Games like last night’s serve as a much-needed break in the clouds.

It was a fun game, first of all — feisty (Leo vs. a Sedin, Corrado vs Burrows), enough goals, the Leafs played well. Better, there were flickers of light at the end of the tunnel in the form of Brendan Leipsic’s play — capped off by his first career NHL goal in his first career NHL game, teary-eyed parents looking on from the stands… doesn’t get much better — as well as the continued excellence of Jake Gardiner, who has encouragingly stepped it up a notch since the Dion Phaneuf trade.

It was interesting to hear Henrik Sedin, clearly disgusted by his team’s performance, talk after the game about how hard working and loose the Leafs were last night. One game is one game, but I’ll be watching to see if the Leafs, a team playing with house money, can play the part of hard-working spoiler here and there down the stretch. Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly — to a lesser extent Frank Corrado — stand to play big minutes down the stretch with the Phaneuf era over and done with. Players like Greening and Arcobello – their NHL careers at the last-stand stage, both had strong games last night – have nothing to lose and every reason to play out of their minds with the opportunities afforded to them by the current situation with the Leafs, who have gutted their team while simultaneously being decimated by injuries. Mix in some opportunities for rookies like Leipsic and Leivo and so on, and hopefully there are at least a few more feel-good games like last night’s before Leafs hockey is through for another season.

Sunday Reading:

First, by way of Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province, comes a revelatory read on Frank Corrado’s exit from Vancouver. Corrado harbors some ill will due to his treatment this past training camp — he had an entire offseason wiped out rehabbing injuries he played through so he could stay in the lineup for Utica during the playoffs, and feels he earned more of an opportunity than what he was afforded.

It also explains why the Leafs were so slow and patient in getting him involved in NHL games knowing he missed an entire summer of training.

It was easier in (Toronto) because there was a plan. I knew they had a plan for me. They had a picture of when they wanted me to play. Knowing that there was a group who had a plan for me, made things easier. They talked to me, let me know. Keep getting stronger,’ they said. The time off, I got a lot of time to work out and that helped because I missed the time in the summer.

Corrado has averaged 16:11 in time on ice over the last four games after playing just 10:23 on average in his first seven appearances this season, and to the eye has been getting a bit better with each passing game.

Oh, and A+ to Frankie for this post-game troll job on Canucks fans:

Good passage from Damien Cox here on the Phaneuf trade and the Leafs’ rebuild:

With the trading of captain Dion Phaneuf this week, Brendan Shanahan and Co. effectively completed the opening stage of the most ambitious, aggressive rebuild in the long history of the Maple Leafs, one that has not yet moved the club closer to becoming a champion again one day but has emphatically ended a frustrating decade of drifting no closer to that goal.

From May 2004 to May 2015 there were two CEOs, four general managers, five different head coaches, 18 starting goalies, one major ownership change, three years when the club didn’t draft in the first round, a period of investment in muscle when the rest of the league was going in the opposite direction and, lest we forget, one seven-game playoff defeat.

Phaneuf’s departure, however, ended any uncertainty the Leafs really have embarked on a definitive new path. They’ve taken it down to the studs, intentionally getting much worse in the hopes of getting much better some day.

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder and editor of, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He's published five magazines on the team entitled "The Maple Leafs Annual" with distribution in Chapters and newsstands across the country. He also co-hosted "The Battle of the Atlantic," a weekly show on TSN1200 that covered the Leafs and the NHL in-depth. Alec is a graduate of Trent University and Algonquin College with his diploma in Journalism. In 2014, he was awarded Canada's Best Hockey Blogger honours by Molson Canadian. You can contact him at