Feb 162013
 

Ok, let me justify that headline a little before people get all over me.  He isn’t completely terrible as in he shouldn’t be in the league terrible.  He’s just a terrible first line center, and probably not a very good second or third line center either (at least not until he improves defensively). He’d be an OK 4th liner and injury fill in depth player at close to minimum salary. Let me explain.

The last 2 seasons Bozak has mostly played with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul became his second winger when he joined the Leafs. Those are two pretty solid wingers to play with so lets look at Bozak’s production with those two solid players.

I want to compare Bozak to other top 9 players and conveniently if we look at all forwards with 1250 minutes of 5v5 zone start adjusted ice time over the past 2 seasons we come up with 270 players which is precisely an average of 9 per team, or 3 lines per team. So, how does Bozak rank among these players?

So, despite playing predominately with first line players his individual offensive stats are at a 3rd line level.

So, what about PP situations?  There are 169 forwards with 250 5v4 PP minutes over the previous two seasons while Bozak has played 417:28 which puts him among the top 65 forwards in the league. How has Bozak fared?

Think about that for a minute.  Of 169 forwards with >250 5v4 PP minutes over the past 2 seasons he ranks 5th last in shots/60 and has the 30th worst first assists/60 rankings. That means he is playing on the PP but isn’t shooting much and isn’t a primary set up man for the shooters either.

The only redeeming factors for Bozak is that he seems to be developing into a really good face off guy and he seems to be able to play with an elevated shooting percentage. His 5v5 ZS adjusted shooting percentage ranks 30th of 270 over the past 2 seasons while his 5v4 PP shooting percentage ranks 14th of 169. If you look at Bozak’s shot locations for last season you will see that the majority of Bozak’s shots and goals come from close in and 5 of his 11 5v5 goals last season came on rebounds.

So, to summarize, Tyler Bozak doesn’t shoot much, isn’t a great playmaker, isn’t good defensively (explained elsewhere) and yet coaches seem to insist on using him as a first line center. His main contribution to a team is winning face offs and going to the opposing teams net waiting for the puck to come to him so he can pot an easy close in goal. It is not completely unreasonable to believe that a guy like David Steckel could give you as good or better performance on face offs and similar lackluster offensive results with better defensive play if given the same opportunities to play with top end players that Tyler Bozak has had. That isn’t to say I want Steckel to be the Leafs new first line center, I was just trying to put Bozak’s usefulness (or lack of) into perspective.

 

Feb 052013
 

Before Leaf fans get all over me, let me say that there is nothing wrong with being a complementary player. Every team has and needs them and they can be valuable pieces of the puzzle. When I say complementary player I mean he is a player that needs others to help him get the most out of his game rather than someone who can elevate his game and those around him on his own. The complementary player isn’t as valuable as the guy who can elevate his game and the game of his line mates on his own (I call this a core player) but every good team needs a good cast of complementary players. Let me explain further with this chart of 2007-12 (5yr) even strength 5v5 data.

Sh% TOI/G
with Savard 13.9% 39:40
without Savard 8.9% 61:08
with Lupul 12.8% 46:34
without Lupul 9.1% 58:46
with Savard or Lupul 13.3% 43:07
without Savard or Lupul 7.7% 68:44

In my opinion, the two best (offensive) players that Kessel has played with over his career are Marc Savard and Joffrey Lupul so I focused on Kessel’s play with and without them. In the chart above, you can clearly see that Kessel has been substantially better when he is on the ice with either Savard or Lupul and in reality somewhat ordinary otherwise. When those two guys are on the ice Kessel’s shooting percentage, and thus goal production, sky rockets. Whatever Savard and Lupul are doing, they make Phil Kessel better. Does that make Savard and Lupul core players and Kessel a complementary player?  Maybe.  Let’s take a closer look at Lupul and see if his boost in Kessel’s performance extends to some of the other line mates he has had over the years (again, using 5 year 5v5 shooting percentages).

Linemate with Lupul without Lupul
Phil Kessel 12.8% 9.1%
Tyler Bozak 12.9% 13.4%
Scott Hartnell 12.1% 9.3%
Jeff Carter 12.4% 9.2%
Mike Richards 14.3% 9.0%

Aside from Tyler Bozak (and Kessel may be a factor as he has only played with Bozak when Kessel is also on the ice), he has improved the shooting percentage of each of his line mates over the past 5 seasons. This is fairly significant evidence that Lupul is in fact a core player that improves the performance of his line mates.

Every team needs core players, but there aren’t enough core players in the NHL to fill out your roster so every team also needs quality complementary players. From my perspective, Kessel is a good complementary player that guys like Lupul and Savard can elevate into very good very productive players, but because Kessel is also dependent on Lupul to be highly productive, Kessel isn’t worth the money that you would pay a core player. For this reason, if I were the Leafs management, I’d be very cautious about paying Kessel big money (i.e. in excess of $7M) on his next contract since, if something happens to Lupul (as is the case right now) he quickly becomes ordinary.

Now with that in mind, and the fact he is currently on a significant goal drought (12 games dating back to last season, mostly without Lupul) I think it is up to the Leaf coaching staff to mix up the lines and see if you can find another core player that can maximize Kessel’s production. Bozak and van Riemsdyk don’t seem to be the guys. Personally, I’d put him with Grabovski but it might also be interesting to see him with young energy players like Kadri and Frattin. The coaching staff has to do something but the current line is not working at all.

Jun 072011
 

As it stands right now the Leafs have six NHL experienced defensemen under contract and another three who are restricted free agents.  Assuming all three of the RFA’s get re-signed it leaves the Leafs with 7 defensemen, five of which will be regulars (Phaneuf, Schenn, Gunnarsson, Aulie and Komisarek) and two that are more along the lines of depth defensemen (Lebda and Lashoff).  Phaneuf and Schenn are the top two guys (though they may not end up playing together) and depending on where you see Gunnarsson and Aulie fitting into the mix the Leafs will be looking for a #3, #4 or #5 type guy.  Depending on how much they end up spending on a first line center, it is probably safe to assume they could allocate anywhere between $2-4M and there are enough UFA defensemen available that they can probably acquire what they want via free agency rather than have to resort to a trade.  Let’s take a look at some of the potential UFA defensemen the Leafs could have interest in.

Definitely Too Expensive

Christian Ehrhoff – Ehrhoff is definitely the top potential UFA defenseman.  The Canucks will definitely want to bring him back and if he ever made it to UFA status I am certain the Red Wings will throw some or all of just-retired Rafalski’s money at him.  Ehrhoff is in line for a $6M paycheck and as much as I would like to see him in a Leaf uniform, he is probably out of the Leafs budget so lets take a look at some of the other free agent defensemen.

Probably too Expensive

Kevin Bieksa – Bieksa really had a breakthrough season this year, particularly in his own zone and he ended the season at +32, tops on the Canucks, and is a +9 in the playoffs, again tops on the Canucks.  His +32 in the regular season trailed only Chara’s +33 among defensemen but Bieksa was +32 in just 66 games.  Bieksa is probably a good 2-way second pairing defenseman but his excellent season might push his salary demands beyond what he deserves (unless this past season is the new norm for him which is unlikely) and out of the Leafs budget.

James Wisniewski – Wisniewski started his career with the Chicago Blackhawks and he just seemed like he was that typical #5/6 guy.  He was a decent enough player who did a number of things well but not necessarily a core guy, but when he was given an opportunity to play a more prominent role with the Ducks, and then with Islanders and Montreal his offensive numbers really jumped and he was a strong PP performer.  He’d probably really help the Leafs PP but there will be enough demand for his services that he’ll probably cost more than the Leafs can afford.

Joni Pitkanen – Pitkanen is one of those guys who had #1 potential but never really took the next step and instead has had a career that some might consider a disappointment because he never really reached his full potential.  Pitkanen is a better offensive guy than a defensive guy and would be a nice fit on the Leafs PP unit.  He earned $4M last season and is probably in line to earn about the same on his next contract which makes him probably out of the Leafs budget and I think he’ll be happier staying in a non-hockey market like Carolina.

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May 242011
 

This is the first of several posts I will dedicate to what I expect the Leafs will do this upcoming off season.  In this post I outline where the Leafs are at now and what holes need to be addressed over the summer months.

The Leafs ended the 2010-11 season on a high note being backstopped by solid goaltending from James Reimer and an improved offense including significant offensive contributions from Dion Phaneuf for the first time in a Leaf uniform and Nazem Kadri among others.  This late season surge has given Leaf fans renewed optimism entering the 2011-12 season but before we get to the 2011-12 season we need to take a look at what the Leafs might do during the summer and before we get to that lets take a look at the team that finished the season.  After all the trades made at the trade deadline, this is the lineup that finished the 2010-11 season.

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Joffrey Lupul Nazem Kadri Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur* Mikhail Grabovski Nikolai Kulemin
Fredrik Sjostrom** Tyler Bozak* Colby Armstrong
Colton Orr Tim Brent** Mike Brown
Jay Rosehill** Darryl Boyce** Joey Crabb**
Defense Defense
Dion Phaneuf Luke Schenn*
Keith Aulie Carl Gunnarsson*
Mike Komisarek Matt Lashoff*
Brett Lebda
Goalie
James Reimer*
JS Giguere**
Jonas Gustavsson

*Restricted Free Agent

**Unrestricted Free Agent

There are essentially 6 restricted free agents that need to be re-signed and an additional 5 unrestricted free agents that decisions need to be made on.

Restricted Free Agents

James Reimer – Maybe the most important RFA to be re-signed is James Reimer.  In Reimer the Leafs hope to have finally found a true #1 goalie but as of yet Reimer can’t claim to be that having only started 35 NHL games.  I expect Reimer to get a similar deal to the one Gustavsson signed (2 years at 1.35M/year) after his first season in the NHL in which he started 39 games.  Now Reimer performed better so might deserve a little more but I think 2 years at $1.5M/year is reasonable.

Luke Schenn –  If Reimer isn’t the most important RFA to be re-signed, Luke Schenn is.  The question is, what is he worth?  The New York Rangers re-signed Marc Staal to a 5 year deal at an average salary of $3.975M per season last summer.  It could be argued that Staal is a better defenseman than Schenn but the difference would not be great so I’ll suggest that $4M/year is an upper limit on Schenn at this point in time.  I think Schenn’s contract will probably come in around $3.5M/year on a three year deal or a more Staal-like $4M/year deal if the contract length was 5 years.

Carl Gunnarsson – I like Gunnarsson as a defenseman and he has done some really good things in his brief NHL career.  He has good long term upside but as of right now is still not yet proven.  I think a fair price for him is a 2 year deal at $1.25M/year and lets see what he can do in a full time, possibly top four, role.

Clarke MacArthur – I wrote an article a month or so ago on the progression of the Grabovski-Kulemin-MacArthur line in which I suggested that MacArthur might not have as much value as we think.  Brian burke was listening to trade offers on MacArthur at the trade deadline and I think he will continue to do the same, especially if MacArthur is asking for $3M/year type money.  I personally don’t think he is worth that.  He isn’t that great defensively and while he was important as a playmaker for Grabovski and Kulemin, I don’t consider him someone that isn’t easily replaced and I think Kadri might be good replacing MacArthur on the wing if the Leafs manage to find a proven #1 center.  If he is asking for much more than $2.0M/year I’d seriously consider trading him.

Tyler Bozak – I am not quite sure what to make of Bozak yet.  He has some offensive skill, but not good enough to be a first line center.  He has shown some ability defensively and on the PK but his defensive ratings are still quite poor (HARD+ of 0.816 over past 2 seasons is actually pretty bad) but he is the Leafs best faceoff guy (54.6%) and I think the potential is there that he can be a solid 2-way third line center.  As such I would like to see him re-signed and see if he can excel in that role.  A fair value might be a 2 year deal at somewhere around $1-1.25M/yr, certainly no more.

Matt Lashoff – I liked what I saw from Lashoff in his short time with the Leafs at the end of last season.  In limited ice time over the past 4 seasons he has a weak 0.611 HARO+ rating but a very solid 1.288 HARD+ rating.  I’d like to see him as the #6/7 defenseman and see what he can do.   He has good size and skates well and as a former first round pick was once highly thought of.  He might be one of those guys that just needs to be given a chance and he’ll be cheap so why not.

Continue reading »

Apr 142009
 

Although Brian Burke didn’t make many significant moves at the trade deadline as many suspected he may it seems apparent that he is wanting to make significant moves in the off season to bring in some young talent. So far he has already signed college free agents Christain Hanson and Tyler Bozak and is in the running to sign defenseman Matt Gilroy. He has also signed QMJHL forward Robert Slaney. Rumours are that Burke is also very interested in Swedish goalie Jonas Gustavsson who has a very good year as a 24 year old in the Swedish Elite league. We can have no idea how any of these guys will pan out at the NHL level (though Hanson has looked promising in his 5 games getting a goal and an assist) but Hanson, Bozak and Slaney and possibly Gilroy and Gustavsson give the Leafs some much needed organizational depth and give Burke some additional assets to make deals if he finds some of interest. One deal that Burke is interested in making is moving up in the draft in order to draft John Tavares.

I am not shocked by this news. Brian Burke wants to make a splash everywhere he goes. In Vancouver he traded for the draft picked needed to acquire the Sedin twins. In Anaheim he signed free agent defenseman Scott Niedermayer and then traded for Chris Pronger. His opportunity to make a statement move (or moves) for the Leafs is this summer starting with the draft and then into free agency season.

So, what will it take to acquire the first overall pick? Well, that will depend somewhat on who gets the pick but I would assume the asking price would start with the Leafs first round pick, likely 7th. The only teams that have a shot at the #1 overall pick are the Islanders (48.1%), Lightning (18.8%), Avalanche (14.2%), Thrashers (10.7%) and the Los Angeles Kings (8.1%). Each team would provide a different type of trading partner for the Leafs. If Brian Burke had a choice he might be hoping that Tampa wins the draft lottery because it is known that they would like to upgrade their defense and the Leafs have several defenseman who they could deal including Kaberle, former Lightning Kubina, Van Ryn and Ian White all of whom might interest the Lightning. Would Tampa go for something along the lines of the Leafs 7th overall pick and Kaberle for the top overall pick? Possibly. A similar analysis could be said for Colorado who have a top young center already in Paul Stastny and might put a priority on acquiring a defenseman.

But the most likely winner of the draft lottery is the New York Islanders and they pretty much need everything so what they would be looking for in return is a really good hockey trade, not any particular position. With Mark Streit already locked up long term as their offensive defenseman they may not be interested in acquiring the Leafs most valuable asset, Tomas Kaberle. They would probably love Luke Schenn, but would Burke be willing to trade the 7th overall pick and Schenn for the opportunity to draft Tavares? Probably not. In an ideal world I am sure Burke would love to build the Leafs around Tavares and Schenn, not just one of those two. Outside of Kaberle and Schenn, do the Leafs have the assets to acquire the top overall pick from the Islanders? It is not obvious that they do (Tlusty and DiDominico only hold so much value as prospects and it isn’t enough) so it may take some creative trading to accomplish that goal. They may need to seek a third team who will trade them some assets for Kaberle or Kubina that they could then flip to the Islanders for the top overall pick.

In any event, this should prove to be a very interesting summer for the Leafs, starting with the draft in June.

Dec 032008
 

Just wanted to make a few comments on several recent happenings in the NHL and here at HockeyAnalysis.com.

Sean Avery: It is time that someone really put this guy in his place and I think it is really going to happen. Everyone is getting tired of his act and most importantly his teammates and his teams owner is getting tired of his act. His main ally within the Stars organization was Brett Hull and Hull is now saying his antics of yesterday stepped over the line and goes beyond hockey. I am not sure what the Stars franchise will do but if I were owner Tom Hicks I would first put Avery on waivers. If someone claims him then you just got rid of a headache but I doubt anyone will claim him. Next I would sit Avery down and tell him this is his last chance and that he should focus on playing hockey and quit all the other nonsense and tell him that the next outburst will see him being sent to the AHL where he can play out the rest of his four year contract.

Laviolette/Maurice: Today we have learned that the Carolina Hurricanes have fired coach Peter Laviolette and re-hired former coach Paul Maurice to take over at least until the end of the season. I am not convinced that Laviolette is a great coach, but I don’t think he is a bad coach either. This is an unfortunate situation where I think Laviolette is getting fired for being a coach of an average team made worse by a number of significant injuries. I don’t see how this will make the Hurricanes better. Having watched Maurice in Toronto the past couple seasons, I do not think that Maurice is a good coach. His teams have missed the playoffs 7 of 10 times and outside of the surprise cup run in 2002 he has won zero playoff series.

Burke/Toskala: I am a little dismayed at what Steve Buffery has written in a column today. In particular I am dismayed at the idea that maybe Toskala is one of the untouchables on the Leafs.

Nobody on the current roster is said to be untouchable, with the possible exception of 19-year-old defenceman Luke Schenn, and perhaps Mike Van Ryn, Niklas Hagman and Vesa Toskala. Toskala has been red-hot of late and it seems Burke won’t be in any hurry to ship him out, and not just because he’s finally coming around after an inconsistent start.

“I believe in him, in fact, we tried to get him early in his career,” Burke said of the Finnish netminder.

Luke Schenn is probably untouchable. That makes sense. Niklas Hagman is a relatively young guy that can do a lot of things well so I can see wanting him around (though I wouldn’t necessarily say he is untouchable). The same sort of think can be said for Van Ryn. He is probably a Burke kind of player and doesn’t make too much money. But Toskala? I’ll forgive Buffery for the Toskala red-hot comment since he probably wrote it before Toskala gave up a stinker of a goal 1:15 into the game and then three more goals in the first period and 5 on 30 shots in total, but is Toskala really untouchable? And I hope Burke is really just trying to say nice things about Toskala in order to keep his trade value up because I absolutely don’t believe he is a #1 goalie on any team looking to make a lengthy run in the playoffs.

Finally, I want to formally welcome our new Flames blogger Matt to HockeyAnalysis.com. Matt will be writing at Flames.HockeyAnalysis.com and already has a couple of posts up on the Sean Avery situation.

Nov 292008
 

So Brian Burke is set to officially, and finally, take over the Leafs general manager position this afternoon. So, what does that mean in the short, medium and long term? Let’s take a look at what Brian Burke might do.

When Brian Burke took over the GM position of the Anaheim Ducks in 2005 he inherited a relatively bad team, not unlike the Leafs. But, unlike the Leafs, there was a lot of high end talent in the system like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Dustin Penner, etc. and he also had an elite level goalie which went a long way to allowing him to quickly build the Ducks into a Stanley Cup winner.

In 1998 he took over the GM position of a Vancouver team which ended the 1997-98 team near the bottom of the standings which was not completely unlike the situation the Leafs currently find themselves in. Back then the Canucks had some talented players up front including Pavel Bure, Alexander Mogilny, Mark Messier, and Markus Naslund and had a 20 year old rookie defenseman in Mattias Ohlund. Also on that team were recently acquired but not yet developed into top level players Bryan McCabe and Todd Bertuzzi. While that Canucks team had more pure talent up front than the current Leafs squad, the current Leafs squad probably has more talent on the back end than the 1997-98 Canucks squad. What the Canucks had and the Leafs have is questionable goaltending.

Burke began rebuilding the Canucks by trading Bure to the Panthers for Jovanovski, Dave Gagner, Kevin Weekes and Mke Brown. He then made several trades (including sending McCabe to the Blackhawks) which ended up with the Canucks landing the second overall pick to go along with their own third overall pick and Burke drafted the Sedin twins. Then in 1999-2000 he traded Mogilny to the Devils for Brendan Morrison and the Canucks started to see success in their rebuilding process.

What was left after those moves became the core of the Canucks team which saw significant regular season success in the early 2000’s but not as much post season success. The one problem that Burke never successfully addresses was in goal and that really held them back from being a dominant team able to win a Stanley Cup.

In the case of the Anaheim Ducks they had the goaltender and the core of young forwards. What Burke did was brought in three big time defensemen (Niedermayer, Pronger, and Beauchemin), a top flight veteran scoring forward in Selanne and changed the team into a big, physical team.

So what might all this mean for the Leafs? First off, I think it is safe to assume that Burke will at some point between now and next summer make one or more significant bold moves. He has shown that he is not afraid to make the big trade or free agent signing and for the most part he has been successful. But with that said, I do not believe, like some seem to, that he will hold a massive fire sale stockpiling draft picks, largely in the second, third or fourth rounds. That doesn’t seem to be his style. In reality, most of Burke’s moves have him targeting NHL ready players, not picks. When he traded away Bure and Mogilny from Vancouver, he traded for players (Jovanovski and Morrison in particular). When he traded for the second overall pick in 1999, he wasn’t trading for the pick as much as he was trading for one of the Sedin’s. He sets his sight on a target and goes after it.

In terms of trades between now and the trade deadline, there are not many players that Burke needs to make an immediate decision on as only Nik Antropov and Dominic Moore are set to be UFA’s. Nik Antropov is an interesting case to see how Burke deals with him. Antropov has the size and strength that Burke likes and is willing to muck it up in the corners, but doesn’t utilize his size quite as much as he could. My guess is that there will be enough teams interested in Antropov that Burke will get more than enough in return for him to decide to trade Antropov rather than attempt re-sign him.

Other than Antropov, I really don’t think anyone is a sure bet to be traded. I don’t think Burke will come in and say ‘I have to trade players X, Y and Z for whatever draft picks I can get for them’ as many believe he should. His style is to be more pro-active in acquiring assets he wants, rather than get rid of assets he doesn’t want. If he wants an asset and it is going to require trading Van Ryn to acquire that asset, Van Ryn will be traded. If he wants an asset and it is going to require trading Lee Stempniak to acquire that asset, he’ll look at trading Stempniak. But I just don’t think he is going to put himself in a position of actively selling a player for whatever he can get for him. That is probably smart because when you don’t value your assets and get set in your mind that you want to get rid of them, you’ll more often than not trade them to one of the first bidders rather than wait for the fairest and best bid.
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Nov 262008
 

For those that have been reading this blog for the past couple years know that I have been one of the harshest critics of the Leafs goaltending for a long time..

When Andrew Raycroft was setting records for wins by a Maple Leaf, I was contending that he was a bad goalie and benefited from a good team in front of him but far too many in the media and the Leaf fan base blamed the Leafs woes on their defense and lack of scoring punch (which was largely a myth). In the seasons since, Raycroft has proven to be a bad goalie at best.

Last year there were many calling Vesa Toskala very good goalie and the lone bright spot on the Leafs. Some were even calling him an elite level goalie. I on the other hand believed otherwise.

Most hockey analysts seem to believe that Vesa Toskala is a top tier goalie and that goaltending will be the least of the Leafs problems. I am not so sure. While Toskala looked good last year his numbers were still fairly unspectacular. His .904 save percentage was only good for 32nd in the league just behind Cam Ward and just ahead of Peter Budaj. Neither of those two goalies are anything to get excited about either.

The past two seasons have seen the Leafs have finished 4th last and second last in team save percentage and this season they sit in second last with a downright dismal 86.9% save percentage. That is measurably worse than last year. Toskala has been extremely bad, and Joseph has been worse.

Over the years media and fans seemingly often defended the Leafs goaltending by saying ‘but look at how bad that defense is, no goalie would be very good in the Leafs net.’ But the team in front of the Leafs has changed dramatically from last season, including bginging in new defensemen Van Ryn, Finger, Schenn, and Frogren as well as bringing in a more defensive minded coach. But the only thing that seemingly happened was that goaltending got worse. The Leafs defense actually gives up relatively few shots on goal, as it has the past several seasons. They were probably an average defensive team and yet they gave up a lot of goals.

As we approach the quarter pole of the 2008-09 season people are starting to take note of how sub-par the Leafs goaltending is. James Mirtle has written a couple of stories on it (here and here) and there have been several other stories (i.e. Leafs Toskala continues to Struggle, Toskala an early season Disappointment, etc.) and Coach Ron Wilson has publicly stated that Toskala needs to be better. I am fairly certain that he can be better, but can he be good enough to be worthy of a starting role on a playoff contender? That I am not so sure about and will be one of the key questions Burke needs to answer when he takes over as General Manager. As a Leaf fan I can only hope he sees Toskala as inadequite and puts finding a prime time goalie as his top priority.

Nov 242008
 

It is no surprise that the Leafs have trade a defenseman since they had an abundance of them. What might be a surprise is they did so when they are suffer from several injuries on defense (Van Ryn, Frogren and Colaiacovo himself) and possibly just days before Brian Burke takes over as GM.

If you subscribe to the theory that the team who gets the best player wins the trade, you have to give the edge to the Leafs. But I am not convinced that the Blues didn’t do very well in this trade. Yes Colaiacovo had his health issues and it seemed apparent than new coach Ron Wilson wasn’t enamored with his conditioning but Colaiacovo is still highly talented and can play a physical brand of hockey. If the Blues can get him on the right track they could have a very good top 4 defenseman on their hands.

Also, Alex Steen is a very useful player. His offense hasn’t developed as many would have liked, and this year was definitely a step back when he had the opportunity to do so much more, but even if he only gets you 30-40 points he can still be a solid defensive player and penalty killer.

In Stempniak the Leafs get another skilled forward and although scoring hasn’t been a problem so far this year they do have a lack of (perceived or otherwise) young skilled top 6 level forwards. Stempniak is should fit that role and he has the speed and skill that Fletcher has been adding to this team ever since he took over from John Ferguson Jr.

Interestingly enough, likely incoming GM Brian Burke is more known for wanting to play a big physical game so who knows what he is going to think of guys like Grabovsky, Stempniak, etc.

Nov 122008
 

It seems that in about 20 minutes or so that the Ducks will announce that Brian Burke is no longer GM of the Ducks and that Bob Murray will take over. This isn’t really all that surprising considering that it has been rumoured for a long time that Brian Burke has a desire to work on the east coast closer to his family in Boston. Additionally, it has been rumoured for some time that Ducks ownership has had a very lucrative contract extension on the table for months now and it is likely that if Burke really wanted to stay in Anaheim he’d have signed an extension long ago.

So where does Burk end up now? Well, Toronto seems to be the likely choice if you believe all the reports that the Leafs really are waiting for someone like Burke, if not Burke himself. Plus with his good friend Ron Wilson as coach it seems to be a perfect fit. But there will be others interested in him as well. Let the rumours begin.