Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kaberle to Boston: One Year Later

'Who's getting the first rounder again? You guys? Screw that, we're keeping Kadri.'

Flash forward to 2010. The Boston Bruins have just acquired Nathan Horton from the Florida Panthers and shipped out Dennis Wideman, a player that had a very disappointing 2009-10 season.

This opens up a hole on the Bruins defence and a year ago, as mentioned above, they expressed some serious interest in acquiring Kaberle.

I see no reason why the Bruins wouldn't take a run at Kaberle again. They have picks (ours), and talented forward prospects and Kaberle would look great alongside Chara.

The Bruins would make an ideal trading partner in my mind because of the over-abundance of talented centres the team has. With Savard, Bergeron, Krejci and likely Seguin it looks like talented prospect Joe Colborne will be on the outside looking in for the foreseeable future. This is the guy the Leafs should target.

Colborne has the dimensions Burke likes in his centres. He's 6'5", a good play-maker and a decent skater. Very much in the mould of a guy like Ryan Getzlaf, a player that Burke is intimately familiar with.

Burke wants a top-six forward and a first rounder. Good luck. I think if you can get a talented prospect like Colborne and your own second-rounder back then you have to pull the trigger on that deal. Let's build towards 2011-12.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Where the Leafs Should Spend Their Money

There's been a lot of debate in Leaf circles on whether Burke should pursue Kovalchuk and Marleau; makes sense. Our boys haven't been in the playoffs in years and last season was tough so of course we're going to think about making the big splash.

There have also been debates about guys like Torres and Colby Armstrong -- fairly talented bottom six guys.

There's an obvious desire to see the team improve among fans and management alike but what makes sense? Here's my take.

Since Burke took the helm he's tried to change 'the culture' of the team, which essentially has meant shipping out everyone. Well, everyone but Kulemin. What he's brought back in have been cheap, young players with talent and blueliners that make significant coin.

My opinion on this offseason is to not spend a dime on anyone external to put into the bottom six. That simply isn't where we're at. Team Building 101 tells me that you get the talent core, then you round it out. We've got Kessel, Phaneuf and some other decent pieces but we're a little ways away from the 'rounding it out' stage.

Lots of people are against spending the kind of coin Kovalchuk will command on one player, often citing the Blackhawks 'no superstar-sized contracts' model. Those people are silly. There are only two ways to get players as talented as Kovalchuk; tank hard and win the draft lottery, or overpay in free agency. Burke isn't willing to tank (intentionally).

Maybe you don't want to give Kovalchuk the kind of money he could get elsewhere or give him that kind of term. Ok. That doesn't mean you don't pursue him. Sell him a bill of goods. Toronto can offer other things. It's arguably the biggest hockey market in the world and offers a huge stage. Who knows what kind of endorsement money a player of his calibre might reel in if he were playing in the Toronto market. Give him the best offer you're comfortable with and then try to sell him on the other positives Toronto offers. If he doesn't buy it, at least you tried.

If you're lucky enough to land him, plug those third and fourth line roles with the cheap talent you spent the last 14 months acquiring. You're not going to be a cup contender by year's end, but at least by this point next season we should be in 'round out the lineup' phase.

It isn't overstating things to say that Kovalchuk might be one of the top free agents to ever hit unrestricted free agency. Why not take a run at a guy like that?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Is Ottawa the New Edmonton?

We all know that Edmonton is the place that nobody wants to play. They have to overpay for free agents (Penner), overpay their own talent to stay (Horcoff) and even still, for various other reasons, some players just need to get out (Pronger).

Recently though, it seems that the Ottawa Senators might be giving the Oilers a run for their money in the race for the least desireable place to play.

With Dany Heatley having demanded a trade (and even still, refusing to go to Edmonton) and Jason Spezza having reportedly done the same, I've decided to compile a list of reasons that nobody wants to play in Ottawa.

1) Ugly Jerseys - SENS. Whoever thought that one up deserves a raise -- Absolute creative genius.

2) Their Home Rink - When I was a little guy, I once played in a rink that was as far away from civilization as Scotia Bank Place. It was a converted barn. The zamboni was a tractor that pulled what can only be described as a 'zamboni box' behind it. Even at eight-years-old, I knew that was bullshit.

3) It's a tough place to run a business - Many players will do various things to supplement their hockey incomes, ranging from restaurants, to sponsorships, to construction companies. In Ottawa, this is a recipe for disaster. Just ask Chris Neil.

4) It's always raining in the front office - Nobody likes being spit on. Imagine going to Ottawa to sign a big-money free agent deal while Bryan Murray says, "Thankshh for shinning with the Shensh". Yuk.

5) Liars - Nobody likes a liar and Daniel Alfredsson throws around guarantees like batteries in Philadelphia.

6) Dion Phaneuf - As a forward, do you really like the idea of flying down the wing towards an oncoming Phaneuf six times a year. Not unless you like broken collar bones you don't.

7) Goaltending - The Sens haven't had the kind of goalie that can win their team a playoff series since... The Sens have never had a goalie that can win their team a playoff series.

8) Leaf bloggers will make fun of you - We're clever, ruhtless and have large numbers and we will bring all of our spiteful wit to bear on your inadequacies. Consider yourselves warned.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pronger out of Tonight's Game with 'Hurt Feelings'

Philadelphia Flyers defensive stalwart Chris Pronger, who was listed as day-to-day with what he described as "hurt feelings", will miss tonight's game 6 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Following an abysmal game 5 performance Pronger was seen weeping quietly in a corner of the team locker room. Upon catching wind of the scene, Captain Mike Richards was heard saying, "Dammit Pronger!"

"It's tough," Pronger said after the game, "you tell a guy right before the playoffs that blindside hits to the head are illegal. How's a player supposed to adjust in so little time?"

Pronger's distress was clearly exacerbated by the younger members of the Flyers' leadership core calling him names such as "poo-face" and "Grouchy McBeaverteeth".

When told that Pronger would be kept out of the game many Hawks players were taken by surprise. "Yeah, I'm a little surprised," said Jonathan Toews, "I mean, I know Kaner didn't invite him to his post-game limo ride but it was only because he figured Prongs' wife wouldn't let him go. No hard feelings."

Easy for Toews to say -- he gets invited everywhere.

Mike Richards, in an unparalleled act of leadership, has offered to tuck Pronger in for a full week and read him his favorite Robert Munsch books until he falls asleep.

"Yeah, obviously I'd rather be partying with university students but he's a hell of a hockey player -- what can you do?"

Even this was not enough to repair Pronger's damaged pride and it appears that if the Flyers are going to force a game 7, it will be without their big man on defense.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Some Quick Thoughts

Back after a week off and I know exactly what you're thinking: No, I'm not Dustin Byfuglien.

The combination of the Kaberle situation being beaten to death and the general lack of compelling Leafs news has left me with writer's block. I've had a couple of interesting conversations and exchanges lately though so I think maybe I'll just put them down here and hopefully someone can leave a comment so insightful (hint) that it will snap me out of this funk.

1) Nikolai Kulemin - He wants upwards of $3 M per year. Yikes. Anyone who's ever had a hockey-related conversation with me knows that I like Kulemin a lot. That said, he's out of his mind. It was suggested to me that signing him to a deal anywhere near that, particularly when Grabovski inked a similar deal after a sub-50 point season would set a dangerous precedent and I agree. We don't want to be known as a team that pre-pays for potential. Kulemin is best suited to playing on a third line that can check well and is a threat to score. You don't pay those kinds of players that kind of money if you want to contend.

2) The Kaberle Situation - It's been suggested that Anaheim are interested in Kaberle but are looking for a 'bigger' deal. They also have interest in Schenn and Kadri and it would probably take one of those two being involved in the deal to make it happen. I say, let's do it. I know this wont be a popular stance among Leaf fans but if we can land Ryan and the Flyers first round pick (29th or 30th overall) for Schenn and Kaberle, then I'm pulling the trigger.

Schenn's performance cap is probably somewhere around 'good-season-Mike-Komisarek' and those guys come available every year or two in free agency. Don't get me wrong, I love Luke Schenn. The people that know how much I like Kulemin also know that during his draft night I had been begging for him to slip to the Leafs and when they traded up, I was ecstatic. Ryan is what we need though -- a winger that scores and plays big. Also, it will give an opportunity for Gunnarsson to play more minutes and for one of our defensive prospects to earn a roster spot. A first line of Ryan-Kadri-Kessel could be pretty impressive in a year's time.

3) Jason Spezza - No. Just no.

What are your feelings Leaf fans? I'm sure these are conversations you've had a hundred times with your friends but humour me and have them one more time.

Also, if you have a chance and aren't already doing it, check out maple stir-up's blog at http://maplestirup.com/ It's good stuff.