Pension Plan Puppets: July 2006

Every Leafs fan has an opinion. Here's mine: We are all Pension Plan Puppets. The Teachers pull the strings and we dance.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Musical Chairs, Writer Finds Blog, and the new Damien Cox

Musical Chairs
As many people have noted, the Leafs have a bit of a math problem in net. Tellqvist, Aubin, and Raycroft all expect to be with the big club this year but we only have two spots (actually one because JFJ has already said that Raycroft is the starter barring a shitting of the bed).

Despite previous statements to the opposite, JFJ is still looking to make some moves to open up cap space and possibly bring Mats that much coveted 'winger' that everyone thinks that he needs. Although, one should note that despite playing with absolute mooks he put up 20-17-37 in the last 25 games of the year. Quite the captain's innings to borrow a saying from cricket (Mats and all his wonderfulness are another post entirely).

Howard Berger provides with one of its few readable posts by suggesting that Tellqvist and his miniscule $589K salary could be attractive to a team looking for a solid backup to play around 20 games or that needs some goaltending depth. Off the top of my head, Atlanta could use someone of Tellqvist's calibre considering the goaltending disaster they went through last year (about 12 goalies were used, more or less). This would leave prospects (Pogge, Racine) in the Marlies' net as opposed to deadweight and after the frantic finish to last season's campaign everyone in Leafdom can be comfortable with Aubin as the backup.

Kenny Campbell Reads the Blogosphere!
A scant 8 days after Raking Leafs sang the praises of Kyle Wellwood, our own caucasian reporter, Kenny Campbell, has helped flesh out Ninja's analysis with some quotations from the man of the hour.

Wellwood's passing ability will be anchoring one of two PP units but it would be great if, as suggested, Sundin's shooting ability is not suborned by having his passing as the focus of the other PP unit. Mats has one of the best shots in the NHL and, as the Florida game in the stretch last year proved, he works well as the focal point.

Simmons is the new Cox
Of course I mean that in the most contemptible way possible. As if having to suffer through his pomposity on the Satellite Hot Stove was not bad enough, Simmons is starting to pop up with more frequency on television. However, written diarrhea is still his bread and butter as his article from Sunday can attest:
It's commendable the Leafs have gotten rid of Ed Belfour, Aki Berg, Alex Khavanov, Luke Richardson, Tie Domi, Eric Lindros, Jason Allison and Pat Quinn -- at least two and maybe three who are going to the Hall of Fame. But how much better does Mike Peca, Pavel Kubina, Hal Gill, Andrew Raycroft and Paul Maurice really make them? It's not like a team lacking speed and creativity got any.
Where to start? Lindros wanted too much money, Richardson, Domi, Khavanov, and Allison were too slow to compete at even strength, Quinn had lost the plot, Berg was seduced by 22 hours of darkness (Thank God he loves Finland), and Belfour is 41 years old. If those guys had stayed (but some are Hall of Famers!!!) then Simmons would be bitching about that. Kubina and Gill are MASSIVE improvements over any combination of Richardson, Khavanov, and Berg. Raycroft at least has the potential of recovering his Calder Trophy form with Aubin providing an able safety net while Belfour is more likely to throw his back out screaming an offer of eleventy billion dollars to a cop. And Maurice is the kind of coach that is needed in the new NHL and will give the kids a bigger chance (this is where the speed and creativity comes from Stevie) to show what they can do. Thankfully, Cox has been on vacation so there has only been one anti-Leafs Toronto-based columnist spewing absolute bullshit.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Fashionistas Demand Pink

Pink jerseys? I know quite a few avid femals Leafs fans and I am not quite sure that they avoid buying a Leafs jersey because it will clash with their shoes. It will be interesting to see if using pretty colours will increase the sales of jerseys. Although it does create a perfect bachelor party gift rather than a Doug Christie jersey (because his wife follows him to every NBA game he plays). So it's got that going for it.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Encino Man Returns

No, not the wonderfully witty movie starring Canadian Brendan Fraser and Samwise Gamgee but Wade Belak. Further proof that JFJ might actually have an evil twin that is ruining his reputation is found in the news that Wade Belak had his contract extended. AGAIN. We all thought that he was done after the lockout. Then he got a two-year deal. Now that we could see the light at the end of the tunnel he is re-signed until 2007-2008. Why? do we need to pay a guy to sit in the press box 82 times a year? Hell, I'll do it for the league minimum and save the Leafs over $200K.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Verbal Diarrhea and a Tribute

Nick Kypreos
They are almost synonomous. Now, it looks like Sportsnet is going to base their search for increased irreverence and continued credibility around scrambled eggs for brains Kypreos. It was bad enough that they let go of Scotty Morrison but now they are trying to paint Kypreos as the saviour of HockeyCentral?
"You don't invest eight years in a guy like Nick and then let him go," Akande says. "Nick is a star who has built the Sportsnet brand. When people think of Sportsnet, they think of Nick Kypreos and we'll do our best to keep it that way."
You should do just that when you realize that you have an absolute tool on your hands. Nick has never been a star. He is most known for this infamous ending to his career (the only clip of him on YouTube). When people think of morons that are full of themselves they think of Nick Kypreos.
This is, by the way, the same Nick Kypreos who was so rough around the edges he was almost fired after his first season.
They had their chance and blew it. Thank God it's been trimmed down to a weekly show. If they do not keep Watters around to constantly call Kypreos on his idiocy then they might as well quit talking about 'credibility'.

I never had a chance to properly say goodbye to Tie, one of my favourite Leafs, so here is one of his last fights. His long-time nemesis on the sens Chris Neil, he of the patented 'slash, hook, lip off, run away from a fight' move, finally tries to show that he is a man. Domi gloriously reminds him why the Leafs have eliminated the sens in four out of four playoff meetings.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Playoffs or No Playoffs

Howard Berger feels that the Leafs are primed to return to the playoffs after a season's absence. Of course this has led to a deluge of comments by non-Leafs fans about the myriad of reasons why the Leafs will miss the playoffs. Apparently, few if any of these people have any clue what they are talking about. Much like...

No Playoffs
Adam Poirier a self-proclaimed 'diehard Leafs fan' (cannot be too diehard since he is writing off the Leafs' chances of making the playoffs before the season starts despite a huge overhaul) and 'fantasy sports expert' (no idea what that means, I do pretty well in an NBA pool but I am no fantasy sports expert). He has given six reasons why the Leafs will miss the playoffs. Here are my rebuttals.

1. The Leafs were a popular pick to miss the playoffs despite coming very close. They missed the playoffs despite coming very close. That is called achieving, not underachieving or over achieving.

2. This point torpedoed any credibility he could have hoped to escape with. The Leafs scored the 9th most goals (254/3.10 per game) and had the # 2 ranked powerplay (107/21.4%). Those are far from weak numbers. I am guessing that what Adam meant to say was that the Leafs were weak offensively 5 0n 5. And we were. But we have made moves to improve this. The team's forwards are much quicker and deeper as a group than last year. The youngters featured two players in the top ten in rookie scoring (Wellwood and Steen) and another that just missed being in the top 30 (Stajan). As for Poni and Antro, they developed a great chemistry towards the end of the year and were starting to put up numbers that would translate to very solid seasons. It is not a huge leap of the imagination that between FIVE players they can't find 60 points of improvement to off-set the loss of the Human Glacier, Jason Allison. Not to mention that Mats and Peca will both have had complete off-seasons rather than the long vacations they had had entering last year. All in all, the Leafs offence should get even better.

3. Again, Poirier shows that he is the kind of fan that knows the players names and considers that being diehard. Yes, a lot depends on how Raycroft performs after a full off-season instead of 10 games in Finland and a 12-month vacation. However, Maurice showed in the Canes' unsuccessful run to the cup that he is very adept at handling two tenders. Also, both Aubin and Tellqvist have put in some extended runs as a # 1. Granted, I would be much more comfortable with Aubin than Telly but it will hardly be a case of living and dying by Raycroft's turnaround.

4. This just a mess of contradictions. First, he ridicules the Leafs for signing two behemoths then he acknowledges that Kubina was the # 1 defenceman on a Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning squad. He proceeds to mock the Gill signing (a defenceman with seasons of +16, +21, and +16 before last year's Bruins meltdown) because we have so many guys on the Marlies that should be 'adorning' (I think he meant donning since the players are not ornaments) the Leafs jersey. I disagree. The Leafs have maybe 3 guys that have the experience to play the full season: Kronwall who is basically a lock for a spot, Carlo who has played only 25 games, and Karel Pilar (Who?) who is still a Leaf and could make a return from his heart troubles. The others he mentioned have a chance to make the team but they only represent a combined 21 games of NHL experience. Considering that Maurice (Update July 20, 2006: Now he won't have to do all of the work.) has floated the idea of using 5 D, those three would be better served by more time in the minors.

5. The Leafs have made more substantial changes than almost any rival in the East. Pittsburgh is still Pittsburgh and will miss the playoffs. Atlanta can't play defence to save its life (Update July 20/06: They do not even have Lehntonen signed yet! How did that platoon go last year?). Philadelphia has yet to come to terms with Simon Gagne, lost Kim Jonsson, is still the same plodding team that got wrecked by the Sabres, and looks to have lost their captain, Keith Primeau, to post-concussion symptoms. The Islanders are a joke (one thing right for Adam!). Literally. The Rangers were exposed as a bit of a fluke and they will come down to Earth this season. Florida lost Luongo so that might cost them a few points. The Devils are currently trying to figure out how to re-sign their players and not go over the cap (bye bye Gomez). The Hurricanes will again be tough, nothing you can do there. Tampa improved their goaltending marginally but then they lost their top defenceman in Kubina so that is not exactly a team on the rise. And, finally, the Capitals have only Ovechkin and Kolzig. Looks like the East is not exactly filled with the proverbial beasts.

6. Again, he overestimates the other teams. Yes, ottawa manhandled the Leafs in 7 of 8 games (in the important one we smoked them) but they have lost Chara, Havlat, and most importantly, Hasek. Sure, Gerber looked good for the Swiss against Canada but he was also a career backup until recently. Boston needs much more than Chara (woefully exposed during the playoffs) and Savard (made his rep on the backs of Kovalchuk, Bondra, and Hossa) to get to the playoffs and are depending on repeat strong performances from Hannu Toivonen and Tim Thomas. Buffalo has already lost Jay McKee, Mike Grier, and Taylor Pyatt as well as having 10 players going through salary arbitration in the next few weeks. They will be hard-pressed to keep most of those players and will drop off as they are less of a surprise package. Montreal, if anyone, definitely overachieved. Huet, a journeyman goalie, played like the second coming of Jose Theodore and will have to repeat it just for the Habs to have a chance to make the playoffs. As well, a lot of their offensive guys (Ryder for one) had career seasons and they will have to repeat those feats just for a chance.

All in all, for a diehard fan, Poirier really discounts the Leafs chances and looks for basically any reason to count them out. Well, as a true fan I revoke your Leafs Nation passport. You are dead to us.

As a final nail in the credibility coffin, he then points out that he picked the Vancouver Canucks (!?!?) to face the Florida Panthers (!?!?) in the Stanley Cup Finals! Fantasy Sports Expert? The emphasis is clearly on the fantasy part.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Unicorn Sighting

In one of many moments of frustration with JFJ last season I remember likening his 'plan' to a unicorn: a lot of people talk about it like it existed but no one had any proof.

Well, today JFJ articulated it. Finally. It is nice to see that after three years as GM JFJ was finally able to see the Leafs weaknesses and address them. Beyond just the subtraction of players and the addition of this year's incoming free agent class JFJ has provided Maurice with a glut of players which can be used (Newbury, Bell, Carlo, Pohl, Westrum, Bates) to step in for struggling players. One of my greatest gripes with Quinn was that he NEVER sat players that were struggling (Reichel, Renberg, Berg). Of course that was partly because of his loyalty to veterans and partly due to his lack of trusted replacements (although the Leafs have a recent history of doing very well with AHL call-ups Quinn was still very reticent to employ them). Maurice will not bring either of those two handicaps to the team. He is also looking forward to building a team more suited to the quicker pace of the league:
"We want to play a very aggressive puck-pursuit game when we don't have it," Maurice said, "which means you have to have people who want to work and you have to be in good shape to play that way. We want to make sure when we're attacking that we can do some things off the rush that we don't have to dump the puck because we're moving so slowly. We want our forwards to make some plays at the offensive blue line, but they have to do it with speed or you'll get awful turnovers."
Maurice also mentioned that he had been in close and frequent contact with his former charge Jeff O'Neill. I have heard rumours of a bit of a rift between the two of them from their Carolina
days but Maurice's comments do not seem to indicate any problems:
"I have high expectations from how hard he is working and I've made him aware of what those expectations will be," Maurice said. "I've got a lot of faith in his talents and his abilities. I also know that he needs to get to a certain quickness level to be able to use them."

This makes me think that maybe the solution to the Sundin Question might be O'Neill. He struggled last year, like so many veterans, after the year-long layoff and carried the further burden of the tragic death of his brother before the beginning of the season. After a summer of healing (he had shoulder surgery) both physically and mentally he could be poised to return to the form that saw him score 102 goals in 3 seasons from 2000-2003. Training camp opens September 11. I cannot wait.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

We Did It!

Peca a Leaf!
That's right, JFJ has succumbed to the combined forces of common sense and fan pressure. According to Kenny Campbell, the Leafs will today announce a deal at 11am to sign hometown boy Mike Peca for one year at $2.5M. The best part of hearing this last night on Sportsnet was that infamous Leafs hater Sean McCormick (Update: Maybe we are having an effect there too. This makes two straight non-antagonistic posts in a row from Seanny.) had to announce the departure of another key piece of the Oilers Stanley Cup run and to Toronto no less. The best part of reading the news was this:
The Peca signing also ends the possibility that Jason Allison will return to the Leafs.
I guess JFJ reads these blogs.

These signings put the Leafs up to a payroll of $42.8M (salary cap of $44M) which leaves very little wiggle room for making any deadline deals if we have any injuries (knock on wood). Although, that $1.2M translates into a much higher salary since the acquired player would have already been paid all his salary save for his last two or three paycheques.

JFJ was doing his best impression of a student cramming by doing most of his summer's work in one day. Here are the rest of the signings that he completed yesterday:

Kyle Wellwood
Finishing 9th in the NHL in rookie scoring (11-34-45 in 81 games) and second on the team behind only Alex Steen has earned Kyle a two-year deal worth $1.75M. That translates into a $875K cap hit per season.

The good news is that the deal is one-way so Wellwood looks to be a feature on the team for at least the next two seasons. He will also have a larger role on the second powerplay unit where he will get to exhibit his passing skills.

Jay Harrison
After a good spell of eight games in which he was +5 Jay is poised to get a shot in the third defensive pairing. I spoke to his brother over the Christmas holidays and at that point it seemed like Jay was tired of Quinn and ready to move on to get a shot. Hopefully this season will see him claim a permanent spot on the blueline.

Brendan Bell
He got the same two-way, league minimum deal that Harrison did. He only got one game in last year during the Great Marlie Defencemen Tryout so I am guessing that this will give him one more year on the Marlies to keep showing the kind of potential that saw him collect 6-37-43 in 70 games last year. He is a fellow '83 so he is still has some time to put in on the Marlies (since D are such notoriously slow developers)

Carlo Colaiacovo
This bit is interesting because Carlo only signed a one-year, TWO-way deal. Previously, he was almost traded as part of the Raycroft-Rask deal for Nick Boynton. And most importantly, he does not feature in my forthcoming potential lines. Three strikes against Carlo means that JFJ will probably continue to shop him around in an attempt to get something for him.

Kris Newbury
File this under "Who?". Apparently, he is "gritty" and a "winger" so maybe this is JFJ's solution to the Sundin Question. Either way, it is a two-way deal so he will have to earn that top line spot.

Matt Stajan
Not signed yet but,
"We've discussed something longer than a year," Ferguson said. "Things are ongoing with Matt and we'll see where it ends up."
I think the 'new' NHL has really suited Matt and look forward to seeing him improve on his 15-12-27 in 80 games (+5!). I am glad to see that JFJ is tying our young centremen to something more than one year qualifying offers. Stajan will be anchoring the fourth line but Maurice will have a lot of high energy wingers to choose from in fleshing out the unit.

JFJ's Plan
Holy crap, this looks like it might indicate a plan:
"We're looking to be a harder team to play against," Ferguson said. "We've added and we're continuing to add to that part of the game."
Generic but at least it is something.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Who is Eklund?
This is a new site for me and this Eklund guy is apparently much like Homer Simpson's Mr. X. He has tonnes of rumours and usually they are wrong (see Lindros/Carter Rumours).

However, here is another guess of his: Peca AND Carter signing with Toronto is "Entirely Possible". I know, be still my heart. The fun part of this rumour is going to the comments section and seeing deluded Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal, and Buffalo fans calling Leafs fans deluded. The best '' comment comes courtesy of buffalo(who joined the website TODAY), Apparently in order to get this dig in: (my replies to this clown in bold)

I live in Montreal as well but I love the Sabres...been a fan of them since 1973 (clearly this is a lie since only 14 year old girls use more ellipses than this guy)...but one thing I will say is that Montreal fans (and Buffalo the games I went to at HSBC they say more than; hit him...hit him!! (this is actually funny because my buddy yells this at the TV a lot), like all Leafs fans only say as they pile down beer after beer!), management and overall history is 10 times better in Montreal than Toronto (yeah, the Leafs fans at games are a bit quiet during the regular season since it's very corporate but I have been to all three rinks during the playoffs and the Gillette Centre and Alphabet Arena do not hold a candle to the ACC in terms of noise. Also, ten times? when did montreal win their 130th cup? I know I know, 24-13 is a big gap but that 24 is not going to get bigger for a LONG time)...the Leafs are not even close to winning a cup right now (Montreal is also nowhere near being close)...not since 1993..why would any veteran want to go there?? (more teenage drivel) least in Montreal it's guaranteed that they will win the cup again...just because their the Canadiens!! (they are closing in on matching their all-time dryspell. And 13 can easily snowball into 40)...the Leafs would have to get Dave Keon out of retirement (my all time favorite Leaf) just to make the playoffs! (stupid Montreal fan, Keon HATES the Leafs)...JFJ is a laughing stock out here in Montreal, do you think the Habs would ever hire this guy to run them?? (No, they would let Rejean Houle trade Patrick Roy away for nothing, ok, Jocelyn Thibault)...Gainey is a good hockey man and will most likely take Montreal back to a Stanley Cup again within 3-4 and learn Toronto (I will be taking notes but 3-4 years sound optimistic at best, deluded at worst),....and I am saying this as a fan who would cheer for the Leafs to beat the Habs if it came right down to it, butwould not be sad if the Leafs lost.. as for my beloved Sabres, we already have a championship team (speaking of delusion)...all we have to do is sign them, and go through the motions of playing out another year of regular season games before it will happen (Too late. bye bye McKee and Grier, arbitration for Briere? Looks like that dynasty is not going to last too long)...the Sabres have never in their history had a team like this (yes, that is true. Buffalo has never had a Stanley Cup winning team since they entered the league in 1970. Wait, that is pretty close to 1967. Hmm, I guess that whole people in glass houses thing applies), so if I was Peca...where do you think I would want to play?? Toronto or Buffalo/Montreal? (Buffalo's recent history includes missing the playoffs three of the past four years. The best that Montreal has been able to achieve in the past seven seasons are two upsets over the brittle Bruins and four seasons out of the playoffs. Suddenly, making two conference finals out of six playoff appearances in seven years seems a lot better. Also, there is that pesky hometown team thing that drives other fans insane.)

Well there you have it. Idiot fans abound both in Leafs Nation (maybe if we start calling someone the Evil Empire our streak will end) and in insert team name Nation. However, why do the others always have to turn everything into an anti-Leafs rant? It is almost as if they are more anti-Leafs than pro-Their Team (I am looking at you sens nation).

Personally, I will reiterate my request to JFJ to sign Peca. Carter is a bonus but Peca would be gold.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ghosts of Seasons Past

First off, thanks to Raking Leafs for dropping PPP's name. If you are coming from that link hopefully you will enjoy what I have got to say. If you came here first, then I recommend that you stop by Ninja's site. I also recommend stopping by Leaf Club. He is a fellow rookie and deserves a peek.

Lindros Gone To Texas, Anson in Hollywood
The aforementioned Leaf Club implored JFJ to sign The Big E but the wish has fallen on deaf ears. The Dallas Stars have announced that Eric has signed a one-year deal worth $1.55M plus incentives.

Meanwhile, interest in Anson Carter seems to have waned (I am HOPING that it is because his salary demands will preclude signing Peca).

So in a week, the Leafs have been linked with two potential wingers for Sundin only to see other teams step up and take charge. Eric even went on TSN to say that he wanted to be a Leaf but JFJ stood firm on his contract offer which was reportedly only $500K less than what Lindros wanted (Does that sound like a certain 70s and 80s owner of the Leafs?).

Of course, Eric, who has always maintained that he wanted to be a Leaf (during the negotiations with Bobby Clarke, when he signed last year, during this off-season) could have shown some goodwill to a team that took a chance on him last year only to see his contributions end after 33 games. He had been assured of a bigger role on the Leafs this year and could have parlayed a solid, complete season into a longer deal (he has already made a tonne of money). Still, he left for more money. Disappointing to say the least. At least we do not have to face him coming back to TO to bury the Leafs. Thank God for small favours.

JFJ - What Happened?
What had begun as such a successful summer filled with aggressive, quickly made decisions (Buyouts, Kubina, Gill, Raycroft) has now degenerated into the same dithering off-season that cost the Leafs a playoff spot after the lockout. Peca's been patient with the Leafs so far but I do not see how, especially considering that Carter and Lindros are out of the mix, JFJ can wait any longer to tie Peca up. This is not like signing an injury-prone former Hart Trophy winner or the Sedin twins meal ticket. Peca has A LOT to offer teams apart from points and faceoffs (I extolled his virtues earlier) and there is a lot of interest in him but he has remained patient. Howard Berger of agrees that JFJ needs to recapture his earlier form (circa July 1) and get the deal done (he says some other things but nothing that I want to hear). You are on notice Johnny.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

JFJ Regresses?

The scary thing in that Kenny Campbell article is not that Lindros is likely going to make more than he should it is that JFJ might be looking to undo all the goodwill (small as it may be) that he had built up through his summer moves by re-signing Jason Allison.

Sure, the glacier-paced penalty shots could maybe deceive you (eventually they have to go in right?) and maybe JFJ is afraid that the Leafs won't be able to replace the 60 points that he picked up last year. But after watching the playoffs (surely JFJ did this) and seeing that the emphasis is on speed why would we sign the SLOWEST player in the league! A couple of years ago Shanahan skated off the ice on a broken ankle quicker than I have ever seen Allison move. And do not even get me started on that damned 'Who Me?' face he makes after every penalty called against him! (Interesting note: during last season they were replaying some classic World Junior games and in the lockout 1995 tourney he was on the team and made THE EXACT SAME FACE!) I could punch that stupid face every time I see it on tv. AND HE WAS -18!! Even Antro found a way to be + 13.

Here is the best line from that article:

In the 16 games that Allison was out of the lineup, Sundin scored 14 goals and 29 points, was plus-9 and averaged 3.75 shots per game. In the 54 games he and Allison played together, Sundin scored 17 goals and 49 points, was minus-2 and averaged 2.96 shots per game.

How can you sign a guy with all of those flaws, who shackles your best player, and will (with the signing of Mike Peca and maybe even without) shunt one of your young centres (stajan and wellwood) out to the wing? JFJ what the fuck are you thinking?

Update (July 15, 2006)
It looks like this will turn out to just be a little hiccup and all is well,

Interest in Allison, meanwhile, appears to be waning, largely because other hockey people in the organization are beginning to have some success in talking Ferguson out of signing him.

Good thing I lit all of those candles at church. Thank God.


Thursday, July 13, 2006


HockeyBuzz Buzzing? is reporting a rumour that local boy Anson Carter will be signing a two year deal with the Leafs. Last year he flourished with 33-22-55 (except a -1) playing with the Sedins so playing with a real Swedish player will hopefully increase his production. This would probably end any chance of Peca signing unless JFJ starts moving some players to clear cap space. More to come...
Update (July 14, 2006)
Eklund over at is now reporting that the Canucks have decided that trying to keep a winger that can actually play with the aliens is a good idea while the Red Wings are trying to replace Shanny on the wing. This could lead to a bidding war which does not suit the Leafs at this point especially considering that they are close to a deal with Peca. Unfortunately, back-loading deals does not work since the salary cap figure is the average salary.

It will be interesting to see who the Leafs end up signing considering that Kenny Campbell wrote today that Lindros is close to a deal in the $1M neighbourhood (as opposed to the $750K one in which he was previously residing) but Eklund has his going out west to one of Edmonton, LA, Calgary, or Phoenix.

In an ideal scenario, Lindros would sign and play all year like he did while Mats was out and Peca would use his playoff form from last year as his regular season form. Also, Carter would sign for $450K just to play in Toronto. More likely, I get the feeling that Carter will get paid by Vancouver (he is looking for $8-9M/3yrs) Lindros will take a pay cut and Peca will get sorted out. Hopefully. Go JFJ.

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Big Signing!

Erik Westrum Signs
No, it is not the Mike Peca signing that we have been waiting on with bated breath. The Leafs signed Erik Westrum to a two year, two-way deal and of course,

In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Sometimes, seeing that is scary because it makes me think that the Leafs have made some egregious mistake (couldn't they have left the terms of McCabe's deal undisclosed? that would have saved me a lot of grief). I guess Westrum is one more player trying out for the 4th line.

Who is Erik Westrum?
Well wouldn't you know it? He shares my birthday! As you can see, aside from being an assertive Leo, he also put up some pretty good numbers at the University of Minnesota while captaining our very own Back Door Johnny Pohl (apparently he was a role model for Havlat) before beginning a middling career in the AHL (as 187th overall picks are wont to do). However, that all changed with the new rules last year when Westrum broke out to put up 34-63-98 in 71 games as well as 138 PIM. At an even 6 feet and 204 pounds he is bigger than Tucker and Wellwood so I guess that is a plus.

Well this Minnesota Wild message board seems to be split between 4th liner and career AHLer. That does not really get my heart racing but he sounds like the kind of cheap, agitator that teams are filling out their 4th lines with so maybe he's not a bad addition. At least we know he has better hands than Clarke Wilm. Also, combined with the Aleksander Suglobov deal JFJ is building quite the team in Toronto. Unfortunately, they play at Ricoh Coliseum. Dammit.

Update (July 14, 2006)
Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun has more details about the signing. Apparently, Westrum will make the minimum whether he is with the Marlies or the Leafs and after that he'll make the minimum or $100,000 depending on whether he has made the grade.

Also, JFJ reinforces my initial observation that Westrum will be vying for that last line or be helping out the Marlies,

"(Westrum) plays a solid, gritty two-way game and more recently has demonstrated his ability on offence," Leafs general manager John Ferguson said. "He will be given an opportunity to compete for an NHL job and otherwise represents solid depth for the organization."

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

2006-2007 Schedule!

Schedule Out
The NHL has released the schedule for the upcoming 2006-2007 season. This season the Leafs will be facing the second toughest division in the league, the Northwest, in its crossover games. This means that all of those Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver fans get to see their first love, the Leafs, play their hometown teams. Sadly, for them (especially those bitter fans that so light up any Sportsnet blog with anti-Leafs venom) their teams won't get to reap the benefits of a guaranteed sellout because all of this games will take place in the friendly confines of the ACC.

The Leafs host:
  • Calgary on October 14, 2006
  • Vancouver on January 13, 2007
  • Edmonton on February 17, 2007

Don't worry though, since it is the Leafs that they are playing the games with either be on Hockey Night In Canada on the National broadcast on TSN.

Again, we face our arch-nemesis ottawa EIGHT times (I understand the need to build rivalries but both sets of fans know that that happens in the playoffs. And only when both teams have a chance of advancing.) including a season opening double header on October 4 and 5, 2006

Other dates include:

  • HOME - October 24, 2006
  • AWAY - October 26, 2006
  • HOME - December 30, 2006
  • AWAY - February 3, 2007
  • AWAY - March 8, 2007
  • HOME - March 10, 2007

Our Original 6 cousins match up with us eight times as well. These games will likely go a long way towards determining out playoff spot (last year's blow up games in Montreal attest to that fact). Our first game is at home on October 7, 2006 followed by our first visit to the Gillette Centre (or is it Bell?) three weeks later on October 28, 2006.

The rest of the matches:

  • HOME - November 11, 2006
  • AWAY - December 2, 2006
  • HOME - January 27, 2007
  • AWAY - February 26, 2007
  • AWAY - March 17, 2007
  • HOME - April 7, 2007

That last home game against the Habs is also the final game in the season.

Other Notable Dates
Other games of interest include the January 9, 2007 visit of the Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes to the ACC and a December 9, 2007 visit to Joe Louis Arena to face off with the Stevie Y-less Red Wings.

As always, guaranteed losses should be pencilled in on:

  • November 4, 2006
  • November 22, 2006
  • January 11, 2007
  • March 23, 2007

Those are the dates that we visit Alphabet Arena in Buffalo, a traditional burial ground for Leafs teams.

Well that's all of the special stuff. As usual it features too many games against the Northeast, not enough trips out west (free points in Western Canada are fun!), and too much Southeast Division.


Leafs Moves, More Leafs Hate, and My Sportsnet Beef

Roberts and Peca
Everyone's favourite Star reporter, Kenny Campbell, is reporting that the Roberts deal is dead. To some this will seem like a sad day (I was in this camp initially) while others will see it for what it is: a break from the Leafs usual MO - acquiring old guys. Granted, Roberts is no Phil Housley but a lot of what he would have brought to the team can be found in the team's latest target Mike Peca.

Peca brings the same kind of grit and 'sandpaper' as Roberts and will possibly sign for less than the $2.25M that would have been due Gary. Age is also a big factor, 32 compared to 40, because it means that if Peca is a success that we could get a couple more years of his services while Roberts is clearly running out of time. Finally, the young Leafs, such as Wellwood and Stajan, would benefit greatly from having Peca around. Let's hope JFJ gets this done.

Bates Signs
The only Leaf challenging Carlo for toughest last name to spell signed a two-way deal for the league minimum this coming season. Not surprising as the Leafs salary cap issues (see Toronto Truthiness for a closer look. I will have an updated version soon) dictated that they would probably have to fill out the roster with league minimum salaries. As the article notes, he was key to the 'Canes run to the final in 2002 and he has put up some impressive numbers in the AHL. With former coach Paul Maurice back in charge he will definitely get a fair shot in camp alongside Ben Ondrus (another league minimum salary) for the role of fourth line checking winger.

The Antro Deal - "Not That Bad"
Poor Antro. So much hate is aroused when his name is mentioned. The mere sight of him on screen gangling about drives my father insane. So of course his one-year deal at $1M/yr set the rage in motion. However, if you take a look at a similar deal in which the New York Islanders gave Chris Simon $1M you will see that it's not such a bad deal. And yes, I know that doing something better than the Islanders is not saying much.

Last year with the Flames Simon put up 8-14-22 and a +/- of 0 in 72 games. Meanwhile, with the Leafs Antro put up 12-19-31 and a +/- of +13 in 57 games. As well, Antro had developed a great partnership with Ponikarovsky on the PK, something that Simon does not do. Hopefully, he can build on his momentum from the end of last season and put together a year indicative of his development.

More Leafs Hate
Sean McCormick ("The Big Dude" - man, could you try and make a more pathetic nickname as an on-air personality?) is an Oilers fan. We know this because he blogs for Sportsnet as an Oilers fan. We also could figure this out because of his bitterness and irrationality regarding the Leafs. As I noted earlier, when the Pronger rumours mentioned Toronto he erupted. Now that Peca is in discussions with the Leafs his anti-Leafs rage is off the charts. As many of the pro-Leafs comments pointed out, the Oilers were punching above their weight in the playoffs and they have already lost some key components. Plus the Oilers BARELY made the playoffs while the Leafs barely missed them. McCormick makes it sound like Peca is leaving the late 70s Flying Frenchmen for the expansion senators just because he grew up nearby.

"The Big Dude" needs to get a grip. The Oilers have gotten worse (lost Pronger, lost Spacek) while the Leafs have gotten better (got Raycroft, got Gill, got Kubina) and now Peca's potential move will shift the balance moreso towards the Leafs. Jim Lang sums it up best.

My Sportsnet Beef
Basically it boils down to Scott Morrison being fired. He is smart, articulate, and knowledgeable. Instead you keep Nick Kypreos. He is none of those things. In fact, he is the greatest cause of me screaming at the TV and changing channels. The guy retired because of a concussion. Clearly everything up there has not settled. If I could, I'd Zidane him.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

More Signings, Tie, and The Big E

Work has kept me away for a few days but not much of substance (that was not anticipated) has happened in Toronto (the rest of the league has been another matter. Crawford moves to get Cloutier as his new # 1 - wonder how that will work out?).

More Signings
The Leafs have firmly entrenched Andrew Raycroft as their #1 for the forseeable future (until The Sun decides that he will never make it in Toronto?). Kenny Campbell makes a couple of good points.

1- $2M/yr for a starter could turn out to be a great piece of business over the next 3 years (which will see us through most of our $17M/yr defensive commitment. More on salaries and future rammifications tomorrow.)

2- This is as much as goodwill gesture as a good piece of business.

First of all, he earns arbitration rights after next season and it would have cost the Leafs dearly if Raycroft does play well. He's also just two years away from unrestricted free agency.

So this move not only keeps us from getting held for ransom after next season (if it is successful) but it also sets us up well for keeping him after free agency would kick in for our tender. If this first season is successful then JFJ (or his successor) will have two seasons to negotiate an extension. Ideally, it would be done as an extension thereby getting the Leafs a better deal than they would find by waiting until the end of the contract. But let's not waste time discussing errors before they are made.

Also, everyone's favourite lanky Kazakh has signed a one-year deal for about $1M. He was originally offered $950,000 in a two-way deal but exchanged $500,000 (his arbitration deal would have probably been $1.5M) for a one-way deal. On another note: he is +49 for his career?! And +13 last year?!? How? Maybe he is not that bad...

Now a lot of people are Antro-bashers...and with good reason. I have never seen anyone struggle so hard to skate and he is more inconsistent than an Italian talking soccer. But his partnership with Ponikarovsky, especially on the penalty kill, seems ready to bear fruit for the patient. While I have lost patience with Nik on many an occassion I have also seen the potential that has been delayed by multiple knee reconstructions and a variety of other injuries. On the other hand, I will advocate the trading of Carlo Colaiacovo in a future posting (this could be because the World Cup is dominating my thoughts and I hate the Italians but that is a whole other blog) so maybe my patience is selective. Go figure.

In that same Campbell article he suggested that Tie could retire after being bought out (quite the nice golden parachute) and might make a comeback with the Leafs as a goodwill ambassador in the mould of Darryl Sittler.

I think that this is a great idea. While it is unanimously agreed that the faster NHL has left Tie out of his depth, during his decade of service to the Leafs he has become a fan favourite of many and has always been one of, if not the, most dedicated players to the community. On a personal note, Tie sent each member of my peewee hockey team a signed picture to make up for most of the Leafs having skipped Bobby Orr's Easter Seals skate. Stay Classy and stay with the Leafs.

The Big E
No big secret, Eric wants to stay in Toronto and play for his beloved Buds. Lindros carried a big load while Mats was recovering from his eye injury (that really set the tone for the season) and had 22 points in 33 games before having a wrist injury end his season. Almost everyone has heard the rumour of him signing for $750,000 and I would say that that is the top limit on what the Leafs should offer.

He is apparently in great shape and has recovered well from surgery and his willingness to take a paycut shows his desire to be in Toronto. JFJ should harness that desire and sign him before someone offers his something stupid (the salary cap just contains GM's stupidity, it cannot cut it out completely as evidenced by the Leafs themselves).

On a similar thought, normally blinkered and anti-Leafs Damien Cox (that is actually his full name) mentioned that Kubina was offered a $27.5M/5yr deal by the Blues. Thank God we did not match that. Of course it makes the deal seem a little bit better money-wise. Also, he agreed with a couple of my friends and me that the Pronger deal was not worth making.

Two smart things in one article? Start building the bunker, armageddon is on its way.

On a final note Raking Leafs has posted his thoughts on the recent moves as well as his projected lines [thus far] for next season. Soon I'll do the same but for now enjoy his.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Special Canada Day Update

In the grand sports writing tradition of 'you cannot judge drafts/trades/free agent moves until much later than the first day but I will try anyway' articles here are some first day grades for Canada's teams (yes, even the sens but don't worry, they are not getting any closer to a parade down...the 416? what street is near the Corel Centre?)

These grades look only at the UFA moves, no holding on to RFAs, and how they address the teams' needs.

The sens replaced Zdeno Chara and Domink Hasek with Joe Corvo and Martin Gerber. As long as the sens are replacing top line NHLers with a journeyman and a Lalime-in-waiting they should stop making fun of the Leafs. Grade: F

The Canucks have replaced Jovocop and Baumgartner (we had one of those once, not a good experience) with Willie Mitchell. Their big move was made in getting a real # 1 in Luongo. However, they now have lost 2 big parts of the team that was only a # 1 away from serious Cup contention. Grade: Incomplete - still lots of work to do.

The Stanley Cup Finalist Oilers (that will most likely be their official team name this year)apparently do not believe that Jussi Markkanen's run in the Finals was the signal that he was ready to be a # 1 so they re-signed Dwayne Roloson. They have soldified their goaltending at a decent price but how good will Rollie the Goalie be at 39? Grade: B-

The Flames added Andrei Zyuzin at a decent price. This is a decent replacement for the departed Jordan Leopold minus the offensive upside. Zyuzin joins an already deep rearguard but the Flames need more offence. Grade: C

The Habs were quietly observing Canada Day (by painting fleur-de-lys all over town I bet) and were focused on signing their RFAs so they did nothing in terms of upgrading. However rumours (and a lot of habs' fans) have Arnott considering the Canadiens. Until then...Grade: F


The Silly Season

Well, today at noon it finally started: Free Agency.

The early leaders in the 'Buying Improvement' contest are the Boston Bruins and...the Leafs?

I know, I know. We didn't sign Elias today or Chara (Elias is likely out of our range and the Bruins pipped us to Zdeno) but there was a big difference from last year and that is that JFJ was awake this year. Sure he was probably awake last year since it would be tough to sleep for that many months if you aren't a bear (TERROR ALERT!) but he clearly was not quite sure how the new market was going to play out.

This year has been a study in contrasts. JFJ has been decisive (at least) and made moves ranging from 'not bad' to 'could be good/great' to 'solid'. Granted he did make 1 'odd' move (Pohl's one way deal) and one questionable move (McCabe is making a lot of money for a defenceman that can't really defend. Bring back the Can Opener!). However, he has avoided the inaction of last year as well as making any truly boneheaded deals (of course, that Allison rumour is lurking). In fact, he has cleaned up some of his idiot moves. Give Belfour a pre-lockout 3 year deal? Don't exercise the option and buy him out. Sign Tie to a two-year deal at the Friends and Family rate? Realize he can't make the minimum contribution he used to make, buy him out. Together these moves will constitute a hit to the salary cap figure but at least they won't be making a hit to the team's wins and points figures. Anymore.

Now I am not really saying that the Leafs made the second biggest improvment out of all teams but they did fill two big holes on defence by getting Hal Gill from the Bruins and Pavel Kubina from the Lightning. Now, on their own maybe neither signing would be that great. Kubina's would definitely be seen by some as over-paying (especially in light of the contracts that Willie Mitchell and Jay McKee signed). Those people would be right. $5M/yr is a lot in light of those deals and taking into account what Kaberle ($4.25/yr) and McCabe ($5.75/yr) are already being paid.

However, taken together, they provide the Leafs with a solid second defence pairing (my assumption is that they will play together since Kaberle and McCabe are a pretty much undisputed to pair). This is something that was seriously lacking last year and that will allow the 5, 6, and 7 spots to go to three of the kids that filled in last year. Gill and Kubina complement each other pretty well. Both are big, strong defencemen; especially Gill who will be our 6'7" answer to Chara. The symbiosis in this relationship is that while Kubina has put up back-to-back solid offensive seasons while Gill (minus last year's disastrous season for all Bruins) posted +/- numbers of 16, 21, 16 over the last three years.

These two moves work to build a better defensive foundation in front of our new # 1 Raycroft. They are also signs of JFJ having a pulse and a clue, both good things for long suffering Leafs' fans. Granted, their success depends on the return to form of two Bruins but they will be entering this season on the back of a full off-season of training and camp not a year long lockout.
Free Agency Grade (thus far): C+

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