December 23, 2010
Leafs hope for good weather on Boxing Day
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - While the Maple Leafs will have the opportunity to enjoy six days off between games on their protracted Christmas break, the return to action wonít come without some potential travel complications.
Unlike the NBA and NFL, the NHL doesnít play games on Christmas Day and under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement with the players association, no travel is allowed on Dec. 25. That means for the Leafs to get to New Jersey in time for their Boxing Day date with the Devils, they have to fly out that morning.
Under normal conditions that would be taxing enough, but factor in the possibility of bad winter weather and things can get tricky. The Leafs travel by charter and get priority status when it comes to clearing customs, but Boxing Day is one of the busiest travel days of the year.
The NHL sees Dec. 26 as a big day, scheduling 11 games but where possible the games feature minimal travel. For example, Anaheim faces Los Angeles, Vancouver meets Edmonton.
Unfortunately for the Leafs, they are on the road and donít have the luxury of facing one of their closer geographical rivals.
ITíS A PLUS
Itís a fact of life for a goal-starved team that the minuses would far outweigh the pluses in plus-minus ratings but the Leafs have only one player in positive territory heading into the Christmas break and heís a fringe guy at best.
Colton Orr leads the team at plus one while Mikhail Grabovski and injured Mike Brown are at even. The rest are in minus territory.
The numbers are rather grim for a trio of players including Kris Versteeg (minus 16), Phil Kessel (minus 14) and defenceman Brett Lebda (minus 13).
Versteeg is tied for 749th in the league out of 757 recorded while Lebda (744) and Kessel (745) arenít far off. Lebda may be the biggest liability according to that stat, however, given he has played in just 17 games.
When Clarke MacArthur scores his next goal, the Leafs will have five players in double digits, a reasonable number given their struggles. Trouble is, the next highest scorer, Tyler Bozak, has just five ... After the Devils game, the Leafs enter a busy stretch in which they play every other night for the following nine nights ... Leafs players Colby Armstrong and Luke Schenn will make an appearance at Real Sports on Dec. 29 between 3-4 p.m. to sign autographs and participate in a Q-and-A session ... Five of the Leafsí next seven games are against Eastern Conference opponents ... Defenceman Tomas Kaberle says if the team can ever get it in its head to play a full game there will be a lot less frustration. ďItís just a matter of putting 60 minutes together,Ē Kaberle said. ďThere are just five-minute stretches in games where we donít pay attention to details and that costs us games.Ē ... Leafs coach Ron Wilson on whether goaltender James Reimer will get a start while Jean-Sebastien Giguere is out with a groin injury. ďHe might and he probably should play a game here, but I will withhold judgement until after we play New Jersey.Ē