decided to ask to post it and he was glad to say yes here it is:

All the attention of the Hockey World, it seems, is on the Toronto Maple Leafs, but there's now a disaster just two hours southwest.

Someone told me it's the Curse of the Buffalo Bills that has inflicted this team. The moment they stepped on the ice at Ralph Wilson Stadium, they got a heavy dose of "We find ways to lose" injected into their bodies. Now I don't know if I believe that, but it is certainly interesting if this business initiative by the Sabres organization is blowing up in their faces, as they haven't been the same since.

After this afternoon's pitiful performance in Phoenix, having lost 12 of their last 13, and looking like their AHL affiliate Rochester Americans, who have lost 21 of their last 23 (really, look it up), the Buffalo Sabres are quickly becoming an embarrassment. They seem to continue to lack an identity and just about every player on the team can be accused of coasting or giving up to some extent at least some time or another. If things don't change in a hurry, this team may be blown up completely (more on that in a moment).

I hate to be pessimistic, because I'm an optimistic person, but let's be honest and look at the facts....

-They're setting franchise records again this year (like last year), but now for the wrong reasons - losing their 8th straight road game today
-They're now under .500
-They're SEVEN POINTS back of a playoff position, and a few points away from the NHL basement
-Remember all those games in hand we had for so long? Those are now all gone.
-In a few days, if changes aren't made, the Leafs will jump ahead of them in the Northeast Division standings, and all Hell could break loose in Western New York

A nightmare situation has developed in the Queen City, and the toughest part about it is there's no quick fix or easy answer.

In some odd way, mostly due to the parity in the league this year, the Sabres STILL CAN climb out of this mess and emerge as a playoff team. A trade or two to wake the team up and bring in some new blood could be a good place to start. But things have officially hit an all-time low, certainly within the last three years, and probably within the last decade or two, with the exception of the Bankruptcy Crisis. Going from such a high last year to such a low this year means nothing but massive changes on the horizon.

This team is very, very close from being blown up completely. Fellow Sabres fans, don't get too close to it for that reason. We're inches away from rebuilding, but the good news is in today's NHL, we could pull a Philadelphia Flyers and be competitive again next year, if we do it right.

Jobs are on the line. From personnel, to management, to Mr. Ruff and Mr. Regier.

(And I have to add, this situation ODDLY resembles that of Toronto, as too many orders are coming down from corporate. Mr. Larry Quinn, who has no association with the game of hockey - he's a businessman -, has been handcuffing the team from making good hockey decisions, so much like MLSE, Ferguson and Co. north of the border. He did so during the Drury/Briere saga, and who knows what goes on behind closed doors, but it's likely he's doing it again.)

It's not getting quite as much press, but it's an intense situation in Buffalo, and it may all blow up at any given minute.

Watch out....

Friday, January 25, 2008

Top 5 Goals so far this year(thank god for youtube)

Here are the Top 5 goals half way through this year:






Those are my opinions do you agree if not or if so please leave a comment i'd love to hear what you think.

I should be doing some more TOP 5's such as Hits and Saves.

Ovie's Best Friend

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Goal Horns - My Secret Passion?

Ever since my childhood I’ve been fascinated by the sound of the goal horn going off when a home team scores. Don’t ask me why, or how, because I myself don’t even know. I just believe that now, in the age of cookie cutter arenas, the only thing that sets the rinks apart is the goal horn. I remember when I was younger, living in Chilliwack, British Columbia, I would go watch the local Junior A team, the Chiefs play. With 2,000 people crammed into a tiny barn to watch these kids play, it got pretty rockin’. The rink also had a pretty great horn, and man was it loud. I’m pretty sure that the new WHL team, the Bruins, use the same horn. Is that where my love for the goal horn came from? Who knows.

I’ve been told that the Chicago Blackhawks were the first team to use a goal horn, but I don’t know how true that is. I would like to know who invented the idea of blaring a train horn when the team scored, but as of now, I do not know. There’s just something to each teams’ individual goal horn that sends chills down your back, and most fans know what I’m talking about. Is it the fact that the goal is being rubbed in? I really don’t think it is. I think that it’s because we’ve associated the noise with a goal, we get that feeling.

It’s certainly a unique aspect of the hockey, setting it apart from other sports. Baseball is starting to adopt “Home Run Horns”, and I have no problem with that. I think of it as hockey being a trend setter. If you share the same love for goal horns as I do, please comment and tell us. Also, if you want to hear every team’s goal horn, I recommend you check out VietKamo’s profile on Youtube. He has every current NHL team’s horn, some defunct teams’ horns and many minor league horns.

My top ten favourite horns would have to be, in order, Calgary, Montreal, Buffalo, Boston, Edmonton, Ottawa, New York Rangers, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, and Anaheim.

A New Era...Right?

To start, I am completely behind the signing of Cliff Fletcher as interim GM. With the interim status he will be given the green light to undergo a series of changes in Leafs land, and all signs seem to point to the big, flashing rebuilding sign, I really don’t have to explain why. However, some fans are skeptical on Fletcher because his track record of depleting youth and attaining veterans. They have every reason to poor some sweat over this matter, this team has ended up with nothing but failure for over 40 years, this is only natural.

With that said, I don’t think Leafs fans will have to worry about this. Cliff stressed to the Toronto media that to make a significant impact in this league, you have lay the ground work. He added that good drafting and developing a young core is essential to any success. It is music to my ears. Thank you very much, Cliff.

But wait! In comes the sinister Richard Peddie with an absolutely golden quote “Cliff Fletcher is the ideal person to lay the groundwork of positive change for the Leafs. As all of our general managers have had, he will have the autonomy and responsibility for all hockey decisions with a focus on establishing a foundation from which the next general manager can build.’’ I say pardon!? You sir, are a liar. If JFJ was given that kind of freedom, why did you shoot down his plan to re-build the Leafs a couple of years ago? Is it because you a) thought the Leafs were Stanley Cup bound? Or was it b) the satisfying sound of “ca-shing!” was too much.

Here’s the thing. Cliff Fletcher doesn’t worry me, Richard Peddie does. If the quote above tells us anything, it’s that Peddie is delusional and/or a liar. If Cliff decides to do a major overhaul of the Leafs come the trade deadline, what will Peddie’s reaction be? If it means missing the playoffs for 3 more seasons will he accept such change? Maybe, like JFJ, he will refuse such suggestions and swipe it under the rug. Like it or not, the Leafs are a very dysfunctional family, and I believe it will take much more than an interim GM to solidify a better future.

JFJ was never really the problem, he was just a deer caught in the headlights with no survival experience… so he got squashed. In a very unprofessional and heartless way, at that. I am not defending John, because his work as GM has been certainly questionable, but with that said, he did have plans to rebuild this club. He got rejected. So we end up with a rookie GM who has been denied to rebuild a team headed to demise in a scrutiny infested city. What did we expect? His limitations were extremely small and he did not have much to work with.

If there is one thing they could not snub him on, it is drafting. JFJ is considered to be skilled when it comes to drafting. While he traded some highly touted prospects (Tukka Rask) you have to remember he had no choice, because playoffs were the number one priority.

Let’s look at some of the acquisitions JFJ has brought to Toronto:

- Joe Nieuwendyk - Eric Lindros
- Andrew Raycroft - Ken Klee
- Pavel Kubina - Brian Leetch
- Hal Gill - Ron Francis
- Vesa Toskala - Ed Belfour
- Jason Blake - Jason Allison

- Signed D Bryan McCabe to a 5-year, 5.75 mil contract with a NTC.
- Signed D Tomas Kaberle to a 4- year, 4.20 mil contract with a NTC.
- Signed D Pavel Kubina to a 4-year, 5.00 mil contract.

Not exactly impressive, however, there is a few good signings here. Most notably, the contract extension of Tomas Kaberle is quite simply a steal. With Kaberle you get almost a carbon copy of Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov, but a bit more skilled. Markov makes 5.7 million per season, Kaberle makes 4.2, and there is a considerable difference there.

Also, how different do you think this list would be if JFJ was given full autonomy? It is something to ponder.

Well, either way you slice it - the JFJ era est fini. A new era is coming, we don’t know who will overtake the Leafs throne, but it won’t be Fletcher – who is serving as a patch to the heavily wounded Maple Leafs. Fletcher’s job will be to lay out a blue print of how the Leafs will be outlined. Not exactly an easy job, because getting key youngsters to replace players like Mats Sundin will be very -- and I mean VERY -- important to any kind of Leafs future. Whatever he does, the new GM will have some pieces to work with, hopefully to bring the Leafs to a respectable level.

When you fully analyze the situation the Leafs are in… it’s not that bad. I’m super cereal. A long term rebuilding plan would pretty much ail the wounds of the Leafs. But, there is one glaring problem.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Much Needed Reminder

Oh, the wonder of Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans cheering against our once beloved team. It’s a sad but necessary process which strips the energy and magic from cheering on the Buds.

Delusional as it was, most of Leaf Nation just pushed aside the terrible management decisions and held on to our lucky charms while praying to god – who is known as Mats Sundin for the Blue and White amigos.

In the past week, however, I’ve had several friends tell me that they are having an extremely hard time rooting for the Leafs. Many of them have even taken the neon lit exit from the fairy tale land known as Leafs Nation.

It’s news like this that saddens me even more than our less than mediocre Leafs team. As fans, we must endure the highs and lows all while looking ahead. What constitutes a fan is -- and most importantly -- loyalty. When a team is down and begging for mercy, it’s a difficult thing to go through. But if you ask me, it is completely necessary.

Every team will go through the muck, and then back up again for a breath of fresh air, but sometimes, just sometimes, the muck can get thick…real thick. Some of us walk away, ripping the roots of a once cherished team to smithereens. Others, ride through the rough patches waiting for better days. Those “others” are called fans… true fans.

This recent Leafs slump, which is about as big as Cloverfield (awesome movie!), has been 40 years in the making. Instead of learning from mistakes and building from them -- making ourselves stronger -- the Leafs have been chasing their tale in circles, bringing the mass of Leafs fan with them.

With that said, I want to remind all my Blue and White amigos that there are better days ahead, and although it is extremely disheartening to cheer against a team that we put so high up on our pedestals, it is necessary to experience the reward of being a fan.

One day, when the Leafs finally do grasp the holy mug of Stanley, we will look back on the adversity and feel the pride and accomplishment that the Stanley Cup is based on.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

One Stead Ahead : A Look From Within

While discussions run rampant of how the Leafs should dismantle their club, trading Sundin and bottoming out in the Eastern Conference seem to be the most approved tactic from fans of the blue and white. I am completely behind this plan, but many have overlooked some prospects in our own AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.

The Marlies are enjoying a successful season unlike their big brother. They are 26-9-4, which is good enough for 1st in the North Division, 3rd in the Western Conference and 4th in the league (with games in hand over two of the teams, the Rockford IceHogs, and the Providence Bruins). Much of their success has little to do with the young guns, but rather the veterans who play the AHL game with tremendous poise.

However, there are a few points to consider here. For one, an important aspect of their success has been goaltending, a strong duo between Scott Clemmensen and -- most importantly-- Justin Pogge has shut the door on most nights, and this bodes well for the Leafs future between the pipes.

With a larger core to evaluate through defense and forwards, it is important to identity another aspect of an older Marlies club. While the veteran players are key to the Marlies success; their leadership and poise will rub off on some of the Leafs key prospects. Many of whom may get a shot at the Leafs because of this.


Let's take a look at some of the Marlies core that could perhaps help out a rebuilding Leafs team in the future:

Brent Aubin

Aubin is known to possess a feisty edge to his game, which includes goal scoring ability and clutch performances (He broke the 50-goal plateau in his last season with QMJHL and recorded 105 points in 68 games. He also has 20 game-winning goals in his last two seasons with the Quebec Remparts). However, the diminutive forward has struggled in the AHL, recording 2 goals and 7 points in 35 GP. Like Robbie Earl, we owe it to ourselves to give him another chance next season.

Robbie Earl

Explosive speed, great skating, soft hands, gritty, physical, drives the net – this is Robbie Earl. A player I have found to be overlooked by many. While his size is not intimidating – he stands at 5-11 and weighs in at 185 lbs. – his play suggests otherwise. With some fine tuning and more development in the AHL, Earl will become a complete player capable of filling any role the Leafs give him. He struggled in his first season with the Marlies, recording 12 goals and 30 points in 67 games. This season, however, Earl is coming into his own, recording 11 goals and 30 points in 38 games. This prospect is one to look out for, mark my words.

Darryl Boyce

Boyce, 23, has played 39 games for the Marlies this season as a rookie, recording 8 goals and 24 points. While his offensive production is impressive, his defensive game is just as polished. He was the CIS's rookie of the year in 2005-06 and was named the most valuable player when UNB won the 2007 University Cup, the national championship. He displays raw offensive instincts and will not shy away from the rough stuff, two aspects that are very valuable together.

Phil Oreskovic

Oreskovic, 20, is a rookie for the Marlies. Weighing in at 220 lbs. and standing at 6’3, he is force in the defensive zone. The stay-at-home defenseman is known to throw huge body checks, clear the front of net, work the corners, as well play an enforcer type game. In the year-end OHL Eastern Conference Coaches Poll, the punishing blueliner garnered votes as the best defensive defenseman and the best body checker. As the Leafs continue to struggle in the defensive aspects of the game, he should be a key member to their club in the near future.

John Mitchell

Mitchell has been a part of the Marlies organization for a few years now. He possesses good size down the middle, exceptional face-off abilities, and is overall a solid two-way forward. However, Mitchell has had bouts with consistency, something he needs to work on to adapt to the NHL. If he develops as he should, he will provide the Leafs with a solid 3rd or 4th line player.

Alex Foster

He is another complete player for the Marlies. Foster is a playmaker who has great on-ice vision, he is said to often make something out of nothing. Foster does not shy away from the physical aspects of the game neither, he is a fierce competitor who is filling to take some heat in order to buzz around the net. In 30 games with the Marlies this season, he has recorded 7 goals and 21 points.

Jeremy Williams

Williams has natural offensive abilities, he is a playmaker who knows how to find the back of the net. He is gifted with excellent speed and an attitude to never back down to larger players. Because his defensive game is not polished by any means, Williams has to develop as a top 6 forward in order to survive in the NHL. At 24, his time may be running out, but never say never.

It is unrealistic to expect that all of these players will pan out as expected, but if a nice handful of them fill their respective roles, the Leafs will be on the right step once they initiate a rebuilding phase.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

YoungStars Rosters

Here are the rosters for the NHL YoungStars game which will now be competed 3-on-3 and will give points to the winning team that will be entered into the skills competition points for there respective conference:

Western Conference Eastern Conference
Alexander Edler D Vancouver Tobias Enstrom D Atlanta
Erik Johnson D St. Louis Kris Letang D Pittsburgh
Jack Johnson D Los Angeles Mike Lundin D Tampa Bay
Matt Niskanen D Dallas Marc Staal D NY Rangers
Sam Gagner F Edmonton Nicklas Backstrom F Washington
Patrick Kane F Chicago Brandon Dubinsky F NY Rangers
Peter Mueller F Phoenix Tyler Kennedy F Pittsburgh
David Perron F St. Louis Milan Lucic F Boston

Note you may notice there are no goalies. They will use a goalie from the All-Star Game.

My take: I think that the western YoungStars roster has the advantage in terms of skill with guys like Gagner and Kane but I do think that the Eastern team will probably have the edge in the physical play. In my opinion there were also a couple snubbings in the YoungStars game as well. I think Andrei Kostitsyn of the habs should have made and also goalies that are young should be in on it to like Josh Harding and Carey Price.

Monday, January 14, 2008

New Igloo Sign Sealed and Delivered

After a six hour meeting in Pittsburgh, Penguins officials were glad to say their plans for a new arena have been approved. More on this in the next few days. You heard it here first.

Egg's Take: Good to hear the Penguins are finally getting an arena. The Devils have seen a somewhat increase in attendance since moving to their new arena, and I'm sure the Penguins will as well. Pittsburgh is a hockey town, that there is no doubt, and with a guy like Crosby on the team, they should be around for a long time. Hopefully this new rink will be home to many great memories, and maybe even a Stanley Cup or two.

NHL Trade Deadline : When Trepidation Attacks

February 26th will mark the NHL Trade Deadline. The day where all GM's take out their microscope and scan their team searching for the tiny or gaping holes that separate them from either a) the Stanley Cup, or b) the playoffs.

In a time where scrutiny is the word best described, one aspect has always got me wondering...the pressure. The weights that are tied to GM's become significantly heavier and most fans expect a trade to straighten their club for the April showdown.

Anxiety, however, affects the outcome of many of these trades. Let's look at last year's trade deadline for example:

- To San Jose: Bill Guerin
To St. Louis: Ville Nieminen, Jay Barriball, and 1st Round Pick

(Bill Guerin currently plays for the New York Islanders)

- To Buffalo: Dainius Zubrus, Timo Helbling
To Washington: Jiri Novotny, 1st Round Pick

(Danius Zubrus currently plays for the New Jersey Devils)

- To Boston: Dennis Wideman
To St. Louis: Brad Boyes

(Boyes has 25 goals so far this season)

- To Toronto: Yanic Perreault, 5th Round Pick
To Phoenix: Brendan Bell, 2nd Round Pick

(Yanic Perreault currently plays for the Chicago Black Hawks)

-To Vancouver: Bryan Smolinski
To Chicago: 2nd Round Pick

(Brian Smolinski currently plays for the Montreal Canadiens)

- To Islanders: Richard Zednik
To Washington: 2nd Round Pick

(Richard Zednik currently plays for the Florida Panthers)

-To Atlanta: Keith Tkachuk
To St. Louis: Glen Metropolit, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Round Picks

(Keith Tkachuk currently plays for the St.Louis Blues)

-To Nashville: Peter Forsberg
To Philadelphia: Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, 1st & 3rd Rounder

(Peter Forsberg is currently not playing in the NHL)

There is a concerning pattern here. For one, there is only one team amongst this list that has not been affected by acquiring a big name player. All others have lost the individual they have traded for. Giving up substantial and potentially solid youth for rental players is a tactic which is caused by anxiety. Teams feel the need to acquire help from star players to flatten out the bumps that are present with their respective clubs.

There is a difference between a need and a want. Quite simply, most of these teams do not need these players. In fact, they want them. I believe the pressure and hype of the Trade Deadline affects the GM's of the NHL. The expectations are high, and if they stand pat, they will get criticized if the team goes awry come April. On the other hand, they also get criticized for unloading youth for a player whose impact ends up being as powerful as a raindrop in the ocean.

This is what separates the competent GM's from the incompetent. We are all human, and everyone makes mistakes through judgment and opinion alike. But how they reconcile those mistakes, and how they've planned and prepared for the consequences is what makes a great GM.

So I ask you; are rental players really worth it? The term "rental" coincides with temporarily. Is giving potentially promising youth worth the price for a player who has no long-term plans for the club? Knowing that a handful of other teams are trying the same tactic -- all for the sake of getting a quicker grasp at the Stanley Cup -- why not let the current club compete in the NHL playoffs, and build from within with the youth intact.

It appears trepidation is a powerful thing in the world of sports

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sundin Shoves Official, Leafs Hit Rock Bottom

Watching Paul Maurice's post-game interview tonight, a game in which his team gave up a 2-0 lead on San Jose to lose it 3-2, I got a sense of sadness. That was odd for me because, 1. I'm not a Leafs fan and 2. I haven't ever felt that before, watching him speak. I've always got a sense of either frustration, anger, or even the odd time, happiness (the very odd time). Something is definitely up in Toronto in order to give Maurice that feeling. I'm not sure if it's the feeling of a man who is about to lose his job, or just a man so purely dejected that he is saddened by it.

The frustration came to a head at the end of the game when Leafs' captain Mats Sundin shoved a linesman who was in his way. It was by no means a forceful push, more of a "get out of my way", but he still made contact. Abusing an official in any way, shape or form is a big deal. Verbally or physically. The latter obviously being more serious. You can't use the excuse of "Maybe he didn't know it was the ref" because you have to be in control of yourself at all times, and unfortunately Sundin snapped for just a second.

I feel bad for Sundin, I really do, but he should have thought twice before he did what he did. I can't even begin to think about how many kids look up to this guy. As the captain, and leader of this team, it is clear he should not have done it. He let the pressure of the media and front office get to him, and gave them what they wanted. Public frustration. Now his actions will be talked about for days, putting his team in a negative perspective, and possibly causing his coach or GM's job to be lost. Not exactly what the doctor ordered for this struggling Leafs team.

Here's the video, courtesy of Youtube in case you missed it:

Saturday, January 12, 2008

All-Star Snubbings

Here are some names of people who were snubbed from the All-Star Game:


Timothy Thomas Jr.
Henrik Lundqvist
Pascal Leclaire


Alexei Kovalev
Mike Ribeiro
Evgeni Malkin
Vaclav Prospal
Kristian Huselius
Marc Savard
Daniel Briere


Mike Green
Michal Rozsival

Edit:sorry I forgot to put Sundin

Soon I'll have my prediction for each skills event either today, tomorrow or Monday

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Newbie (Ovie's Best Friend)

Hey guys, I'm the new writer on the site. I'll go under the name "Ovie's Best Friend". Of course referring to Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Now to me:

I have been born, raised and still live in Montreal. Of course growing up in the great city of Montreal means All Hockey, All the Time. If you grow up in Montreal and you're not a hockey fan you might as well be kicked out.

Anyway, I'll be doing a lot here and hope to bring all of you the most insight that I can on what has basically become my life as a HOCKEY FAN.

Ovie's Best Friend

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Rebuilding is the Only Hope for the Toronto Maple Leafs

In the midst of yet another disappointing season for the blue and white, the question of rebuilding has resurfaced. A topic which has separated the mass of Leafs fans for quite a while – but to a lesser extent this season.

While the 07-08 regular season offered promise for the Leafs, according to Paul Maurice and John Ferguson Jr. anyway, it has proved to be nothing but a stale statement. The Leafs have showcased an inconsistent, defensively incapable team that lacks the character to fight the adversity that follows them. With acquisitions like Vesa Toskala, Jason Blake and Mark Bell, most of Leaf nation was expecting a stronger club that would contend in the NHL playoffs. The goal of GM John Ferguson was too cut back on the goals against department while implementing a similar offensive team to last season. Well, one of those worked out, and it is the offense. The Leafs can score goals, no one is questioning that. The troubling part of the team is that they can't keep them out of their own net. While the play of Vesa Toskala has been solid, his defense has been abysmal on most nights. In fact, you can probably count on one hand how many times they've defended their goaltender for sixty minutes.
Initially, I thought this problem would be resolved by simply playing through the rust. But it appears the rust has become a permanent stain. The Leafs core has deflated after heart breaking (or humiliating) losses, and it will prove to be their demise.
To go along with a weak core, the Leafs host a thin group of talented prospects. The names Justin Pogge, Nikolai Kulemin, Jiri Tlusty and Anton Stralman are the best of the bunch. But even if the four of them turn out as expected, this team is still terribly short of a contending team. Aside from them, names such as Jeremy Williams, Staffan Kronwall and Robbie Earl are the second tier. Hoping for anything more than 3 rd or 4th liners, or bottom pairing defenseman, is optimistic in my opinion. I am not bashing our system just for the sake of pointing out this club's obvious flaws, but rather how mistreated we have been as loyal fans dawning the blue and white. While we stood aside and watched the Leafs trade countless draft picks for veteran aid, it is finally coming around to haunt MLSE. What did we expect? You can't trade your future for numerous veterans and expect everything to fall back in order. The salary cap - along with poor management - has killed the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In a time long ago, the Leafs were looked upon with respect and dignity. They were a team that preached hard work and a no surrender attitude. Just ask the Detroit Red Wings of 1942. That was year that the Leafs came back to beat the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals after being down, 0-3, in the series. An unforgettable moment in hockey history is best described by Hall of Famer and former Leafs captain, Syl Apps: "If you want me to be pinned down to my [biggest night in hockey but also my] biggest second, I'd say it was the last tick of the clock that sounded the final bell. It's something I shall never forget at all." Doesn't a quote like that send chills down your spine? Greatness and character is what radiates from it. And I hope that one day the Maple Leafs can relive such a comment of that impact.
This brings me to the point of that history flashback: Mats Sundin. He is considered the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs by many. He is a Hall of Famer caught in the wrong time period to be a Maple Leaf. His determination and heart for the Leafs is noticed and appreciated by all. He is the only member left on the Leafs that resemble the greatness and leadership that Leafs players before him have reflected. And that is why he should be traded this season. Mats Sundin can do nothing to help the hole MLSE has put themselves in. The only thing he can do that will help this team is leave. And it is extremely sad and disheartening that it has come to that. Sundin's departure would ensure a handful of youth to the Leafs system. A trade of that magnitude would bring some life to a depleted farm system. As we all know, Sundin is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Take him out of the picture and the Leafs will crumble… and it would be spectacular. After 40 years of mediocrity, we deserve a team that can contend for the Stanley Cup. The current cycle will assure that we are nothing more than a bubble team hoping for the classic Edmonton Oilers’ prayer. It is unrealistic and foolish to think that this Leafs team can somehow compete for the Stanley Cup once they reach the playoffs in their current state. It's the kind of thinking that will land us another 40 years of mediocrity. The departure of Sundin can mark the beginning of the rebuilding phase. Once he is gone, the youth will be depended on to move forward, and they will fail. This is a good thing. We will become basement dwellers and feed off of high draft picks for a few years. This is a tactic that can bring nothing but better fortune for the storied franchise. Players the Leafs can look into moving can be Pavel Kubina, Jason Blake, Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe or even Nikolai Antropov. While Antropov has been impressive for the Leafs this season, as well as injury free, the Leafs could get a nice return while his stock is high – and not on the injured reserve. Trading Antropov might also be logical if trading the others proves to be too difficult.
With the current club, here is a breakdown of the players we should be developing through a youth movement:
Alexander Steen
A 1st round pick from the Leafs, he began his career with a solid rookie campaign (45 points, 19 goals) and shows signs of becoming a solid top 6 winger in the future. In his second NHL season, he encountered a sophomore slump and fell short to the expectations placed upon him. However, in the second half of the 06-07 season, he accumulated 27 points. This season, Steen has shown terrific strides in working on consistency. His hustle and work ethic are noticed almost every night. He has also learned to shoot the puck more compared to past years. However, because his role with the team is a 3 rd liner -- on account of other players ahead of him on the depth chart -- he is held back from the top 6 position he needs to produce points and reach his potential.
Kyle Wellwood
The crafty and smart playmaker erupted for the Leafs in the 05-06 season. He was expected to stay with the Marlies, but his pre-season was too impressive to pass up. He ended his rookie campaign with 45 points. In his sophomore season -- a season where he has always had success in each level of play throughout his career – injuries held him back, but Wellwood was on a 70-point pace with 42 points in 46 games. This season, Wellwood laced up the skates later than expected when a groin injury set him back. When he returned, he was not the player of old, and he has struggled considerably. If the injury continues to affect him throughout his career -- or just this season -- is still a question about which many are wondering. We will find out soon enough.
Carlo Colaiacovo
I hesitated to put him on this list. He has potential to be a top 2 defender with upside in both ends of the rink, but his injury riddled career, which continues once again this season, is troublesome for his future in the NHL. If he can shake the injury bug, he will be a wonderful addition to the Leafs future D core. Time will tell.
Matt Stajan
The young center-man has gotten progressively better throughout his young NHL career and is developing a shut-down role – something the Leafs have lacked – who can chip in offensively. He is nothing more than a 3 rd liner, but like the Ducks proved in the playoffs, 3rd and 4th liners are an integral part to any successful team.
Anton Stralman
The young Swede seems to be Tomas Kaberle version 2.0. His stick handling abilities are exceptional and his on-ice awareness allows him to create plays quite efficiently. Like Kaberle, his outlet passes from our zone looks like something he will thrive on - a skill underrated by many. While he is not a physical defenseman by any means, he makes up for it with strong positioning and using his stick to break up plays. He is a definite keeper.
Jiri Tlusty
The Czech native is a sniper who knows how to use his body to his advantage. In his first game in the NHL, he recorded 2 goals for Maple Leafs. At 19, Tlusty's potential is a top line winger for the Maple Leafs, making room for someone of his calibur is extremly important. However, the Leafs can't give him 3rd line minutes if they want him to develop. His skills are best suited for top 6 ice-time.
Nikolai Kulemin
The Russian native is said to possess a strong work ethic, good hockey sense, the ability to play in traffic, dig in the boards, and finally drive towards the net. I have never seen him play, on account of playing for the Magnitogorsk Metallurg in Russia, but his stats are certainly impressive. In 06-07, he accumulated 27 goals and 39 points in 54 games. This season, he has an impressive 17 goals and 25 points in 41 games so far. The kid looks to be a good power forward for the Leafs in the very near future.
Justin Pogge
The young goaltender has high expectations to perform. In his rookie season with the Toronto Marlies, he came out of the gate struggling. However, the second half of the season was much friendlier to Pogge, who looked like the goalie many are hoping for. This season, Pogge has been rock solid for the Marlies. He has posted an impressive .911 SV%, a 2.18 GAA, 2 SO and a 13-2-4 record to go along with that. He will be working harder than ever to crack the line-up next season as a back-up to Vesa Toskala… a scenario which may happen.
Now add in a handful of quality draft picks and prospects garnered through trades and bottoming the Eastern Conference suddenly the Leafs have a much brighter future ahead of them.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Justin Pogge Evolving : Future Starts Soon?

Toronto's 3rd round pick in 2004 is coming into his own. Justin Pogge started the season with the Toronto Marlies splitting goaltending duties with former New Jersey Devil, Scott Clemmensen. Both played fairly well and one did not look superior over another. But a Vesa Toskala injury to the Toronto Maple Leafs might just be what Justin Pogge needed. With Clemmensen getting the call to the NHL, Pogge was left with the starting duties for the Marlies. So far, he has 2 shutouts in as many as 5 games and his season statistics have risen to an impressive .911 SV%, a 2.18 GAA and a 13-2-4 record to go along with his 2 shutouts.

Justin Pogge, standing at 6'3 and weighing in at 205 pounds, is a goaltender who brings a quick glove, good speed and good puck handling specifically to the table. He also knows how to use his big frame to better challenge the shooters, an aspect very important to compete in the goaltenders league that is the NHL. Some of his flaws that I've noticed when he first started with the Marlies continue to be apart of his game, but already is getting progressively better this season. Those flaws include rebound control and consistency. Two aspects that need fine tuning in order to succeed in the NHL. However, his work ethic suggests that he's got the heart to overcome it and reach the level all young goaltenders dream of. According to Pogge, he is ready to experience what the NHL is like "Definitely, I would like to get the chance to see what (the NHL) is like," said a determined Justin Pogge. ''Even if I didn't play, it would be a chance to experience things at that level. That's what I worked all summer for. If I don't get the opportunity, it would be disappointing. I'd just have to work hard all summer again to reach that goal."

Pogge has already had success in the early going of his career. In 2006, he won ''CHL Goaltender of the Year'', ''Del Wilson Trophy - Top goaltender in the WHL'', ''Four Broncos Memorial Trophy - Player of the year in WHL'', '' World Junior Hockey Championship Team Canada MVP'' and a gold medal to go along with it. When the Leafs had both Tukka Rask and Justin Pogge, John Ferguson Jr. opted to keep Pogge and trade Rask for a quick fix in net, which has now proved to be a grave mistake. However, the Tukka Rask trade has given Pogge full confidence to be the future starter of the Leafs, and with Toskala holding the reins right now, there is no rush for the young goaltender. He can hone his skills and develop in the AHL as he should. But will we see Pogge as early as next season perhaps?

Throughout the pre-season, Justin Pogge was the most impressive goaltender for the Leafs, amongst a struggling group mind you, and this may speak volumes of what may happen in the very near future. I think it's possible that we may see Pogge between the pipes as early as next season. If Andrew Raycroft and Scott Clemmensen continue to display less than average performances for the Leafs this season, we may see some scenarios unfold. One would be to place Raycroft on waivers, thus dropping his 2M salary. I think it is the most logical scenario, but only if happens in the off-season. Dropping Raycroft now would leave us with Scott Clemmensen taking over as the back-up, a position he could not hold with the Devils, never mind the Leafs. So if Pogge continues to play great hockey for the Marlies, attempting to drop Raycroft would open a spot for Pogge as the back-up behind Toskala. At 22, this type of move would only raise his confidence and he could learn a thing or two from goaltender Vesa Toskala in the process. Another scenario would be to trade Raycroft, but they might find that to be quite difficult considering his recent struggles ever since he won the Calder Trophy.

One thing is for certain, Justin Pogge is among a thin group of talented Leafs prospects that have very high expectations to perform, and for obvious reasons.

Tough Times in Minors for NHL Castoffs Cloutier and Denis

Sometimes a trip to the minors to "get your game back" can be a demoralizing experience, especially if you struggle. When you play such a critical position as goaltender, where confidence means everything, it may ruin your career. Two goalies going through that right now are the Los Angeles Kings' Dan Cloutier, and the Tampa Bay Lightning's Marc Denis. It's tough to watch, a little like a car accident. Of course you never want to see something like this happen, but you're watching through your hands. We all know that when they are on their game, Dan Cloutier and Marc Denis can be quality goaltenders, but unfortunately, right now they are not. As a result, they are struggling badly at the AHL level.

Cloutier was sent down to the Manchester Monarchs at the start of the season, and has been splitting time with Erik Ersberg. He has appeared in 12 games posting a dismal 3-8 record, but it gets worse. Cloutier has a 3.50 goals against average and a .875 save percentage. That is absolutely awful if you're not sure what those stats mean. I truly hope he can find out what exactly the problem is, because you never like to see a goaltender struggle like this. Hopefully he can work with his coaches, pinpoint his issues, and make the slow, painful climb back to the NHL. Situations like these has put many a goaltender on the retired list, and I believe Cloutier has plenty left in the tank.

Denis was sent down recently, after clearing waivers. He had only 1 win in 10 games (coincidentally enough, the 1 win came against the Leafs) and his play was slipping. Tampa Bay is not a bad defensive team, and we all know about their goaltending woes. They decided that something needed to be done, and sent Denis down which was the correct move. When they acquired him from Columbus, they had thoughts of him taking over the #1 role which wasn't too far-fetched. He was a very solid goaltender. Nothing flashy, but he could get the job done. I'm not sure what went wrong and when, but something changed. That's why he finds himself where he is. Playing below-average hockey for the Norfolk Admirals. Denis has a 1-1-1 record in 3 games with Norfolk. Okay, not bad right? Well look at his save percentage and goals against average, .872 and 3.24. That's not the Marc Denis we knew in Columbus, and with the World Junior squad in 1996 and 1997.

That's the story of two goalies who we all hope can get their game back, but right now the outlook isn't so good. I really can't say what I expect to happen. It's all up to the players whether they make it back or not, but one thing is for sure, it's not an easy task. It may be harder for them to make it back to the NHL then it was to make to the NHL the first time.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Toskala is Key and Keeping Raycroft is Essential

In the Leafs recent struggles, a gaping hole, which never really left, has been re-exposed. Guess what it is? *Drum roll* Ladies and gentleman, I present to you.... The Leafs incapable and inconsistent defense! However, right up until Vesa Toskala's groin tweak, the Leafs defense was aided tremendously and Toskala was playing all-star quality to do it. Andrew Raycroft and Scott Clemmensen have thus taking over the reins... quite ineffectively I might add. Raycroft got the first go around... and failed. It ended with a 6-1 drubbing to the Rangers, which wasn't his fault but he didn't help either. So in come Scott Clemmensen, a goaltender some Leafs fans think should replace Raycroft as back-up because his salary is cheaper on our cap... I'll get back to that in a bit. Clemmensen fared okay in his first game, which earned him a second consecutive start which saw him face the Pittsburgh Penguins. He started good, but quickly faded. The game ended 6-2, and Clemmenson was awful.

Replacing Andrew Raycroft with Scott Clemmensen would be a mistake. While the Raycroft experiment has failed in Toronto, he is still a decent back-up and he's certainly better than his recent play suggests. Scott Clemmensen on the other hand... is not good enough to even be a career back-up. At age 30, he started this season playing in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. Last season, he took on a minimal amount of games with the New Jersey Devils and put up a 3.14 GAA and a .889 SV% on a defensively stacked team. I'm sorry... but something is obviously wrong there. He just can't cut it, and with Vesa Toskala's history of groin injuries, we need a capable back-up to fill in for his absence, preferably a short one. Raycroft is that guy. We missed the playoffs by one point last season with him in net for 72 games... so its not an overly risky move. To sum it up, Andrew Raycroft is better than Scott Clemmensen, period.

My personal opinion is that we will fail to reach the playoffs. Our only hope is Vesa Toskala and it's teetering on his health. With him, we at least contend for the 8th spot... without get the current results.

Until next time. Up, up and awwaayy!