James Reimer, Mikhail Grabovski, Phil Kessel

Are the 2011-12 Leafs a step backwards?


Don’t look now, but the 2011-12 Toronto Maple Leafs might actually do worse than the 2010-11 team. Despite Joffrey Lupul, who is now out with a separated shoulder, and Phil Kessel setting new career-highs in points, the Leafs are on pace to get just 82 points this season, compared to 85 last season.

Of course, this is due in no small part to the fact that, as Leafs GM Brian Burke recently put it, the Maple Leafs are an 18-wheeler that ran off a cliff. Toronto has won just two of its last 14 games.

Still, when the dust settles on the 2011-12 campaign, it will be judged as a whole and not just based on the last couple months of the season. Although context matters, their cold streak shouldn’t be used as an excuse to claim that they were significantly better than their final record suggests.

So what should the Leafs do moving forward? Well, Burke apparently thought that a coaching change would be part of the solution. There might even be calls to start the rebuild over from scratch. However, the Maple Leafs might be best served by being patient. After all, Toronto is the second youngest team in the NHL, according to capgeek. Burke should continue to make tweaks and look to add players when it makes sense to do so, but taking a drastic change in course could prove to be counterproductive. Leafs fans might not enjoy seeing the their team’s recent collapse, but rebuilds can be a painful process.

Slepyshev earns final Oilers roster spot; Draisaitl to AHL

Anton Slepyshev, Anton Lander
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The Edmonton Oilers have assigned center Leon Draisaitl to AHL Bakersfield.

The demotion of Draisaitl, 19, means 21-year-old rookie Anton Slepyshev has made the opening-day roster after scoring twice and adding two assists in exhibition action.

The Oilers experimented during the preseason with Draisaitl, a natural center, on the wing. He didn’t have a particularly poor camp, finishing with one goal and three assists in six games.

But Slepyshev apparently impressed more.

“He’s a young player but he’s played pro hockey before,” coach Todd McLellan told the Edmonton Journal. “You can see it.”

Slepyshev played 58 games in the KHL last season, scoring 15 goals for Salavat Yulaev Ufa.

Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado

Jared McCann, Connor McDavid, Ben Hutton

A preseason push by a number of Vancouver Canucks youngsters has left forward Linden Vey and defenseman Frank Corrado on waivers today.

The more surprising name of the two is Corrado, the 22-year-old who entered the season with an excellent chance of making the opening-day roster. However, it seems that rookie d-man Ben Hutton, 22, has been given the nod after finishing an eye-opening preseason with one goal and four assists in seven games. (This despite Hutton being waiver exempt. So it’s a risk for the Canucks, to be sure.)

It was the play of 19-year-old rookie Jared McCann that led, in part, to the waiving of Vey. (For more on that, click here.) Veteran Adam Cracknell remains with the team as well, to some surprise.

Rookie winger Jake Virtanen is also expected to be on Vancouver’s opening-day roster, though that’s no big shock.

Defenseman Alex Biega is also on waivers, as expected.