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New Year’s Day


Yes, I'm 44 years old and have a Leafs lunchpail. What's your point?

It begins tonight – the 2010-2011 Toronto Maple Leafs season. New captain, new faces, new year, clean slate. Hope. The excitement of a new journey.

Whatever level of excitement we the fans have for it, tonight is not a measuring stick. The Habs are somewhat undermanned, with Andrei Markov out of the lineup and Carey Price reportedly feeling under the weather. Moreover, last season’s lengthy run in the postseason notwithstanding, I doubt whether anyone standing out of Pierre Gauthier’s earshot considers the Habs to be likely to repeat that sort of performance this time ’round. Tonight’s match is last year’s 29th place finishers vs. the fluky Conference finalists who lost their rabbit’s foot and are missing their star defenceman. Hardly a Clash of the Titans.

There is much to watch for technically in the Leafs’ play – is there improvement on the power play, have adjustments been made on the penalty kill and in defensive coverage generally?  Blue and white hearts, long afflicted with Toskalaitis, will flutter when otherwise harmless pucks are directed at the Leaf net, and will skip a beat as anxious eyes hope innocuous shots are turned aside with a timely glove or some good positional play by J.S. Giguere.

One thing I’ll be watching for more than anything is signs that this team has bonded and is prepared to play as a cohesive unit.  I’m looking to the Captain to set the tone, to play with a fire in his belly but showing discipline and commitment to team above all. (UPDATE: hope the Leafs come to the rink carrying their lunchpails, logo-emblazoned or not).

The Leafs should beat this Montreal team; they should be emotionally charged and, being relatively healthy, they ought to find that the support of the faithful will propel them to a momentum-inducing victory over a hated historical rival.  Of course, there are no guarantees, and mid-week games at the ACC being what they are, the support of the faithful can often be mistaken aurally for the waiting room at a seniors’ home.

I’m excited.  I love home openers.  Love watching the 48th Highlanders march across the ice as the opening ceremonies come to a close, and the two starting centres drift toward the faceoff dot, preparing to lean in and start the battle.  Hope you’re excited too.  Looking forward to sharing this season with you all.

GO LEAFS GO!

p.s. To help get you in the mood, check out The Maple Leafs song: a video tribute.

UPDATE: I’ve posted a picture of my Toronto Maple Leafs lunchpail because (a) I can; and (b) the fact that I’m 44 years old and have a Toronto Maple Leafs lunchpail (for reasons I can’t explain), among dozens of other pieces of logo-emblazoned merchandise,  tells you all about why I have the level of excitement I’m feeling right now.  What’s the weirdest piece of Leafs merch you have squirreled away in your residence?

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    While the Maple Leafs struggled through a horrific 3-10-2 record to start the new year at the NHL level, many of the organization’s top young prospects enjoyed a very productive month of January on the scoresheet. Jerry D’Amigo (left) continued to build off a strong World Junior tournament, Mikhail Stefanovich seemed to finally turn the corner, while Nazem Kadri took his game up to that dominant level we all know he’s capable of.

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      The Toronto Maple Leafs were amongst leaders in 2009 for all the wrong categories. The Buds were the most scored upon team in 2009, playing an NHL leading 13 overtime games (2-11) record, and NHL trailing overtime winning percentage (.154).

      Broken down after the jump is how the Leafs fared in the calendar year 2009.

      Best Wishes for a Happy New Year to everyone!

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      Despite modest numbers in terms of offensive production, winger Nikolai Kulemin has made great strides in becoming a indispensible, two-way threat that all winning teams require. The young Russian worked up the hopes of Leafs Nation with a dazzling array of speed, skill and finishing ability in various Youtube highlight reels prior to coming over to the NHL, but it’s been his tremendous effort, work ethic and defensive play over here that has won me over thus far this season.

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        nullTo all in the MLHS and Barilkosphere community. Thanks for your continued support, and I look forward to what we can accomplish together in the new year.

        On a Leaf-related note this afternoon, sixth round draft pick in 2009 Jerry D’Amigo has been named to the WJC Team USA team. The winger has started off his rookie NCAA campaign strong with 14 points in 14 games for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His qualification for a highly-touted WJC U.S. squad comes after D’Amigo, as a member of Team USA at the 2009 Under 18 World Championships, led the team and finished tied for third in the tournament with 13 points in 7 games en route to a U.S. gold medal win.

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          Stick Work with Fab&Kats went AWOL last week, but is happy to announce this week’s lineup of notable guests:

          Headling our guests is TSN’s Bob McKenzie, straight from Team Canada selection camp joins us to talk about Canada, and the World Junior Championships.

          Is Nazem Kadri this years Angelo Esposito? Rogers Sportsnet.ca CHL columnist, Patrick King thinks he just might.

          Russ Cohen talks to us about the U.S. squad.

          Fab and I pick our Torontosaurus Rex, but this is the World Junior Championship time.

          This is the final episode of 2009, and Stick Work will return in the New Year.

          Fab and Kats would like to wish out listeners a Safe and Happy Holiday season.

          Download as .mp3 (right-click save-as)

          Email: [email protected]
          Twitter: @KatsHockey

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            Good to be back! It’s been a little while since I’ve had the opportunity to post anything.

            The following are some random thoughts I’ve had of late, including Luke Schenn’s banishment to the press box, the Leafs’ recent winning ways, the status of the trade front, and more.

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              There is a lot going on  around the league these days.    Rumours about Kaberle and potential deals abound, a Kessel signing is no longer imminent, Heatley is still a Senator, and the NHL remains hot over the Hossa contract.  Oh, and did I mention the league still has a bounty on the head of Jim Balsillie?

              All of these stories have been playing out for months now, and none appear headed toward a resolution prior to the start of the new season.    It is safe to assume that despite the vast quantity of reporting devoted to these stories throughout the offseason, each will continue to dominate the headlines on days where the box scores do not.

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                While the majority of Leafs fans wrote the team off in the summer, it wasn’t until the New Year that the teams first true season of rebuilding began the inevitable grind into early year golf tournaments.

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                  On a night where the real buzz was focused on mounting trade talk, the Leafs tied a NHL record for consecutive overtime games.  Vesa Toskala played an exceptional game in net, and the Leafs came alive in the third period to transform an otherwise dull game into an exciting back-and-forth goaltender’s battle. After an almost full five minutes of riveting overtime play, Toronto eventually succumbed to an Oduya winner.