Thursday, January 15, 2009

Maple Leafs Mid-Season Awards: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Halfway through the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs have 16 wins, 21 losses, six overtime losses for a total of only 38 points in 43 games. They currently sit in the 11th spot of the Eastern Conference, nine points out of a playoffs spot.

It's time for the mid-season report card.

The good:

Nik Antropov: The giant Russian is having a good season with 33 points (13 goals and 20 assists) in 43 games. He's been very consistent on a line with Stajan and Ponikarovsky. He also has avoided the injury bug as of today... Burke should trade him before he goes down with an injury.

Matt Stajan: Stajan, 25, is having the best season of his short career so far. In 37 games, he has 32 points (ten goals and 22 assists). He missed six games with a freak soccer incident two weeks ago. Stajan is thriving under Ron Wilson after he was a healthy scratch earlier this season.

Alexei Ponikarovsky: The Poni Express is having a surprisingly good season after a very ordinary 2007-08 season. Ponikarovsky, 28, has notched 14 goals and 16 assists for 30 points in 43 games this season, only five fewer than last season. He also has a good plus/minus differential at plus-3.

The bad:

Jason Blake: After a very slow start, Blake has produced a little bit more lately, but that's not sufficient for a player of his caliber. In 39 games in 2008-09, Blake has only ten goals and 14 assists for 24 points while getting plenty of ice-time. He has been made a healthy scratch a few times by Wilson to no good avail. His inflated salary (thank you John Ferguson!) makes him almost impossible to trade.

Mike Van Ryn: Acquired from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Bryan McCabe, Van Ryn has been injured most of the season. A talented offensive defenseman, Van Ryn has always been a band-aid boy and he is proving it this season having only played 17 games, notching three goals and six assists. He is currently out with a concussion since Dec. 19, 2008.

Lee Stempniak: Acquired from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo in early December, Stempniak has been nothing short of a deception. After registering 13 points in 14 games with the Blues, Stempniak has slumped mightily in Toronto, notching only three goals and five points in eight games.

The Ugly:

Ryan Hollweg: After 25 games with the Leafs, Hollweg is already on his way out. He has had as many suspensions as he had points (2) this season and with the arrival of Brad May and the emergence of Andre Deveaux, there is no more room for Hollweg. Don't forget the Leafs traded a fifth-round pick to get him...

Vesa Toskala/Curtis Joseph: One of the worst goaltending tandems in the league, they have been pretty bad for most part of the season. Toskala's 3.31 GAA is ranked 42nd among the qualified goaltenders this season. His disappointing .883 save percentage ranks hims 43rd in the league. He has allowed three goals or more 21 times this season. Joseph's stats are atrocious so I don't even want to look at them.

The Surprises:

Mikhail Grabovksi and Dominic Moore have been pleasant surprises so far in Leaf Land, the former showing flashes of brilliance of the ice with his speed and quick hands, while the latter proving to be a very reliable two-way centre who's good on face-offs.

It's now time for Brian Burke to make changes to start the reconstruction of a Maple Leafs team that's been very inconsistent this season. The lack of talent and depth is quite apparent and the Leafs must head NOW into Tavares' direction if they want a fast and painless rebuild.

What are your Good, Bad, and Ugly players?

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