July 12 2012 09:09AM
Bit of a media blitz in the last 12 hours relating to the possibility of James van Riemsdyk playing at centre between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul:
The major takeaway from van Riemsdyk's initial meeting with Maple Leafs beat writers was, indeed, that JvR is "definitely excited" about the possibility and "it's a great opportunity for him".
The National Post, and both the Toronto Star and Toronto Sun made that the major focus on their reports. Naturally, it's the big story, but does JvR really fit into the centreman position on this team?
July 11 2012 09:18AM
Nikolai Kulemin has a difficult task ahead. It's going to be convincing fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs that he can be more than a seven-goal scorer.
That's all Kulemin had last season. A year after a career campaign where the silent Russian notched 30, he came back down to earth in a big way and now faces a tiring restricted free agency battle.
He's an interesting case, his last two years marked with two extremes.
July 10 2012 12:10PM
One thing that gets me when I'm mocking up lines for next season is I always seem to forget about Tim Connolly. There's just a lot of clutter in this lineup, and Connolly didn't have a particularly good campaign so he's easily forgettable.
Connolly's boxcar numbers are pretty lacking: he had just 13 goals and 36 points in 70 games this season, playing as a hybrid first-and-third line centreman, and clearly wasn't the answer to the Phil Kessel centreman riddle, splitting much of his time with Tyler Bozak.
He was signed to a low-risk two-year deal, so this is his last season with the $4.75M cap hit that is probably overpriced for the 31-year old. What should we expect?
July 09 2012 07:18PM
As per Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star, the Toronto Maple Leafs have re-signed defenceman Korbinian Holzer to a one-year deal and filed for arbitration on winger Nikolay Kulemin. [Toronto Star]
With an obvious impasse in the Kulemin case, arbitration may be the right move for a player who is coming off a percentage-stained season. Kulemin scored just seven goals in 70 games after a 30-goal season the year prior, shooting just 6.5%, an obvious career-low.
As for Holzer, his strong play with the Toronto Marlies this season earned him a one-way contract.
July 09 2012 12:39PM
For some time I have yet to figure out why Phil Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski don't see too much time together. I've posited the question before, and the common belief seems to be that you can't have two people carry the puck through the neutral zone. It represents the talents of both players, and that's that.
But I've grown a little skeptical of that theory. Grabovski is a play-driving centreman with scoring upside that Kessel, a speedy, talented winger with limited defensive qualities, needs to succeed. In 306 total minutes with Grabovski in three seasons, the Leafs have convincingly outshot their opponents, batting at a 55.9% possession rate. [Hockey Analysis]
Furthermore, if you check the "goals" link in the same link above, you'd find that Kessel and Grabovski are a +6 together, while Kessel is -18 without. I hesitate to use +/-, but the question I'd ask is "if Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel are incompatible player types, why do they score so many goals when they're together on the ice?"