For a Monday in early June, it was actually a pretty busy day for hockey news, with a couple of stories relating to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
First, obviously, is the announcement from MLSE that the Toronto Marlies have come to terms with head coach Dallas Eakins and his two assistants for a three-year extension to coach the Leafs’ AHL club.
From the release:
Eakins, 45, became the third head coach in Marlies history on August 4, 2009. With their appearance in the current Calder Cup Final, the Marlies, with Eakins at the helm, are the Maple Leafs first AHL affiliate to play in the league championship since 1991-92. The Marlies captured the Sam Pollock Trophy as the winner of the AHL’s North Division in 2011-12. Under Eakins guidance, the team has ranked first in the AHL in penalty-killing in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Toronto surrendered a league-low 175 goals in 2011-12 and finished with a record of 44-25-5-3 and 96 points which is the 2nd best total in team history. As the second playoff seed in the AHL’s Western Conference, the Marlies this spring eliminated Rochester, Abbotsford and first place Oklahoma City on their path to the 2012 Calder Cup Final.
This has to be good news, as there as a sentiment that the Leafs may not have been able to hold onto Eakins, who has been very successful AHL coach but not ready for the NHL yet. Toronto retain him not only through the Calder Cup Finals, but also in case an astute NHL team is looking for a head coach.
The Leafs have only just hired Randy Carlyle, so it’s not like Eakins has only a short wait until the Leafs “call him up” but he’s a guy that is probably NHL-ready and will get his turn eventually. He could potentially return with the Leafs, but this gives the prospects who stay down on the farm more organizational stability. Nobody’s going anywhere, and you’d hope that some of the players who are on the AHL run get an extra year to get their pro legs under them.
Apropos of Dallas Eakins, the Marlies dropped two games in Norfolk this weekend in the Calder Cup Finals. They return down 0 games to 2 on Thursday at the Ricoh Coliseum.
Meanwhile, in goaltending news, the Washington Capitals flipped the rights to Tomas Vokoun to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a seventh round draft pick. The Penguins signed Vokoun just minutes later to a 2-year contract worth $4M.
What really matters here is that it takes a very good goalie off the already slim goaltender market as the Penguins make their move quickly. Bob McKenzie, as I’m sure you’re aware, tweeted this:
WSH had given Vokoun permission to shop around before July 1. PIT made an offer that others, including TOR, wouldn’t.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 4, 2012
Allow me to be skeptical about whether Toronto and Vokoun are the right fit. He’s a good short-term option, but as I mentioned in the post this morning, the Leafs really need to be look out for the long-term as far as goaltending goes. If goaltenders dip in performance at age 36 or 37, you aren’t exactly sure you’re getting that elite Florida netminder if you sign Vokoun for the 36 and 37-year old season.
The bigger news relating to the Leafs actually is that a potential veteran backup who could have been brought in to take pressure off James Reimer signed with the KHL. Curtis Sanford, 32, who had a .923 EV SV% last season with the Blue Jackets has signed with the restored Yaroslav Lokomotiv according to Aaron Portzline. Sanford was a guy who probably had 20 or so quality starts in him and who was probably the best cheap backup available on the market.