Sunday, November 27, 2011

Some Hockey Talk

The Leafs sent Rick Dudley to scout a game between Florida and Tampa Bay last week. I find this little tidbit fascinating. Naturally, teams scout other teams on a consistent basis, to keep track of systems and players, habits, inconsistencies and whatnot. Looking at the upcoming schedule, the Leafs don't play either of these teams for at least a month, in Florida on Dec. 27th and home to Tampa on Jan. 3rd. It seems a touch odd to see the Leafs scout this team so far ahead of either game, given how much can change in a month. My sense is that there are specific players being scouted with respect to the possibility of a trade. But who those players may be is where it gets baffling. Tampa is considered to be relatively weak on D, especially since Matthias Ohlund went down very early in the season, but Ohlund is practicing with the team again, and will return in the not too distant future. Meanwhile Florida has nearly completely restructured in the last 12 months, and the results are nothing short of phenomenal. The Panthers sit 3rd in the East, and first in a division boasting Washington and Tampa Bay. Interesting times.

Two coaches were fired and replaced today with two former players who are first time head coaches in the NHL. The Boudreau firing was foretold the night he and Alexander Ovechkin chirped each other on the bench. Statistically, there are maybe only 2 current NHLers in the league currently that can rival Ovie's skill level, and maybe 30 players historically. You cannot trade Alexander Ovechkin and ever receive fair market value for him. If someone had to go, and someone did, it was going to be Bruce Boudreau. We've not seen the last of him though. Paul Maurice's firing caught me by surprise a bit, I will admit. Carolina is an enigma to me, front-office wise, in the same way Calgary is. They seem content with rosters that frighten their fanbases. The Hurricanes are littered with ex-Leafs in a scene lifted from "Hoarders". There was no issue there between coach and players, however, and this group, or one very similar to it, has done damage in the playoffs, thanks to great goaltending. This group needs a roster shake-up more than it needed a new head coach, but it probably needed this as well.  Dale Hunter takes over a talented Capitals team and should make an immediate impact simply for not being Boudreau. I foresee a near immediate resurgence of the Great #8. I wish luck to to Kirk Muller, though,  and I hope he and Jim Rutherford have a good working relationship, because this is a team in need of some roster correction, and that isn't something Muller can fix on his own.

Lastly, Bobby Ryan is on the trade-watch radar. Some say he is being shopped by Anaheim, others claiming Anaheim is simple more seriously considering offers made for the 6'2, 216 lb, 24-year-old forward. He is a perennial 30 goal scorer, and some believe he could flirt with 50 a year. He is a left-winger by trade, though he has spent some time at centre, to diminishing degrees of success. It's relatively certain that Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf would be untouchable on the current roster, and Koivu and Selanne are the walking dead. Nobody would want Hagman or Blake, and Cogliano is one of the only young pieces they have moving forward. They are top-heavy, need greater depth, and they need to move an expensive piece for some cheaper pieces who are greater by volume.

It's interesting to Leaf fans because Burke drafted this player and is known to covet his own projects. Certainly Ryan would be a boon to this lineup. However, the thought is that Anaheim wants young talent in return, with likely a prospect and/or a draft pick. I'd say a package of 3-4 players would be a sufficent return to make the deal happen. Toronto is also pretty stacked in young talent, and has surplus in every area, top-six, bottom-six, defence and goal.  These two teams could easily make a deal, but I'm sure Bob Murray is feeling the sting of the Beauchemin trade, regardless of how good Francois has been for them. I'd imaging Murray will play hard-ball with Burke, and I don't think Burke will bite. Burke has the pieces to make this deal, a centre, a defender, and any two of a prospect, a draft pick and a bottom-sixer. If Burke can live with the deal, it'll get done, but I wouldn't hold your breath.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Revival

So I've decided to resurrect the old blog. Why? Because I have enough time to write, occasionally, and because I am being encouraged to write by my family. I'm going to start off slow, and not totally Leaf-centric.

Speaking of the Boys in Blue, terrific game in Tampa Tuesday night. I'm happy for Gustavsson, because I see him as a truly capable keeper who is subject to a lot of hate. Yes, his detractors will always shove his GAA and SV% in your face, but as I've pointed out,  he has never been able to get a consistent situation in which to learn and demonstrate consistency. Ablations, the rise of Reimer, Scrivens' skill all have victimized the career trajectory of this young keeper. I'm not about to proclaim Gus as starter material at this point, or perhaps ever, but I do believe Scrivens is best served starting for the Marlies, Reimer will be back and will regain his form, and Gustavsson will be given the opportunity to take ~25 starts this year and develop into a confident and consistent keeper. Any effort to bring in a veteran backup now will sap any semblance of confidence accrued to this point, and I don't foresee Burke doing that to the Goose just yet. I will admit that Jonas has a scant few opportunities left to fail and remain in the fold.

As predicted, injuries to the squad have created opportunities for the young prospects to shine, and shine they have. Matt Frattin has finally found the scoresheet, and looks every bit NHL ready. Jumbo Joe Colborne potted his first in big Blue, and has offered a tantalizing look at the future. I think if you throw Kadri on that line you have successfully concocted an explosive compound. I worry about keeping Kadri on the farm much longer. I sense that he is feeling as though he is being sent out to pasture. If the brass has no confidence in him, please move him along. A far better fate than he has earned thus far.

Lombardi seemingly needing surgery will offer the Leafs a bit of a reprieve from their musical chairs routine at C.  Too many players, not enough slots. Likewise with Komisarek's injury. There have been a lot of rumblings about a trade, perhaps Franson moving, perhaps Gunnarsson. Gardiner's rise certainly has left Franson as overstock, but I'm not certain that he'll be the one to move. The recent signing of Percy and having Aulie and Holzer on the farm indicate, to me at least, that perhaps more of a defensive defenceman is a trade piece. Phaneuf isn't going anywhere, I don't believe Komisarek is movable at this moment, and Lord help us if Gunnarsson is moved. That leaves Schenn. Now, before you call your hitman, hear me out. Schenn is a 22yr old 4 year vet, a punishing hitter, and an extremely valuable commodity. He has also struggled with his game this year, and though he is improving, he is also somewhat slow. To me, he just seems to be the most valuable trading piece on the back end, and his value to the team is at an all-time low. If this isn't the epitome of cashing in on value, I don't know what is. I'm not suggesting they should move him, and I'd miss him if they did, but he'd bring back something I'm sure we'd all love.

Lastly, Phil Kessel is an absolute BEAST this year. Good on ya Philthy Phil!