Leafs hire Mark Hunter as director of player personnel

- October 21st, 2014

The Maple Leafs have added an experienced, proven winner to their front office.
The Leafs on Tuesday morning announced the hiring of Mark Hunter as director of player personnel.
Hunter and his brother Dale Hunter acquired the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League in 2000 and built the club into one of the most successful franchises in the Canadian Hockey League.
“I’m very excited about joining the Toronto Maple Leafs organization,” Hunter said in a statement released by the Leafs. “I am grateful for the opportunity that has been given to me by Brendan Shanahan, David Nonis and the entire management team. I would like to thank the London Knights organization for 12 great years. I am looking forward to the start of a new chapter in Toronto.”
Hunter, who was the Knights’ vice-president and general manager, will oversee the Leafs’ pro scouting, amateur scouting and player evaluation departments.
It’s a solid hire by Toronto, as Hunter has earned a reputation in his time in London as an astute judge of hockey talent. What’s more, his experience in the game as a player, coach and general manager will bring an element to the Leafs’ front-office that was lacking after the off-season firings of Dave Poulin and Claude Loiselle.
A highlight of many for Hunter with the Knights was the 2004-05 season, when the team set 13 Ontario Hockey League records, going 59-7-2-0 and eventually winning the Memorial Cup on home ice.

Kozun’s future remains unclear

- October 18th, 2014

DETROIT — There was no immediate update on the status of Maple Leafs winger Brandon Kozun, who suffered a high ankle sprain against the Red Wings on Friday night.
Kozun did not make the trip to Detroit and had an MRI during the afternoon.
“Being Saturday, sometimes it takes a little bit more time to get these things read, so we have no update on Kozy at this point,” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said a couple of hours before the Leafs and Wings met at Joe Louis Arena.
Kozun averaged just eight minutes 54 seconds of ice time in his first five games in the National Hockey League, but with his speed, had proven to be an effective penalty killer.
“He sure has made a strong contribution on the PK,” Carlyle said. “He is going to be missed.”
Matt Frattin will take Kozun’s place in the lineup, while Peter Holland was tabbed to take some of Kozun’s penalty minutes.
It will be Frattin’s first game since the season opener.
“Injuries are a part of the game and here is an opportunity,” Frattin said. “I just have to take it in stride and play my game and play fast.
“I am excited. The nerves are good. I’m ready.”
Jonathan Bernier starts in goal for the Leafs. Ex-Leaf Jonas Gustavsson gets the call for the Wings.

Shanahan: Own the puck and bring some grit

- October 8th, 2014

No Colton Orr in the Maple Leafs’ opening lineup. Frazer McLaren also was sent to the Toronto Marlies.
Is too much being of the fact the Leafs won’t have an enforcer on the ice when they meet the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night?
“I think so,” Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said following the morning skate.
“I love tough hockey, I love tough hockey players, but for me grit is so much more than simply dropping your gloves.
“It is not an indictment on the players we sent down in any way. I have tremendous respect for those guys. We tried to focus on individuals that we thought would give us the best opportunity to win hockey games at this time. We said there were going to be jobs here earned, and we felt other people had earned them. As far as toughness and grit and being able to show that grit in different ways, it’s something I value and I think there are different ways to show that in a hockey game.”
For example?
“I would say speaking more generally, players that when a temperature of a game goes up, they don’t shrink,” Shanahan said. “It does not matter what your size is or where you are from, as temperature of a game goes up, it’s the players that relish that moment.”
Actually, the demotion of Orr and McLaren is an indictment of their level of ability, whether Shanahan is willing to acknowledge as much. Neither brought much to the Leafs with their gloves on, and barring injuries, it’s difficult to see them back with the big club soon.
As for the kind of team Shanahan envisions, well, it’s not hard to figure out.
“The puck is something we have to own a bit more,” Shanahan said. “There are teams built differently to own the puck. That’s the key to the game. Teams, whether they are big, tough dump and chase or skilled puckhandling team, everyone is looking to control the puck and control the game.”
And the Leafs’ identity?
“We have some hopes, but things like your identity are not something you say the afternoon of the home opener,” Shanahan said.
“It’s something you earn by going on the ice and establishing your identity. It is something we made very clear to our players. The opportunity is now for them to continue to write their story. That is done through play, done by going out and getting it done on the ice, nothing that is said in here.”
P.K. Subban interrupted a reporter when he was asked whether the spotlight will be any more intense because of the massive contract he signed in the summer.
“I don’t think it can get any bigger,” Subban said.
And so it goes for the Canadiens defenceman, who put his signature on an eight-year, $72-million US contract and with it took on increased responsibility. A leadership role, one that grew for several players in the Canadiens’ dressing room with the off-season departures of players such as Josh Gorges and captain Brian Gionta, is one that Subban accepts with open arms.
“I’m not going to speak on behalf of the team when it comes to myself individually,” Subban said. “I don’t think that is right, it’s not fair. But as a team I know we need to hold each other accountable to make sure we are all fulfilling our roles on this team and making sure we do what we can to help the team win.
“You can’t judge a team right from the first game. It’s a long season and teams change. We need to focus on our team, focus on what we can do and control and that is how we play. It starts tonight so we have to establish that.”

Birth of son put Clarkson in proper mindset

- September 26th, 2014

David Clarkson’s path back to respectability begins in Buffalo on Friday night.
“I can be better,” Clarkson said on Friday morning. “I know I can be. I have had a pretty good career so far and I have to get back to what I was doing.”
Clarkson had missed the Maple Leafs’ first four exhibition games with a lower-body injury.
His terrible 2013-14 season, his first with the Leafs after signing a seven-year, $36.75-million US contract, can’t be dissected any more than it has been. Clarkson doesn’t have to be reminded that he had just five goals and six assists in 60 games and was not a physical presence. He missed 22 games because of suspensions and injuries.
The birth of his son Colton on April 23 helped steer him in the right direction mentally.
“I was pretty down,” Clarkson said. “When you have a baby boy it picks you up. One of the proudest moments … it gave me a jump-start to get going again. It makes you realize what life is about.
“I have very supportive family and friends. I learned how close I am with them. Things are written or said, true or not, and it is hard to swallow.”

Leafs make first cuts; lineup for tonight

- September 22nd, 2014

The Maple Leafs have made their first round of cuts at training camp, with 10 players getting the bad news on Monday morning.
The Leafs sent seven players to the Toronto Marlies, including forwards Stefan Della Rovere, Brett Findlay, Spencer Machacek, Ryan Rupert, Francis Wathier and Patrick Watling, and defenceman Matt Finn.
Forwards Matt Rupert (London) and Carter Verhaeghe (Niagara) and defenceman Cody Donaghey (Quebec) have been returned to their respective junior teams.
With the cuts, the Leafs are down to 54 players in camp, including 32 forwards, 16 defencemen and six goaltenders.
The Leafs open their pre-season on Monday night in London against the Philadelphia Flyers. Toronto’s lines are expected to be as follows: David Booth-Nazem Kadri-Josh Leivo; Daniel Winnik-Peter Holland-Matt Frattin; Kyle McLaren-Sam Carrick-Troy Bodie; and Carter Ashton-Petri Kontiola-Tyler Biggs. Defence pairs include Stuart Percy and Petter Granberg; Morgan Rielly and Tom Nilsson; and Brendan Mikkelson and Korbinian Holzer.
Christopher Gibson and Cal Heeter will share the goaltending duties.
For the Flyers, veterans expected to play include goalie Steve Mason, defencemen Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz, and forwards Sean Couturier, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Zac Rinaldo and Wayne Simmonds.