Wednesday, March 29, 2006

An enigma, wrapped in a riddle, shrouded in mystery....

By The Meatriarchy

That is the play of the Leafs lately. Defeating powerhouse teams like Carolina and Philadelphia as well as long time rival New Jersey with outstanding performances. At the same time throwing away four points against Montreal in the same 7 day period.

Makes you scratch your head.

Last night's game was again one of the better games they have played all year. This one without most of JFJ's key acquisitions: Lindros, Allison, and Khavanov.

Again JS Aubin proves that he is a goalie that can potentially steal a game for you. He looked outstanding in the third period and made some tremendous saves. I would play this guy till the season ends save for back-to-back games.

Oh and the appearance of Aubin should silence one type of caller that has lately become a fixture on the local sports shows. The "hey the Leafs don't have ANY French Canadians on the team or in the minors, what's up with that eh?" caller. The funny thing about that particular one is that none of the sports radio.bots bother to correct him by pointing to Aubin, Racine and Domenic D'Amour I guess three French Canadians doesn't count.

Of course the Senators did the Leafs no favours by allowing Jersey to beat them in a shootout on home ice. Way to send a message to a team you might be facing (the Devils that is) in the first round guys.

I have to say that in his post game press conference Quinn looked as happy as I have seen him all year. Perhaps because he has finally found a goalie that can make some clutch saves? Certainly he hasn't gotten that from Belfour or Tellqvist this season.

Or could it be that without Allison in the line up the team actually looked much faster?

One player that has played tremendously the past two games has been Ian White. I have been a big fan of this guy from the beginning and hope he continues to prove that he has the stuff to play at this level. He certainly gives the Leafs another offensive option from the blueline which up until now has dropped off pretty steeply after McCabe and Kaberle. Quinn certainly has confidence in him - he gave him over 18 minutes of ice time last night. That's more than Belak, Berg and Richardson had.

Monday, March 27, 2006


From the Senators today....

Things we don't care about:

Already the holder of the NHL record for wins to begin a career with nine, Senators rookie goaltender Ray Emery could tie another NHL record tomorrow against New Jersey. The Hamilton native will be attempting to match Philadelphia Flyer Bernie Parent’s mark of 12 wins in a calendar month, which he recorded in March of 1974.
He's got two games left this month.

Things we do care about:
Defenceman Anton Volchenkov (stiff neck) was back at practice on Monday, but he’s still questionable for tomorrow’s game against New Jersey.
Dominik Hasek (adductor muscle) expects to skate some time this week in his full equipment, without his teammates.
Martin Havlat (shoulder) will be re-examined by doctors in Cleveland in the next few days. He hopes to be cleared to resume full-contact drills.
Zdeno Chara (right hand) and Mike Fisher (right ankle) still have some recovering to do, but both said they noticed significant improvements with their injuries since last week.
Defenceman Wade Redden didn’t skate at practice today, but he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow after resting his sore hip.

Two Questions

By The Meatriarchy

After the debacle that was the back to back beatings in Montreal the only question I had on my mind on Sunday morning was:

Do we still own our first round pick for this upcoming draft year? After all it looked like we would be finishing with a pick somewhere in the 5-8 range (it still could be that way).

Now after a dramatic win in Jersey last night the question becomes:

Do we play Aubin the rest of the way? People may not remember but he had a pretty good camp and the argument could have been made that he beat Tellqvist out from a pure merit perspective. But Tellqvist was given every chance to prove himself as a starter in this league and he just hasn't done it.

His problem is not so much that he is a bad goalie. He really isn't. It's just that he never has shown the ability to steal a game (something Don Cherry pointed out before the Saturday night game). Sure he can win if the whole team is playing well. But he never did stand on his head like a Belfour or a Joseph. And that's why I say it's time to put the Tellqvist project to bed.

One thing that was refreshing last night watching Aubin play was his size. He looks like he takes up a fair bit of the net. Telly is not a big goalie but neither is Curtis Joseph. Yet Telly seem to look even smaller.

He's the only person I've ever seen who seemed to be able to curl into a fetal position while standing up straight. It just looks weird.

At the very least Aubin deserves to get the next start on Tuesday against the Flyers to see if he is more than just a one game wonder.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Go Leafs Go

I'll just come right out and admit it: I'm cheering for the Toronto Maple Leafs to make the playoffs.

To become true Stanley Cup Champions in my eyes, the Ottawa Senators will simply have to go through Toronto. Nothing else would properly bookend the string of humiliating regular season blowouts, avenge four previous playoff horrors and confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Sens have thoroughly and completely outclassed their rivals in 05-06 than a supplemental first round beating.

Having Leaf Nation simply fade out of the picture in a relatively quiet and painless fashion will not do the Battle of Ontario justice. It would be more appropriate to see them teased into a sincere belief that yet another upset is possible, to gradually sell themselves on the possibility that this could be their year and to piece their shattered confidence back together in the remaining 13 games -- only to be abruptly hauled back down to the cold ice with a crunching thud. As the starry haze wears off and vision is restored, their first sight will be that of Gary Bettman making an important center ice presentation to Captain Daniel Alfredsson. Truly an experience that will scar several generations of Torontonians and something Sens fans ought to throw their support behind.

We're waiting for you, T.O. Can you get it together and make our dream season come true?

On a slightly related note, I've attached a preliminary parade route for discussion.

I'd thought I'd seen it all.....

By The Meatriarchy

I've been watching hockey avidly for something like 23 years (well I didn't watch a lot in the early to mid 80's when I was sewing my wild oats). So I've seen lots of things.

But I think last night was the first time I saw a team actually throw a game. How else to explain the performance of a team who on Tuesday played one of their best games of the season only to seem so out of it last night?

Did they even get a shot on Cristobal? Well yes 34. But I don't seem to recall him making any tough saves.

But then again I stopped paying really close attention after the first period. I pegged this game as a must win for the Leafs. If not the best they could hope for was not to lose ground by winning Saturday's game. If the Leafs had won last night all of the pressure would have been on Montreal to win Saturday's game.

As it stands Montreal answered the bell last night. The Leafs just hit the snooze button and rolled over.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

This just in...

Belfour done for the season according to Leafs Lunch.

Good news? Bad news? I'm thinking his career is done too.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Live the impossible dream

I can't count the number of times since the Olympics that I've heard or read that "if the Leafs lose this game, they're done." Or, "It'll take 92 points to get into the playoffs, for some reason, ergo the Leafs have to win 21 of their last 22 games to get in."

Well, they've lost six of ten since Turin, and they're three points out of eighth. I'm hearing less and less about how impossible it is for this team to make the playoffs. Hell, Damien Cox called the team a "major disappointment" today, which suggests that he had (unpublished) expectations for the 2005-2006 Leafs that exceeded their losing every single game they showed up for.

(Cross posted to Tart Cider.)

Back on top

Two wins on the weekend puts our mighty Sens back on top of the conference and 5 points ahead of Buffalo for the division lead.

The Leafs bad PK gave up four to Jagr and the Rangers on Saturday night but managed to scrape by the Pens who seem to have some problems paying the hydro bill.

The question is though - Does it matter for Leaf fans whether their team finishes in 10th or 13th spot?

Friday, March 17, 2006

How It's Done

BoO has been the relatively low-smack alternative to our western counterparts this year, owing at least partly to the fact that the Mighty Sens are 7-0 and have outscored the Leafs something like 180 to 3. But despite the near impossibility of another first round "Battle", it's instructive to keep those knives sharpened like they do out west:

"The worst part about being a Flames fan is constantly having to explain simple concepts to Oilers fans. Concepts like 81 points is better than 76, especially when you have two games in hand over the team with 76 points. Playing “boring” hockey is fine if you win enough to be first in your division, especially if you have three games in hand over the second place team. Having a sound defense and a great goalie is a good plan for playoff hockey, especially when there are no shoot-out for the offensively talented, yet goaltender poor, Oilers to get some cheap wins. That system worked well for the Flames in the last season’s playoffs, but I can’t remember how the Oilers did in those playoffs. Can anybody remind me? Did they even make it with all of their offensive talent? I guess all the recent success the Flames had sort of made me, and every other hockey fan, forget about the Oilers.

Go Flames."

vs Cosh:

"Always nice to receive a dispatch from the alternate universe where the Gelinas goal went in, the '04 Flames didn't slink off to the Pantheon of Great Chokejobs, and a shirtless Jarome Iginla led a Stanley Cup parade through the streets of Calgary on the back of a rainbow-coloured unicorn."

Trade analysis

Since the Leafs here can't come up with any smack, I'll post something I found amusing from Sens fan AQG here:
Look at this face! In a few weeks, he better have some facial hair and have lost this baby fat. And learn a meaner expression. (What is this, exactly?!)

Highs and lows

Unfortunately Mike Fisher injured his ankle last night and could be out for a while.

Fortunately it's not broken and should be okay for the playoffs.

Unfortunately the Sens lost their fifth shootout in a row.

Fortunately they came back from a deficit in the 3rd for the 2nd game in a row when they've had a (relative) problem this year in close games.

Unfortunately they've let the opposition - less than stellar opposition to boot - get the upperhand on them the last two games.

Fortunately Hasek started skating yesterday.

Unfortunately he fell and "struggled to get back on his feet"?

Big game against the Sabres tomorrow night. They, of course, beat the Leafs last night putting another nail in that coffin. They could move past Ottawa with a win and put the Sens down to the fourth seed.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Because deep down you wanted to know

I was over at today and saw that Ottawa leads the Eastern Conference in fighting majors this year. Naturally, I wanted to know if there was any type of relationship between fighting majors and place in the standings so I plotted them out.
The answer is no.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mats and the Golden Stick

A tragedy for the ages coming to the Royal Alexandra Theatre....

A downtrodden warrior no longer able to live up to his past glories is given new life when he receives a magical stick from a fellow countrymen. Alas, the men he fights with and their leadership is such that even the stick blessed by the greatest of warriors will not take them to victory.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Was he drinking on the plane?

Some pretty (and rare) candid talk from Alfie in this column about Ovechkin:
“He can make chicken soup out of chicken (bleep),” said Alfredsson. “Everybody is coached so well, every defenceman knows how to play the one-on-one. It’s very rare that you see it and he can beat people clean. That’s the key. He can create chances from nothing, really.
“I just think he’s got everything you could want. He’s a great skater, he’s a great stickhandler, good one-on-one and he’s got a really good work ethic.
“He’s the best player consistently. What he’s done with that team? To be able to put up those numbers ... but I don’t think he’s all about the numbers, either.”
“I haven’t seen a rookie like him in I don’t know how long. Kovalchuk was good, but he’s another step ahead of him, just because he adds another dimension of being physical.
“He doesn’t get frustrated if he gets hit, either. He gets up and keeps playing. Not like the other rookie (Crosby), who starts crying. I think there’s a big difference in the attitude. He’s pretty impressive with the way he’s handled himself overall. He loves the game, no question.”
Crying? Sid the Kid's going to have to shake that rap.

Worst Hockey Logos Ever?

By The Meatriarchy

A list of them here. Although I always felt the original Vancouver logo was terrible.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Hardy Freaking Har

Looks like I'm not the only one who doesn't appreciate trade deadline humour:
Funny guy, that Bryan Murray.

As the 3 p.m. trade deadline rolled around yesterday, the Senators coach left the ice to take a cellphone call.

It was noticed by everybody, of course, including the players who have been on eggshells for the last week or so.

Murray returned to the ice and skated right over to forward Antoine Vermette, who was seated on the bench, and everyone immediately assumed Vermette had been dealt.

"I told him I had bad news," said Murray. Vermette's shoulders slouched as Murray spoke to him.

"I told him, 'you have to stay here (with the Senators).' "

Laughs all around, except for Vermette.

"I knew he wasn't going to ask me if I had a good dinner last night," said Vermette as Murray approached. "I didn't find it funny at that point. I was hoping he was joking. I didn't want to get traded."

Nothing more agonizing than listening to those clowns on the Team yesterday. "This just in..." they'd gravely intone "...BLOCKBUSTER deal coming across the wire..."

[tense pause]

"THE PHOENIX COYOTES have sent Tim Jackman to Los Angeles for Yanick Lehoux."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Trade Tally

Arrivals Departures
Mike Morrison off waivers Billy Thompson down to Bingo I presume
Tyler Arnason from Chicago Brandon Bochenski, 2nd rnd in 2006

Arrivals Departures
Not paying him = relief

Mariusz Czerkawski to Boston - off waivers

Luke Richardson (2.1 million, UFA) from Columbus

5th rnd in 2006 (possible 4th in 2007 if Leafs make the playoffs)

Aleksander Suglobov from Jersey's farm team

Ken Klee (1.9 million, UFA)

UPDATE at 2pm: 1 hour to go Muck! Make it happen!

UPDATE at 2:55pm: Morrison is the key acquisition! Muckler's right not to change the room. No - make a deal! No - stay put - Havlat and Hasek will be back! No - Carolina and the Rangers have improved - we need to too!

UPDATE at 3:17pm: Muckler finally joins in the fun.

Some more rumors

The Meatriarchy

Nashville and the Rangers are apparently inquiring about McCabe. If he doesn't sign by season's end he is a free agent and the Leafs could certainly go after him - but there is no guarantee they would get him.

I don't think they should trade him. The risk is too great.

Oh and are Sens fans still convinced that Emery can get you there after last night's performance? Still a few goalies kicking around.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Pass, fail

Ditching solid, classy Ken Klee for some semblance of value is exactly the sort of moderately tough decision I was advocating yesterday. Replacing him with Luke Richardson for the mind-warpingly outrageous potential cost of fourth and fifth round draft picks is exactly the sort of thing I was arguing against. Nothing against the guy, but he's 18 days shy of his 37th birthday. He was a healthy scratch for the Columbus freaking Blue Jackets as recently as November 25. Even the fifth rounder on its own is an insane price to pay for a player the Leafs simply don't need.

In case anyone's interested, Leafs' fourth, fifth, and lower round picks who have played for the big club this year are as follows: Jay Harrison, Tomas Kaberle, Staffan Kronwall, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Kyle Wellwood.

(Cross-posted to Tart Cider.)

Quick hits McCabe and Czerkawski

By The Meatriarchy

Heard on the Fan just a minute ago: McCabe will resign, the money is agreed upon - the terms are being negotiated. He wants five years they want four.

The Polish Prince of Darkness has been claimed by the Boston Bruins.

What it takes to win (Leafs 5 Habs 3)

By The Meatriarchy

So the die has been struck and the blueprint set for what the Leafs must do to make the playoffs:

  1. Sundin must bring his A game (as he did last night with two goals)
  2. Belfour must play like his old self (as he did last night) and by old I mean his former self - not his old creaky self
  3. The officiating must be favorable.
  4. They must play a team that has played three games in four nights and is dog tired.
  5. Kaberle must shoot the puck. (ok that isn't going to happen)

However Belfour might have been playing for a trade last night. He certainly showed that he can turn it on when he wants to. Unfortunately he hasn't been turning it on regularly this year.

Speculation has it that Belfour might have played his last game as a Leaf with Vancouver and Edmonton reported as possible destinations. Belfour however has a no-trade cluase and will reportedly only waive it if the other team picks up his hefty 4.5 million option next year.

That might scare other teams off considering Curtis Joseph is a far more attractive rental.

Oh and welcome to Tart Cider now blogging for the good guys on this blog. I don't think the team would have a better chance of making the playoffs if it is blown up though and Czerkawski has been waived.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sell, sell, sell

Let's say that between now and the trade deadline the Leafs trade Bryan McCabe, Ed Belfour, Ken Klee, Aki Berg, Jason Allison and Nik Antropov, and get only one or two roster players in return. Quite apart from the future benefit, I don't even think it would significantly hurt their chances at making the playoffs. Those chances are already in excruciating pain, remember, and trading Belfour for a few rolls of tape would instantly improve the Leafs' goaltending situation. You can't tell me that subbing in Johnny Pohl or Ben Ondrus or Mariusz Czerkawski for one or both of Allison and Antropov would make a world of difference up front, and on defense… well, it would be a struggle. Not much of a change there.

They would have an outside chance at the post-season, which is what they have now. Pat Quinn coached a less talented team than would survive that purge to within three wins of the 1999 Stanley Cup final. I'm sure it would be demoralizing for the guys who remained, but, well, tough. Maybe the aforementioned roster players or the younger replacements can light a fire under them.

The "anything can happen" argument works both ways, too. If the playoffs had started tonight you could reasonably expect the Flyers to dispatch Buffalo, but elsewhere the Habs would play a totally unproven Carolina team, the Sens would play the defending Stanley Cup champions, and the Czech National Rangers would take on Martin Brodeur and his Devils. It's mighty tough to pick a favourite out of those, especially if Toronto somehow managed to draw Ottawa in the first round. The Leafs have underachieved horribly for much of this season. If John Ferguson keeps this team together and they simultaneously get healthy and find their stride, they might pull off a round or two. Hell, they might go to the final. Stranger things have happened.

So what should Ferguson do?

He should tear the goddamn thing down, that's what. The playoffs are a crapshoot. GMs have to make a determination as to how their dice are weighted. As much as most teams have a real shot at the playoffs or at a decent playoff run, the Leafs' dice are weighted more against them than at any time in the Pat Quinn era. And yet, Ferguson tells the Star: "We're not ready to concede anything."

Sigh. No one's asking you to concede anything, buddy. They're only asking you to sell every pending unrestricted free agent you have to the highest bidder. 11th place teams should only stand pat or beef up at the deadline if they desperately need to get into the playoffs, which the Leafs clearly do not — one year of extra-early golf won't hurt this franchise, and they're in great position to get exactly that anyway. Liquidating what few valuable assets the Leafs do have, on the other hand, could give the team's future a considerable boost. As would a new coach, which had bloody well better be in MLSE's summer plans. This really is a no-brainer.

Mr Ferguson, tear down this team.

(Cross-posted to Tart Cider.)

(This isn't exactly the ideal theme for my first post on a blog that presupposes a "Battle" of Ontario, but hey. My team will be life and death to make the playoffs tomorrow morning, but at least it won't be the Ottawa Senators. Thanks to Jay for the invite.)

Worth repeating

This type of reasonable, standup thinking from Leaf fans, from the comments below, deserve some additional air time:

Kyle said...
A win over the Canadiens may be enough to stop the Leafs from firing Quinn (or
removing him as coach) for the next couple of weeks but a loss will probably force them to announce a firing before the weekend. Best wishes to Eddie and whoever else gets sent to a better place on Thursday....sigh....
Five-0 said...

Maybe if they trade Wellwood and Steen to get back Roberts and Neiwendyk they could... SLAP!
Or maybe Dougie and Wendel will come out of retirement to turn the team ar... SLAP!
What if we picked up Felix Potvin and he played like he did when he was a rook... SLAP!
I agree... sigh...Man this is gonna be a rough week for us Leafs fans.
Jameso said...

....But back to the point, who has faith that anyone in head office has a clue how to rebuild a team? For the last decade, we've been living year-by-year, unable to commit to the future because we need Leetch! Now! Because this might be The Year!So now that that's clearly not the case, does some dormant brain-trust emerge from their icy caskets and go about planning a sleek young team? Do we still have scouts somewhere other than Rangers games? Time to find out. And, to be fair, what youth the Leafs have, and have developed, is actually pretty good.
Additionally, this comment from Jameso is a good one; "Oh yeah--now that it looks like Hasek is recovered, and Emery is solid, do any Sens fans still think a deal might be made for a goalie? If not, what moves are more likely?"

I certainly don't think the focus should be on getting a marginally better tender than Emery. My biggest concern is down the middle but I would not give up Vermette, or either of Volchenkov or Mezaros. Would I be worried about going into the playoffs with Spezza, Smolinski, Fisher, and Kelly as our four centres? Slightly.

Also - don't forget that Havlat is expected back in a couple of weeks as well which will give him some time to get back into game shape.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Quinn Countdown

Will tonights HNIC game be Quinn's last as the head coach of the Leafs?

If they get embarrassed at home can JFJ continue with the coach that runs this 11th place team?

Friday, March 03, 2006


By The Meatriarchy

Ecklund says that McCabe will re-sign with the Leafs over the weekend for four more years.

Hockey Leaks says that Calgary is interested in Tucker.

There is also talk that Ottawa might be interested in Ranger Goalie Kevin Weekes.

The trade deadline is now 6 days away but I don't think it will be as trade heavy as years gone by. For some reason I have this feeling that the salary cap will dampen some of the activity.

However I could be wrong. Post any rumours you hear in the comments.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

One week to the trade deadline

To add onto the last post, here's an open post for people to speculate what the Leafs and Sens will do at the deadline.

As the Hasek Crotch Watch (hattip to the Team 1200) continues will Muckler add an experienced goalie? Will he pick up a center?

Will JFJ make some major changes - can he?

UPDATE: To help prime the pump, here's some bits from McKenzie's column:
8) As teams phone to inquire about Keith Tkachuk in St. Louis and Ed Belfour in Toronto, and teams are calling on both, something to keep in mind; they have no-trade clauses and what they will no doubt want to waive those is a commitment to pick up their club options next season, which for Belfour is $4.84 million and for Tkachuk, $3.8 million in actual salary but $5.7 against the cap.
2) If, however, Jokinen is going to be dealt by the Panthers, the Ottawa Senators will be at the front of the line to get him, but they won't be parting with, as rumoured, Anton Volchenkov or any other blue chipper off their roster. A Jokinen deal will be done for draft picks, some high drafts picks and perhaps many draft picks, but just draft picks.
1) The Ottawa Senators may be the best team in the NHL and GM John Muckler says publicly he won't be disappointed if he goes into the playoffs with his current lineup, but that isn't stopping him from burning up the phone lines in search of a veteran backup for Dominik Hasek but more importantly a front-line forward with size and grit, like Jokinen or Vancouver's Todd Bertuzzi or any impact player who can help get the Senators over the Stanley Cup hump.
Bertuzzi? Discuss.

The Untouchables

By The Meatriarchy

According to the Star here are the players that won't be dealt at the deadline:

If McCabe does sign, he would be one of seven Leaf untouchables at the deadline, according to sources. That group includes Kyle Wellwood, Alex Steen, Mats Sundin, Alex Ponikarovsky, Darcy Tucker and Kaberle.

That was the last paragraph from an article entitled "Leafs might trade McCabe" The Star looked at McCabe, realized he is a free agent at the end of the year, assumed he will ask for more money than the Leafs can pay and came to the conclusion that he might be traded.

Logical. In fact most Leaf fans continually look at their team and make assumptions as to who might be likely to be moved based on criteria similar to that.

Except when Leaf fans do it the local sports media calls them idiots. When reporters for the Star do it, it makes the front page of the sports section.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Welcome back to NHL play

We'll see tonight whether the Sens return to action is as successful as the return of Lindros and the rest of the Leafs.

And worthy of quoting was Strachan's last line today:
And Mats Sundin? Don't ask. He showed the effects of his Olympic gold-medal celebrations.
But who can blame him? He's not likely to get the opportunity to do any celebrating with the Leafs.