Excitement abounds these days in the streets of Toronto, as a long-overdue rebuilding effort for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the prospect of a revitalized franchise, moves into high gear.
Arguably the last successful revitalization of the Maple Leafs franchise occurred in the early 1990s, when in the span of three seasons the Leafs went from basement-dwellers to Stanley Cup contenders.Â Although many are quick to credit then-GM Cliff Fletcher's 1992 mega-deal with the Calgary Flames as the key turning point for the franchise, the groundwork for the franchise's rapid acceleration from pretender to contender actually began much earlier ... in the 1989-90 season, to be exact.
On a night where the stars were aligned for the first-pick lottery, where a Leafs loss coupled with Phoenix and Los Angeles wins would give the Leafs a chance at the #1 pick overall, a night where Phoenix and LA both did their part ... the Maple Leafs took the high road and won the game.
The end result is Toronto finishes with the 7th pick in the draft, entering this week's lottery draw.
Normally, you would figure that game # 82 on a team's docket, in a season where that team has been eliminated from playoff contention, would be rather meaningless. Â Normally, you would expect it to be nothing more than perhaps an opportunity to give young players a bit of NHL experience before hitting the greens.
But when is normal ever the norm in Toronto? Â Somehow, tonight's season-closing game is still meaningful to the final outcome of the Leafs' season ... as are the final games for the LA Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes, which will be played late this afternoon and tonight.
With Files from Gil Brown
Brian Burke doesn't take credit for the Maple Leafs drafting Luke Schenn 5th overall in 2008, but he's sure glad they did.Â Under different circumstances, which we'll get into over a series of posts, Burke's Ducks would have been in the mix for the Saskatoon native at the 2008 draft.
Fortune shined on the blue and white allowing them to trade up to 5th overall pick.Â There was an associated cost from their original seventh spot, but the end result is a potential future Maple Leafs captain of the Scott Stevens mold.
Unbelievable as it seems; perhaps, even laughable, Schenn, could have been wearing Ducks colors.
The story doesn't begin in Anaheim, however.Â It starts in Edmonton.
A quick look at the NHL standings reveals that with 11 games remaining, the Toronto Maple Leafs have not yet been mathematically eliminated from either the playoffs, or last place overall.
A numerical analysis reveals something even more interesting.Â Mathematically-speaking, the Maple Leafs are leading the race for the 6th overall pick in the draft.
As the Trade Deadline approaches, speculation will continue to grow over which Maple Leaf players may be moving on to new NHL destinations.
The following is my own personal estimation of the likelihood of regular roster players actually getting dealt, based upon contract status, playoff/stretch drive impact potential, comments from players/coaches/management, and of course the metaphorical smoke & fire (the amount of repetition in the rumour mills).Â Â To quote the great Chazz Palminteri, "a rumour's not a rumour that doesn't die".
Just six months ago many a grapevine was carrying rumor of NHL expansion while I lamented the integrity of a revenue bound salary cap. Even into the new season few had foreseen the sheer gravity of the global economic downturn and its impact on jobs, housing, businesses and every facet of life down to sport. Now as international markets stutter into a depression that many an analyst believe could change the face of modern capitalism forever, the NHL seems to remain steadfast in addressing itâ€™s minor successes as opposed to itâ€™s crippling and potentially devastating financial model.
Trade talks are heating up, in the NHL rumour mills, and online forums.Â To that end, I've compiled a list of notable free-agents to be, both UFA and RFA, across the league, who may be subject to trade.
A collection of unrelated hockey thoughts for a cold and wet Saturday morning:
Sorry for the delay guys.Â We greatly appreciate the flood of great questions and comments, and are sorry to say we couldn't get to them all. We've all been pretty busy lately for a variety of reasons, so without any further ado, let's get started on the 1st ever Maple Leafs HotStove Hockey Panel Discussion.
Forming our panel for this session is Alec Brownscombe of Hockeybuzz and MLHS godfather, Gus Katsaros of Mckeen's and MLHS fantasy expert, and myself, Alex Tran, an MLHS blogger.
With an abundance of salary and injuries plaguing the league all at once, the Leafs have quickly become friendly territory for other franchises to seek out.
*Update: Cliff Fletcher just reported to me via e-mail that getting Luke Schenn under contract is "not necessarily" his next focus.
Two more highly-coveted young [more…]