As expected, the Toronto Maple Leafs began to make a few roster changes earlier this week. And while it’s obvious that they were made mostly out of necessity due to injuries, fact is—while you never want to see a player hurt—this opportunity may be a blessing in disguise for most all involved.
Vesa Toskala has gone back to the IR, and John Mitchell has joined him there. Both appear to have lower body injuries.
Toskala, who had been turning his season around a little bit, seems to have once again aggravated his consistently wonky groin, while John Mitchell, who has struggled a little in his sophomore season, appeared to damage his MCL when he collided with the boards Monday night.
For the part of backup goaltender, the Leafs have recalled Joey MacDonald. A member of the Toronto Marlies, MacDonald was good in games this pre-season, as well as in the regular season with Toronto in October. It is expected, however, that Ron Wilson will ride Jonas Gustavsson and give him the bulk of the starts in Toskala’s absence.
Replacing Mitchell will be Christian Hanson. His story of course well documented. A collegiate free agent from Notre Dame signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs late last season. Hanson even got into a few NHL games at the end of the year, and notched his first NHL goal against-of all people- Martin Brodeur.
Hanson isn’t quite the pugilist his father once portrayed in the legendary Slap shot movies, but he does have more than enough offensive skill to make him an NHL regular.
But it will be the intangibles that decide whether or not Hanson is here to stay in the NHL this time.
His heart. His leadership. His character. And most of all, his drive (to go to the front of net).
While scouting Hanson, many inside the Leafs organization spoke glowingly of the player as a guy who plays with a tremendous amount of heart, and a player who–as one scout put it—”reeks of character.”
The attributes mentioned above will certainly be tested during his time with the Maple Leafs. They haven’t been known as a team to make things easy on themselves this season so far.
The latest episode in this ever trying season of coming oh so close to breaking the proverbial glass ceiling of course came Monday night when the Leafs were handed a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss at the hands of the New York Islanders.
Of course the most heartbreaking fact of all was the shot clock, in which the Leafs had a heavy advantage, firing over sixty shots at Isles goalie Dwayne Roloson, who bent, but didn’t break, en route to stealing a victory for his team.
And while you would think any team taking 61 shots would deserve to win the game, one must take into consideration the very quality of the shots.
Certainly on this night they had adequate chances to beat Roloson and take control of the game, but the bottom line was there were far too many shots in which Roloson had a regular ol’ night at the office.
Little traffic means of course a clear lane for goalies to stop ample pucks.
This, of course, is where Christian Hanson fits into the equation swimmingly, or so the Leafs will hope.
Hanson, one of the bigger Leafs forwards, will no doubt be utilized by Ron Wilson as a big, physical player who can use his big frame to open shooting lanes for his fellow linemates, and to also go the net and create some havoc while looking for a rebound.
For Hanson, it will be a recipe for success if he hopes to keep his career cooking with the Maple Leafs.
On Brendan Burke
Of course the big news of the day (if you will) revolved around the son of the Leafs GM, as Brendan Burke today came out of the closet admitting he is gay in an interview with ESPN.com.
For those of you who haven’t read it yet, I urge you to step on over to the ESPN website, as it is a very well written piece with some great quotes from Brendan and Brian Burke.
And while it’s not my business, nor really is it anyone's business, I will say one little piece about it.
I completely echo the sentiments of Brian Burke in this article where he says he dreams of a day when this type of thing will not really be news at all.
I completely respect Brendan’s decision to come out, and applaud him for doing so.