Nov 072007
 

The Leafs have struggled at times this year but is it really fair to call the Leafs “vehemently awful” as Howard Berger does today? If vehemently awful describes a team which is 6-5-2 when not playing a team with a 13-1 record, what adjectives would you use to describe the Washington Capitals who are 2-9-1 in their last dozen games? The Leafs are not without problems but to call them vehemently awful is probably something only a vehemently biased member of the media would write or say, particularly when you follow that up with “emerging catastrophe.”

As for my opinion, the Leafs need a change. They need a new direction. I have liked a lot of what John Ferguson Jr. has done except for what he has done with his goalies. He has made two major moves with his goalies and both have flopped thus far and the worst move of them all was giving Toskala a 2 year, $8 million extension before he proved he could do the job. TO a lesser extent, I am not convinced that Paul Maurice is the right guy for the job either. For whatever reason he has not been able to get his team to play as a team for a full 60 minutes as and some of his teams worst efforts are against the weaker teams in the NHL. When Maurice was hired he was supposed to be a systems coach (compared to Pat Quinn’s more free flow approach) but I don’t see any kind of system in place. Ian White had a horrible game last night and looked out of place on several occassions but somehow he got rewarded with 24 minutes of ice time. That just doesn’t seem logical to me. Maybe I am wrong and that this group of players aren’t capable of playing a system but if Ken Hitchcock can get the noname Columbus Blue Jackets playing a strong team system and off to a 8-3-2 record I suspect that this crew can too. You cannot convince me that a defence anchored by an aging Adam Foote and waiver pickup Ron Hainsey and first round dud Rostislav Klesla and complemented by Jan Hejda, Kris Russel and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen is any better than the Leafs.

The problem is, the team is playing paranoid. They are playing as individuals. The forwards seem to be trying to do too much on their own rather than play with each other. They are trying too hard to score goals and make the big plays but not remembering to help out their teammates and defensemen in particular once and a while. It’s not that hard. When a defenseman pinches, a forward drops back to protect his place. If you are undertaking a 5 man rush, you do everything you can not to turn it over at the opposing teams blue line as your players are not moiving in the right direction to defend a counter attack (play dump and chase instead if you can’t skate the puck across the blue line). But for some reason this team isn’t playing that way. The players definitely deserve some blame but so does the coach. If he doesn’t have a system, he should be fired. If he has a system but the players aren’t responding, players need to be benched or even called out publicly. But I don’t see that either. And on top of that it seems apparent that Leaf ownership is not committed to JFJ and in turn not committed to Maurice. That is a problem too a the players know that next week, next month or next year there will probably be a new GM and coach in place. Why learn Maurice’s system (if he has one) when a new coach and a new system is likely to be right around the corner. Why do that when I can play all out offensively and pad my offensive statistics which should land me a better contract?

So, while the Leafs are far from “vehemently awful”, that do have some problems that needs to be addressed. If the teams upper management is not going to commit to JFJ and if JFJ is not going to commit Maurice then something definitely needs to be done and it is better it gets done now. There is just too much lack of focus and lack of consistency and lack of committment (from the players to the coach and from the owners to the GM) to justify not making a change of some sort.

Oct 252007
 

Ninja posed an interesting question in the comments that I think deserves a post of its own.

We both know the Leafs didn’t block shots last year as a general rule and still managed to be very good in the shots allowed category. This year, they seem to be giving up the body slightly more often, but the shots against are way up. The zone coverage is comparable to last year, except the forwards seem to be missing assignments or switches with more regularity. How do you reconcile these quasi-facts with the Leafs shots allowed averages of last year?
I’m starting to think the Leafs didn’t allow alot of shots because other teams weren’t desperately peppering the puck at the Leafs’ net because the Leafs were rarely in the lead. Other teams could afford to take their foot off the gas, and I think this is partially responsible for the shots-allowed statistic.
Please share your thoughts on the subject, and I look forward to hearing what you have to say on this in the coming weeks as the season starts to really take shape.

—————————————————-

I have thought about this and while it is possible, I don’t think it is completely true. Essentially what you are saying is that the better a team is (offensively in particular), the more shots the opposition gets because it just starts firing away to try to play catch up.

Looking at last years shots against stats we find that the worst 10 teams are Boston, Washington, Montreal, Philadelphia, NY Islanders, Atlanta, Nashville, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Calgary. Ottawa was 11th.

Two things come to mind from that group. 1. Most of the teams on the list were bad teams and 2. Those that weren’t bad teams also scored a fair number of goals (Pittsburgh, Nashville, Buffalo, Calgary and Ottawa were top 7 in goals for). That may lend some support to what you are saying. But the other two top 7 teams in goals for were Colorado and San Jose and positions 8-10 were Toronto, Anaheim and Detroit. Those teams ranked first (Detroit), third (San Jose), 5th (Anaheim), seventh (Toronto) and 13th (Colorado) in shots against so I am not seeing a distinct correlation.

Let’s take a look at last years games in which the Leafs gave up fewer than 25 shots.

Oct. 28 – 22 shots against 5-4 Shootout win over Montreal
Nov 20 – 21 shots against in 4-2 win over NY Islanders
Nov. 24 – 23 shots against in 7-1 win over Washington
Nov 28 – 24 shots against in 4-1 loss to Boston
Dec. 2 – 22 shots against in shootout loss to Montreal
Dec. 16 – 13 shots against in 9-2 win over NY Rangers
Dec 26 – 21 shots against in 4-3 win over Minnesota
Jan 11 – 24 shots against in 4-2 win over Buffalo
Jan 13 – 21 shots against in 6-1 loss to Vancouver
Jan 16 – 23 shots against in 4-2 win over Tampa
Feb 6 – 20 shots against in 2-1 win over St. Louis
Feb 13 – 20 shots against in 3-2 shootout loss to NY Islanders
Feb 20 – 21 shots against in 3-0 loss to Boston
Feb 24 – 24 shots against in 5-2 win over Philadelphia
Feb 26 – 24 shots against in 5-4 loss to Montreal
Mar 6 – 24 shots against in 3-0 win over Washington
Mar 10 – 22 shots against in 4-3 OT win over Ottawa
Mar 13 – 21 shots against in 3-2 win over Tampa
Mar 24 – 20 shots against in 4-1 win over Buffalo

Most of those games are wins (or very close games) but if Ninja’s theory held true when they had leads (which occurs when you win) opposing teams would shoot more and get more shots. That doesn’t seem to be the case. So what is the situation when the Leafs do give up a lot of shots? Here are the games in which the Leafs gave up 35 or more shots:

Oct. 4 – Gave up 36 shots in a 4-1 loss to Ottawa, Leafs never held the lead and Sens had a 3-0 lead mid-way through second period.
Oct. 26 – Gave up 40 shots in a 7-2 blowout loss to Ottawa.
Nov 2 – Gave up 43 shots in a 4-2 loss to Florida, Florida had a 2-0 lead midway through the first, a period in which the Leafs gave up 23 shots.
Nov 6 – Gave up 41 shots to Philadelphia in a 4-1 win. Game was tied 1-1 heading into the third until Antropov scored at the 7:18 point.
Nov 9 – Gave up 37 shots to Boston in a 6-4 win. Leafs had a 4-0 lead by 4:04 of the second period despite Boston having 19 shots in the first (and they only got 7 in the third).
Nov 16 – Gave up 36 shots in a 2-1 OT loss to Boston.
Dec 5 – Gave up 37 shots in a 5-2 loss to Atlanta – Leafs scored 2 in the first but gave up 5 goals in the third on only 8 shots. Atlanta had 12 shots in first and 17 in second.
Dec 19 – Gave up 36 shots in a 7-3 loss to Florida. Leafs scored early in the first but Florida score 3 late first period goals and 3 more second period goals.
Jan 18 – Gave up 41 shots in a 3-2 win over Florida. Leafs led 3-0 by middle of second period before Florida came on strong getting 14 shots in second and 18 shots in third.
Jan 31 – Gave up 38 shots in a 2-1 win over Rangers. Rangers scored mid-point of second, Leafs quickly replied and took the lead 6 minutes into third.
Feb. 15 – Gave up 36 shots in a 4-2 win over Philadelphia. Leafs led 3-0 fourteen minutes into first, Philadelphia dominated 3 period outshooting Leafs 16-3.
March 8 – Gave up 40 shots in a 5-1 loss to Ottawa. Ottawa was up 3-0 four minutes into second and outshot the Leafs 23-7 in the first.
March 31 – Gave up 36 shots to Pittsburgh in a 5-4 OT loss. Leafs entered third period up 4-2 before Pittsbrugh came on strong getting 14 shots and 2 goals to tie.

Not many of those games fit the profile Ninja describes. That being, the Leafs have a lead and the other team peppers Leaf goalies to try to get back in the game. The games that would match that description are Nov 9th vs Boston, Jan. 18 vs Florida, Feb 15th vs Philadelphia and March 31 against Pittsburgh. A couple other games were close games from start to end (Nov 16 vs Boston and Jan 31 to Rangers) but most of the other games were blowouts at the Leafs expense. So, I am not sure one can conclude that the Leafs didn’t give up a lot of shots because they didn’t have leads.

What might be concerning though is the number of shots the Leafs were giving up to bad teams like Florida, Boston and Philadelphia. Combine that with the number of times they have blown leads in the third period (both last year and this year) and it tells me that they might be a lack of focus on this team and letting their foot off the pedal when they shouldn’t. If that is the case it sounds like it could be more of a leadership or coaching problem, not a skill/ability problem. Paul Maurice hasn’t received much blame for the state of the Leafs (some actually praised him for almost getting the Leafs into the playoffs last year) but has he really done a good job? I am not so sure.

Update: Alan Ryder has an interesting look at the Leafs early season woes. His final paragraph reads:

If I were Leafs coach Paul Maurice, I would be deeply worried about this picture. Too many penalties, an ineffective penalty kill and too many shots on goal while even handed. Add to that a struggling power play and you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with the systems that have been installed for this team.

Oct 242007
 

The Toronto hockey media continues to amaze me. Today it is Howard Berger…

Having compiled 17 points in 10 games (including a league-leading 11 assists), Sundin is tied atop the NHL scoring stats with fellow Swede Henrik Zetterberg of Detroit

Mats is almost 37 years old. He’s playing like a 27-year-old right now, but the lack of offensive support will turn him into a 57-year-old by February.

Now they are complaining about the lack of scoring depth on a team with the 3rd best offense in the NHL (based on goals per game). The first thing worth mentioning is that you can’t lead the league in assists without at least a little help from your teammates. Second, the Leafs have scored 37 goals with Sundin having been in on 17, or ~46% of them which is high, but not extraordinarily hight. Zetterberg has been in on 55% of his teams goals and Crosby was at 45% last year and Lecavalier 44%. I don’t hear much complaining about those teams offenses or lack of help for those players. For the Leafs Blake and Antropov are both producing points at greater than a point per game. The Ducks last year had just one player (Selanne) producing at a point per game pace but it didn’t seem to hurt them. They have 6 guys with 3 or more goals and that puts each of them on pace for 20+ goals and that doesn’t include Darcy Tucker who has averaged 26 goals the past 2 seasons. Last years best offensive team, the Buffalo Sabres, only had six 20 goal scorers. Mr. Berger, offense and offensive depth is the least of the Leafs problems and hasn’t been a problem for years.

Oct 222007
 

I am going to write more about the Leafs in another post probably later this week but for now let me continue my rants against the media:

Today Mike Zeisberger writes:

The Leafs are allowing an average of 35.33 shots per game, leaving them as one of the worst teams in the league in that category.

Now, I don’t have a problem with that statement per se, but the problem I have with it is Zeisberger is using it as an example of the Leafs bad defense while a year ago he ignored the fact that the Leafs allowed the 7th fewest shots against in the NHL and still claimed that the Leafs defense was bad. The real story here with regards to the shots against totals is whether the Leafs defense overachieved for 82 games last year or are they dramatically underachieving for the first 9 games of this year. One could, and probably should, conclude that this is a good defensive team that is currently playing poor defensive hockey. But I guess that is either too difficult of a concept for members of the hockey media or doesn’t sell enough newspapers for their liking.

Oct 032007
 

I am sickened by what seems to be an outrage on behalf of Leaf media and fans (and others) at Maurice for starting Andrew Raycroft. It sickens me because it seems to be a media made goalie controversy that if anyone had a clue would realize that Raycroft was the likely starter.

Ever since the trade was made Maurice and JFJ said that Toskala was brought in to help Raycroft and that Raycroft was still the starter. Now, that may have been some posturing and in the long run they expect/hope Toskala will take over the #1 role, but they made it clear that Toskala would have to earn that. Based on Toskala’s preseason starts, he has not yet earned that. He did nothing to pass Raycroft on the depth chart. Had Maurice played Toskala to start the season it would have been the wrong message to send to Toskala, Raycroft and to the rest of the team. It would have been the wrong message to send to Toskala because it would have said “this is your job, the other guy is crap, and all the pressure is on you.” It would have been the wrong message to Raycroft because it would have basically told him “you suck and we have no use for you and this new guy who has shown absolutely nothing has taken your job for good.” It would have been a bad message to the rest of the team because it would have told them that you don’t necessarily have to prove yourself to get a job, you just have to have a more expensive and longer term contract.” None of those are good messages to send so Maurice was 100% correct in playing Raycroft. I suspect it had always been Maurice’s plan to start Raycroft unless Raycroft was horrible in the pre-season and Toskala was very good.

Now, that said, Raycroft was nothing special last year, was nothing special in the pre-season and was nothing special tonight. So, Toskala will definitely get every opportunity to steal the job away from the incumbant Raycroft, but he will not be handed that role if he doesn’t perform. And that is a good thing and that is how it should be.

Oct 032007
 

In honour of the start of the new season and another Leaf-Sens rivalry game, here are some interesting, maybe surprising, stats related to the Leafs-Sens rivalry (mostly ammo for Leaf fans)

Leafs top 6 forwards: Sundin, Blake, Antropov, Tucker, Wellwood, Ponikarovsky
Sens top 6 forwards: Heatley, Spezza, Alfredsson, Fisher, Vermette, Kelly (based on points last year, not projected lineup)

Goals scored by Leafs top 6 last year: 142 in 386 games or 0.37 goals per game
Goals scored by Sens top 6 last year: 169 in 453 games or 0.37 goals per game

Next 3 forwards:
Stajan, Steen, Pohl: 103 points in 238 games
Eaves, McAmmond, Neil: 89 points in 236 games

Shots on goal last season:
Leafs: 2681 (3rd in NHL)
Sens: 2651 (4th in NHL)

I better not hear any more about the Leafs mediocre offensvie punch while the Sens are an offensive powerhouse.

Shots Allowed last season:
Leafs: 2330 (7th fewest in NHL)
Sens: 2479 (11th most in NHL)

Must be that crappy Leaf defense eh?

And now for an interesting player comparison of two players drafted in 1998.
Career stats:
Fisher: 384GP, 92g, 192pts, +49
Antropov: 374GP, 78g, 189pts, +57

But somehow Fisher is a $4.2 million hero in Ottawa and Antropov is (more often than not) a $2 million underachieving flop of a first round pick (though that seems to be changing).

Oct 012007
 

Boston Bruins
Strengths:
-Good 1-2 tandem at center with Savard and Bergeron
-Should get improved goaltending with Manny Fernandez
Weaknesses:
-Lack of overall depth.
-No quality game breakers on the wings.
-Mediocre defense
Question Marks:
-Can Chara rebound after a questionable season last year?
-Can Fernandez be the anchor in goal that the Bruins desperately need?
-Can Glen Murray stay healthy and get back to 40 goal territory?
Outlook:
The Bruins addressed one of their key problem areas with the acquisition of goalie Manny Fernandez but one still has to wonder if Fernandez, who only once has played more than 44 games in a season, is going to be enough to turn this team around. The reality is they still have a mediocre group of defensemen and not a lot of depth up front after the first couple of lines. With Fernandez the Bruins should be a bit better but still aren’t likely going to be playoff contenders.

Buffalo Sabres
Strengths:
-Still possess a lot of quality young talent and good overall depth.
-Miller is one of the better goalies in the game.
Weaknesses:
-The Numminen health issue hurts the depth on defence.
-Lost a lot of experience and leadership with the loss of Briere and Drury.
Question Marks:
-Are youngsters like Derek Roy, Tomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Mazim Afinogenov ready to become the leaders of the team rather than followers of Briere and Drury?
-Can Tim Connolly stay healthy?
Outlook:
Some might look at the loss of Daniel Breire and Chris Drury as critical losses for the Sabres but I would disagree. The Sabres are still an elite team with elite level talent. Vanek is one of the best young goal scorers in the NHL and Derek Roy is ready to take over as first line center as evidenced by his dominating performances in the pre-season. Those two guys and Afinogenov were a dominating line last year and will likely play with each other this year and have a chance to be one of the top 5 lines in the league. When you add Pominville, Hecht, Kotalik, Gaustad, and Stafford the Sabres should still be able to put out three good lines that can score and not many teams can boast that. If the young guys can step up their games a bit and take on leadership roles there is no reason why the Sabre’s won’t once again be one of the top teams in the eastern conference and battle with the Senators, Rangers and Penguins for the best record in the east.

Montreal Canadiens
Strengths:
-Good goaltending depth and a prime prospect in Carey Price.
-Koivu is one of the better leaders in the game.
Weaknesses:
-No real top end talent on either forward or defence.
-Loss of Souray will really hurt the power play production which was a key to Montreal’s success last season.
Question Marks:
-Can Carey Price be a quality NHL goalie this season allowing management to trade Huet or Halak for some help elsewhere?
-Can Kovalev improve on a dismal season?
Outlook:
Two years ago the Canadiens just barely made the playoffs and last year they just barely missed. This year will probably be no different though I would suggest they are more likely to miss the playoffs again than make it. They just don’t have enough game breakers on offence or enough depth overall to play consistent, quality hockey throughout the season. The only saving grace is they have generally had pretty good goaltending over the past couple of seasons and top prospect Carey Price just adds to that. Some in Montreal feel that goaltending lost them a chance at the playoffs when Huet blew a game against Toronto in the final game of the season but goaltending is one of the only reasons why they have been in the playoff race in the first place. Expect the same this year.

Ottawa Senators
Strengths:
-The big 3 up front (Alfredsson, Spezza and Heatley)
-Phillips and Volchenkov are one of the better pairings of shutdown defensemen.
Weaknesses:
-Lost some scoring depth with the Comrie and Preissing leaving via free agency and Schaefer being traded.
-None of Spezza, Fisher and Redden have played 70 games in either of the past 2 seasons.
Question Marks:
-Can Eaves and Vermette step up their offensive production to replace some of that lost.
-Can the Redden and Meszaros defence tandem rebound after a sub-par season.
-Have teams learned from the Ducks that playing hard hitting, hard forechecking hockey is the best way to beat the Senators?
Outlook:
The Ottawa Senators will once again be one of the better teams in the eastern conference led in large part by the offence of the big 3 and the defensive ability of Phillips and Volchenkov. But unlike many, I believe they will suffer a bit with the loss of Comrie, Preissing and Schaefer. Preissing was the Senators top scoring defenseman last year and Schaefer has been Ottawa’s fifth best point producer in each of the past two seasons. The loss of those guys is going to put added pressure on guys like Patrick Eaves, Antoine Vermette and Andrej Meszaros to really step up their games and provide some quality secondary scoring if Ottawa wants to be a top contender for the Stanley Cup again.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Strengths:
-Offence from the back end.
-Overall depth
Weaknesses:
-As a team they have a track record of suffering a lot of injuries.
-Questionable goaltending.
Question Marks:
-Can either Toskala or Raycroft step up and be a quality number 1 goalie?
-Can they stay reasonably healthy?
-Can their younger forwards (particularly Steen and Stajan) become quality second line players and contribute more offensively.
Outlook:
The Leafs should have an improved team this year with the addition of Toskala and 40 goal scorer Jason Blake. Combine that with hopefully a more healthy season and they should make the playoffs. Any chance they may have at a higher playoff seed than 7th or 8th will likely be dependent on whether the duo of Toskala and Raycroft can be an average or better goalie tandem in the NHL.

Sep 132007
 

I don’t think it is a stretch to say that yesterday’s 15 game suspension of Mark Bell was a surprise to everyone because it seemed to come out of nowhere. There is no real precedent for the NHL to suspend players for their off-ice conduct and certainly not with a suspensionof the magnitude of 15 games. So my question is, why Mark Bell, why now?

To review, prior to last season Mark Bell was caused an accident while driving impaired and to make matters worse, he fled the scene of the accident. This past summer he plead guilty and will face up to 6 months in jail time which he will serve at the conclusion of this NHL season. It seemed that the Judge didn’t feel it was necessary to punish Bell more by forcing him to miss part or all of the NHL season. But apparently Gary Bettman didn’t see it the same way.

“Playing in the National Hockey League is a privilege, and with that privilege comes a corresponding responsibility for exemplary conduct off the ice as well as on it,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Gary Bettman’s reason for suspending Bell is because he didn’t conduct himself in an exemplary way off the ice. So the question I have is, what is exemplary conduct? Is drinking and driving but not causing an accident exemplary? If not, shouldn’t Jay Bouwmeester be facing a suspension in the very near future for pleading guilting to driving while impaired? Apparently this is not the case and driving while under the influence of alcohol does fall within Bettman’s view of ‘exemplary conduct’ since Ian White never received a suspension for his DUI charge or subsequent charge of driving with a suspended licence. Does driving recklessly and at high speeds causing an accident and killing someone fall within Bettman’s view of exemplary conduct? Apparently so as current Ottawa Senator Dany Heatley was never suspended when he plead guilty to vehicular homicide. And what about underage drinking? Is that exemplary conduct? Apparently so as Jordan Staal has yet to receive a suspension or any other punishment from the league.

One could easily argue that Bell’s suspension is warrented and that what Bell did is at least as bad or far worse than the other cases I described above, but if what Bell did is worth a 15 game suspension (and Bettman said it would ahve likely been more except Bell has shown good progress in turning his life and his alcohol dependency around), wouldn’t one or all of the other cases I described above be worthy of at least a game or two suspension? I would think so. To me this Bell suspension wreaks of piling on and probably a bit of not wanting the NHL to look soft on the conduct of its players in light of the Michael Vick situation and how the NFL handled that (indefinitely suspending Vick). I will try not to get into a debate as to whether Bell should be suspended but unless Bettman is going to follow through and suspend guys like Bouwmeester and Staal then I can only conclude that the idea of suspending players for off ice conduct is not a new policy and is at best inconsistent discipline or at worst piling on and in either case is just more evidence of Gary Bettman’s incompetence as a commissioner.

Sep 122007
 

Based on the same forumula as the western conference ratings, here are the eastern conference ratings. As usual, if you disagree feel free to post your thoughts and if you can back up your arguement, who knows, maybe you can get me to change my mind.

Forwards Defense Goaltending Total
Talent Depth Exp. Talent Depth Exp. #1 goalie Depth Exp. Score
Ottawa 10 6 7 8 7 7 8 7 6 53.2
Buffalo 8 8 6 7 8 7 8 7 6 52.8
Pittsburgh 10 8 6 8 7 6 7 6 6 52.5
NY Rangers 9 7 8 6 7 6 9 6 6 52.2
Toronto 7 8 7 8 9 7 6 6 6 50.7
Philadelphia 8 8 6 7 7 7 7 7 6 50.3
Florida 7 6 5 7 7 6 9 6 7 49.5
New Jersey 7 6 7 6 6 7 9 6 10 49.5
Montreal 7 6 6 7 7 7 8 7 6 48.8
Atlanta 9 6 7 7 5 6 8 6 5 48.0
Carolina 8 7 7 6 7 8 6 6 6 47.0
NY Islanders 6 7 7 6 7 6 8 5 6 46.8
Boston 7 6 6 7 7 6 7 6 6 46.5
Tampa 9 6 6 8 6 6 6 5 6 46.5
Washington 8 6 5 6 6 5 7 6 7 45.2
Sep 052007
 

When I read Eklund’s stuff I don’t know whether to laugh or cry (because what he writes is so horrendously rediculous) but today I’ll laugh and make Eklund the Joke of the Day!

From the infamous Eklund on ‘Swing Players’ for the Leafs:

Tony Salmelainen. Someone I trust, who knows Fins better than almost anyone else, tells me that this signing will be the best late summer signing of them all. Tony is a huge talent in the making that just needed a little more time to develop to the North American game.

Someone should let Eklund know that the Tony Salmelainen that the Leafs signed is the same Tony Salmelainen that played 57 games for the Blackhawks last season and impressed them so much that they traded his salary to Montreal for the mega-malcontent known as Sergei Samsonov after which Montreal promptly bought him out of his contract. He is known more as a ‘skilled’ player and if the offensively deprived Blackhawks and Canadiens don’t have any interest in him I wouldn’t expect him to make much of an impact in the NHL any time soon. As for adjusting to the North American game, well, he has played 70 NHL games and 201 AHL games over 4 years so he has had ample time to adjust. At best he is a depth/injury replacement player but more likely than not he spends most of the year with the Marlies.

And if that weren’t enough, here is Eklund’s bold prediction:

Mark Bell nets 35 goals.

His best year is 25 goals and 48 points. Even the most optimistic Leaf fan doesn’t think he is capable of that. I am not even sure Mark Bell thinks he is capable of that.