Leaf Ideas To Ponder
Poor Brian Burke. Can't even go to a hockey team in which his Maple Leafs aren't playing without getting a kick in the teeth.
Sunday night, Burke was at the United Centre in Chicago and lo and behold, it was Viktor Stalberg scoring the OT winner for the Blackhawks in a 3-2 win over Anaheim. Stalberg, Chris DiDomenico and Phillipe Paradis went to Chicago last summer for Kris Versteeg and Bill Sweatt, and so far Stalberg, who also has a shootout winning goal, has outscored Versteeg six goals to two.
The Leafs didn't bother signing Sweatt. DiDomenico is struggling in his first pro season with Rockford, while Paradis is off to a strong start with his new QMJHL team, the Prince Edward Island Rocket. Presumably, Burke was in the Windy City looking for trade options with either the Hawks or Ducks.
A couple of other interesting Leaf points as the losing streak continues:
--All the focus is up front as the Leaf offence continues to struggle. But it's worth pointing out a big part of the problem may be the lack of offensive input from the blueline, which has scored only two goals, one from Mike Komisarek and one from Francois Beauchemin. Despite all the power play time he gets, Tomas Kaberle has yet to score. By comparison, Nashville, which visits the ACC tomorrow night, has 10 goals from it's defence, including four (double the Leaf total) from Cody Franson.
--It was very noticeable on Saturday night that the Vancouver Canucks were the tougher, more physical team compared to the Leafs. Despite all the talk about how the Leafs were going to become this nasty team after Burke arrived, it hasn't happened. Two-thirds of the teams in the league take more penalties (probably good considering Toronto's penalty killing) and the Leafs are 11th in fighting majors. Mike Brown is the only forward who plays with consistent sandpaper to his game. Colton Orr has fought only four times, which wouldn't matter except that he performs no other function for the team. In fact, it's interesting how Orr is always excluded from consideration when it comes to healthy scratches. One wonders what he'll do tomorrow night against the Predators, a team that comes in with only four fighting majors, two by diminutive Francois Bouillon. You've gotta really buy into this fighting nonsense to believe the Leafs would be any worse off without Orr in the lineup.
--Of the 39 NHL goalies who have played six games or more, 31 have a better save percentage than Toronto's Jean-Sebastien Giguere (.899), who at $7 million per is the third highest paid goaltender in the NHL behind Roberto Luongo and Henrik Lundqvist. Anaheim signed Giguere to that contract, but it was Burke who was the GM at the time. It's pretty clear that for Giguere to return next season as a Leaf, he's going to have to take the salary haircut of all salary haircuts.
So far, Giguere has played 11 games, Jonas Gustavsson just five. With the season looking as though it won't result in a playoff berth, isn't it about time the Leafs took the training wheels off Gustavsson to see if he can really play? He's 26 years old, after all, not 19. Surely playing The Monster in at least half the games at this point would make sense.
It was suggested here before the season that Toronto's goaltending might not be as improved as some suggested. Given that neither goalie has a save percentage of .900 or better, that more and more appears to be the case.