Bryan McCabe Returns to Toronto as Leafs Host Florida Panthers

Derek HarmsworthSenior Writer IJanuary 6, 2009

Having been booed mercifully for the bulk of his eight seasons in Toronto, all bets are off as to how volatile the Air Canada Centre crowd will get tonight when former Maple Leafs defenseman/whipping boy Bryan McCabe returns, as a member of the Florida Panthers.

And if the former Maple Leafs assistant captain, who was dealt this past summer, can keep his hot hand going, this crowd may have a lot to boo about.

McCabe is enjoying a solid year out from under the microscope.

Slipping into relative obscurity in a not-so hockey hotbed like Florida appears to be the cure for what was ailing him.

Seven goals, 18 points, and a plus-7 on the year, McCabe has been steady for the Panthers on the back end, and is on pace for 44 points this season.

And while Mike Van Ryn—the player the Maple Leafs received in return for McCabe—is out of the lineup currently, it appears that both teams, and everyone involved is benefiting from the trade has moved on.

Still, that won't stop some of the weird feelings from coming out in Bryan McCabe tonight as he steps onto the Air Canada Centre ice for the first time as an opponent.

“It’ll be weird walking past the Leafs dressing room going to the visitors room, but it’s all good right now," McCabe told Howard Berger yesterday as Florida arrived in Toronto.

When quizzed on the way things ended in Toronto, McCabe doesn't back down, and appears to speak genuinely, and from the heart.

“Toronto holds a special place in my heart for sure—I was here for eight years.”

“I loved my time as a Leaf. It means a lot for me to come back.”

He does say he regrets how things went down over this past year, but feels the combination of all his other years with the team are what make this return so special.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are riding high after a solid win over Ottawa on Saturday night.  

The Maple Leafs got good goaltending from Vesa Toskala, and timely scoring from Dominic Moore, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Jason Blake to defeat the slumping Senators 3-1.

Toronto is just 2-3, but will get a boost on the back end tonight as they welcome back rookie defenseman Luke Schenn.

Schenn has been one of Toronto's better defenders through the early part of the season, however a knee injury suffered in a collision with Alex Ovechkin forced him to miss some time.

When a player playing well goes down to injury, it's always interesting to see how they respond when they come back, and if they can return to the level they were at before being sidelined.

No word yet on starters, but one would suspect Vesa Toskala will get the call for the Maple Leafs.  

Bryan McCabe quotes courtesy of Howard Berger, found on


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