Monday, June 27, 2011

Moving Money Out: Giving Our Players An Opportunity

For better or worse, Brian Burke is a principled guy.  Some fans have lamented his not giving Phil Kessel an offer sheet rather than trading for him (no guarantee this would have worked anyway).  Others have complained about his self-imposed holiday trade freeze.  Perhaps the biggest dis-service that his principles have done to one of his franchises was the waiving of Ilya Bryzgalov. 

Bryzgalov was one of the league's best backups at the time but was stuck behind Giguere in Anaheim.  Burke sought to trade him but couldn't find a dance partner and eventually waived him in an effort to find a team that could give him the playing time he deserved.  Bryzgalov was picked up by Phoenix and is now the owner of a shiny new $50+ million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.

It doesn't always go this badly.  He did effectively the same thing with Pogge, sending him to Anaheim for what amounts to a ham and cheese sandwich.  Turns out Pogge is worthless, but at least he had a chance to prove he wasn't.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Toronto Maple Leafs Are Going to Make a Trade... I Think...

Darren Dreger tweeted that Philly offered Richards to the Leafs for Kulemin and Kadri and Mike Richards is presently a member of the Los Angeles Kings.

We can lament the Leafs not landing Richards and I'm sure we all will, but this tells me something:  Brian Burke has a deal he likes better that must be close.

Mike Richards is a Burke kind of guy.  He's a center which is what Burke is looking for this offseason.  Kadri has been rumoured to be in play from credible sources so it isn't as though he's untouchable.  For Burke to not have pulled the trigger on this one, there must be some other deal that has a good chance of happening.

I know this sounds 'hockeybuzz-y' but if you piece things together logically, it almost has to be true.  Dreger's trustworthiness is, in my mind, beyond reproach.  If we put this offer in a vaccuum then I think Burke would make the move value-wise.  The only thing that would stay his hand is the length of Richards' deal (which we know he wouldn't like) or the very real possibility that a significant move will happen prior to tomorrow's draft.

I'm no insider.  I don't have names, or sources who can confirm this.  It's just logic and everything seems to be pointing in the same direction.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Trading Up: Our Most Likely Trading Partners

If you care enough about the Toronto Maple Leafs to have found my blog, then you probably already know that Brian Burke has publicly stated his desire to move up in this season's draft.  He's said that he would still like to pick twice in the first round, but would move a first and our second (39th overall) in order to move up.

Burke loves to swing for the fences on draft day.  Everyone will recall his deal to get Chris Pronger in Hartford or to land both Sedins in Vancouver.  He also stated his desire to acquire the first overall pick and to draft John Tavares in 2009 so remember that things don't always work out the way BB would like them to.

There's some flexibility for Leafs' management and scouting staff depending on what they're looking to achieve in a deal.  The Leafs have the 25th, 30th, and 39th overall selections in this year's draft so they look like an attractive trade partner to a team that needs a volume of middling prospects sooner than a single higher quality prospect.  The Leafs are rife with potential third line prospects after nabbing Greg McKegg and Brad Ross in last year's draft and Jesse Blacker the season before.  It's clear to any fan familiar with the Leafs' system that what they need are guys with top-six potential and that is doubtless what Burke will be aiming at on Friday.

It doesn't seem likely that the Leafs will be drafting in the top 10 this year, so let's look at who owns the picks between 10 and our first selection (25).

Friday, June 17, 2011

What Should We Expect From James Reimer?

Last year, fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs were witness to the rapid ascension of James Reimer.  A guy who started the season behind at least two goalies on the organizational depth chart, Reimer had a solid pre-season and a season-salvaging regular season. 

After winning 20 games and posting a .921 save percentage, there are a lot of Leaf fans left wondering what exactly we should be expecting from Reimer next year and I'm one of them.  You have to love what you've seen from the guy so far, but goaltending more than any other position seems to be prone to statistical aberrations.  I decided to run a couple of comparisons and here's what I came up with.

James Reimer was 22 years old last season.  If we compare goalies post-lockout who were 23 or younger and posted GAAs of 2.70 or better and SV% of .915 or better we end up with this:

Save Percentage
Tuuka Rask (2009-10, age 22):  .931
Carey Price (2010-11, age 23): .923
Henrik Lundqvist (2005-06, age 23): .922
James Reimer (2010-11, age 22): .921
Marc Andre Fleury (2007-08, age 23): .921
Carey Price (2007-08, age 20): .920
Steve Mason: (2008-09, age 20): .916

Only six goalies fit into this category (Carey Price has accomplished these kind of numbers twice) and the list includes some pretty impressive names.  As you can see, Reimer's save percentage is bested only by Rask among those his age or younger.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What the Leafs Need Most: 2011 Offseason

Heading into last offseason there were a lot of questions surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Luke Schenn was coming off of a tough season, Dion Phaneuf had produced very little offensively for the team, the forward corps looked like Phil Kessel and a bunch of question marks and nobody knew what to expect out of Jonas Gustavsson.

This offseason, there is a lot more clarity.  Luke Schenn bounced back and there's little question about the kind of defense he'll provide.  Dion Phaneuf re-found some of his offensive prowess and is expected to provide more of the same.  The line of Kulemin, Grabovski and MacArthur stabilized our forwards and despite an up-and-down season, Phil Kessel still managed to put together a 32 goal year.

Despite the stability we've found in some areas, some key questions still remain.  Just how good is James Reimer?  Who is going to center Phil Kessel's line?  Are Keith Aulie and Carl Gunnarsson ready to play consistent second pairing minutes at a high level?

With these questions in mind, I've decided to draw-up what I see as an offseason road map for the Leafs during the 2011 offseason. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Baseless Speculation: Trading for a Stud Center

You may or may not be aware of this but the Toronto Maple Leafs are in the market for a first-line center.  Rumours have been circulating about two players in particular -- Jeff Carter and Paul Stastny. 

Philadelphia needs to shed some salary if they're going to be able to fit Bryzgalov under the cap and Carter's cap hit of $5.25M a year means that he would probably be available for the right offer.  Problem here is that if you believe any of the rumours, it sounds like Columbus is involved and is using the 8th overall pick in this draft as bait.

Carter makes a lot of sense for Columbus as his near-lifetime contract would ensure that he and Nash are both members of the team for about as long as the Blue Jackets want them to be.  The pick that they could offer is also a fairly high one and Philly is probably not looking to take much (if any) salary back.  I doubt the Leafs would be outbidding Columbus for Carter if he were to hit the trade market.

Colorado is in a different situation entirely.  They're rebuilding but they still have to reach the salary floor.  At $6.6M, Stastny is by far their most expensive contract and they would need to replace his money somehow if he were dealt.  Their cap situation will get considerably murkier the following season as Matt Duchene, Peter Mueller, Erik Johnson, Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Quincey are all scheduled to become RFAs next offseason.  By that time, the Avs should have no problem meeting the floor, and may exceed it significantly depending on the development of their prospects.  Colorado is also about to draft 2nd overall and 11th overall in the upcoming draft.  The rebuild is on for the Avalanche.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It's a Good Time to Hop on The Wagon

What a strange time for my first post in months.  It's the Finals, the draft is still weeks away, as is free agency and yet, here we are.  I've been thinking a lot about our Maple Leafs lately and decided that I should put pen to pad --or rather finger to keyboard-- to let everyone know what I'm thinking (because I know you all care).

Now, ladies and gentlemen, is a good time for the casual Leaf fan to start paying attention.

A lot of hardcores like myself despise the casual fan.  They haven't suffered the way we've suffered.  They don't have the same understanding of the team's dynamic and they're always mis-pronouncing players' names.  I admit, sometimes I get a little annoyed too but in general I embrace these fans.  Sure, they're kind of the estranged uncle of Leaf Nation, but they're still part of the family.

Even the casual fan wants to be able to talk intelligibly about prospects, guys that have grown with the organization, shrewd moves that the GM has made &c. &c. and for this reason I call these fans to come out of hibernation, pull out their Gilmore [ed. yikes!] Gilmour jerseys and start reading the Globe & Mail's Leaf Beat section.  Oh, you didn't know the Globe had a Leaf Beat section?  Well, that's just one of the many changes in Leaf coverage since you last tuned in.