Top Line Center
Going into this offseason the Leafs had but one major hole in their roster. They had many areas of concern, but only one that fans and media alike felt was going to be critical to the team’s success in the 2012 season. The Leafs needed a top line center, and Brad Richards was the target. However, Richards chose to rejoin his favorite coach and collect a cap circumventing payday in New York. It was a fair choice and the Rangers were long considered the favorites to acquire his services. Luckily, the Leafs had a backup plan in place. Tim Connolly had been informed that were the Leafs to fail in their pursuit of Richards, they would indeed offer him a contract. Connolly had multiple offers on the table, but put them all on hold with the hope of becoming a Maple Leaf.
Top Line Left Wing
In this series of blogs/articles, I intend to take a detailed look at where exactly the Leafs are compared to where they need to be immediately, and where they want to get eventually. The short term goal is to make the playoffs, and squeeze into at least the 8th seed. The team needs to end the losing, and get the youngest crew in the league some playoff experience. Long term, Burke obviously intends to bring the Stanley Cup to Toronto and erase the 45 year drought. Position by position, I will breakdown the Leafs current status relative to their competition in the cap era.
The first position we’re going to examine is that of top line left wing. This could end up being quite a contentious issue, as it may be somewhat of a mystery who the Leafs even put in this position. Burke claims that any line with Phil Kessel on it is unquestionably the top line. That would make Joffrey Lupul the top line left winger. However, the success of the MacArthur, Grabovski and Kulemin line cannot be overlooked. In reality, they were the team’s top line last season. In fact, they formed one of the most successful and productive lines in the entire league. Only the Henrik Sedin line in Vancouver out-produced them (although the Getzlaf line would have if not for injuries breaking up the trio for extended periods of time). So while who fills this spot may be up for debate, this article will take Burke at his word, and slot Joffrey Lupul into this position. Read the rest of this entry »
The Aaron Rome story dominated the NHL headlines today. The NHL made a controversial ruling and elected to suspend Rome for the duration of the playoffs. While the hit appeared late, video evidence shows that there was less than a full second between the time the puck leaves Horton’s stick, and the time Rome makes contact with him. No one is happy about the outcome of the hit, but it’s hard to deny that a decade ago, Scott Stevens was making a living by crushing people in a similar manner. Rather than facing suspensions, he was hailed as a champion in the league, and eventually retired into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Is the double standard too obvious in the NHL, or was this suspension right on the money? Read the rest of this entry »
Sports outlets everywhere confirmed yesterday that the Dallas Stars will not offer Brad Richards a contract extension. The ownership issues will not be settled in time for Joe Nieuwendyk to offer his star center any money. While an ownership group is in place, they are essentially in line behind Mark Chipman and Dave Thomson to get approval from the NHL Board of Governors. On June 21st they will vote on the True North Sports and Entertainment group, and will not make any decisions about the Dallas group. Tough luck for the Stars, but one team’s loss is another team’s gain. Read the rest of this entry »
Puck Moving ‘D’ Part 3: Trade Options Cont’d….
Now for the (not-so) thrilling conclusion to my blog series on the Leafs trade targets on the back end. The following are (in my opinion), the top two options Burke will pursue over the coming months if indeed he does go the trade route:
2.) Brent Burns
Dion Phaneuf’s stalwart partner at the World Championship has played with the captain before. That’s the same kind of sentiment we heard from free agents Clarke MacArthur and Colby Armstrong shortly after they were acquired. It seems there is a spot reserved on the bench for ‘friends of Dion’. So far, that hasn’t been a bad thing. MacArthur had a career year in the blue and white, while Colby Armstrong had an injury-laden year. Still, Armstrong became a key part of the club – a heart and soul player whose absences were blatantly obvious. Of course, Burns also brings huge offensive potential to the back end. He is a big man, who would make the Leafs top four one of the largest and most intimidating in the league. His versatility alone is a huge asset that makes him very reminscient of Dustin Byfuglien in that regard. Read the rest of this entry »