Darren Dreger reported last night that the Toronto Maple Leafs have received an offer from an unidentified team for UFA to be, Mikhail Grabovski. He went on to say that the proposed deal included a second round pick and a prospect. Today, Dreger expanded upon the topic, noting that the prospect is currently at the AHL level. Everyone already knows my thoughts on dealing Grabovski, if not, you can read them here. There are many components the team should seek to add in order to become better, but subtracting Grabovski – at the price of a second round pick and a prospect – would set the team back in many ways. Unless the team has a deal to bring in another center immediately, they would probably be forced to call up Joe Colborne, unless they plan on promoting Matthew Lombardi or Darryl Boyce up in the lineup. Tim Connolly still has a year left on his deal, but his uninspiring play as of late has me hesitant to pencil him in any higher than the third line. To set the record straight, I don’t think the Leafs will pull the trigger on this deal. If they liked it, it would have been done already. It’s no secret Brian Burke and Grabovski’s agent are probably negotiating, but at this point we’re not privy to the negotiation status or direction. It’s at best a guessing game whether Grabovski will stay with the team, or if his demands will force him out. Right now, here’s where I think we are down the middle:
- Grabovski is our best center, but similar playing styles to Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul has him playing on a different line. Grabovski is a playmaker primarily, but can find the net if given the chance. He’s diligent defensively, and he checks effectively.
- Tyler Bozak has developed nicely into a dependable center, and has had the luxury of playing with Kessel and Lupul. Like Grabovski, he’s primarily a playmaker, but can find the net on occasion. Bozak is also considered a defensive asset, and checks industriously. Grabovski is the better center option, but Bozak has found a niche for the time being on the top line.
- Tim Connolly is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. We all know he has the capability to put up some serious numbers, but when you watch him play, his decision making and work ethic makes you sit there and wonder ‘why?’. Why, as in, why we ever signed him. He’s currently playing on the third line, but brings nothing to the line that a prototypical third liner would bring. He’s not overly physical, and his lack of work ethic sets his linemates back.
- Matt Lombardi is the most predictable player in the world. Having watched him closely for most of the season, his only ‘moves’ are driving wide with speed and going five-hole. Seriously, watch highlights of him scoring: he’s in alone, or driving wide, and he scores five-hole. As a checking option, he’s decent but commands a hefty price tag. He’s decent for spot duty in the top six, but I wouldn’t be confident placing him there for an extended time.
- Darryl Boyce is your standard thirteenth forward / fourth line center / AHL call-up kind of guy. I like his work ethic, his physicality, his speed and willingness to battle. For all these reasons, he’s great to have around for the spots I listed above. Any higher, and your just shooting yourself in the foot or being delusional about his skill.
Moving out Grabovski without acquiring an adequate center in return would require Connolly, Lombardi or Boyce to move up into the top six. There’s a big issue with that happening, and thus, at this point its really not ideal to be discussing a Grabovski trade. In an ideal world, I’d look to deal any of the other centers first. Too bad this world isn’t ideal.
As I speculated yesterday, the Leafs have recalled forward Darryl Boyce from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Boyce, who saw extended time with the club last year, was demoted at the beginning of the season and told to continue to work on his game. This season, Boyce has amassed 10 points in 22 games with the Marlies, adding 22 PIMs as well. Boyce will most likely directly take Colby Armstrong‘s place on the third line, so there shouldn’t be too much line shuffling.
Boyce should bolster the lineup defensively, and might be able to add some offensive pop to the third line. Armstrong has just 1 point in 9 games played this season.
Who do you think should have been recalled? Why?
Coach Ron Wilson revealed after the game today that forward Colby Armstrong has a concussion and will be out of the lineup indefinitely. This means the team will likely have to recall a forward to fill his spot, unless they decide to skate Jay Rosehill and/or Colton Orr.
Wilson revealed that Armstrong suffered the concussion in a collision with Canucks forward Ryan Kesler over the weekend. He failed to notify anyone that the he could have been concussed until he became nauseous and began vomiting earlier in the day.
Interesting note coming from Dirty Dangle Hockey on Twitter : “This is Colby Armstrong’s 5th different injury since joining the Toronto Maple Leafs and he’s now missed 56 out of 115 games or 49% of games”.
You can’t ignore the fact that Colby Armstrong has not been much of a factor for the Maple Leafs considering his injuries. Many were concerned at the money given to him when he was signed, even then assuming he would actually play. Now that he has missed basically half of the games since he joined the club, it may be a different story all together.
This brings us to the question of which player gets recalled from the Marlies. Most likely, the Leafs will recall a player to play bottom six minutes with the team. Someone like Joey Crabb or Philippe Dupuis could move up to the third line, paving the way for a defensive player like Darryl Boyce or Mike Zigomanis to come up. Or, they could go with the safe/predictable move and recall the much-travelled Nazem Kadri. Or, nothing at all. We’ll know by this time tomorrow.
Yesterday the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that they had cut 14 more players from their training camp roster, assigning them to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. The most significant of the cuts was forward Joe Colborne, who was considered to be in contention for a roster spot.
The full list of cuts is as follows. All players were assigned to the Toronto Marlies (AHL).
Assigned to Toronto (AHL) : Luca Caputi, Joe Colborne, Jerry D’Amigo, Ryan Hamilton, Marcel Mueller, Kenny Ryan, Greg Scott, Mike Zigomanis, Jesse Blacker, Jeff Finger, Simon Gysbers, Korbinian Holzer, Juraj Mikus, Mark Owuya, Jussi Rynnas.
The Leafs also announced that they had returned forward Greg McKegg to the Erie Otters of the OHL.
Luca Caputi, Ryan Hamilton, Mike Zigomanis and Jeff Finger will all have to clear waivers to be assigned to the AHL.
While there are still more important cuts to be made, you can tell that the Leafs roster is beginning to take shape. The following players remain in camp:
I’ve predicted who I personally think will be cut once the season rolls around, based on keeping two defenders and one forward scratched.
- Matthew Lombardi either slots in the lineup as a center or winger, which effectively forces Matt Frattin and Nazem Kadri to the minors. If he’s injured to start the season, Darryl Boyce plays in his stead.
- The Leafs will opt to go with 8 defensemen. My guess is that Keith Aulie and Mike Komisarek will sit.
- Phillipe Dupuis will win fourth line center duties. He’s a fearless shot blocker, speedy and throws his weight around. He’ll be flanked by Mike Brown and Colton Orr. If Brownie is a no-go opening night, look for Boyce to play in that hole.
- The Leafs third line will eventually be Lombardi with Tyler Bozak and Colby Armstrong.
- If both Lombardi and Brown are both injured to start the season, the Leafs will keep Jay Rosehill around. He’ll patrol the ice with Orr until Brown is healthy. Boyce will play on the third line. Notice how Boyce is very versatile.
After an impressive showing against the Senators last night, the Leafs are back in action tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers. The lineups are slightly altered, but presumably the effort and tenacity will still be there as yet another wave of players try and make their mark, and land one of those exclusive NHL roster spots. Lineups, notes and more after the jump.
Last night’s game against the Senators was great to watch, not only because it means hockey is back, but because several things happened that give credence to this season being much better than last.
Here are my notes on last night’s game:
- All players look a few steps faster than last year, including Nikolai Kulemin, Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak who looked really good all night.
- John-Michael Liles will immediately help the Leafs powerplay this year. His PP-QB abilities are better and less predictable than Tomas Kaberle‘s, and he will shoot the puck as well. He made a few nice passes / plays to keep the puck in and moving around. Looks like a solid pickup.
- Keith Aulie made a few great offensive plays which is odd coming from him.
- The penalty kill, which almost everybody noted, is very much different this year. Instead of being passive, it takes a more aggressive approach which seemed to already pay dividends last night.
- How about Kenny Ryan? Speedy, physical and wouldn’t let any Ottawa player have an easy shift. Odds are he doesn’t stick with the big club, but he could challenge for a spot next year. Looks to be Marlies bound. (OHL eligible as overager)
- Jonas Gustavsson looked decent. Seemed to be swimming a bit on a few plays, but he played OK. Scrivens had a great game as well, he’ll assume starter duties with the Marlies this year.
- The Mikhail Grabovski-Kulemin- Clarke MacArthur line didn’t overly impress, but there’s still time for them to regain form.
- Joe Colborne and Matt Frattin had decent games as well. Although neither did anything too impressive, they both did most of the little things right. Frattin gave the puck up which eventually led to a goal, but he also made a few offensive chances. Colborne’s stick checking is superb; he must have stole the puck away 4-5 times last night.
- Colby Armstrong - Bozak – Kadri line looked really good. They’ve been practicing together for a while now, and they could be the team’s third line this season. It’s important to note that they were essentially the team’s second line last night, and received more ice time than they would normally get, so you’ll have to temper expectations. Speaking of Bozak: a season in a lesser role should help his game all around.
- Jake Gardiner made a very strong case for staying with the team last night. Will be interesting to see what happens with the logjam on defense.
- Philippe Dupuis had a good first game, playing a strong checking game and looking fearless with shot blocks.
Tonight’s lineups feature the Schenn and Kessel brothers. Phil Kessel and Luke Schenn will suit up for the Leafs, while Blake Kessel and Brayden Schenn will lineup with the Flyers.
The Leafs will ice the following lines tonight:
Joffrey Lupul – Tim Connolly – Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur – Joe Colborne – Marcel Mueller
Nazem Kadri – Darryl Boyce – Luca Caputi
Greg Scott – Mike Zigomanis – Colton Orr
Cody Franson – Mike Komisarek
Jeff Finger – Luke Schenn
Simon Gysbers – Jesse Blacker
My thoughts on tonight’s lineup:
- Potential first line of Joffrey Lupul – Tim Connolly – Phil Kessel tonight. Keep an eye on how they play.
- Both Colborne and Kadri are getting an extended look, along with Marcel Mueller and Luca Caputi. (All for the third line winger spot)
- Darryl Boyce and Mike Zigomanis both play tonight as they, along with Dupuis, compete for the Leafs’ fourth line pivot duties.
- Greg Scott gets a shot tonight, he plays a similar game to Kenny Ryan.
- Simon Gysbers and Jesse Blacker are an interesting pairing as they could be the Marlies top line pairing this season.
- James Reimer will supposedly play the entire game.
The Flyers will counter with this lineup:
Sergey Bobrovsky, Michael Leighton
Oskar Bartulis, Matt Carle, Erik Gustaffsson, Blake Kessel, Olivier Lauridsen, Andreas Lilja, Matt Walker
Sean Couturier, Ben Holmstron, Adam Mair, Michael Nylander, Matt Read, James van Riemsdyk, Zac Rinaldo, Brayden Schenn, Tom Sestito, Wayne Simmonds, Mike Testwuide, Eric Wellwood, Harry Zolnierczyk
The game will be on LeafsTV at 7PM EST. The next set of cuts (around 30 of them) will take place tomorrow or the day after. Stuart Percy and David Broll are both injured and are unlikely to see preseason action.
Who wins tonight? What’s the score going to be? Which player(s) will stand out? Let us know below, or through Twitter.
May 4th, 2004. That date can mean many different things to people; but for any die hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan like me, you’ll recognize that date as the last time the Leafs saw playoff action. It was game 6 in the conference semi-finals against the Flyers where they lost 3-2 off Jeremy Roenick’s GWG to put away the series. Since then I’m sure many suffering fans have developed distaste for the Flyers, I know I have. But that’s all in the past; it’s time to look ahead to the future which looks very promising.
This year’s free agency class hasn’t created much of a “frenzy” for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s safe to say that the Brad Richards situation put a damper on the Leafs’ hopes of acquiring a top line centre. Despite all this, the Maple Leafs and fans have a lot to look forward to this coming season. Arguably the biggest name the Leafs have signed this off-season is Tim Connolly. The 30-year-old had 13 goals and 29 assists in 68 games last season with the Buffalo Sabres. Connolly will add some jump to the top 6 forwards, and he has the potential to be a 70-point or more player, provided that he stays healthy. He will be contending with Tyler Bozak and Mikhail Grabovski to centre the top line of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. Mathew Lombardi is also in the mix for the top centre position, if and only if he is healthy enough for action. Nazem Kadri will most likely be moved into a winger position, which will suit his style of play a lot better. Kadri has the skill, but the size factor is his biggest issue. If he wants to have an impact on this time, he’s going to have to train hard so he can provide more “truculence” along with his finesse.
Brian Burke also locked up three of their solid grinders Mike Zigomanis, Darryl Boyce, and Joey Crabb to one-year contracts. Along with the acquisition of Philippe Dupuis, the Maple Leafs will have all the force necessary from their forwards. And who can forget Colton Orr? Expect to see a lot of offense this season. The forwards are developing quite nicely within the organization. Joe Colborne and Tyler Biggs are just two names for fans to get excited about.
With the average height of 6’3, the Maple Leafs’ defense will hopefully live up to the expectations they’ve had on their shoulders for the past two seasons. Look for Luke Schenn to continue his strong and dominate play on the Leafs’ blue line from last season. With any luck, John-Michael Liles will do what he was brought here to do, which is fill in the hole of puck-moving defenceman Tomas Kaberle. Brett Lebda was the closest thing the Leafs had to Kaberle during the second half of the season; that isn’t a good thing. Miraculously Burke was able to pull a rabbit out of the hat and actually acquire something decent for him in Cody Franson and Matthew Lombardi. Many fans including myself have been less than impressed with the performance of Mike Komisarek, former all-star defenceman for the Montréal Canadiens. If his dreadful play continues, it is likely that Burke will pool him in a trade for another asset that he may have his eye on. And let’s not forget about Optimus Reim, the Maple Leafs’ number one goalie James Reimer. The 23-year-old from Morweena, MB, had a 20-10-5 record, with .921 SV% and a 2.60 GAA; not bad for a kid buried within the system. He is an outstanding athlete and human being, who this year will give the Leafs some much needed support in goal.
May 4th, 2004. Given some of the additions Brian Burke has made combined with the development of the young players in the system, that date will likely be changed to mid/ late April of 2012 when the playoffs begin. The Maple Leafs are a solid young team and should definitely make the post-season this year.
- Michael Cappabianca