It's the $64,000 question with specific reference to Doug Gilmour and who today might possibly fill those very special skates...night after night for the Leafs on the way to the Cup...only to be robbed by Kerry Fraser. Within two years of his arrival and, in fact, the only two years with the Leafs, he came the closest to leading the team to drink from the Cup since 1967.
There's no reason to believe that with a healthy team, it's possible to win by magically balancing youthful and veteran ambition with skill, energy, and effort; combined with and a lucky shot here or a lucky bounce there together with a timely hit, simple mistake, or a great save. The more wins the merrier, and any combination makes it all exciting year after year.
Luke Schenn is certainly improving, delivering skilled poise night after night and having fun doing so. Criticism is fueling his improvement. He apparently enjoys and accepts criticism easily—and has a confident calmness in his interviews, which makes it exciting when he finally decides to fight—always preferring to understand the benefits of natural ability to augment the coaches and trainers at his disposal as he matures under fire. The Leafs are doing well to protect their asset and groom him accordingly.
Last year, I commented that perhaps the Penguins should consider Kaberle and Kubina in exchange for Malkin. I was about to say the Leafs would never part ways with Schenn, never ever, but then I thought perhaps dangling Schenn together with a few other veterans for Crosby, a deal that would benefit both teams immediately. Playoff bound-challenged Penguins are living proof that chemistry is as important as skill.
I think the Steelers are going to win the Super Bowl because of their character. Though the spirit of Tilman is likely inspiring the Cardinals this season.
Speaking of character, heroic characters and Doug Gilmour, the Leafs need an uplift in the character department. Brad May needs to deliver some thundering hits: shoulder, hip, or fist.
Our Vikings Holman and Frogren—though the latter is a healthy scratch—obviously are slumping, despite a team without All-Star Kaberle again beating the Penguins following the tossing aside of the Rockies in a good tilt, and in spite of Toskala too.
In fact, Toskala is driving me crazy, in such a fun way. like gambling or wasting your time. In this case though, I never know who's going to win a Leafs game these days. I used to know: No matter whichever team the Leafs played against, they might just win. Great games just appear. Not now. It's an equation of shots. Thus, as happened last year, when the team keeps the opposing shot total low, the odds of winning goes up.
It's nice to see our Twin Towers, Antropov and Ponikarovsky, regaining the scoring touch...just in time for the close of trading season. I don't mind the underdog story, like the Giants beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl last year.
Over the years, the Leafs have consistently been seen as underdogs in games against teams loaded down with bonafide stars, like Malkin and Crosby who are leading 1-2 the scoring race among NHL players this season.
It's funny to think the Leafs' All-Star is Karberle. I can only imagine there are many players out there—young and old—who grew up as Leafs fans are dying to take on that role and prove his worth to get to exalted level. Dominic Moore might fit into that category, and maybe Matt Stajan. Brian Burke is set to make changes, and I expect within a month less European and more Canadian flavour.
Little Blake is making an impact and maybe simply setting an example on the ice recently. If anyone has anything to prove in the twilight of his career, it'd be him. A 40-goal would get the Leafs quite close to the playoffs this year.
Alas, where does he lie in the production department at the moment? Ripping it up at 17 goals. Not bad, but not excellent, providing thus a truly outstanding or phenomenal year.
In a nutshell, while the Leafs reflect on their next game against the Panthers, they contemplate heroes on the field and of the bravery demanded and duty expected. Not for anyone else but themselves; true professionalism underscores the value of success, which is contingent upon several factors the least of which is maintaining calm under pressure. I see that attribute in Schenn, and I hear he has a younger brother.