Sports by Randy Charles Morin.
Copyright 2005-10 Randy Charles Morin
Owned by Rapid Spiral Development Inc.
We have some race this year. I can identify 7 legit candidates; 3 of which scored 30 goals.
One year ago, Skinner wasn't on anybody's NHL radar. He wasn't drafted and wasn't even projected in the 1st round of the draft. He scored 20 goals in 20 games during last years OHL playoff and he became a 7th overall pick. Twelve months later, he has 30+ goals in the NHL and is the choice of many to win the Calder Trophy.
Nineth overall pic in 2007, he stagnated for the next 3 years. Out of nowhere, he's regained his top prospect form and put 30 pucks in the net. Unlikely to win, as he doesn't have the most goals, nor the most points for a rookie, which is the prime criteria for a forward.
Grabner was the 14 overall pick back in 2006. Like Couture, he struggled after his draft year. He played the last 3 years almost entirely in the AHL. A brief 20 game tryout at the end of last season was successful, potting 5 goals. The Canucks traded him to the Panthers, who then waived him before the season started. He was claimed by the Islanders and the rest is history; 30 goal rookie campaign.
Drafted 27th overall in 2008. Note that all these rookies to date have been drafted in the 1st round. Somebody might wanna inform Brian Burke of these facts. Played half a season in the AHL and he's an NHLer. Fits in well, on a very talented Capitals team. Unlike to win.
Tell Burke that Fowler was drafted 12th overall in 2010. Ya, that's last year. And he scored 40 points this year as a defenseman. His -26 plus-minus rating is gonna keep him away from the Calder Trophy.
Drafted in the 2nd round of 2007. I have to think his skin color and mouth kept him out of the 1st round. How many defensemen score 56 points in their OHL draft year and don't get picked in the 1st round? He's improved every year since, is now a household name for every hockey fan and a twitter fad (#blamesubban). PK's stats might not get him the Calder, but I watch a lot of hockey and from what I see, this guy is already a leader on the Canadians. He's my Calder pick, but I doubt many will agree. They'd rather blame him for something.
I always hate it when a goalie qualifies as a rookie, yet he played games in 4 NHL seasons. This is actually his 5th season playing in the NHL. The numbers are there and he resurrected the Hawks season. He'll get votes, but he was drafted in 2003. Hardly a rookie.
Who won? Lot's of team. Forget all the small trades, let's go thru the big ones. I'm only going to discuss those made on trade day.
Otherall winner is Florida. Picking up Evan Oberg, Samsonov, Hauswirth, Bergfors, Rissmiller, Kennedy and three 3rds. No blue chip prospects, but a lot of them. Unloaded salary and they are gonna suck for the next 20 games. Sign players in the off-season and start all over. I like it. Fans aren't gonna like the remainder of the season. But this is how you build. Brian Burke?
Review of the series to date.
Avalanche v Sharks
Sharks are looking at another early exit from the playoffs. I blame Joe Thornton. It's hard to believe that one of the largest players in the league, plays one of the softest games in the league. Can Craig Anderson do it two more times?
Kings v Canucks
The Sedin's took over in the 3rd period to tie the series. This series is gonna come down to Luongo and the Sedin's will. Once again the NHL looks stupid by screwing up the kicking the puck into the net rule.
Preds v Hawks
Preds are surprising. I thought they might have a chance if the Hawks goalies fail, but other than one bad goal, Niemi has been primed. The Hawks offense appears to be on empty.
Wings v Yotes
Can one goalie defeat an entire team? Only in hockey. Illya Bryzgalov is the series. If he plays awesome, then the Coyotes win. If he plays great, then the Coyotes lose.
Habs v Caps
Habs are completely outclassed. Don't blame the goalies here. OK, maybe Theodore for blowing game one and almost blowing game two. The Caps are going deep. Only a goalie can stop them now (or maybe a Kid).
Bruins v Sabres
And I thought the Bruins couldn't score. With Vanek, the Sabres appear to have no offense. Their season is done. They need to shop for scoring depth to support the franchise; Ryan Miller.
Flyers v Devils
Flyers stunk down the stretch. WTF!? This series looks like a couple AHL teams. Devils are done. Flyers are done next rounds.
Sens v Pens
If the Ottawa citizens are really lucky, then they will be able to catch the Sidney Crosby show one more time. I can't wait for the Pens v Caps semi-final. This'll be a classic.
9 yr-old YouTube hockey censation Oliver Wahlstrom.
Some thing this is an original goal. In fact, Rob Hisey use to do this years ago. Here's a variation where Hisey does the same, but with his stick between his legs.
That said, Rob was a teenager and Oliver is doing this at 9 yrs old. I can't wait to see his moves when he's 16.
If you were Brian Burke, then what would you do in the off-season? Here's my take.
I'd be tempted to buy-out Blake and Finger, but I wouldn't. The Leafs aren't going to win the Stanley Cup next year and every year we keep either player removes two years from their salary impacting the Leafs cap. Tucker's salary cap hit for buying him out last year was $1M this year and will be $1M for the next 5 years. I don't want that mistake repeated. I wouldn't buy anybody out. It's a short-term fix and we need long-term solutions.
The biggest problem is in goal. Toskala has one year left on his contract and I think he's worth the $4M. Let's keep him as our backup or part of a 1-2 tandem and maybe we can trade him at the deadline.
The Leafs should focus on signing the best free-agent goalie they can. Tim Thomas? Khabibulin? Craig Anderson? Martin Biron? That's a pretty good list. I wouldn't trade for a starting goalie unless it was a steal. Why trade what you can sign for free? Martin Gerber is another free-agent option, but I'd give him 1 year max. I wouldn't give anybody a no-trade clause.
I wouldn't put much stock in Justin Pogge anymore. Let's leave him with the Marlies for now and test him again in 2010, unless he pulls off a miracle in the AHL playoffs. That would change everything.
Set ($19M). Kubina, Kaberle, White, Finger, Schenn, Van Ryn are the starting six. Frogen is the 7th. Stralman could fill-in for injuries and I might even give him a shot at making the club.
BTW, if we give $6M to a 2nd goaltender, then we are already at $29M and $29M for an NHL defense is rather high, especially for one that isn't all that good.
Returning fowards ($16M); Blake, Hagman, Ponikarovsky, Stempniak, Stajan and Kulemin. We'll have to resign Grabovski for about $1.5M. I would keep Jamal Mayers and John Mitchell as fourth liners and 13th forwards with the club or with the Marlies. I wouldn't be afraid to lose either on waivers either. I'd also give Jeremy Williams and Jiri Tlusty shots at making the big club next season.
This leaves us 4 forward positions to fill. One of these will be filled by our first round draft pick. The Leafs should get a high pick and most of the talent is at center. I would do everything to move up in this draft, as the talent is thick. Tavares, Hedman and Duchesne are the prizes. It might be difficult to trade up and get Tavares. Both Hedman and Duchesne might be available for a reasonable price.
Now we have 3 forward positions left to fill. I really like Andre Deveaux and we can have him for minimum. The Leafs need a right-handed centerman that can win faceoffs (Dominik Moore $1.5M?). This leaves us a little bit of room to pick up a free-agent forward to fill out the lineup with a tough guy that can play.
Sign Ponikarovsky to an 2-yr extension at $3-3.5M. Sign Stajan to a 1-yr extension at $2M. They are unrestricted at the end of 2009-10.
Still not a great team. If we re-signed Gerber to a $1.5M deal instead of going for a #1 goalie, then we'd have salary room to go after a premier forward, but I think you build from the net out.
Here's my final grades on your 2008-09 Toronto Maple Leafs.
We just updated all the AHL rosters for the 2008-09 season.
Overnight, we added fan forums for all the LPGA lady golfers.
More girlfriend forums, for the MLS soccer players.
David Shoalts: Ferguson let it be known that he signed veteran goaltender Jean-Sébastien Aubin to a one-year contract. While the contract is just for one year and comes with only a modest raise to $525,000 (U.S.) from Aubin's current annual stipend of $500,000, the big attraction is that it is a one-way deal.
Randy: That means Aubin will make his half-million whether he plays for the Leafs or the Marlies. If any team in the NHL could pay there AHL goalies a half-million, it would be the Leafs. This might mean the Leafs are prepared to go with Aubin and Tellqvist to start next season, which would open up the bank to sign a forward or defenseman.