Morning Mashup: Movember musings


There’s a lot going on in Leaf land this Wednesday morning, so lets take a look at what’s making news and look back a little at the month that was.  Your Toronto Maple Leafs will take on the New Jersey devils tonight, hoping to rebound from Sunday’s loss to the Ottawa Senators.  The Leafs will sport a new line up due to injuries, demotions and call ups, and because the only constant is change.  It’s been a promising sign that in spite of the numerous roster changes, the wins have been frequent and most games have been very close.  It’s a testament to the depth of talent (even if the ceiling is a little low) that Brian Burke has provided in his tenure in Toronto.

That depth will be tested tonight, as Jake Gardiner is the latest Leaf to fall victim to the injury bug.  The 21 year old rookie has been a solid if unspectacular defender for the Leafs, and his two way acumen, speed and utility will be missed if he’s out of the line up for any extended period of time.  This news must come as glad tidings for Cody Franson.  The former Predator has been a healthy scratch ever since the Leafs lost in Boston after he went -3 on the night.

The news broke yesterday that the Toronto Maple Leafs have assigned winger Matt Frattin to the Marlies.  Not really a surprise.  With the all due respect to Frattin, and to his legion of supporters, this is the best move possible for the young forward.  Clearly Matt has the ability to skate, block shots, and hit well enough to be an NHLer, but he’s been snake bitten around the net.  While his meager stat line has belied excellent play, the Edmonton native will benefit from an increased role and lesser competition.  With the late additions of both David Steckel and Matthew Lombardi to the Leafs roster, this move was an eventual certainty.

A corollary to Frattin, this is a move by the staff to educate one player while rewarding another.  Joey Crabb is the beneficiary of terrific line mates/numbers, but has been a loyal foot soldier to both Ron Wilson and Brian Burke.  He took the two way deal, he responded to his assignment to the Marlies the most professional way possible (by proving the management wrong), and he’ll do whatever you ask him to the best of his abilities.  The Journeyman Joey Crabb shouldn’t see the same ice time he saw last season, but he gives Bozak someone familiar to play with on the PK until the injured Colby Armstrong can return.  It remains to be seen if the team is any better for the move, but the franchise should be better in the long run with giving Frattin the time he needs to develop.

Staying with the AHL for a minute, Leafs fans everywhere should begin chanting “thank you, Kaberle.”  Joe Colborne, the centerpiece of the Kaberle trade, is tearing it up in the A.  Through 9 games, big Joe has put up 16 points (8 and 8 ) to lead the AHL in scoring.  This matches his point totals with the Marlies last year… in 11 fewer games.  Crowded in the pivot position this season, Colborne must practice patience while plying his trade in the Ricoh.

While Kessel and Colborne have had unmitigated success in October, it’s been a nightmarish month for Marlies/former Leafs Luca Caputi and Keith Aulie. It’s a shame that Colborne’s work ethic and results haven’t rubbed off on Caputi, who sits with 1 goal (and point) through 9, and seems more and more likely to be a major league bust.  Aulie, Dion Phaneuf’s former partner in crime, hasn’t performed to expectation in the A.  He’s a minus 7 through the first 9, 4 points worse than his closest teammate.  While plus/minus isn’t always the most honest statistic when measuring a player’s worth, he’s worst on a club that sports players who are +8.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but Phil Kessel was named first star of the month for October.  Kessel’s unsustainably awesome play through October was THE main reason for the Leafs tremendous 7 – 3 – 1 start.  However, there were two other players perhaps as deserving of consideration as the Leafs sniper.  The first is Russian Eddie Belfour impersonator and Edmonton Oiler goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.  The 38 year old from Sverdlovsk has put up inhuman numbers: 5 – 0 – 2, 1.12 goals against, .960 save percentage, and has been the biggest reason for the resurgence of the Oilers club.  He did come in as third star, but wasn’t even the top goalie despite league best numbers in most categories.  While the Bulin Wall is sure to come back to earth, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators might not.  Loyalty (and the flames sent my way) aside, the young Karlsson put up 13 points (1g, 12a) in 12 games through October.  His 7 power play assists suggest strongly that the success of Senators power play and their improving record can be tied to his contributions above anyone else on the backend.  At only 21 years old, the young playmaking Swede might well be the next Borje Salming.  Once he sheds black and red for blue and white, any way.

With the Leafs in New Jersey, I’ll make the bold prediction that the Leafs will pull off a victory over the middling Devils.  Peter DeBoer’s club is having nightmares of last season’s poor start, having scored just 20 goals in 9 games and again has questions in net.  Beyond the ageless Patrik Elias with 8 points, the team has been struggling mightily to generate any offense, despite boasting offensive dynamos Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk.  The Leafs might have 3 second line centers, but the Devils don’t have even one with Travis Zajac out.  The big concern is one that regularly haunts the Leafs: star players prove that they are stars against the Toronto Maple Leafs, regardless of age or season statistics.  Expect Phil Kessel to break out of his recent scoring slump (1 gp, 0p); 3 – 2 Leafs.

On to the links!

Our very own Garret Bauman with a terrific piece on Frattin’s demotion

Movember is here, and PPP wants you to know how to help.  Myself? I’m gonna try to grow a stash that rivals Mike Brown Sidney Crosby

I say that some Leafs having been shouldering their share of the load.  The Toronto Sun agrees

Do the leafs finally have a genuine offensive threat? VLM asks the question

Steve Simmons says nice things about the Leafs.  Sort of.

Down Goes Brown lampoons Bettman volume 56: Halloween Hi-Jinks