Looking at it now, the title sounds more like a title to a YouPorn video than a blog entry, but whatever. In case you weren’t aware, while March Madness sweeps the country and millions of brackets have been shredded in the past few weeks, the NCAA regional hockey tourneys took place this weekend. After a great weekend of hockey, the Frozen Four has been decided, with Miami of Ohio, Wisconsin, Rochester Institute of Technology and Boston College still standing. Of course that means that 12 other teams have been eliminated, and, while there doesn’t seem to be as much of a demand for this year’s crop of players, it’s now open season for NHL GMs to make their pitches to a new group of youngsters.
While many considered the class of this year’s crop to be Bobby Butler, a Massachusetts native playing at the University of New Hampshire, Brian Burke apparently had his sights set on Brayden Irwin, a 6’5 beast, born in Toronto, whose Vermont Catamounts came within a goal of advancing past 5th ranked Wisconsin on Friday night. Irwin led the team in scoring this year, with 15 goals and 34 points, while demonstrating plenty of truculence with 72 penalty minutes. Listening to Burke talk about the kid (“we envision him as a top 6 forward”), it’s difficult not to be optimistic about his future with the Leafs, but it’s always tough to tell with kids coming out of the NCAA. Often, especially in a power forward type player like Irwin, the player will need at least a season or so in the AHL to get his game and skating up to speed in order to effectively contribute in the NHL. Irwin will get a chance to make a lasting impression with the Leafs at least once in the last few games of the season, according to Ron Wilson.
Here’s what I’ve been reading the last couple days:
The Leafs’ recent success has not gone unnoticed, and all the pundits are scrambling to figure out what has caused such a dramatic change. Thankfully, DGB has the inside track and gives us the 12 real reasons behind the Leafs’ turnaround. [DownGoesBrown] Also, make sure you check out NBC’s new NHL ad.
A question I’ve been asking myself for the past couple weeks, but was too lazy to actually sit down and crunch the numbers was just exactly how much better has Kessel been since being centered by Bozak instead of Stajan? Thankfully, the good folks over at PPP have a much better work ethic than me, and have come up with the answer to that very question. [Pension Plan Puppets]
Mark Ritter gives his take on the Leafs’ latest acquisition, Brayden Irwin, and speculates on just what exactly makes a successful NCAA signing. [Bleacher Report]
Jon Neely looks at the huge turnaround that Jonas Gustavsson has undergone recently and tries to find some reason for it. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with the fact that Toskala was secretly sabotaging the kid by switching out his heart meds. [Bleacher Report]
Mike Ulmer always has great stuff – that tends to happen when you’re a featured writer for a professional sports team – but even he doesn’t know exactly what Brian Burke’s got planned for the upcoming season. [Mapleleafs.com]
Finally, Howard Berger talks about what the Leafs should be expecting of Dion Phaneuf, and just what the young defenseman needs to bring to the table for the team to be successful next season. [HockeyBuzz]
Edit: Something I forgot and wanted to throw out there. Over at HockeyBuzz, Ek put together a great little piece on the way that the playoffs would shake out if every series went in favor of the team thatwon the season series between the teams playing. Check it out, the team that would win will probably surprise you. [HockeyBuzz]