Thursday, November 30, 2017

What do we have here?

It is amazing what listening to your coach can do.  Last time I blogged, the Leafs were throwing all caution to the wind. Defense was gone. In fact, it was banned from their vocabulary.   Andersen was the defense everyone else was in the other end.

So what changed? It certainly was not Babcock; Mike has been teaching "defense first" all season. The forwards were not coming back into the defensive zone at all, paying too much attention to the stats.  They were following the leaders of this team, so when the leaders changed, the teams changed. Kadri was the first to change when he started playing with intensity. JVR and Bozak are beginning to do what it takes. The even better news is, the offense has remained as the Leafs defense has improved.

Babcock knows darn well what wins cups.  Defensive responsibility in their own end. The offense will take care of itself. The Leafs no longer have to score five goals to win.  Because forwards are coming back, the defense doesn't have to panic. Giving the defense a target to pass the puck is vital to this team success. Sometimes, it may take a couple of passes to get out of a zone, and that is a good thing.  Get excited people: this Leaf team could be special. Come along for the ride.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Maple Leafs: Defense, defense, defense - same old story

The Leafs had a rough road trip as their defence was, let's say, exposed. But to be fair, the forwards were not exactly helpful,  Still too many giveaways in our zone and too many mistakes.

The biggest problem is defensive zone coverage let-down. It seems that someone is not getting the memos about common sense. Two or three times a game, someone will lose track of where their man is, allowing him to score. Forwards are cherry picking and not coming back to help the defence. Too many passes to no one in particular, causing two-on-ones. The defenseman left back has no idea of what he is doing, leaving Andersen to his own devices.

Please get us a defenseman. Ron Hainsey has been all right since signing, but he cannot do this on his own. Forwards have to come back. Marner is struggling and has to contribute in other ways in the defensive zone. Of course, he has company. I could easily mention other forwards, but I would be here all day.

The offence is awesome, but sooner or later it will slow down. Before that happens, the Leafs have to shore up the defence.  Don't take shortcuts. Start working together as a team. It is easy to blame the defence, but the forwards are going to have to plug the gaps.

Matthews is still day-to-day. Bozak is going to have pick up the pace to fill in the offence. Kadri has to continue his play and JVR has to keep up his numbers. Everyone has to pitch in; offence by committee.

The last two games, Andersen has bailed out this team. He plainly stole the game against the Wild. He continued in his play against the Bruins. With Matthews out, the offence might be harder to come by.  The odd time 3-2  instead of 6-5 would be what the doctor ordered. If the Leafs are going to successful, it all begins in their own zone. Forwards and defence have to know their coverage.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Maple Leafs update

There is like the lot to be happy about with the State of the Leafs.  Matthews, JVR, and Kadri are running havoc with the team's roster. The forwards are flying; there is no doubt about that. The offence is not a problem; it's the other part of the game which seems to be a problem,

Mathews leads the team in goals and points — eight goals and six assists. He is playing like a leader; when the teams need a push, they lean on Matthews to get the big goal.

JVR is almost on a point streak with five goals and four assists for nine points. JVR is using his strength to his advantage, making it hard on opposing defences. What I like most about his game right now is he is a pain to get off the puck. JVR is running on all cylinders, giving a major support on the offensive game.

Kadri is off to another good start. He loves getting into his opponents' heads. His best talent is getting the good players off their games. He loves messing with people. Although, he has to watch the stupid stuff keeping shenanigans to a minimum.  He is too good of a player to be sitting in the box.

Mr. Reilly is improving every season, playing well offensively. He leads the team with eight assists. Reilly has a lot on his shoulders, being the leader on this weak young defence. Reilly still needs to improve his defensive zone coverage, but he is not alone in that area. I worry about putting so much responsibility on a defencemen as young as Reilly. There is a concern he will burn out too early.

The main problem and the only problem is the team's defensive zone. If the team could learn to play more defensively, the leads would not be as scary. The perfect example was the Rangers' game jumping out to a 5-1 lead in the first period, then proceeding to blow the lead in the second. Fortunately, the team came up three in the third to win it.

The Leafs' win in AH was a reason to smile. Andersen rebounded after the last two losses. Andersen made several key saves to hold the Ducks at bay. Still a concern with too many blown coverages in the defensive zone.

Whether Mr. Babcock can work out the kinks in the defensive game or Mr. Lamoriello can work out a deal, the defensive issue has to be worked out. The other solution is going to the farm, but I am not sure that is the answer.

Friday, October 27, 2017

One-on-one with Russ Cohen

On the new face-off rules:


I'm not loving it, and it seems like some players are very confused. That's why we're seeing some of the players getting thrown into the penalty box. However, there were a lot of players cheating over the years, and it became an accepted practice. Bobby Clarke cheated on a ton of face-offs, as well as Mark Messier after him. This is forcing players to use better technique to win a draw rather than brute force. We do hear some analytic backlash regarding face-offs. This new rule has done one good thing — it has emphasized how important face-offs can be, especially late in periods and late in the game.


I hate the rule. It slows down the games down. I simply want the linesmen to drop the puck. Let's get on with the game!

On finding prospects:


A lot of times, it's luck. I'm not a scout and don't have the pressure of filing critical reports about players. I do have a reputation that I take very seriously, and that's why I do take pride in finding players and want to do a better job when I miss. Goalies are very hard. I first look at their play on the ice. Most have the same style these days, so I look to see if they're confident and does that rub off on his teammates. Then I like to talk to them and see what makes them tick. How do they break down the action? Or are they reactionary? Neither is the right answer, but it just helps me create a baseline to work off of.


Well, you sure know your stuff, Russ. You have called a lot of prospects right on. I can usually call a person on his skating and shot, and that is about it.  I love your work. You are one of the best in the business.


I literally have over ten years of files of every NHL team's best prospects. Those lists are at least 20 deep, and I update them almost daily. I do like to have new information based on live viewings (preferable) or on video (watching full games over highlights). Players continue to grow physically and get stronger and mature. A lot of times, I'm looking beyond the score in games to see what a player can or can't do. I look behind the play and see some things you don't see on television. When watching something online or on television, I may watch a game 2-3 times if I can. If I used just pre-draft information on all my player profiles, they would become stale. I save the best information for my radio show, Hockey Prospect Radio on Sirius XM Saturdays 8 - 10 AM and on every TSN station (check your local guide). I also give out a fair amount on my website and the HockeyBuzz cast that I'm a part of every weekday from 1 - 2 PM. I write for a few websites and I've authored eight books, with my new one on the way. People can find me on That's my latest book, but you can just click on my name to see the rest.


I like to thank Russ for helping me out with this opportunity. Rarely do I get a chance to meet one of the best. A terrific follow on Twitter. Ten years of documents; I cannot even imagine being that organized.

Monday, September 25, 2017

State of the NHL, Followed by Leafs Preview

Before I get into the Leafs preview, let me spout off. Bear with me as I foam at the mouth on the few nonchanges the NHL has made. Yes, I said nonchanges, because technically the NHL did not change the slashing/psycho rule.

The problem I have is that the League should have been enforcing this rule for some time now. Because the League did not enforce the slashing rule, we have endured games of two hundred power plays. I just don’t get why they have not disciplined the officials for not calling the game right in the first place. The fact, the League enforcing the rule is good; the fact it took so long is stupid. The players look like a bunch of Keystone Cops learning to cope with the changes.

Now back to the Maple Leafs Preview.

Let’s call Mr. Mike Babcock the head chef.  

He starts with a base of Matthews, adds some spice with Hayman and Brown. He adds some more sugar with Marner, JVR, and Bozak.

Then he adds some flavoring with Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, and Patrick Marleau. Mr. Babcock has all of the ingredients for a 5-star dinner. It takes a chef to gather all the ingredients and mix them just right to make it work. Babcock needs to know when and how to add the ingredients.

The thing that makes the Leafs so dangerous is that they have the best second line in the League; JVR, Marner, and Bozak. The third lines can do a little supportive scoring.

The defense is another story; The Leafs lack a steady stay-home dman who can stabilize the Keystone Cops mistakes. Too many times, the Leafs were blowing leads, doing the silly things that give coaches grey hair. Reilly needs some help. Hainsey will have the biggest role in his career. Another leader, Gardiner, has to stop the mental breakdowns. With his offensive skills, he could be a star.

The goaltending is in good hands, to paraphrase an AllState commercial. Andersson is one of the best in the League. He is a great stand-up goalie, who covers his angles. McElhinney was stellar when he stepped in to give Andersson a rest now and then.

I expect the Leafs to get 100 points. I expect a second or third place in the division. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Fantasy Time

Well, it is that time of year when Fantasy Hockey season rears its ugly head. Why do I say ugly? Because I suck, plain and simple; every year I am king of the last place. I tell everyone I don't care, but they just give me that look. You know, the look of pity. I hate that look. Okay, enough with feeling sorry for myself.

So let's try to pick the best player for each position. Some positions are obvious; well, mostly just one.  Everyone knows who is the best centre, but the other positions are not so apparent.

Connor something... I can't remember... his name is on my tip of my tongue... Okay, that was tongue in cheek. McDavid is the best player in the League. He makes everyone around him better. He brings out the best in everyone. What is scary is he has no weaknesses; he does everything well. The best playmaker in the League. He is in a league all by himself.

When you're doing fantasy, this is a position you have to be careful with. You may not pick the best one. You have to consider the team. The goalie with the most wins may not be the best goalie in the League. For example, Price is probably the best goalie in the League, but are the Habs the best team in the League? This is a lot more difficult. I would probably pick Murry from Pit.  The Pens are a contender, and he will get most of the starts.

Best Defencemen
We all know the only thing that matters in Fantasy is points.  And you need to look no further than Ottawa's Erik Karlsson. He is the heart and soul of the Sens. Erik is good for 15-20 goals and 70-80 points.

Right Wing
Patrick Kane in Toronto is one of the best all-around forwards in the game. He does not do anything poorly. Patrick does everything for the Black Hawks. Especially in the special teams; his passing ability makes him deadly on the powerplay.

Left Wing 
As much as my Flames fans want me to pick a certain other left winger; I'm sorry, I must pick Jamie Benn. Jamie is an outstanding player who does everything right. He is one of the best playmakers in the game who can score with the best of them.  It does not hurt to have his buddy Tyler down with him either.

There you have it, my list of the best players at their respective positions.  Each the best in their game.  Bring on the season; I can't wait.

Monday, September 4, 2017

My Kingdom for a Defenceman

The title speaks for itself doesn't it?  The Maple Leafs lost too many one-goal games last season. The Leafs blew too many big leads simply because of nervous defencemen not sure of their responsibility.

The signing of Ron Hainsey will help, but he should not be a top defender. Ron will help with his experience and with a Stanley Cup ring. He will help the young kids and lead them by example.

His stats: four goals and eight assists with a minus eight. The Leafs need him to become an inspirational leader. A stay-home defender who is relentless at what he is expected to do. What is he supposed to do? Ron has to be the defencemen that say the puck stops here. He has to be the repairman in a house that is full of leaks.

It is common knowledge that the Maple Leafs need to trade some scoring. The Leafs are quietly shopping JVR, which may very well become louder and louder. The Bozak to the Pens trade no longer seems possible.

There have been whisperings of Bozak to the Rangers. The Rangers are in dire needs of a second-line center. Bozak fits the bill; the Rangers do have some young defense who might just fit the Leafs' needs.

I expect Nick Holden will be available, but again, I am not sure he fits the bill either. Nick would help he is not the repairman either. The Leafs have to consider shopping JVR. Like I said earlier, louder and louder. They are going to have to make it known.  Maybe they can discuss a deal with the Ducks. I am just spitting out names right now, but they need the help soon.

My kingdom for a defenceman.