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Lee Stempniak


    I don’t care where in the tanking/playoff spectrum you stand, beating the Ottawa Senators is always sweet. Especially in a game riddled with physicality and controversy, against a rival considered at season’s dawn a contender vastly more talented than the re-building Maple Leafs.


      Firstly, an interesting item of news – the Vancouver Canucks have acquired goaltender Jason LeBarbera from the LA Kings in exchange for a 7th round pick. Update: Hat-tip to Sarah, who points out that Curtis Sanford has been placed on the IR alongside Roberto Luongo, necessitating the deal for another ‘tender.


        Ron Wilson appears to have assembled a winning combination up front. After an 8-5 beating at the hands of the Boston Bruins, Wilson re-united the line of Nik Antropov, Matt Stajan and Alexei Ponikarovsky atop the roster, kept in tact the dynamic third line of Jason Blake, Dominic Moore and Jeremy Williams and it’s resulted in two dominating wins by a collective score of 13-5. For the first time since early October, the Leafs have surpassed the .500 mark at 14-13-6 after winning five of their last six.


          You couldn’t help but feel the Southwest Coast whammy was afflicting the Maple Leafs once again as Alexander Frolov streaked in alone and beat Vesa Toskala less than a minute into the three game road spread.


            Random thoughts, 23 games in:

            Matt Stajan is the leading scorer on the Leafs. Let me repeat that: Matt Stajan is the leading scorer on the Leafs, and is on pace for close to 70 points this season. One of the great unheralded results of a rebuilding project is the chance to see former role players excel in new roles, and Stajan has certainly proved that he is more than simply an effective checker and penalty-killer.


              Brian Burke’s exact intentions with the Toronto Maple Leafs will be the source of much speculation likely until after the Christmas season, but there may just be one tweak made in shorter order: locating a genuine heavyweight pugilist as a bottom six “hardhat” in his roster.


                Lee Stempniak appears to be another high-cost, low-profile acquisition for Trader Cliff, who has developed a penchant for paying whatever-it-takes to land players that he feels are underrated and on the brink of a breakout.