Jul 182006
 

With the signing of Peca as well as youngsters Wellwood, Bell, Colaiacovo, and Jay Harrison over the past couple of days it seems most of the Leafs off season moves are now complete. There may be some tweaking here and there but for the most part I think what you see is what you get. So, where does that put the Leafs? In the playoffs I think.

Last season the Leafs had two significant problems. They gave up too many goals (10th worst in the NHL) and though they finished 9th overall in goals scored, they struggled to score goals at even strength. This summer they clearly focused on the first of those problems but I think that despite not adding a big name goal scorer they may have helped the second problem as well.

Last year Ed Belfour and Mikael Tellqvist struggled for consistancy and that was a huge part of the Leafs demise. When Aubin came in and played quality goaltending towards the end of last season the Leafs were nearly unbeatable – Aubin had a 9-0-2 record.

The first significant move was made to shore up the goaltending by adding former rookie of the year Andrew Raycroft. Last season Andrew Raycroft had a horrible season but he was downright awesome in his rookie season. Which Raycroft shows up will go a long way to determining how much success the Leafs have this season but I am optimistic. I think with the year off a lot of players struggled to get back in the groove and for Raycroft that was compounded by injury problems. A tandem of Raycroft and Aubin could be a huge boost for the Leafs.

The next moves the Leafs made was to shore up the defense. Gone are Klee, Berg, Khavanov and others and in are Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill. Kubina plays a solid all-round game and would be a #2 defenseman (or better) on most other teams and Hal Gill is a solid defensive defenseman. Rounding out the top six will likely be Carlo Colaiacovo who is ready for a break out season and Ian White who played great last summer. Other options include Jay Harrison, Brendan Bell, Staffan Kronwall and Andy Wozniewski.

The problem last year on defense is that while Berg, Khavanov, Klee, etc. are serviceable defensemen they are not 20 minitutes per game type of defensemen and that required McCabe and Kaberle to get over worked. Kubina and Gill are 20 minute per game defensemen (or more in Kubina’s case) and that should help out both McCabe and Kaberle as they can play 25 minutes per game instead of 28-30. With Kubina and White both being more than capable of anchoring the PP and Kubina and Gill both being more than capable of killing penalties the McCabe-Kaberle duo can spend less time doing that (both played >40% of their time either on PP or on PK) and more time playing even strength hockey. This should be a boost to the Leafs even strength offense. Kubina, Colaiacovo and White should also all produce more offense from the defense than last years crew.

Up front the only significant addition was Mike Peca while the Leafs lost Lindros and likely won’t re-sign Jason Allison. Between them they only played 99 games so really it is more like they lost just one player and a bit. But between them they lost a fair amount of offense, particularly on the PP where Allison was extremely valuable. It will be up to young Kyle Wellwood to jump into the role of second line center, improve on his good rookie season and mitigate many of the losses of Allison and Lindros. Peca meanwhile will have the role of shutting down the oppositions top player as well as being a top penalty kill guy and this is something the Leafs never really had last year. Kilger, Wilm and others do a good job at that but Peca should be that much better.

So, as it stands now, this is the likely lineup for this upcoming season.

Darcy Tucker-Mats Sundin-Alex Steen
Alexei Ponikarovsky-Kyle Wellwood-Jeff O’Neill
Chad Kilger-Mike Peca-Nik Antropov
Pohl-Stajan-Ondrus
Belak

McCabe-Kaberle
Kubina-Gill
Colaiacovo-White

Raycroft
Aubin

Stajan still needs to be signed and Ondrus and Pohl will compete with Erik Westrum, Jeremy Williams, Aleksander Suglobov and Bates Battaglia for the fourth line roles. Belak will likely play the versatile role of rugged winger and 7th defenseman as required.

The two keys to success in my mind are:

1. Can Raycroft and/or Aubin provide top tier and more importantly consistant goaltending.
2. Can Wellwood step up his game into a true second line center in order to offset some of the offense lost in Allison and Lindros. A 65-70 point season would be nice.

If those two things happen and the rest of the team remains relatively injury free I think this is easily a playoff team and one that could possibly do something in the playoffs.

(Note: It would not surprise me if JFJ is looking to move some of those young defensemen for another young scoring forward. A package of one or two of those defenseman with Stajan and/or Antropov might net a nice young skilled forward in return.)

  27 Responses to “Leafs Off-Season Report”

  1.  

    Nice article… just a couple of notes.

    Kaberle and Kubina played very well in the Olympics this year – and Kubina is a coveted right-hand shot.

    I see:

    Kaberle – Kubina
    McCabe – Colaiacovo
    Gill – White

    … keep in mind that Kabs and Caber could still be reunited on the PP, McCabe will not be exposed to the other teams top lines and Gill (slated as a #4) will get the remainder of his minutes playing on the first PK.

    Jer

  2.  

    That is certainly possible. I think a lot will depend on how they play together in the pre-season. You could mix them up in any number of ways and I am sure they would be successful. It should be a pretty good defense this year with a mix of size and skill, experience and youth, offense and defense and playmakers and shooters.

  3.  

    Leafs will battle for the 8th spot. 7th at most. They won’t get past the first round of the playoffs.

    Bookmark this so you can look at it later on in the year.

  4.  

    65-70 points by Wellwood?

    It would be nice if Ribeiro got 90 points . . . but I’m not going to hope it’s the key to the Habs success.

    Easily a playoff team? I read what you wrote . . . are you sure you did?

    Here’s the competition:

    Ottawa
    Philly
    NY Rangers
    Montreal
    Buffalo
    NJ Devils
    Tampa
    Atlanta
    Carolina

    That’s 10 teams . . . I can’t see Maurice coaching THAT team anywhere above the Rangers, Tampa, Atlanta.

    It’ll be by one point if they get to 7th place. And that ain’t easy.

    They lost Lindros
    They will lose Allison
    They gained Peca
    They lost Belfour

    They are not a better team than last year that’s for sure.

    Unless you’re hoping for future journeymen like Wellwood, Stajan, Harrison to have Hall of Fame performances.

    50 goals for Poni?

    Only one can hope.

    Here’s some news:

    GILL sucks. He really sucks. Badly. The senators and habs will turn him upside down. Carolina? He’ll puke when he tries to play against these teams all the while trying to keep the puck from touching newly re-emplyed Raycroft.

    I admire your reports, I do, but come on man, this is such homerism it’s ridiculous. Peca isn’t what he used to be. Not even close.

    You give Ottawa reports and Leaf reports, but no Vancouver, MTL, CAL, EDM ones . . . . are they coming up?

    JFJ should be turned into glue.

  5.  

    “I admire your reports, I do, but come on man, this is such homerism it’s ridiculous”

    You nailed it man………..

  6.  

    “65-70 points for Wellwood?”

    Why not? He had 45 as a rookie playing mostly out of position for a coach who hates rookies. Put him at center and let him do his thing I don’t see why he can’t up that total by 20 or so points. Wellwood only played 12:46 minutes per game last year. I expect him to play much more this year and that alone should give him the opportunity to score many more points.

    Tampa is a horrible team. They were bad last year and they will be just as bad this year or worse. Denis is an improvement over the goalies they used last year but only a marginal one and they have lost Kubina, Modin, and Sydor. Tampa will not make the playoffs next season.

    The Devils will probably not be as good as they may have to trade Gomez or Gionta to stay under the salary cap.

    Ottawa is not as good and Buffalo probably won’t be as good (they may have to trade away some RFAs they can’t afford, maybe even Briere). Toronto had a horrible record against these two teams and can probably get 3-4 more wins just against these two teams.

    Montreal is no better and unless Huet can do what he did last year (which is a big uncertainty) then Montreal will not make the playoffs. Montreal is a mediocre team who only made the playoffs because Huet stole several games for them and adding a small, one-dimensional player in Samsonov isn’t going to change that. Samsonov isn’t really much better than Jan Bulis.

    I do detailed Toronto and Ottawa reports because those are the teams I know the best and those are the teams I take a daily interest in. I don’t know what is happening in Vancouver quite as much so don’t expect quite as much detail if I choose to write about them. But time permitting I do plan on writing brief pre-season reports on all the rest of the teams. But here is something to wet your appetite on the teams you mentioned.

    Calgary is the best team in the west now that they have added some offense in Tanguay. Vancouver will go as far as Luongo takes them as they lack depth up front and on defense. Edmonton won’t make the playoffs. Ottawa isn’t as good and they have done nothing to address their short comings. And Montreal will only be a playoff team if Huet takes them there.

  7.  

    I think 65-70 points from Wellwood is certainly a possibility. He has shown tons of talent and is deserving of second-line centre duties (Peca, really a great checking forward but no longer the scorer of old, belongs on the third line). As a Senators fan, my biggest concerns about the Leafs are not their signings but simply the growth of Wellwood and Steen.

    Raycroft is a huge question mark in my mind though… I think there is a good chance Aubin ends up the starter (and he might be quite good).

    And then of course Toronto is still weak on the wing. Maybe Steen will play on Sundin’s wing, but neither wing looks very strong to me at this point, especially in terms of depth. Maybe the young guys will step up there as well.

    I think like this year, Toronto will challenge for 8th spot, but it seems like a toss-up as to whether or not they make it. If they do make it, I would be surprised if either goalie proves to be the kind of playoff goalie that takes a low seed into the later rounds.

  8.  

    Like I said, what quality of goaltending the Leafs get will be a key to their success but it will be difficult to be more inconsistant than last year (before Aubin came around at least). If they get goaltending like last year then yeah, they will probably be in a battle for the final playoff spot like last year. But if they get better, more consistant goaltending I don’t see why they can’t move up in the standings especially considering most of the teams above them in the standings last year are unlikely to be as good next year.

  9.  

    It must be understood that the number one goalie has to live up to expecations. It’s really the only way to accurately forcast the upcoming season:

    1) Huet – .929% last year with a 2.20 avg and 7 shutouts BEFORE LOCKOUT: 41 games played – .907% with a 2.43 avg and 3 shutouts.

    Those numbers not only show consistency but a talent in the old NHL and new NHL. It also shows an improvement. Maybe it’s because LA was rather lame in the pre lockout year and/or the Habs D was better.

    But I’m not worried about Huet. He could win the Vezina. At his worst he’ll be better than Theo anyway. And better than most. So what if he suprised everyone? If you look at his career stats, it’s not much of a suprise really. And he’s cool as a cucumber. He’s not 24. He’s over 30. He knows what to do.

    2) Raycroft – .879% with a 3.71 GAA and 0 shutouts – PRE LOCKOUT – 57 games played and a .926% with a 2.05GAA and 3 shutouts.

    Man he was strong in his rookie year but this shows tremendous problems. Will he be better on the Leafs? Gill’s still in front of him. He’s obviously got issues in his confidence. Can he even compete properly in the new NHL. Talent’s there . . . so what’s the problem?

    I’m not comparing the tow goalies, but when one looks at analysing a sports club for the next year, of course their best players should be thought of as playing their consistent best. You can’t hope that one goalie is going to play 180 degrees differently than last and then say that the other goalie is going to slump.

    Bottom line – the Habs have one of the better goalies in net according to stats from the 1st year in the new NHL.

    MTL is not mediocre – They finished 7th after a roller coaster season that saw them at the top of the league standings for the 1st 13 games to down towards the bottome – enter Huet. 7th in the east.

    They got better. They’re younger prospects are rated among the top systems in the league.

    Samsonov, in your opinion, is not any better than Bulis. Fine. But now stick Sammy on a line with komrade Kovalev and you’ll see him play his best hockey in years I bet. But for now, he’s an upgrade over Bulis I’m quite sure.

    They got grittier with Mike Johnson over Zednik.

    The leafs ‘kid line’ doesn’t really come close to the talent of Perezhogin, Plekanec, Kostitsyn (who will now be playing sophomore seasons). Not to mention Ryder Ribeiro and Latendresse in the future.

    Sure Ottawa lost Chara and Havlat, but with Spezza, Alfredo, Heatley, Redden, Gerber, and Emery, they are still a force to be reckoned with next year.

    Vancouver has Ohlund, the twins, Naslund, Morrison (who should rebound) and the league’s best goalie (IMO) now playing in front of a capable team.

    As for Tampa (look at what Burke did with Anaheim at the trade deadline) – perhaps they’ll be better without that dead weight hanging around. St.Louis should be back in full force this year. They’ve got 3 of the more offensive weapons in the league. Both Richards and Vinny could win the Hart. And St. Louis already has. And Denis is an upgrade.

    Bottom line, if Huet plays like he did last year for 60 games, the Habs will not only make the playoffs, they’ll challenge for the cup.

    You’d have to say that. Based on numbers, depth, youth, defence, goalies and cap.

    I never even touched the back up in David Aebischer. Or you can call him trade bait. Whatever.

    Or the coaching tandem of Carbonneau and Muller.

    To think that Montreal won’t even make the playoffs with average Huet is assinine.

    But of course everyone has to stay healthy and play up to our expectations.

  10.  

    Huet hasn’t proven he can be a starter for a full season. Yes, he was awesome last year and yes he is probably capable of having another good season. But it is still a question mark as to whether he can do it for 60-65 games and not 40 games. Montreal will be in the thick of the playoff race but they are no sure thing in my mind.

    If you stick Samsonov on a line with Kovalev you’ll have a line with two somewhat one-dimensional 25 goal scorers.

    Montreal will be in the playoff hunt and there is a good chance they will make it but there is a decent chance they will not as well. If Huet plays the full season like he played half the year last year they will make it. If he plays a full season like he played in 2003-04 they will be a bubble team.

    The Leafs don’t have a kid line. They have a few young players strewn throughout the lineup but they are largely a veteren team, but not an old team. Teams filled with rookies and young players generally don’t win, especially in the playoffs.

    More important than Ottawa losing Havlat and Chara is they lost Hasek. There is no way that Gerber and/or Emery can provide the level of goaltending that Hasek provided. Everyone talks about how great a season Gerber had last year but he was 17th in the league in save % and 18th in goals against average. He’ll be a decent goalie for Ottawa but nowhere near Hasek. Ottawa will certainly make the playoffs but they’ll probably be closer to a 100-105 point team than a 113 point team like last year.

    Tampa still has questionable goaltending. They lost their best all round defenseman and a 30 goal scorer. They won’t be any better this year.

    As for Raycroft a number of goalies struggled at the start of last season after taking a full year off including Luongo and Brodeur. Raycroft struggled too but then hot injured and then never got another chance to show himself as a #1 goalie. I think he will rebound big time this year.

  11.  

    Just to comment on Wellwood and the possibility of a 65-70 point season. He should receive a lot more ice next year, especially in offensive situations (eg. power play). He also has a history of stepping up his production in his second year with a team.
    1999-2000 with Belleville 51pts, 2000-2001 118pts (led league, ahead of Spezza). 2003-2004 with St. John’s 55pts, 2004-2005 87pts.
    I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to see him add 20+ more points than last year. They will look to him to pick up a lot of the lost offense from Allison and Lindros. I think he has the skill to score in the NHL, and the new game suits his style of play well.

  12.  

    both teams will need their fair share of luck. No doubt.

    Keep the write ups coming dude.

    *Cheers*

  13.  

    The leafs did get better. I don’t think they’re a top team by any means but to justify them not getting any better by stating

    “They lost Lindros
    They will lose Allison
    They gained Peca
    They lost Belfour

    They are not a better team than last year that’s for sure.”

    is completely wrong. I think if all they would have done was lose those guys and not sign peca we still would have been better than last year. Also, i agree that Montreal’s future looks brighter than the leafs but i would not trade the leafs for that team. Huet like Raycroft has only had 1 good year. Ribeiro and Wellwood are similar players plus Wellwood has doubled his pts in his 2nd year at every level of hockey (OHL, AHL..) so there is a chance he can hit 70, especially factoring in he got 45 playin less than 13 minutes a game for the majority of the season.

    Again I am not saying that the Leafs will be great. I pray that they will be and that everything comes together, but at the least they have made improvements over last season.

  14.  

    Look at the facts about this report. The Leafs looked at two thing to improve the team. 1) less goals against 2) more goals for. They have definetly fixed the first problem with the addition of Gill and Kubina. Whether it is Aubin or Raycroft, one will definetly succeed in the new NHL. Its hard to say whether the second problem will be fixed. Peca is meant as a good two way player, but it will be in the hands of the younger players to put the puck in the net. I loved reading this article, the only problem I had was Stajan being on the 4th line. It’s only an opinion but I see him being on the 3rd line over Antropov. Stajan started playing good hockey at the end of the season and I think he has more to bring the the Leafs.

  15.  

    I have to agree that I like the way the leafs look. I wouldn’t say that this is a sure thing, but I don’t think that is what was written either. Raycroft has to be as good as he was in year 1, and guys are going to need to step up. However, Marice is a players coach who is willing to let his horses go, and that’s great news for guys like Mats Sundin, and Jeff O’neil. For whatever reason, Quinn didn’t want to give Mat’s the ice time and O’neil rode the bench. On a personal note, I hope the leafs do hold on to Ian White. I’ve played with and against him since I was 5, and this is a guy who has to be a star. It really is rare, but it wouldn’t surpise me to see him in an NHL All-star game in a few years. He settles for nothing less than being one of the best. No guarantees, but I would not surpise me at all to see the leafs giving the top 5 spots a go.

  16.  

    steen, tucker, ponikarovsky, oneill arent the best top 4 wingers u cant get. in fact thats pretty shabby.

    and to say that montreal didnt get better is pretty ignorant! im a habs fan, and i acknowledge the leafs got better. how? they signed kubina, and wellwood and steen will be better. coliacovo, god knows when he will break out. leaf fans have been waiting for years for this kid it only seems normal he doesnt come through.

    but to say montreal didnt get better… come on? u say the leafs got better cuz their rookies will be sophomores. cuz they will have consistent goaltending. but look at montreal. higgins, plekanec and perezhogin will all be better this year as well. and id take those 3 over steen stajan and wellwood. not to mention huet aebischer is a better tandem than aubin raycroft. the chances of one goalie taking the reigns are much better for montreal. u say huet has only had a good season. well how about aubin?? hes had 11 good games. he was pitiful in pittsburg. u fail to acknowledge the fact that he was a backup his whole life.

    also, people are really overrating gill. hes big and slow. sure hes good on the PK cuz of his long reach, but 5 on 5 speedy teams will skate circles around him. and u overpaid for kubina and gill. but then again eveyr team overpaid for D this year.

    dont expect peca to get points. hes been getting less and less goals every year. its a good signing, but just dont put too much faith in him. hes a shutdown guy, thats it. dont overuse him.

    leafs problem this year. they have no depth. if anyone gets injured they have few people who can step in and replace. goaltending depth will be a problem. so will up front. the leafs didnt get better 5 on 5, or at least they didnt get much better. and if someone goes down it will be an even bigger problem.

    and to say samsonov is as good as bulis… wow. bulis is a 2 way player. samsonov is a pure offensive weapon. a healthy samsonov is good for 70 points. bulis couldnt crack 50.

    i agree with jack that your comments are way too homerish. i try to be realistic with everything. look at the pros and cons. u look for the leafs pros, neglect the cons, and then just crap on other teams saying everyone got worse. ottawas defence might be better this year than last year. so what htey lost chara. he was horrible in the playoffs. not worth 7.5 million thats for sure. then they added preissing and corvo, 2 guys who got 40+ points last year. not to mention meszaros will be a year older. he could have easily won the calder last year had ovechkin and crosby not been there.

  17.  

    Maybe I am biased but I like Steen and Wellwood better than any of the Montreal rookies and I think they will likely improve more this year than the Montreal guys. The Leafs have a new coach that is likely to benefit younger, more skilled Leaf players. This should especially help Wellwood who had just 12:46 minutes of ice time last year but was still able to put up good numbers. Wellwood has also posted better offensive numbers at all levels of hockey than any of the Montreal youngsters.

    I like Higgins because he improved as the year went on and as a result should do better next season. The same can’t really be said about Plekanic and Perezhogin. Without seeing any improvement in their rookie campaigns it makes it much more difficult to expect dramatic improvements in the following season. It’s certainly possible but honestly, I wouldn’t expect any dramatic improvements in those two players.

    As for the goaltending, Aebisher is more proven than Aubin so I would concede that Montreal has a better backup (should they decide to stick with Aebischer) but it would only be marginally better as Aubin has showed he can be a pretty good goalie too. As for Huet vs Raycroft, there are question marks with both of them. Can Huet play like he did for 30 or so games last year for 60+ games this year? Can Raycroft return to his ROY form? If both of those questions get answered with a ‘yes’ then I don’t think either Huet or Raycroft gets an advantage over the other as they would both be pretty good. Raycroft is probably higher risk because he had a horrible year last year but the upsides of both goalies are pretty similar.

    “A healthy Samsonov is good for 70 points”

    Really? He hasn’t scored 70 points since 2001-02 and that was playing with Joe Thornton. Montreal doesn’t have a player even close to the talent of Joe Thornton. Montreal hardly has the talent of the players that Samsonov played with in Boston and Edmonton last year in which he scored a whopping 53 points. Montreal doesn’t have anyone close to the offensive talent of Thornton, Bergeron, Horcoff, Stoll, etc. that he played with last year. I wouldn’t expect any more than 25 goals, 55-60 points from Samsonov. Could Samsonov score 35 goals and 70 points? Sure. But it would be stupid to expect that based on recent performance and on who is he playing with. Bulis scored 20 goals, was a respectable +2 (better than Koivu, Higgins, Kovalev, Zednik, Bonk, Ryder, Ribeiro, Souray, and several other regulars) and played close to 2 minutes of PK time per game.

    The Leafs have no depth? They have oodles of depth on defense. Up front they aren’t quite as deep but they have Bates Battaglia, Aleksander Suglobov, Ben Ondrus, Erik Westrum, and Jeremy Williams waiting on the doorstep. That is at least as much depth as Montreal has.

    Meszaros could have easily won the Calder if not for Ovechkin and Crosby? You seem to have forgot about Phaneuf and Lundqvist who both were easily better than Meszaros not to mention Marek Svatos, Jussi Jokinen, Brad Boyes, Petr Prucha and others wo would have also been in the mix. You also forget that Meszaros had a pretty medocre playoff as well. If playoff performance matters for Chara then it matters for Meszaros as well. And While Corvo and Preissing have some offensive talent neither are great defensive defensemen and neither are ‘proven’ aside from one good year each. But the big loss for Ottawa is that Gerber won’t be near as good as Hasek was. Not even close.

  18.  

    meszaros, rookie year 39 points in 82 games, and a +34. u find me a rookie with that much defensive awareness. even phanuef with kipprusoff and his great defensive minded team couldnt match that. and dont forget that when philips, redden and chara went down witn injuries, meszaros carried the defense playing 40+ minutes a game. again, find me a rookie who can match that. the calder isnt about points. i would take meszaros over boyes, svatos, jokinen, prucha anyday.

    and im sorry ondrus??? westrum??? who are these guys. they cant fill in for injured players. they are 4th line guys. and toronto does not have the depth montreal has. u seem to put wayy to much faith in guys like antropov and kilger who have never amounted to anything, and then dont forget kilger could barely crack a super weak montreal team a few years ago. yet somehow he is good depth on the toronto team??? toronto cant match montreals prospects. hence their lack of depth.

    and while montreal doesnt have a thornton, not many teams do, we do have koivu and kovalev, and not to mention ryder who scored 30 goals playing with a herniated disc all season. i fail to realize how toronto has more skilled players than montreal. aside from sundin, you guys STILL dont have a bonafide 1st line winger for, u guys are pretty weak. steena nd wellwood are sophomores, u cant expect much, maybe next year or in 2 years. tucker is not a 1st line player. hes a good 3rd liner, a very good one. oneill is washed up. good luck getting him to show up for road games. and ponikarovsky… come on.

    and dont compare aebischer to aubin. aubin had 11 good games under his belt, and that was all last season. is there any evidence that suggests thats what ur gonna get out of him this year?? there isnt any. most likely the aubin that will showup will be the journeyman goaltender who couldnt cut it in pittsburg.

    leaf fans always brag in the offseason that players will have career years. every player playing for the leafs will duplicate their best season, even though it was years ago. allison and lindros were suppose to have breakout years last season…. what happened?? torontos problem lies with their complete lack of prospect depth. nothing positive will come out of your system. youve traded away many hopefulls, with tuuka rask being the latest. boyes, kondratiev, a countless # of first rounders. all those trades are starting to kick in.

    and another thing, dont get me started ont he depth that montreal has as well as their prospects coming up. theres just too many to name.

  19.  

    My point was that Meszaros was at best the 5th best rookie last year. Ovechkin, Crosby, Phaneuf and Lundqvist were easily better. Meszaros was probably next but the gap between the top 4 and Meszaros would be bigger than the gap between Meszaros and whoever is next.

    According to my list Montreal’s forwards are:

    Koivu Kovalev Samsonov
    Ribiero Johnson Higgins
    Ryder Plekanec Perezhogin
    Bonk Downey Begin
    Murray

    Are you trying to tell me that Kilger and Antropov aren’t as good as Bonk, Downey, Murray or even Begin? They are also probably better than Plekanec and Perezhogin as well unless those two step up their games significantly this year. Antropov gets a lot of flak in the Toronto media but he can score you 15 goals, 40 points, won’t hurt your defensively (was second on the team in +/-) and can kill penalties. That can’t be said for the bottom 4 or 5 of Montreal’s forwards. Kilger is similiar and scored 17 goals last year. Only 4 Montreal players scored more last year.

    Yes, you have Koivu and Kovalev. Let’s see, Koivu has never scored more than 71 points and Kovalev has never scored more than 26 goals and 66 points except when he has played with Mario Lemieux. Neither can be considered great offensive players. You say how Toronto still doesn’t have a bonafide first line winger for Sundin but honestly, I am not sure Montreal has any bonafide first line players. At best the Canadiens have second tier first line players.

    “leaf fans always brag in the offseason that players will have career years.”

    Hmmm. Aren’t you the one who thinks Plekanic and Perezhogin will improve dramatically. Aren’t you the one who thinks Samsonov is a sure bet to get 70 points?

    “torontos problem lies with their complete lack of prospect depth. nothing positive will come out of your system.”

    Funny. Toronto has developed Kaberle into a pretty good defenseman (as good as any of Montreals defensemen save maybe Markov). Wellwood and Steen had very good rookie campaigns (better than any of Montreal’s rookies last year). Ponikarovsky, Antropov and Stajan are all solid 2-way players and Stajan was among the league leaders in short handed points. And the Leafs are deep in young prospect defensemen. Coliacovo has lots of talent and White looked awesome with the Leafs last year. Harrison should be a solid defensive defsenseman and Bell, Kronwall and Wozniewski might turn out to be decent NHLers too. Pogge looks like a potential future star goalie and is as good as any of Montreal’s goalie prospects. Oh, and there is nothing wrong with using prospects to fill holes in the current roster like trading Rask for Raycroft, especially when you have goalie prospect depth to deal from.

    Also, Kondratiev isn’t much of a player. The Rangers dumped him because of poor work ethic. He’ll be lucky to be a #6/7 type defenseman in the NHL.

    “allison and lindros were suppose to have breakout years last season….”

    Considering these two guys are established players I think calling for breakout years is not really accurate. Besides, Allison had 60 points last year in just 66 games. Only two Montreal players (Kovalev and Koivu) had more. When Lindros was healthy at the start of the season he played great and in just 33 games still managed to score more goals than Plekanec and Perezhogin managed in twice as many games and yet it is you who believes that Plekanec and Perezhogin are due for big seasons. Go figure.

    “and another thing, dont get me started ont he depth that montreal has as well as their prospects coming up. theres just too many to name.”

    Well, ok, how about you just name your 3 best prospects and we’ll go from there.

  20.  

    if u watch any montreal games, which i highly doubt since yours truly CBC refuses to air habs games, you’ll see that begin is one of the better players in the league on the 3rd/4th line. at a cost of 1 million, that guy will do anything. he is a top notch penalty killer, really fast, hits anything, and doesnt shy away from injuries. the same can be said about murray, and bonk. while theyre not chipping in that much offensively, theyre not expected to. last season they had a job. to kill penalties and start a ruccus on the 4th line. they did exactly that.

    and montreals lineup will go like this

    higgins koivu ryder
    samsonov ribeiro kovalev
    perezhogin plekanec johnson
    bonk begin murray
    downie, kostitsyn

    johnson is way better than antropov and kilger, and plekanec and perezhogin are very underrated. they were not given icetime under julien, and excelled as the season went on under gainey. imo ribeiro is better than wellwood. at least for now. maybe not in 2 or 3 years, but ribeiro had a bad season and still put up 55 points, he can easily put up 65 again or maybe 70 playing between kovalev and samsonov. but in the end u can make a fair argument that ribs and wellwood are the same. ribs has better linemates though.

    and with perezhogin and plekanec, big seasons arent always big points. plekanec is a 2way player who is a great PKer. he was great int he faceoffs against carolina, and it is reasonable to say he will get better. and their play at the beginning of the season and the end was totally different. they matured so much throughout the season it is also reasonable to expect them to play at least as good as they did at the end of the season, which is a drastic improvement. it doesnt mean they will gt 80 points. they are still young, and given the icetime they will excel.

    toronto has no where near the quality prospects that montreal has. these defensemen u talk about, honestly, coliacovo, i dont know how u can still expect him to be a quality player. i think hes even too old to be considered a prospect. he hasnt shown any flashes of brilliance. at best u guys can hope he turns out to be a #4 defenceman. and it isnt a coincidence that many scouts and scouting services rate torontos farm system as one of the lowest in the NHL.

    and if u think kovalev isnt an offensive threat, well its ok. i guess u choose not to remember that back to back in montreal when he put u guys down, espcially Mr. Cheapshot Darcy Tucker. and koivu brings so much more to team than scoring. he is the heart and soul of the team, and he makes his linemates better. 60 points out of koivu is more than enough.

    just be ready when the habs finish higher than the leafs, and save the excuses.

    kostitsyn, price, latendresse, chipchura, danis, and technically, perezhogin and plekanec are considered prospects, grabovsky, s. kostitsyn, halak, locke, obyrne and the list goes on.

  21.  

    “if u watch any montreal games”

    Don’t make any assumptions. I watch most Leaf games and a lot of Ottawa games and considering they both play 8 games against Montreal it is safe to say that I watch several Montreal games as well. I also have NHL Center Ice package and watch a lot of other NHL games either in whole or in part including Montreal games that don’t involve Toronto or Ottawa.

    “you’ll see that begin is one of the better players in the league on the 3rd/4th line.”

    Yes, I agree. He is one of Montreal’s more valuable players as he is good defensively and plays a fiesty game. But is he a better player than Peca? No. Did Kilger have just as good a season last year? Probably.

    “johnson is way better than antropov and kilger”

    Not sure about way better but yeah, he is better mostly because he has a bit more offensive ability but don’t expect him to score much more than 20 goals, 55 points.

    “plekanec and perezhogin are very underrated. they were not given icetime under julien, and excelled as the season went on under gainey.”

    Really? Plekanec’s ice time per game goes like this:

    October: 11:19
    November: 12:36
    December: 15:44
    January: 15:00
    February: 14:34
    March: 13:33
    April: 12:39

    Looks like Gainey slowly reduced his ice time as the season went on. I wonder why? In March and April he scored just 2 goals and 8 points in 24 games. Not too impressive.

    And Perezhogin got 7 of his 19 points in October and from January through April he scored just 7 points.

    I am not sure of your definition of ‘excelled’ but the numbers don’t seem to back it up whatever your definition is (unless you mean excelling at bench warming).

    “imo ribeiro is better than wellwood. at least for now. maybe not in 2 or 3 years”

    Or maybe not this year. Wellwood scored 45 points in just 12:47 of ice time. Ribeiro scored 51 points in 16:35 of ice time. Regardless, Montreal’s centers are Koivu, Ribeiro, Plekanec and Begin. I’d take Sundin, Wellwood, Peca and Kilger/Stajan/Pohl/whoever over Montreal’s centers in a heartbeat and centers are more important than wingers.

    “these defensemen u talk about, honestly, coliacovo, i dont know how u can still expect him to be a quality player.”

    Colaiacovo is 23 which isn’t old for a defense prospect. Defensemen usually take a bit longer to develop. He’s been hindered somewhat by injuries and a coach that generally doesn’t like young defensemen. He still has lots of potential.

    None of those forward prospects you mention project into a future star player. Kostitsyn looks like he could be a good skilled player some day though his AHL numbers weren’t spectacular last year and Latendresse looks like he should develop into a top 6 forward maybe even a first line winger but probably not star talent. Chipchura probably doesn’t have the offensive ability to be more than a 3rd line player. Maybe a Steve Begin type with a tiny bit more offense potential.

    In goal Pogge is as good a prospect as Price and Yann Danis is already 25 and doesn’t project into a top goalie in the NHL.

    On defense Montreal doesn’t really have any quality prospects ready to step in over the next year or two.

    In short, Montreal has better forward prospects because Latendresse and Kostitsyn have higher upsides than the Leafs forward prospects, Toronto has better defense prospects because Montreal doesn’t really have any and in goal it is probably a wash.

  22.  

    To the Montreal fans….
    I’ve worked for the Bulldogs, and have seen both farm teams up close. Hate to say it but the Leafs are stronger than the Habs on D. Forget Carlo, the real diamonds are White, Harrison and Bell. White has all the tools to be a Rafalski, and the shot of an Iafrate. Harrison is what Komisarek was supposed to be, and Bell is a very smart hockey player that was burried by self confidence problems. Maurice came into Toronto last year and straightened all these kids out. The habs young d-men just don’t match up. Up front, Wellwood and Stajan are better than most give them credit for, but I think the Leafs would be better served having those two play together with Steen. In the old days teams would stumble on first liners by accident, I think the Leafs have one of those accidents in Pohl. His career looks alot like Marty St. Louis’ and he looks good with Sundin. As for the Habs forwards…Perezoghin is the Habs Afinegenov. He’s going to frustrate us a few more years, and Kostitisyn has to be more consistent. Plakenec will be the most sound of the three with the least upside. 2007 goes to the Leafs.

  23.  

    And as for Kovalev, he’s very much like Sundin. Both could be one of the best players in the world when they want to be, but there are times they look like pylons.

  24.  

    Except Sundin is a consistant 30+ goal, 80 point guy who is big and strong (though not agressive) and can play well defensively and Kovalev is a 25 goal, 60 point guy who is soft and plays questionable defensively.

  25.  

    The Leafs defense has been significantly upgraded. Not only by the subtraction of Berg and Khavanov in favour of Kubina and Gill, but by the addition of Peca. It will also be enhanced by the addition of Raycroft. Look up the list of Calder Trophy winning goaltenders. He is in very good company.

    One thing I would like to see is a significant increase in Wellwood’s ice time. He produced as many points as Steen, granting Steen played a few less games, and Steen spent a lot of time on Sundin’s wing. Sundin has a very good shot and Wellwood has excellent vision.

    As for Antropov, the new Leaf whipping boy, I think he is going to do well. He is a strong defensive player, good on the penalty kill, and is a good passer. The last year of his contract, along with O’niel and Tucker, may motivate him a little more as well.

    My choice of lines:

    Ponikarovsky – Sundin – Antropov
    Steen – Wellwood – O’neil
    Tucker – Stajan – Westrum/Suglobov/Pohl
    Kilger – Peca – Westrum/Suglobov/Pohl

    Kaberle – McCabe
    Kubina – Coliacovo/white
    Gill – Coliacovo/white
    Harrison

    Gill and Harrison would be an intimidating combonation.

    Rookies and sophomores are playing with veterans.

    Ondrus does not have a future in the NHL and shouldn’t take the spot of another prospect.

    Ultimately, but unlikely, I would like Sundin – Wellwood – O’neil to be the first line. Sundin is that winger that the Leafs covet.

    The first line includes Poni and Antorpov simply because of chemistry and in my opinion it’s the best spot to get the most out of them. The second line boasts a soon to be recognised set-up man with shooters that are capable of putting the puck in the net. The third and fourth lines both have speed, tenacity, and scoring potential.

    I’m sure Maurice will be able to figure out the line-ups better than us, but I think they will be good enough to make the playoffs.

    A note: It was nice to see the Leafs prospects defeated Montreal’s prospects wasn’t it?

  26.  

    It’s always nice when your “prospect” team has a whole lot more of AHL players than Montreal’s.

  27.  

    If you had seen more than 8 Habs games you would know that Plekanec was asked to play a whole lot more when Koivu was injured, thus the ice-time. If it decreased, it’s simply because Koivu and Ribeiro got theirs.

    And btw, Plekanec and Perezhogin were very dangerous against Carolina but had Mr one-handed-wrap-around Zednik to finish their plays, which says a lot.

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