The Return of Optimus Reim

February 5, 2012

Coming into this season, James Reimer was thought to be the Leaf’s best chance at ending their post-season drought.  The fans had affectionately named him Optimus Reim, reasoning that his performance had ‘transformed’ the blue and white into a far better hockey club.  On top of that, he seems to have a natural and contagious sense of optimism about him – always smiling, and always positive.

That all changed when Brian Gionta leapt across Reimer’s crease and elbowed him in the head, causing him to suffer from whiplash-like symptoms for six-eight weeks.  The real damage though, was to Reimer’s confidence.  Having lost the reigns of the team to Jonas Gustavsson, and struggling to return to game-shape in the wake of what may or may not have been a concussion, Leaf fans began to get fed up with Reimer’s “aw gee shucks” demeanor and ability to brush aside losses. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Realignment Means for the Leafs

December 6, 2011

Tomas Vokoun Nikolai Kulemin #41 of the Toronto Maple Leafs shoots on Tomas Vokoun #29 of the Florida Panthers during game action January 5, 2010 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

When I first heard about the potential for the NHL to move to the 4-conference format, my initial thought was that this would be a win for the Maple Leafs.  After all, now the Leafs will only have to best three teams to make the playoffs.  Currently, the Leafs would be sitting in 3rd place in their Conference though, which is a little more tenuous than a Leaf fan might have hoped for.  Long term, there are some issues that could dramatically effect the Leafs and their new Conference.

First of all, one needs to look at the young cores that these conference rivals are currently establishing.  The current rosters don’t tell us much, and perhaps give Leaf fans a false sense of hope that making the post-season each year will be easy from here on out.  It would be a little more prudent to look 2-3 year down the road at what kind of teams we might be running into then.  Keep in mind though, it’s impossible to take into account the draft selections these clubs might make this year or next.  While we can assume that those players will take a long 3-5 year road to the NHL, like 95% of all prospects, the potential to pick up a Jeff Skinner could dramatically alter the playing field.  As it stands though, these are the young cores the Leafs and their competition are moving forward with: Read the rest of this entry »


Prediction Time: Pacific Division, Pt. 1

September 24, 2011

He's Back For One More Year...

Teemu Selanne was not about to miss his chance at reliving his glory days.  After all, it was in Winnipeg where Selanne set one of the must remarkable NHL records in history.  Sure, Gretzky has pretty much everything else locked down, but it is highly unlikely that another player will ever score 76 goals in his rookie campaign.  Selanne shattered the previous record of 52, held by Mike Bossy, and forever became a part of the fabric of hockey in Winnipeg.  He is universally beloved in the Peg, and I would expect his ovation on December 16th inside the MTS Center, will be rivaled only by the home-opener.  The Finnish Flash is back, and that should have an enormous impact on the Pacific Division.

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Prediction Time: South East Division, pt. 2

September 2, 2011

Ovechkin For the Win (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

3.) Washington Capitals

Just as the Penguins are the class of their division, Ovechkin and his Capitals are far and away the best team in the South East.  Somewhat scarily, the Capitals improved considerably this off-season.  They added Joel Ward, who was a playoff hero for the Nashville Predators this year.  They added Troy Brouwer, who has a Cup ring and has provided consistent physical and scoring support for all three top lines in Chicago the past few seasons.  They added former 1st overall pick and savy veteran Roman Hamrlik to their back-end.  And perhaps most importantly, they added Tomas Vokoun to their stable of netminders.  All this, and manager George McPhee may have also pulled off the trade of the summer by cashing in a 1st and 2nd round pick for youngster Semyeon Varlamov.  Time will tell, but those picks could be in the lottery area if last year was any indication of the direction the Avs are headed in.    Read the rest of this entry »


How Far Out Are The Leafs?

July 18, 2011

Top Line Left Wing

Joffrey Lupul Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs

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 »