Ten Thoughts A Week In

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The Maple Leafs hit Saturday’s game against the Rangers with a 2-2-0 record and if there is any conclusions to be drawn from the first week of the regular season they are few and far between. That said…

1.    Yes, everyone plays the same schedule but if you are looking for clues on bi-polar play start with the schedule on your kitchen fridge. Thursday’s game against the Islanders was the Leafs fourth in six nights. The Islanders, by contrast, hadn’t played since Monday. Hockey players can be ready to play after eight ...

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A short thought on what was best for Nazem Kadri

Nazem Kadri reacts after scoring against the Buffalo Sabres.

Nazem Kadri reacts after scoring against the Buffalo Sabres.

I don’t get the Nazem Kadri thing.

Kadri has been the Leafs best player over the Leafs first few games.

He turned 22 three months ago. He is the Leafs youngest player, three months younger than elder statesman Jake Gardiner.

I don’t know where the Nazem Kadri narrative was stolen. Maybe the answer is in Don Cherry’s unflagging support for Kadri which was fuelled by Cherry’s intense disdain for Ron Wilson. Kind of a chicken and egg thing there.

It’s probably because the first four ...

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Leafs coach Randy Carlyle juggles Old School and New Age.

Randy Carlyle channels both Old School and New Are.

Scotty Bowman smiled a tight little smile when asked about Randy Carlyle.

“Firm,” he said. “He’s firm. He makes the players produce and he makes them responsible. Plus, he has them working in the right system.”

There are few more lasting endorsements than hockey’s all-time winningest coach finding you properly stern.

It should come as no surprise, I suppose. The Old School Randy Carlyle, the one who scoffs when reporters ask about a practice that lasts longer than an hour, the one whose actions suggest a disregard for soothing feelings, that guy is ...

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Surprise: Ten keys to the new Maple Leafs season.

Dion Phaneuf will start the season on left defence.

Dion Phaneuf will start the season on left defence.

The Toronto Maple Leafs open their season tonight in Montreal. By coincidence, I see 10 storylines.

The Marlies factor. Friday was the best day in the history of the Toronto Marlies.  Of the Leafs 23 players, eight (Colton Orr, Ben Scrivens, Leo Komarov,  Nazem Kadri, Mark Fraser,  Mike Kostka, Korbinian Holzer and Ben Scrivens) played significant roles for the Marlies this season or last under coach Dallas Eakins. “Dallas was a huge influence,” said Fraser. “The responsibility, the ice time, the compliments, ...

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Lack of exhibition games went against Rielly: Nonis

Leafs GM Dave Nonis said he remains on the hunt for a veteran goalie but only if the price is right.

Leafs GM Dave Nonis said he remains on the hunt for a veteran goalie but only if the price is right.

Leafs GM Dave Nonis spoke to the press, Friday after finalizing the roster. Here are some of his remarks.

On sending Morgan Rielly back to junior:  “Morgan played pretty well in a short camp but he wasn’t given any opportunity to play exhibition games. We need to get ready to play and it’s pretty tough to put an 18-year-old player in the lineup without seeing him play against NHL competition. ...

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Rielly Impressive During Scrimmage

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You watch Morgan Rielly and you see what’s there: the stride, the intuitive passing, the blocky body that should allow him to hang in and fight through the congestion near his own crease.

It took Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle to note what wasn’t there.

“I had the conversation with Morgan about getting him to play more of his game,” Carlyle was saying after a spirited scrimmage, Wednesday.

“I asked him what his strengths were. He said his number one thing was skating. I said ‘I don’t know if we really saw you ...

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What if James Reimer actually is the real deal?

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Leaf fans, you don’t need another goalie.

Maybe not ever. Certainly not now.

The Maple Leafs have 74 days between Saturday’s debut in Montreal and the April 3 trade deadline to find out whether they need to replace James Reimer.

I’m pretty sure they don’t.

When healthy, James Reimer had a 24-10-6 record. That’s not bad.

What you have in Reimer is a goalie who excelled when he was healthy but sank while he was hurt. If James Reimer had never returned to the ice after being smacked in the crease by Brian Gionta ...

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Brian Burke and his brutal relationship with change

Brian Burke, shown in an earlier press conference, said Saturday he was never going to change his personality.

Brian Burke, shown in an earlier press conference, said he was never going to change his personality.

Brian Burke said goodbye the way he said hello.

He did not offer excuses and then pointed out that he wasn’t offering excuses. He would, however, like to work for a team that isn’t sold. Both times that happened, in Vancouver and in Toronto,  he lost his job soon after.

“The people that hired me hired Brian Burke,” he said. “Maybe the new guys don’t like that brand. Maybe they want someone who is a ...

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A day Leaf fans might want to keep open…

Joffrey Lupul is the only significant Leaf players whose contract is up this season.

July 5, 2013. That’s less than six months from now.

You can make a reasoned argument that anything that happens this season won’t influence the long term future of the franchise as much as what happens in early July.

Here’s why.

Everyone needs to add new players. The salary cap for 2013-2014 is $64.3 million.  Most teams will need deep cuts to comply.

Joffrey Lupul is the only significant Leaf players whose contract is up this season.

Each team has two potential buyouts. They must be used this summer or next.

Sour faces will abound ...

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Burke’s surprising dismissal is all about style.

Brian Burke has given way to Dave Nonis as the GM of the Maple Leafs.

Brian Burke has given way to Dave Nonis as the GM of the Maple Leafs.

 

About the only thing that came out of Tuesday’s press conference on Brian Burke’s firing was the consistent reference to style.

“It was more about leadership style and fit, without getting into specifics,” said MLSE Chief Operating Officer Tom Anselmi.

“Did the four years of missing the playoffs factor into the conversation with the shareholders? For sure it did. At the end of the day we were really looking to a different voice, a different leadership approach.”

Clearly, ...

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What The Leafs Lineup Could Look Like

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Here’s a look at the potential lines and defensive pairings. They were determined through a rigorous process that included looking for names in my Alpha Bits.

Until further notice, Tyler Bozak is the Leafs number one centre. Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul are the only combination coach Randy Carlyle has committed to. Bozak has been mentioned frequently in trade talks but with James van Riemsdyk scheduled to start the season at left wing on the second line the job is Bozak’s to lose.

MacArthur and Grabovski have longstanding chemistry and van Riemsdyk ...

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Carlyle promises more accountability, defence and fitness.

Coach Randy Carlyle said his 18 games behind the bench will be instrumental in his decision-making.

Coach Randy Carlyle said his 18 games behind the bench will be instrumental in his decision-making.

Get ready.

Leafs coach Randy Carlyle delivered that message before a packed house of quote-starved  journos outside the team’s dressing room, Monday.

This edition of the team will be fitter and more defensively astute. Player roles will be more defined.

“There’s not going to be a lot of changes to the system,” Carlyle said. “Our expectations were we would play to a higher level through better conditioning (and) have a better and more responsible defensive attitude. Accountability ...

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What Lies Ahead For Carlyle & The Leafs

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The NHL lockout is over.

Now comes the hard part.

The clock has been restarted with a new CBA and the Leafs, with familiar question marks in goal and in the middle of the number one line have been handed another start.

So what are their chances?

Absolutely no idea.

Anyone who says they know is lying. The new landscape ushered in with a fresh CBA has yet to be surveyed, let alone understood.  The roster could be reshaped overnight.

So let’s go over the first 10 things we know and the first 10 things we ...

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In the E for the Holidays: Tyler Brenner

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Tyler Brenner likes Bakersfield. More wins would be nice.

Flung far across the continent, four Southern Ontario-born Leaf prospects are finding themselves playing in the East Coast Hockey League over the holidays.

The NHL lockout has pushed NHL-worthy talents such as Nazem Kadri and Ben Scrivens back down to the American League. Korbinian Holzer was set to contest the spot on the Leafs roster vacated by the trade of Luke Schenn. Two more Marlies, Jake Gardiner and Matt Frattin would be enjoying prominent positions with the Leafs but for the work ...

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Biggs set to represent US at World Juniors.

Leaf prospect Tyler Biggs is accruing a solid record of international experience.

 

 

Leaf prospect Tyler Biggs is accruing a solid record of international experience.

Leafs prospect Tyler Biggs is poised to go to the Big Show.

The six-foot-two, 223-pound right winger will represent the USA at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships which run from Boxing Day to Jan 5 in Ufa, Russia.

Coached by one-time Leaf Phil Housley, the American team is coming off a disastrous seventh-place showing after winning a bronze in 2011 and gold in 2010.

The roster is set but for some late-minute tweaking that could involve one of the team’s ...

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In the E for the Holidays: Sam Carrick

Sam Carrick is part of a winning environment shaped by former Marlies captain Ben Ondrus.

Sam Carrick is part of a winning environment shaped by former Marlies captain Ben Ondrus.

GP       G     A      PTS      PIM       +/-
21        6     5       11          20          4

Flung far across the continent, four Southern Ontario-born Leaf prospects are finding themselves playing in the East Coast Hockey League over the holidays.

About a half a dozen players who would ordinarily be in the NHL or shuttling between the Show and the American Hockey League are now full-time AHLers.  That forced young players and those outside the core of the Marlies roster to winter instead ...

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Morgan Rielly On The Long Wait For The Long Ride

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It took an agonizing wait but Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman Morgan Rielly was named to Canada’s World Junior Championships roster.

They used to call it the Turk: the author of the call that comes when you want it least.

“Coach wants to see you.”

Just 18, Leafs prospect Morgan Rielly knows what that means. Or, as the 18-year-old fifth overall pick from last year’s draft will tell you, what not getting a phone call means.

A year after a knee surgery scuttled his season, Rielly is heading to Ufa, Russia for the World ...

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A Heartfelt Message to Senators Fans: Get A Life.

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Irritating Little Brother Is Watching You.

Dear Ottawa Senators Fans:

What is it with you people?

Even without hockey, you manage to feel aggrieved.

A Sens fan named Spencer Callaghan (above)  noticed a whole lot of Leafs’ gear at a Roots Store at Bayshore Mall in Ottawa. Spencer took a picture, forwarded it to a Senators fan group and notified the company via their Twitter account.

Not being fools, Roots acquiesced and removed all the offending Leafs material.

People. Where will your paranoia end?

Someone decided Leafs material sells. It’s not an indictment of your city ...

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Salming Could Be Best Leaf Ever

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That Borje Salming is the best-ever Leafs defenceman is above debate.

The real question is whether Salming is the best player in franchise history.

To cast Salming as the greatest star in the Leafs firmament is to push him past Syl Apps, Johnny Bower, Turk Broda, Wendel Clark, Charlie Conacher, Doug Gilmour, Tim Horton, Ted Kennedy, Frank Mahovlich, Darryl Sittler and Mats Sundin.

Salming’s number 21 is one of 18 banners hanging from the rafters at Air Canada Centre. Those banners account for 46 Stanley Cups. Not one of them belongs to Salming.

Thanks ...

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Matt Frattin continues torrid goal pace.

Winger Matt Frattin owns a share of the Marlies goal-scoring lead with seven goals in eight games.

Winger Matt Frattin owns a share of the Marlies goal-scoring lead with seven goals in eight games.

Matt Frattin’s numbers will leave you gobsmacked.

Despite playing just eight of the Marlies 21 games, the right-hand shooting right winger owns a share of the team’s goalscoring lead with seven.

Last spring Frattin scored 10 times in 13 playoff games before he was knocked out of the final contest of the third round. In 23 regular season AHL games Frattin scored 14 times.

That’s 31 goals in 44 AHL regular and post-season contests. Extrapolate that ...

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