Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Catching Up On Today's Big Stories

I'll save the Leafs till last...

We'll start in Pittsburgh where we learned Crosby will miss the next 6-8 weeks with a high ankle sprain. This is a huge blow to the Penguins, who are still right in the mix for fighting for their playoff lives. Penguins management will surely be looking to swing a deal to help their depth going forward.

Staying with the Penguins, Malkin is off to the all-star game, replacing the injured Crosby. I think Malkin is a good choice, as he's playing the best hockey of his young career right now.

In Phoenix, Ilya Bryzgalov signed a three year, 12.75 million dollar extension. Phoenix has secured their most important piece right now, and will be a good team for at least the next four seasons.

How about Niklas Backstrom, my choice right now for rookie of the year. Kane got off to a great start, but has really slowed down in 2008. Backstrom is on absolute fire, and doesn't show signs of slowing down anytime soon. Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom are going to make Washington very strong for many years.

Finally, John Ferguson Jr. was fired as the GM of the Maple Leafs today. Cliff Fletcher will finish the season as GM, and will be replaced in the offseason by an experienced hockey guy, my guess being Jim Rutherford. Paul Maurice will remain coach of the Leafs for the remainder of the season, and will be assessed by the next General Manager, who is likely to bring in his own coach (or if it's Rutherford, Maurice could be his choice).

Fletchers job will be to come in and attempt to clean up the mess left by John Ferguson Jr. Early impressions are varied. Some believe the only move Fletcher will make will be the one involving Sundin that most of us in the industry believe is coming. I, on the other hand, feel that Fletcher is ready to make several moves, freeing up roster space and salary cap room for the man who replaces him. Kubina, Tucker, Sundin, Raycroft, Blake, Ponikarovsky, and more are available and will be moved if they can be. Antropov and Kaberle are left off that list for the reason that I believe they are important pieces for the Leafs moving forward. I believe the Leafs will do what the Flyers did last year, and that is sell off for prospects and picks, and use the summer to add neccessary pieces to build a contender. Stock up on young players, bring Sundin back, and sign two or three good players and the Leafs are now a solid contender who have tons of potential as well as potential to grow. The Leafs have players like Kaberle, Toskala and Steen already in place, it's time to get even younger in Toronto.

I want to hear your thoughts, so please email me at cjohnson202@hockeyleaks.com with your reaction to today's announcement. I'd also love to hear your ideas on what the Leafs should do.

Check Hockeyleaks.com and the forums for all the latest.