November 23, 2009

Deep Thoughts

Inspired by Elliotte Friedman's "30 thoughts," here are some of my own. (Kiss my ass, originality.)

1. When it's all said and done for Jason Blake, I hope he donates his brain to science so we, as a people, can better understand some of his on-ice decisions. I've spent the better part of two seasons defending Blake's play and salary - his salary, not the length of his contract - but even I know where to draw the line. The fact that he's on pace for eight goals, with still two seasons left on his deal, makes it difficult to fall asleep at night.

2. What, exactly, does Luke Schenn do well? He's by no means fleet of foot, has nothing that resembles an NHL-caliber slap and/or wrist shot, doesn't move the puck exceptionally well, and has looked lost in the defensive zone on far too many occasions this season. I know he's no Drew Doughty, who put up excellent offensive numbers with the Guelph Storm, and I shouldn't compare the two of them, but are my expectations for Schenn out of touch for a guy the Maple Leafs traded up to draft, and selected fifth overall?

3. When Phil Kessel sets up shop on his off-wing on the power play, he reminds me of Mats Sundin. This warms my heart.

4. Has there been a more snake-bitten Maple Leaf forward this season than Nikolai Kulemin? He seems quicker on his feet, and is a solid forechecker, but three goals through 18 games is nothing but disappointing.

5. According to Jeff Blair, "John Mitchell looks like he's flat-lined into a fourth-line player." I want to argue, but I can't.

6. In the soul-crushing years post-lockout, I've allowed my expectations for certain young Maple Leafs defensemen to reach absolutely ridiculous levels. I led myself to believe that guys like Jay Harrison, Staffan Kronwall, Brendan Bell, Anton Stralman, Jaime Sifers, and even Andy Wozniewski, were credible NHL defensemen, destined for stardom, whom the Leafs found Detroit-style in the draft. Add Carl Gunnarsson's name to that list.

7. I'm not sure why, or when, it happened, but Lee Stempniak has become a favourite.

8. Speaking of Stempniak, Carlo Colaiacovo has already missed nine games this young season. Shocking.

9. Fire Ron Wilson. Hire Wayne Gretzky. He may not be the best coach out there, but he was destined to be a Maple Leaf one day.

10. The Maple Leafs consistently outwork their opponents. They outshoot their opponents 61-21. (And still lose.) So, does anybody else wish Gary Roberts would shut the fuck up?

11. Tomas Kaberle is one of the finest defenseman, and point-producers, to ever play for the Maple Leafs. My man crush on #15 borders on the twisted. But in another life, I'd love to see him play centre.

12. It was a lot easier to hate on the Leafs when one of the inmates, John Ferguson Jr., was running the asylum. While the Brian Burke era is still in its infancy, there's something deeply, deeply disturbing about the fact this team has won four of 22 games.

13. Christian Hanson is producing at a point-per-game pace down on the farm. Alex Foster was just named the American Hockey League's player of the week. Yet if anyone gets the call, I hope it's Jiri Tlusty. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I need him to succeed at the NHL level. And for the sake of my quickly deteriorating mental health, it must happen this season.

14. If the Chicago Blackhawks aren't willing to include a second-round draft pick in any Brent Sopel related deal with Toronto, and assign him to the minors, and he refuses to report, what happens to his salary vis-a-vis the cap?

15. As a fan, there's no worse feeling than when the Leafs lose to the New York Islanders. I believe Brian Burke had "truculence" confused with "suckulence." (ZING!!!1)

16. I wonder if Niklas Hagman regrets signing with Toronto. I hope he doesn't, but I would. Hagman's a treat to watch, and an absolute steal at $3 million a season.

17. Not Leafs related, but it's disrespectful to power forwards worldwide when Guillame Latendresse is called one.

18. How does Elliotte Friedman come up with 30 of these?

19. I once met Elliotte Friedman. At Cowboys in Calgary. He was super inebriated. Like any good journalist should be.

20. I hate @DHSpeedwagon. He is pure evil.

21. The Leafs have picked up four points in their last three games. That's .666 hockey. Playoffs!!1


MF37 said...

#5: John Mitchell peaked last year as a 3C. To quote John Prine, it's not such a long drop from the diamonds of the sidewalk to the dirt in the gutter.

#6: Remember when Stralman was the next Lidstrom?

#9: Gretzky as coach of my beloved blue and white might be a deal breaker. This cannot and should not happen. (I expect him to be named coach by March)

#14: If Sopel refuses to report, he'd be suspended and his salary would not count against the cap (he wouldn't get paid either)

#15: I'd rather lose to the Isles than the Sabres, Flyers, Habs...

#22: Love your list - I hope it's going to become a regular feature.

Moneypuck said...

"2. What, exactly, does Luke Schenn do well? He's by no means fleet of foot, has nothing that resembles an NHL-caliber slap and/or wrist shot, doesn't move the puck exceptionally well, and has looked lost in the defensive zone on far too many occasions this season. I know he's no Drew Doughty, who put up excellent offensive numbers with the Guelph Storm, and I shouldn't compare the two of them, but are my expectations for Schenn out of touch for a guy the Maple Leafs traded up to draft, and selected fifth overall?"

Well he is a smart player, he's a decent skater and is so young that his body can grow into more of a physical player.

Right now he's not playing smart, but most defenceman his age are about 2-3 years away from being in the NHL (if they're a solid prospect) and 3-4 years from playing top 4 minutes. Its a learning curve, he'll be fine.

bkblades said...

Next time, in the spirit of Elliote Friedman who partly inspired this post, you should do the list very hammered as well.

As for Kulemin, I hear you about him. My affinity for Eastern Euros on the Leafs is borderline scary, but I want Kulie to succeed so much. I need to replenish my Antropov void.

Belligerent Burkie said...

6. It's a little to early to put Gunnarsson into a category with guys like Bell and Sifers; unless it's a category of promising youth.

9. Wayne Gretzky is not a good coach, and he'd probably cost more for fewer wins. If he's going to be a Leaf, make it an advisory role, or something like that.

Archimedies said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Death By Leafs said...

Your glass seems pretty shallow, let me top it up with some Kool-Aid...

2. Schenn is only one month north of 20 years old. But he will grow. The sophomore slump happens for a reason; going from 60 games played at 50 kph to 80 played at 100 kph takes some bodily adjusting.
I didn't think he should play last year (and maybe this one) because you can't learn by trial & error in the NHL. Look how former teammate Tyler Myers has enhanced his offensive game with the extra year in Kelowna. Practising your rushes is easier against 17 year old WHLers than when you have 22+ minutes of top-4 pairing ice time against the top in the world.
And being on a loser is no good either. Why did the Islanders keep Josh Bailey last year? Were his 25 pts really that critical? He should have been all season in Windsor winning an OHL Championship + a Memorial Cup. And Schenn should have been with Myers in that finals against them.
He's never going to be Chris Pronger, but maybe we can end up with Scott Stevens Lite. Just wait and see once he gets his man-strength.

3. "When Phil Kessel sets up shop on his off-wing on the power play, he reminds me of Mats Sundin. This warms my heart."
Kessel will take off next season. He seems to be on pace for 40 already, and that without any summer workouts or training camp and having to recover from major surgery. Right now he seems to only have one move going for him, and isn't the most mobile of threats off the half-boards, but this guy is the real deal. Next year he pulls a Vivica and will flirt with 50.
BTW, when I heard we had a young, fast, net-hungry Swede in the system, my heart was warmed as well; if Stalberg develops a surgical backhand then I will cry with the angels.

4. I see your Kulemin and raise you a Grabovski. All this guy does is drive in and cut low to the net, only to have his centring passes fanned on or his shots hit dead chest centre. If he can flip his luck, they might come in bunches.

5. I might say 'sophomore blah blah', but why bother: were we really holding a candle for John Mitchell?? The guy has a decent shot and okay moves. All last year I saw in him a good checker that can provide secondary/tertiary scoring. If he can become a homegrown 15-goal Rob Niedermayer/Kris Draper 3rd line centre for half a decade, then that's fantastic news.

6. Gunnarsson looks okay to me. I wouldn't think too little (or too big) of him after only 5 games.
And at least we found out (via Lucicization) that Jay Harrison can take an NHL-caliber punch to the face. Btw, Anton Stralman has 13pts in 20 games for CBJ. Your hopes were on point in his case, and Burke may or may not have squandered a developing young talent for nothing.
Maybe the grand plan of gathering the 2nd rounder we would need to threaten the offer-sheet hammer on Kessel was that critical, and was thus the crux of the trade with Stralman (Primeau, Stuart, and the 7th being window dressing). But since Calgary dumped him for a 3rd to Columbus, I would wonder at the thought process of dumping him.
On the other hand, the reports that Stralman was unwilling to start again in the AHL and would scamper to Sweden perhaps forced Burke's hand, in which case he squeezed water from that rock. But it seems to me that he sold low (and Calgary sold even lower)

Death By Leafs said...

7. I just wish Stempniak had more of a scoring touch than me. I can get paid to miss from the crease as well as he does. And get him out of the shootout lineup. Lets see those young Russkies dazzle us.
But I do want him to continue improving, since I figure he has worked his value back into the positive side of the trade ledger.

9. I don't think there is much of any reason to blame Wilson for the start they've had. If you belive in your coach for the long-term, why knee-jerk it and cut him after a bad start in a meaningless season? Most of these guys won't be here in 12 or 36 months. Toskala, Finger, Exelby, Blake, Stempniak, Ponikarovsky, Primeau, Mayers, Wallin, and maybe Stajan will be cut, traded, or bought-out as much as is possible.
This team is progressing from the twinkle in Poppa Burke's eye to an iminent pregnancy. If the dot turns blue this year or next, it'll happen. Then we'll see if Wilson is as bad a coach as the columnists like to think he is...

10. WWGRD? Apparently not know anything about his former team.

11. My brother was playing DS when Kaberle unloaded a shot from the point that reminded me of the cannon I saw regularly for the Czech's in Turin 2006. Sadly, I told him it would probably be another 2 months before he saw another Kaberle shot.
Stop making the 12th pass across the blue-line. Sometimes Stempniak/Beauchemin think that YOU actually have the better lane. Pull the gawdamm trigger.

12. Patience. I don't think anyone had "2010 Stanley Cup Champion" rings sized yet. We didn't lose Taylor Hall; we never had him. We'll finish 11th or 13th in the East anyway.
On that note, Burke needs to constantly know about the status of the 1st rounders of ANA/MIN/PHX/CAR/FLA/OTT. I don't think those teams have the staying power to make the playoffs, and some of them might be desperately selling come March.

The Meatriarchy said...

I would seriously stop watching this team if they fired Wilson and brought in Gretsky. He's the JFJ of coaches.

around the way girl said...

For what it's worth, Doughty and Schenn WERE of the same calibre. They're BFF, and played together on the same pairing all thru the Super Series (IIRC). What happened? Enh. Ron Wilson? Luke's got the skills and capabilities. Just not so much on the confidence? Mer.

I love your blog. I love any fellow blogger who swears and apologises to their mum. I'm blogrolling you! :)

general borschevsky said...

#1. Even worse, both of Blake's goals have come on the powerplay. Blake is on pace for zero even strength goals. ZERO. Four million dollars.

#2. Schenn will be allright. He's a solid stay-at-home defenceman who shouldn't try to do more then he's capable. Right now he's playing very well with Gunnarson and seems to second-guess himself less then he does with Beauchemin. Also, I think he's been working on his slap-shot. I saw 2 good shots-on-goal from Schenn last night from the point.

#3. Excellent point.

#4. Stempniak is the most snake-bit by far, although Kulemin is close.

#6. Gunnarson looks ready for the NHL.

#9. Gretzky coaching the Leafs is the most evil thing I've ever heard you suggest.

#11. Kabby 1 point behind Tim Horton.

#13. I'd like to see Hanson and Bozak come up together. Stalberg too. I'm not done wanting to see Frogren again either.

#16. Hagman has been a rock so far this year.

#18. Elliotte is top notch in the business.

#21. The Leafs have 15 points after 22 games. To get to 95 points, they'll need 80 points in the remaining 60 games. That's exactly .666 hockey the rest of the way.

#22. Peace.

Bhattorious said...

LOL, i want to say something, but....i think you have become as pesemistic as i am in regards to the leafs....

Gustavsson....almost YES

ALL else can go F themselves, i want a winner, now, gad damn it...

and if those are the guys we have moving forward, it is pretty terrible....but what about next year

After this year:
Kovalchuck is a UFA
Savard is a UFA
R. Bourque is a UFA
J. Madden is s UFA (good 3rd line centre)
Svatos is a UFA
Frolov is a UFA
Volchenkov is a UFA....would love to have this guy on our Blue line
Marleau is a UFA

imagine if the leafs can get a few of these guys intot the line up next year, i think it would be a much better year, and add our modest list of what we have....thats playoffs.

Bhattorious said...

did i mention our cap hit next year is at 37.638 with 12 players signed...

Marleau for 6 = 43.5
Kovalchuck for 7 = 50.5
Madden for 3 = 53.5
Volchenkov for 4 = 57.5

That is what i would look for...


Kessel Marleu Kovalchuck....WOW

Mattt said...

It's impossible to outshoot your opponent 61-21 and lose and yet they did. Therefore, it is at least as improbable that the Leafs can make the playoffs with four wins in 22 games. See where I'm going here?

Bester30 said...

for the first time, I totally agree with your assessment. What do people see in Schenn? How do people not love Kabs and Kulemin, and Stemps is starting to warm up. The only thing you did forget was why havent we thrown Mayers in the bin, and you can shed more cap space by getting rid of exelby, then finally we can bring up the cheap young guns( sorry Tyler) and place mitch and stajan where they belong, 3-4th line!

eyebleaf said...

Thanks for all the comments, folks. I'm actualyl surprised at how much negativity there is towards Gretzky coaching our Leafs. He's THE GREAT ONE!!!!1

I'm not giving up on Luke Schenn, but I'm certainly worried about him. Worried that we're pigeon-holing him into a certain role. I really wish he'd have had some time to develop in juniors/the minors, playing on the power play unit, and in all situations.

As for upcoming free agents, I'm not getting my hopes up. I did with Rick Nash. Of course, Kovalchuk incites boners, but those are boners better left untouched.

Moneypuck said...

Ya on Kovalchuck from what I've heard, its Atlanta or Russia.

TC said...

I must admit I was excited to when they signed Blake ... more from the stand point that Sundin would finally have someone to finish for him ... funny how Sundin blew out of town and we have Blake for another 2 years.

Schenn? ... we love him so much because we think all our first round picks are the second coming ... probably because we're not used to having them.

Stempniak? I'm liking him too ... looks good playing the point on the pp.

Kulemin? he's one guy I really hope we can wake up and hold on to. I see lots of talent and tools ... very rare to see a good forward come out of our system.