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.
Finally some movement on the Jonas Gustavsson front, the 24 year old star netminder of the Swedish Elite League. From the Toronto Sun: "According to a Swedish source familiar with the situation, Burke will be in the Danish capital of Copenhagen today to meet with Par Larsson, Gustavsson's Swedish-based agent. "
The New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils were all victorious in Game 1 of the NHL Playoffs. What sort of matchups will we see tonight? Will the Boston Bruins beat the Montreal Canadiens to a bloody pulp? Will the San Jose Sharks choke once again? All those questions and moreâ€¦ RIGHT NOW:
Random thoughts as we all prepare for the first night of the NHL Playoffs. Can't wait!
San Jose Sharks (1) vs Anaheim Ducks (8)
Preseason odds: Sharks 10/1 Ducks 12/1
Last 10: Sharks 5-4-1, Ducks 7-2-1
Season Series: Sharks win 4-2-0
For a full team-by-team breakdown of all playoffs clubs, sure bets and sleeper picks for your playoff pools, visit the McKeen's Playoff Preview where the factors below have been outlined and pointed out in a team-by-team write up.
Youâ€™ve read about the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, youâ€™ve read about the Leafsâ€™ current predicament, and youâ€™ve read about Howard Berger getting â€œpwnedâ€ by Ron Wilson. Letâ€™s take a gander into the Leafsâ€™ crystal ball and see what awaits the club next season, shall we?
A message to those disappointed in yesterday's anti-climactic outcome:
Stop expecting the big deals (except Kaberle, see below). Watch the small things in the context of the big picture. Yesterday may not have been ideal, but it symbolically stamped the new regime in Toronto as legit. No more stop gap solutions.
The Panthers and the Leafs/Kaberle seem compatible for several reasons. One, the Leafs and Panthers seem to be congenial trading partners as evidenced by Cliff Fletcher dumping his crap on Jacques Martin's lap last deadline. That said, Martin might be pissed about the whole Chad Kilger thing. Sometimes trades don't work out as you envision... the player gets injured, can't find chemistry with his teammates and has little to no impact... or literally never shows up. Try that one, Burke.
It was a charity event for the torch run that supports the Special Olympics, hosted just outside Sudbury, Ontario, that featured the NHL Alumni vs. the local police department. In a game that featured former greats such as Rick Vaive and Wilf Paiement, it was just as special to be greeted at the entrance by, the one and only, Eddie Shack.
*The following is an opinion piece regarding the players who, I think, are on their way out of Toronto by March 4th (not the off-season)*
The Leafs are in the midst of, yet again, a mediocre season. Unlike previous years, however, the Leafs have refrained from the up-and-down, "I BeLeaf in 8th place" facade that was commonly grouped with the Leafs during the past few years. Rather, the Leafs have been posting L's on the calendar regularly this season, "rewarding" their fans with disappointing efforts.
Most recent Leafs trade talk in the mainstream media centers largely around Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle. Just about enough has been mentioned on those fronts; Brian Burke will not compromise in his return demands for either of his coveted blue-liners and it appears that only time will tell. Here are three other interesting to trade or not to trade scenarios: