2013 Team Canada Spengler Cup Roster and First Match

For some strange reason, whether it be because there appears to be a lack of marketing of the tournament over here or I inadvertently forget each year but Canada has once again assembled a team in Davos, Switzerland to represent the country in the worlds oldest hockey tournament, the Spengler Cup. Definitely something the hockey starved should be taking in over the holidays and something I will be watching out of national pride and in a show of support for the boys over in Europe that take time away from their families over the holidays to represent our country. For those who are not overly familiar with the Spengler Cup however, here is a little more on the tournament and its history:

“The Spengler Cup is an annual ice hockey tournament held in Davos, Switzerland. First held in 1923, the Spengler Cup is often cited as the oldest invitational ice hockey tournament in the world. The event is hosted by the Swiss team HC Davos and played each year in Davos, Switzerland, between Christmas (December 25) and New Year’s Day. All games are held at Vaillant Arena.

It was originally devised by Dr. Carl Spengler as a means to promote teams from German-speaking Europe, who might have suffered ostracism in the aftermath of World War I. Eventually, the tournament grew well beyond expectations. Many of Europe’s most prestigious clubs and national programs have appeared, including Soviet, Swedish, Czechoslovak and German powerhouses.

Among non-European organizations, Team Canada, Team USA, nationally ranked NCAA schools, reigning AHL Calder Cup and Ontario Hockey Association champions, and even Team Japan (in 1971 as hosts of the upcoming Sapporo Winter Olympics) have traveled to Davos through the years.”

“In the Spengler Cup Team Canada competes against European club teams, such as HC Davos who host the tournament every year in Vaillant Arena. Canada used to be represented by the standing national team at this event, but since its dissolution is usually made up of Canadians playing in European leagues or the AHL.” Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spengler_Cup

This years team has been made up almost exclusively of Canadian’s playing in Europe for various teams in leagues that span from Russia to Finland but also includes a couple of players current in the American Hockey League (AHL). For the entire roster, please see the link below:

http://stats.hockeycanada.ca/page/show/1051885-canada

You may recognize some of the names outlined in the roster. Jim Vandermeer spent a dozen seasons in the NHL patrolling the blue line for the likes of the Flyers and Blackhawks. Former Toronto Maple Leaf prospect defenseman and 65th pick (3rd round) overall in the 2001 draft Brendan Bell is currently in Europe playing for HC Biel in the Swiss league. Alexandre Giroux is representing Canada while the center lights up the Swiss league for HC Ambri-Piotta. Former Florida Panther draft pick and current KHL winger Anthony Stewart has also donned the jersey while taking time away from Yekaterinburg Automobilist. Jason Williams, another center who spent a considerable number of years with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks has also joined HC Ambri-Piotta teammate Giroux in Davos to represent Canada and adds considerable NHL talent to the squad. NHL veteran Glen Metropolit has also been lighting up the Swiss league for HC Lugano and appears to be captaining the squad. Another NHL veteran Chris Mason is in in net paired with former Rockford Icehog (AHL) Allen York, a very solid tandem, at least in my opinion. With the experience and skill levels noted above, I would expect Canada to have another very strong showing in the tournament.

For those that missed it, here is the full first game between Team Canada and HC Vitkovice Steel, Canada coming out on top in a 5-4 victory:

Hopefully between the World Juniors and family and the holidays you can find the time to tune in. Food for thought.

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2013 -2014 Maple Leafs Defensive Woes Continue, Should We Expect To See Changes?

So if the Toronto Maple Leafs were indeed starting to look at defenseman for the overhaul that is invariably coming on their back end in what is shaping up to be an absolutely horrid year for their d-core, who would potentially, be available to the Maple Leafs right now? Either as early as December given the Leafs current skid with players signed to teams that are exploring potential rebuilds or those who may possibly be available this summer as UFA’s.

The first player that comes immediately to mind is 31 year old Buffalo Sabre’s defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who is signed for another seven years at a reasonable $4 million per season which may actually start looking like a bit of a deal if he can continue his strong play for the foreseeable future. Ehrhoff put up 50 points in his last season with the Vancouver Canucks and looks to be holding that rate of production, at least to a certain extent even with Buffalo having the lackluster season they are and their management team may be looking for a clean slate if they do attempt a complete rebuild in the near future. Just what Toronto may have to relinquish in such a transaction is the larger question…would it take John Michael Liles (for salary) and a combination of draft picks and prospects (think Josh Leivo, Stuart Percy, Matt Finn etc.) or a younger player like Morgan Reilly or Jake Gardiner is really anyone’s guess at this point.

As discussed previously in this blog, the New York Islanders have unfortunately been in a bit of a free fall as of late which if it continues will dash any hopes of making the playoffs; if that happens do not be surprised if defenseman Andrew MacDonald becomes available. Currently on an expiring contact at $575,000 and a UFA this summer, expect him to garner a significant raise that may put him out of reach with the Islanders self-imposed internal cap. Has already put up 11 points in 32 games, perhaps the Leafs send Mark Fraser on his expiring contract the other way and eat some salary while sending some goodies (prospect/pick) to the Islanders for the chance to see what MacDonald can do firsthand while also having the right to speak with him first at seasons end.

The Florida Panthers are another team on the outside looking in very early on in this season and although it is unlikely they would be able to offload Brian Campbell’s massive contract, perhaps they would part ways with Tom Gilbert as a rental for the rest of the year. In my opinion Gilbert is a player the Maple Leafs should have taken a better look at for third pairing minutes during the summer although it is hard to believe that anyone would have thought Mark Fraser would have struggled quite to the extent he has this year. This is a move that shouldn’t cost the Leafs all that much and could potentially shore up the third pairing.

The other player on the Panthers that should definitely be taken into consideration is 23 year old defenseman Dmitry Kulikov “CBC’s Elliotte Friedman reported the Maple Leafs have held interest in Kulikov for some time.” Bleacher Report. “Assets: Has obvious offensive instincts and a big shot from the point. Is an outstanding, well-rounded skater that posseses excellent upside. Likes to aggressively jump in and partake in the offensive side of things. Flaws: Is still learning the small nuances of the National Hockey League game, so he needs to keep minimizing his defensive-zone mistakes and utilize his body more effectively to become an all-around impact rearguard. Career Potential: Talented defenseman with good upside.” The Hockey News.

Will the Pittsburg Penguins be able to hold onto Matt Niskanen who enters UFA status this coming summer? He will most likely be expecting of a raise over his current deal of $2.9m per year and one should expect that the 27 year old will have clubs competing for his services. There is also Tim Gleason who we covered in the previous post who may be readily available should the Carolina Hurricanes take John Michael Liles in return. Gleason is rumored to be struggling in Carolina and the team is looking for a puck moving defenseman where JML may fit the bill. Gleason is a veteran stay at home defenseman with size.

That being said there were also a couple of players that were not signed to agreements that headed overseas that perhaps may be worthy of consideration if the Leafs decide to reassign Mark Fraser or Paul Ranger (harsh but potentially necessary given their production levels) to the Marlies. Ian White is currently plying his trade in Europe and although the Winnipeg Jets passed on his services after his pro-tryout during training camp could be an inexpensive replacement for the short term. The Leafs are familiar with what he brings given his previous tenure with the club and he could potentially solidify the third pairing to a certain extent if his skill levels have not diminished.

Perhaps it is time for someone to give Kevin Dallman another shot in the NHL. He last appeared with the Los Angeles Kings back in the 2007-08 campaign but has since put up solid numbers in his last four seasons in the KHL. Twice the 31 year old has surpassed the 50 point mark has scored 20 goals and it should be mentioned that he is a hometown boy from Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Well there you have it, any way you slice it there are definitely some options out there for the Maple Leafs to explore but it really comes down to availability and the trade partners demands or requirements. Although the Leafs have been struggling as of late as Kadri recently stated there is still plenty of hockey yet left to play and I for one have to agree so let’s not do anything drastic. As always, food for thought.

2013 – 2014 It May Be Time For The Maple Leafs To Make Some Changes

Is it time for the Maple Leafs to make a change? A question I would hedge a bet that a number of Leafs fans, myself included are starting to ask themselves. These past few games have come as a surprise given how well the team started the year and you have to wonder if injuries are really starting to catch up with the team.

There have been rumblings that John Michael Liles, who has been playing incredibly well this year with the Marlies (12 points in 15 games with a +10) should be called up again to replace either Mark Fraser or Paul Ranger, both of whom have struggled this year and who could both potentially be placed on waivers in order to free up room on the roster. There have been rumors that the Maple Leafs are considering a trade with the Caroline Hurricanes for Tim Gleason, sending JML the other way. This trade would almost certainly end with either Ranger or Fraser being placed on waivers for the purpose of sending them down to the minors.

So what would Gleason add to the team exactly? He is essentially a bonefide NHL stay at home defenseman who would shore up the 3rd defense pairing on the Leafs. Gleason has only managed to play seven games this season, currently out with an undisclosed injury although any guy that takes a puck to the face, comes back wearing a shield and scored the GWG is a beast in most peoples books and would definitely be a welcomed addition to the team.

Really hate to admit this given what a fan of his debut with the Marlies I was but the Paul Ranger experiment with the Maple Leafs may be over; I more than anyone wanted this feel good story to work out but his timing really appears to be off and in all honesty he is trying way too hard to make plays when he just needs to get back to the basics and then focus on rounding out his game. I wouldn’t mind keeping him up but you have to start wondering if it is time to bring up TJ Brennan who has just been tearing up the AHL right now.

Mark Fraser recently returned to the squad from a knee injury and either the injury itself or the knee brace he is wearing appears to be limiting his effectiveness more than anyone appears to be willing to admit. The next couple of games coming up are definitely going to be statement games for him and I would not be surprised to see him paired up with Cody Franson who is also returning from a lower body injury to see if the two can rekindle some of their chemistry from last year while playing more conservative minutes.

There were also some rumblings about the Leafs looking at New York Islanders Andrew McDonald who is a UFA at the end of the season and could be looking at a hefty raise. The 27 year old 6’1”, 197lbs defenseman has quietly becoming a steady defenseman in the league that had up until this year been relatively unnoticed. The Islanders will without a doubt hold onto him unless they falter out of the playoff race or receive a significant offer, something a number of cap strapped teams will shy away from.

There are also some causes for concern with respect to the contributions from the Leafs third and fourth lines this year that could also see change. Have to wonder if it is time for Randy Carlyle to throw together a line consisting of Kulemin, Ashton and Smith for an extended period of time to see if they can generate some much needed offense (leaving Clarkson where he is in my opinion as all this line juggling just cannot be helping him settle in). No disrespect to Orr, Smithson and McLaren (Smithson has been quite effective on the draw and Orr has definitely been an effective forechecker this year, actually better than I can ever remember) but these players and this line are not put out on the ice in an effort to contribute points and never have been, quite the opposite actually and they appear to be doing a reasonable job at that, just that with the lack of production coming from the third line, they get included in the conversation. If the third line doesn’t produce results you have to wonder if moving McLaren down to the Marlies, placing Ashton back on the fourth line while bringing young prospect Josh Leivo up to play on the third line might have some impact.

Regardless it will be interesting to see if the team is able to pull together through these tough times and rebound. The game against the Sharks, although a loss gave me some hope that the teams core is still relatively strong but the supporting cast needs a retooling. Anyways as always food for thought.