Phaneuf and Kessel big part of puzzle as Leafs enter free agency

The contractural implications of signing Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel will influence the moves Leafs GM Dave Nonis will make.


What the Maple Leafs do in the next few days is directly linked to Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel.

Don’t believe me?  Okay, tag along.

Some elementary mathematics (I never went higher) should illuminate exactly where the Leafs stand entering unrestricted free agency and what kind of room they have moving forward to take on another substantial contract.

In buying him out the Leafs saved themselves four more years of a $5.5 cap hit on Mikhail Grabovski, whose play fell through the floor after the 29-goal season that earned him his rich deal.

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Jonathan Bernier Takes The Questionnaire


Jonathan Bernier is nothing if not amenable.

The 24-year-old Bernier, acquired June 23 to challenge James Reimer for the Maple Leafs crease,  readily undertook elements of the famed Proust Questionnaire in a recent conversation with yours truly.

The questionnaire is about 120 years old and not hockey-specific so I modified it for the occasion. In deference to Mr. Proust, I bold-faced the hockey and sports parts.

Tell me about the first goal you gave up in junior hockey?

“My first goal against in junior was scored by my brother, Marc-Andre.  I was 16-years-old and ...

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Leafs add winning ways with Bolland.

The Leafs acquired Dave Bolland because he has done this - twice.

The Leafs acquired Dave Bolland because he has done this – twice.

At a cost of three draft choices, the Maple Leafs have added their second  Stanley Cup-winning player.

The first, of course, was Jonathan Bernier. The second is Dave Bolland.

Bolland scored the Stanley Cup winning goal for the Chicago Blackhawks a week ago and contributed eight goals and 16 points in the Hawks 2009-2010 Cup run. He scored seven goals and delivered as many assists in 35 games during the lockout-shortened regular season.

In addition to the two Cups, Bolland has ...

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Trade Fuels Competition


In the 165th day of his tenure, Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis moved boldly to address the key position on his hockey club.

In acquiring 24-year-old Jonathan Bernier, Nonis moved a player with 30-goal potential in Matt Frattin, backup Ben Scrivens and a second-round draft choice for the player he hopes will be the club’s number goalie for the next decade.

Nonis, of course, wouldn’t and shouldn’t say that.

Bernier is, he said, destined to be locked in a battle with 25-year-old incumbent James Reimer for the number one job.

“Nothing is guaranteed to ...

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World Junior Hockey tournament is a chance for hockey to invite more kids into the game

Organizers hope the World Juniors in Toronto will help boost the game in multicultural Toronto.

Organizers hope the World Juniors in Toronto will help boost the game in multicultural Toronto.

The City of Nations is hosting the world in a tournament that features our national sport.

Clearly, the announcement that the Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens are hosting the 2015 and 2017 World Junior Hockey Championships carries a global message.

Details of the tournament were released Thursday at a press conference at Air Canada Centre.

Both cities will host a preliminary round every year. Toronto will host a medal round that spans December 2014 into January 2015. Montreal ...

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What Should The Leafs Do With Twenty-First Pick?


Who should the Maple Leafs pick at the 2013 entry draft?

Maybe no one.

Or as Mel Lastman, a member of a long line of colorful Toronto mayors used to say: noooobody.

It’s a reach. Indulge me.

First, a proviso. This piece is for entertainment purposes only. Read it in the fun spirit in which it is intended. I like to spitball as much as the next guy.

Okay, here goes.

If Leafs GM Dave Nonis wants to flip choices to dramatically improve his draft standing he will likely have to trade a core young player: ...

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Life beyond Game 7.

The more you win, the more you stand to lose. I think there’s a country song about it.

Let me tell you a story.

The captain was inconsolable.

“I don’t know if we could have played better,” he said. “We played pretty well, defensively. But we let them come back to tie it, then beat us, so I guess maybe we didn’t play our best.”

No, it wasn’t 27-year-old Leaf captain Dion Phaneuf.

It was the Red Wings’ 27-year-old captain Steve Yzerman.

Twenty years ago Nikolai Borschevsky scored in the seventh game as the Leafs upset ...

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Six games in, the series belongs to Carlyle.

Six games in, Randy Carlyle has established himself as the key figure in the Leafs

Randy Carlyle has established himself as the key figure in the Leafs’ fortunes.

Thirteen days into this glorious circus, we are but hours away from knowing how it ends.

What has become obvious is the identity of the ringmaster.

The series between the Leafs and Bruins has belonged to Leafs’ coach Randy Carlyle.

He has tinkered, line matched, played hunches and held grudges.

He has been the constant in a wildly-fluctuating two weeks.

It was Carlyle, remember, who guided the Leafs to a record of 26-17-5 and their first playoff in nine years. He reconfigured ...

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Phaneuf shoulders the burden of leadership

Dion Phaneuf played just over 21 minutes in Game 5.

Dion Phaneuf wasn’t available for conversation yesterday which fits in a funny kind of way.

There is always talk about him regardless.

One game after a marathon 31:39 in Game 4, Phaneuf played a more manageable 21:38 in Game 5.

All of that, it seemed, came in the last moments as the Bruins mounted a furious but ultimately futile charge as the Leafs held on 2-1.

Dion Phaneuf played just over 21 minutes in Game 5, a whopping 10 minutes less than in Game 5.

Game 4, you might have heard, ended famously after ...

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Kadri, Gardiner two 22-year-olds in contrast


A lack of success in the face-off circle hasn’t helped Nazem Kadri. He is 10-17 in the circle in the playoffs.

More and just as much.

That’s what the Maple Leafs need from a pair of 22-year-olds going into Friday’s Game 5 in Boston.

In the more category: center Nazem Kadri.

Kadri has just an assist, albeit a sweet one to Phil Kessel in Game 2,  to show for his work in the series.

He has had dangerous periods –he stood out in the Game 4 overtime – but Kadri was nearly a point ...

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Leafs need to improve performance in face-off circle.

Leafs centreman Tyler Bozak has won only 43 per cent of his draws in the post-season.

Down 2-1 in their first round series against the Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs need not look far for the answer.

The Bruins are dominating the face-off dot.

Overall, the Bruins have won 58 per cent of the face-offs in the series.

The Bruins have gone 91-73 in even-strength face-offs and won an astonishing 15 of 21 draws when down a man.

While that eight percent advantage does not seem huge, the Bruins have won 10 more face-offs a night than the Leafs.

From the Leafs point of view, the statistics are downright gruesome. ...

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Kadri looking to find a little quiet time.

Less can be more for Nazem Kadri.

Less can be more for Nazem Kadri.

If you need more evidence that the playoffs stand in polar opposite to the regular season, consider this fact.

Nazem Kadri doesn’t have to stand out. He doesn’t mind at all.

Going into the post-season, it was assumed the Leafs needed Kadri to counter what had been a dominant streak of play by the Bruins in handling the Leafs number one line.

The thinking was with the number one line of Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel and either Joffrey Lupul or James van Riemsdyk more or less ...

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Why Randy Carlyle should play Jake Gardiner

The Leafs have a chance for a little more of this.

Randy Carlyle has a fascinating choice to make in light of the series-ending injury incurred by Mike Kostka.

Carlyle can insert Jake Gardiner or Ryan O’Byrne into the lineup.

Certainly, O’Byrne has played more. Acquired at the trade deadline exactly for this kind of situation, O’Byrne last played April 24 against Tampa, a week after Gardiner.

The six-foot-five O’Byrne has played 308 NHL games and 19 post-season contests which, you should know is 19 more than the 22-year-old Gardiner.

That said, Carlyle should go with Gardiner.

The Leafs have a chance for a little ...

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Game 1 aftermath. It’s human nature.


The Leafs played a poor game in Boston and lost Game 1 by a score of 4-1.

Yes, every nightmare scenario came true. The Leafs were overwhelmed. James Reimer was beaten to his glove side.

Jinkies. Must be the apocalypse.

Let me tell you a story.

When my Dad read my first published story he was dumbstruck with fear. He thought I must have plagiarized it.

Two things. First, thanks Dad.

Second, what we care about deeply is often the subject of our worst, most irrational fears.

I think you see where I am going with this.

Game ...

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Ten questions the Maple Leafs need to answer

Leo Komarov will have to do a lot of this against the Bruins

The Maple Leafs open the playoffs in Boston, Wednesday night. Perhaps you’ve heard.

The Leafs success will largely be determined by how they answer these ten questions.

What’s Tyler Bozak’s status?

Bozak expects to play after a full practice Tuesday. “We’ll see how I feel in the morning but all signs are leaning to I’ll be ready to go,” he said. Bozak’s season confounds stats freaks who look at a scant 16 assists for a player who gets first-line minutes but his importance as a face-off artist can’t be overstated. Without Bozak, who ...

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Leaf face-painters unite.


You know you’re dealing with a diehard Leafs fan when you go to shake hands and they have to take their foam finger off.

There were about 150 of the faithful at Air Canada Centre’s Gate 5 Monday for a promotion called Wendel Says.

The inducement was 10 pairs of playoff tickets as well as copious swag but the people would have come regardless to share the same oxygen as Wendel Clark.

These were the real fans, the face painters, the blue wig-wearers.  Nineteen year-old Justin Waldman was awash in blue.

Oshawa’s Justine ...

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So It’s Boston…


So, it’s Boston.

The Leafs will open the playoffs Wedesday in Boston against the skidding Bruins who fell 4-2 to the Ottawa Senators Sunday night in Boston.

The Bruins, coming off a string of seven games in 10 nights have gone 3-5-2 in their last 10 games to set up the first playoff series between the teams since 1974.

To put that in perspective, Bobby Orr was a 25-year-old 122-point defenceman the last time the two teams met in the post-season. For posterity’s sake you should know Boston swept the Leafs.

The Leafs will be ...

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Reimer a worthy candidate for Masterton

For a nice guy, James Reimer can hang tough.

There is an unusual resiliency in James Reimer the Leafs nominee for the Masterton Trophy given to the NHLer who shows perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship.

Dedication. Check.

Sportsmanship. He says nothing but nice things about anyone. James Reimer is Richter scale nice, nuclear nice. Another check.

But dedication and sportsmanship are minor elements in the Masterton debate. It’s really an award about perseverance.

On the surface, Reimer’s stick-to-itness is just slightly above grade. He has rebounded very nicely from a head injury this year to continue the steady progression of his career.

You can even ...

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On Andrew Moffatt, Wendel and being there when times are tough

Andrew Moffatt and his dad Bob.

Andrew Moffatt had the gift of making people comfortable in the toughest circumstances.

When his uncle Joe was dying of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease  a few years ago Andrew was the one who brought the donuts for the vigil.

There are few places lonelier than a hospital room bereft of hope but a wellspring of kindness in every vigil comes from the people who bring the donuts and fill up the room with talk.

Conversations, remembrances, stories, are a link to a world outside the hospital where people aren’t sick and life continues ...

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No Looking Back To Last Year


The Leafs’ impending return to the post season has made talking about last year seem silly.

Indulge me.

Here then are the 10 reasons this year’s Leafs team need never again be mentioned in the same breath as last year’s team.

1.   James Reimer. Reimer has emerged as one of the league’s most dependable goalies. His return to health stands as the major reason why the Leafs lowered their goals against to 2.63 GAA from last season’s dismal 3.16.

2.   The penalty kill. While the Leafs power play numbers haven’t changed from last season, ...

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