Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Good and The Bad of Dion Phaneuf (and other musings)

Yesterday I wrote about three young goal scorers on the Toronto Maple Leafs and all three of them were at it again tonight.

Kulemin started the scoring for the Leafs, netting his 23rd of the season.  Kessel scored the Leafs' second goal of the night giving him 27 and Grabovski finished the night off with his 25th.  Grabbo and Kessel each had two points on the night.

It was a huge win for the Leafs who are now 4 points back of the Hurricanes with 18 left to play.  Buffalo might have the advantage on both of those teams as they're only two points out but have two games in hand.  I know it's going to be tough and a lot will have to go right for us to squeak in but come on, we're pretty close.

Tonight we saw the good and the bad of Dion Phaneuf.  For those of you who didn't see the game, in the 7th minute of the second period, Phaneuf took a horrible line on Chris Conner who was flying through the neutral zone.  Matt Niskanen hit him on the tape with a beautiful pass and Conner slipped the puck past Reimer.  Phaneuf is going to catch a lot of bad press for this play (even more so had the Leafs lost) but the truth is that it was a tough play.  It was a mistake, no doubt about it, and the kind of error you wouldn't have seen your average defensive defenseman make.  It also wasn't your run-of-the-mill McCabe-esque glaring error.  I would hazard to say that the average guy that calls in to sports talk radio shows probably wouldn't have noticed Phaneuf's gaffe if the commentators hadn't drawn attention to it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Young Goal Scoring on the Toronto Maple Leafs

These aren't your parents' Maple Leafs.  Heck, they aren't even your older sibling's Maple Leafs.  There has been so much turnover on this roster that our active leader in games played for the Leafs is Nikolai Kulemin.  That's right, 24 year old, Nikolai Kulemin. 

While what we've seen since Burke took the reigns of the team is far from a conventional rebuild, make no mistake -- it has been a rebuild.  The new-look Leafs haven't been built through the draft and the new GM made it clear when he took over the storied franchise that he had no interest in waiting that long.  The trade for Phil Kessel which saw two first round draft picks head out of town was a red flag for Leaf fans who had seen their team consistently shed youth for past-their-prime talent.  But look more closely; this is different.

None of Burke's moves have been used to bring in expiring talent.  He's brought in players who are peaking.  True, he seems to place a lower value on draft picks than most GMs around the league but youth, at a certain point, has diminishing returns.  Is being 20 considerably more valuable than being 23?  The trick is to have players for as many of their peak years as you possibly can.  If you can get a Joe Colborne, who is likely a year removed from the NHL, rather than a middling first round pick that is likely three years away (if ever) then what's more valuable?