Archive for February, 2012

How low can Maple Leafs go?

- February 29th, 2012

Of all of the questions surrounding the Maple Leafs, there’s one now that should scare the diehard followers more than any other.
How low will they go?
Not quite a month ago, the Leafs were in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. They had just lost against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a shootout and a night later, on Feb. 1 in Toronto, they beat the Penguins 1-0. In their next game, they beat the Ottawa Senators 5-0 in Canada’s capital. They then came home and crunched the Edmonton Oilers at the Air Canada Centre on Feb. 6 in their most recent regulation win.
They’ve won one game since then. They’ve got three — three! — of a possible 20 points in going 1-8-1, including a 5-3 loss against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.
In the past 10 games, the Leafs have the worst record in the National Hockey League. Next up is a game in Chicago on Wednesday night against the Blackhawks.
Despite the losses that pile up, the Leafs have dropped only three spots in the standings (they flirted with seventh place a couple of times, most recently on Feb. 9).
But one of the hardest feats to accomplish is passing those teams above you. Now, you need other teams to lose. That’s not a safe position to be in.
The Leafs, in 10th, are four points out of a playoff spot and have to climb past the Winnipeg Jets, who are in ninth. The Tampa Bay Lightning, given up for dead, are one point behind the Leafs.
Nineteen games to go. The hole gets any deeper, and the Leafs, as they have every year since 2004, will be getting a crack at their golf games before 16 other NHL teams.
In other words, same old, same old.

Grabovski’s agent not worried about contract talks

- February 26th, 2012

With less than a day before the NHL trade deadline comes at 3 p.m. on Monday, the agent for Mikhail Grabovski reiterated that his client wants to stay in Toronto.
“I will do everything to sign with the Maple Leafs,” Gary Greenstin said during a telephone interview on Sunday afternoon. “For Grabo, it has to be right. I’m positive we will make a deal and he will stay in Toronto. He’s not worried and I’m not worried.”
Greenstin refused to confirm that Grabovski wants $5 million US a season on a long-term deal. The 28-year-old Grabovski is making $3.1 million US (with a $2.9-million salary cap hit) this season and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Grabovski is third in Leafs scoring with 40 points (18 goals and 22 assists) in 56 games this season.
In all likelihood, if Leafs general manager Brian Burke decides to trade Grabovski on Monday, he could land a first-round pick in return.
Burke refused an interview request on Sunday and the Leafs players had the day off.

Can anything be saved?

- February 26th, 2012

Pucks.

The season.

Jobs and reputations.

Can anything be saved from this suddenly disastrous Maple Leafs season?

Monday’s trade deadline can’t come soon enough if Leafs coach Ron Wilson is to be believed. After Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Washington – the Leafs’ fourth in a row and eighth of their past nine – the coach said the deadline rumours are affecting his team’s play. Not sure I buy that as a legitimate excuse for highly paid professional athletes who welcome the attention when winning, but Wilson put it out there.

Over the next 24 hours, the pressure squarely rests with general manager Brian Burke, doesn’t it? Doesn’t he need to pull off some sort of a deal to change the suddenly sour atmosphere around the team? The Leafs exec I spoke with Saturday night said that might be easier said than done given the temperature of the trade market. Safe to say all in the Leafs management circle will hoping that begins to ease as Sunday heads into Monday.

Will a trade save the season? If you’ve winced your way through the current slide, you’ll recognize it will take much more than that, but how could it hurt?

And finally, when it comes to saves on the ice, we leave you with this excerpt from Wilson’s post-game press conference on Saturday. It was a brutally honest answer and perhaps one final message to his bosses as the trade-deadline shopping intensifies.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to get a save here and there and we will be in good shape,” Wilson said. “We were in good shape before. The last two or three weeks, we’ve had trouble keeping the puck out of our net.”

Bye, Bye Boyce, Hello Ovie

- February 25th, 2012

The Columbus Blue Jackets have acquired a Maple Leaf and it had nothing to do with a trade or Rick Nash.

Forward Darryl Boyce, placed on waivers by the Leafs on Friday, was claimed by the Jackets ending the P.E.I. native’s time in Toronto where he alternated between the NHL team and the Marlies. A hard-working and useful fourth-liner, the Leafs knew they were at risk placing him on waivers, a moved probably designed to clear cap and roster space should any other transactions take place.

While Boyce heads out of town, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are the guests at the Air Canada Centre tonight and given the recent form of both teams, who knows what to expect?

The Caps figure to be a tad weary after Friday night’s home game,  a 4-1 win over Montreal. On the other hand, snapping out of their own funk might be the wakeup call Washington needs to get back in the playoff chase. Ovechkin, who had missed a couple of games due to injury, returned on Friday and scored his 25th of the season.

A couple of other reasons why the Caps might be dangerous. If they have any pride, they’ll be looking to avenge the 7-1 thumping they took from the Leafs earlier in the season. Also, Ovechkin is a proven Leafs killer, scoring 40 points in 25 games between the two teams. The once Great Eight also has had a knack of shining in the Hockey Night in Canada spotlight.

Leafs slip into 10th as Caps beat Habs

- February 24th, 2012

The Maple Leafs have always disliked the Montreal Canadiens.
That sentiment did not change on Friday night.
The Habs, last in the Eastern Conference, could not do the Leafs a favour and beat the Washington Capitals.
With a 4-1 victory against the Canadiens, the Capitals improved to 65 points, drawing them even with Toronto.
But because Washington has one more win, 30 to the Leafs’ 29, in the same amount of games (61), the Caps moved into ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Leafs are in 10th. In eighth are the Florida Panthers with 66 points.
So, yes, it shapes up to be a rather large game between the Leafs and Capitals on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.
And beware Alex Ovechkin. He might not be the player he once was (did he really fall off that far?), but had a vintage Ovechkin goal when he one-timed a slapshot past Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
An interested Ovechkin could give the Leafs trouble on Saturday night. That’s the last thing the struggling Leafs need.