Tag:Toronto Maple Leafs
Posted on: January 27, 2012 3:13 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 3:39 pm
 

All-Star Game preview: Finding lines to entertain

By Brian Stubits

When it comes to All-Star Games, the NHL is probably in the middle. It's certainly a notch below the holy grail of games, baseball's Midsummer Classic, but it's undoubtedly ahead of football's Pro Bowl. Like the NBA's version, defense isn't even optional, it's pretty much discouraged.

So truth be told, people don't watch the All-Star Game for the hockey. Really, mid-week games featuring the Blue Jackets and Oilers will provide a better game (not necessarily entertainment, however). Instead, fans watch it for the Stars , the chance to see their favorite players.

Or to see things we never get the chance to see.

Thanks to the Fantasy Draft, the possibilities exist for some squeamish line combinations that wouldn't otherwise have been feasible. Such as Bruins playing with Canucks. However seeing as one of the two captains was a Bruin, we missed out on some golden opportunity to have Zdeno Chara paired with Alex Edler while playing with Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Tyler Seguin in front of them with Tim Thomas in net. Oh, if Chara could have only seen the potential.

What Chara did end up doing was drafting a host of right wingers, making this pre-draft incredibly awkward exchange all the more apropos.

With all that said, thanks to our Line Mixmaster 3000 (patent pending) we were able to come up with some interesting lines with the teams that were selected -- and some lines that make you go "meh." Hey, you can't win them all.

(Do note we had to execute some position changes to get four even lines. But to Joffrey Lupul and Daniel Alfredsson: I see what you did. Lupul only helped Chara draft one left winger and Alfredsson only picked one right winger. Sorry fellas, you can't triple shift.)

Let's start with Team Alfredsson, considering he's the host and all.

As Seen in Ottawa line: Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson. Intrigue? Nah, there's not a whole lot on this one, frankly. Senators fans can see these guys together most every night. But you have an entire line of guys not out of position in their hometown ... it's a lock. But hopefully they keep the mic on Spezza during the game like he had it on in the draft and this time we can hear a full-out laugh. That's interesting enough.

Third Wheel line: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Logan Couture. OK, I'll relent and keep the Sedins together. The best third wheel for them is Couture. You have the whole Predators of the sea thing (Canucks' killer whale vs. the Sharks), the little rivalry between their teams and, well, just another way to pick on Couture a little bit after he was Mr. Irrelevant. Sorry Henrik, I don't think you're going to get those better players to play with this year (It's OK, Daniel, you can smile!).

I Believe I Can Fly line: Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, John Tavares. I had a harder time naming this line than any of the others (no doubt it shows). But the Flyers connection is pretty clear and they get an Atlantic Division friend in the mix in Tavares, somebody who has wheels that just might inspire Hartnell to try and skate faster and contribute to the Hartnell Down-O-Meter. Tavares converts to the wing to make it happen, a pretty easy transition from center.

The Forgotten line: James Neal, Steven Stamkos, Jason Pominville. Neal was the guy who the NHL just didn't seem to want to invite. It took the last replacement spot for Neal to get the call despite being second in the league in goals scored. Stamkos is the only guy with more goals than Neal and yet he's such a quiet superstar that some might not even be aware of that fact. As for Pominville? Well it's been a forgettable season in Buffalo so far, so he fits in here.

Defensive pairings: This is really a hodgepodge of names when put together, there's not a whole lot that screams out for obvious potential pairings. So I've got Shea Weber with Alex Edler (Western Conference the tie that binds), Erik Karlsson with Kris Letang (excessive use of the letter K) and Dan Girardi with Keith Yandle (ummm, they were each in that game that was won with 0.1 seconds left this season).

Now on to Team Chara. Here are the lines that we can put together, seeking maximum intrigue.

Cyborg line: Corey Perry, Pavel Datsyuk, Jarome Iginla. The cyborg obviously references the man in the middle, but it also includes one of the league's ageless wonders in Iginla plus a guy with a connection to Disney. Hey, we have to make some stretches. The only person out of position here is Perry, being forced to the left wing because of Chara's right-side glut.

Miss-match line: Jamie Benn, Evgeni Malkin, Marian Gaborik. Yea, there isn't a whole lot of connections with this line except Malkin and Gaborik are both from Eastern Europe. But hey, good for Benn to play his first game in weeks alongside the best player in the NHL the last couple of weeks in Malkin. He'll take it, I'm sure.

Two Blackhawks and a Kid line: Jordan Eberle, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa. So this line has a couple of players "out of position" but Kane is no stranger to center. We had to convert somebody to the middle and he's the easy pick seeing that he's played there this season. He gets to be alongside his Chicago buddy Hossa. Poor Eberle, he might not get to see the puck with these two guys. That won't make his fan club president (on the right) too happy.

Blackhawks and ladies? No doubt this will be Joey the Junior Reporter's favorite line to follow.

The Awkward line: Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Seguin, Phil Kessel. We saved the best for last. Yes, consider this the coup-de-grace of interesting lines. The two players -- Seguin and Kessel -- who will forever be tied to each other thanks to the trade between the Maple Leafs and Bruins, alongside another Leaf in Lupul.

“I said ‘Kess, I think we’re linemates,'" Seguin said to Kessel on Thursday (from the Boston Herald). "He said ‘That be cool. I think the media would like it.’”

Yes, Phil, yes we would.

Defensive pairings: Well we have to put Chara with Dion Phaneuf. Again, it's the Leafs-Bruins angle but also two of the more fearsome defensemen in the league. Good pairing. Ryan Suter gets paired with Kimmo Timmonen so they can find out if there is any chemistry there in case Philly is Suter's landing spot if he's traded. That leaves Brian Campbell to pair with Dennis Wideman. All I got here is Campbell is a current Panthers defenseman and Wideman used to be one.

As for a goalie to be mic'd up like Cam Ward was last year? I'm going to vote for Carey Price. Hey, any guy that does a campaign video like this and nearly spits his drink out when he's picked in the draft is probably entertaining enough to help carry the event for a period.

Enjoy the game. It will be a lot easier with some of the above intrigue. But please, leave your gripes about the lack of defense at home, we all know it's sorely lacking.

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

Posted on: January 26, 2012 7:45 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2012 7:45 pm
 

NHL playoff race at the All-Star break

NHLPlayoffRaceAllStarBreakBy: Adam Gretz

Back in December I looked at the teams you could probably consider as being out of the playoff race at that point in the season, and how difficult it would be to overcome a slow start, even a quarter of the way through the schedule. Obviously, as you get deeper into the season teams that are on the outside of the playoff picture have an even more difficult time climbing back into it. Those points are tough to make up, and by the time you reach this point in the season you start to get an idea as to which teams are good, and which teams are not.

As we head into the All-Star break this weekend, we're a just passed the halfway point in the season, and in the Eastern Conference there are probably only two teams that currently sit outside of the top-eight that can still be considered to be in the playoff face: Toronto and Winnipeg.

The Maple Leafs are currently in a three-way tie with New Jersey and Florida with 55 points, but lose out on a tiebreaker. The Jets are barely holding on to their slim postseason hopes, trailing both the No. 8 seed, as well as the top spot in the Southeast Division, by five points.

The other teams in the East? See you guys next season.

The Western Conference has a few more teams still in contention as Colorado, Dallas, Calgary and Phoenix are all within three points of the current No. 8 seed, the Minnesota Wild. But even though some of those teams are still within striking distance, the bottom of the playoff picture in the west has a logjob of six teams (Los Angeles, Minnesota, and the four teams mentioned above) fighting for just two spots.

It's not just the fact you have to make up the points, but that you also have to jump over a number of teams, as well.

To get an idea as to how difficult a point deficit of even three or four points is to overcome at this point in the season, I went back over the standings at the past three All-Star breaks (not counting the 2010 season, as there was no All-Star game that year due to the Olympics). Of the 48 teams that held a top-eight spot at that point in the season, 40 of them went on to make the playoffs.

Of the eight teams that worked their way into a playoff spot over the remainder of the season, only two of them overcome a deficit of more than two points -- the 2010-11 Sabres, which overcame a six-point deficit, and the 2008-09 St. Louis Blues, a team that was nine points out at the break. Four teams overcame one point deficits, and two overcome two point deficits.

The race in the east this season has a pretty similar look when compared to last season's, not because of the teams involved, but in the sense that we have a pretty good idea as to which teams are going to represent the conference. Last year the Atlanta Thrashers held the No. 8 spot at the break (yeah, they had a great first half) but were replaced by the Sabres by the end of the season.

The Western Conference is a little bit cleaner this season, as last year's playoff race at the break had every team with the exception of the Edmonton Oilers within at least five points of a playoff spot. The Sharks and Kings, both one point out at the break, ended up making the playoffs, while the Dallas Stars let a six-point lead in the Pacific Division at the break slip away by losing 20 of their final 32 games.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 26, 2012 4:33 pm
 

Smythe time capsule contained elephant, papers

By Brian Stubits

When I heard there was a time capsule buried under Maple Leaf Gardens put there by Conn Smythe in 1930, I was excited. There could be some seriously cool hockey artifacts in there. Maybe there would be a guide on how to win a Stanley Cup in Toronto because the Maple Leafs seem to have forgotten that.

No, instead there wasn't a whole lot. Here are the contents of the box revealed on Thursday at Ryerson University (any chance their founder is named Ned?) from the Toronto Star:

Also found in the handmade copper box were copies of the local newspapers from Sept. 21, 1931 – the Toronto Daily Star, the Globe, the Mail and Empire and the Evening Telegram – a stock prospectus for Maple Leaf Gardens, the 1930-31 National Hockey League handbook and a 1930 Ontario Hockey Association rule book

The one other item that seems to be drawing the most attention? A little ivory elephant. It's meaning and/or significance really was the elephant in the room (hey, when life throws you softballs ...).

The most common hypothesis on the elephant is that it was a good luck charm. My favorite part of all is that the professor in the video on the Star says that now that the elephant has been dug up they can start planning the parades in the streets of Toronto.

Oooh, so that's what was missing in the blueprint. Well that makes total sense.

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

Posted on: January 26, 2012 2:17 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2012 2:29 pm
 

What to look for in tonight's All-Star draft

Kessel was the last one left last year. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

I only speak for myself -- obviously -- but the draft has already become my favorite part about the All-Star weekend. It's entertaining, fun and even has some suspense. The game itself that finishes the weekend might not have any of those three features working for it.

Last year's inaugural draft in Carolina was clearly a success, that's why it's coming back this year. It's just like sitting at home plate waiting for the kickball on the mound to call your name in elementary school recess. Who doesn't look back at those days fondly (don't answer that)?

Unfortunately, some of the suspense of the event is taken away though as there are some predictable elements to the draft. You already know that captains will stick to their real-life teammates. For example, Daniel Alfredsson has already made it very clear that his first pick will no doubt be his defensive teammate with the Senators, Erik Karlsson.

The draft will take part on Thursday night at 8 ET on NBC Sports Network (here's a guide to the whole weekend courtesy of Puck the Media). It was moved up one day this year to take place on Thursday instead of Friday. Don't forget that.

With all that said, here's a guide of what to look for in the draft.

Sens will go fast: This one is a guarantee. One of them is a captain. Another one will go to Team Alfredsson likely on his first pick. The others (Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek) could very well be headed to Team Alfredsson early too. It's the hometown team with a hometown captain, he's not going to let those guys sit in the pool for very long.

Same goes for the Bruins: I'm going to take a stab in the dark here and say Tim Thomas will be the first goaltender picked, and he'll go to Team Chara. That's especially the case when you consider Team Alfredsson already has a goaltender in assistant captain Henrik Lundqvist. Tyler Seguin isn't going to last long with Chara picking either. You have to take care of your own, you know?

Kessel won't go last: There was a chance when the captains were named that you thought Phil Kessel could possibly fall to the bottom of the draft again and be Mr. Irrelevant even with the solid season he's having. But then Maple Leafs teammate Joffrey Lupul was named the assistant to Zdeno Chara and he'll likely lobby for Chara to forget some old feud and select Kessel for their team.

But one of these guys will: The pool for guys going last is pretty easy to narrow down. It's going to be a forward (rules require goalies and defensemen to go by a certain round) who is the lone representative from his team and is on the lower-profile side. That knocks out big scorers (Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry) and veterans (Jarome Iginla). That leaves five guys (not burgers and fries) to choose from -- placed in my order of least likely to go last to most likely.

John Tavares -- I think he's easiest to cross off seeing that he plays center. He's safe.

Logan Couture -- A couple weeks ago he was my pick when the teams were announced but some later additions make him safe in my mind.

Jason Pominville -- Some think he wasn't even the right Sabres player to pick, instead it should have been Thomas Vanek. Certainly good odds of going last.

Jamie Benn -- The only Stars player, the All-Star Game will actually be his first game in a couple of weeks after an appendectomy. That could actually garner him some sympathy. But he's a quiet guy, so we'll see.

Jordan Eberle -- The Oilers forward was one of the late additions because of injury. He's only 21 and in just his second season. There are ingredients for him to be the last one sitting. But as last year showed with Kessel, that can result in a nice parting package.

For the record, the oddsmakers at Bovada (formerly Bodog) have Scott Hartnell the favorite to go last at 6/1, but I think he's safer than the guys above.

Disinterested players: Of course there will be guys who look like this is one of the worst things they've had to do as a professional hockey player. That's pretty much inevitable. It's a distinct possibility the captains could look that way. Sorry, but Alfie and Chara don't exactly scream exuberance.

Boo birds: The battle of Ontario is regaining steam this season, so no doubt Lupul and Kessel will hear some boo birds (and cheers from those Leafs fans who snuck in). Poor Kessel, guy can't catch a break at this thing.

Sedin twins: Will Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin be split up again? Is it possible that Brian Burke was able to keep them together against 29 other teams but the captains can't do it against one other team? This is as good of a chance as any year ... would Chara actually pick a Canucks player?

Hazing: I'm not talking about anything serious here, but remember the things like Alex Ovechkin taking a picture of a lonely Kessel in the seats? Yea, there will be some fun being had among the players. I'm putting money down on Hartnell pulling a prank on somebody in some fashion.

Better yet, it would be better if Hartnell tripped himself after he is picked, like at least one kid does at every graduation ceremony ever hosted. It would add to the legend that is Hartnell Down.

Enjoy the show everyone. It only goes downhill from there this weekend.

More from Eye on Hockey

Full All-Star Game coverage
NHL.com: Full All-Star list

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

Posted on: January 25, 2012 12:48 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 2:00 pm
 

Maple Leafs give Liles four-year extension

Liles averages 21:32 of ice time this season. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Toronto Maple Leafs went out and acquired John-Michael Liles from the Colorado Avalanche last summer in an attempt to further bolster their blue line. So it makes sense that a half a season later they are signing him to a four-year contract extension.

Yes, the Leafs locked in Liles until he's 35 years old with a new deal just as the NHL hits the All-Star break. His current contract, which runs out after this season, has him making $4.2 million per season. His new contract will pay an average salary of $3.875 million according to TSN's Bob McKenzie.

"Not gonna lie...it's been a pretty good day," Liles tweeted while wishing his All-Star teammates the best this weekend in Ottawa.

Liles taking a deal that pays him less than what he's currently making is interesting. To me it shows how much players can value the security of a long-term deal, in this case four more years of remaining in Toronto.

Interestingly, Liles has been out of the lineup since a Dec. 22 game against the Buffalo Sabres. Like so many other players in the NHL these days, post-concussion symptoms have kept him off the ice.

But before the setback, Liles was giving the Leafs solid production on the back end with four goals and 17 assists in 34 games.

With Liles locked in for a few more years, it gives the Maple Leafs a little bit of a logjam at defense -- although not a terribly big one. But it could possibly make one of the defensemen expendable if GM Brian Burke wants to execute one of his patented trades.

Do you like the deal for Liles?

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

Posted on: January 18, 2012 1:04 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2012 1:08 pm
 

Alfredsson, Chara named All-Star Game captains

By Brian Stubits

We're another step closer toward determining the All-Star lineups as the captains were announced for the game to be played later this month in Ottawa. Remember, they will be in charge of actually selecting the teams like a schoolyard kickball match, something the NHL first tried last season.

One of them was the lock of the century in Daniel Alfredsson. The longtime Senators captain will be the boss for one of the two teams and will have the task of being his own GM -- minus salary cap constraints, of course.

The other spot was a battle that likely came down to three names: Dion Phaneuf, Jarome Iginla and Zdeno Chara. It was eventually Chara who got the honor, a really good choice. First of all, he was a member of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins a season ago and won the Norris Trophy for his efforts. Secondly, he was an Ottawa Senator once upon a time. So that Project Mayhem won out a little in the end after all.

“It’s gonna be interesting. It’s another honor on top of being selected as an All-Star. I found out this morning, so I’m a little bit surprised,” Chara said on Wednesday (via CSN New England). “I’m going to at least try to see how it is to be in the position that some GMs are in, or people that are making those decisions. In a group of players that are being selected I don’t think you can make a wrong choice.

“I’m not going to do too much research, but I’m going to do the best job I can to build the best possible team.”

The possibilities abound. The biggest question mark that we'll have to watch for in the draft is Chara and Phil Kessel or Chara and the Canucks. First with Kessel, the two didn't seem to have the best relationship while they were together with the Bruins, but Chara doesn't think that will matter when it comes to draft (again from CSN).

“I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes. Somebody has to go last,” said Chara with a smile on his face. “I don’t know if they’ll have a car for him or something else ... we’ll see how it goes.”

I would say with the season Kessel is having, the other team will take that problem off Chara's hands and select Kessel, but remember, we're talking about a member of the Maple Leafs here. The Battle of Ontario is picking up some steam again and Alfredsson might not be all that crazy about having a member of the Leafs on his team either.

Could another Mr. Irrelevant car be coming Kessel's way? I'll still say no.

I don't know about you, but this draft might have become my favorite part of the All-Star Weekend last year. It's fun and a good chance to see the players interacting. It's certainly better than the game itself (other than Cam Ward on the goalie mic, that was entertaining).

Previously at Eye On Hockey

Dissecting All-Star selections; predictions

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 18, 2012 10:44 am
Edited on: January 18, 2012 2:39 pm
 

Report: Winter Classic at Big House finalized

By Brian Stubits

You can cue up Hail to the Victors for next New Year's Day even if the Michigan Wolverines aren't playing in the Rose Bowl.

It has been in the works for some time and now Ansar Khan of MLive.com is reporting that the deal to have the next Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium is done, agreed upon. All that's left is an announcement.

The NHL, the Detroit Red Wings and the University of Michigan have finalized a deal to hold next season’s Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, a source told MLive.com.

The long-rumored matchup between the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs will take place on Jan. 1, 2013. The Red Wings lobbied to have the game at Comerica Park, but the NHL couldn’t pass up an opportunity to hold this annual outdoor spectacle at "The Big House," where it is expected to attract a record crowd in excess of 110,000.

Khan goes on to report that the announcement won't be made until early February for reasons including the All-Star break and the Red Wings being on the road. He also writes that Comerica Park in Detroit will have its own rink where the other events of the "celebration of hockey" will be held, namely the Alumni Game.

That's an idea I love about this, but I'm sure Dan Craig, the NHL's ice guru, won't appreciate double the work. It gives the Classic a presence in Detroit as well as Ann Arbor.

Now of course the parties involved are denying the report. Here's what Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the Globe and Mail: “If and when anything is a ‘done deal’ regarding the Winter Classic, it will be announced. We have made no announcements yet.”

Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke echoed toed the company line: “We have not yet received a formal invitation from the NHL. Until we do, this is speculation in my mind.”

University of Michigan AD Dave Brandon confirmed to the AP that there are talks still ongoing, but like the NHL, says it's not exactly done yet. Personally, there has been so much smoke to this for weeks, I think they are just not willing to confirmit yet and want it to wait until the announcement is made.

As soon as the NHL does make it official, this is groundbreaking for the league. It's the first time our neighbors to the North are going to be involved in what has thus far been just an American spectacle. Secondly, it will obliterate the record for attendance at an NHL game set in the inaugural Classic in Buffalo.

I'll be curious to see how much University of Michigan is brought to the game. The Wild card there is how the football team does. If they do win the Big Ten and are playing in the Rose Bowl, it will be very interesting. You will have the game in a college town where their school is playing in the Granddaddy of Them All.

But if Michigan isn't in the Rose Bowl or some other New Year's Day bowl, you could have the possibility of the band being at the game and blending the worlds of hockey and college football. I think it would be really cool if the Red Wings came out like the Michigan football team does and have a banner specially made that says "GO RED -- M Club Supports You" that the players tap with their sticks as they go under.

Either way, it looks like they'll have a long time to plan the details with this announcement looking like it will come way before the NHL's announcement this past September for the most recent Classic playing in Philadelphia.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 14, 2012 12:21 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2012 12:24 pm
 

James van Riemsdyk has a concussion

By: Adam Gretz

Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk has been the subject of some trade rumors over the past week. Now his name is the latest one added to the list of NHL players out with a concussion.

Said Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren on Saturday, "James was hit in the head in each of our last two games. He reported yesterday, not feeling like himself. He will be out indefinitely with a concussion."

Philadephia has been hit hard with concussion issues this season, as van Riemsdyk joins teammates Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Chris Pronger (likely out for the season as a result of his) as players to miss time this season with one.

In 37 games this season he's scored 11 goals and recorded 11 assists.

Over the past couple of days the rumor mill has been swirling with van Riemsdyk's name being mentioned as a possibile target of the Toronto Maple Leafs in a deal that would have involved Luke Schenn. As should be expected, both teams have denied the rumors.

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