Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Leaf Talk

All this talk about Francois Allaire is making my head spin. Sure, a goalie coach can be beneficial, but the game survived for many years without someone holding the post. In junior and minor-league hockey, I can see an individual, like Allaire, grooming young prospects for promotion.

 If the Leafs bring in an established goalie with solid credentials this off-season, does management really want Allaire messing around with his style?

There is little doubt the Leafs need to go out and obtain a number one goalie.

In theatrical terms, they have been dipping into the understudy pool and shoving talented, but unproven performers, from the wings to centre stage. In the meantime, the paying customer has been robbed of watching a star attraction take command of the role.

On April 14, 2012, Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman, reported Allaire is giving consideration to packing it in as an NHL goalie coach.

Stay Tuned.

Critics have been calling into question Dion Phaneuf's leadership skills as captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. To do so is fine and dandy, but to strip Phaneuf of the "C" is another matter.

The Leafs could argue that with Randy Caryle now behind the bench, it is his choice to decide who he can work with as captain of the team. Brian Burke could make the hard decision to go in another direction, and either nudge Phaneuf into resigning his portfolio, thus removing the heat off management, or take full responsibility for the shake-up.

And where would that leave the organization? You would have an disgruntled high profile player and a new leader who is doomed for failure in an unhealthy atmosphere.

There are two avenues to travel in this situation. Trade Phaneuf or retain him as your captain.

It should be pointed out all the squawking concerning the captain is coming from parties outside the Leaf front office.

Really, does anyone expect Toronto to do a 360 in regards to Phaneuf as long as the Burke administration is still in power?

On and Off the Ice

Being a fan of either the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens can be difficult at this time of year, especially when both miss the playoffs. Adding insult to injury is the fact these two historic rivals have not met in a post-season series since 1979. In April '79, the two clashed to determine which club would proceed beyond the quarter-finals. Coach Scotty Bowman's squad was an offensive powerhouse, who also had Ken Dryden between the pipes. They swept the Maple Leafs in four games to advance.

If you are feeling nostalgic concerning the Leafs and Canadiens, I suggest reading "The Last Hurrah - A Celebration of Hockey's Greatest Season "66-"67" by Stephen Cole.

To wet your appetite, the following endorsement comes from the back cover.

Excellent reporting and superior writing...(Cole) vividly recaptures the final season of that era - before the NHL expanded to twelve teams in 1967 - and the white-hot rivalry between the Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens...

Just because the Maple Leaf are absent from the big-show, it doesn't mean hockey fans in the GTA can't witness some terrific post-season play.

Their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, opened up their western conference quarter-final series against Rochester last week. Toronto took games one and two at Ricoh Coliseum by identical 4 to 3 scores.

On Monday, play shifted to the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester. Goals scored by Philippe Dupuis, Jerry D'Amigo and Nazem Kadri gave Toronto a 3 to 0 win, and a sweep of the best-of-five series. Goalie Ben Scrivens stopped all 29 shots directed at the Marlies net for his first AHL playoff shutout.

Coming into his own for the Marlies thus far in post-season competition is right-winger Jerry D'Amigo. In three contests he has fired home five goals.

Barbara Underhill is now on board as the Leafs skating consultant.

Of interest is Underhill's work and results with New York Ranger forward Brian Boyle. The 6-foot-7 Boyle commented to CP on his time spent under Underhill improving his skating. "It's helped me with my agility and my straight-ahead speed, and my efficiency...It's really helped my game and confidence," said Boyle.

When hearing of this new addition to the staff, the first player that popped into my head was Dion Phaneuf. Watching the 6-foot-3, 214 pound defenceman lumber up the ice is often a painful experience. He seems too upright, and unable to fully develop his stride.

One intermission event at the Air Canada Centre features players donning inflated uniforms and participating in a quick game. The extra padding limiting the mobility of those attempting to maneuver up and down the ice. Phaneuf would have no problems fitting in with this group. He has the appearance of wearing shoulder pads that are several sizes bigger than they should be. Thus, there seems to be no flexibility in his upper body. As a result, his skating skills appear to suffer, as he is unable to fully extend his body.

If Underhill can assist Phaneuf with his mobility and straight-ahead speed in the same manner as Boyle, the Leafs and their captain should see positive results.

The name Elizabeth Harlander doesn't ring too many bells when thinking about the Toronto Maple Leafs or Maple Leaf Gardens. Thanks to an article in the Saturday Sun (April 21, 2012), hockey fans are now familiar with her association to both - Full Story.

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