Saturday, December 13, 2008

Leaf Nation's Christmas Wish List

Hey Peeps and anyone else checking in. A special "Hey" goes out to Hazel Mae.

Well, the Maple Leafs keep chugging along towards Christmas with the knowledge that President and General Manager Brian Burke (does that not sound wonderful?) will not make any roster moves until after the holidays. The Leafs have suffered some potentially devastating injuries - with Luke Schenn and Niklas Hagman being the most significant - but it has definitely given Burke some options for January.

While it is too early to start celebrating a couple of unheralded call-ups, Jeremy Williams and Jamie Sifers, it is a sign that perhaps, we have more down on the farm than we have lead to believe by hockey experts.

Jeremy Williams isn't flashy, he isn't projected as a top-line, or top-six forward - he just finds a way to score, plain and simple. He has found a way to score at every level and deserves a real shot to show he can do it in the show. Jamie Sifers has shown himself to be a steady, if not solid, stay-at-home defenceman who won't make any catastrophic mistakes that will result in the red light going off in your own end. Like John Mitchell before them, these guys have some upside, and with expectations for this year's team relatively low - though we (and Hazel) hope for the best - it would seem like giving unheralded guys a chance to show they can contribute.

Burke is likely looking at his options come January - he has some assets that he can move to speed up the rebuilding, both in terms of acquiring prospects/draft picks and lowering the cap hit as we move forward. Burke, Nonis and Associates will undoubtedly do the right thing. Who would Leaf Nation like to see moved? hmmm

1) Jason Blake - perhaps the worst contract John Ferguson Jr. signed (after Bryan McCabe). Here's hoping Burke can pull the Easter Bunny out of his hat at the trade deadline and get this guy off the books - come March and April, Blake may be a fit with teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, or maybe even the Blackhawks, who may be looking for a speedy veteran heading into the playoffs. Dare to dream.

2) Pavel Kubina - he is a respected and admired leader in the locker room, but that hasn't transcended on the ice. It could be the lack of options he has when moving the puck out of his own end, but he just can't seem to get it done. Kubina has looked a half step slow this year and looks like he is often out of position. Mike Van Ryn has proven to be much better than expected, and at $2M less per season than Kubina, can step in and fill those minutes. As mentioned earlier, Jamie Sifers looks like he can take care of his own end, so moving him up to a number 5/6 guy wouldn't hurt.

3) Alexei Ponikarovsky - if/when/once he gets moved, Leaf Nation knows this guy is going to blossom like former Leafs LW Fredrik Modin did when he was moved to the Lightning a number of years back. But the truth of the matter is that he hasn't fulfilled his potential in Hazel's hometown - the return for Poni isn't likely to be a bonanza (maybe a late 2nd round pick - for a playoff bound team looking for depth), but moving the $2M+ off the books will help. Jeremy Williams could provide what Poni does for much less $.

4) Curtis Joseph - the experienced backup experiment has been an abysmal failure this year. Cujo, a former fan favourite, has looked over matched this year and doesn't give the team any hope of winning. While factions of Leaf Nation who want to see the team tank this year are calling for Joseph to play more - it is time to thank him for his service and call up Justin Pogge to see if he has a future in the NHL.

Weeks back, I asked Tomas Kaberle to consider the possibility of waving his no-trade clause - the return for him would be huge - but being one of the more sentimental members of the Nation, I'd like to see him stick. Kaberle's contract is more than reasonable, at $4M+ and his puck moving ability is excellent. Ron Wilson should get off this guy's back and play him with someone who will (and can) take care of the back end while Kaberle picks his spots to join the rush.

There you have it - Leaf Nation's wish list. Speaking of which, much has been made about where Mats Sundin will play this year - the Leafs aren't an option. While the media was quick to jump all over Brian Burke's statement that "the Leafs didn't fit Mats' profile" - the conveniently left out Burke's last word on that statement - he said YET. I was going to post this when Burke got hired, but here it is - Mats will not sign with Toronto this year, but those who think his days in the Blue and White are done, are nuts. Burke is going to move some veterans this year - no doubt - and clear some cap room to allow him to make a couple of free agent acquisitions, likely from his old team, and resign Sundin to a reasonable two year deal to try and give the Leafs two legit scoring read it here first, Sundin signs with Toronto for the 2009/10 season.

In the realm of odd/funny/stupid news - New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman has once again proven he isn't the brightest star in the sky. After signing CC Sabathia to a monster deal, Cashman threw EIGHT MILLION PLUS DOLLARS at "the Enigma" AJ Burnett. The Yankees are going to regret signing this guy - $16M+ for a .500 pitcher. It is to laugh.

Going back to NHL picks - after last week's football picks, the total for the year stands at + $950 - it goes up today.

Minnesota over Los Angeles - the Wild have some injury issues, but they'll be able to frustrate the Kings and score on the counter. Lay $100 on Minnesota - $125.

Columbus over NY Islanders - the Jackets had been playing well at home before going out west and getting smoked - home cooking is what they need to beat the Islanders. Lay $100 on Columbus - $200.

Detroit over Phoenix - the Wings lost to a pretty bad Stars team last night, they'll make the Coyotes pay tonight. Lay $100 on Detroit - $150.

That's it for today gang - thanks for taking the time to check in. NFL Picks tomorrow.

Hazel, here's hoping things are groovy in your world.

I'm Out!


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