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Setting Up The Nashville Tilt with A Live Chat

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Submit your questions on the Leafs for Mike now and check back to see his response.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the LIVE chat!


It is January and the playoffs for the Maple Leafs exist as little more than theoretical.

There is plenty of snow, a lack of light and 39 more hockey games to play, including one at Air Canada Centre Tuesday against the Nashville Predators.

Reporters busy themselves asking about the latest trade rumour. This morning Nik Antropov and Tomas Kaberle were quizzed on their plans. Nothing new: both said they both want to stay. Kaberle, with a no-trade clause, actually has the option.

Having spent his recent winters in California, Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson notices the effect winter has on everyone, including hockey players. “I guess you could say these are the dog days,” he said Tuesday as the Leafs prepared for the Nashville Predators.

No player sums up the dog days better than Antropov, goalless since December 20 when he scored a power play marker in a 7-3 win over Pittsburgh. Antropov is stone cold and has been the subject of trade rumours.

“That's what happens; it's cyclical in our game,” Wilson said of the goalscoring drought  “How many goals did Alexander Ovechkin score in his first 10 games this year?

It turns out two, although Antropov would no doubt be flattered by the comparison to the game’s most dynamic young player.

“Sometimes you just go seven, eight, nine, 10 games without a goal.” said Wilson. “And then you press and it's counterproductive. So he's just got to relax. But don't forget, Matt Stajan was out a good part of that time (with a freak eye injury) and that's really affected the production of Ponikarovsky and Antropov.”

Antropov‘s 13 goals are just one off the team lead held by Alexei Ponikarovsky. Not bad for a guy in the middle of the drought.

“I guess I have to shoot the puck more,” Antropov said. “I'm not shooting enough, like, one, two shots a game (actually 2.57), it's not enough if you want to score goals. So I know that, and I'm working hard.”

The Leafs have scored just five goals in their last three games, all losses. “We are what we are,” shrugs Wilson. Lee Stempniak, for example, has three goals in 20 games. Niklas Hagman is goalless in six and Jamal Mayers, counted on for some offence this season, has just one goal in 31 games.

And then there are the injuries. Jeff Finger, a stalwart on the blueline has an upper body injury and will be out of the lineup for another 10 days to two weeks. Nikolai Kulemin took a shot on the ankle while playing for the Marlies and probably will not play tonight.

Look for former Leaf Steve Sullivan making a return for the Predators. He will play his second game after missing two seasons with a back injury.

That could mean Wade Belak, another former Leaf, will not play against his old team.

Mike Ulmer will arrive at approximately 2p.m.

Feel free to submit your questions for Mike now
2:03
[Comment From Guest]
hearing anything decent on the trade rumor front?
2:04
Hey, everyone. I am here and ready to answer all of your questions. Please no math or geography querries since I am still working on my high school GED.
2:06
On the first question, you have to look at the sellers and the assetts. The latest whispers have concerned Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky to Phoenix. The thinking is Phoenix needs to make the playoffs and are therefore desperate for short-term help. All these rumors should come with the same amount of salt they keep in the green pyramids.
2:06
[Comment From GoFinger!]
Whats Jeff Finger's situation?
2:07
Some sort of upper body injury. He's out for 10 days. Used to be an injury was only secret if it involved the knee, which made it pretty simple to suss out. Ah, happier days.
2:07
[Comment From Curtis]
who do you think the leafs will draft first this year, who will be the first to be traded and how long until a big trade happens
2:09
Kind of depends on where they finish. They will need big luck in the lottery to get Tavares or Hedman. The trouble here is the Islanders. I can see the Leafs closing the gap by losing a bunch of games. I just can't see the Islanders winning any.
2:10
[Comment From Paul]
Is it a realistic possibility to keep kaberle for the future and not trade him. If they do move kaberle is there any leaf defenceman (now or in the minors) who can move the puck and be as offensively potent as kaberle?
2:11
Well, the hope is that Anton Stralman is that player. Kaberle is 30 and has this year and next on a nice contract. I don't see him being around when the team is making a run toward the upper echelons of the league but he is a valuable player and the team's best passer.
2:12
[Comment From I Love Vesa!!!!!!!!!]
Is Vesa on his way out?
2:12
No way. He is here this year. There is really no market for a goalie and he is about as good as the team. The question becomes, will he improve as the team does?
2:12
[Comment From lilzeke]
let the domino affect take place we need a winning team now lets start the rebuilding process starting with winning the lottery pick and drafting john tavares
2:13
Great. We've solved it then.
2:13
[Comment From Jason]
Hi Mike, I always enjoy reading your articles and you cover the Maple Leafs and the Raptors for that matter, very well. Where do you see Jeremy Williams playing for the reminder of the season? The Maple Leafs or down with the Marlies?
2:14
I think Jeremy will go back to the minors. Wilson loves his scoring but he is, in his own words, not sold on him. There seems to be an organizational imperative to make players earn their way up the NHL level. Thanks for the kind words, by the way.
2:15
[Comment From flamin hot]
why dont you look anything like your picture?
2:15
Just bad luck.
2:15
[Comment From G-Man]
What about goaltending, mainly Justin Pogge, should he not be given a real chance
2:17

The fact that Justin did not start the playoffs last year indicates one simple fact: the Leafs, who know better than anyone, don't think he is ready. After a slow start, he has played well this season but Justin needs to learn the craft. That's no indictement, he is a terrific talent, but it's the toughest position in the sport and everyone evolves at their own pace. He remains a very good prospect.

 

2:18
I don't see anyone assuming the C in the near future. Look for Luke Schenn to get an A next season and then assume the letter after his third letter. Just a guess.
2:19
[Comment From leaffan4life]
As you know the leafs are struggling this season with all of the young players. Does Brian Burke have any big moves in his mind that may be made before the All-Star game? if so what are they?
2:23
Did you ever go to a dance when you were a teen? Did you notice all the boys standing around a corner of the gym, talking to each other? Those guys are GMs. Now, I don't want to take the dancing analogy too far because it makes for some pretty bad visuals. The point is, everyone stands around until someone breaks the ice. This is, in the words of an old an old hymn, the bleak midwinter (go ahead, look it up). As always, the trade deadline wil force teams into moves. When one rival shakes things up, the next team down the line reacts and so on.
2:24
[Comment From Jay]
What's the status on Jeff Finger? Did Coach Wilson or any of his staff update his progress or when we can see him return to the lineup?
2:25
Jeff. A word on Coach Wilson.
I find the phrase, Coach Wilson, or Coach Lombardi, jarring. It's like General Wilson. I find when I travel south of the border, media people address as 'Coach". In the great white north, it's a more informal "Ron' or Roger. Now my theory could be all wet. Where are you right now?
2:26
[Comment From Jay]
In your opinion, after going for size and a stay at home defencemen in Luke Schenn at the 2008 Draft, any thoughts as to what Burke and Co will be looking for in this years draft?
2:26
Let's be honest. They need everything.
2:26
[Comment From Guest]
Will the Leafs trade Poni, Blake, Kabby, Antro, Kubina, Ryn, Hollo-wig before the trade deadline?
2:28
I think they will trade anyone save for Schenn, Kulemin and Grabovski. They are interested in prospects and picks.
2:29
[Comment From Monika with a K]
Who has a better chance of playing on the Leafs...Steve Dangle, Jason Spezza, Vincent Lecavalier or P.K Subban?
2:29
Dangle, but only because he is unsigned.
2:29
[Comment From Nick]
Are the Leafs still in the hunt for a tough guy, or are they satisfied with what May, Deveaux, and Mayers bring to the table?
2:30
I can't imagine they need another tough guy. I think there priority will be to acquire guys who can play. Just a flyer, though.
2:31
[Comment From Guest]
why is bell not playinf for the leafs?
2:35
Seven goals in 38 games for the Marlies. Hell of a nice guy and probably would not hurt them but they need to get better. Better means better players. Mark hasn't demonstrated the neessary offence. Five other players have more shots and two of the seven goals came on the power play.
2:35
[Comment From Nick]
Do you see the Leafs getting another top 5 pick in this year's draft?
2:39
Yes I do and that ain't bad. It gives them a shot at number one and you can get an awfully good player. Columbus got Nikita Filatov at six in the last draft. and he is playing for them.  Schenn went at five. Phil Kessel went fifth to Boston in 2006. and the Canadiens got Carey Price out of the fifth spot in 2005.
2:39
[Comment From Stuart]
You mentioned that you don't see anyone taking up the captaincy anytime soon. My question is; why not? I would have thought that with all the young players and hopeful prospects in the team over the next couple of years that a captain i.e someone to lead them, would be a great benefit and something these rookies & youngsters crave.
2:42
A captaincy cries out for permanence. It is an inducement for a player to invest a career in a particular city. It is, therefore, a pretty important piece of cotton. You could make Dominic Moore the Leafs captain. He is an admirable, hard working player and a fine person. But he is not a premier player on an evolving team. That's why you save it for a special player. That does not mean that a measure of mentoring isn't always going on. May I immoedestly direct you to yesterday's story about Luke Schenn and the veterans at mapleleafs.com.
2:42
[Comment From corey]
what do you think the dumbest trade the leafs ever made?\
2:44
Let's see, the Lanny MacDonald deal to Colorado for Wilf Paiement comes to mind. Letting Bernie Parent go was, in retrospect, probably a mistake as well. Darryl Sittler for a U.S. high school player, Rick Kehoe for basically nothing. I could go on but I might short out the computer...with...my........tears (sniff).
2:45
[Comment From Grabby4life]
Can you say Hi to Vesa Toskala for me?
2:45
No can do. He told me Santa Claus was a laplander. I can let a lot pass, but not something like that.
2:45
[Comment From Mat Swyers]
Hi Mr. Ulmer. We all know Vesa Toskala can make some incredible saves here and there, and I personaly think he's a great goalie. But he has consistency issues. What does he need to do to improve himself for the next half of the season, and possibly next season if he can step his game up.
2:50
I think you hit it right. Ron Wilson always says you can tell how Vesa is feeling by his position in the net. If he is deep in the net, then he is feeling less sure. The same was always true, by the way, of Felix Potvin. The thing that would help Vesa most is a better team. I think there are different variations of   two types of goalies. Some goalies need to feel needed and make lots of saves. Some goalies thrive on stronger defensive teams. From his performance in San Jose and so far in Toronto, Vesa, as opposed to a Curtis Joseph in his prime for example, doesn't need to be a hero.   Ken Dryden used to talk about fighting the feeling of being irrelevant on the great Montreal Canadiens' teams. There is no right or wrong here, only degrees of comfort. Give Vesa a better team and I guarantee he will be a better goalie. Believe it or not, that is not always the case.
2:51
[Comment From corey]
alot of my freinds have a crush on alexia ponny, i just want your take on why people might like him
2:52
Gee, Corey. Bit of a mixed message here. Do you mean Alexei Ponikarovsky? And remember, people will love you for what's inside. As for Pony, he's a great guy and a very kind soul. Good people.
2:52
[Comment From Curtis]
what is it like being so cool
2:53
I transcend cool.
2:53
[Comment From sniper]
With the success the Red Wings have had late in the draft why the May move...makes no sense at all. I'd rather take my chances finding a needle in the haystack in the 6th round
2:54
You know, I agree.
2:54
[Comment From Jay from T.O.]
Leafs clearly need prospects but is there any way they'd swing for the fences and go for one of the rumoured stars on the block, like Gaborik, Nash, Kovulchuk or Lecavalier?
2:55
Not Lecavalier but I believe Nash. His age, background, size and skil set fit.
2:55
[Comment From Bill from 'Sauga]
How much has the team missed Mike Van Ryn on the blueline? What's the timeline on his return?
2:55
I think a lot. He was one of their top four defencemen when he played. A very smart player and a nice assett.
2:55
[Comment From Guest]
which player has impressed you most this year?
2:58
There have been a lot of nice moments. You can't help but like Nik Hagman's game. Ian White has been a constant revelation. Grabovski is terrifically exciting, I see a little Alexander Mogilny in him. I might be the only guy but I think Jonas Frogren is a very solid player and he gives the team real toughness. Schenn has been wonderful.
2:58
[Comment From Michael Davidson]
Do you think the leafs have been told to keep each game entertaining, but must loose them all????
2:59
First, it's lose. If you are going to ask about it, you might want to spell it correctly. As for the rest of your question: no.
2:59
[Comment From sniper]
Why has Robbie Earl never got the look he has deserved?
3:00
One goal in 32 games with the Marlies. I am curious. What exactly does he deserve?
3:03
Thanks to all of you nice people for writing. If you would like to write or upload a video question, go to leafspace.com. We are speaking with Doug Gilmour in a few days. Why not send a video question to him through leafspsace.com. We will use the best questions we receive in our interview.
3:07


 
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