Jan 222010
 

I think it is time that I come out and express my opinion on the Leafs season so far. The Leafs are currently sitting in 14th spot in the east with 44 points in 52 games thanks to a dismal 17-25-10 record. Now I know that many of you are loving that my prediction of the Leafs making the playoffs is going so wrong as now I have to eat crow and admit my bias, but let me point out two things many seem to forget.

1. I don’t think anyone predicted the Leafs would end the season with just 69 points, which is where they will end up if they keep on their current pace. Howard Berger, and others, love to talk about how bad the Leafs are and how we all knew that going into the season except for the most optimistic and unrealistic of fans. But of course, what Howard fails to mention that he didn’t predict the Leafs would end the season with 69 points, but rather he predicted the Leafs would end the season with 90 points and ending up 9th in the conference. Sorry Howard, but you’ll have to admit that you were awfully wrong about the Leafs this season too. And it isn’t just Howard. Almost everyone thought that the Leafs would be improved and likely end up just out of the playoffs. In fact, pretty much everyone predicted the Leafs would end up closer to my 95 point prediction than to the 69 points they are currently on pace for. So, if I am going to eat crow, you’ll all have to too.

2. A significant portion of my optimistic thinking was that I thought the combination of a healthy Toskala, a hopefully good Gustavsson, and a better 3rd goalie in MacDonald would result in much improved goaltending. Here is my exact quote:

Now I know a lot of people will scream bias at this prediction but I truly believe that 95 points is relatively easily obtainable if they even get average goaltending. Maybe I shouldn’t assume that but with a healthy Toskala, a promising prospect in Gustavsson and a more than decent third option in Joey MacDonald not to mention one of the best goalie coaches in the game in Francois Allaire getting average goaltending is certainly within reach. They also have a good and deep defense and a significant number of forwards capable of scoring 20-30 goals so they should produce enough offensively. Goaltending is key.

Well, none of that panned out. Toskala has been even worse than ever and Gustavsson has been good at times, bad at other times and overall just mediocre. The end result is a team save percentage of .885 which is exactly the same as last year. That goes a long way to explaining why the Leafs are so bad this year just as it does in explaining how bad the Hurricanes, Blue Jackets and Oilers are (those three teams are the 29th, 28th and 27th worst teams in save percentage.

So with that out of the way, let me address some specific issues with respect to the Leafs.

Goaltending going Forward

The goaltending is in complete disarray. Based on his play, Toskala has probably not even earned a roster spot in the ECHL, let along the NHL. Save for a game or two, he has been horrid. He has no future with the Leafs, and quite possibly no future in the NHL (though Raycroft still earns an NHL paycheck so anything is possible). But regardless, he won’t be with the Leafs next season. Furthermore, he isn’t likely to garner any attention come the trade deadline. He has been that bad. So the thought of showcasing him as potential trade bait, even for a 7th round pick, is pointless. I can’t think of a single reason why he should get another start this season. Since the Leafs don’t have their first round pick it doesn’t even make sense to play him just to lose more games. In short, Toskala serves no useful role and has no value to the Leafs whatsoever and so should be George Laracque’d and let go immediately. Play Gustavsson 80% of the remaining games and lets see if he can be a starter in the NHL and bring up MacDonald, who at least might have a chance at contributing to the Leafs organization in some capacity beyond this season. The Leafs need to find out what they have in Gustavsson because they simply cannot being another NHL season without some stability in goal. It’s killing the team and it will kill the confidence of the young players on the team and thus hurt their development.

Ron Wilson

A lot of people are wondering if Ron Wilson will, or should get fired. I personally don’t have any strong feelings one way or another towards Wilson. With the inconsistent goaltending the Leafs have had it is really difficult to evaluate him as a coach. But that said, he was supposed to be a defensive coach and bring a more defensive mindset to the Leafs and for the most part I don’t see that and there hasn’t been any improvement from Maurice to Wilson or from last year to this year so maybe that means he should be fired. That said, I’d give him another year if a top tier coach is not available this summer (i.e. should Ken Hitchcock not get fired in Columbus).

Tomas Kaberle

It seems like anyone and everyone wants to trade this guy with many people wondering why Burke is so insistent that he will not ask Kaberle to waive his no trade clause. First, I find it admirable that Burke is a man of his word and I think in the long run that bodes well for this franchise. Integrity is important, and I believe Burke has that. Second, I don’t understand the rush or desire to trade Kaberle. Yes, he is their most valuable asset, but he is their most valuable asset because he awfully good. Trading really good players shouldn’t just be something you do for the sake of trading them. It should be something you do after a lot of serious thought and then only if it lands you another really good player. Sorry guys, but Kaberle is worth much more than a late first round pick and a secondary prospect because there really aren’t many players with his skillset in the NHL. Personally, what I would do is wait until July when you can start contract negotiations and see what it would cost to lock him up for another 4 years. If the number is reasonable, I’d do it. If not, look to trade him then. He isn’t even 32 years yet so he still has a lot of quality hockey left in him and if you can sign him to another good value contract it makes perfect sense to do that instead of trading him.

Stalberg, Hanson, etc.

I have heard several people talk about Stalberg, Hanson and others and wonder why they aren’t on this team instead of guys like Blake, Stempniak, etc. who should have their contracts dumped in the AHL to free up salary cap space. Brian Burke’s response to that is he can’t send them down because they have earned the right to play through hard work. I am with Brian Burke again. I think it is absolutely wrong to give a player like Stalberg or Hanson a roster spot just because he is young and might have more of a future with this team than Blake or Stempniak. I believe, as Burke believes, you have to earn the right to play in the NHL and so far neither Hanson nor Stalberg have earned that right. In Stalberg’s case, his good pre-season earned him a spot but his 1 goal, 3 points and -5 in 17 games has shown that he isn’t ready for the NHL yet. He hasn’t performed as well as Blake or Stempniak and probably hasn’t out worked them either so there is no rational reason why Stalberg deserves a spot on this team. When he earns it, he’ll get it and that is the proper message Leaf management should be sending their young players, or any player for that matter.

Ian White

Over at Pension Plan Puppets they have recently discussed Ian White and what his next contract should be. It is definitely worth the read though I think the undervalue White a little.

I can’t speak for White, White’s agents, or Burke. But I’m pretty positive that most GMs in the league would look at all the data I just did, and say that White is deserving of a contract worth at least $3M, probably closer to $3.5M. If Burke came in with an offer for 3 years and $10M, I think that everybody would be pretty happy, and Ian White would remain an important member of the Blue and White for the rest of his mid 20s.

I actually think his value is closer to $4-4.5 million. He can play big minutes, is solid defensively and has produced offensively too and at age 25 is probably still improving. He works hard and has done everything that the Leafs have asked of him, including playing as a winger after sitting out 11 straight games to start the season last year. He is exactly the kind of guy I want as the face of this franchise. If I were GM of the Leafs I would be talking to Ian White right now and get him locked up to a long term contract. Five years at $4 million per year sounds just fine to me and I’d probably seriously consider making him captain as well. Who else would you want to represent your franchise than a home grown player who earned a regular role with the team through patience and hard work, someone who plays all aspects of the game well, and someone who is just entering the prime of his career? The other options for caption all have their flaws. Beauchemin will only be here for a year or two. Kaberle doesn’t seem to be the vocal/leader type. Komisarek isn’t home grown. Schenn is too young. And none of the forwards likely have their futures with the Leafs secure enough at this point in time. As a Leaf fan, I can’t see any problems with White as captain, so long as he signs a long term contract to solidify his future with the team.

  26 Responses to “State of the Leafs”

  1.  

    Great piece.

    I’d love to see the Leafs lock down White, but as White’s an RFA I’d also like to see the Leafs drive a value contract out of him – the more players out-performing their contracts, the better.

    Qualify him at 105% and bargain hard. Might as well use the hammer if you have it.

  2.  

    mf37 and David,

    I fall between you two. If you look at Steve’s recent post on this he kind of put the points in well (in the comments).

    Basically, David, he is an RFA, and the 4 million you are suggesting is UFA money. There are very few RFA’s who deserve that kind of money, and I don’t think he is one of them. We don’t need to overpay him.

    On the other hand, if we want him to be a part of this franchise, we need to offer hima fair and reasonable deal mf. We don’t just want him bolting when he turns UFA.

    I agree with ppp and am hoping for 3.25-3.75.

    That being said, I think the White situation and Kaberle situation are completely intertwined. We can’t afford to have both og them (and Finger) on the blue line.

  3.  

    David:

    Specifically, you say we should keep Kaberle AND resign White to 4 mil a year.

    that would create a blue line for next year of
    Komi 4.5
    Kabby 4.25
    White 4
    Beauch 3.8
    Finger 3.5
    Schenn 2.7
    Gunny .8

    23.5 mil That is a FORTUNE

    Thats 6 guys making top 4 money. We simply can’t do that in a cap environment. The reason ppl want to move Kabby so much, is because with the signing of Beuach and Komi, no one can envision a long term role for him on this team.

    The top 4 of the future for this team is Beauch, Komi, Schenn, White/Kaberle with Gunnarson playing top 4 minutes with injuries.

  4.  

    BCCapp, White has one more year to go before he is eligible for UFA status so in a 5 year deal you are essentially buying 1 year of RFA status and 4 years of UFA status. Sure, they could sign him to a one year deal at $3 but then the following summer it might cost $4.5M on a four year deal. 3+4*4.5 = $21M for an average of $4.2M. Now I’d certainly try to get him on a $3.5M contract, I am just not sure it is possible. It might be, but I guess it depends on how much White likes it in Toronto.

    As for the cost of the defense, I think it is manageable depending on what they do elsewhere and whether they acquire a high priced forward and/or goalie. Ideally though they would rid themselves of Finger’s contract. He isn’t that bad of a player, just not at $3.5M. If they would dump him in the AHL and sign a reasonable $1M defenseman I think you then have a pretty good $21M defense.

    Also, I am not adverse to trading Kaberle, I just wouldn’t do it for a late first round pick and a second tier prospect. In that trade, odds are you’ll end up with a second/third line player, maybe two if you are lucky. The Leafs don’t need more of them and it isn’t fair value considering his contract situation. It would be different if he were a rental you had no intention of re-signing but that is not the situation Kaberle is in. I’d consider trading him for a young talented forward already in the NHL (like Burke was considering in trading Kaberle for Kessel), but otherwise he has more value to this team on the ice.

  5.  

    Fair enough on both points.

    I just don’t want to over pay White at 4 mil, when I think we can hopefully be more reasonable in mid 3′s.

    As well I simply misunderstood your Kaberle point. I don’t think we should be knocking down his door, but he has a ton of value. If we can get a top tier prospect and a late 1st, I’d probably do it (not a second tier prospect).

    I hear rumours like Mueller for Poni being the basis for a deal. (They obviously aren’t looking for puck moving defensemen), but I feel like a guy like Mueller has to be seriously considered.

  6.  

    My main point on Kaberle is we shouldn’t be trading him just because he has the most value on the trade market. That is just dumb, but that is what it seems most people are saying and not really taking into consideration what he provides the Leafs or what they Leafs might get in return. If we get very good return, sure, trade him, but if they can re-sign him to an extension at a very reasonable dollar value, there is nothing wrong with that route.

  7.  

    I see your point. Mine is just that I don’t see a place long term for all five of Beauch, Komi, Schenn, Kaberle and White (especially with gunny biting at their feet).

    Maybe I am too stuck to the typical top 4 bottom 2 + 1 make up.

    But the bottom line is that 4 defensemen on most teams are going to play rough 45+ minutes, and 2 will play less than 15.

    Which of Schenn, Beuach, Komi, White, Kabby will be playing less than 15 minutes in 2012?

    Look I love Kaberle and my gut actually says hold him. But my brain says, with him playing an awesome year, and White/Gunnarson/Beauchemin being our all icers/puck movers maybe we should move him.

    Honestly though, I think the most important pieces to move right now are Stajan/Poni.

    Did you know that both Poni and Hagman are in the top 30 in NHL goal scoring, better than ANYONE on 9 NHL teams?

    I’d even have Hagman available for the right trade (but its the UFAs that I think should be moved).

    Honestly I see next years team looking something like this:

    Kuleimin-Bozak-Kessel
    Blake-Grabs-Hags
    Stahlberg-XX-Hanson
    Orr-MItchell-Rosehill

    The only resigns their are Kuleimin and Mitchel both as RFA’s. Hopefully Kuleimin @ about 2 mil and Mitchell at about 1 mil.

    Kadri also may fight for one of those top 2 C roles. In the long run I see Kuleimin developping very similarly to Poni. Hopefully we can get a 30 goal forward who will go into the corners and is VERY defensively sound. Bozak I think will be our second line C in the long run.

    That leaves all of our UFAs to be traded away for picks/prospects including, Poni (top 30 in goals), Stajan (2nd highest Leaf in points, probably 50th or 60th in NHL), Stemps (solid 3rd line winger). Mayers, Wallin, and Primeau are untradable (though I would resign Primeau if we could do it for under 1 as a cheap veteran 3/4 C while we develop our abundance of bottom 6 forwards).

    As much as I like Hags (he is possibly my favourite Leaf and has a very reasonable contract), we aren’t building a contender for another 2-3 years and i wouldn’t be adverse to trading him to a team making the run this year.

    We have a lot of good potential trading partners out there:

    Phoenix (has no goal scorers as high as Hags/Poni and is making a serious run with a good number of prospects.)

    LA (could use some serious LW support with J williams our (and he can’t stay healthy)

    Pitts (their highest scoring winger is guerin on pace for low 50s. We oculd trade them some good wingers WITH expiring contracts (Poni) or not (Hags), and I like the look of some of their prospects (a la Tangradi)

    Buffalo/Boston are both lacking in the fire power, but are unlikely as they are both in division. An interesting idea though would be to trade for Poni/Hags for Ryder and we would swallow that disgusting salary and hopefully get a good package of picks/prospects in return.

    Chi-town- has to be loving the look of expiring contracts right now. But hey they may want to hold onto their team and just be utter sellers in the summer.

    Calgary? Perhaps we can organize a Stajan for Landkow for cap relief and get something in return? (Their prospect depth isn’t great though…)

    Same idea with Horcroff? I have a feeling Burke will be using our cap space as relief for others with 1-2 year contracts and demanding 2nds and prospects.

    Anywho I seem to have gone on quite the rant. Cheers

  8.  

    Which of Schenn, Beuach, Komi, White, Kabby will be playing less than 15 minutes in 2012?

    You are right in pointing out that they are all top 4 defensemen, but it is my opinion that there is no rush to trade any of them. Wait for the right deal. If you have Kaberle locked up on a reasonable contract, it opens up the option to trade one of the other guys at some point, even White or Schenn, both of whom at some point might honestly net a greater return than what Kaberle will. Schenn has been playing great recently and while I’d hate to trade him, he probably has a greater potential to land us a young star forward than Kaberle does. If White continues developing as he has, he could too. Like I said, it is just wrong to make trades for the sake of making trades, especially when you are trading away a quality asset on a good contract.

    Did you know that both Poni and Hagman are in the top 30 in NHL goal scoring, better than ANYONE on 9 NHL teams?

    Absolutely. Both Hagman and Ponikarovsky would be second in goals scored on the Penguins and Blackhawks, both quality offensive teams. It really is sad that so many people in Toronto don’t realize the quality of players that are on the team. Just because they aren’t elite first line players doesn’t mean that they are automatically third or fourth line guys.

    As for your forward lineup, I fully expect Burke to go out and attempt to sign or acquire another big name forward. Last year Burke addressed the defense and tried with to fix goaltending with Gustavsson and I think his plan was always to really remake the forward grouping in summer 2010 when more of the forwards are free agents.

  9.  

    The three most pressing needs for Burke to address are goaltending and first line offense.

    On goaltending,mercifully the Toskala era is finally coming to an end, Gustavvson has shown potential but certainly can’t be counted on to carry the load next season.We need a solid plan B in goal.That may come in the form of signing a quality veteran goalie or bringing in another young goalie via trade.Burke should be looking at Anderson or perhaps Schnieder in Vancouver to fill the spot.

    You can knock our defense all you like but I really don’t have a problem with our backend. Its our first line offense that is missing.We simply don’t have a first line that is comparable to other teams.We have lots of 2nd and 3rd liners but no first liners, other than perhaps Kessel.Expecting Matt Stajan to skate with the premier talent on other teams is ridiculous.Our lack of offense leads to falling behind and taking chances. This puts too much pressure on our defence and goaltending and the results are predictable.Too many small,soft forwards who can’t score. It high time to say bye bye to Stempniak,Hagman and Stajan.Maybe you can parlay these guys into picks or a solid prospect,maybe not.

    At the end of the day finding first line offensive talent and starting grade goaltenders in a 30 team league is a very tall order.There’s a short supply and a huge demand, and nobodys giving away anything for free.On top of that the UFA market is very thin this year.

    Burke has his work cut out for him, there is no quick fix for this team

  10.  

    We aren’t going to get much (if any) ‘classic’ first line talent from the UFA crop this summer.

    From most persons eyes the only UFAs that are first liners are Marleau, Kovalchuk and Jokinen.

    Guess what, Stajan’s numbers are as good as Olli’s this year and he’s 7 years younger.

    Our problem is not in scoring goals. Do we have a contenders offense? No. But we do have a playoff worthy offense. Yes. Last year we were 10th in Goals For, and this year we are around 16th.

    Realistically we may get ONE proven first line talent in the next 2 years through UFA signing or trade. All other top flight forward talent will have to come through development.

    Ideally from these people:
    Kadri
    Bozak
    Hanson
    Stahlberg
    Kenny Ryan
    DiDomenico
    Stefanovich

    Ideally we add a couple more prospects and/or picks (to become prospects) to fill that pool. And build around the very young offense we have.

    And Leafer, you don’t have to worry about ‘small soft forwards’ in the future. They basically don’t exist in our system past Stefanovich. Even if Burke hasn’t filled the 09-10 Leafs with the toughness many expected he has helped fill our system with it.

    If we lose our all of our UFA’s this year, we will have about a lines worth of speedy-soft-skill players in Blake-Grabs-Hags

    Personally the only big UFA I would be happy with would be Marleau. But I don’t know what his relationship is like with Wilson, so that may not be possible. Alternatively I’d LOVE to get Kesler, but he is an RFA and we have NO CHANCE at getting those.

    Kovalchuk will be just too expensive and I don’t see that making sense on a team with so many holes. BEsides if we were to sign Kovalchuk, we would NEED a power forward C to play between two relatively soft, mediocre-at-best-back checkers in Kessel and Kovalchuk.

  11.  

    David,

    In regards to your assertion that Burke will go after a star forward, I would love to see this:

    Stahlberg-Marleau-Kessel
    Blake-Grabs-Hags
    Kuleimin-Bozak-Hanson
    Orr-Mitchell-Rosehill

    How awesome a checking line would Kuleimin-Bozak-Hanson be? Have our best power-forwards/checkers on the wings, with our best checking C with great playmaking talent?

    Obviously they have the potential to be as good (eventually) offensively as that second line listed there.

  12.  

    And b/c we already discussed it. Assume that sans Finger (bury him in the offseason) 21 mil D

    6 mil goalies takes to 27 mil, which if the cap doesn’t move would leave roughly 30 mil.

    If Marleau signs at 5.5 mil (one of thsoe life-time contracts)
    Stahlberg-Marleau-Kessel
    11.7 mil

    Blake-Grabs-Hags
    9.7

    Kuleimin (2)-Bozak-Hanson
    5.5

    Rosehill-Mitchell (1)-Orr
    2.5

    28.4 mil

  13.  

    And my two cents on goalies are to try and get a good goalie prospect in trades (perhaps Bernier from LA, b/c they already have Quick and Ersberg).

    Then sign Turco or Biron for 2-3 years. They should be reasonably priced at around 3 mil. Sign Gustavvson for the same amount of time. Let Gustavvson fight it out for the starters position with that vet. If he doesn’t pull it off, hopefully that traded for prospect or Reimer will be ready for NHL duty.

  14.  

    “Our problem is not in scoring goals”

    Bcapp….if you actually believe your above statement your in serious denial.If our offense is so wonderful perhaps you can explain why our power play is a joke?? Perhaps you can also explain why we routinely out shoot the opposition but lose games because we can’t finish? Perhaps you can explain why we are on pace to post one of the the worst point totals in recent memory.Perhaps you can explain why anybody with a bit of hockey knowledge knows the Leafs may have one or two top six forwards on their roster.

    Fact is, our offense is weak, very weak.Burke knows it, Wilson knows it, everybody but you seems to know it.

    The Leafs have maybe one true “finisher” in Kessel after that it gets thin fast. Hagman,Stajan and Poni look good for a game or two and then routinely disappear for 10 game stretches.Stempniak and Blake? Garbage!!They simply aren’t good enough.

    I also understand your excited about the young guys on the farm, but realistically,how many of those prospects that you name have a shot at being first line NHL players? Kadri maybe? For all you know Bozak is the next Jeremy Williams and Stefnovich is the next Tlusty.Its nice to be optimistic but we’ve all heard this song before.

    Until Burke gets a true NHL starting goalie and two first line forwards, this team is going no where.And that you can take to the bank.

  15.  

    As I pointed out earlier on this post, Hagman and Ponikarovski are in the top 30 scorers in the LEAGUE!! That would make them the BEST scorer on NINE teams in the league!!

    I hate being fed this nonsense like we have only two top 6 forwards.

    I am not saying we have an incredible forward corps. I specifically said that. I am just saying that it is not the first thing that needs to be addressed on this team. Realistically Ponikarovski or Hagman would be a top line forward on MOST teams in this league.

    We have trouble accepting the fact that most first line forward is NOT Toews or Sedins. Most are Hagman or JP Dumont.

    Look I’d love to get more top line forwards and I would like to see ONE signed or traded for. But realistically in a cap world, it doesn’t make sense to pick up that many that way. We are already paying Kessel top line money and until Blake is off the books I don’t see how we can pick up more than one guy making top line money.

    So lets address your questions 1 by 1:

    If our offense is so wonderful perhaps you can explain why our power play is a joke??

    I blame Wilson screwing it up, by depending on Kessel way too much and building a power play around a player who’s greatest talent is his speed and quick release, which is mostly negated in a power play position, where most chances are takne from already being in the zone, and goalies are expecting shots at all times. Our power play was actually doing quite well before Kessel got on board, and could be doing much better.

    Perhaps you can also explain why we routinely out shoot the opposition but lose games because we can’t finish?

    I didn’t say our scoring was top notch. I just said it is acceptable, we could use more finishing touch. I am not in denial

    Perhaps you can explain why we are on pace to post one of the the worst point totals in recent memory.

    Because while we have a middle of the pack offense we have the WORST goals against in the league. Average offense + worst defense (collectively including goaltending and backchecking) = near the bottom but not quite there

    .Perhaps you can explain why anybody with a bit of hockey knowledge knows the Leafs may have one or two top six forwards on their roster.

    I totally disagree and will quickly name you 5 top 6 forwards on the leafs.

    Kessel-I don’t feel the need to explain him

    Ponikarovski-top 30 in goals scored in the LEAGUE of THIRTY teams

    Hagman-top 30 in goals scored in the LEAGUE of THIRTY teams

    Stajan-Two years in a row has been in the top 100 in points. Statistically to be a top 6 forward offensively you need to be in the top 180, so he has clearly met that standard. And I think we all agree that defensively he is in the top 180 forwards.

    Grabovski-The most questionable one on the list, but his point total (to when he got injured) also put him in the top 180.

    I agree we have a lack of these ‘top line forwards’ but very few teams have more than 1 or 2 of them. And to say we only have 1 or 2 top 6 forwards is just misunderstanding that term… terribly.

    I am not in denial. We have a bad team, with terrible goal tending, a D that looks good on paper that can’t seem to click. The 3rd worst PK in NHL history. A GM who refuses to hold his coach responsible, and NO ONE consistent on its offense. I just don’t like the idea of spending big money on UFA forwards when the team isn’t ready for that money to be spent.

  16.  

    Do you consider Patrick Sharp a top 6 forward?

    In the last two seasons his point per game has been 0.743 and Stajan’s has been 0.726

  17.  

    In the whole top-6 forward debate, we often fail to mention that every team needs stars to propel their top-6.

    Yes, Hagman is a top-6 forward — but if there’s no greater top notch talent on his line, it’s tough to call it a top line.

    I believe that every winning team must be anchored by a minimum of TWO star players up front. Before Heatley got to San Jose, Marleau and Thornton did that job, and the Sharks were a front line team.

    These are the types of players who make the Hagmans of the world acceptable top-6 forwards. Does the combined skill of Kessel-Grabovski-Hagman form a passable first line? Yes. But without a second star forward to anchor the second line, or to reinforce the top line, your top line won’t be dangerous enough to make a contender.

    At the moment, the Leafs have one star, and they need a second. Badly.

    Kadri has 10 points in his last 3 games and has rocketed up to 11th in OHL scoring, even having missed all those games because of the WJC. Could he be the second star forward the Leafs desperately need?

  18.  

    “Realistically Ponikarovski or Hagman would be a top line forward on MOST teams in this league”

    Nope.I don”t buy that and I don’t think most GM’s in the league are buying that.One or both of these guys will likey be available at the deadline and you’ll see what our “top line” forwards will be worth.How’s a second or third round pick sound.

    You cannot classify a player as “top line” material strictly based on point totals, Poni and Hagman are soft,inconsistent,players as is Stajan with similar point totals.They all have huge deficiencys in their games.That is the problem, they are both second line players that have been given first line responsibilites and the results speak for themselves.

    I would sign Poni if the dollars makes sense, if not trade both of them.

  19.  

    Leafer did you just call Poni and Hagman second line forwards? That would make them top 6 forwards, ergo negating your (rudely worded):

    “Perhaps you can explain why anybody with a bit of hockey knowledge knows the Leafs may have one or two top six forwards on their roster.”

    Poni + Hagman + Kessel = 3

    Look I am not trying to call Poni/Hagman stars. What I was trying to show is that they are totally capable of playing on the first line. Not every first liner is going to be Ovechkin, or Alfredson.

    Or to put it another way, they are complimentary first liners. Like Alex Burrows or Mike Knuble.

    Poni and Hagman are both 4-6 players. As a matter of fact so is Stajan. The problem with Leaf fans is we see a lack of Marleaus/Thorton/Ovechkin/etc and we assume we have no top 6 talent.

    I fully agree with everything Casey just said, we have no star talent past Kessel. But we have plenty of complimentary first line forwards and solid second line forwards.

    So let me just make my points crystal clear:

    1) The current rendition of the leafs have enough COMPLIMENTARY first line forwards, and second line forwards
    1.a. But a bunch of these guys (Poni, Stajan and MAYBE Hags), will probably not play for this team in 2010/2011

    2) We have a solid prospect/player pool, and decent looking players who look like they can create a solid second line (Bozak, Kuleimin, Hags, Stahlberg, Grabs)

    3) We DO NEED more star power, but it is VERY expensive to get it via UFA and I think to do it this year (unless a rare opportunity arises (a la Kessel)) would be to early. The ‘star talent’ available this year is Marleau and Kovalchuk, and because that list is so short they will be VERY expensive.
    3.a. Lets let some of our top tier prospects develop (Kadri, others we trade for at the deadline this year) and see if we can’t get just one more star forward.

    4. To make our forwards competitive we need:

    4a) 2 of Bozak, Stahlberg, Hanson, Kuleimin, to turn into 25 goal scorers/60 point guys (and Grabovski to stay there).
    4b)Kessel to score 35-40 goal seasons
    4c) one more star talent (>70 points and/or 30 goals)
    4d) one of our vets to return and put up 20+ goals and 55+ points

    That would give 3 top 6ers from 4a and 1 each from b-d totalling 6 legit top 6ers. Including 2 ‘star top-3′

    And I would also like to see another 2-3 guys in 2-3 years from our respectable juniors/NCAA talent pool.

    *Note that would make us competitive, not one of the best offensive teams in the league.

  20.  

    Don’t get confused by my second linetop six comment, this is based on the Leafs current roster.The Leafs are so thin upfront that players become “top six” players by default because there is simply no other options.I still say Kessel and perhaps Poni are the only top six forwards on this team.Hagman and Stajan are weak second liners or strong 3rd liners.

    “we have no star talent past Kessel”

    Well Mr.Capp, thats what I said in the beginning, your above statement tells me we are in full agreement with each other.

    Frankly I’ve seen enough of Stajan and Hagman so I hope they turn out to be as valuable as you think they are and Burke deals them.Poni? only at the right price, or send him packing as well.

    The record speaks for itself, this team needs major personnel changes. Keeping the same core of players and expecting difference results is fool hardy.We need guys that care, guys that play with heart and passion.Stajan? Hagman? Poni? I don’t see any of those qualities in them.Most nights they show up, go through the motions and quietly post another loss.

    It all leads back to what I said in the beginning, to be competitive we need two first line forwards and a #1 NHL goaltender.Is anybody disputing this?

  21.  

    Don’t get confused by my second linetop six comment, this is based on the Leafs current roster.The Leafs are so thin upfront that players become “top six” players by default because there is simply no other options.

    There are two ways to look at this.

    1. The Leafs “3rd line players” end up getting more ice time than they deserve so they in turn get more point on the Leafs than they would on a good team.

    2. Players like Stajan, Ponikarovsky, Hagman, etc. end up playing against opposing teams top players so they might actually perform better in a second line role on a better team. Furthermore, because they aren’t playing with elite level players, they don’t get cheap points like a similarly talented forward playing with an elite level player.

    For example, Bill Guerin is the Penguins top scoring winger and third leading scorer with 16 goals and 35 points, which is fairly close to Ponikarovsky’s 18 goals and 33 points or Hagman’s 18 goals and 31 points. Now, if Geurin and Ponikarovsky switched teams and played with Stajan instead of Crosby, would he have more or less points? If Hagman was Crosby’s winger, would he have more or less points?

    Now do the same sort of analysis with Brendan Morrison, the Capitals second line center, and Matt Stajan. Would Stajan have more or fewer points playing the same role as Morrison?

    Shooting down the argument that the Leafs players get more ice time than they really deserve is the fact that Stajan is 40th among centers in power play ice time, Ponikarovsky is 28th among LWs and Hagman 36th. Among all forwards, Stajan is 89th in PP ice time, Ponikarovsky 101st, and Hagman 137th. It’s not like any of these guys are getting an over abundance of power play time (or ice time) that they wouldn’t get on a top team. They would just be playing with better players. FYI, Bill Guerin is 6th in the NHL in PP time.

    What the Leafs really need is stable, quality goaltending and one more top level forward to anchor the first line which would help the team be more consistent offensively and avoid lengthy goal scoring droughts like we have seen in recent weeks.

  22.  

    Leafer,

    I am not disputing your final point at all. I am just frustrated that we Leaf fans have become so jaded and full of highlight reels of other teams taht we don’t realize the value that we do have.

    Poni/Hags/Stajan are not stars, but they are 3-6 guys. They aren’t top 6 b/c they are forced to be there they have done ti on their own merit. As David pointed out, they get top 3 points with 3-5 ice time. And they also do it with LOW PP time.

    Regardless I would be happy to see them go, even Poni, b/c I don’t see them having a future on this team.

    In regards to goalies, I don’t know if you saw what I wrote, but I’ll say it again.

    First off, Gustavvson has neither proved he is/can be a starting goalie nor that he is not. I therefore think the best plan is to prepare for the future if he does not pull it off (1), and deal with the present to compete with him if he can’t do it (2).

    (1) We make some of our trades for goalie prospects Bernier or MAYBE Harding come to mind. (Harding would want to compete TODAY).

    (2) We sign an older but good veteran who can be a legit number 1 (as Edmonton did this year with Khabi (but they made a mistake of going after a guy with a back problem). I’d say the first guy to come to mind is Marty Turco. Though I would also look at Biron/Nittymaki/which ever one on Nashville is not signed (this one could be a true number 1).

    That way we will have solid goaltending for the next 2-3 years–the length of the vet’s contract–and Gustavvson has either proven he is the real deal, or Reimer/that new prospect(s) is ready for the NHL.

  23.  

    Capp

    Bernier might be ok, but I wouldn’t go near Turco or Biron .Also, the few times I’ve seen Harding play he has looked awful.

    The Leafs should take long look at Dan Ellis or perhaps see if the Schnieder kid on Vancouver’s farm team is available.There is also talk that Tim Thomas in Boston will be available soon but unfortunately his long term big dollar contract comes with him.If they need to buy some time they may want to see if Dwayne Roloson is available for a one year deal next season.He’s a proven vet with good numbers this year and likely wouldn’t cost much.

    The problem is Gustavvson’s situation is so unpredictable.Even if he does develope into a #1 will he be healthy enough long term for the Leafs.Because of his heart and injury issues he’s a real question mark right now.

  24.  

    Leafer,

    From a medical point of view the Heart really shouldn’t be a concern. I am premed myself and have discussed it with my cousin (cardiologist) and professors (PhD in cardiovascular physiology). I can explain to you what the problem is, but when treated it has no effect on overall heart function.

    Absolute worse case scenario (which is now approximately .5% likelyhood (1/200)) is that he would have the same surgery again. Basically he has extra conducting tissue in his heart, so it sends the impulse to beat to much. So all they do is destroy this tissue (or ablate it hence Cardiac Ablation surgery).

    If I use a electrical/computer analogy it will probably be easier ot understand. It is not the computer that is broken (pacemaker cells), he just has to many wires (connective tissue) carrying the signal to the muscle. So all they gotta do is cut some of the signals. About 1/20 times they miss the wire, that is what happened in his first surgery.

    The real question is does he develop into a true number 1. In regards to Biron and Turco, i have to be honest they have always been 2 of my favourite underrated goalies, so I have a bias. i will grudgingly admit though, that smaller goalies have really suffered post lockout, and Turco is just that, and has done just that…

    While you don’t like my choices for veteran stop gap, you agree on the idea. I think it is the best bet. Get a veteran stop gap in for 2-3 years and another prospect or two. Let Gus fight it out for that starting position, and then let the prospects fight for it in 2-3 years.

    Unfortunately Rolo’s on a 2 year-contract. Thats why I said Biron, not Rolo.

    I really don’t know the deal with Harding. He had a lot of promise and looked great last year, but he hasn’t done well with the change in their system… We have beefed up our pro scouts so hopefully they know the deal much better than us right and know who to target?

    In regards to Ellis/Rinne I would seirously consider whichever goalie they do not go with.

    Honestly though I think the bottom line is, unless we can get Nabby this summer, we cannot sign a UFA number 1, and should instead get someone who can compete with Gus, and pick up a few prospects.

    Agree?

    The two trade ideas I keep hearing are Timmy T and JSG. Both come with huge contracts, but can probable be done. JSG can probably be traded for right now, Timmy T probably not until the summer, b/c there is no reason for Boston to go into the playoffs with a Rookie G

  25.  

    “From a medical point of view the Heart really shouldn’t be a concern”

    Sorry Capp…that statement had me laughing big time…but thanks for the medical explaination…I did have a pretty good understanding of it before, but your points helped out for sure.

    For me its more than just the heart thing with Gustavvson, he looks so pale and thin when you see him, and both his parents died at a very young age, not saying he’s destined for issues, but when you consider the heart issue, his physical appearance, and his parents genesdeaths…forgive me if I get a little nervous about him…He also seems to be a bit of a loner so you never know if at some point he will bolt back to Sweden.

    BCapp…you seem to like talking hockey and so do I,if you haven’t already I suggest you check out the Maple Leafs Hot Stove site and the Canoe Slam Sports site…lots of Leaf talk going on there 24/7….and we could use a few more Leaf fans.

    Link for Canoe site as follows:
    http://www.canoe.ca/cgi-bin/mb2/view.pl?board=slam

  26.  

    Leafer,

    Thanks for the invite:)

    And no apology necessary, I really didn’t know if I should bother with that, but I figure many hockey fans don’t have that kind of knowledge and just see ‘heart problems AHHH!’

    Anywho, I don’t particularly like forum type sites a la Canoe, but I do read all of Alex Tran’s articles on MLHS. I have never really commented though…

    Cheers!

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