* I can't let you read this blog without first apologizing for the title. Shameful, just shameful. *
Alexei Ponikarovsky is in the midst of a career season.
14 goals and 30 points in 42 games played – on pace for 26 goals and 58 points.
But who is responsible for this sudden jump in production?
Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the so-called back-stabbing, heartless monster that is Mats Sundin.
While Sundin may be regarded as a traitor by most Leafs fans, his skill and abilities as a sizable forward has rubbed off on Ponikarovsky – and Antropov – in a positive way.
Puck control. This is the main contributor to Ponikarovsky's success. He excels in shielding opponents from the puck with his large frame – 6 foot 4, 220 pounds to be exact – and quick movements around the boards. These are traits he's acquired by serving as Sundin's linemate for the last few years – and I'm not insinuating he's the next Sundin, but his persistence around the net is a sight to behold for Leafs fans.
Defensively, Ponikarovsky is not too shabby either. On a team consumed of minus players, 'Poni' registers a +3 rating, good enough to join a group of only six on the Leafs' roster. Where Ponikarovsky falters, however, is in physical presence. He's got the size to punish his opponents, but judging from his last four years of play, physical dominance appears to be nothing more than a pipe dream.
Looking ahead to the Trade Deadline, I can't help but drivel at the thought of
Ponikarovsky's value. Usually between the 35-45 point vicinity, the Ukrainian sniper will be regarded as a 20-goal, 50-point player come March 4th – barring a drastic drop-off in production, that is.
With a cap hit of 2.105 million dollars, Ponikarovsky is an affordable, young (28) sniper whose contract terms – 2 years remaining – will only sweeten the pot for potential suitors.
All things considered, I believe Ponikarovsky can garner the Leafs a…
Throw in some dramatic suspense…
Taking into account the Leafs lost their 2nd rounder to the Isles in a package for Luke Schenn, trading Ponikarovsky may be a logical move for their future.
On the other hand, if Ponikarovsky were to adapt as a consistent 50-60 point player, the Leafs would be wise in keeping the sniper. But, considering he’s known to be somewhat of an inconsistent player, this could be short-term. I will admit, though, that it’s a delicate situation, and keeping him could end up being the logical choice. It’s in Burke’s hands now.
In a perfect world, I'd be giddy like a school girl if Ponikarovsky, Antropov, Kaberle, Kubina and Toskala are all traded.
I know what you're thinking, but it helps me sleep at night.