The Maple Leafs would’ve been happier to see Ryan Miller or Tuukka Rask pack their bags out of the division and conference than Jaroslav Halak.
But when an arch-rival loses a quality keeper, who has a proven Leafs raker and could factor in a playoff race, then Toronto should be sending a Trudeau Airport delegation to wave off Halak’s plane to St. Louis.
Halak was the glue for the Canadiens admirable run to the Eastern final, with nine wins and a .923 save percentage, which only got better the higher the shot clock climbed. In recent regular seasons against the light-shooting Leafs, Halak was 6-2-2, a sparkling 3-1 and .939 percentage at the ACC. Buoyed by this spring’s success, he would surely be even tougher on Toronto from opening night Oct. 7 and up to six Northeast dates after.
Obviously, the Habs like the slightly younger Carey Price for cap and chemistry reasons and he might yet join the pantheon of great Habs goalies. For now, however, the Leafs have a 3.06 GAA against Price.
Still in the Northeast are Buffalo’s Miller, who is up for the Vezina Trophy, and Rask, with better numbers than Miller, albeit in fewer games. Miller already has 22 wins versus Toronto, his most against any team, with a .930 percentage. Rask is already 4-1 against the team that traded him in 2006, with a healthy .943 percentage.
The devil you know
Lou Lamoriello did the expected and stuck close to home with John MacLean as his new coach, but it sounds like some New Jersey Devils are getting concerned with the team’s inability to keep good people behind the bench since Pat Burns stepped aside.
MacLean represents the seventh change since Burns departed during the lockout, because of illness. Larry Robinson, Claude Julien, Brent Sutter and Jacques Lemaire have come and gone, with Lamoriello making two interim appearances.
“Every year over the past few seasons we’ve been scratching our heads for that same decision: ‘Who’s going to be the next guy?’,” star goalie Martin Brodeur told local media prior to Thursday’s hiring. “We’re trying to be consistent. We’ve been like that with our players, we need to start doing that with our coaches, also. Stability is where we built our success in New Jersey.”
The Oshawa-born MacLean, 45, is the franchise’s leading goal-scorer and spent years in the Devils’ system as an instructor, most recently with their Lowell, Mass., farm team. He scored 347 goals for the Devils, including the overtime winner that qualified them for their first playoff trip in 1988.
Ice Edge Holdings cleared another hurdle Thursday in attempts to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes, providing the City of Glendale proof of proper financing in advance of a Friday deadline. The lone bidder for the Coyotes, Ice Edge officials also met with commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy Bill Daly in New York on Wednesday to spur league approval.
“It was a good update on progress,” Daly told the Toronto Sun in an e-mail. “The process is continuing to move forward.”
The Leafs might be getting a close look at Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin in a Bruins’ sweater when Toronto stages its annual rookie tournament around the second week of September. Boston, Ottawa and Pittsburgh have been invited again after coming to Kitchener last year, but the tourney venue likely will change. The Leafs will have a seven-day rookie camp prior to the main group arriving ... It’s expected the club will shortly send out qualifying offers to restricted free agents such as forwards Nikolai Kulemin and John Mitchell ... GM Brian Burke has seen a draft copy of the Leafs’ 2010-11 schedule, but nothing is confirmed beyond the opening game against Montreal (Oct. 7 at the ACC), the annual Hall of Fame game (Nov. 6 against either visiting Buffalo or Chicago) and Leafs at Montreal for Hockey Day In Canada (Feb. 12). “Usually there are about 20 changes to make, but we’ve got them down to single digits already,” Burke said. The full schedule usually is released in early July.