This past weekend would have been the opening weekend for the NHL, and certainly its absence is a little disappointing. What was not disappointing was the quality of hockey that was available this weekend. From a Leafs standpoint there were two Toronto Marlies games featuring some of the most exciting and promising players in the organization.

We received the reminder that Jake Gardiner is clearly above the AHL level of competition, and frankly I don—t recall him having as good a slapshot last season. We have seen that Kadri is in fact ready to be a full time NHLer. Ben Scrivens has shown that he—s worth a look in the NHL, Leo Komarov is in fact one hell of a SOB, Joe Colborne could be ready to break out of the AHL, and Hamilton and Kostka are more than capable of being plugs in the NHL as well. Then we watched the game on Sunday and began questioning every player and coach in the organization again. Most importantly, I think a lot people realized that AHL hockey isn—t a bad alternative, and at least we—ll get a chance to see a team with a Maple Leaf on their chests win a few games this year.

That already isn—t a bad alternative, but of course the Marlies aren—t the only game in town. While it didn—t feature any future Leafs (hopefully this changes after the 2013 draft), Sportsnet treated Canada to a great Friday night matchup between the Oil Kings and Hitmen. A game that went to shootout and featured strong performances from future NHLers Henrik Samuelsson, Curtis Lazar, and others made for an enjoyable night.

Of course, if you had the chance to check out Leafs prospects this weekend, the high water mark was set by Morgan Rielly—s five point game. Or perhaps Connor Brown—s two goal night, Matt Finn—s three point game which included the OT winner, or any of the other prospects who played this weekend (Rupert, Percy, Sparks, Finn, Leivo, Biggs, Brown, Broll, and Rielly all played in two games.)

If that—s not your cup of tea, classic hockey games available this weekend included Keon and Ullman—s last game as Leafs, the they—re going home Red Army game, and CBC—s airing of Don Cherry—s last game behind the Bruins bench.

It—s safe to say that if you—re a hockey fan you were well taken care of this weekend and it shouldn—t be too hard to adapt to a short stretch (even a year isn—t too bad) without the NHL.

The current state of the Leafs would leave us wanting this season; I—d imagine a couple of months in the only optimistic story would be the development of the players who are presently on the Marlies roster anyway. Why not get on board with it now?

The only things absent from this weekend were:
-Don Cherry complaining about how Kadri was treated
-Glenn Healy pretending he knows what it takes to be an NHL starter
– All of twitter bitching about at the start of HNIC when we realize it—s Jim Hughson calling the game
– Eric Francis making Elliotte Friedman face palm on Hotstove.

So far we—ve lost nothing major. That being said, I will lose my shit when Mats Sundin doesn—t get to stand inside the ACC and receive acknowledgement from his loyal fans before entering the Hockey Hall of Fame. I—d argue this will be the biggest loss of the Leafs season, not the Winter Classic, which I—m sure is in the process of being rescheduled for 2014.

What I do know is that no matter what action fans take it won—t impact the day the NHL returns. Why not go out and enjoy some quality hockey?

Monday Morning Links…

Blue Chip Prospects takes a look at the Leafs Top Junior Prospects
The future—s so bright, I gotta wear shades.

Dirty Dangle has been tracking NHLers in Europe
Pretty underwhelming numbers from Grabovski, Kulemin, and Franson. Not that it means much. It—s pretty strange that noted awful Leafs Connolly, Lombardi, and Komisarek don—t find it necessary to work on their game and sign in Europe. Odd.

Check Out What This Idiot Wrote
Here—s yet another reminder that Steve Simmons has a reserved seat on the short bus of life.

Behind the Net: Three Stars for Saturday
Cam Charron gives Morgan Rielly the first star of the night. Five assists against the division leading Raiders will do that.

The Marlies Rookie Class: Preseason
I—m really looking forward to this video series continuing. After being excited about both of these players in junior, I can—t wait to see how they—ll hold up in the pro game.

The Stanchion with an interview with Roberto Luongo
So maybe this isn—t Leafs related (yet?) but here—s great interview with Roberto Luongo that shows he—s one of the great personalities in the game.

Fallen Kings Scouts get their day with the Cup
The Stanley Cup spent the day at the 9/11 Memorial in honour of Mark Bavis and Garnet ˜Ace— Bailey—s contributions to the Kings success.

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