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.
And to be honest, fan to fan, sometimes itâ€™s hard to stay engaged.Â I mean, letâ€™s be honest, no matter how many wins we rack up in the final few games, we are all but eliminated from playoff contention.Â No matter how many losses we take, we wonâ€™t be closer to the first overall pick, at least not us personally (for the record I have little problem with that deal.)
However, there are still plenty of reasons to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs as we head down the home stretch of the schedule.Â If you need a friendly reminder, here is a few.
The Kids Are Alright They have been the talk of the town the last two weeks, and so it isnâ€™t surprising to anyone that I would touch on the kids, and what type of impact they are having on this final stretch of the season.Â Tyler Bozak has looked right at home riding shotgun with Phil Kessel. Viktor Stalberg, Christian Hanson and Luca Caputi have shown mixes of flash, dash, and crash that is making them look like effective, everyday NHLâ€™ers, and Carl Gunnarsson has been arguably the surprise of the year.
In fact, you could argue that if just one of these players meets their potential, than these really arenâ€™t â€œlostâ€ seasons at all.
The Schedule: If you havenâ€™t yet looked, the Leafs still have some dates against some opponents who, for lack of better term, are mostly hated in Leafs Nation.Â Battles against Ottawa, Montreal, Pittsburgh, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and the Sabres still loom, among others.Â If nothing else, the young, confident Leafs can at least throw a wrench into the playoff plans of some of their rivals, or at least make them sweat a little.
J.S. Giguere And Dion Phaneuf Emerging As Leaders: This has been one of the nicest things to watch on ice in Toronto in a few years.Â With the late January trade, we not only got real NHL talent, but we also got leadership type guys, who arenâ€™t afraid to take the sails of the ship and steer us through uncharted waters and hopefully to that luxury island known as the NHL playoffs.Â Phaneuf has been a leader not only with on ice play, but also with his mouth while on the bench and in practice.Â Giguere has also been a consummate professional, all the willing to lead a helping hand or word of encouragement to the Leafs penalty killers, and young goalie Jonas Gustavsson.
Nikolai Kulemin: While he could be grouped into reason number one, as I do feel Kulemin is obviously a part of the young core, the fact is, the dude deserves a category and heading all his own.Â Kulemin has blossomed for Toronto in his sophomore season, scoring important goals, and also doing everything it takes to win hockey games, including improving his defensive play.Â He is one of the most reliable players for Ron Wilson and staff night in, night out.
Tomas Kaberle Situation: The Tomas Kaberle situation has been looming for nearly two years, and by all accounts, it could finally come to a head this summer.Â After a few deadlines of Kaberle saying he wouldnâ€™t waive his no trade clause, he has softened his stance.Â Also keep in mind the failed deal between Boston and the Leafs last season that would have sent the longest serving Leaf to beantown.Â It will be interesting watching Kaberle play out the rest of the season.Â Is it his last in blue and white, or is he playing his way towards an extension?
Phil Kesselâ€™s Goal Run: No matter which side of the trade youâ€™re on, there is no doubt that Phil Kessel, regardless of the price, is one of the most talented players the Toronto Maple Leafs have had in some time.Â A young man, not even close to his prime and with a 36 goal season under his belt could obviously be a very useful piece for the Leafs to build around in the future.Â After missing all of training camp, and the first month or so of regular season competition, Kessel has strung together a pretty successful season, including 23 goals to date.Â What will his goal total be at seasonâ€™s end?
And Perhaps The Most Important Reason To Keep Watching The Leafs This Late In The Season..because if you decide to channel surf, your girlfriend may find that sappy/hunky vampire show youâ€™ve worked so hard at hiding from her all year.Â Donâ€™t slip up now, bro.Â Keep waving the blue and white flag.