Friday, February 27, 2009

Aurevoir Kaberle...For Now

Tomas Kaberle will be traded on March 4th. I guarantee it.

Kaberle, who's dawned the Leafs uniform for a decade, would be wise to waive his no-trade clause at the NHL Trade Deadline. This would allow him to control his fate, rather than have Burke decide it for him when his contract nullifies his NTC in the off-season due to the Leafs' failure to make the post-season this year.

While the Trade Deadline will limit Burke's options for potential suitors for Kaberle, his 4.25M cap-hit will make #15 a hot commodity for GM's looking for a puck-moving defenseman. While Burke has made it perfectly clear that it would take a significant offer for him to ask Kaberle to waive his NTC - a 1st round-pick, a roster player and a prospect to be exact - the desperation of GM's looking to bolster their line-up makes that asking price realistic - and by god, is it good to be a seller!

Reports have been circulating that Kaberle has given Burke a list of 10 teams he'd be willing to play for, but Burke shot down the reports, stating that Kaberle "has not given me a list of 10 teams he'd like to be trade to." While this is somewhat concerning for those hoping Kaberle is no longer a Leaf by March 4th, I don't think this will prove to be too much of a problem if GM's come a knockin' on Burke's door. Kaberle's intentions may be to stay in Toronto, but if a team, most likely a contender, decides to give in to Burke's demands, you can bet Kaberle will be aware of the benefactors for not only himself, but the team he's been serving so long. I found this quote particularly interesting:

"I want this clear, Tomas Kaberle made it clear to me, right to my face, 'I don't want to go anywhere else, I want to be a Toronto Maple Leaf'," Burke said. "He believes we'll get it turned around. He loves the city, wants to be part of the turnaround." (TheFourthPeriod)

While I admire Kaberle's passion for the Blue and White, this seems like the Mats Sundin dilemma all over again. Considering Burke's asking price, Kaberle must be aware of the talent and youth he'd import to the Leafs' youth cupboard by departing the team. Kaberle's contract prolongs to the 2010-11 season, so he'd be seperated from the Leafs for one season before becoming a UFA. Kaberle made it clear that he "wants to be part of the turnaround," but realistically, the Leafs won't start to rise in the Eastern Conference standings until atleast the 2011-12 season, when the youth they hopefully acquire begin to establish their roles for the Leafs' future. With that said, if Kaberle feels as strongly for the Leafs as he seems to suggest, then he should realize how much his departure would benefit the line-up, ensuring him a stronger club if he decides to return in the summer of 2011.

So basically, Kaberle, you have to choose. The red pill, which ensures you to play out the 2008-09 season, or the blue pill, which sends you to another team, bringing in loads of the talent to the Leafs' roster, and giving you the opportunity to come back a year later.

The choice is yours... (THE BLUE PILL! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Schneider Effect: The Canadiens' Power Play On Fire

Since being acquired by GM Bob Gainey from the Atlanta Thrashers last Monday, Mathieu Schneider has played three games for the Canadiens. The veteran defenseman already has two goals and one assist, all on the power play, and despite being -4 during that span, Schneider has played very well for the Habs, logging about 23 minutes of play per game.

With Francis Bouillon's long term groin injury, Schneider's acquisition is even more important for the Canadiens to get some stability on their top two defenseman pairings. Schneider has played with Andrei Markov, while Mike Komisarek has played with Roman Hamrlik.

Guy Carbonneau doesn't have to over-utilize Patrice Brisebois or Josh Gorges, with Schneider around.

However, the main beneficiary of Schneider's presence has been their power play. In 12 attempts over the past three games, the Canadiens have scored seven goals; that's a 58,33% rate!!

The Canadiens are now ranked 17th in the NHL after this recent boost. They hovered around the 25th rank for most of the season.

With a motivated Kovalev, an explosive power play and Alex Tanguay's imminent return, GM Bob Gainey will be in good position at the deadline to make the right move to consolidate the Canadiens' position as a playoffs team.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Senators Surprisingly acquire Mike Comrie from Islanders

Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray acquired centre Mike Comrie and defenseman Chris Campoli earlier today in exchange for veteran forward Dean McAmmond and San Jose's 2009 first-round draft pick, obtained from the Tampa Bay Lightning in August 2008.

Comrie, 28, has 20 points in 43 games for the Islanders this season. He played 41 games with the Senators in 2006-07, recording 25 points. Comrie, who is making $4 million this season, will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

Campoli, 24, is an offensive defenseman who is having a rough year in New York. In 51 games, Campoli has 17 points, but he also has a -20 plus-minus differential. Campoli, who only makes $633,333/year, is a very affordable defenseman.

McAmmond has seven points in 44 games with Ottawa. He has played on the Sens' fourth line for most of the season. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The 35-year-old forward has played 916 regular season games.

GM Bryan Murray decided to help his rookie coach by getting offensive help. With Captain Daniel Alfredsson rumored to be out for a few weeks because of a fractured jaw, Murray acted fast in replacing Alfie's offensive output. Comrie should fit nicely in Ottawa's new up-tempo forechecking style, while Campoli will help Ottawa's transition game.

GM Garth Snow still has plenty of veteran players to trade before the trade deadline, such as Guerin, Weight, and Witt. Nice job getting a first-rounder for Comrie and an underachieving Campoli.

I do believe, however, that it's too little too late for Ottawa to clinch a playoff berth. The Senators are currently 13 points back from the eight seed occupied by the Sabres. They do have two games in hand.

The Senators will visit the sinking Montreal Canadiens on Saturday afternoon in a very important Northeast division matchup.

Rookie goaltender Brian Elliott will be in goal.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Canadiens and Thrashers Talking Trade

The Atlanta Thrashers are actively shopping centre Erik Christensen and veteran defenseman Mathieu Schneider and according to various sources, the Montreal Canadiens, among others, have inquired about the above players.

Christensen, 25, is having a sub-par season with the Thrashers, notching only four goals and eleven assists in 36 games. He was acquired with Colby Armstrong and Angelo Esposito for Marian Hossa and the trade deadline last season.

Christensen, 6'1'', 208-lb, is a shootout specialist with great skating abilities and soft hands. Earning only $750,000 this season, he is a restricted free agent at season's end.

Schneider, 39, is a power play specialist with a great vision and good skating abilities. He is having a rough season with the Thrashers, recording only eleven points in 39 games. He had a great season with the Ducks the year before, notching 39 points in only 65 games.

His high salary, $5.625.000/year makes is very available. He will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

Atlanta is reportedly seeking a middle-round draft pick and second-tier prospect.

With the long term injury to Robert Lang, the Canadiens have the cap space to absorb both players' salary.

Would you do it if you were Bob Gainey?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bob Gainey Must Move, and Move Fast

With the latest long term injuries to veteran centre Robert Lang, winger Guillaume Latendresse and defenseman Josh Gorges, the Canadiens players are dropping like flies.

They will be joining winger Alex Tanguay (shoulder), George Laraque (back) and Mathieu Dandenault (wrist) on the injury list.

Latendresse is out for a few weeks with a shoulder injury that he sustained during Sunday's matinee against the Boston Bruins when he collided with Chuck Kobasew and fell awkwardly into the board.

Gorges is out indefinitely with concussion symptoms after he was vicously hit during Saturday's matchup against the LA Kings when Denis Gauthier nailed him with a vicious elbow to the head. Gauthier, who received a five-minute major and a game-misconduct on the play, has been suspended five games by the NHL earlier today for this behavior.

While Latendresse and Gorges were playing very well recently for a Habs team that is sinking fast, the injury to Lang is the most costly. Lang is currently leading all Canadiens forward with 18 goals and 21 assists for 39 points in 50 games. He also has a team-leading eight power play goals.

Lang's season-ending injury means Gainey must get help down the middle if he wants his team to be successful come playoffs time as neither Tomas Plekanec nor Saku Koivu have been able to pick up the slack offensively.

Youngsters like Ben Maxwell and Kyle Chipchura have shown the management that they are not ready to carry the offensive load in Lang's absence.

Who would you trade for if you were Bob Gainey?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Random Thoughts As The Leafs' Buns Are Still Red Hot

* Justin Pogge got his “pants pulled down”, plain and simple. Considering he was playing his second NHL game, and his teammates were displaying their best Andy Wozniewski impersonations, I’d say he’s deserving of a mulligan. While a couple of the goals were stoppable, it begs the question if ANY goaltender could of garnered a solid performance with the abysmal performances that were displayed in front of the netminder last night.

* I’m just throwing this out there, but does anyone notice Lee Stempniak on the ice? I sometimes forget he’s on the team.

* Stajan has 0PTS in his last 6 games. This is a little concerning considering his production during the first half of the season, but it’s nothing to burn police cruisers over. A quick glance at the Leafs’ roster will prove that every player, in every position, has endured cold streaks. It’s part of the process of rebuilding, as the Leafs’ core consists largely (and will only continue to) of young players.

* After watching the Leafs’ dismal performance last night, I can’t help but wonder if Pogge should stay clear of the Leafs altogether this season. While easing him in with the occasional game sounds like a logical plan, the Leafs’ defense will play no part in this thing we call, “logic.” One could argue that more time in the AHL will only halt his progression, but I can’t help but think the Leafs will only shatter his confidence if he were to assume the goaltending duties for the Blue and White . I mean, as nice as it is to blame the defensive woes on Vesa Toskala’s struggles, yesterday was a clear indication that the Leafs’ defense are not capable of maintaining order in their own end – even Schenn was a walloping -4.

* While Ron Wilson’s comments are considered egocentric by many, even Don Cherry had to respect his comments towards his fallen goaltender last night. “Obviously the first goal was not very good but then we pulled down his pants,” Wilson said. “Our goaltending has not been good this year. This is an opportunity for Justin. He’s going to get more opportunities. He’s going to be a great NHL goalie.” That may not seem like a Hallmark moment, but for Wilson, this is an act of defending his goaltender and placing the blame almost squarely on his defenders, who, deservingly so, need a serious adjustment in their own end. Wilson said it best: “We don’t have enough guys who care about each other. We have a few guys who should look in the mirror and say: ‘I’m not trying hard enough in my own end. I’m cheating in order to get easy points.’”

* “Enjoy Michael Cammalleri the rest of the season, because on July 1, he’ll be a Toronto Maple Leaf, making almost as much money as Jarome Iginla” – Eric Francis, The Calgary Sun. A player like Cammalleri is exactly what this franchise needs. His speed and offensive prowess would be instantly recognized, and considering his age (26), how can you go wrong? 7 million per season seems a little excessive, but if Burke can lock him up anywhere around the 6 million vicinity, the Leafs will have possession of an integral piece to their rebuilding plan.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Jason Blake a Valuable Commodity?

Don't look now, but Jason Blake is on pace for 25 goals and 56 points (in 78 games).

And don't give your eyes a rub, that's actually on your computer screen, folks.

While Don Cherry is red in the face over the coaching of Ron Wilson, Blake couldn't be happier. After registering a disappointing 15-goal (although he did have 51 points) campaign in 2007-08, Blake has flourished under Wilson, scoring 14 goals so far this season.

Blake may lack the defensive game to establish himself as an effective two-way forward, but considering his +1 rating, he's obviously doing something right.

Blake is most effective, however, as an energetic forward who uses his speed and tenacity to create scoring chances down low.

All that said, I'm going to come right out and say it: Blake does not belong on this team.

I don't care how much he improves, he just doesn't fit.

Blake is best utilized as a top-six forward. So, what's the problem? The Leafs lack top-six forwards anyway, right?


The Leafs are a rebuilding team. So, how exactly, does Blake fit? He doesn't implement any sort of leadership to the line-up, and at 34, he's not exactly a young stud. Even if he was there for leadership, isn't that why character players like Mayers and May were acquired in the first place?

Wilson may be responsible for the re-emergence of Blake, but the signing was a mistake ever since John Ferguson Jr. signed the dotted line two summers ago.

Blaked is signed on for three more years after this season, possessing a hefty cap-hit at 4 million dollars. It's important to note, however, that he will be making a fair 3 million dollars during the last two years of his contract.

And this, ladies and gentleman, could play a big part in the potential trading of Blake at this year's Trade Deadline.

If Blake can keep producing as an offensive juggernaut (he now has 7PTS in his last 4GP), the Minnesota-native may generate some interest once March 4th swings around.

It's entirely possible the Leafs continue to be handcuffed with his lucrative contract, but don't be surprised if Burke ends up unloading him, even if it's for a mid-round draft pick (although I would imagine the Leafs would be taking some salary back).

So, what do you think? Is a trade possible? Do you want him off the team? If so, what type of return are you expecting?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Reimin' It Up

*I'll be honest, I don't even what the hell this title even means, but it gave me a chuckle, so I hope I get a cheap laugh out of ya'*

You know what really grinds my gears?

James Reimer has been a forgotten player amongst the Leafs' prospect cupboard.

Take a look at his statistics throughout his career thus far:

[b]Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
2005-06: 34 GP, 2.81 GAA, .910 SV%
2006-07: 60 GP, 2.66 GAA, .912 SV%, 3 SO
2007-08: 30 GP, 2.73 GAA, .916 SV%, 1 SO

[b]Reading Royals (ECHL)[/b]

2008-09: 14 GP, 3.43 GAA, .901 SV%

[b]Toronto Marlies[/b]

2008-09: 1 GP, 1.85 GAA, .926 SV%

I know what you're thinking. Not exactly earth shattering stats, right?

But consider this: Reimer has had the misfortune of backstopping mediocre teams throughout his entire career.

And that hasn't changed for the year 2009. Reimer has earned his spot on the Leafs' ECHL affiliate, but he's been granted a woeful team in the Reading Royals (13-25-2 record - good enough for second last in the league).

As far as his game is concerned, wrote the following:

"Reimer doesn't have much of a problem filling the net. His style has been described as simply coming out of the crease and challenging shooters to find space around his large frame. When he is on his game, the lanky netminder uses his size to cut down angles and plays a controlled game. He also displays decent puckhandling skills." - HF

Sounds similar to Justin Pogge. And considering Leafs fans have witnessed just how important size can be between the pipes (I'm not pointing any fingers, but I'm pointing directly at you, Vesa Toskala), the large frames of the Leafs' upcoming goaltending prospects will be greatly appreciated.

In terms of Reimer's future, there is a variety of scenarios that could unfold:

[i]Scenario #1 (Most Likely):[/i] Justin Pogge becomes the Leafs' starting goaltender for the 2009/10 season, leaving the door open for Reimer as the Marlies' goaltender.

[i]Scenario #2 (Likely):[/i] The Leafs pursue other options between the pipes, and continue to let Pogge develop in the AHL, forcing Reimer to either a) stay with the Royals in the ECHL, which would allow him to log more ice-time, or b) serve as Pogge's back-up in the AHL, injecting a healthy dose of competition between the two.

[i]Scenario #3 (Unlikely):[/i] Toskala is traded at Trade Deadline, Pogge is called-up as starting goaltender, and the Leafs enter the 09-10 season with a young goaltending tandem of Pogge – Reimer.

Pertaining to scenario #1, I think this would be the most feasible and approachable option for the Leafs right now. While Reimer has progressed nicely, he is still at the tender age of 20, so some seasoning is still required if he is to maximize his potential.

Best case scenario: Leafs fans are treated with a future goaltending tandem of Pogge – Reimer and the duo compete for the starting role, which a) inserts some healthy competition between the pipes, and b) assures the Leafs of the more talented goaltender (Tukka Rask...*sigh*).

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Please note that I will be on vacation to Cuba from Jan. 19 to Jan. 26, 2009.

I'll be back after the all-star break.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Where Is The Canadiens' Captain? Koivu Still Bothered By an Ankle Injury

The Canadiens' captain last played on Dec. 11, 2008, against the Lightning. Ever since his ankle injury, Saku Koivu experienced various problems delaying his return in the Habs' uniform.

Koivu suffered his latest setback yesterday when he was forced to leave the ice during practice because of lingering pain on his injured ankle. As a result, the team doctors ordered him to take a few days off the ice to rest his ankle.

This guarantees Koivu won't be back before the All-Star break and maybe more. The Finnish captain has now missed 15 games in a row and since the Canadiens are playing well without him, this will likely put an end to his tenure as the Habs' captain.

Earning $4,750,000 this season, Koivu, 34, is in the last year of his contract and he's set to become an unrestricted free agent. Unless Koivu accepts to take a large pay cut to stay in Montreal, I highly doubt GM Bob Gainey will tender an offer to his ageing captain because of the numerous UFAs or RFAs the Canadiens will have to retain at season's end.

Alex Tanguay, Alex Kovalev, Robert Lang, Steve Begin, Tom Kostopoulos, Mike Komisarek, Francis Bouillon, Mathieu Dandenault and Patrice Brisebois will all become UFAs, while Chris Higgins, Tomas Plekanec, Gui Latendresse and Kyle Chipchura will become RFAs.

Would you keep Koivu? Or is it time to pass the torch to a younger captain (AKA Komisarek)?