Tag:Toronto Maple Leafs
Posted on: February 3, 2012 11:21 am
 

Burke discusses support for an openly gay player

By Brian Stubits

There are many sides to Brian Burke, the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager who makes as much news by himself as seemingly the other 29 GMs in the NHL make combined.

It's not always for him being a little ... odd in his behavior as a GM either. He is just as known for a cause that's very near and dear to his heart, the gay-rights movement. That was something he became involved with after his son Brendan came out as a homosexual man while a student at Miami University and working with the hockey team.

This weekend marks the two-year anniversary since Brendan died in a car crash in Indiana. It was a sad day not only for the Burkes and all who knew Brendan, but for hockey and the sports world too. Brendan was a pioneer and certainly courageous for standing up for the gay-rights movement in sports the way he did.

Today, his father continues to carry on the legacy of his son, if you will. He recently joined CBC's George Stromboulopoulos on his show and explained that he doesn't believe it will be as hard for a gay athlete to come out in the NHL as everybody thinks. He says he knows the Maple Leafs wouldn't have any problems.

I didn't imagine today that I would take parental advice from Brian Burke, but beyond the messages that he would welcome a gay player on his team and how he believes acceptance is greater than people believe, he really did present what I think to be a good message about parenting. He was in a situation when Brendan came out that he had no regrets about anything he had ever said.

H/t to Chris Peters of The United States of Hockey (excellent read)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 2, 2012 12:48 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2012 3:30 pm
 

Trade deadline primer: Will Jackets move Carter?

The Jackets might move Carter, but can they? (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

There's no time quite like the present. Isn't that what they say?

The present now just happens to be trade deadline month in the NHL. The actual day isn't for another few weeks, Feb. 27, but the whole month will be full of he said/she said, rumors that make you say hmm and others that make you say huh?

It seems like it's been a while since there were some real blockbuster deals looming in the NHL. It's not often there are teams willing to move the big names, the star players. That doesn't mean there weren't some key trades made, evident after the fact. In all, there were four players traded last February that were in the All-Star Game this season -- Joffrey Lupul to the Maple Leafs, Brian Elliott to the Avalanche, James Neal to the Penguins and Dennis Wideman to the Capitals.

There were certainly other moves that were crucial too. Just look at what the Bruins did, acquiring Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley last February, all important to their run to the Stanley Cup last season and in the case of Kelly and Peverley, the Bruins' push this season.

But none of those really stole the show. Not the way this year has the potential to. Or at least had until recently.

A little more than a week ago it looked like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Tim Gleason and maybe even Shane Doan were possible targets to move. Circumstances have changed or the teams have reaffirmed those guys aren't on the move.

Because of parity across the league partly as a byproduct of the points system in place today, there are a lot less sellers. Despite the odds of teams being five or more points back making the playoffs being long, clubs often times refuse to give in and admit they should reshuffle their organization.

It ends up with teams that should be looking to add, teams that shouldn't be looking to do anything and some teams that should probably be looking to sell all thinking the same: Let's add.

"Right now there are different teams trying to make a trade, but the problem is there are only two or three teams that are even willing to make a trade for a draft choice or prospect, meaning they don't think they are going to make the playoffs," Nashville GM David Poile told NHL.com. "What I want now versus what I can later are two different things because of the parity you have in the NHL.

More Trade deadline

One team that is painfully aware it doesn't stand a shot this season is the Columbus Blue Jackets. They are 11 points out ... of 29th place in the league. It's 23 points to the eighth seed in the West. After an offseason that saw them acquire Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, that's a horrible disappointment. You know what that means ...

Yes, the Jackets will be sellers. And, even though they acquired him just seven months ago, all indications are that they would like to part ways with Carter. It's really been a wash of a season for him, fighting through injuries but still only scoring 10 goals with seven assists in 30 games.

“There’s talk about a lot of guys [in here] right now. Our team, with the way the season has gone -- the injuries, the standings, and stuff -- I don’t think it should come as a surprise to anybody on our team if they end up [in rumors],” Carter told the Columbus Dispatch.

The massive hurdle with Carter is figuring out how movable he is. His contract runs through the 2021-22 season with an annual cap hit of $5,272,727 (courtesy of Cap Geek). For a player that's been snake-bitten by injuries this season and hasn't seemed to want to be where he is at all this season, that becomes a tough sell, especially when you consider what the Jackets will want in return. They need everything, but primary concerns are in net and getting better on the blue line.

Still, he's only 27 and has shown with his time in Philadelphia that he can contribute a lot offensively. This will be the first season since 06-07 he didn't score at least 29 goals and more than 50 points. There could be some GMs out there willing to take the risks for the potential, which is still high.

If it does happen, it will be a not-so classic case of buy high, sell low for Columbus -- granted, low with Carter is probably still kind of high. That's not the best way to move on up in the world.

A good chunk of the rest of the Columbus roster will be available if anybody wants to take a shot, too. They'd probably love to move Steve Mason, but it's tough to envision anybody wanting him at this point. Rick Nash and Wisniewski are probably untouchables, Nash being the heart and soul of the otherwise faceless franchise and Wisniewski being the biggest player at their position of need. But the other guys like Antoine Vermette, Vaclav Prospal and more? Take your best shot.

The Blue Jackets aren't the only team known to be exploring the market. Tuomo Ruutu is a hot candidate to be moved from Carolina with the Hurricanes last in the East.

"I've heard rumors I'm going to every team in the NHL," Ruutu told Chip Patterson of the News & Observer this week. "I must be really playing well."

Obviously Ruutu isn't going to get people's gears going, but he could be a good addition for somebody, assuming the price is right. It's unlikely he's going to give any team top-six production, but he's not worthless either. One of the concerns is that he becomes a UFA this offseason, so it could be a rental situation.

The potential is endless, though. The Canucks have some expendables in their quest to bolster the roster for this year's push. Mason Raymond is a target of many. Some still think they should move Cory Schneider, perhaps the hottest backup goalie in the league. The Stars have to decide what side they're on, and if it's the seller side, Brenden Morrow could be up for grabs. The Canadiens have Travis Moen, Hal Gill and Chris Campoli. The Oilers could move Ryan Smyth again. It goes on and on.

Of course we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the Toronto Maple Leafs. Brian Burke always seems to find a way to get in the big trade action.

But it will probably all come back to the biggest, most obvious seller of them all in Columbus.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 1, 2012 3:23 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2012 3:28 pm
 

Grabovski playing his best hockey at right time

Mikhail Grabovski is playing his best hockey right now. (Getty Images)
By: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- As difficult as it had to be for the Toronto Maple Leafs to watch a three-goal lead with less than 10 minutes to play turn into a 5-4 shootout loss on Tuesday night, costing them a crucial point in the standings, there were still a couple of positives developments.

One of the biggest: the continued emergence of forward Mikhail Grabovski, and it couldn't be coming at a better time for the Maple Leafs.

The team is well into the stretch run and hoping to end what has been one of the longest playoff droughts in the league, being one of just two teams (the Panthers being the other) to not make the playoffs in the post-lockout NHL.

Coming out of the All-Star break they started the week as one of three teams deadlocked for what would be the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference,  which is why that loss in Pittsburgh was so damaging (potentially, anyway). The race is so tight right now that they can't afford to let any points slip away like that, especially when it's during a game they completely controlled for over 50 minutes against one of the teams they're chasing.

But the Leafs were still hopeful to build on the things they did well in the loss.

"You can definitely build on the positives," said forward Joffrey Lupul after the game. "Unfortunately it's starting to get to the time of the year where you need results, but there is a lot to build on there. We played one of our better games of our year for 50 minutes, and it's terrible to let that point get away, but we did have some positives to build on."

Among the positives: Toronto continued its recent run of disciplined play, putting itself in a shorthanded situation just one time on the night. Over their past 11 games, a stretch that has seen the Leafs put together a 6-4-1 record and allow just a little over two goals per game, they have been shorthanded just 12 times, including three games with no penalty killing situations. That is probably the best (and only) way to hide what has been the league's 30th ranked penalty killing unit this season.

Perhaps the biggest positive, though, was the aforementioned play of Grabovski as he completed his best month of the season with a two-goal performance that also saw him finish with seven shots on goal, two blocked shots and a 50 percent mark in the faceoff circle. And he did all of that while spending the majority of his night on the ice against Evgeni Malkin's line, which is no small assignment.

Getting minutes against the oppositions best player hasn't been a new situation for Grabovski. During the month of January, for example, he saw most of his shifts in individual games come against forwards like John Tavares (Islanders), Milan Michalek (Senators), Ryan Callahan (Rangers), Derek Roy (Sabres), Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings), Evander Kane (Jets) and Steven Stamkos (Lightning). Despite drawing the top assignments, he still finished the month with 16 points (eight goals, eight assists), which was tied with Malkin for the second most in the league, trailing only Tavares.

This all comes after what had been a pretty slow start offensively, having recorded just 19 points over the first three months of the season, a total he nearly matched in January alone. The Leafs offense this season has been carried almost entirely by the play of its top line, Lupul and Phil Kessel, and there is going to be a need for some secondary scoring if/when that top line slows down. Grabovski has demonstrated throughout his career that he's capable of providing, even when given the task of matching up against the other teams top lines, which can open things up a bit more for Kessel and Lupul.

"He's playing well right now," said Lupul of Grabovski's play. "He had two [on Tuesday] and he could have had a lot more. He's bringing a lot of energy right now you can really see he has his confidence back and has his legs going."

Eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer, he would surely be one of the most attractive players to hit the open market (if a new deal isn't signed before then) given his skill-level, production and ability to match up against top talent and keep them in their own end of the ice.

Grabovski, who was celebrating his 28th birthday on Tuesday, didn't want to talk all that much about his own performance or his confidence level, simply saying "I'll start to feel better when we win the games, that's the most important thing."

If he keeps playing like he did in January, the wins might start coming a little more often.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 31, 2012 5:51 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 7:25 pm
 

Crosby has 'soft tissue injury'

Crosby

By: Adam Gretz

The Pittsburgh Penguins issued a statement on Tuesday night that Sidney Crosby has a "soft tissue injury" to the neck area (not a fractured vertebrae) that could be causing neurological symptoms, and that an independent specialist found no evidence of a past or present fracture.

More from the Penguins statement:
Dr. Alexander Vaccaro is a spinal trauma expert at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia and co-director of the Spinal Cord Center at Thomas Jefferson University. He is past president of the American Spinal Injury Association.

Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson, along with Penguins owner Mario Lemieux and CEO David Morehouse traveled Monday morning to Philadelphia, where Vaccaro reviewed a CAT Scan and MRI taken last week by Dr. Robert S. Bray in Los Angeles. Bray diagnosed a neck injury.

Bray has treated Crosby with an injection to alleviate swelling in the C1-2 joint of the neck and will be overseeing his progression with therapists.

Doctors say the symptoms of a soft-tissue neck injury are similar to concussion symptoms.

Vaccaro, Bray and UPMC doctors all agree that Crosby is safe, the injury is treatable, and he will return to action when he is symptom-free.
Crosby and general manager Ray Shero spoke just before the Penguins game against the Maple Leafs, and after the 16-minute press conference had ended there were still no definitive answers as to when then injury occured, whether it's what is causing his symptoms and when (or if) he will play again for the Penguins this season.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 31, 2012 11:44 am
Edited on: January 31, 2012 12:32 pm
 

Burke admits to complaining to CBC about Cherry

Burke says Cherry and host Ron MacLean have 'vicious and cutting [remarks] on players and coach.' (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

We relayed to you a story over the weekend of Don Cherry saying that Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke isn't fond of the things Cherry has said about the Leafs and that Burke was even considering going to the CBC with his complaints.

Consider it done. From the Toronto Sun:

Maple Leafs president Brian Burke has admitted he did complain to the CBC about a Coach’s Corner segment in a bid to get them to “stop” the “vicious” criticism of his players and coach.

But, he said, it was not a personal complaint against Ron MacLean and Don Cherry, but was in the interest of protecting his team.

“I don’t dislike either of them,” Burke told QMI Agency Monday.

During the all-star weekend in Ottawa, Burke wouldn’t discuss whether he filed a complaint, saying the mid-season event was “hardly the time or place for a beef like this.”

Burke said he feels his confidence was somewhat betrayed.

“This is nuts,” said Burke, adding he “raised (the) issue quietly and professionally” and then “they leak it. Nuts.”

Nuts sort of describes the whole story, doesn't it?

Burke is an old-school guy, from lamenting the rats running the league to challenging Kevin Lowe to a fight in a barn set in the backwoods. An affront to him or his family (in this case, his team) will be dealt with.

One of the affronts in this case was Cherry referring to Leafs coach Ron Wilson as a Napoleon ype, saying “I don’t like him ... I don’t like the way he treats the players.”

But complaining about a national commentator's opinion of your team and coach? It's so hard for me to figure out when Burke is being professional and when he's being petulant. I mean I guess he could have challenged Cherry to a fight in a barn.

Everybody knows what/who Cherry is anymore, he's loud for the sake of being loud, his job is to entertain while also being a pundit. I don't know of anybody who puts much stock into what Cherry says in his weekly Coach's Corner segments. Except now for Burke.

The whole story underscores something that I find rather impressive: Burke's ability to succeed despite caring so much what others say. Usually, that's not a trait that will help somebody, particularly in a business like hockey in a market such as Toronto.

More from Eye on Hockey

Cherry on Burke's criticism
Burke talks decline of enforcers
Burke nearly fought Lowe in a barn

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 30, 2012 3:50 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 3:56 pm
 

Crosby skates prior to Penguins practice (video)

By: Adam Gretz

Sidney Crosby was back in Pittsburgh on Monday and he hit the ice for a 45-minute skating session, along with injured teammates Jordan Staal and Simon Despres, before the Penguins team practice at the Consol Energy Center.

He had been in California visiting Dr. Robert Bray, a neurological spine specialist, for a neck injury that was reported to be to his C1 and C2 vertebrae. The Penguins issued a statement on Saturday evening that the injury had already healed and that the findings will be evaluated by independent specialists over the next couple of days.

It's been yet another bizarre chapter in what has surely been a frustrating year for the Penguins and their captain, while it also seemed to provide more questions than answers.

As for his appearance on Monday, well, this is what some of it looked like, and it seems that his hands still work quite well.



The Penguins return to action this week with back-to-back games against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday (home) and Wednesday (away).

Crosby has appeared in just eight games this season and he has been out of the lineup since December 5.

Previously at Eye On Hockey

Crosby also had a neck injury
More Crosby news
More Pittsburgh Penguins news

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 29, 2012 3:16 pm
 

Brian Burke not happy with Don Cherry's criticism

Don Cherry is never shy to share his thoughts. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

One thing you hear most every player, coach and general manager say often is that they don't read the newspapers or listen to sports radio. If they did they might go crazy.

Maybe that explains it for Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, because he pretty clearly pays attention to what is said. When the Leafs announced a contract extension for coach Ron Wilson, they seemed to release the news purposely on Christmas to burn the Toronto media. His battles with that group have been pretty well known.

He also appears to have a problem with CBC icon (or eye sore for the fashionistas out there) Don Cherry. Granted, he's not the only one in that department, but still.

“I like Brian Burke. I have nothing against Brian Burke,” said Cherry in an exclusive sit-down interview with the Ottawa Sun on Saturday. “But Brian Burke doesn’t like me. That’s the sad thing. We used to be the best of friends. I used to get St. Patrick’s Day cards from him ... no more.

“Brian Burke does not like what I say about the Leafs. But what am I supposed to say about them? They haven’t made the playoffs in [seven] years. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I guess he doesn’t like it. But I am what I am.”

Sun writer Tim Baines reports in the same story that Burke has become so upset that he has been thinking over taking his gripes about Cherry's critiques to the CBC.

Can you imagine the response that Burke would get if he went through with going to CBC brass? Imagine what Cherry would say in his next edition of Coach's Corner.

The kicker is that Cherry admits to being a Leafs fans behind only his love for the Bruins, the team he played his only NHL game with and coached for five seasons, including two Stanley Cup Final losses. But in case it hasn't been clear for years, Cherry calls things like he sees them.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 27, 2012 8:03 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 8:06 pm
 

TV Ratings drop for All-Star draft



By: Adam Gretz


On Thursday night the NHL held its second All-Star fantasy draft, and the league saw a drop in its television ratings as a little over 2 million viewers tuned in across North America, according to TV Sports Ratings, via Steve Lepore at Puck The Media.

Over 1.6 million of those viewers came from Canada, while a little over 400,000 watched it in the United States. The number for the states is down from the 600,000 that tuned in last year on a Friday night (again, this year's draft was held on a Thursday).

The draft is definitely a unique thing for the NHL, and it's unlike anything else any of the other major sports leagues do for their All-Star games, so I give the NHL credit for trying something different to spice up an event that generally draws a collective yawn from the fan base.

The problem is it just doesn't seem to translate all that well to television with some awkward moments and way too much empty space. Actually, the most entertaining part of Thursday's festivities was the Senators fans treating it like a battle of Ontario game and heckling Joffrey Lupul (and his Leafs teammates) at every opportunity.

Previously at Eye On Hockey

NHL All-Star Rosters
Couture Last Man Standing

All-Star Skills Challenge Lineups
More NHL All-Star Game Coverage

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com