In this second part of my installment, all of my players are going to be from 2001-2002 and on. My favourite thing about these players is that all of them used to be so good when they played with teams other then Toronto, and as soon as they come to this hockey mad town, they slowly die.
The funny thing is is that when they go in a slump or have a bad month, we don't help, we turn into vultures and pick them apart until there is nothing left, then leave the carcase for the Euro leagues to have. Not fair by any means if you ask me.
I really liked this guy when we convinced him to comeback from the Czech league, I was happy to get him. He was a fast play-maker who had a great wrist-shot which was something the Leafs were lacking and when the 01-02 season came, he delivered by netting 20 goals and 51 points in 78 games. A very solid, respectable season, but not for Leafs fans. We wanted more from him and we started to once again pick him apart.
In the 02-03 season he was starting to feel the pressure and his stats started to drop and by the end of the season he dropped to 12 goals and 42 points. Here is when it snowballed.
In the next season, a player who once got 93 points with the Calgary Flames only got a lowly 11 goals and 30 points with his best highlight being a botched penalty shot where he took a slapshot from near the blue line right into the goalies chest. What a fall from stardom, don't ya think.
Anyways, after the 03-04 season, he "suprizingly" left the NHL to play for his hometown team Litvinow CHP HC where he still plays to this day.
Man, here was a guy who had potential to be a real power forward in the NHL and when the Leafs got him in 2001, I had mixed emotions based on the fact that he wasn't the fastest guy on skates, but he could still produce none-the-less.
When it finally came to play his first season in the blue and white, once again he did not disappoint, getting 14 goals with 52 points while finding chemistry with Sundin, but the chemistry soon died when 02-03 came around when his production fell to 14 goals and 35 points. Still ok but not for Leafs fans and by the time 2003-2004 was finished, he was shown the door because his points fell to only 25 points.
Not suprizingly, after the 03-04 season, he left to go play back in the Swedish Elite League where he still resides.
I had such high hopes for this kid, most notably because of his final year with the Ottawa 67's where he got 112 points in only 50 games. SO you can see where the high hopes came from, but sadly, as Toronto fans always do, we label him as the next Doug Gilmour and expect the world from a guy who hasn't even skated in an NHL game. Hardly fair to say the least.
Anyways when the Leafs brought McCauley up to play in 97-98 where he got 16 points in 60 games. Leafs fans had hopes of improvement but after years of mediocre play, we were ready to show him the door until the 2002 playoffs where injuries came and unexpectedly he caught fire getting 15 points in 20 games.
Once again he was the man labelled to be the next Gilmour but when the 02-03 season came, pressure got the best of him and after another year of mediocrity he was traded in the never forgettable Owen Nolan Deadline deal where he got a second chance and for once season, looked like it worked where he got 47 points in 82 games. The next season sadly he got only 26 points and was let go and the next season a terrible LA Kings squad signed him to the team but after 10 games he hung up the skates and hasn't been seen since.
When the Leafs traded for Owen Nolan, I was excited to say the least. I honestly thought he was going to bring the Leafs to the promiseland. Man was I wrong. Little did I know that this trade was the trade that finally made the Leafs collapse to mediocrity once and for all.
When we traded for Nolan at the deadline, we gave up a lot, we gave up Alyn McCauley, Brad Boyes and Toronto's 1st round choice in the 2003 draft. Which at the time, seemed reasonable for a player of Nolan's caliber, and when he played out the rest of the year, he seemed like the real deal, notching 12 points in 14 games.
But, when the next year came, injuries hindered his whole season and even while battling injuries the whole year, he still got 48 points in 65 games, but for a star player like Nolan, he could have done better.
By the time the lockout was over he was released and Phoenix signed him to a 1-year deal and from here on out, his game dropped, only getting 40 points on a very bad Coyotes team. Then last year he signed with the Calgary Flames where his game did not improve getting only 32 points.
While he is still playing in the NHL, he is not playing the way he used to, with the grit and speed of the power forward he was and instead playing more of 3rd line grinder role which he plays well. But, sadly, it seems like he will never be the same player he once was before his stint with Toronto.
While I have always dreamed of skating for the blue and white it recently dawned on me that I don't know if I would like to anymore. I mean, every time a player suits up for the Leafs, we put them under a microscope and when they have a rough start or have a slump, we pick them apart and when we do they only get worse.
I love the Leafs, always have, always will, but maybe I love them a little too much.
Darcy Tucker used to be one of my favourite players but after one bad season, I hated him telling him to leave and never come back. Same with Raycroft, same with Pohl.
We can blame the fact that we haven't won a Stanley Cup in over 40 years because we have had bad management, bad players or bad ownership but I am really starting to believe that the reason a Stanley Cup hasn't come to Toronto because the pressure of doing so is so great, the players can't handle the pressure.
So the next time a player has a rough start to the season, lay off the guy, because not one man in the world deserves being shunned by millions of people for playing the game he loves, or being offered millions of dollars to do so.