Dec 5, 2009

Friday Foto: Movember

Though Movember is believed to be a month dedicated mainly to raising funds to be used in the search for a cure for colon cancer, I have a feeling the guys view this as a win-win situation. Admit it, we're always looking for a good excuse to feed the Mrs as to why we're growing facial hair; guys weekend, playoffs, movember - whatever we can get away with.

The Leafs were no exception to this fast growing charitably trend. Gustavsson opted for full facial hair while Stajan struggled to grow what little he could. Hagman's (above) clipped and trimmed furry lip possibly encouraged Ian White to trade in the hairy monster under his nose for a more reserved version. Even Colton Orr, the team bruiser, otped to toughen his image with some whiskers.

Amidst the new found feeling of team-togetherness founded under a handlebar shaped banner,emerged a new face to our Toronto hockey club (most likely sporting a bro-stache of it's own). Movember gave birth to a team a lot less willing to roll over and die. A team who believed they could win the game despite being down two goals. The newly found group of super soup-strainers could remember neither their place in the standings nor their personal +/- record.

The stats don't lie, see for yourself. To say October was a struggle would be giving the Leafs the benefit of a large doubt. The truth is the opening month of the season saw Toronto's Leafs fall behind the pack quickly with a horrific 1-7-4 record. Fans were upset, Burke was frustrated and the media was already calling the Kessel trade an abomination - even though Phil had yet to take to the ice.

Movember though, was a different story. The power of the 'stache lifted the Leafs to 6-12-7 after they made it through the month at .500 with a 5-5-3 record.

Movember also saw many of the other good numbers go up and the bad ones go down. The Leafs averaged 2.5 goals in their first 12 outings, only to trump it with a 3.08 over the following 12.

The Mo doesn't just score goals, it can stop pucks as well. October left our Buds with a miserable goals against average of precisely 4. The November stache bash shaped up that GAA to a much improved, but still not perfect, 3.23.

Be honest, it's compelling evidence. It leaves very little room for doubt in the extra abilities the player's crum cather's provide.

So what will happen now that Movember has departed and December has arrived? The players have shown no sign of ending their fuzzy lipped ways. And why should they after starting the month 2-0, out scoring their opponents 9-3 and earning the team's first shutout of the season? Looks like the trash stache is here to stay.

Dec 3, 2009

13 Thursday Thoughts: About Winter, Hockey & the Holiday's

Greetings to all on this chilly Thursday, this week has really flown by (and no, that won't count as one of 13). I'm surprised, last week's number one thought received far more attention than I originally figured it would. Hopefully this week will do the same - but on a less controversial matter.

If you're sitting at your desk hurrying to finish lunch, please don't let my babbeling hold you up. Enjoy this Thursday's edition of 13 thoughts on winter, hockey and the holiday's:
(please read responsibly)

#13     Winter has finally found it's way to Toronto. We saw our first snow dusting this week along with consitantly cold temperatures. I'm wearing a hideous sweater with the heat on and I'm still cold. Uck!

#12     Is it too early to start the Christmas countdown? Some start December first, others wait until the "ten days to go" mark. I want to be excited, but my wallet is telling me otherwise.

#11     How do fans really feel about the NHL All Star Game? I'll admit, I'm going to miss not having it this year. I enjoy the festivities, I am thrilled by the skills competition and entertained by the game itself. Ovie and Malkin were hilarious last year. So hockey fans - ASG: yay or nay?

#10     Gotta love Tampa and their ability to pretend to be in 8th place. Really, I know that's what the standings say, but look at who has been scoring. 50% of the team's 66 goals have come from Malone and Stamkos. Vinny and Marty only have five each, and Tanguay is the lone guy at four. It's 25 games into the season, and something needs to change... QUICK!

#9      A grievance was filed by the Ottawa Senators organization regarding Dany Heatley's $4 million bonus. And though I can understand where they're coming from ($4mil ain't chump change), when will owners learn that not everything can go their way. A team wants a player gone - boom, they move them, end of story. A player wants off a team and he's villianized by the organization. Just doesn't seem right.

#8      Hawks wrap up their big three this week, signing Toews and Kane to five year extensions and Keith to a whopping 13 years. I'm sorry, but any GM signing a player for over five years is simply laying an egg for whomever replacemes them down the road. Duncan's valuable, but 13 years valuable? I think more teams should consult with the Isles and ask how Dipietro's working out.

#7      Stamkos has been lighting it up for the Lightning (yes, I realize I just harped on the Bolts a few thoughts ago). Wow - 17 goals for 29 points in the opening 25 games. Can you believe Yzerman is looking to Stamkos for team Canada over Lecavalier? Stamkos proves there really isn't such thing as a "sophmore slump."

#6      While we're thinking about team Canada, one can't help but remark on the duel between Luongo and Brodeur last night. With a total of seven goals being scored between the two teams, and keeping in mind neither goalie is among the top three in the league for save percentage, goals against average, shutouts or wins this season, could it be time we hand over the reigns to someone new? I'd love to see Fleury get the start. He has won more playoff series in the past two seasons than Luongo and Brodeur have won combined in the same period. Just sayin'...

#5      Keeping on the goaltending train, what's with the Leafs and their current inability to keep a healthy goaltender? MLSE just reported that Gustavsson will need another surgery to hopefully correct his irratic heart rate. Top to bottom (including tenders signed by the Marlies) the Leafs have seen four of five goalies injured in this young season with three presently listed on the IR. Who's up for calling Gerber back from the KHL? Anybody? How about calling Joseph from retirement?

#4      Ahh, one can't talk about winter without thinking about the Winter Classic. This year Boston and Philly will square off, touque's and all. I have to give Bettman and the NHL credit, I can think of no better way to spend my hung over New Year's Day. I just wish it didn't start so dang early.

#3      Team Canada has released its WJC camp roster. I'm excited to see ones like Ellis, Pietrangelo, Cormier, Eberle and Hodgson return after experiencing the gold medal win last year. At the same time I feel confident in our large number of new comers. Schenn, Kadri, Lalonde, Cowen, de Haan, Seguin and of course Hall are definitely fit to carry the Canada torch and lead us into a sixth straight win. Can't wait!

#2      Alexander Ovechkin received a two game suspension after his second game eviction in three contests, this time for a knee-on-knee collision. If you ask me Ovie wasn't "hunting" at all, but given his wreckless track record (most notably when he took out Gonchar in the playoffs last season) two games is fair. Will he smarten up? My money's on "No."

#1      And who deserves the top spot on this list of thoughts? Keith the bone-head Ballard. If you haven't already seen the YouTube video of him hitting a T-ball homer off Vokoun's neck, I suggest you stop what you're doing and find it now. Should he be suspended? Definitely. I know he's sorry, and I know he didn't mean to, but this kind of irrationable behaviour screams a lack of self-control. Wreckless is not the name of the game in the NHL, and Ballard should learn the hard way. Sit two games, forfeit some cash to the player's injury piggy-bank (or whatever it is they call it) and reflect over how dumb you are. His actions were unacceptable, whether having hit Vokoun or not.

And that's a wrap. I'll be back at it tomorrow with another Friday Foto, and to be honest I'm yet to choose one. I guess that's my homework for the evening.

Until next time, stay online!

Your buddy,

Dec 1, 2009

Tuesday's Top 5: Drafted & Departed Leafs

Near the start of the season on Hockey Night in Canada, CBC shared a statistic regarding the link between a team's sticking with prospects and the winning of the Stanley Cup; 24 of the past 25 teams to win the Cup did so with at least ten players on their roster that had been with the team since draft day. Ten players - that's half of the guys on the ice.

And really, this stat makes perfect sense. During one of the most pivotol points of a player's career, their introduction to professional hockey, they develop in the same atmosphere and with much of the same direction as their future teammates either had or will have. The Leafs' are currently not doing as bad in this respect as one might think. If we were to include the presently injured Mitchell and Gunnarsson, the Leafs have nine players on their roster that have been drafted and introduced to North American professional hockey by MLSE.

It would stand to reason that if the Leafs wish to bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto, then the rentension and development of these drafted players would be of a high importance. But in recent years (recent being 16 or so), the running joke between Toronto hockey fans is that we've come to expect players drafted by our team to excel once being traded.

So I put this theory to test. I looked at all active TML drafted NHL'ers, compared stats from before and after they were traded and looked at the value they hold to their present team.

Having been selected in 1994, Fredrik Modin is the most veteran active NHL player drafted by the Maple Leafs. Including those that were selected the same year as this 6'3" Swede, the Leafs have drafted 128 prospects, 47 of which have played at least one game in the NHL, 27 are currently still playing in the NHL or AHL, and 11 of those are in the Leafs system. Out of the 16 remaining professional athletes, here's my Tuesday's Top 5:
(please read responsibly)


#5. Anton Stralman (216th, 2005)
Stralman had as many Toronto fans cheering for him, as he played minutes in a game. But since being traded to the Blue Jackets, Anton's value has both been realized and appreciated. First and foremost he has received a permanent spot on the Columbus roster, something he never found in Toronto. His being placed on the second defensive pairing as well as the powerplay unit has resulted in a point production that puts him on pace for 60 this season. I don't want to name names, or point fingers - but I know a certain alternate captain picked up from Anaheim that I'd gladly give up for this former Leafs' draftee.

 #4. Carlo Colaiacovo (17th, 2001)
Those of you who read last week's Tuesday's Top Five Unwelcome Leafs, you already know how I feel about the trade that sent Carlo and Alex Steen to St. Louis for Lee Stempniak. If you are one of the few that disagree, what would you say if I told you that Carlo's production on the Blues last year equalled that of Stempniak's contribution to the Leafs? Ouch. I'll trade you my Van Ryn for your Colaiacovo - heck, you can even have Stempniak back.

#3. Nikolai Antropov (10th, 1997)
Word on the street is that Burke's looking for a towering first line forward to centre Kessel and create net presence - hmmm. Nik is on pace for 80pts this year, and though all of us in Toronto know that he'll probably cut out around 60, was he really worth a deadline day deal that only brought in the Rangers' 2nd round pick? Leafs staff swore up and down that he was their guy if he could manage to stay healthy - well MLSE, he played 72 games in 07/08 and 81 in 08/09 and set career highs for points both times. Thanks.

#2. Tuukka Rask (21st, 2005)
Andrew Raycroft - need I say anymore? My favourite part of this trade is that the Leafs fans hated it from the minute it happened. Rask was noted to be the top goaltending prospects of not only his draft class, but the ones that surrounded it as well. On a team that had lost All-Star goaltender's Belfour and Joseph, and had seen success when drafting and developing goaltenders in the past (Felix Potvin), you would think the Leafs would want to have a couple goalies sitting in the wings at various stages of development. Sure, we already had Pogge - but how did that turn out? In his only game last year, Rask made 35 saves for a shutout. And this year? 11 games with a GAA of 2.02 and a .930 SV%. I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure there isn't a single Leafs' goalie (NHL or otherwise) with numbers this impressive. I'll say it once again - Andrew Racroft.

#1. Brad Boyes (24th, 2000)
What irritates me the most is four of the five players on this list were selected in the first round, and not a single one of the trades brought in long term benefit (though the Antropov trade is a little early to judge). Who knew Brad Boyes was selected by the Leafs, anyone? Now can anyone tell me Boyes' point production in his rookie season? Sixty-nine (I type it out for emphasis). Last season Boyes, a good local boy from Mississauga, was a 30 goal scorer (33, actually) and ended the season with 72 points and playoff bound, the same season the Leafs lost 21 games by a single goal and missed the playoffs by 12 points - just sayin'.

Everyone agree's that hindsight is 20/20, but first round'ers? Common Leafs, you have to show us something better than that. And to the Leaf fans, I would think twice before you skoff at Jiri Tlusty and wonder why he is yet to be traded. Though drafted in 2000, Boyes did not see his first full season of NHL play until 05/06.

It takes time to develop a Stanley Cup winner. The fans of Toronto have shown their patience, I think it's about time management does the same.

Your buddy,
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