Tag:Toronto Maple Leafs
Posted on: December 17, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 5:28 pm
 

Couturier hit in head with puck; Lucic ejected

By: Adam Gretz

The Boston Bruins completely dismantled the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon, cruising to a 6-0 win in a game that featured the type of physical play that is to be expected anytime these two teams are on the same ice surface.

It wasn't a physical hockey play, however, that resulted in the latest head injury for a Flyers player. With time ticking down in the opening period, and the Flyers already facing a four-goal deficit, rookie forward Sean Couturier was involved in a rather scary incident in front of the net when he was hit in the side of the head with a puck following a shot from his own teammate, defenseman Kimmo Timonen.

He left the game and did not return with what general manager Paul Holmgren described as "a head injury."



That's the type of month it's been for the Flyers, a team that's already lost forwards Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn, as well as defenseman Chris Pronger, to concussions. It was announced this past week that Pronger is expected to be out for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs, while there is no immediate timetable for Giroux or Schenn to return.

Of course, that wasn't the only noteworthy development during Saturday's game.

Late in the second period Bruins forward Milan Lucic was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for hitting Zac Rinaldo from behind, setting off one of the game's three fights.



Given that there was an ejection it's sure to get at least another look from the NHL's disciplinary czar, Brendan Shanahan, even if nothing comes of it. Over the past week we've seen Toronto's Dion Phaneuf and Winnipeg's Zach Bogosian be ejected for hits from behind with no supplemental discipline handed out by the league.

Saturday's game also marked the return of defenseman Zdeno Chara to the Boston lineup and he responded with a Gordie Howe Hat Trick, scoring a goal, recording an assist and fighting Philadelphia's Jody Shelley.

For the Bruins, it's their fourth in a row, a stretch that's seen them outscore their opponents 19-5, as they continue their dominant run that started over a month ago that's seen them post an 18-2-1 record since November 1.

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

Posted on: December 16, 2011 1:39 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Flyers streak on sans Pronger, G

Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

By Brian Stubits

There must be something in the water in Pennsylvania. That's the old cliché people turn to when they can't make sense of what's going on, how people (or teams in this case) continue to perform at a high level despite the obstacles.

We saw it last year (and again this season, really) with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite being without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin the second half of last season, they just kept on winning. Their 106 points were tied with the Flyers for most in the Atlantic and were just one point behind the Capitals for best in the East.

This season, the Flyers are getting their own taste of life without their Stars. And just like their Keystone State brethren, they continue to win. As in seven in a row.

Philly has been playing without its captain Chris Pronger for a month now. After yesterday's news, they are going to have to play the rest of the season without him, too. In fact, some are saying that Pronger might never play a game again. After all, he is 37 and he has a life after hockey to think about.

As good as Pronger is and has been his entire career, the Flyers have done a good job overcoming his absence this season -- nay, a great job. Since he last played against Winnipeg on Nov. 19, the Flyers have won nine of 11 games.

As callous as it always feels, the Flyers must move on. While their captain and best defenseman deals with severe post-concussion syndrome, they have a very promising season to continue. With the roster freeze coming next week, it's unlikely the Flyers will acquire some additional help on the blue line in the near future, but it will have to be a consideration for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.

Holmgren told the media on Friday that he's already considered that, having called all 29 teams, presumably about any defensemen they might have available.

But that's for then. Right now, the Flyers are making due without him or their budding superstar center Claude Giroux (or simply G, as they team calls him). It doesn't seem like it will be a long shelving for Giroux, but you never can know, concussions tend to be pretty fickle.

In the only games the Flyers have played without either player, they have won. Despite missing their leading scorer and a point-producing defenseman, Philly has still averaged 4.5 goals in the two games without Giroux and Pronger.

But now a real test comes to see how they compare with the other beats of the East without the two stars.

The Boston Bruins are nipping on the Flyers' heels for the best record in the Eastern Conference and they, too, have been playing without arguably their best player (skaters-only division) in Zdeno Chara. But the big man might be back in time for the Saturday matinee in Philadelphia.

"We're going to give him a chance to fly and see how he feels," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "If he feels good then we have a chance of seeing him."

Normally I'd lament this game being played without Giroux, Pronger and possibly Chara. But with the way both of them, the Flyers in particular, have played without the all-stars, I don't see it stopping what will likely still be a very good game.

Winnipeg welcome wagon rolls on

This first season with the Jets back in the NHL has been an ongoing welcome wagon for the folks in Manitoba. They were licking their chops at getting to see Ilya Bryzgalov, they relished the opportunity to see former Jet Shane Doan back in Winnipeg.

Now comes perhaps the best welcome/return of them all; Teemu Selanne.

The veteran once starred for the Jets before he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks. He has waited for the chance to go back and play in the first NHL city he called home. Now it comes on Saturday night.

"You know, even when the schedule came out, even when I didn't know if I was going to play or not, I checked right away if we were going to Winnipeg," Selanne said. "That day was on my calendar right away.

"I knew there were two really special things. Obviously the Finland trip and then Winnipeg. It was really exciting to even think about it."

Unlike the welcomes fans in Winnipeg gave to Bryzgalov and, to an extent, Doan, it's hard to imagine there will be any jeers, only cheers for Selanne.

"He was so admired. It was overwhelming," Jets chairman Mark Chipman said of Selanne. "This guy was so good and so approachable and so humble in his approach that the community just absolutely fell head over heels for the guy."

Amazingly, Selanne is still performing at the level he was when he first broke into the NHL with the Jets in the early 90s. That's only going to help the flashbacks for the fans -- minus that whole wearing the Ducks jersey part.

Back in Buffalo

One of the more criticized offseason signings (excluding just about every move made by the Florida Panthers) was the Toronto Maple Leafs signing former Sabres center Tim Connolly. Leafs GM Brian Burke gave Connolly a two-year deal worth $4.75 million per season.

People in Buffalo laughed and simply said "Enjoy!" to their near-neighbors in Toronto. It wasn't about Connolly being a bad player -- he's not at all -- but it was about his health concerns. There always seemed to be something that was keeping Connolly on the bench.

So there's a sense of irony when the Maple Leafs visit the First Niagara Center this weekend. Connolly will be healthy and on the ice against his former team. Although he hasn't been without his health issues this season, when he's been on the ice, he's been good for Toronto. In 18 games played, he has 15 points.

On the other hand, the deal that Buffalo signed with Ville Leino was widely applauded. That one hasn't worked out so well.

Reunion tour continues

The Washington Capitals will be visiting the Colorado Avalanche this weekend. That means they will get to see their old goalie Semyon Varlamov up close and personal again.

Varlamov was traded to the Avs this summer after he made it clear that he was looking to play in the KHL over Washington. So Caps GM George McPhee swung a deal with the Avs to give them Varlamov in exchange for Colorado's first-round draft pick this offseason and their second-round pick.

So not only do the Caps get the chance to say hi to an old friend, but they can help themselves out in more ways than one. The points in the standings are the first and most obvious way, but every game without points for the Avs helps the Caps' first-round draft pick go higher and higher.

Although it's quieted down with Varlamov coming back down to earth, when he and the Avalanche were off to their hot starts, some in Washington wondered if the team made the wrong goalie decision. There might still be some questions considering the duo of Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth hasn't fared much better, if at all. But at least Neuvirth comes into the game having just shut out the Jets in Winnipeg, so there might be some positive momentum building. The goaltending problems have been as much an issue as anything in D.C. this season.

Canucks are still great

In fact, according to Roberto Luongo they are better than they were last season, which was great.

"We were one win away, so I don't think you need to change much," Luongo said. "That being said, though, we went through a lot last year, and I think we grew as a team. So for that reason alone, I think that we're better than last year."

That's even with him still getting a lot of starts in the net. Remember, he was a Vezina finalist last season. This season? Not so much.

Their next chance to prove Lu right will come in Toronto on Saturday evening for another Hockey Night in Canada appearance.

Stammer don't hurt 'em!

More like don't get hurt Stammer.

With his overtime winner on Thursday night, Steven Stamkos joined Milan Michalek on the top of the goal-scoring list this season with his 19th. Hopefully the same fate that has befallen many of the game's best scorers in recent weeks won't strike the Lightning's superstar.

With Michalek, Giroux, Sidney Crosby and Jeff Skinner (among many others) recently being diagnosed with concussions or at least post-concussion symptoms, the last thing the league wants is another young star to go down. If anything, it would probably love to see Stamkos go on one of his tears and become a positive story in the league again.

He'll have the chance to take the lead in the goals race by himself when Tampa Bay heads to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets.

We're going streaking!

Flyers: As mentioned, they are the hottest thing going in the NHL right now between their seven-game win streak and HBO's 24/7.

Bruins: Philly's opponent brings a modest three-game run of itself into the Saturday matchup.

Chicago Blackhawks: A double-dip awaits the Blackhawks and their three-game win streak as they face the Ducks and Flames.

Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues: We're going to combine these two because they are both riding four-game win streaks and they will face off against one another on Saturday. The Blues also have the Jackets on Sunday.

Dallas Stars: Last on the win side, the Pacific-leading Stars take to New Jersey seeking to extend their three-game streak on Scott Niedermayer Night.

New York Islanders: Once again, the Isles are slumping. They get to face the NHL-best Minnesota Wild with a four-game skid. The good news for New York is Minnesota is likely down a lot of bodies.

Florida Panthers The Southeast leaders are on a mini slump having lost three in a row. They have the Flames and Hurricanes at home this weekend to try and cure the ills.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 13, 2011 12:54 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 5:19 pm
 

Lupul helping lift Leafs in early season run

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- When the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Francois Beauchemin to the Anaheim Ducks for Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner, there was sort of a sense that the Leafs were getting the worse end of the deal. While it wouldn't be fair to call Lupul and Gardiner the equivalent of a bag of pucks and a zamboni, it didn't seem like the greatest return in the history of trades. Sure, the potential was there, but you never know.

Lupul 's time in Anaheim was anything but spectacular. After a couple of very solid seasons in Philadelphia, he wasn't finding the grass greener on the West Coast. Over a season and a half with the Ducks, Lupul played in only 49 games and had 15 goals with 12 assists. Injuries were as much a concern as anything.

As for Gardiner, well, he hadn't played a single minute in the NHL, so he was pretty much an unknown commodity.

But now, not even a year later, it's looking like one sweet deal for the Leafs and GM Brian Burke. That's because Lupul is scoring at a rate he never has before and has formed one dynamic duo alongside Phil Kessel, the sniper the Leafs have long been looking for.

As of this point, Lupul already has 33 points in just 29 games. That's good enough for the fourth-most points in the league, tied with Henrik Sedin and one ahead of Jonathan Toews. His 13 goals are almost halfway to his career high of 28, which he posted in his first go-round with the Ducks. More impressively, his 20 assists are just six behind his career high he set with the Flyers in 2007-08.

It's been partly a matter of fitting in, partly a matter of health. Despite having made two stops in his career in Anaheim, Lupul said that his comfort level playing with the Leafs this season is at an all-time high.

"Oh definitely. I feel probably the best I've ever felt," Lupul said. "Partially health wise and partially just because when you're getting results and things are going your way you get some confidence. Right now I feel like every game I can be a difference-maker whereas in the past sometimes your confidence is going back and forth. It's definitely a good situation for me, playing first-line minutes."

That's like the old idea some women try to use on men. Treat him the way you want him to act and watch him become that guy. Or something like that. The point is now that Lupul is getting first-line time, he's giving first-line production.

A lot of that has to do with the psyche, too. Confidence can go a long way for a player, not only confidence in himself, but also confidence from the coaches. It can be like a security blanket, a reassurance that allows a player to play looser. Lupul has that going on, too.

"When you make mistakes, which we've made lots of this year, it's good to know the coach trusts you and you're going to be back and you're going to be given a chance to make amends for it," Lupul said.

It becomes a chicken or the egg argument. Lupul is playing better because the coach trusts him while coach Ron Wilson trusts Lupul because he is playing better. Whichever came first, the result is one quality chicken.

Of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention more about the pairing with Kessel. Even including the NHL's superstar twin brothers of Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, there has been no better two-person tandem this season than Lupul and Kessel.

We all knew what Kessel was capable of, but this season he is taking things to a higher level.

"Phil's taking the next step in his development as a player," Lupul said. "I think you can see that game in, game out he's better this year than he was last year. I mean last year he'd have the big games where he would be really dominant. Now it seems they are happening more often."

At 24, Kessel is really taking his game to new heights. With his league-best 18 goals, he's well on his way to smashing his career best of 36, which he set in 2008-09, his final season with the Bruins.

But Lupul knows they won't continue to enjoy this kind of success without more hard work.

"We realize things are going to get tougher on us as the season goes, especially on the road, matching up against other teams' best D and checkers," Lupul said. "That's a challenge we both have to be up to."

As for Gardiner, he is blossoming into a very good defenseman for a rather full corps in Toronto. The rookie has worked his way into the rotation in a big way, logging more than 20 minutes in a game on 16 occasions this season. The former first-round pick by the Ducks is finding his own niche in Toronto.

It's not like Francois Beauchemin has been bad for the Ducks. He hasn't. But this is sure looking like one hell of a deal for Burke.

Now if he could only figure out how to fix that atrocious penalty kill, they'd really be on to something in Toronto.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 11, 2011 4:34 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2011 4:55 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: Just stop it, Brian Elliott

By Brian Stubits

There was concern going into this season for the people in St. Louis regarding the team's goaltending situation. Jaroslav Halak had been subpar in his first year with the Blues, exacerbating the need for a quality backup should things not improve.

So with the choices on the board, who did they sign? Brian Elliott, a castoff by both the Senators and Avalanche. His signing was so underwhelming that there was no guarantee he would even open the season with the Blues. There was an honest-to-goodness competition for the second goalie spot between he and young Blues prospect Ben Bishop.

If you've been paying attention to the first third-plus of the season, then you know how that competition turned out. But it's my duty to pretend that my readers are dumb and don't know a thing (sorry people) so I'll just tell you that Elliott won out.

And he's been winning ever since.

Despite being the "backup" to Halak, Elliott is tied for the league lead in shutouts after Saturday's blanking of the San Jose Sharks. He also leads the league with his jaw-dropping save percentage (.947) and goals against average (1.45).

"I'm satisfied, but I'm not too high on myself," Elliott said after the 1-0 victory on Saturday. "Sometimes you feel it, sometimes you don't."

Truth is, he has had to be that good. The Blues aren't exactly scoring like their division foes in Detroit.

While the coaching change from Davis Payne has worked wonders for the Blues and Halak, it would be unfair to credit Elliott's success to that, too. He was outstanding before the change, he's been just as excellent after it.

It's rather amazing when you think where he came from. As we mentioned, his signing was just a little underwhelming and uninspiring. Why? Consider that last season he played for both the Senators and Avalanche after a mid-season trade, a straight goalie swap for Craig Anderson. For the whole season, Elliott was 15-27-9, including 2-8-1 with the Avs. That .947 save percentage this season? Last season it was .893.

That's quite a turnaround. It's not like he's just become suitable this season, he's been outstanding. You could make the argument that he's been the MVP for the Blues this season. Honestly, I have a hard time making an argument for anybody but Elliott considering Hitchcock isn't a player.

"He seems to always be our best player in the third period," said Kevin Shattenkirk, who scored the only goal in the game. "When we're up by a goal, he's always there to make a huge save."

He had to make 11 saves in the third against the Sharks to preserve the win, obviously with no room for error.

I can't say that Elliott is the reason why the Blues are knocking on the Blackhawks' and Red Wings' doors in the Central. It would obviously neglect a lot of other factors at play. But Elliott could very well be at the top of that list.

Power boost

The Washington Capitals had one of the worst power-play units going into Friday night. The Toronto Maple Leafs had one of the worst penalty-killing units. Advantage: Capitals.

Among a lot of the concerns surround the Capitals, one was the power play's struggles. They had recently just gone through an 0-for-17 streak -- or skid, if you'd prefer. Then the Caps scored all four goals in a 4-2 win over Toronto on Friday with the man up.

More from the weekend
Recaps
Stories

Originally three were credited to Dennis Wideman with an assist on the fourth goal, but it was reviewed at Wideman's request on Saturday and the hat trick was taken away. But for a night at least, Wideman had the first hat trick by a Capitals defenseman in more than a decade (Sergei Gonchar in 2000).

But more immediately, there is hope that the Capitals might have found some hope for the man-up. Of course, the opposite side of the coin is that it came against the Leafs.

There is no doubt that the PK continues to be the Achilles' heel for Toronto. After Friday's awful showing, the Leafs are above only the Blue Jackets in successful PKs at 74.3 percent.

Bachman overdrive

When it was announced that the Dallas Stars would be without Kari Lehtonen for some time due to injury, Stars fans were right to be worried at the process of Andrew Raycroft getting more time. Not a reason for much optimism.

However Richard Bachman is. The rookie got his first start of his NHL career on Saturday and he turned in a great effort, holding the Kings to one goal for the 2-1 Dallas win.

With the win, he likely earned himself a start for the Stars' next game Tuesday at the Rangers.

"He's a competitive guy, and he's pretty clean when it comes to rebounds," said coach Glen Gulutzan, who coached the former Colorado College goalie in the minors last season. "I just told him when he went out there, `It's the same game that you've been playing.' He has that ability, and he's going through the natural progression. He deserves another start, and most likely we'll give him that opportunity and see if he can run with it."

The two points put the Stars back on top of the Pacific Division, which has been surprising this season, and not so much in a good way. The Stars and Coyotes are tied atop the division, but they are each 10 points behind the top team in the West, the Wild. If the division winners weren't awarded the one of the top three seeds, the Stars would be the sixth seed.

On the other bench ...

What's going on with the L.A. Kings? I'll tell you one thing, Terry Murray can't be feeling very comfortable with his job these days.

There was so much hope coming into this season for the Kings. They had been growing every season, they added Mike Richards. It appeared the Kings were on their way to their best season since the days of Gretzky.

They still could be, but they'll have to right the ship in a hurry. Would you believe that there is no team in the NHL worse at scoring goals than Los Angeles? Its 2.21 goals per game ranks at the bottom of the NHL< including below the Ducks in nearby Anaheim. Nothing like low-scoring games to sell hockey in SoCal.

When your cross-town rival makes a move firing its coach and you are being booed off the ice, it's time to wonder if the end is in sight for Murray.

The Wings are good

Just in case you missed that memo.

I was getting ready to start talking about the Winnipeg Jets and how they were extremely quietly inching their way up the Eastern Conference. Then they went to Detroit and were railroaded.

The Red Wings had seven goals from six different scorers -- and none of them was Pavel Datsyuk. It was Detroit's ninth straight win at home where they are 12-2-1 this season. Those are the most wins at home for any team this season.

Some things never change.

One-sided rivalry

What is it about the Battle of Alberta that the Oilers are having so many problems with?

Half of the season's six games have been played between the Oilers and Calgary Flames this season, and the boys from Edmonton have yet to pick up a single point. Against the rest of the NHL, the Oilers are 14-10-3.

The most recent rendition of the provincial rivalry saw Jarome Iginla flash some of his old form with a pair of goals and the Flames took the game 3-0.

Most everybody would agree that the Oilers are likely the better team between the two, but they just can't beat their neighbors. I guess that's why they play the game (well that and winning, right Herm?).

Quote of the weekend

If I were to take a poll of NHL fans who have the Center Ice package which announcer is the biggest homer around? I think it would be a two-horse race between Paul Steigerwald in Pittsburgh and Bruins play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards.

So for this week's QOTW, we're going to take a light-hearted look at a call from Edwards in the Bruins' win over the Blue Jackets.

On the play, Derek Dorsett is driving toward the net to try and beat Tim Thomas, but his shot attempt is stopped and he then goes skidding into the boards. Here is Edwards' call, you might be surprised (like me).

Yes, that is Edwards rather vehemently arguing against a penalty that went on an opposing player. Clearly he was right, in no way, shape or form was that goaltender interference. If anything, it was interference from Tomas in the form of a trip on Dorsett, who was a bit worse for the ware afterward.

Before you jump down my throat, calm down. I have no problems with local announcers catering to the home team, that is their audience. But sometimes it goes overboard and is comical. So when I hear somebody this adamant in another team's defense, it's "ear-catching."

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 10, 2011 12:03 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 12:08 pm
 

Dennis Wideman loses hat trick day later



By: Adam Gretz

During the Washington Capitals 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night it appeared that defenseman Dennis Wideman had recorded his first career hat trick with three power play goals, resulting in the traditional shower of hats on the Verizon Center ice and what would have been one of the most unexpected hat tricks of the season.

On Saturday, the hat trick was erased from the books as Wideman's third goal (shown above) has now been credited to Capitals forward Brooks Laich. Wideman still gets credit for an assist, and finished the game with four points (two goals, two assists).

According to Katie Carrera of the Washington Post, Wideman asked the NHL to review the goal after the game and insisted that it was Laich's goal from the start. It was reviewed, and ultimately changed.

“If you get one you want it to be honest,” said Wideman.

No matter who scored the goal, it was a huge night for the Capitals power play, which had been struggling in recent weeks, as it converted on four of its six chances.

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

Posted on: December 9, 2011 9:43 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 10:12 am
 

Rogers, Bell join to buy majority shares of MLSE

By Brian Stubits

Remember when the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan wasn't going to sell Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment? You know, like two weeks ago?

How quickly things change.

On Friday morning, MLSE (owners of the Maple Leafs, the AHL's Marlies, NBA's Raptors and MLS' Toronto FC) held a news conference to announce the purchase of the company by a joint group of two Canadian media conglomerates, Bell Media and Rogers Communications.

The price of the purchase for the OTPP's 79.5 percent ownership stake is 1.32 Billion -- that's with a B. As part of the purchase, the only minority owner, Larry Tanenbaum, sees his stake rise from 20.5 percent to 25 percent. He had the right of first refusal on a new owner. He will remain the company's CEO.

It's also of note that Rogers already owns baseball's Blue Jays, so with them coming aboard, Rogers now has a hand in all of Toronto's big professional sports teams. Bell, meanwhile, currently owns an 18 percent minority stake in the Montreal Canadiens and announced they aren't looking to sell that share. Let the conspiracy theories begin.

This brings up some really interesting dynamics between two competing companies owning one team. Rogers, which owns Sportsnet, and Bell, owner of TSN. It's certainly a unique agreement to bring together people trying to beat each other out.

"We're all about winning, we're all about championships," Nadir Mohamed of Rogers said when explaining how the two competitors will work together.

That divide was already on display -- somewhat jokingly, mind you -- when Mohamed said it was his goal for Rogers to be the No. 1 company in Canadian media.

So when the Leafs make a move, which network gets the news first? Do they make joint announcements?

There's a lot of fun to have out of this purchase, but we'd be remiss if we didn't point out the delicious irony that Leafs GM Brian Burke and Leafs coach Ron Wilson now work for two media companies just a short while after they were in a spat with local media (when aren't they?), with Burke saying people who work in the media or liars.

The comedy continued in the press conference when they continued to refer to the Raptors as an iconic franchise. We kid, Eye On Basketball, but only because we care.

OTPP has held the primary ownership stake in MLSE since 2004, but has held some stake in the company since 1994.

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

Posted on: December 9, 2011 12:50 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 1:02 am
 

Reports: Rogers, Bell on verge of buying MLSE

By Brian Stubits

After speculation began picking up that the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan would sell their 79.5 percent share of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment, the OTPP shut it down. They announced that they were no longer looking to sell their share of the company. So you thought that was it and the Leafs would go on with a faceless owner, right?

Not exactly.

The Toronto Sun was first to report and all the major outlets in Toronto followed that the OTPP is on the verge of selling their majority stake to a combined group of Bell Media and Rogers Communications. The reports make it sound like the deal is all but done and an announcement could come soon.

There are still a few hurdles left to climb, however. From Lance Hornby at the Sun:

An announcement could come as early as Friday, but there are many moving pieces that could delay the final sale until closer to Christmas. MLSE runs the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC, the Air Canada Centre and has high profile real estate holdings. They also own LeafsTV, as well as basketball and soccer television holdings. Rogers, meanwhile, owns the Toronto Blue Jays, making the baseball team an obvious addition to the new combined network.

Of course, any purchase of the Leafs and the Raptors would have to be approved by the NHL and NBA, respectively. Bell also owns 18% of the Montreal Canadiens with naming rights to its arena. But an NHL executive indicated Thursday night that the league is aware there is an imminent change in the Toronto ownership situation. One of the matters to be settled is Bell's 18% interest in the Montreal Canadiens, which must be divested at some point under NHL rules.

The proposed sale, which supposedly has the approval of minority owner Larry Tanenbaum -- who has a right to first refusal -- is estimated to be worth $1.33 billion. Remember, MLSE includes not only the Leafs, but the AHL's Marlies, MLS' Toronto FC and NBA's Raptors.

Baseball's Blue Jays could soon be linked with the rest. Rogers already owns the MLB team in town, so pretty soon Rogers could have its hands on every big sports franchise in the city.

Adding intrigue to the situation is that Rogers and Bell are competitors. Rogers owns Sportsnet and Bell is the owner of TSN, the two big sports networks in Canada. It would be like Burger King and McDonald's joining forces to buy a sports franchise. Or maybe more aptly, ESPN and Fox Sports.

Steve Simmons, also from the Sun, reported that there could be a unified face for the group in the form of John Tory, the former commissioner of the CFL. He would appear to be the most likely person to replace Richard Peddie as CEO.

So why would these two competitors decide to come together? Both want to get their hands on the broadcasting rights for the teams involved, most specifically the Leafs but the Raptors as well. It could make for some interesting board meetings.

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

Posted on: December 6, 2011 3:18 pm
 

Dion Phaneuf lights up Sauer, dad gets high-fives

By Brian Stubits

When it comes to hitting, there is nobody better in hockey right now than Dion Phaneuf. When the season is done and we're left trying to decide what was the hit of the year, there's a chance he will have authored each one of the candidates.

Like this one from earlier this season, for example. Or this one.

But will any be sweeter than the hit he put on Rangers forward Michael Sauer on Monday night in New York? Probably not.

Why not? Well besides Phaneuf hitting Sauer so hard that his stick AND helmet went flying, it was in the presence of his dad, as well as the rest of the Maple Leafs dads. It was a true illustration of why Phaneuf's last name has become a verb. He just Phaneufed Sauer.

And the dads approved.

That is Papa Phaneuf looking on with a strong appearance of approval and then getting high-fives from all of the other dads in the box at Madison Square Garden.

Why are the dads at a game in New York, you ask? They all got a taste to visit the team on a roadtrip, as a sort of a thank-you to their dads. On Sunday the team held a skate in Central Park with all of the dads in attendance.

We know one dad who really enjoyed the trip.

H/t to Deadspin

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