Posted January 17, 2013 on
AP on Fox
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Canadian Press Like the surprise in the Cracker Jack box, no one's too sure what you'll get with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.
Fans just hope it's better than the year before. And the year before that. And the year before that.
But the signs aren't too promising. General manager Brian Burke is gone. Goaltender Roberto Luongo hasn't arrived. And there have been minimal changes to the team that went 35-37-10 and finished 13th in the East.
Toronto won just 10 of 33 games after the All-Star break.
James van Riemsdyk came over from the Flyers in a June trade that reunited defenseman Luke Schenn with younger brother Brayden in Philadelphia. Matthew Lombardi has been shipped to Phoenix.
''Well that's what we're going to find out,'' captain Dion Phaneuf said when asked if he has a sense of how good the Maple Leafs might be. ''We're working towards getting off to a good start.
''I think we've been putting in a lot of good work here. I think our team looks good on the ice. The speed of our practices, the speed of the (Wednesday's scrimmage) was an up-tempo style that we want to play. It's going to start really quick. Saturday night comes very fast. So we're looking forward to it.''
Coach Randy Carlyle needs to repair a porous defense, first and foremost. Toronto finished 29th in the league last season in goals against (264). Only Tampa Bay (281) was worse.
Perhaps the good news is the once-proud franchise can only get better after a season with ended with a public apology from the owners.
''We have fallen short of everyone's expectations, and for that we are sorry,'' Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment said in a newspaper ad. ''We take full responsibility for how this team performs on the ice and we make no excuses.''
And yet still Toronto fans come.
While the Florida Panthers offer $7-a-seat season tickets, the Maple Leafs' website offers a ''Join the Waiting List'' tab in its ticket section. The price of a discounted Panthers ticket probably won't get you a beverage at Air Canada Centre.
And while Carlyle looks to up the intensity and focus on the ice, he is also trying his best to change the culture of a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2003-04. Carlyle took over the slumping team on March 3 with 18 games left last season after Burke fired Ron Wilson in the midst of a 1-9-1 run.
''This is akin to an 18-wheeler going off a cliff,'' the then-GM said of the team's descent in the standings in announcing the coaching change.
Carlyle debuted in Montreal with a 3-1 win, but the Leafs lost their next five games and the new coach finished with a 6-9-3 record.
This time around, the lockout has robbed Carlyle of valuable time to work with his team. But the new regime is working hard to make changes, and vows to be ready this weekend.
Slogans such as ''Mental Durability,'' ''Make Today Count,'' and ''Burn the Boats'' adorn the Maple Leafs' dressing room at their practice facility. Carlyle declined to detail the story behind ''Burn the Boats,'' saying some things should remain in the dressing room.
''We believe that there are some things that we can always refer back to,'' Carlyle said. ''And when you start trying to build a culture, we're not any different than anybody else, there are power of positive thinking (tools), there are things that you try to do to bring the group back when adversity strikes.''
But goalie James Reimer spilled the beans in an interview with TSN radio.
''(Carlyle) had a story about people crossing the sea to take the treasure,'' Reimer said. ''When they got there, they burned their boats so they either had to take their treasure or die. That's what `Burn the Boats' means.''
Reimer, whose season was derailed by a head injury last year, and Ben Scrivens are the goaltending options, while fans debate the merits of adding Luongo - and whether Dave Nonis taking over for Burke as GM may ease trade negotiations with the Canucks.
Reimer is healthy again, but Scrivens has the advantage of being in midseason form after playing in the AHL.
Up front, the team will look to familiar faces in Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul to provide offense, and there are high expectations for van Riemsdyk, who fell out of favor in Philadelphia.
Van Riemsdyk had 11 goals and 24 points in his final season as a Flyer.
''The bottom line is we've got to - as a team - put a better product on the ice,'' Phaneuf said, ''and play better as a group.''
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
When I look at the Toronto Maple Leafs roster, I not too impressed. Sure you got the likes of Phil Kessel , Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, but that where it basically ends. There are no big superstars like Sidney Crosby or Steve Stamkos. In fact, their one top scorer, Mikhail Grabovski, is probably not well known outside the city of Toronto. In this article, I will point...
Earlier today I wrote a post about Tim Connolly and his offensive production at even strength. Shortly after posting that I thought a similar article comparing the performances of Bozak, Kadri and Conolly would be an interesting piece since they are sort of competing for roster spots (more so Kadri and Connolly than Bozak though). Of course, in the mean time Connolly
For years, Brian Burke pushed off the idea of the rebuild the Maple Leafs have desperately needed since Lockout II. Rather, Burke tried to make-over the Leafs with toughness and grit while adding Phil Kessel and pleasant surprise Joffrey Lupul to boost the Leafs' scoring.
Yet last week when Burke was shown the door in favor of new general manager Dave Nonis, the Leafs still...
Phoenix Acquires Matthew Lombardi for a 4th round pick.
We continue the trend of going back to the old days. Lombardi had his best season in Phoenix. He practiced here too and Elliot Friedman pondered if this move would be made a week ago. So here it is. Like the previous deal with Lombardi, this one comes with a question mark, itâs a 4th round pick or a 3rd if he signs with...
Yesterday evening James Mirtle from the Globe and Mail posted an article on The Curious case of Tim Connolly and the Leafs. It’s worth a read so go read it but the premise of the article is how the narrative around Tim Connolly in training camp is he had a poor year last year and he needs to perform better
The Toronto Maple Leafs must cut down from the 27 players currently on their training camp roster down to 23 before 3PM today. Coach Randy Carlyle has a few difficult decisions in front of him and depending on the way he goes, the organization could lose some valuable depth on the waiver wire.
The goaltending duo of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens is set, but the club has to get...
In a shortened season, anything is possible. With only 48 games standing between every team and the beginning of the NHL playoffs, a single hot or cold streak could be the difference between a chance at the Stanley Cup or a long summer waiting for next year.
Even in a sprint to the finish, however, talent matters. That’s why the usual suspects (like the Bruins, Penguins and Blackhawks...
Per TSN's Darren Dreger tweet from a few minutes ago, the Leafs have decided to place forward Tim Connolly on waivers.
Connolly did not suit up for the Leafs open practice at the ACC this morning.
This is likely the Leafs being proactive, opening up roster spots and using one of their two compliance buyouts, as New York did with defenseman Wade Redden and Montreal did...
Center Matthew Lombardi has been traded back to the Phoenix Coyotes from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday in exchange for a conditional draft pick. The draft pick could be as high as a 2014 fourth-rounder while the Maple Leafs will retain some of his salary. The deal gives the Coyotes depth at a position where they were lacking -- with a player whom the team knows well. In...
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis appeared on Team 1040 Radio in Vancouver on Friday and talked about the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team reportedly interested in Luongo and what he feels was their attempt to manipulate the market for the veteran goalie.
When asked to address the possibility that the team was looking for too much in return for Luongo, Gillis fired...
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Toronto's goaltending issues last season were well-documented -- the Leafs were 29th in goals against -- and while Nonis professes to be a believer inJames Reimer and Ben Scrivens, it's clear the new GM has been doing his homework and is ready to act if a deal presented itself.
"We would upgrade our goaltending by the weekend if...
It’s tough to think that Bruins fans may need extra or added reasons to watch the Bruins now that hockey is back. Just seeing the game back on ice across the continent will be good enough for many.
But if for some reason you need a little extra motivation or added incentive, here’s one reason (there are plenty more) to watch every single Bruins game this season, starting with...
Now it’s time to look at the very interesting Northwest Division #1. Vancouver Canucks- Put aside the Roberto Luongo fiasco, this is still an elite squad. Led by the Sedin twins up front, there aren’t many better pairings in the NHL. Now there are injury problems. David Booth is out 4-6 weeks, and there is concern about Ryan Kesler, and [...]
Hockey is here again
This year’s Vancouver Canucks are very similar to the team we witnessed fall to the LA Kings last April. While the lockout has changed the landscape of the 2013 season significantly, the core personnel in Vancouver remain the same.
My predictions this season are on the conservative side due to the uncertainty at play, but know I’m sure to look like a fool...