Maple Leafs Notes: Leafs, Wings to Open Season, Fletcher Pushes Detonator

Derek HarmsworthSenior Writer IJune 25, 2008

Maple Leafs Will Open Season in Motown

As first reported by Howard Berger, the Toronto Maple Leafs will open their 2008-2009 season on October 9th in Detroit against the league's defending champions.

The Maple Leafs vs. the Red Wings.  An original six match-up that will be featured on a special edition of Thursday night Hockey Night in Canada on CBC.

Also revealed today were some details on the rest of the schedule.

The new look format will feature home and home games against Canada's Western teams.  The road trip is expected to take place in early November.

The Leafs will host the Vancouver Canucks, and Kyle Wellwood, at the ACC on February 21st as part of Hockey Day in Canada.

The full schedule is to be released in Mid-July.

More Thoughts on Wellwood

Kyle Wellwood's time with the Toronto Maple Leafs ended today, signaling the end of a promise, potential filled career that has been stricken by injury and accusations of laziness.

I really hope Wellwood lands on his feet in Vancouver.  If he can stay healthy and put up points like he did a few years back, he will replace Brendan Morrison on the second line.

However, I am cautious about this move for the young center.  The Western conference is known as a harder hitting league than the East and if Wellwood isn't prepared mentally, and physically, players like Dion Phaneuf and Brent Burns could eat him up all year long.

As for the Maple Leafs, I think if there isn't an addition through free agency (a young, inexpensive free agent) then Alex Steen, or even natural center Jiri Tlusty will likely slide to the second line center role.

Fletcher's Shape of Team Taking Shape

Cliff Fletcher made quite a few promises when he took over for John Ferguson Jr. last season.  Among those promises was what he described as "half a dozen changes."

Well, with July 1st free agency under a week away, those changes are well underway.

Since Fletcher has come to this team, gone are Kyle Wellwood, Darcy Tucker, and more than likely Andrew Raycroft.

Add to that players like Andy Wozniewski, John Pohl, and Scott Clemmensen not being brought back, Bates Battaglia toiling down in the minors, and the trade deadline deals that saw Chad Kilger, Wade Belak, and Hal Gill leave town, and the Maple Leafs GM has made already ten changes.

This doesn't include Mats Sundin, Pavel Kubina, and Bryan McCabe's potential departure, and whoever else Fletcher doesn't feel is a fit for the club.

These players have been replaced so far with Jamal Mayers, who will provide grit, leadership, and the toughness this team was lacking last season, at a cheaper price.  He also added Luke Schenn, who will be given every opportunity to back the big club come this fall.

He has made some real solid moves so far and it will surely be an interesting time in Leafs' Nation once free agency opens for business.