Pension Plan Puppets: September 2006

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

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Leafs 2 v. Red Wings 4: A Tale of Two Teams

Forward Lines
Wellwood Sundin Ponikarovsky
Kilger Peca Antropov
Steen Stajan Tucker
Suglobov Pohl Battaglia

Defence Pairings
McCababe Kaberle
Kubina Wozniewski
White Gill


5 Things that will give you Hope
  1. Andrew Raycroft made a couple of great saves, including a couple of great reaction saves, and generally looked solid for a second straight game.
  2. John Pohl centred the fourth line, scored his third goal of the pre-season, and looked lively all night.
  3. Aleksander Suglobov is starting to look a lot like Sergei Berezin (I also lay claim to being the first to make that comparison).
  4. The Leafs only took THREE penalties! This was largely because the Leafs were moving their feet. Even when they were pinned in their zone they did not pick up the same penalties as last year (hooking, tripping, interference) that so often arose from static feet.
  5. The Leafs moved the puck extremely well. So much of the success of good teams last year was based on quick puck movement from the defence to the forwards. The passes were crisp from all the defencemen (even Hal Gill) and the forwards were getting through the neutral zone with speed. In the first period, the Red Wings could not handle the Leafs.
5 Things that will take that Hope into a dark alley and shoot it
  1. Aleksander Suglobov looked like Sergei Berezin. On one shift he went from losing the puck to Datsyuk in the slot in front of the net and about 20 seconds later he led a rush and almost pulled off a great deke to create a scoring chance. Get used to the frustration if he makes the team.
  2. Andrew Raycroft's strength does not lie in playing the puck. The first goal combined a terrible attempt at playing the puck with a dodgy attempt to hug the post. If this is a case of Raycroft and the defence still working out their communication then get used to seeing Adventures In The Trapezoid.
  3. The powerplay, and specifically Kubina, had trouble with the Detroit forecheckers. Cleary almost scored a couple of shorthanded goals. Granted, Detroit had the top-ranked PK last year but the back end needs to show more urgency on the powerplay. (note: I realize this kind of goes against # 5 above but the problems that the Leafs had on the powerplay were not present at even strength until the third period.)
  4. After a strong first period in which the Leafs outshot Detroit 13-5 and drove them to take four penalties with their strong skating they took their foot off the gas. The Leafs only got 11 shots the rest of the way as they got away from their early game plan. A team that cannot put together a full 60 minutes will frustrate their fans to no end.
  5. The Steen-Stajan-Tucker line was -9 as a group (-3 each). These three are players that must increase their offensive output and improve their consistency for the Leafs to succeed. Granted, they are getting used to each other but there is only one more game before the real season starts.

Of course, you can take all of this with a grain of salt because this was the first game in which Maurice was able to use his probably opening night lineup. On the other hand, there is just one more game until October 4th. Tomorrow night will help flesh out the answer to my four earlier questions.

Maple Leaf Goals
First Goal
Good puck pressure from Stajan forced the puck up the boards to Kubina who fired a low, hard shot from the blueline. Pohl was the first to react to Hasek's big rebound and he slotted his third home before Dom could react.

Second Goal
This goal highlighted a dogged puck pursuit which result in the recovery of the puck three times. As for the play, it will sound familiar: Kaberle feathers a pass to McCabe for a one-timer, repeat as necessary for goal. On this powerplay it took four shots. Wellwood provide a good screen as the puck found its way through Hasek's legs.

Three Stars
DET - Cleary
TOR - Kaberle
DET - Franzen

The Final Word
The Leafs may be forgiven their shakiness. Raycroft hadn't played in a week while Maurice let Jean-Sebastien Aubin and Mikael Tellqvist battle for the backup's spot. And others, like Mike Peca, Darcy Tucker, Kaberle and Pavel Kubina were all returning from injury.
Babcock said Cleary was a gifted offensive player in juniors but "he got to the National Hockey League, and that didn't work for him. He's made a commitment to training and a commitment to being a pro. ... He's growing up, and he's a man and he plays like it. I think (if) Danny can keep it in perspective and not get ahead of himself, I think you'll see more and more it'll come up."

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The End is Nigh!

After two weeks the seemingly interminable pre-season is nearing it's end. The Leafs have a home and home starting tonight in Detroit before setting the roster. The staggering amount of games played (from six to eight) can only be viewed as a corporate cash grab that does nothing to make a coach's decisions easier (a couple of games would serve to confirm a coach's pre-conceptions) and puts players at risk (Evgeni Malkin separating his shoulder and Joe Corvo breaking his foot are two examples).

However, because of injuries to the defence corps and a few open spots among the forwards, not to mention the Great Backup Debate, these last two games will offer up a few interesting stories to follow:

1. How will Andrew Raycroft deal with being 'The Man' in the hockey fishbowl that is Toronto?

These back-to-back games will be the first real look at this year's version of the Maple Leafs. We will get a good idea of how Raycroft will look behind a revamped defence and how he will do against one of the top teams in the NHL (32 saves against Montreal is nice but it's Montreal)

2. Will the players on the bubble cement a spot?

Andy Wozniewski will get a couple more shots to show that he deserves one of the open spots on the blueline. Bates Battaglia has probably done enough to get a fourth line spot but now is not the time to take his eyes off the prize. Especially considering that Jeff O'Neill is now on the bubble because of inconsistency throughout the pre-season. And Sergei Berezin Redux is going to have to show more offensive potential. If Suglobov can play a tight game, create chances, and NOT MAKE BLIND BACK PASSES then he will be a good bet to stay up with the Leafs.

3. How will the top line of Sundin, Ponikarovsky, and Wellwood fare?

This is going to be Maurice's top line. The key to this is whether Poni can keep up his play from the end of last season and whether Welly can make the transition to the wing despite taking a few good licks this pre-season. Maurice has already said that he will be getting the captain a lot more ice-time so the chemistry that this line develops will be key to the Leafs making a good start to the season.

4. Will the addition of Peca pay off?

Last year the Leafs had the 24th ranked penalty kill. This pre-season, largely without Peca, the Leafs are ranked 26th. However, he has already shown that he has the potential to single handedly turn this stat around by being a part of 15 straight penalty kills in his two pre-season appearances. Oiler Fans love to bash the Leafs for this pickup but if the Leafs can make serious progress in the PK then he will be worth every penny of his salary.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Serenity Now!

Wanted: Editor
Now, I know from message boards that the Anti-Leafs brigade can get confused fairly quickly. Our good friend War (Damien Cox) is no exception. At first I thought that his latest post was some elaborate joke. Then I realized that April is about seven months away.

War goes from suggesting that the Leafs keep three goalies:
But until the Maple Leafs are sure they have a bona fide starter, doesn't it make sense for them to keep all the goalies they can get their hands on?

To blaming his poor performance last year, in part, to having two backups waiting for him to slip up:
Yes, having Hannu Toivonen and Tim Thomas in and out of the lineup even when Raycroft was healthy didn't create a stable working environment.

Back to wanting the Leafs to create THE EXACT SAME ENVIRONMENT!:
So let Raycroft establish himself and get comfortable. Once that has taken place, then it will be time to choose between Aubin and Tellqvist.

Maybe The Star needs another editor to read over the associate sports editors work before he puts it online and embarrasses himself. Just a thought.

50th Post
I am actually impressed that I was able to keep this up for this long so I will celebrate the mini-milestone with a special post: The Origins of Pension Plan Puppets. This weekend, learn the story behind the blog.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Leafs 3 v. sens 5: Fisher sinks Buds

Game Recap
I will not lie. I forgot that there was a game last night. Toronto, still more Marlies than Maple Leafs, dropped to 3-3 in the pre-season after coming out on the short end of a 5-3 decision. I only caught about five minutes of the third but I still managed to see the most heartbreaking play of the pre-season.

After dueling end to end rushes the puck found itself in Public Enemy #1's skates. Alfredsson compliantly looked down in an attempt to locate the puck while simultaneously getting on the trolley tracks. Lo and behold Ponikarovsky comes flying into the picture from offscreen. "Great! revenge for that Tucker hit!" Alas, Alex pokechecked the sens' captain. I guess he wanted to take an eighth shot. Revenge will have to wait for another game. Oh well. Since I missed the game, here are a couple of highlights from opposing bloggers.

The Fans' Eye View

On the flipside, it was another piss poor performance from the Russian that was supposed to save us. Murray gave Kaigorodov every chance to succeed even though he took him off the Alfredsson line. He was lined up with red hot Denis Hamel and Patrick Eaves, who has an uncanny ability to find the net, and yet he still didn't generate much in the way of offensive chances.
Chris McMurty, Hockey Country

The post game scrum around Mikael Tellqvist was telling, the reporters and the now embattled Leaf backup seemed resigned to the fact that he has probably played his last game in a Leaf uniform. Mikael expressed a hope that a decision would be made soon as it is hard on both him and his fiancee not knowing what is happening.
The Meatriarchy, The Battle of Ontario
The Final Word

With seven of Toronto's starters missing from the lineup, last night's game against Ottawa was hardly a barometer for the season. Instead, it gave head coach Paul Maurice yet another look at the many Leaf hopefuls. And with three games remaining on the pre-season schedule, several players had more than just winning on their minds. Forwards John Pohl and Alexander Suglobov hoped to land a roster spot by scoring goals, while goaltender Mikael Tellqvist simply wanted to stop more pucks than backup candidate J.S. Aubin has so far this pre-season.
Michael Traikos, National Post

And because sens fans love to talk about the playoffs here is a video to remind them of them successes. Pause at the end and see some hilarious regular season points total versus playoff games statistics. Pay close attention to 2000-2001. I wonder who swept them?

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Survivor: Toronto's Blue Line

No, this year does not feature an ethnic divide but rather a health divide. As in, the healthy players will start the season and the injured guys will have to wait for their chance. Thanks to bad ice (Kronwall) and two ottawa senators the Leafs D will be made up of Tomas Kaberle, Bryan McCabe, Pavel Kubina, Hal Gill, Ian White, Jay Harrison, and Andy Wozniewski.

Bell, the victim of a Dany Heatley lumberjack attack, is out of commission for at least 5-6 days until further tests can reveal the extent of the damage suffered when he was confused for a tree. Right now they think it is a bruise and that he'll be out three weeks but I have also read that there is damage to the 'structure' of the foot. Whatever that means.

Carlo, the victim of a pick by Vaclav Varada, has recovered from his concussion but is suffering from headaches because of all of the hard work that Maurice has had the team do during training camp. He's been out since day one so a stint with the Marlies to get up to speed is not out of line.

Staffan Kronwall, who sprained his right ankle sliding into the boards, is out for at least three weeks. Same for Kronwall, time with the Marlies to get up to speed and if any of the three up do not perform then he will get his chance

UPDATE: Looks like Heatley will be getting off with a verbal warning from the perennially inept Colin Campbell. Hopefully, Colin will agree that Tucker was aiming for Heatley's stick when he breaks his hand on October 4th. Just kidding, I do not condone revenge but apparently Campbell wants to encourage it. Idiot.

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The Good, The Bad, and The Funny

The Good
This page has a lot of faith in local boy Jeff O'Neill. I have pegged him for big things this year after a tumultuous season in 2005-2006. Apparently, Paul Maurice thinks that he can get more out of him as well. While some players need to be coddled it appears that Jeff needs constant feedback which Maurice is willing to provide. His fitness is up as are his spirits and maybe a return to centre will revive his sagging career.

The Bad
Brendan Bell, the victim of a vicious Dany Heatley slash Sunday night, might be out for a while with a fracture in his foot. The initial tests were inconclusive but it is not hard to imagine that a two-handed tomahawk slash might have broken something. As it stands, JFJ has started the push for a suspension and I will third it (Mirtle seconded it). It was a vicious play and any Leaf would be looking at a minimum of four games. Colin Campbell cannot ignore this dirty play like he did Bozo's hit from behind.

Update: Looks like those bastard sens are going to get away with hurting ANOTHER Maple Leaf. Good to see that Colin Campbell is in mid-season form already. I would hate to think that the might have not screwed up a disciplinary incident until December. Thankfully, that moron has allayed my fears.

The Funny
Apparently, not all Kazakhs hate Borat. Personally, I love Borat and cannot wait to see his movie. Hopefully, the Kazakh government's lawsuit does not derail the film but it sounds like Borat is on board.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Training Camp Update

The Leafs have announced their first large roster trim. Nothing too surprising other than the fact that it looks like this year's first draft pick, Jiri Tlusty, will be starting his North American career in the AHL (Update: The Leafs are not sure where he will play). One more day of practice before the final cuts will most likely be made. Wednesday will see both the Leafs and Marlies in action.

Looking at who is left you see that there are no surprises.

Here are the guys that are locks to be on the full roster come October 4, 2006.

Forwards (10)
Nik Antropov, Chad Kilger, Jeff O'Neill, Michael Peca, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan, Alex Steen, Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Kyle Wellwood

Defencemen (4)
Tomas Kaberle, Bryan McCabe, Pavel Kubina, Hal Gill

Goaltenders (1)
Andrew Raycroft

Depending on what Maurice decides to carry (13/14 forwards, 7/8 defencemen, 2 goalies)

Forwards (3-4/6)
Bates Battaglia, Brad Leeb, Ben Ondrus, John Pohl, Aleksander Suglobov, Erik Westrum

Defencemen (3-4/7)
Wade Belak, Brendan Bell, Carlo Colaiacovo, Jay Harrison, Staffan Kronwall, Ian White, Andy Wozniewski, Brad Brown, Marc Moro

Goaltenders (1/2)
Mikael Tellqvist, Jean-Sebastien Aubin

The Leafs have three pre-season games left: Wednesday against the sens and a home and home starting Saturday against the Wings. Judging from the way that Maurice has set his roster for the games thus far I think that he will use the ottawa game to make his final cuts. On the defence side it will be easy to dress almost the entire bubble squad because of the injuries. In the forwards, Mats, Darcy, and Peca at least will probably get the night off. This will set the team up nicely to dress their opening night squad for the game against the Wings.

If I was to handicap the races based solely on the three games this weekend (not taking into account whether Wellwood is used as a winger or whether Maurice wants a grinders-only fourth line or whether people have been injured) I would rank the players as follows:

John Pohl, Bates Battaglia, Aleksander Suglobov, Brad Leeb, Ben Ondrus, Erik Westrum

Ian White, Brendan Bell, Jay Harrison, Andy Wozniewski, Staffan Kronwall, Wade Belak, Carlo Colaiacovo, Brad Brown, Marc Moro

Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Mikael Tellqvist

We will probably know the final roster by Thursday but with a new coach it is a little hard to hazard a guess as to who will make the final cut. All I can hope is that the players are all healthy for the first regular installment of the Battle of Ontario and are ready to get the Leafs back in the playoffs.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Leafs 2 v. sens 3: Marlies Win Streak Snapped

Game Recap
The Halifax Metro Centre was the site of this 'home' game for the Leafs. Thanks to our national fan base the poor sens were treated to a less than hospitable reception. Paul Maurice dressed almost the entire Marlies squad in order to reward them for their hard work in camp. The AHL team came flying out of the gates against the veteran laden sens and skated them off the rink. The Baby Leafs outshot them 19-6 and outscored them 2-0.

Unfortunately, the second and third periods saw Mark Lee put in an impressive performance for the sens. What? You have never heard of Mark Lee? well that's because he was the ref for the game but that did not stop him from helping the sens out with a few 5-on-3s (Heatley and Spezza promptly scored) and a string of penalties that took the wind out of the team's sails. A blistering first intermission team talk from Brian Murray probably helped improve the sens's effort as well.

sens' fans can also take heart from the fact that both goal scorers are in mid-season form. Spezza hacked Steen in the back and tried to intimidate him until Brad Brown suggested that maybe Jason would prefer to dance with him. Spezza (aptly described as a punk)promptly skated hard for the bench. And, in a clear sign that Dany has now completely acclimated himself to the sens, he took a two-handed tomahawk chop to Brendan Bell's ankle. In typical sens fashion, that brutal baseball swing added the defenceman to the injured list which now reads like the Leafs starting defence corps.

All in all it was a good game. The penalty kill again looked good. 5-on-4 the Leafs got in the shooting lanes well and put pressure on the puck. 5-on-3 was where the class of the sens' forwards shone through. Although the scoresheet will show that the Leafs allowed 3 PPGs fans can take solace in the fact that one came with one second left in a penalty (Kelly's goal was scrambled in front) and two came on 5-on-3s. The work that has been done on the powerplay was evident as the puck was moved around sharply and quickly regardless of the on-ice personnel.

Maple Leaf Goals
First Goal
This one was courtesy of the powerplay. Wozniewski passed it to Bell at the top of the zone who then feathered a pass to O'Neill. He blasted a one-timer through Emery's legs to give the Leafs the lead.

Second Goal
Jay Harrison, in another solid outing, stopped a clearance at the blueline and got a low wrist shot on net. The soon to be a Leaf John Pohl pounced on the rebound and fired it high to double the lead.

The Final Word

The ottawa senators should have known they were in for a tough night the minute they touched the ice at the Halifax Metro Centre. They got booed. It was just like playing at the Air Canada Centre. Even the big screen mocked the senators by flashing "Go Leafs Go." Halifax is Maple Leafs Country. It looked as if the sellout crowd of 10,595 would go home happy, too. The Leafs took it to the Senators in the first period and took a 2-0 lead on goals from Jeff O'Neill and John Pohl. At that point, though, senators coach Bryan Murray exploded, and it worked.

Despite a disappointing 3-2 loss here last night that saw the Ottawa Senators take control of the scoreboard with two goals in the third period, the Leafs gave a solid, encouraging account of themselves, and have now set up some tough decisions for the next round of roster cuts.

Three Stars
Since this was not played in an NHL arena there are no official NHL stats so I have no real idea if any were selected. Here is my opinion:

3rd star: JS Aubin - he is definitely not making the back-up decision easy and he has to be the favourite to stay with the big club.

2nd star: Jay Harrison - another strong defensive effort will see the defenceman's chances of staying with the Leafs take a boost. If not, he will definitely be one of the first call-ups when the injuries came. He is also the best defenceman at getting his shot through on net.

1st star: Mark Lee - whenever the sens looked like the Baby Leafs might build up some momentum Lee made a big play to stall them. Instrumental in both 5-on-3 powerplays in the third period that saw the sens take a lead that they would no relinquish.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Leafs 4 v. Habs 3: Marlies Bring Down Habs

Game Recap
The Leafs (3-1) continued their solid pre-season with a 4-3 victory over the still winless Montreal Canadiens (0-4). Toronto fielded an NHL-minimum 8 veterans as the Marlies made big contributions to the win over what was an almost full-strength Montreal team.

Andrew Raycroft got the start and pushed the string of strong goaltending performances to three. He was the best penalty killer on a night that saw four 5-on-3 deficits for the Leafs. Andrew also made a variety of big saves including one on Guillaume Latendresse (overrated) on a breakaway with the paddle of his stick. I think that those people hoping for the Great Andrew Raycroft Experiment to blow up in JFJ's face will be sorely disappointed. If anything, Habs fans should be worried that Huet looked pretty bad again last night. If he cannot repeat last season's heroics then the Habs will have to hope that Aebischer can step in.

Another JFJ gamble looked great last night. Michael Peca, looking much more like the playoff version of his 2005-2006 edition, seems intent on proving some ex-fans wrong. He buzzed around, won 57% of his faceoffs, and was one of the Leafs stronger forwards. Peca was also a big part of Toronto killing off 15 straight penalties until Mark Streit's goal on a two-man advantage. The penalty kill is rounding into form. They killed 9 of 11 penalties with one coming on the aforementioned 5-on-3 and the other coming as a result of a failed Raycroft clearance and a scrambled rebound.

The big star of the night was Suglobov who was the most dangerous forward. He was not afraid to take on defenders (Maurice mentioned maybe he was too willing) or to shoot the puck. He also formed a promising trio with Alex Steen and Matt Stajan that caused the Habs headaches during their short time together.

The Leafs defence handled their NHL counterparts well. They rarely had any real problems dealing with the Montreal forecheck. White and Bell showed a facility with the puck that belies their years and will make it very hard for Paul Maurice to send them across the Gardiner to the Ricoh. New signing Hal Gill also had a much better game. He used his long reach to keep the Habs forwards off balance and looked much more disciplined than last year (except for a penalty he took after Kilger was lowbridged by Komisarek but that's standing up for your teammates so he gets a free pass).

Maple Leaf Goals
First Goal
Erik Westrum sent Jeremy Williams down the right wing. As soon as he got a stride on his defender he shot and missed the net. Luckily, the puck rebounded off the end boards to Suglobov who made a sick shot over Price's right shoulder and into the top left corner. It was such a tight shot that it needed a video review to be confirmed.

Second Goal
Kyle Wellwood lost the puck at the blueline after taking a great pass from Wozniewski. Bates Battaglia, who was following up the play, slid the puck through the defenceman's legs to Wellwood who proceeded to leave Huet searching for his jock strap.

Third Goal
A picture perfect break out saw the puck move from Wozniewski to Harrison to Westrum to Suglobov. Aleksander attacked his defender and wanted to fire a shot through the screen. Fortunately, he fanned on the shot and the puck bounced to Jeremy Williams who knocked the puck out of mid-air and directed it over Huet's shoulder.

Fourth Goal
Suglobov, Steen, and Stajan were AMAZING on this shift. They pinned the Habs inside their zone. They twice kept the puck in the zone and created three goal scoring opportunities before before Stajan finished off a one-two with Suglobov with a shot under Huet's arm. Huet does not look like the goalie that made the Habs think that they could give up on Theodore.

Three Stars
Andrew Raycroft
Aleksander Suglobov
Mark Streit

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Leafs 5 v. Habs 1: A Paradox

Game Recap
The Leafs continued their winning ways with a 5-1 victory over the old enemy. The Leafs started five Marlies on the blueline and the Habs responded with many AHLers giving this game more of a Marlies v. Bulldogs feel. However, the lineups did not keep the Leafs from putting together a very strong effort.

J-S Aubin picked up where he left off last season. He dealt with the few Montreal scoring chances in the same steady fashion that characterized the Leafs late season run. There were not too many second shots due to some strong rebound control and the steady presence of the young defence corps. In fact, the Habs' only goal could barely be considered a legitimate chance. Aubin unsuccessfully tried to ring the puck around the boards which led to a ricocheted shot from the point. Freland popped in the loose puck before the Leafs' tender could get his glove on the puck.

The five young defencemen mostly took advantage of their chance to showcase their skills. Jay Harrison showed a Jason Smith-like approach to the game. He was a strong presence around the net and was confident on the puck. Staffan Kronwall crashed into the boards feet first early in the first. He injured is right ankle and hopefully it is not as bad as it looked initially. Ian White shone on the powerplay where his patience on the puck made up for Kaberle's absence. Brendan Bell rounded out the trio of strong performances.

If these guys can keep it up over the weekend then they will be leaving JFJ with an incredibly tough decision. If I was handicapping the race I would have White and Bell in the lead with Harrison and Kronwall close behind. NOTE: Carlo will probably jump to the front of the line if he gets healthy. Andy Wozniewski had a bit of a rough night. Twice, hard cuts by Montreal forwards left him on his heels hoping to get bailed out by his teammates. He did, however, pick up an assist on Pohl's goal. He has a bit of work to do to get back into the picture.

On the forwards' side, Bates Battaglia continues to show flashes of 2002. He made good use of his strength and seems to have a bit of chemistry with John Pohl and his old 'Canes buddy Jeff O'Neill. Pohl looks good value for his acquisition fee (nothing) and one-way contract. He scored a goal and added a nice rush where he beat the Habs defenceman wide and almost tucked it between Halak's pads.

The paradox is that since these are the Leafs and this is the pre-season this win means absolutely nothing. Of course, Montreal has now lost all three games so they are probably more inclined to downplay the importance of the pre-season. However, an interesting stat is that last year Sabres were 6-2 in the fake season. That early momentum spurred a strong start to the regular season and a run to the Eastern Conference Final. The defence handled the forecheck like veterans.

Maple Leaf Goals
First Goal
Montreal started off the game in a bit of penalty trouble. A beautiful five-way passing play moved the puck quickly from McCabe to White to Sundin to Wellwood who slid the puck cross crease to Tucker to slam the puck into the open cage. Wellwood was tried out on the wing in the hopes of providing Mats with a playmaker. It seemed to spur him to shoot more often which led to the second goal.

Second Goal
Sundin, who Maurice wants to have shooting a lot more this season, added a second power play goal just after the three minute mark. He corralled the puck on the half boards before launching a bullet from the right hand hash marks over Danis' shoulder.

Third Goal
This was the first of three even strength goals. Brad Leeb won an offensive zone faceoff cleanly back to Wozniewski who slid a backhand on net. Jon Pohl hammered home the rebound before Halak could react.

Fourth Goal
Aubin kicked out a rebound right onto Newbury's stick and he made a great pass to release Suglobov on a breakaway. He made a nice fake to the backhand, went back to his forehand, and slotted it in off the post. Ironically, aside from a good bit of backchecking in the second, Suglobov had been invisible.

Fifth Goal
A Craig Rivet clearing pass hit Sundin's fallen stick and was picked up by Wellwood. He dropped it to the now fully equipped Sundin who one-timed it at the net. Poni muscled away from his checker before slotting the rebound before the goalie could recover.

LeafsTV Three Stars
JS Aubin
Ian White
Mats Sundin

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Leafs 3 v. sens 1: Re-book the Parade!

The Leafs' playoff chances were written off after their 4-0 loss to the Sabres on Monday so I can only assume that last night's 3-1 win over the Cup contender sens that city officials are looking at parade logistics this morning. That's right, the Leafs renewed the Battle of Ontario without missing a beat and rang up a second consecutive win against the ladies from the nation's capital.

Seriously, it is only pre-season but it is good to see some good performances out of some of the youngsters, most notably Brendan Bell, and trade-bait Mikael Tellqvist. On the forward front, my co-favourite for a big year, a rebuilt and revitalized Jeff O'Neill, was a revelation as was a former charge of Paul Maurice, Bates Battaglia. The bottom line is that this is one more game spent by the boys learning Maurice's system and each game helps.

Of course, the joke of the day is the the sens saw 'p-season' on the schedule, thought it was the post-season, and let a hot Leafs goalie shut them down in a demoralizing loss. The bad news is that Kubina is joining Kaberle and Carlo on the injured list. Also, Hal Gill had four giveaways. Hopefully, all issues will clear up before the real games start.

The Final Word
As always (twice) here is the final word from each city:
Kaigorodov, 23, the touted Russian centre who is attempting to find a home on a line with captain Daniel Alfredsson and Peter Schaefer, didn't inspire much confidence last night. While he only had half a game to work with Alfredsson -- the captain left the game for precautionary reasons in the second period after suffering a groin injury -- he didn't showcase much. Early on, he shied away from a couple of hits at the blue-line. [Editor's Note: Sounds like he will fit in just fine] He suffered the embarrassment of falling, untouched, deep in his own end late in the first period. While the combination lasted, there was little chemistry between Kaigorodov and Alfredsson. In the third period, Mike Peca beat Kaigorodov cleanly on a draw deep in the senators' zone, leading directly to the Maple Leafs' third goal from Andy Wozniewski.
The Toronto Maple Leafs no longer enjoy the economic advantage that once that allowed them to shop in the free-agent market and buy some of the best talent available. But they are betting that their one-year, $2.5-million (U.S.) investment in Michael Peca will make a difference this coming National Hockey League season. Peca, playing his first exhibition game with the Maple Leafs, set up two goals in the third period that helped lift Toronto to a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place last night. Centring a line with Nik Antropov and Chad Kilger, Peca was one of Toronto's better forwards, especially during the later stages of the game as the Leafs rallied from a 1-0 disadvantage midway through the second period.

So it's a good start to Peca's Leaf career and an opening victory over the sens. It does not count for much in the pre-season but after missing the playoffs every little bit counts.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Mirë upafshim Tie

Everyone's favourite Maple Leaf Tie Domi is retiring from the NHL after spending the last 11 seasons in Toronto.

Chris Young eulogizes Tie with a few nice clips from YouTube. A tad unfairly, Domi will be remembered for a couple of high profile cheap shots. The first one was on Ulf Samuelsson and anyone that was a fan of Cam Neely, and knees in general, would probably admit that they cheered when they saw Domi drop Ulfie. What I liked was the "clean"-ness of this dirty hit. Domi did not attack someone from behind like Todd Bertuzzi or Matt Johnson did. He squared up to Ulf, dropped his glove, and then gave Ulf what he deserved for ruining Neely's career. I would like to think that Cam sent Tie a nice gift basket the next day. It did not even land him on the longest NHL suspensions list (8 games).

His other famous cheapshot did. His elbow to Scott Neidermayer's head cost him 11 games and the Leafs the series.

However, I will remember him for his refusal to back down from fights, his willingness to defend his teammates, and his child-like excitement. The biggest thing that I will remember is how he helped save the Easter Seals skate for my pee-wee hockey team. We had raised enough to win the corporate and team skate event but were erroneously registered in the individual skate. Of course, by the time the individual skate got on the ice all of the Leafs stars were gone and only Bobby Orr (yes, it was a nice consolation) stayed. A coach of ours wrote a letter to the team letting them know that we were really disappointed and Domi responded with signed pictures for all of us. That is a true example of the kind of guy that he is and he will be missed by all Leafs fans. His time has passed but we'll remember him as our Tie.

p.s. does that really say goodbye in Albanian? does anyone know?

Update: Tie is joining TSN!

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Leafs 0 v. Buffaslugs 4: Same Old Story?

In a perfect world I would have watched the entirety of the game last night and written a summary to slake the interest of those who are not blessed with LeafsTV. However, I do not live in a perfect world and the pre-season status of the game relegated it to second-class status so I could only muster a period before the cries of 'It is only a pre-season game!? so this game doesn't matter!? CHANGE!' became defeaning.

Through My Eyes

The line-ups were obviously lacking some starters but there were a few good things that I can report based on the 20 minutes of hockey that I watched. The most important was that the new Sabres' jersey is terrible. It features numbers on the chest, white body, dark sleeves, and the colours are nothing like the original. Although, apparently, Martin Biron likes it. My guess would be that the terrible fashion in Buffalo has inured him to the hideousness of the jerseys.

Aside from the crimes against fashion I felt that the Leafs did well in the first period. They skated with the notoriously fast Sabres (I guess it is the law now that you cannot mention them without saying how fast they are), Antropov looked like he had taken advantage of his first summer not spend re-habbing something, and Raycroft reminded me of Ed Belfour. No, not the 2006 vintage but the 2004. He was very well positioned, squared up to the shooter, and did not have to rely on any acrobatics to stop shots. The defence also looked fairly good in that first period. They were strong on the puck (especially Jay Harrison) and, except for the usual pre-season errant passes, generally moved the puck well considering that the unit lacked the passing Tomas Kaberle, Ian White, or Brendan Bell.

Unfortunately, once I changed channels and stopped concentrating on the game the wheels fell off. The penalty kill that looked so effective allowed 3 PPGs in the second and a fourth in the third period. The stong play on the puck became soft and the shots on goal never really materialized. The good news is that this is just a pre-season game and I remember the Jays had losing records in the Grapefruit League during the glory years.

The Final Word

This will be a round-up of what the papers from both cities thought of the game.

Leafs coach Paul Maurice has said that he intends to stress discipline this season. He has got a lot of work ahead of him. At one point, the Leafs took six consecutive penalties. Perhaps it's unfair to expect them to erase seven years of bad habits under Pat Quinn in one night, but they'll have to do better. It would be easy to write it off to the fact that it was the first pre-season game, but it was the Sabres' first game, too.

In front of an Air Canada Centre crowd that clearly wanted him to do well — they cheered warmly when the netminder gloved a wrist shot from the point — Raycroft looked good.
Then, unlike their new logo, the Sabres found their legs at the intermission. No longer jittery, a few of the team's youngbloods turned the game into a stampede and trampled the Maple Leafs, 4-0. All of the goals came on power plays, drawing boos from the 18,851 fans in attendance.
All in all it was not the most auspicious start for the Leafs or my game reports but it is still the pre-season and we are both working out our kinks. Thank God I am not doing Paul Maurice's practices. Hopefully that means that the Leafs will be hitting their stride sooner rather than later.

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Sundry Monday (Tuesday in Indonesia)

The funny thing about writing a personal blog is that you are really responsible to no one. Last week I made some vague promises that I would write about the following:

But what happened when Queen's Homecoming derailed my plans? From what I know, only a couple of friends noticed (one also noticed that initially the post said 'Tomorrow' and then I edited it). Aside from that I guess some poor ex-pat in Indonesia might not have the time to read all of the Leafs' stories in the Sun, Star, Globe, and Post. For him, here is a wrap up of those questions and the training camp news before tonight's pre-season opener against Buffalo. I have LeafsTV so I'll have a game report of some sort (not sure how I want to write them up) although Prison Break is on so I might have to wait for the hour-long edited version of the game.

Defence Battle

After leaving the first practice with suspected post-concussion symptoms Carlo Colaiacovo (that might be the first time I write that correctly without having to check) will be handled gently by the Leafs. Knowing the trials and tribulations that the Lindros Brothers had with head injuries it is good to see the team taking the measured approach.

This setback does open up the door for the other defencemen vying for the last two or three spots on the blueline. The most interesting line from that article covered the contract status of the Marlies Sextet:

But "status" could have an impact. Two of the players, Kronwall and White, do not have to clear waivers to return to the minors. The others do. That makes it a lot easier to move those two back and forth — perhaps using one of then as a seventh defenceman — than players who are eligible for waivers and could be claimed by another team.

The general consensus has been that Carlo would partner Kubina with Gill getting a partner skilled with the puck, someone like White (I heard that seeing the 6'7" Gill partner the 5'10" white looked pretty funny). However, if this contract situation plays a part in the decision - and it should only become a factor if two players are in a dead heat - then this gives Jay Harrison and Brendan Bell a bit of an edge. At the end of the day, the benefit that the Leafs will have in making this decision is that Paul Maurice will have had an entire season with the Marlies and a training camp to assess these six.

The Depths of Madness?

I had my anticipated/desired lines for this year's team thought out since about June. It was a long process of exchanging e-mails with some equally busy friends. We made a few revisions to slot in new signings but are holding off on releasing the full lines until we see some pre-season games. Other people have not shown that same foresight and have released depth charts. has a season preview (surprise: kids need to score more and Raycroft has to be good) along with their chart. The Star counters with some interesting lines. They both agree that Carlo and Kronwall will be holding down the open spots. Here is the fun part of making lines, apparently you can slot in players anywhere without regard for their actual position. Wellwood's a centre? TSN does not care. Wade Belak is a perennial Leafs' management favourite? TSN does not even include him. Actually, I agree with that. Toss in a new coach and you can see that devising possible lines is a exercise akin to throwing darts in the dark.

Got Goals?

James Mirtle asked the question du jour the other day: Where will the goals come from? Well, Raking Leafs thinks that one source will be an improved Kyle Wellwood. Tucker will be trying to show his love for Toronto by at least matching his total of 28 goals. Realistically, the fact that the team has lost big names like Roberts, Nieuwendyk, Lindros, and Allison means that guys that have floated under the radar will have to step up and either match their potential or move on.

Actually, Wellwood, Stajan, Steen, and Ponikarovsky are not on the bubble but they will be expected to improve on their stats from last year. Antropov, however, is probably serving out his last contract with the Leafs if he does not continue on his strong end of season stint with Mats and Poni. To be fair, the Leafs are only looking to replace about 40 goals. A combination of faster forwards teamed with better puck moving defenders should be enough to plug the gap. That and McCabe getting about 7 PPs worth of one-timers a game.

JFJ Mind Games

Howard Berger saw the Machiavellian undertones of Fergie mentioning that both Aubin and Tellqvist might be with the Leafs in some sort of three headed goaltending system. Of course, Maurice would probably hate this because everyone knows that there are only two nets on the ice. Only in adult movies does three go into two and it is just as awkward as trying to split up the practice time for the tenders.

Chances are that JFJ is wary of the chance of losing Telly on waivers for nothing after investing so much time in developing him from a young, scared Swedish goalie that played so deep it looked that he was hiding into a serviceable NHL back-up. JFJ knows that his future lies with Maurice's ability to mould the club into a playoff team so it is in his best interests to leave these decisions to Paul.

Leafs v. Buffaslugs

LeafsTV is having some technical problems but Maurice had a good quotation about the fishbowl that is the Centre of the Universe:

"I know that no matter what happens tonight there will be a three-hour conversation on the radio discussing what tonight's game means to our Stanley Cup aspirations."

GAME TIME! God I missed hockey.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

What Could Have Been...

Great news from the world of officials...13 years too late. Fraser, of course, was the only person in the LA Forum that thought the puck had jumped up and bitten Dougie on the chin. Everyone with two functioning eyes saw that Wayne Gretzky's stick had drawn the blood and anticipated the forthcoming five minute major and game misconduct. Alas, Gretzky stayed on the ice and helped force a 7th game in which he broke my heart with a hat trick and dashed the hopes of a Maple Leafs-Canadiens final.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006


Yesterday I waded into the yearly scramble that is the sale of Maple Leafs tickets and won! It was the internet "Leafs Insider" (basically, you turned over all of your contact information for a short promotional code) internet presale. I managed to wrangle tickets (in the nosebleeds so I did not have to sign over the rights to my first born) to the November 11th game against Montreal, November 25th against Boston, and the March 10th game against the sens.

The sad thing was checking out tickets brokers and seeing that they already had tickets! This should come as no surprise considering what other major sports franchise in North America are doing. The interesting thing would be to see whether it's a case of these brokers buying up season tickets or if they have some agreement with the club.

The Leafs, much like many franchises with large followings (Montreal Canadiens, Liverpool FC, FC Barcelona), have a huge waiting list for season tickets. The fustrating part is that season tickets are sold privately or passed along without going through the proper channels or are owned by ticket brokerages. The club does have a ticket exchange for season ticket holders to sell unwanted tickets but you have to be a fellow season ticket holder to buy them!

However, a few years ago FC Barcelona took a more dramatic approach to revamping their season ticket broker. An acquaintance recounted how Barcelona cleaned up its season ticket rolls. The moves were pretty drastic:
  • Season ticket holders had to prove that they were the rightful owners (ie. the tickets were sold to Joe Blow and he was using them) to stop the practice of the private selling of season tickets.
  • Anyone using these tickets (ie. bought privately, still used deceased granparents') forfeited their ticket and it was put back into the pool of available tickets.
  • Season ticker holders could sell individual games via their bank machine and receive the proceeds (less a fee of course) through a direct deposit.
  • Club members could purchase tickets through the same machine.

The main effect was to reduce the waiting list dramatically. As a result of the ability to sell extra tickets through an ATM the tickets became more accessible to other club members. Despite not taking season tickets from brokers (or touts) they did a great job of cleaning up a corrupt system.

Big football clubs in Europe also use priority ticketing schemes to determine sales. Each fan buys a fan card (another source of revenue? how has MLSE let this chance slide?) and you get credits for buying tickets. So if you want to go see the season finale against the Habs, a fan that has been to 10 games gets priority over one who has not seen a single game. The tickets are sold in a staggered fashion (10 credits gives you the first 24 hours to buy a ticket, then those with 5-9 credits gets a chance, until the leftovers go on general sale). Credits are also given for going to away games and tickets do not go on sale all at once (The Leafs say they release tickets periodically and on game days but the amounts are miniscule).

Of course, these sorts of changes would be beneficial to the true Leafs fans and not the corporate fans or ticket brokers so it is not likely that it will ever happen. Until then, the general sale starts Saturday. Gentlemen, start your explorers!

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Training Camp!

The countdown is almost done! Leafs' training camp opens Thursday September 14th so it is time for that Fox Favourite 'Skating With The Stars'. Just kidding, Dave Coulier will not be there but these stars will: Leafs Training camp invitees.

Since the Leafs have said that they will only have 50 participants at the camp that means that there will be nine more invitees. Most will likely come from the Rookie Tournament roster.

Hockey's Future has a good preview of the battles that will rage at camp. This year there actually will be these battles taking place between young, hungry players. This is a nice change from past team's when the veterans only had to show up to camp while the kids knew that they would be back with their junior teams or to the AHL in a couple of weeks.

The forward spots are mostly set with the only real decisions left for Maurice are who will flank the skipper and who will fill out the fourth line. The interesting battle will be between the Marlies for the 5th and 6th defence position.

This Week:

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Babies on Ice

Since I cannot post to any blog that is not in the beta format (damn you blogger!) here is a link to Bitter Leaf who answered my last post with clear criteria for retiring jerseys. It does well to set a level of achievement and tenure that must be achieved to have one's jersey retired while allowing for fan favourites to receive the honour of seeing their name in a Ring of Honour-type setting.

Leafs Rookies 6 v. Habs Rookies 5 (OT)

The Ricoh Coliseum was rocking with a crowd of probably 600-800 Leafs and Habs fans looking for a glimpse at their respective clubs' future stars. There was plenty of good natured ribbing between the fans who were split probably 60-40 in favour of the blue and white. The players reacted to the boisterous crowd with a hard hitting, end-to-end game that saw Robbie Earl win the game in overtime after slotting home his own rebound.

As for the game, Justin Pogge started in goal and showed why he is seen as the future of the Leafs. Some people have noted that Pogge let in five goals and think that maybe his stats were inflated by playing with a Suter-led Hitmen team in Calgary. What these people might not have noticed is that this Rookie Tournament has been played on the experimental nets (six inches taller and eight inches wider). This change worked out pretty well. The goalies were still able to come up with the big saves while the players had greater chances to score.

Rookies That Impressed

Robbie Earl showed some good wheels and a good shot but a total disdain for passing the puck. His assist came when the puck was hooked off his stick.

Jiri Tlusty was a bright light and will probably be on the Marlies this season rather than going down to the junior ranks. He will be pushing for a roster spot on the big squad soon.

Jamie Sifers laid a massive hit 15 seconds into the game and set the tone for one of the more enjoyable games I have seen in a long time. He also added a pretty nice goal.

Update: The Leafs have defended their title with a 3-2 win over the Canadiens. Jiri Tlusty score the winner with less than three minutes left and Justin Pogge turned aside 34 shots to pick up the win. Who says the Leafs cannot win anything? Not just win but defend as well. Look out NHL of 2012-2013!


Friday, September 08, 2006

Rookies and Newbies

The Leafs Rookie tournament kicks off today and yours truly will be in attendance for the York University v. Florida Panthers at 4pm and our very own Toronto Maple Leafs v. Montreal Canadiens at 7pm. Check back here to see how our rookies fared, especially Colton Yellow Horn.

Colton played for 2005's U18 Canadian team and posted 75 points in 67 with the Lethbridge Hurricanes to place 12th in WHL scoring. Unfortunately, he is 5'7" but that does not matter in the new NHL where guys like Steve Sullivan (should be a Leaf), Paul Kariya (could have been a Leaf), and Saku Koivu (the only Hab I respect) can flourish.
"We had scouts watching a lot of his games and he's just one of those guys that makes an impression on you by the end of the night," said Mike Penny, the Leafs' director of player personnel. "You look at his stats through junior and his name kept popping up in the draft, but he went right through twice. Maybe players his size have it tougher, but he signed our ATO offer (amateur tryout contract) and we'll see what happens."

Hal Gill
The Leafs biggest off-season acquisition (by size) is acclimating himself well to his new surroundings. There is even a little clue as to how Gill reacted to last year's rule changes
Gill began drastically altering his style in his final season with the Boston Bruins and his new team should be the full beneficiary.

Which is good news considering that he did struggle with the rule changes quite a bit (as did most players that did not play during the lockout). He is even getting along with Darcy Tucker who is the classic 'Love to play with him, Hate to play against'
"It was hard to turn off that hate switch," Gill said with a laugh. "He's someone everyone hates to play against, but he's the aggressive sort of player you would want on your team."

much like Claude Lemieux but without the hits from behind. And just because it was such a huge hit: Poor Sami.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Oh My God! They Lost Kenny

Thankfully, he is not dead. However, everyone's favourite Maple Leafs-following writer has moved onto greener pastures (is there anything better than writing about the Leafs?) at the Hockey News.

This was actually noted yesterday by anecdote about Kenny attending the Soo Greyhounds' training camp in 1992. That is a hallmark of great sports writers - getting involved in the action.


Dead Man Walking

Hockey is just around the corner! After a post-free agency lull stories have begun to pop up, pre-season rankings are being published, training camp is just around the corner, and Damien Cox is talking crap about the Leafs.

His latest attack against long-time nemesis Pat Quinn seeks to absolve JFJ of all wrongdoing because big, bad Patty was too powerful:
Then came last year, by which time it had become clear that Ferguson wasn't going to be able to demand just about anything of head coach Pat Quinn and his staff, let alone a team dominated by veteran players deeply set in their ways. Quinn and his sidekick Rick Ley, for better or worse, had their systems and routines worked out, and while Ferguson's relationship with Quinn wasn't acrimonious, it always had its roots in Quinn's preference for another candidate when Ferguson was hired and the natural unwillingness of an established hockey man to take direction from a relatively unseasoned superior.

What a crock of crap. I guess since JFJ was the GM he was not allowed to buy out some of the terrible contracts that existed. And I suppose Quinn made JFJ sign Berg (AGAIN!), Allison, Khavanov, and Domi (actually, that was Tanenbaum's doing). Despite War's desire to lay the blame at everyone's favourite Irish Catholic coach last year's debacle had more to do with JFJ misreading the post-lockout NHL.

JFJ has done some (potentially) good work this summer to try to make up for past mistakes which is something that past regimes have been loathe to do. Although, let's face it, he pretty much had to make drastic changes because as Cox notes:
Ferguson has no contract beyond this year, and while he won't say it, he has to understand that he'll have no job either if this hockey club isn't a participant in the Stanley Cup playdowns next spring. By December, newcomers to the city may be under the impression that Lame and Duck are the man's first and middle names, so often will that description precede an examination of his decisions.

JFJ has started the long walk to the executioner's chair and the success, or lack thereof, of his key moves (Peca, Raycroft, Kubina, Gill, Maurice) will decide whether he gets strapped in and lit up or if Larry and Richard give him a last second reprieve. Of course, with that brilliant braintrust, we will probably get a new GM this summer and then have a lame duck coach. Round and round we go. When it will make sense? Nobody knows.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Honouring Leafs Legends

Unfortunately for all involved my first attempt at this post, which was both humourous and eloquent as befits the occassion, was lost when my internet connection timed out.

The Leafs are honouring the jerseys of three Leafs Legends: Hap Day, Red Kelly, and Borje Salming.

Bitter Leaf Fan is not a big fan of 'honouring' jerseys rather than retiring them. He is right that Tim Horton's number should have been retired when his career was cut tragically short while a Buffalo Sabre. And it is pretty embarrassing that the Leafs are going to try to cram in three tributes, videos, and banner raisings into opening night. I guess when there is no Cup banner for a 40th straight season you have to do something to kick off the season.

However, I disagree with the view that honouring jerseys is some sort of cop-out with regard to the history of the franchise. In fact, I would argue that some franchises go too far the other way and retire far too many jerseys. The Boston Celtics provided a good example. They have retired 21 jerseys with #18 only being honoured but not retired at the request of the player. What luminaries have gotten their numbers retired?

Cedric Bryan "Cornbread" Maxwell has his number 31 retired and is remembered as "an efficient shooter and a colorful character, his biggest claim to fame is as a clutch playoff performer." He won one NBA Finals MVP in his career and has a Hall of Fame Probability of .004.

Donald Arvid Nelson had his number 19 retired after a career in which he joined Boston in 1965 and put together his "best NBA season averaging 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds, and led the Celtics to NBA title as one of their role players." His Hall of Fame Probability is .024.

Granted, most of the players who have had their jerseys retired are in the Hall of Fame or were members of multiple championship teams during the Celtics great eras in the 50s/60s and 80s. However, when great franchises hit a prolonged dry spell there could be the desire to retire a number in order to connect with the past glories of the club. This also results in players wearing numbers like 30,43, 50, and 55. These are not classical basketball numbers. Imagine some yo-yo wearing 80 for the Leafs because all other 'good' numbers were taken? That would be ridiculous.

Imagine (and this will not be too much of a stretch) 20 years down the road the Leafs are still Cup-less. What easier way to remind the fans that their club has a rich history than to retire a jersey. The Leafs have 35 Hall of Famers and only two retired jerseys and ten other honoured players. Which of the other 23 would have their jerseys retired and who would decide which of those Hall of Famers did enough to merit having a jersey retired?

The Habs have 43 Hall of Famers but only nine jerseys have been retired. When their current 13-year drought turns into 20 and into 30 and into 40 which of those 34 un-retired jerseys are they going to hoist up? How will they decide which jerseys deserve to the honour of never being worn again? and what numbers will their team wear after all of that?

The Red Sox have actually outlined three criteria that a player must meet in order to have their number retired:
  • Election to the Hall of Fame
  • At least 10 years played with the Red Sox
  • Must end career with the Red Sox
Those are actually pretty good criteria to ensure that a player that receives the honour truly deserves to have their number put aside. If there were criteria like that to ensure that we did not have players getting their number retired just for winning a title or two (you know if the Leafs won the cup that most of that team's stars would be up for sainthood let alone retiring their jerseys) then I would agree with retiring numbers. But then deserving players might miss out because they left the team at the end of their career or only spent nine seasons with the club so it still would remain a contentious issue.

Football offers a few great examples of how clubs have dealt with depth of history without retiring every really good players number. The Green Bay Packers have only retired five jerseys in their history. The rest of their Hall of Famers are honoured in the 'Ring of Honor/Fame'. The Dallas Cowboys have a Ring of Honor in lieu of retiring jerseys. This allows for the franchise to acknowledge both the players and the management side of success. Both of these, much like the Leafs' system, allows the club to honour members of the club in a prominent fashion.

When you're growing up one of the best days of each season is when you get to choose your number. This is the one day that everyone is early to practice to try to get their favourite number and the coach's kid (me ;)) has already pulled his from the pile on the drive to the field/rink/pitch. Athletes are really just big kids and they sometimes choose numbers for the same reason. David Beckham and Owen Hargreaves both wear 23 because they admired Michael Jordan. Shayne Corson chose 27 when he joined the Leafs because he admired The Big M, Frank Mahovolich. Little things like that can give players the impetus to up their performance. Granted, no one thought of The Big M when Khavanov was tarnishing the shirt but Corson's heart and grit during the good times with the Leafs were a testament to Frank.

Finally, take a look at soccer/football. Unlike in North America, numbers are not retired. For instance, the number 10 jersey could be retired for almost any footballing club/country in the world. Instead, it is used alternately as a carrot to draw out a player's best or as a reward for being the best. For Brazil, the 10 shirt has been donned by all-time greats such as Pele, Zico, and Ronaldinho. Similarly, numbers at certain clubs hold a lot of cachet. The number 9 at Newcastle is known as the Shirt of Legends because of the great players that have been bestowed the shirt.

While I do see how players can devalue a number they can also enhance it and themselves. I would much rather prefer a system that saw only deserving players wear the honoured numbers rather than just letting any Mariusz, Mike, and Alex choose to don those sweaters.

Now here's a fun fact about each of the celebrants courtesy of wikipedia:

Clarence "Hap" Day will be honoured post-humously for his Stanley Cup as a Leafs player and five as their Coach. He also was one of the original Leafs having been a St. Pats player before Conn Smythe bought the franchise.

Leonard Patrick "Red" Kelly retired when he did not want to be traded to the New York Rangers (who knew that this was such an old trick). Even though he "disliked Maple Leaf Gardens and was disappointed by the scathing assessment of a Toronto scout as a young player" he still let Punch Imlach talk him into joining the Leafs. Good thing too because he was a key member of four Stanley Cup winning teams.

Anders Börje Salming holds the franchise record for assists with 620 as well as the goals and points records for Leafs defencemen with 148G and 768P. He was also the first Swede elected to the Hall of Fame and he started an underwear company after retirement; Salming Underwear. Here is a wicked english translation found on the site:
1992 Salming introduced underwear in the Swedish market. The minimalistic sport design and the high quality of men´s underwear became very quick a successful introduction. A couple of years later Salming introduced underwear for women as well.

Sounds like Sweden used to be a pretty swinging place. I think it was a mistake to give women underwear. I think we can all agree that is probably the only way Swedish women could be hotter. And 'minimalistic sport design'? that sounds like a speedo. Eww.

In conclusion, congratulations to all three for having their contribution to the Toronto Maple Leafs recognized. Hopefully, the Leafs can cram all three in one night in a fitting way.

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