January 01 2014 03:50PM
Photo via @Jeffler
When James van Riemsdyk scored the 1-1 goal midway through the second period, a roar went up that had never quite been heard before at a hockey game. There were about 50 thousand Maple Leafs fans in attendance at Michigan Stadium, outdoors, untempered by obnoxious arena music or drowning goal horns.
Playing inside certainly has its benefits. The ice conditions are better, the sight lines are better, and games don't take nearly four hours to complete. Still, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the record-breaking crowd in attendance. Despite the snow and gimmickry, it's nice to have a game every once in a while that reminds us what sports are: a welcome distraction from daily life, full of absurdity, silly rules, and unfairness.
Toronto won the game 3-2 in a shootout. Tyler Bozak, the most polarizing athlete in Toronto, got the winner. It was just one of those games, and it was awesome.
January 01 2014 12:21PM
Dave Nonis just made the first trade of the New Year! It's neither a Big Blockbuster nor a Big Disaster, so no problem on this being made right in the middle of the Winter Classic. Toronto sent John-Michael Liles and prospect defenceman Dennis Robertson to the Carolina Hurricanes for Tim Gleason.
Gleason is a 31-year-old, left-shot defenceman, listed at 6'0" 217 pounds. Despite being a reliable shutdown man for the Hurricanes during his mid-to-late-20s, injuries have caught up with him and his mobility has been lacking. So far this season he's missed 22 games with various injuries.
It's a sideways move, aimed at getting two struggling defencemen a change of scenery. I'm not too upset.
January 01 2014 09:34AM
I grew up, and live in, Vancouver.
For those of you unawares, Vancouver gets about two or three days of snow a year. We don't have outdoor rinks, or ponds that freeze over. Robson Square downtown has an underground rink that's an ideal spot for first dates, but there's no hockey played. Essentially, I grew up without getting to play hockey outside.
That changed, somewhat, when I moved to Kamloops. Kamloops is a smallish city about four hours northeast of Vancouver. It's in a valley with very little vegetation and is extremely dry, so there's little rain in the summer or snow in the winter. That makes for an ideal hockey rink, as pictured above. There were a few ponds we'd play on for days between December and February, generally playing on weekends until we didn't feel like the ice was worth scraping any more. I think it's pretty cool the NHL decided to run a slew of outdoor games. There is, of course, no "heritage" to this. Pro hockey has always been an indoor affair but it's still a nice excuse to trot out faux retro jerseys and brown pads.
Anyway, the Maple Leafs will play their first outdoor game in their history against the Detroit Red Wings later today. A short preview ahead:
December 31 2013 02:57PM
Time to ring in the New Year. Early tomorrow morning we'll have a post previewing the Winter Classic. If you have an outdoor hockey memory you'd like to share with us, please email at camcharron(at)gmail.com. After the Winter Classic game, which will be Game 42 on the season, the rest of the week will be devoted to looking at Toronto's first half of the season.
For now, though, here are the big stories that The Leafs Nation wrote on in 2013, including the posts that attracted the most interest. It was a wild 2013, that began with a management shakeup, included a playoff appearance, a series of controversial offseason decisions, and the Leafs also became the latest team to buck statistical trends. Thank you all for reading in 2013. We wouldn't do this if not for you.
THE TEN BIGGEST STORIES OF 2013…
#10 - Nazem Kadri's bitter contract dispute
The biggest Ontario-born Maple Leaf since Dougie thought he had some leverage after a 44-points-in-48-games season, but Dave Nonis stuck to his guns and signed Nazem Kadri through training camp.
TSN's Bob McKenzie reported a similar number, and Nazem Kadri responded with a Tweet of the Year candidate:
@TSNBobMcKenzie false bobo— Nazem Kadri (@43_Kadri) September 4, 2013
#9 - Leafs management say silly things in the offseason
Maple Leafs Hot Stove runs a print publication every year, but the quick turnaround and difficulty finding a publisher meant they had to run all of their content online, including interviews with Leafs staff that raised some eyebrows.
First was Greg Cronin suggesting the Leafs weren't a team that got significantly out-possessed in 2013 (and I have to wonder if he still believes that after watching the first half of this year) but then there was Dave Poulin making one of his many silly claims, suggesting that you can judge Tyler Bozak on the fact that he plays so well with Phil Kessel.
Again… and it bears repeating, that is just objectively, fantastically wrong and continues to be wrong.
#8 - Leafs fan gets sucker punched in Boston
I'll let Steve describe this:
After the Leafs’ Game 2 victory over the Boston Bruins, a video began to make the rounds of a Leafs fan lying unconscious in the TD Garden. Witnesses said he had been assaulted by an angry Bruins fan (who ran off and has not been found), and taken to hospital. The video now has well over 45,000 views.
As more information came out, the victim’s identity became public. His name is Kyle Hay, and it turns out that he is a friend of a friend of mine, Bryan Barton. Bryan happened to be there with him, as well. I got in contact with both of them late Sunday night. Many people have been asking about the exact details of the incident, so here’s what they had to say.
Kyle was able to share his story with The Leafs Nation, and the Maple Leafs gave him tickets to Game 4:
#7 - Dallas Eakins ditches Toronto
The quotable, fiery Dallas Eakins left the Maple Leafs' minor league organization in the summer for Edmonton. He's been a bit of a controversial hire, considering the Oilers disappointing record. Jeffler, who has been covering the Marlies for a while, wrote a detailed post on what the Oilers could expect from Eakins and so far, Edmonton media have learned he can be prickly to deal with if asked dumb questions.
So far my favourite answer to a question in Edmonton. "Talk about David Perron's hands." "Well… he has a left one and a right one."
#6 - The Dion Phaneuf debate
The Maple Leafs re-signed their Captain to a seven-year deal, officially announced New Year's Eve. Over the last week of December, we've had some conflicting views on this website about whether it's a risky contract or not, but nobody can deny that Phaneuf plays some of the toughest minutes in the NHL.
#5 - Paul Ranger returns to the NHL
We don't know why Paul Ranger left the NHL when he did, but when he came back, he was a cheap, low-risk option that could conceivably give the Leafs another body in the top four. Unfortunately, that hasn't materialized, but it's not like the Leafs erred in bringing him back and seeing what he could do after a year in the minors.
#4 - The Phil Kessel contract extension
Was the best part of Phil Kessel's contract the part where Kessel basically stuck it to every critic that questioned his big game ability for years before he dragged the Maple Leafs to the playoffs a year ago? Phil Kessel was rewarded for a long-term, high money deal just before the start of the season, but probably less than he would have earned on the open market. A bit risky due to its length, but nobody can deny Kessel is elite at what he does. He's on pace for his best goal-scoring season, is taking close to 4 shots a game, and still has three years left of his peak.
Also, was 2013 the year that hockey started to come around on the original Kessel trade? After Tyler Seguin went to Dallas, it's not looking like such a steal any more.
#3 - Tyler Bozak vs. Mikhail Grabovski
This debate kept us blog writers warm and fed through the summer. Editorially, everybody on this site was pretty well dead set against the Bozak extension. My post on why Tyler Bozak should have played his last game as a Leaf was one of our most-read posts of the year, as was Jeffler's discussion post about "Nozak".
And for those of you who suggest that we don't have the guts to face the players we criticize, Jeffler ran into Bozie and introduced himself in Yorkdale at a signing event.
All told, here are the stories we wrote on Bozak or Grabovski that were big during the summer:
- Explaining the Grabovski-Bozak "stats" debate in shinny hockey terms
- Not advanced statistics - Grabovski is still better
- David Bolland provides Leafs an immediate upgrade over Tyler Bozak
- Mythbusters: The Tyler Bozak edition
#2 - It Was Four One And Then They Lost
The best was how Sean McIndoe classified Those Games: "They're the ones where the sports gods skip past winning and losing and move straight to abject cruelty." There were a variety of different reactions. Our postgame thread comments were just full of shock. Even Hat Guy had nothing to say in Steve's LFR video.
The craziest reaction is Jeffler's optimistic post about the pieces that the Leafs put together. From Game 2 against the Bruins and on, the Maple Leafs really looked like a hockey team. They were skating with the Bruins, weren't getting out-possessed and a few injuries meant they were icing their best roster. I think for some of us, the frustration in the offseason has more to do with the fact we wouldn't get to see that playoffs Leafs team for a full year.
#1 - Brian Burke fired and replaced by Dave Nonis
Brian Burke's zinger-laden press conference was the end of his long, yet unsuccessful, tenure as captain of the Good Ship Leaf. Burke's virtues were that he didn't leave the team any long, problem contracts.
Dave Nonis, however, wasted no time in turning over the roster. He signed David Clarkson, acquired David Bolland, and picked up Jonathan Bernier to give the Leafs a 1A goalie. The Burke firing was surprising at the time, and caught a lot of us off guard right before the season was due to start.
December 31 2013 10:50AM
You might think he's smiling because I'm incredibly charming, but it's actually because of his contract extension.
The Maple Leafs have re-signed their captain Dion Phaneuf to a seven-year $49 million contract. So what does that mean?