Tick Tock: The Final Countdown
It's D-day for the "bubble boys."
After player meetings today, in which the last round of cuts will be announced, the opening roster should be cemented in advance of Thursday's home opener against Montreal.
And as the Star's Mark Zwolinski writes: "If there's a dark horse to survive the Maple Leafs' final cuts, Mike Zigomanis fits the bill... It's believed Zigomanis may have outperformed the Leafs' other bubble boys and could seriously challenge (Christian) Hanson for the job as fourth-line centre."
Selecting the right mix of "Bottom Six" forwards is one of the most difficult tasks coaches and management face. Players such as Zigomanis, Jay Rosehill, Luca Caputi and John Mitchell – all fighting for spots with the big club – must thrive in very specific roles.
In short: Forwards in the "Top 6" classification are expected to score. Period. Delegates with the "Bottom 6," meanwhile, are expected to kill penalties, win critical face-offs, shut down opposition stars, create havoc on the forecheck and provide muscle.
Brian Burke explained the team's Bottom 6 philosophy with an analogy.
"The job site analogy is the best one," he told me one afternoon. "You walk by a job site and there's a guy digging a ditch. There's a guy pounding nails. There's a guy stringing wires. There's a guy welding pipe. They are all different scales of pay, all different skill levels, but you need them all to build a building."
So what does this team need to build (rebuild?) its building?
By the way, I shot the above photo last week while watching the Leafs practice at the MCC. It's a watch Burke received after his Stanley Cup victory in Anaheim. The picture itself is ridiculously staged and framed. But I kind of like the image: A championship timepiece perched on a ledge in the GM's office, two floors above the ice surface where his team is stretching and preparing for a new season of hockey.
PHOTO: VINAY MENON/TORONTO STAR