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In the final part of his 12 Burning Questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at the Maple Leafs chances of getting back to postseason hockey this year.
May 4th, 2004.
Both teams, tired and weary from what had already been a long, arduous road, a journey that had left both teams battered and bruised. Â The teams went back and forth, showing tremendous heart and determination, showing what it takes to win hockey games at this time of year.
Up the ice they went, rewarded with a good scoring chance, but stopped by a goaltender who was up to the task. Â Then down the ice the other way, another good chance, this time for the other team. Â The goalie in this net, equally up to the task of making the save and preserving life, for at least another moment.
Quickly, and in a whirlwind of emotion, it was over.
In part nine of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth looks at the Maple Leafs special teams, and why it must improve in order for the team to have success.
When it came to doing this 12 burning questions series, I discovered a lot of things about the Leafs, and how I will be looking for different things this year. Â And even though I already knew the fact, it was all the more confirmed to me that there really are no definitive answers to these burning questions, at least not in August anyway.
However, as we reach part nine of the series, I can confidently say that I can, for the first time this series, give a more defined answer.
In part six of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at Leafs sniper Phil Kessel, and whether he can hit the 40 goal plateau.
While January 31st 2010 will go down as a day Leafs fans will never forget as the Leafs acquired Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie, Fredrik Sjostrom, and J.S. Giguere in the span of about two hours, the date of September 18th, 2009 will also be remembered, yet highly debated, and much scrutinized.
It was on that day in September, following a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, that Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke got his man. Â After lots of rumours throughout the year, including one that involved Tomas Kaberle going the other way, Burke signed off on a deal with the Boston Bruins that landed him American born sniper Phil Kessel.
One of the key questions surrounding the upcoming 2010-11 Maple Leafs season is whether they will be able to score enough to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
An optimist will point to the Leafs’ record following the acquisitions of Dion Phaneuf and J.S. Giguere as evidence that the Maple Leafs can compete. The cynic will suggest that although the Leafs played well over the final third of the season following those moves, there just simply isn’t enough proven offensive production to buoy hopes for post-season play.
A closer look at the Leafs performance over their past 26 games following the January 31st trades for Phaneuf and Giguere, in comparison to their first 56, might shed some light on whether or not the Leafs’ need for more offense in order to compete is fact or fiction.
In 2005, the NHL was returning to work after a year long lockout, a bitter battle between players and owners over cost certainty. Â The entry draft in June of 2005 was really the beginning of a new era in hockey, and a new era for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who drafted Sidney Crosby first overall, a move that would change their fortunes forever.
Drafted second that year was Bobby Ryan. Â A big bodied power forward with tremendous skill, I had the chance to watch Ryan in person blaze up and down the ice for the Owen Sound Attack. Â One look at Ryan moving swiftly between checkers, puck on a string as he bobbed and weaved his way into a prime scoring area, and it was clear.
This dude was one heck of a consolation prize.
And the GM who was afforded that consolation prize, as you are all aware, was one Brian Burke.
While the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing and continue to provide us with some fantastic moments of triumph, the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs are now forced to once again shift their focus to off ice activities.
And so too has Leafs brass.
Despite his team sitting on the sidelines, Leafs GM Brian Burke made quick work of two signing he was keying in on, signing goaltenders Jonas Gustavsson and newcomer Jussi Rynnas to contracts. Â Continuing with the in-house theme, Burke will now certainly turn his attention to Nikolai Kulemin, if he hasn’t done so already.
And while we are seemingly quite far away this point, it won’t be long before the draft and subsequent free agency period rolls around.
It was a light day practice wise as the optional skate drew only a handful of players to the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence.
First and foremost, let me apologize for my absence. Â As some of you may know, I am in school completing my Sports Marketing degree, and things have gotten really hectic in crunch time. Â I am also organizing a golf tournament for this summer in Strathroy, Ontario. Â Anyone who would like to golf can get in touch with me anytime.
You know, another season of hockey is winding down.Â At least, it is in Toronto with the Maple Leafs.Â While the sun has been shining and treating us to above average weather the past week or so, it does come at a price.
It has become all to accustomed.Â As soon as the sun begins to melt the snow, and the grey, dull sky is replaced by a ray of sunlight, you know that the Maple Leafs arenâ€™t long for this world.Â That the season is just about wrapped up, and lockers will soon be cleaned.
While the attention isn’t on the Leafs tonight, they will be looking to break the Senators longest winning streak in club history. Giguere is expected to get the nod tonight, and hopefully the Leafs can start off strong with great offensive pressure as they have in their previous two outings, but this time close it off with solid defensive coverage in the third period.