By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (Nov. 30) – There is no question that Bobby Ryan, if available, would look terrific in a Maple Leafs jersey. Ryan is a proven scorer that can provide a team 35 goals per season and he’s still only 24 years of age.
The difficulty in attempting to pry the right-winger away from Anaheim (apart from how the Randy Carlyle-to-Bruce Boudreau coaching change might affect the dynamic) is cost-specific: Ducks GM Bob Murray will be looking to acquire at least one young defenseman – knowing, now, that he was pilfered of Jake Gardiner in the deal last February that saw Francois Beauchemin and Joffrey Lupul switch teams. Whether or not that dissuades him from genuine shop-talk with former Anaheim boss Brian Burke remains to be determined, though Burke does have the assets Murray is seeking.
And, that’s where the Leafs GM ought to be very careful.
With the exception of a reliable No. 1 goalie, there are no elements more precious in today’s game than size and mobility on defense. Burke has one or both in virtually every blue-liner that has worn the Leafs jersey this season, and not by accident; double-B and his staff have adroitly built most of the hockey club from the goal out. Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn, Keith Aulie, Gardiner, Cody Franson, Carl Gunnarsson and injured veteran Mike Komisarek are 6-foot-2 or taller. Phaneuf, Schenn, Aulie and Komisarek enjoy throwing their weight around. Phaneuf, Gardiner, Gunnarsson and 5-foot-10 John-Michael Liles are adept at moving the puck. This is an enviable surplus of goods at the game’s second-most important position, and a spot in which injury-depth becomes increasingly valuable throughout the season.
Were the Leafs having difficulty scoring goals, perhaps Burke would anxiously part with a young defenseman in pursuit of Ryan. But, Toronto is scoring with the best teams in the league through the initial-third of the schedule – in large part because of its puck-advancing skill on the back end, from where the bulk of offence originates. Its defence, as a unit, is near the top of the NHL in production, an enormous improvement over the past calendar year. To sacrifice a blue-liner for yet another marksman – even one as good as Ryan – might be a lateral move, at best.
Advice from this end would be for Burke to retain every bit of quality and depth on defence.
And now, a bit of photo “clean-up” from southern California, where the Leafs ended their successful road trip on Sunday night:
BRILLIANT FALL COLORS...
Between family visits and hockey trips, I’ve been to Los Angeles dozens of times in the past 20 years, but never when the autumn foliage is in full bloom. The gorgeous colours that appear in Toronto and southern Ontario between early and mid-October flourish in California between mid and late-November each year. A morning walk on Tuesday of this week captured the ensuing images:
SIGNS, SIGNS; EVERYWHERE SIGNS…
Even those that have never visited Los Angeles will recognise many of the names and places in the area’s ubiquitous highway signs:
COMIN’ ON HOME…
After nine days away, it was high-time to see the family once again, as I returned to Toronto on Air Canada Flight #796 from Los Angeles Tuesday afternoon:
LOS ANGELES BEACHES ARE LARGELY DESERTED IN LATE-AFTERNOON AT THIS TIME OF YEAR, THOUGH PLAYA DEL REY (ABOVE AND BELOW) IS NORMALLY LESS-BUSY THAN OTHERS GIVEN THE NOISE FROM JETLINERS DEPARTING OVERHEAD OUT OF LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.
A COUPLE OF FREIGHTERS (ABOVE) OFF THE COAST OF MANHATTAN BEACH.
ON MOST OCCASIONS, EASTBOUND FLIGHTS OUT OF L-A-X CLIMB TO 4,000 FEET ABOVE THE OCEAN BEFORE TURNING BACK DIRECTLY OVER THE AIRPORT. ONCE IN AWHILE – DEPENDING ON FLIGHT PATTERN AND WINDS – PLANES WILL FLY SOUTH BEFORE TURNING EASTWARD OVER NEWPORT BEACH IN ORANGE COUNTY. THAT’S THE ROUTE WE TOOK ON WEDNESDAY. THE ABOVE PHOTO SHOWS THE PALOS VERDES PENINSULA JUTTING INTO THE PACIFIC OCEAN SOUTH OF THE COAST-LINE, WITH REDONDO, HERMOSA AND MANHATTAN BEACHES NORTH OF THE PENINSULA. LOOK CLOSELY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PHOTO AND YOU CAN SEE THE BUILDINGS OF DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES SOME 35 MILES IN THE DISTANCE.
FURTHER SOUTH (ABOVE), WE APPROACH LONG BEACH HARBOUR.
THE MOST FAMOUS RESIDENT OF LONG BEACH HARBOUR IS AT BOTTOM-LEFT IN THE ABOVE PHOTO: THE RMS QUEEN MARY OCEAN LINER THAT SAILED THE NORTH ATLANTIC BETWEEN 1936 AND 1967. THE SHIP LEFT SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND FOR ITS FINAL VOYAGE ON OCT. 31, 1967 AND DOCKED PERMANENTLY IN LONG BEACH. IT HAS SINCE BEEN CONVERTED INTO A MAJOR TOURIST ATTRACTION AND FIRST-CLASS HOTEL. THE BUILDINGS OF DOWNTOWN LONG BEACH ARE AT UPPER-RIGHT AND THE CIRCULAR STRUCTURE EMBODIES QUITE A MOMENT OF NHL HISTORY: IT WAS AT THE LONG BEACH ARENA – OCT. 14, 1967 – THAT THE LOS ANGELES KINGS PLAYED THEIR FIRST REGULAR-SEASON GAME, AGAINST PHILADELPHIA (FAMED CANADIAN JUNIOR COACH BRIAN KILREA SCORED THE KINGS FIRST GOAL THAT NIGHT). THE KINGS WOULD SPLIT THEIR EARLY GAMES BETWEEN LONG BEACH AND THE L.A. SPORTS ARENA BEFORE THE FORUM, IN SUBURBAN INGLEWOOD, OPENED ON DEC. 30, 1967.
INTERSTATE-405, THE SAN DIEGO FREEWAY, WINDS ITS WAY NORTH AND SOUTH (ABOVE) JUST METERS WEST OF LONG BEACH AIRPORT.
A LIGHT DUSTING OF SNOW (ABOVE) ATOP MOUNTAINS EAST OF LOS ANGELES.
DESERT MOUNTAINS (ABOVE) IN THE SETTING SUN BETWEEN L.A. AND LAS VEGAS.
OKAY VEGAS REGULARS: HOW MUCH OF THE FAMED “STRIP” CAN YOU IDENTIFY (ABOVE)? McCARRON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT IS AT BOTTOM OF THE PHOTO AND THE REPLICA EIFFEL TOWER AT PARIS LAS VEGAS IS CLEARLY ILLUMINATED TOWARD THE UPPER-RIGHT.
AN HOUR FROM HOME, OUR FLIGHT BEGINS TO CROSS LAKE MICHIGAN (ABOVE) WITH THE LIGHTS OF MILWAUKEE VISIBLE ON A CRYSTAL-CLEAR NIGHT.