Tuesday, July 28, 2009
She peers into the water in order to find answers for our TML concerns
In ancient times, during periods of great uncertainty, difficulty and potential disaster, men would take long pilgrimages to oracles to seek their council. Throughout the ancient world there were numerous oracles (and prophets and sibyls) who all had personalized methods of discovering the will of the gods. Some oracles would retreat into a cave, light some...um...sacred herbs, sit in the smokey cave and wait for the gods to speak. Other oracles would dance or read tea leaves or retreat into the desert or paint pictures or make mini models or act out prophetic plays or be doomed to always tell the truth, but never be believed. Our favorite oracle would go out on a sunny day, sit down under the sacred tree and would listen to the wind blowing through the branches. Apparently Zeus--when he wasn't impregnating people--or other deities would whisper down the messages through the rustling of the leaves. The faithful oracle would then skip home and deliver the message to whomever asked her.
We here at TOV have our very own oracle (besides the great oracle) and here is what we asked her about yesterday's trade:
1. Why Stralman
2. Why Primeau
3. Will the pain of Leaf fandom ever heal?
She responded with was the usual antiquated prose style oracle pronouncement that we here at TOV have come to expect from our lovely prophetic lady:
Know ye better than I, fair fan? Burke's boulder has but begun to roll. Look to the new dawn and keep your eyes from the tower for any movement on the horizon.
So that was unhelpful. But luckily we had our legal experts and symbologists take a crack at it and this is what they are saying:
Stralman was a project. He was a potentially offensively gifted (love to hear it ding off that post) D-man, he was figuring out his positioning and when we sent him back down to the AHL he didn't blow anybodies hair back. He was unlikely to crack the team this next season--and if he did, it would be at the expense of White who seems to be buying what Wilson is selling. Also due to CBA fineprint he would have had to be exposed to waivers, and if he had been snatched we would have been screaming bloody murder (and we would have had to have read all the articles saying how we as fans overvalue our prospects. But as it stands we're now going to have to read the articles saying we gave up on a promising player from the same guys a year ago wrote how Stralman is not really a promising player.)
So it was either: Stralman makes the team, take a gamble on waivers or trade him. So we traded him. And wow, we got what we got for Antropylon and we got what we got for Kid Harvard. So that's pretty good for a kid who looks like a young Bill Gates
Now, the Oracle did say say things about looking to the horizon and movement and new dawn and that kinda stuff. My guess is that this is setting the stage for a bigger deal. Now, obviously as previously posted here on TOV we feel that Kaberle and Pogge are on the list of players potentially on the way out. Now that we got a 4th line center in Primeau our guess is that one of either Stajan or Mitchell are on the hot seat. Stajan probably has more trade-value and he is less Burkian than Mitchell, so let's assume it's him.
So a potential package could be: Kaberle, Pogge, Stajan (and the new 2nd if we wanted). Hey, that's a pretty decent return. So lets plug that into the "team's needing a puckmoving guy" and multiply that by level of desperation to make the postseason and we're seeing such teams as LA, Columbus, Phoenix, St. Louis, Vancouver or Dallas (in that order too). Obviously we're looking at a top line player or big blue chip prospect coming back our way (with, hopefully, an offensive dman prospect project like Stralman too.) And if you are a team perennially on the outside looking in all the time, and you have a superstar forward (like LA have in Frolov and Brown, and like how Columbus have in Nash) that needs the puck from the backend, I seriously think you take a good hard look at Kaberle. Is he worth a Brayden Schenn (yesyesyes!), or a Filatov or Brassard. Surely he's not worth a Turris? But what about a Boedker or a Hanzal or a Mueller? Our money would be on Filatov coming back. Maybe he and Kulemin and his wicked backhand are best friends and have chemistry.
So my faithful remnant, we here would put our money on the fact that another trade is coming. And, hey, if not, we got a second rounder that we can parlay into a surer thing than Stralman.
Keep the faith
Monday, July 27, 2009
Reaction and analysis forthcoming. But what RDS, TSN and now Sportsnet are reporting is that this deal is done: Anton Stralman, Colin Stewart (the guy from the Kubina trade) and a 2012 7th rounder are off to Calgary for Wayne Primeau and the 2011 2nd rounder.
Post your thoughts in the comments. We'll break it down and give our analysis later. Ugh, and get ready for the Cox or Berger article saying "Leafs bail on future Lidstrom" or "Leafs mortgage the future for vet." Or better yet, let's write our own full of cliches (1967!) and see how close we can get it.
For now, however, we here at TOV will consult the great oracle and present to you her findings later.
Posted by Graeme Donaldson at 7:09 PM
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Thousand-yard stare? Or reading the plane ticket
Greetings faithful remnant.
Or, if you've lived in Toronto over the last few days, happy monsoon season! There were some here at TOV who thought that the storms of the past few days were the final wrathful apocalyptic acts of the hockey gods, upset by our munchkin commish's reign of error. Indeed, we dusted off our "the end is near" signs and started handing out maps to our secret mountain compound. There was debate whether we should dry store or freeze store our emergency seed supply, but by then the rain stopped, the great oracle read the animal innards and told us that it was not wrathful gods but just a crappy summer and we went back down to DEFCON 4, "Code: Mogilny."
But that DEFCON level may be a-rising with the recent news, illustrated here in The Star (yucky, I know.) They claim that the Leafs are shopping Pogge! Now, normally we here would read the Star's article with our coffee and say to our Toronto bourgeois selves, "so this is what news is like north of Eglington...and not even one rhetorical trope or literary reference in sight!" and then we would laugh it off and go to MLHS or PPP for our real Leaf's news of the day.
Normally. Except for one lil scary bit in the middle of that article. You know, that part where Brian Burke says, "we are actively shopping Pogge so he can go play somewhere else." (or: "I have promised Justin I will try to find him a place where he will get a better shot," for those who are link adverse.) And we know Signor Malcontentay means it too, because that's the same line he gave during the whole putting-Kronwall-on-waivers-so-he'd-go-play-somewhere-else deal. Now, is Burke being a nice guy, or is this a better way of saying "goodbye, unwanted part" without actually saying that they stink.
But therein lies the debate: does Justin Pogge suck? Seven months ago he was still the crown prince of the organization, sent from above to shepherd his people to the land of milk and honey and grapes the size of habs forwards (adorable lil forwards!) Remember all those Howard Berger articles where he called us stupid to be rooting for a player playing for a team that we cheer for and love? But now he's earned the Brian Burke "I owe it to the player" kiss of death?
So faithful remnant, we have 2 options:
Pull that trigger Burke. Dude was 1-4-1, 0.844% and 4.36. I get better stats in ball hockey [aside: need a ball hockey goalie in the Toronto area, hit me up]. I remember the poor leaf homer who picked Pogge for his fantasy team in my league. He had some dark days, let me tell you. [Aside: Fantasy rule #1. Keep emotion/fandom out of it].
Secondly, maybe there are some GM's out there who remember the 2006 World Junior shut out of ze russians. Let's play that up and see if we can get some kind of return on him, or package him with Kaberle for some sort of obscene monster deal.
Also, speaking of the 2006 championship: Steve Downie. TML. Getterdone.
Thirdly, we've got Jonas "I can peer into your soul"Gustavsson, and James "No google images for me" Reimer. That spells future tandem, children! We're set. We don't need no Tukka Rask (aaaaaaaaaAAAH.....Freak Out!) and we don't need no Justin Pogge (or thought contraul). So lets turn that G into an F (Downie plzkthxbai).
Seriously?....Seriously? No, seriously?
Take a gander at who won the Vezina this year. Was it Luongo in Vancouver? Or was it Nabokov in San Jose? Nope. Tim freak'n Thomas. One night, the Bruins GM needed a goalie, went to a local Boston pub, found some guy and put him in net. I swear, the Vezina trophy this year is the same plotline as The Rookie. Except we suspect that its more like the plotline to Angels in the Outfield, because divine intervention by Christopher Lloyd is the only way Thomas made half those saves this year. And don't look at us to explain it, we just deal in Leaf's divinity.
But back to the argument: Tim Thomas won the Vezina. He spent years playing around Europe, honing his craft, learning about loss and hardwork and dedication and really really wanting something (maybe something some young hotshot who say's he's "naturally ripped" in a cribs episode could learn). Can we give goalies out on loan? Send him to Sweden or something. Get some culture and puckstopability and come back all zen and Gustavsson-like--the apparently ultimate butterfly "Monster" goalie. (hmm...butterfly monster eh?)
Bottom line is that goalies take time to develop, and it ain't no science. It's not really an art either. Some sort of weird voodoo magic? Finnish food? Who knows. But the argument is, is that Pogge's got the tools, he just doesn't have the structure. So maybe he should stay in the place that just hired the best goalie coach in the world who loves athletic giant goalies like Pogge. Is there a real harm to have him duke it out in the Marlies with Reimer. Let's see if this kid really wants this. Earlier in the season Burke said himself that Pogge hasn't earned his way on to the team, but has he really earned his way off to another? Sure he may be a bit cocky and channeling the ghost of Ray Emery a bit, and sure I'm personally way more excited about cool and calm goalies like Gusty and Reimer, and sure Ron Wilson threw him under the bus but is it really time to take this mutt to the rural vet? Can't we gauge (pardon the pun) to see if he is a hungry hungry hippo, or just a regular hippo?
So let's hear it, faithful remnant of leafs nation: Pogge out? Or Justin.
Keep the faith
p.s. vote in the poll!
p.p.s. and thanks so much for reading. I appreciate all the support and comments. It's nice to be liked by fans of the team you love.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Thank you...thank you...please, be seated.
Friends, long suffering Leaf fans--you brothers and sisters of mine--assembled media and my fellow bloggers, I stand before you today, on this day, the day of the first TOV State of the Rebuild address filled with humility and honor that you should have ordained me with the responsibility to speak. I pledge to give my all as The Other Vatican Head of the Union and it is my sincerest prayer that my words fall on the fertile soil of the wounded hearts of the Leaf faithful.
But my friends, I do not stand before you on a day of rejoicing. I do not stand before you with a full and satisfied heart. I do not stand before you having witnessed the Captain our Captain lifting the most hallowed cup o'er his head and drinking in sweet victory as our forefathers had. No, in fact that most sacred of days has left our fair nation for a generation and the trials and tribulations that have come have almost swamped the ship of fandom. This is the heartache that beats at the very core of us, the Maple Leaf fans. This is that burden--that legacy that hangs about our neck like a stone, threatening to bring us to our knees.
This history is familiar to you all. After the jubilation of our last cup victory, the fair land of the NHL was invaded by foreign teams looking for the same glory that we first 6 had found. As the competition grew, and the eye of fortune cast her fickle gaze upon other lands, cruel tyrannical men were permitted to enter into the highest levels of our organization and their lack of prudence and foresight turned our fair ship from her true course. Many warriors rose to attempt to sit on the sacred throne and rule with omnipotent wisdom. There have also been men we hoped and prayed would bring us to our former glory, but all have failed; all have fallen short and we sit here in a land of perpetual darkness and perpetual winter.
But no longer!
Friends, this day--this same day of seemingly unending darkness, this day of perpetual disappointment, this day of sack cloth and ashes--yes, even now there are small points of light beginning to form on the horizon. Scattered across this and alien lands sit a group of individuals. Some are old warriors, beaten down by the grind of many seasons. They sit in their studies, take stock of their lives and wonder what it is in their heart that is missing. As they look in their old war chest and see the hockey sweater from their youth with that blue and white beacon of purity shining up at them, they realize that they are called back to one final push.
Some are wide-eyed youths, undrafted, honing their skills in the fields and rinks of small frozen towns, not even knowing that lady fortune has blessed their destiny. They too in their hearts have felt this lack, this gaping hole and this calling that their lives are meant for better things and greater deeds.
Others have already felt the call and have moved to fulfill their destiny. Some of these small points of light currently don the hallowed jersey and wait for the stars to align.
And the stars are moving as we speak.
The heavens opened forth and sent us one man--a prophet, called by lady fortune to lead his adopted people to the promised land. After fulfilling his time in the wilderness he is now here, blessed with wisdom and foresight, slowly bringing those little individual points of light together to become a great beam that will pierce the present darkness.
And this brings us here to tonight: to the state of the rebuild. The great poet T.S. Eliot once said that "a hockey team shall forever be building, for they are attacked from without and decay from within." Friends, for years we have lacked that mechanism of building. We have been satisfied with the decay and we did not repel the attacks. But no longer. We shall drink from that cup.
So let us keep a keen eye open for further light coming from the horizon--that that new dawn may shine on us and that our children and our children's children will speak of these days as men who speak of a golden era.
But for now, the State of the Union is that we need a top line pivot. Either a center or a high-scoring winger. Someone who is the tip of the spear on the attack. We have a goalie tandem that should push each other to succeed--and if the credit on the Vesa Card is maxed out, I am sure J.S. Giguere will make his way over here eventually. We are also set on D. We may even have an overabundance of Dmen.
But are you satisfied with our forward corps going into next year? We sure aren't. C'mon, deep down you know in your heart of hearts that we wont be making a post season or ever achieving greatness in a post season without at least 2 30g men or 1 40g man. We've got bottom 6 in spades and we've probably got the makings of a great second line in any combination of: Kulemin, Tlusty, Grabovski, Hagman, Blake, Poni, and (ugh) Stajan. We've even got wildcards in Tyler Bozak (special thanks to my friends at PPP for the great nickname), Christian Hanson and Viktor Stalberg.
But where is that true, beating heart of our offence? Or maybe you disagree and say that scoring by committee--a team of lots of 20g men is desireable.
What should be Burke's next big move? er...I mean...where is lady luck smiling next?
a) stand pat
b) top line center/"face of the franchise"
c) top 6 winger--20-30 g man/support cast
d) further truculence
And if you answer b, c, or d let's hear who and why.
Keep the faith
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Oh Kaberle. Perhaps our greatest late round pick ever. You've been a trooper haven't you? Those cherished moments on the powerplay where you have an open shot on net, with the whole crowd yelling for you to shoot (or trading futures on their Blackberries if you're in the lower bowl) yet you unselfishly pass it off to your pairing D-man, who--if you are McCabe circa 2006--buries it with the usual post-goal flourish, or if you are Kubina circa 2007 you wind up but blow out your knee, or if you are Antropov your stick explodes and you stand in the offensive zone like a big Kazakh Antropylon. But I loved you for it Kaberle.
Or remember when you would get McCabe's nervous cry of "oh crap oh crap I'm in my own end and there's like....a...FORECHECKER. WhatdoIdowhadoIdo!?" Yes, your soft words and calm gazes would direct his hesitant back-board bounce pass to your waiting embrace and you would calmly double-line pass that sucker to Sundin who would backhand it top-shelf, or to Poni who would backhand it towards the zamboni door. I remember those days, and I loved you for it.
But you see Kaberle, these days our best forward is a long-haired, knife weilding Haley Wickenheiser lookalike (look it up yourself. Fo serious), and our best prospect--Kid Kadri (de-de-de day and night) is probably a year off, or he could Stamkos it up this year and get a serious case of 4 goal and major sniffles. You get what I'm saying Tomas? You are slowly falling into that "sell high" side of hockey.
So what are we to do with you, my Czech mate?
Well, we got two options with rationale and reasons behind them. So let's look at what we got.
We keep ya!
You get about 50 points, mostly assists. You mysteriously never age. Other teams kinda stop and watch you skate...seriously, you've got this Neo thing ("whoa") goin on when you skate. Time seems to stop and the opposing players get all shy and bashful like when a kid meets a new person for the first time. Not to mention your contract, with its easy drinking taste and...um...I dunno. Triple filtered?
We'd be stupid to lose you, right? Screw the lil smurfs on the back-end trying to make it in a new scary world. Let Ian White and Anton Stralman have a fussball tournament every night to see who "gets" to play with Jeff Finger. We can pair you up with Francois Goodtrail and let him squish people and let you do yo thang. There's nothing I love more but to see you send that outlet pass to Jason Blake and watch him ignore his teammates, ignore the defender and barrel headfirst into the keeper. He's kinda small and rubbery. Do we get a point if Blake goes in the net?
So maybe you should stay.
Sundin, he ain't coming back child. He's playing poker or crank calling Mike Gillis or swimming through his big pile of money. McCabe is gone too. Sure he couldn't do anything except launch slappers after butt-tackling was made illegal, but he sure could launch em. And you gave them to him. Kubina is gone too and he was a better dman but not as good shot as Caber. Who are you going to pass to? XLB? Frogren? Let's face it, our d corps would play with caveman clubs if they could. There wont be a ton of point shots next year. And we sure know that you break out in a funky rash every time you shoot. Why else wouldn't you do it, Mr. Accuracy Skillz Champion?
And even though you have the facial maturity of Danny Briere you actually are getting up there in age. By the time lady window comes-a calling your puck dishing days may be well behind you.
Yes, yes, you're great and wonderful and guys like you don't grow on trees, but its not like the puck is never going to get out of our end if you're gone. It just wont get out of the zone with the same Shaolin grace and spiritual clarity that we as fans are used to. But, come on, are you telling me Komisarek can't dump it around the boards? All it'll mean is that Stajan wont be getting any more breakaways where he double dekes and sits down and weeps.
Unfortunately child, we are severely lacking in "The Man" category. We don't have The Man anymore. Sundin used to be The Man, but not now. It is our firm belief here at TOV that you need to have one The Man on D and one The Man on O. Yes you need more than that to win, but you need a player that dictates the overall feel of the corps. We have The Man on D now and someone should shoot his dog, because I want Schenn all good and mean. But we don't have The Man on offense and you could potentially get us that.
It has been widely reported that you were almost traded to Boston for Phil Kessel [Fun aside: I've always wished that when a trade goes down, the two teams go stand at opposite sides of a bridge and the two traded players have to cross the bridge and glare at each other like they do in hostage swap scenes in movies. Who's with me?]
Now, would Kessel be the man? I dunno, but the dude did survive cancer, and we ain't talkin no skin cancer either. That's hardcore. I'd be pretty happy with Phil Kessel on our top line. Him and Kid Kadri? All you would need is one good free agent signing next offseason and you have a bonafide top line that could get you deep in the post season one day. Besides, who needs a pretty outlet pass when Schenn and Komisarek are going to be supplying human sacrifices to the god of open ice hits (Ares?)
So go make your way in the world! You may even win a cup in Boston.
Don't weep for Kaberle friends, this is a healthy part of the cycle--The Epic Build--that I hope we are now on. Sell him off to the highest bidder, let a little smurf (looking at you, Signor Mustachio) step up and if he can't do the job, we restructure the way we get the puck out of our end.
So we here at The Other Vatican have lit a little candle under the icon of St Brian. Will our invocation be heard? My guess is that he's already on it.
Posted by Graeme Donaldson at 10:27 PM
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Greetings my Blue and White brethren (and..sisteren?) and welcome to the newest and truculent-ist TML blog on the Barilkosphere. We here at TOV are dedicated to the dissemination of the great truth and beauty of our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs, and by so doing, we hope to bring others into the comfy middle of the hockey universe. There's plenty of foot room here in the comfy middle, plenty of squealing like schoolgirls at old youtube hockey fights and plenty of speculation of the comings (Kessel?) and goings (Kaberle?) of this, our epic rebuild. Or..um...retool? No, wait...we are in the "open window" time right? Is Owen Nolan around? Brian Leetch? Yanic? What are we doing anyway? Wont, oh wont someone guide us through these murky waters of the post-Sundin leafs?
Well Leafs Nation, you are in luck, for tonight's topic shall certainly serve as the lamp to your darkened path. I present to you The Other Vatican's Toronto Maple Leaf Manifesto: The Guide to Hockey Team Classification. Don't you wish you knew what side we are on? Do we want the team to strip down to its proverbial skivvies (Tlus-tastic!), or retool for character building first round exits? Or maybe we are in that weird time where the window to the promised land is seductively open, quietly beckoning to us and whispering sweet nothings in our ear like, "Owen Nolan is better than Alyn McCauley, Brad Boyes and a baby undrafted Mark Stuart combined. Dooooooooo it." Or maybe we're one of those Tyler Durden types who want to bring this whole mother down and start from scratch. Barricade the streets, "I am Joe's unrealistic hockey team," buy some soap and that sort of thing. Or maybe you have no idea what we are talking about.
So here goes. What are the Maple Leafs today, and what ought they be?
TOV's Option #1
All teams are in some sort of flux. (Heraclitus would be proud of me saying that). They are either embarrassingly realizing they suck, they are chomping at the bit to get enough experience to vie for the cup, they are actually vying for the cup or they think they are good, but actually suck and their window shut years ago.
The tank is the first category. This is waking up and realizing that a scoring top line of Mariusz Czerkawski, Jason Allison and Jeff O'Neill is not going to put you over the hump. The rebuild is a painful time of old favorites leaving, weird new people coming in and most likely a lot of losing. But, ah, the draft pick. Remember, a tanking team does not win in May, but late June.
There are plenty of people out there that say that das tank is the way to go. "Screw the pooch," they say "and thine glory shall reveal itself anon" And fair enough, suck for a number of years and first rounders will pile on and you will undoubtedly be winning cups eventually. (See: Pittsburgh Penguins ed. Crosby & Malkin, Pennsylvania ). But das tank is a painful process, and you have to stomach a Czerkawski or two for a bunch of years to build up those lil draft smurfs, and keeping them fed and well watered before they can take the ice and beat the Wings is, I humbly submit to you, an unsustainable way to run a team.
Huh? What do I mean? Well, das tank model is based on a "V". A meteoric fall with (fingers crossed) an equally dramatic meteoric rise. You are likely to compete for a cup soon enough, but good luck trying to keep all those superstars paid son! With das kap, das tank can come back and cripple an organization in a season. Look at the current state of the Blackhawks. Everyone had a feel-good spring in their steps thinking about those Hawks, but there is a really strong likelihood that they may lose a Kane or a Toews. And losing a Toews to an offersheet is way worse than losing a Toews to frostbite. And don't make me make a Hurry-Kane joke! Or if they want to keep Kane or Toews, they'll have to screw around with someone they already signed in good faith. Having to send a decent 3rd line guy to the AHL for cap reasons? Not a cool way to run a team.
So should the Leafs Das Tank? It may give us a small window to get a cup, but I think it is a fundamentally unsustainable team model. Put it all on black and take a spin? No thanks.
TOV's Option #2
Hey, Mickey Grabs put up some points last year, pissed off some of Les Horriblants and made it home in time to have some apple juice. Toskalol now has a robogroin and Luke Schenn, Mike Komisarek and Francois Goodtrail are going to turn opposing players into little clouds of pink dust next year right? Buy shares in tinfoil because of Christian Hanson? Maybe the seductive window is slightly open to us...calling...beckoning us with her siren song. What's that? Give in to your lopsided trading ways? How can I resist you, seductive window...
Well, sorry Leafs nation. We're not there yet. Sure, we'll get there. I actually don't mind trading youth for veterans if you are on the cusp and need to go over the edge. (Before you go all Tucker-crazy-eyes on me, keep reading.) Teams in the window phase are looking for that one guy that's going to give his all and make sure Crosby doesn't trip on that pout. But the Leafs ain't here yet. So keep moving, nothing to see here.
And seductive window? I'll see you in 2011.
TOV Option #3
The Build is very different that das tank. It may seem similar on the face of it: we kinda suck, we draft and encourage those lil draft smurfs and we wait for the siren call of the window. But it is much different than the drastic V of das tank. This is more of a controlled U. The Build understands that there are lean years and fat years. The Build knows that you need to have a balance between your youth and your vets. The Build knows that you don't want the unsustainable shock to the system that the tank gives, but that you want to produce a cycle of victory! Lil smurfs growing up into slick scorers, mean sobs and character guys. Vets going and giving their all. Lil smurfs vying for a spot on the team, hungry for more ice thus pushing the veterans up and eventually out. (Hopefully even trading our vets when their stock is high, but filling the gap with a ready smurf, and getting new lil smurfs in return.) Hopefully having enough lil smurfs to trade for a good guy for a postseason (and not killing your future in the process.) In short, a nice, sustainable cycle.
Yeah. Lets get that going.
So patience, my brothers and sisters. Let's just not demand a cup, but let's demand a dynasty!
Hmm? The fourth? The fourth what?.....OH! Yeah...the fourth option
TOV Option #4
The Pyrrhic Sunglasses
This is thinking your team is great because you made an improbable cup run (lost in 5) and thinking that you can recapture that magic with your top line of a giggly center, a creepy-eyed scorer and a fearless and faithful leader. May we never fall into that error.
But don't worry Leafs Nation. We here at The Other Vatican are dedicated to keeping you on the straight and narrow path and keeping you from the Great Errour (it's not a typo. Go read some Spenser).
Keep the faith.
Posted by Graeme Donaldson at 10:54 PM