The Trapp Is Set
Critics, including myself, have spent a lot of time giving the Maple Leaf organization heat for their draft procedures and selections. Just a couple of days ago, Leaf Management did something to that end they had not previously been able to make me do… they made me listen and take notice.
By hiring Barry Trapp as the new Director of Amateur Scouting, the Leafs more importantly have made other NHL clubs take notice. Trapp’s resume is more than merely impressive. It stands out on its own. A former junior player, Barry spent six years as a coach of juniors in the WHL.
After his tours with Regina and Moose Jaw, Trapp caught on with the NHL Central Scouting Bureau analyzing and ranking the top junior prospects worldwide. After a decade at that post, he took a job for the past seven years with the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA) where he played a large role in scouting and selecting the Canadian Juniors and Under 18’s. Before beginning his new job, Trapp helped in selecting the players for the summer evaluation camps of the Canadian Under 18’s. What does all this experience mean? Quite simply, it means he has had his pulse on Junior hockey for over 20 years and even the next few years crops of youngsters and draft eligible players are fresh on his mind and already being evaluated.
When Mark Hillier was released in such a crucial stage in entry draft preparation, the Leafs knew they had to hire a man who already knew this years crop of talent. They could not afford to have to wait on getting their head of scouting caught up to the prospect reviews. In adding Trapp, they leap years ahead. Trapp comes in and now the other scouts must catch up to where he is at. And that is already looking at 2003 and beyond, as well as this years draft in Toronto.
The move not only made good business sense, it made great hockey sense. It provides a sense of completion to Barry’s career. Barry Trapp began his career being scouted by Bob Davidson, a previous head of amateur scouting in Toronto. He was a prospect in the Leafs organization, spending several seasons in the Leaf organization. One of those seasons, 1967 to be precise, was spent in Tulsa of the Central Hockey League with defense partner and room mate, Pat Quinn. Now, and undoubtedly with Quinn’s support, the two are reunited in Toronto for the first time since the last Leaf Cup win.
Trapp has wasted no time in making his intentions known. Barry already has made it clear that he feels the Leaf draft picks need more time to develop in St. John’s when their junior careers end. “We have to start building, and keep guys down on the farm for a couple of years to give them time to develop.”* *Quotation courtesy of www.faceoff.com
*Quotation courtesy of www.faceoff.com
COAST TO COAST AND ACROSS THE POND
Brad Boyes – Erie Otters (OHL)
Brad was named the winner of the OHL’s Red Tilson trophy for the second season in a row as most outstanding player as voted on by OHL writers and broadcasters. In addition to his back to back William Hanley wins as most sportsmanlike player as voted upon by coaches and GM’s, it seems Brad is the unanimous pick as the most dominant player in the OHL.
INSIDE THE HANGER SPECIAL EDITION*
This Har’ Province Jes’ Not Big Enough Fer Two Of Us
Break out the Charles Bronson harmonicas and the Clint Eastwood squints, there’s going to be a gunfight in Ontario as two teams converge from opposite directions on Highway 7 to see which one will move on to the Eastern Conference Final vs the winner of Carolina and Montreal. For the third straight year the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators square off in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and for the third straight year the Sens will try to beat the Buds in post-season for the first time. This could be their year to do it as for once, they are not meeting their nemesis in the first round.
That the Leafs are affected offensively without Mats Sundin in the lineup is undeniable. Sundin, outside of perhaps Alexander Mogilny, and even then it’s extremely close, has the most pure skill of anyone on the team. With him on the ice, the bunch of players with him are capable of so many more things because he can play any given situation so many different ways. Take him out of the picture and the options are much more limited, unless Mogs is out there. Luckily for the Leafs, one of the ways they have been scoring goals, attacking the net off the rush, is one they are well suited for. The have a plethora of largish forwards and even defensemen (witness Wade Belak) who can crash though the enemy wedge and lift home a rebound should one be there. But the Buds can’t afford to be a one trick pony here, especially not against a team Ottawa and a Coach like Jacques Martin who specializes in scheming the prefect foil for the opposition attack.
Bryan McCabe is also a weapon that Toronto likes to use, especially on the powerplay, and don’t think the Sens don’t know that. He’ll most likely have someone in his face all series so it will be imperative that Tomas Kaberle take advantage of the extra space he’s probably going to have. Two people they don’t have to worry about are Gary Roberts and Alyn McCauley. Roberts has simply put this team on his back since Sundin went down and it’s highly doubtful that there is anything up front Ottawa has that will contain him although they’ll probably try Chris Neil. McCauley meanwhile probably already has GM/Coach penciling him in as the third line center next year after his first round performance against the Isles. The way he’s playing right now he’s on equal footing with Todd White.
Unlike Toronto, which had it’s main cog step up and have one of his best year’s in Blue and White, Ottawa had to get used to playing without theirs after trading away Alexei Yashin in a draft day blockbuster last year. In order to make up for the inevitable shortfall in offense one of the things that had to happen was that Captain Daniel Alfredsson, who almost wasn’t, had to stay healthy. Wonder of wonders if the oft-injured winger didn’t suit up for 78 games this season and what a treat the NHL got for it all. But it was just him. The oft maligned Radek Bonk also improved on last year’s numbers, as did sophomore Martin Havlat. Marian Hossa experienced a small drop in production but you’d never know it by what he’s done in the second season. That said, the big leap forward came from Kanata native Todd White who went from walk on to first line center and a 50 point campaign. While this doesn’t say much for the depth of the Senator’s pivots, with Sundin out for Toronto, this might not necessarily be the weakness it could have been.
As a scheme, the Red and Gold live off the turnover. They have good team speed top to bottom and forecheck mercilessly. It will be similar to what Toronto saw against the Islanders in the last round however it will be a bit faster but not quite as nasty. Dangerous nonetheless because from a skill standpoint, the Sens are head and shoulders above the Isles in finishing skills. On the downside of offense from the back end Wade Redden has had a disappointing year compared to 2000/2001, Karel Rachunek is out for the season thanks to surgery and Sami Salo actually played a reasonable amount of games but underachieved given his billing. On the upside the two heavyweights Chris Phillips and Zdeno Chara both picked up the slack with the latter being employed as a forward/King Kong on the Empire State Building during the powerplay. There will be little question as to whether Chara can handle the physical aspect Toronto is bound to bring to the table. The question is going to be whether the rest of the Ottawa attack can. Remember the Leafs with numerous injuries still tallied an average of 3.14 goals a game against the Isles. Meanwhile, against the Flyers, the Sens could manage to get but 2.2 pucks pat the duo of Roman Cechmanek and Brian Boucher.
Several things about the Leafs became evident in their series against the Islanders. Tomas Kaberle is starting to assert himself physically, and that is a scary prospect because he is the complete package other than that. Wade Belak is a much improved player on the blueline from a year ago, especially in his skating. Karel Pilar is getting the typical rookie hazing from the refs who, when in doubt are taking the guy they don’t know and who can’t speak English that well. The Czech has been victimized by more than one phantom call this post-season. However over and above these things the two biggest observations that can be made are that the forwards right down to the supposed finesse players have bought into Quinn’s backchecking plan in spades. Usually if there is an odd man rush given up by the team, it is because of a bad line change or a lapsed penalty. Other than that it just doesn’t happen.
The other thing, well, the other thing is not so encouraging. To date, the Toronto D has been nothing short of pathetic in front of their own net. Now granted, the Sens are not as physical man to man as the Isles were, but the Buds had problems moving Alexei Yashin, Mark Parrish, and Oleg Kvasha from the front of their goal in the first round. The blueline better eat their Wheaties or else they are going to get smoked by Zdeno Chara every time the Sens have a powerplay. Outside of the backcheck, Quinn will often employ a certain play to spy on a key opposition forward. To date the man that’s usually fallen to has been Shayne Corson, although Travis Green’s elevated play could see him get a battlefield promotion as well. Should that be the case, the players they will probably be shadowing will no doubt be Alfredsson and Hossa. If Toronto can take those two out of the equation, that will be nearly half of their first round goals gone.
With the troika of Chara, Phillips and Curtis Leschyshyn on the blueline, the Leafs will probably not get to the net on the rush unimpeded or be able to stand around unmolested too long. That said, none of the three are blazers when it comes to the speed department so the possibility of an Achilles Heel exists. However, this is something Martin has had all year to look at so it’s not to be counted on at least not off the rush. The Ottawa Coach builds his offense from defense and therefore employs a very aggressive trap when the score is in doubt and a passive one when defending a safe lead. It’s a very frustrating strategy to play against but it can be beaten by a team that can execute a good dump and chase game. It will be up to the high forward in the Sens backcheck to impede the second man in once the puck gets over the blueline and if the Kanatans have one thing it is defensively aware centers.
All of Todd White, Radek Bonk, Mike Fisher, and Juha Ylonen, know their job in this situation and will not normally be caught out on a routine play like a dump-in. And they’ll have to be as both Redden (13) and Chara (11) had more giveaways in 5 games than any Leaf in 7. This is not a good sign as the Leafs while they might lack the thump of the Philadelphia Flyers have a group of faster middleweights they can send over the boards in waves. How Ottawa deals with this tactic will determine how they fare in this series. If Martin, who likes to put lines together so that have a little bit of everything in them, does decide to shadow anyone, it will probably be Gary Roberts with Chris Neil, in hopes of tiring the veteran out over a long series. Other than that, the possibility exists that he might try his hand at a Todd White/Alyn McCauley match-up as both are very similar players.
The optimist will say that Curtis Joseph found his form when it mattered most. The pessimist will say that Cujo looked as good as the team in front of him and in the playoffs that’s not good enough. They’d both be right. If the Leafs #1 netminder has proven anything in the first round it’s that he can keep the hockey world guessing. Is his hand healed enough not to make a difference in his play or not? Was he simply rusty in the early part of the series or was his injury really bothering him?
The first game of this series will probably say a lot more than the previous seven did. As for the man himself, there is no nemesis here, no New Jersey, no Buffalo, no nothing. Simply the Ottawa Senators whom he has already beaten twice in the post-season. If he blows this, even without Sundin and coming off a broken hand, rightly or wrongly, he’ll go down as a netminder who fades in the playoffs.
Patrick Lalime did what he needed to do to save his job, he completely stoned his opponent in the first round. Be that as it may there is a big asterisk beside this one folks, that opponent was none other than Bob Clarke’s Philadelphia Flyers, who are fast becoming synonymous with post-season futility. No one, year in and year out, leaves more sawdust on the ice than these guys so shutting them down is not the accomplishment that it might seem. Couple that with the fact that Lalime has had some horrendous playoff outings against the Buds and a different picture starts to emerge.
Again here, much is going to come down the first game. Ottawa may not win it, seeing it is in Toronto, but if it is an affair where the Leafs end up getting four or more goals by the Sens puckstopper and giving up only one or two themselves, all those skeletons of yesteryear are going to start creeping out of the closet for Lalime and it won’t be a pleasant sight.
Toronto Wins If……
they can minimize the impact of Alfredsson and Hossa. They are the engine that is driving this year’ Senators in the post-season. Isolate them from the rest of the Ottawa attack and it’s doubtful the rest of the Sens can make up the difference.
Ottawa Wins If……
They can find a way to compensate for their rearguards’ case of the dropsies in their own zone. This is key because the Leafs are going to be attacking this weakness in droves and if Martin doesn’t fix it, it will be the Sens undoing.
Five Things That Will Happen:
Zdeno Chara will score more goals in this series than Marian Hossa.
Alyn McCauley and Todd White will play a prank on their respective coaches and dress for the other team for a night and no one will realize it.
Alexander Mogilny will lead the Leafs in points by the time the series ends.
Mats Sundin will not play in the series.
Patrick Lalime will get pulled at least once in this series.
The Wildcard Factor:
What will the Leafs do against Zdeno Chara when they are a man short? This is a scary proposition. It will be up to McCabe, Belak, and Aki Berg to keep his stick off the ice because it’s doubtful that any of them are actually going to be able to move the guy much.
Fearless Prediction: Toronto in six.
*Inside the Hangar was written by Stephen J. Holodinsky
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