Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Marlies set for game three

Photo courtesy of www.marlies.ca

Clayton Theriault
Staff Writer

When someone is talking about sports and they bring up the city of Toronto what team do you usually think of first? Without hesitation most people would say the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, after a disappointing season where the Leafs failed to make the playoffs yet again, the attention should be on the Toronto Marlies. Over the last three seasons they have finished first in the American Hockey League's North Division and have finished with 96 points all three years. Every Maple Leafs fan should be watching this team.

After a disappointing Calder Cup Finals loss on a botched offside call by the officials in 2012 and a disappointing second round exit last year, the Marlies are hoping this is their year to win it all. After posting a regular season record of 45-25-2-4, they went into this year's playoffs as the third seed in the AHL's Western Conference. Their opponent; the Milwaukee Admirals. Through two games of the quarterfinal match-up, the Marlies have a 2-0 stranglehold on the opening round five game series. This was thanks to solid performances by Sam Carrick, Brandon Kozun and Jerry D'amigo. Drew Mcyntire posted a 2.00 GAA and a 0.933 SV% over those two games.

The Marlies hope to close out the series on Thursday which would give them a well deserved rest for the second round. Puckdrop for Game 3 is set for 7 p.m. at Ricoh Coliseum. If necessary games four and five will be played on Saturday May 3 and Sunday May 4 at 3 p.m.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The road less traveled

Justin Smith

With Brendan Shanahan set to take over the reins in Leaf land, what exactly will be in store for the franchise going forward?

Shanahan has the tangibles of a winner on almost every level, and that is probably the main reason Leiweke decided to bring him in. To me though, the single most important aspect of this new hiring is simply that he is a new set of eyes to evaluate this sinking ship of a team. Take into account the amount of possible candidates for blame spreading like a rampant forest-fire; perhaps he can provide a little perspective to a management staff that has no clue how to deal with this.

Now I have also evaluated the situation and it has lead me to the one thing this franchise has avoided like the plague for some reason. Not once have I seen a true commitment to taking the slow route, and building through the draft. I know there are many who will say that it is unfeasible to do that now because of the players the team currently has under contract, like Kessel. There also is the issue of the 100th anniversary in a couple of years that will surely be wasted with a losing season.

But logic aside a second, what if Shanahan looks at this team and decides that a 'true' rebuild is the way to go? I'm not sure how he would even pull it off considering the amount of players you would have to ship out just to be THAT bad. I can't say I would be totally heart broken about him deciding over the summer to just blow up the team and start drafting at the top for a change. It definitely would be a change because lets face it, the Leafs aren't exactly the envy of teams when it comes to prospective players. And to that end, what is a better time to do it then next season?

So the first move he would likely make is to fire the coach and maybe even the GM. Next, Shanahan would want to hire a coach that can coach young talent and essentially grow with the team. If you're lost on that fact, just think of what the Oilers did by wooing Dallas Eakins. Funny thing is, the second the Leafs hired Carlyle I knew it was going to be a mistake. Eakins should have been the coach of the Leafs last season and trust me the players would be better for it. But I don't want to get in to that right now because I could write another three articles about that alone.

Next you probably would trade your most valuable players to get the highest return in prospects and picks. Now of course you have already made a list of maybe five or six players that you feel can grow with the team. Likely Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel would be the two you would look to move for maximum return of assets. Get rid of your older/overpaid d-men, and promote some of the Marlies you have stewing in the minors, like Carter Ashton.

"But Justin, why would you do all of this knowing you just traded for a 24-year-old Jonathan Bernier?"

Two reasons:

1. You ACTUALLY want to change this team.

2. Who is to say that with J. Bernier these younger players can't have a bit of success? Look at how young the Avalanche are and they have been on fire for the entire season. Hockey media had them drafting top 5 in this years draft. Amazing what a new coach and steady goal-tending does for a team. Granted they have some pretty remarkable players, but they are very YOUNG players. Who is to say if you have a couple of good drafts, re-sign a now 26-year-old Bernier, that you can't make the playoffs?

All I am suggesting is that maybe Brendan Shanahan comes in and looks at what HASN'T been done yet. If you are to assume that is what he will do, it is conceivable to assume he will point to a proper rebuild.

Is it probable, no.

Will he likely do it, probably not.
It's a bit too difficult at this stage and maybe a bit too logical at the same time.

I just think it is kind of funny how everyone wants to put in their two cents as to why the Leafs don't have those go-to guys on the roster. Or maybe suggest who gets fired this off-season after another pathetic end-of-season collapse.

Perhaps it is time for this organization to stop delaying the inevitable and take the road less traveled for once. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Who needs talent?

Justin Smith

Judging by the last post on the Review, it seems I was not alone in thinking that the Leafs had nowhere to go but up, just three short weeks ago.

How sad it is for me to write this, that this team could go in the wrong direction so fast. The Leafs were third in their division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. The key word here is 'were' and for fans it is the third time in as many years they have had to endure a collapse from this team one way or another.

That is not what this post is about though, frankly the topic has been over discussed over the last week. There needs to be some realism brought to the situation going forward though. With growing speculation on who is staying and who is gone, the guesses get more ridiculous each passing day.

Why are there so many people so keen on having Dave Nonis ship Nazem Kadri out of town as fast as possible? How can these people logistically defend their position of trading him. I only say so because to me the thought of seeing Kadri traded seems ludicrous.

Yes the Leafs have had a bad season, and it has only gotten worse as the campaign has wore on. Defensively they were never good, at all, ever. If you thought they were, then you were watching the team through rose-coloured glasses this season. The fact the team had no ability in the least to play defence is not a good enough reason for me to trade my second-line centre. For clarification, Kadri is 23-years-old and is very capable of being a two-way scoring centre. How do I now this? Just look at the stats from last year. Kadri was second only to Mark Fraser (defenceman) in +/- through the shortened season.

"But Justin, the whole team was playing better defensively, so obviously that stat is a bit over-exaggerated."


Would you like to know Mikhail Grabovski's +/-? (-10)
How about Dion Phaneuf's? (-4)
Phil Kessel? (-3)
James van Reimsdyk? (-7)

Oh wait, what about the one guy that seems to be standing in Kadri's way? I bet Tyler Bozak was better defensively last season right? Nope. (-1)

My point is simply that in a half-season that was widely considered successful for the team, only one forward reached double-digits in +/-. So to all of those people saying he is a defensive liability, he isn't. As a matter of fact, one could argue that the team played as well as they did because of Kadri's improved play. It sure wasn't Kessel or JVR who brought that defensive part to the game. Aren't they supposed to be untouchable because they are so important to the team? If that truly is the case, then I think it's about time the fans and media alike start thinking of Kadri in that same light. This season was pretty horrible to watch at times; is it so incomprehensible that Kadri 'ONLY' was able to score 50 points in his first full year as a Leaf?

In order to play devils advocate, I am willing entertain possible trade scenarios for those of you who are utterly convinced it will happen

What return would you want?

        - Nazem Kadri, Carter Ashton and a first round pick in 2014.


          Kevin Bieksa, a second round pick in 2014

That is literally the best trade scenario I could come up with, and I still wouldn't do it if I'm the Leafs. Heck, I don't think I would even do it if I'm the Canucks. Assuming of course that this 'IS' the deal, the Leafs get their 'D' man. Here's the problem though, who is going to play centre? Bolland?

Not at 5.25 million dollars a season and certainly not for seven more years. Has it been so long already that we forgot the value a delusional Nonis put on Clarkson before considering what he is on THIS team.

So let me get this straight:

1. You want Bozak as your number one centre, with nobody who potentially could step up in a few years, waiting behind him?

2. You also want to replace the second-line centre position with an injury prone soon-to be 30 year-old centre; who has never been anything other than a third liner in his professional career.

Sounds like bad business to me.

My point, subtle or not folks, is to not trade Nazem Kadri for anything.
In closing I have only two words for unconvinced readers:

Alexander Steen...

or if you need a little more heartache...

Tuukka Rask