Saturday, August 29, 2009

Goalie Haikus and dispelling myths with Jason Allison

There is our new monster, Gustavsson, striking fear into the hearts of the rest of the league, here personified by Godzilla.

Faithful Remnant! There is so much to say. So much to do. Leafs nation has just received the equivalent of your long lost uncle showing up at your door and asking if he can stay for the next 82 games--and we have rightly said, "um...let's see how September goes first, ok Uncle Jason?" Yes, unless you have in the Jeux Canada Games broadcasting live from warm sunny Prince Edward Island, you will probably have already heard that Jason Allison--poster child of the old NHL--has asked if he can try out with the Leafs in hopes of playing next year. Unsurprisingly this brought all of those deep-seated, traumatic, scars-of-the-past to the surface of the collective Leaf consciousness. Don't worry, Leafs nation, we here at TOV will continue our quest to return you, the Leafs fan, to the proper state of logical, Stoic/Yoda-like contemplation on all Leafs matters.

But first, let us calm our hearts and minds by drinking in the sweet waters of the last installment of our Leafs Summer Haikus: Goalie Edition.

Vesa Toskala

A new robo-groin!
Think the funniest guy in
Finland can bounce back?

Jonas Gustavsson

Every time you make
a highlight reel save you can
pillage a small town

Ok, now that we have talked about groins and world destruction, we can get down to business. We admit that when we heard that Jason Allison was going to be coming to training camp in order to try to win a spot on the team we went through all of the hockey related cliches that we Leafs fans go through every time something like this is announced: "Oh no! We are returning to the old days of old players trying to make comebacks with their childhood fantasy team," and "blarg! Surely this will take away much needed ice time from our lil smurfs' development!" and also "but, but, but...the new NHL is all about speed. Captain Molasses will be one step behind and will drag the team down with him."

However, when the initial panic and lashing out in fear left us, we sat down and stoically reasoned through these three prevailing hockey arguments and decided that a) they are not entirely accurate and b) that Jason Allison on the team would not be a bad thing. Let us show you!

Myth #1: The Leafs never change/we like old dudes

We know this argument well and it comes to us in many different forms--mortgage our future for the present, we love those whose best days are behind them, we need more "veteran presence" etc. And because of this legacy we Leaf fans have developed a "if they are older than 32, they must be a bad idea." We have seen old guys come in before and not play to the level that they had played elsewhere. We are scared that we are buying high, having sold low in order to get them here. We are scared of making a big ol mistake again.

Well, in this situation, this is the easiest of the three myths to dispel. Allison will be coming in as a guy who hasn't played in three years, is desperate to make the team (and get a paycheck) and who will most likely take a league minimum 2-way deal in order to suit up for the year. He's not going to cost us a Brad Boyes or a Alyn McCauley. Right now he is kinda like a company that has almost gone bankrupt. His stock price is pennies. We can buy him and the only risk we have is the initial purchase price, which we have noted is going to be low. Worst case scenario, we pay him 500k to sit in the box and remember the good ol' days. And the upside is obvious--he scores on a point-per-game pace that he had last time he was here.

So this isn't the patented "Leafs only look to old guys" move of the past. The team makeup is not the same the last time he was here when we got him, O'Neill, Lindros, Khavanov, and Czerkawski. That was like having a whole team of penny stocks. Anyone can tell you that a portfolio of only penny stocks has a slim chance at making you a millionaire and a great chance at revealing your stupidity. Leaf fans, we are not in that old boat, so the old argument does not apply.

Myth #2: He's stealing icetime

This is a seemingly compelling argument. It goes as follows:

1. The Leafs only have a limited amount of ice time
2. The ice time is divided according to those who deserve it
3. Youth grow by playing more
4. Older players have hit their plateau and, although having less potential than young players, they are at the present time better than the learning players, due to experience and by having previously proved themselves
5. The older players therefore get the ice time due to argument #2.
6. A team with older players stunts the growth of younger players.

This is the argument that is bandied about in one form or another. And it applies to this situation. If Allison joins the team he as a center bumps Stajan down a line, who in turn bumps a young guy like Tlusty or Bozak down a line and they either don't play for the club, or they play super limited amounts of time and their growth is stagnated.

However, this argument is based on one major fallacy. That fallacy is that by playing in the NHL you become an NHL caliber player. This is not necessarily true. We like to think that by taking a fresh 18 year old with tons of skill and potential and by throwing him into the fire that after a few seasons of trying to play with the big boys, he eventually will. "Let Bozak have the second line this year. Even if he sucks, he'll get tons of experience" except we fail to remember that the only experience he is getting is the experience of being a crappy NHL player, struggling to keep his head above water.

Now, sometimes this works. Look at Schenn last year--he just got better the more difficult situations he was in. Good for him and lucky for us. But we had a backup plan in case he didn't fare so well and had to go back to Jr. (The backup plan was named Frogren, who, because Schenn rocked, didn't get lots of playing time.)

You don't become a great player by being a crummy young player amongst great players. You become a great player because you have been tearing it up in a league that is below your standard and you are so hungry for success that when you finally get called up to the big leagues you are determined to never, ever get sent back down to the AHL. This has been the story line of Bobby Ryan, a Burkian success story.

So you may think that Jason Allison is stunting the growth of our players, but we suggest that not having Jason Allison opens up our players to risks that they should not have to shoulder. If Bozak makes the team, he makes the team because he beats out a proven vet who is hungry because...well...because he hasn't been paid in three years and is probably literally hungry! Without Allison, Bozak makes the team because he beats out another unproven rookie and he is just the best of the rookies.

We here at TOV maintain that signing Jason Allison helps the kids grow by keeping them down and letting the pressure build in their little hearts.

Myth #3 Dude is Sloooooow!

This has been the knock on Jason Allison: he is very, very very slow. And it is true. He's not a fast skater. When he played for us he would trail behind speedier wingers who took the puck into the zone and would be driving to the net when he was plowing over the blue line (which meant he always made it to the net in time for rebounds.) "Speed kills" is the unofficial slogan of the new NHL. We need a team of lil speedy guys buzzing around to be successful. And this is true. And the Leafs are now a much faster team. When Allison played for us before, he was a slug amongst slugs. But if he plays for us again he will be a slug amongst...I dunno...ponies or something...

In other words, he will be an offsetting player. He will alter the flow of our attack on the line he is playing on. In other words, because a man will have to cover him, he will open up the offensive zone. He'll pull a defender with him and slow that defender down. Or if the defended ignores him, he'll take his massive body in front of the net and bang away. When he gets the puck, he'll do what he has always done really well (something Kovalev has mastered when Kovalev is the master over his apathy) he will slow the game to his level (something I wanted Wellwood to learn when he was here.) Allison's slow attack will offset our fast attack. He will make the other team have to think and react and make mistakes. If all four lines attack in the same way, they are easy to defend.

Now, because he is slow, he will make a great secondary attack. He can't, nor should be our top line guy. But he will put up points (especially on the PP). Stajan should learn his game because they are similar players. He will force the smurfs to have to work harder to make the team. He's got a wicked beard. Also, we don't have a veteran point-getting forward. We got tons of I'm-a-gonna-squish-you veteran forwards. Who does Grabovski have to look to for inspiration when he gets in a goal slump? Primeau? Allison should be a good role model for the offensive guys.

We hope that these myths have been dispelled for you, especially the myth that "the younger you are the better a team you are."
So for these reasons we here at TOV give Jason Allison our stamp of approval.

Do you?

Til we meet again, keep the faith.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Haiku pt 2: The Defence edition

Hopefully an accurate description of what our D will do to the opposition next season....oh yeah, and it's some sort of haiku related wave picture. Dunno.

Faithful remnant! Welcome to part 2 of our haiku segment. We have been bringing to you these little thoughtful poems about every Leaf player likely to be on our roster in order that you may have some small windows of hope and serenity in cruel cruel August. Yes there are Olympic camps happening and yes there is compelling hockey news out there--speaking of which, the NHL wants to own the Phoenix Coyotes! Is that not craziness? How can a league, who officiates games impartially in order that teams with millions of dollars hanging in the balance can play out their own fate, actually own and operate a franchise? Like, how is that even sports anymore? Sure you may dislike Balsillie and his silly bald head, but you would scuttle the integrity of an entire sport to na-na-na-na-poo-poo a guy? What is the world coming too! It's like having a government run a bank!

Anyway, we free market libertarian types here at TOV realize that none of this is Leafs related and seeing as you are a devoted fan to the True Franchise (may all her wrist-shots be true) you are hankerin' for some...haiku'erin.

En garde!

Francois Beauchemin

Good street. Happy trails.
No matter the translation,
you will bring us wins.

Garnet Exelby

Garnet? Were you some
sort of farm boy in the late
forties growing up?

Jeff Finger

Kaberle you're not.
Except contractually.
So...epic fail?

Jonas Frogren

"My name is Jonas!
Do do do do do do doooo."
Plus, you look like Thor

Carl Gunnarsson

You won't make the team.
But dude, wicked last name! Light
it up at Ricoh.

Tomas Kaberle

I'm sorry for this.
I realize now that you should
stay here forever.

Michael Komisarek

You were once a Hab.
Even then I secretly
liked you. Glad you're here.

Luke Schenn

I bought your jersey!
It's, like, on my wall. *giggle!* need anything?

...cuz, like, you'll
you know, the Captain one day,
and I know...

No? You're good? Hey man,
that's like totally cool man.
Another time. Yup.

Mike Van Ryn

I hear Swarovskis is
making your bobble head doll
next season. Don't die :(

Ian White

Behold! The awesome
power of facial hair! Are
you a Nazarene?

Well, there you have it folks! Please feel free to compose your own haikus in the comment section. Remember, it's five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables and they must contain wit.

Stay tuned for our final, and much shorter, goalie haiku posting. By then we'll be feeling all loose and limber and ready to take one some much more weightier topics for the upcoming season.

Til then, keep the faith

Monday, August 17, 2009

The August Desert: Forward Haikus

Can you feel the symbolism!?

August is the cruelest month. The dry, barren days of the hockey year. The Leaf's roster looks pretty much set and with Double B chilling out with Team USA for their camp there doesn't seem to be much going on. Actually, it doesn't just seem that way, it is that way.

But then we got reflecting upon the concept of barrenness. Sure, nothing is happening, nothing is going to happen until training camp, the Maple Leaf Gardens of our hearts will receive no moisture for the next few weeks and we must all go into survival mode, taking whatever little bit of blessed hockey moisture we can to keep us from wilting under the hot sun of boredom (aka: August Baseball in Toronto).

So in honor of small bits of life-giving moisture in a parched land, we present to you: The Maple Leaf Haikus of August--for you see, the haiku is the small bit of life-giving moisture of the literary world. So we're going to give a haiku to every player who is probably going to be on the roster. This will be a three-part post starting with that rag-tag bunch: the forwards.

Drink it in, baby!

Niklas Hagman

We pay you a lot
to only deke once a year.
Dude. Seriously.

Jason Blake

Few people like you.
Grabovski especially.
Go back to the Isle

Brad May

Did you retire?
Honestly, no one recalls.
If not, come back mean.

Lee Stempniak

I lobbied for you.
I thought you would be a steal.
You broke my heart, Lee.

Matt Stajan

Dude looks like a child;
A balding child, but a child.
Keep scoring helpers!

Christian Hanson

So pumped! Drop the gloves!
Just like your dad, bust some face!
Tin foil ftw!

Jamal Mayers

There's no way you play
on any line next year. Just... some heart, man!

Alexei Ponikarovsky

On your jersey your
name actually goes down
your sleeve. That's funny.

John Mitchell

Fifty bucks if you
can go all season without
dropping an f-bomb

Nikolai Kulemin

It is no secret
that you are our favorite
of all the lil smurfs

Mikhail Grabovski

Your hair: a lion's mane
Your heart: unquestionably
loyal. Let's flip off Habs!

Colton Orr

You and Jamal Mayers
can fight it out for who wins
lamest fourth liner

Wayne Primeau

Oh yeah! Wayner, you
can join them too. Brian, what's
the deal with these guys!?

Rickard Wallin

Your name is Rickard.
Like the beer! Dude, that is so cool.
Instant fan favorite.

Tyler Bozak

Will you make the team?
Are you the Schenn of 09?
Oracle, report!

Nazim Kadri

Is it Kadri that
you want? Cuz it's Kadri that
we are going to pick.

Hopefully this can keep you hydrated until we get some real meat and potatoes!

Until then, keep the faith

(Edit: Feel like your favorite guy didn't get the haiku he deserved? Write one in the comments!)

Monday, August 10, 2009

From the Oracle: The Pogge Trade

Sorry, it's taking time for my magic dinner plate to load the "promising Leafs traded" file

So soon for another installment of From the Oracle? Well, we find ourselves back in that frenzied position. You know that position—a trade has just gone down and the chemistry and makeup of the team has been altered and you are in that scared and worried place: “did we just screw ourselves over? Did we win that trade? Will I miss player x? My google search of player y has yielded no fruit. I’m lost and frightened and I seek council.” Well luckily we here at TOV recognize that you are feeling lost and adrift and that is why we take the arduous trek to visit our oracle whenever a trade happens. We vow to bring you her secret and mystical utterances.

Surely by now if you are faithful followers of our fantastic franchise you will know that the Leafs have all but traded Pogge to Anaheim for a conditional draft pick based on his performance for the Ducks (*edit: it's official now.) Recently we here at TOV profiled our beleaguered puckstopper, where we weighed the pros and cons of keeping our lil cocky Poggers. Ultimately we were in favor on keeping him and letting him test his mettle by competing for a backup position on the Baby Leafs (and we also mused about a dream scenario of loaning him out to a team, much like they do it in Europe and much like how I loan out all my crappy young players when I’m playing FIFA 09. Off to Nottingham Forrest for you! Haha!) We were actually looking forward to seeing if he had what it takes mentally to work his way up the ladder.

However, St Brian had other ideas. He actually went through with his “this kid deserves a chance to play and I’m going to give him a chance to play by not playing for us” threat. Methinks Burke actually means what he says when he says things to the media. Weird. We are so used to JFJ lawyer speak: “I am not currently at liberty to discuss that particular issue regarding that particular player or players like him, but all I can say to our fans with their insatiable hunger for any scrap of knowledge from the front office is that I am looking at all options, non-options, potential options, options both known to me and unknown to me and any options that fall into the category of unknown unknown options, in order to bring this club to the level of competitiveness that we would like to see our team be at” zzzzzzzzzzz….*murf* hmm? Oh yeah. Oracle.

So Burkie is doing what he says. How odd. When we posed to the Oracle our question of why the Leafs would trade away an asset such as a gold medal, Russian shutting-out, Rask-beater goalie of the future, she gave us an answer and ultimately a point of view that we had not considered before. After several poured libations, and countless incantations in an ancient tongue lost to us now she eventually emerged from her secret cave. Her oracle is as follows “a murmurer overboard murmurs alone. A murmurer below deck scuttles the fleet,” which is another way of saying “I think I’ve had too many poured libations.”

Incomprehensible as it is, our experts, lawyers and general holy men took to work unpacking her pronouncement. What we have gathered is as follows:

There are many good reasons to have kept Pogge: he’s young. He’s a goalie. Goalies develop slower than humans. He has that unfortunate moniker of potential—wanted by 19 year olds, dreaded by 25 year olds. He’s got a gold medal and a pretty wicked backstory of humble beginnings. He would push Reimer, or Reimer would push him, or something would be pushed in the Marlies. Whatever. It’s the Marlies. Everyone is trying to get out. Plus it is never really a bad idea to have options at all positions, especially goal. We liked these options. These options made sense to us. We slept at night knowing that Pogge knew what job he had in front of him and it was time for him to go out an win our hearts and minds. Done and done, lets go make fun of Eklund (e5).

Well, St Brian said “kid won’t get time to play here. I will trade him for a pick kthxbai.” What do we say to this?

Our take

Three little words that have been the culture of the Maple Leafs for almost a decade now: country club entitlement. Fresh faced youngsters fresh off the boat, or fresh off the combine skate into town, get a few goals or some nice toe saves and the Toronto Media gets all love-shy and bashful and competes for who can write the best “I Wanna drink Justin Pogge’s Bath Water” article. All of a sudden the kid with Maple Leafs' shining in his eyes soon stands on his balcony, o’erlooking the city like a second Nebuchadnezzar and pronounces “is this not the Great Crease Legacy I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (For all you biblically literate readers out there, perhaps we should have a, “Is Justin Pogge going to turn into a Donkey” blogpost. We digress.) Before you know it the player is penciled in on the starting team and they start asking the equipment manager if the lawn chair they brought to practice is going to damage the blue ice.

So Burke is sending a message. You may be the goalie of the future. You may be a great talent that is waiting to develop. We may have been really happy to have you in our line-up in three years once you begin to breakthrough whatever it is you need to breakthrough to become the premier puckstopper that you have always envisioned yourself to be. However you are living and acting as if you have done it, and once you live like you have done something, you will never do it. Basically, Pogge started being Pete from Madmen.

So St. Brian’s message is that we are willing to trade a probable goalie-of-the-future in order to stamp out the culture of entitlement. As long as Pogge thought he was a great goalie without having been a great goalie, he would never be a great goalie, and there was a real strong potential that he would drag down the rest of the team with him. Scuttle the fleet.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a GM who valued heart before talent, so we’re not really used to this. We’re concerned that a promising player has been shipped out of town, but in reality it may have saved the whole show, both for us and for Pogge. Kid just got slapped around. Kid just got schooled. He just learned the lesson that any sign of any taint or blemish on your work habits can infect the entire team and will not be accounted for on a team that is pushing to win. Pogge now has two options: 1. Go to Anaheim, work your tail off, live the Rocky III storyline (“Yo Adrienne, we did it!”) and become a goalie. Or 2. Go to Anaheim, never shake your delusions of grandeur and become Trevor Kidd, who was only ever good at growing horrible facial hair.

So we stamp out the culture club and all the bad karma chameleons, get a low pick and give a kid a chance at becoming an honest player and shaking the messiah-in-waiting label.

But here is our final point for you, our faithful brethren. If Pogge does go to Anaheim and Rocky III’s it there, once he is a free agent looking for a place to take his new found A-game, to whom do you think he will have a feeling of loyalty? Pogge probably hates Burke now, or is indifferent, or lost in a syrupy mire of self-pity and delusions of grandeur, but he would be truly shortsighted if down the line he doesn’t realize that this is the opportunity he needed to achieve the highest honor he, or any NHLer could have: being known as an honest and classy player. If anything, Burke is a good General to his men (and we love him for it!) Men marshaled under a good General usually welcome opportunities to be marshaled under them again.

Keep the faith.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Make some room on yo' shelf!

Comrades, the good people over at Maple Leaf Hot Stove have announced an exciting new Leafs publication: the 2009-2010 Maple Leafs Annual! And it appears to be 100% Cox and Berger free. So you wont read it and feel guilty for being a fan!

Read all about it here .

We here at TOV cannot wait to get our hot little hands on this sure-to-be gem. Rebuilding analysis!? We're giddy! We love rebuilding analysis. We started a blog to talk about St Brian and his Burkian building bravado. We can't wait to read it! We can't wait to debate their points and opinions! We can't wait for more hockey talk because we're sick of spending two hours on NHL 09 trying to create a fake Nazem Kadri and restarting our dynasty league.

So, pop open a bottle today, O barilkosphere, because Alec Brownscombe and the guys as PPP and MLHS are makin' us legit! They're rising to the top and taking us with them.

Friends, I have seen the future of the Leafs Blogging community. One day we'll all be sitting in a sports bar owned by Wendel Clark as the Leafs are in the playoffs. In will walk Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie and they will see us, get all shy and giddy, proclaim "look Bob, it's the barilkosphere!" and buy us a round. Can you see it?

We can.

Find your favorite Leafs Stein and lets raise a glass to true fans

Keep the faith


Order and preorder your own copy here

Monday, August 3, 2009

Top Line Sniper?

He would probably have to change his number if he came here

Ok. Recap time. The Burkian checklist for building a team is as follows:

1. Goalie is top priority. Get a stellar keeper and a hungry backup for competition.

2. Big, beefy, mean defense. One or two puck moving offensive guys, but mostly dudes who will squish you or turn you into a puff of pink powder once you enter their zone.

3. Bottom six "blue collar" guys. These guys have specific jobs and they ain't the pretty kind:
a) 3rd liners. These are the shut down guys. Ideally paired against the other teams top line, this line is put on to, well, prevent the top line from scoring. These guys are focused, dedicated, unselfish and tough. Hopefully they can chip in on some secondary scoring too.
b) 4th liners. This is the crazy-eyes line. They are not as skilled as the 3rd liners. Heck, they probably aren't even as focused as them either. They may not even be unselfish. We all know why these guys are on the ice. They are there to liquefy Cam Janssen when he throws dirty dirty hits. (That really is one of the dirtiest hits I've ever seen in the game. But what is sad is how Travis Green only gives Janssen a stern verbal warning and not an epic beat down. Even Belak's beat down a few games later was sad.) We have this line so that our Kaberle's and our Grabovski's and our (one day) Kadri's can do their thing. (Or, we get someone again who can do both. You see the no hesitation in going to defend crumpled Gilmour?) What has the Leaf's lacked these past couple of seasons? A decent 4th line. We're a team of 3rd liners, but even a 3rd line doesn't do what a 4th line does.

4. Top six. If the bottom six were blue collar, does this mean these guys are bankers? Brokers? Either way, these are the guys who put up the points. Ideally, they backcheck and forcheck and have heart, but we here at TOV firmly believe that they are not the ones who set the tone of the team. The team's tone is set by (and in this order) the Captain, the defence, the 3rd line and the 4th line. Look at why the Senators have failed in the past 2 seasons. They have no identity on the back end or on the bottom 6 of the team. Sure they have scoring, but relying on scorers to flesh out the identity of the team is a house built on sandy land. Your sniper dries up for a few games, you all of a sudden have no identity. The Buffaslugs (seriously. Look at their logo) suffer from this. The Senators suffer from this. But teams like the Flames or the Wings or even the Canes don't, because they have this identity from the "ground" up.

Which brings us to tonights topic. Surely by now you have heard that Nikolai Zherdev has gone to arbitration and that he will be awarded somewhere in the 3.5-4.5 mil range. Unfortunately, the Rangers can't afford this because they signed Gaborik and his wet-paper-bag-for-a-groin. So the dude is going to walk. Something Gaborik wont be able to do after 2 weeks of the regular season.

Also, the Leafs do not have a top line winger. We have
potential top line talent, but we don't have that "this guy leads the attack every night" guy. Zherdev could be that guy.

So, our options:


Zherdev has tons of skill. He can score
and he wants to be the top guy on the team. He feels he didn't get a fair shakedown in Columbus and he was burried behind guys in NYC who had to play top line minutes because their contracts dictated them to. He seems to be hungry and wanting to prove himself.

Leafs have top line minutes to give. We don't have a bona fide scorer. Like we said earlier, even if he takes a shift off in backchecking, we don't really care because the top line sniper does not set the tone of the team. He needs to put up some points, not be incompetent off the puck and not be a creep in the dressing room.

Bottom line: Leafs need a top line sniper. He is a sniper that can be had without giving up any assets. Go for it.


Um, no thanks

Zherdev seems to have graduated from the Alexi Kovalev school of interpersonal communications. He may put up some points, but he also may go through long streaks of suckitude. And if he isn't producing and we bump him down a line, he may not have the heart to work himself back up to producing again. Plus he's expensive for all these questions. Also, and it sucks to say it, but as a Russian will he want to go play in mother Russia if the grind of a rebuilding team gets to him?

Bottom line: Is this the sniper on which we wish to build our attack? Is he really the hill we want to die on? He's a superb talent, but does he have the stones to stick it out when things don't go his way? Do we have the leadership on the team to keep him in line?


We here at TOV think that he would be a good fit
if we had a top line center and a throwdown top line winger--you know, someone who will chip in on some points (mainly assists) but is more of a dig-it-out-of-the-corners kinda guy. Think of Roberts - Sundin - Mogilny. Zherdev is a Mogilny in this situation. But we don't have a opposite winger who can dig in the corners like Roberts can (aside: I say we try to get Booth out of Florida) nor do we have a top line center who controls the flow of the line. We fear that Zherdev would be wasted on the team as it now stands. What would a lone Mogilny have done for us? So the question is, do we take a flyer on Zherdev in hopes of building a line for him down the road? Or do we pass up on him now and hope for a real game-changing winger later. Or do you fall into the "we need a top line Canadian boy" camp?

Let's hear your thoughts!