Monday, August 20, 2012

Some Things To Keep In Mind As The Offseason Draws To A Close

If you're a fan of hockey and don't really give a crap about CBA-related stuff then August has been a pretty slow month.

While there isn't much in the way of Leafs news to talk about, there are a lot of things worth thinking about as the season (hopefully) draws near.

If there's a storyline we've missed, drop it in the comment section -- we're always looking to start a conversation during the dog days of summer.

1) Kadri has spent his summer training with Gary Roberts.  He's on a full meal plan and workout regimen and will be looking to add some size and strength.  After a very good season with the Marlies last year, there isn't much left for him to prove at the AHL-level and apparently Carlyle really likes what he brings to the table. The Marlies moved Kadri back to center for the majority of the AHL playoffs and one has to wonder whether that was Eakins' decision or whether it was a mandate from upper management.

2) The Leafs bought out the final year of Colby Armstrong's deal and currently sit $9M under the cap.  I think it's unlikely that they would have done this if they didn't intend on using the added cap space which means that Burke's "we're not done" comment is probably more than just noise.

3) A great deal of what Burke will be able to accomplish will depend on the new CBA.  If the cap goes down without a corresponding drop in existing contracts then the Leafs will have less available space than the $9M they currently have.  That said, this kind of cap adjustment would put Boston, Minnesota, and Vancouver in a bind and we all know that Vancouver has one particular asset that the Leafs covet.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Expectations for 2011-12: Playoffs vs. Lottery

Heading into this offseason a lot of Leafs fans (including this one) believed that addressing the goaltending situation should be management’s number one priority. This sentiment stems from the fact that both James Reimer and Ben Scrivens have produced very little success, at least over a significant period, in the NHL.

We’re approaching September and it doesn’t appear that any move in goal is imminent. There have been the usual rumblings about Roberto Luongo or Jonathan Bernier and, if you dig deeply enough, even Tim Thomas could be considered an option for the Leafs. The situation in Vancouver has the potential to get volatile, especially if they try to start the season with Schneider and Luongo in a platoon. As of today, however, the Canucks appear in no real hurry to ship Roberto out.  
At first, this seems disappointing. Neither Scrivens nor Reimer has demonstrated the sort of consistency required to be a #1 netminder. I would like nothing more than to see the team enjoy some level of success to rescue the fanbase from nearly a decade long abyss of playoff-less hockey. However, after spending some time reviewing the top draft picks from the coming 2013 class, it’s hard not to wonder if one more lottery finish, and the top 5 pick that comes with it, wouldn’t ultimately be the best thing moving forward.

We’ve written a bit about the cap space and contract flexibility the team will enjoy next offseason, with the majority of the Leafs' non-core player deals expiring. This will leave Burke with a few key players (Grabovski, Kessel, Phaneuf, Rielly, Gardiner...etc) and substantial cap space to make a push at big name UFAs (backing up Brinks truck to the homes of Perry and Getzlaf).
If the team can add another top 5 draft pick with a great pedigree we could be looking at the beginning of a very strong core. This would also prove to be quite ironic, as it would bring Burke's ‘rebuild on the fly’ to a close nearly 5 years after he assumed the GM role, but I digress.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Leafs' Prospects: Matt Finn

Matt Finn at Prospect Camp (photo cred: Jack Bolland, Toronto Sun)

Since Brian Burke took over as GM of the Leafs in November of 2008, the Leafs have put together a decent run of apparent draft success outside of the first round.  In his first three drafts, Burke has added Jesse Blacker, Jerry D'Amigo, Brad Ross, Greg McKegg, Josh Leivo, and Petter Granberg as non-first round talent with a legitimate chance at cracking an NHL roster.  If we couple this with the fact that his only apparent 2nd round whiff seems to be Kenny Ryan, a player who has struggled to assert himself at the AHL level and spent the majority of last season in the ECHL, then it's fair to say that the Leafs have done a solid job of adding to their organizational depth in the less projectable rounds of the draft.

With the 35th overall pick in the 2012 draft, the Leafs look like they've added another solid prospect in Guelph Storm defenseman, Matt Finn.

Finn was on the radar for scouts from the beginning of his draft year, ranking 15th in Central Scouting's OHL preliminary rankings, then shooting up to 15th in the North American mid-term rankings before finally settling in at 16th in the final North American rankings.  He's a guy who underwent a fair degree of scrutiny and his game stood up to it, in the eyes of scouts.

With only 4 players on the European Rankings and 3 players from the Goalie Rankings having been taken ahead of Finn, Central Scouting would have projected him to go at 23 and yet he fell to the Leafs at 35.

Finn is a prospect who's very similar to a player the Leafs drafted last year in Stuart Percy.  While Finn's offensive numbers are a little more impressive than Percy's were in his draft year, neither player projects as an especially strong offensive defenseman at the NHL-level.  Like Percy, Finn is often described as "quietly effective" with great poise, decision-making, and a good first pass.  While he doesn't have the flashy skating or offensive flair of guys like Rielly or Gardiner, he does possess the kinds of tools that provide a lot of value to an NHL blueline.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Joe Colborne: As He Is

Scene from 8 1/2

"All the confusion of my life... it has been a reflection of myself.  Myself as I am, not as I'd like to be."  -Marcello Mastroianni, "8 1/2"

"8 1/2" is a semi-autobiographical film by director Federico Fellini where Mastroianni plays the role of Guido, a director with writer's block who, as a result of external pressures from studios, producers, and the media, has constructed a monstrosity of a movie set for a film that has yet to fully take shape in his mind.  The set itself comes to represent the oppressive pressure Guido feels to live up to his past successes and these pressures only further exacerbate his intellectual and artistic impotence.

In Joe Colborne, I see a lot of Fellini's Guido.

Colborne was drafted 16th overall in the 2008 Entry Draft and was always viewed as a project.  While his size and skating made him worthy of a first round selection, The Hockey News described his play as "indifferent" and his skills as "undeniable".

After two solid seasons at the University of Denver, in 2010-11, Colborne made the full-time transition to the AHL's Providence Bruins where he posted a fairly lacklustre 26 points in 55 games and was subsequently traded to the Maple Leafs.  Colborne had more success with the Marlies to close out the 2010-11 season (16 points in 20 games) and spent the first couple months of the 2011-12 season among the AHL leaders in points, earning an invitation to the AHL All-Star Game.  Colborne's point pace slowed to a crawl to close out the season as injuries (he was forced to skip the All-Star Game) and the loss of linemate Joey Crabb seemed to seriously affect his game.