Yes, it is possible to pick out ten good moments of a season in which the Maple Leafs finished 15th in the Eastern Conference, and 29th in the league. It was also a season when the Maple Leafs lost their largest free agent signing, Mike Komisarek, for the season because of injury, and when they lost their first round pick and could have got Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, or Cam Fowler.
In fact, there were many high points to the Maple Leafs' season, from winning streaks (granted there was few), to trades, and even to the off-season.
So, without further adieu, here they are, the top ten moments of the Maple Leafs' 2009-2010 season:
After beginning the season with eight straight losses, two of them to the Rangers, the Maple Leafs finally won a game by defeating the Anaheim Ducks 6-3. Defenseman Tomas Kaberle called it "a relief" while Francois Beauchemin called it "a special night".
It was Jonas Gustavsson's first career victory, making 25 saves on 28 shots. At the end of the 2009-10 season, the rookie goalie finished with 16 wins, a goals against average of 2.87 and a save percentage of .902.
Niklas Hagman, Tomas Kaberle and Scott Niedermayer were the one, two and three stars that night.
November 25th may not be the most memorable moment of the season, however it was the day of the first game in which the Maple Leafs went on their first hot streak of the season.
From November 25th to December 14th, the Leafs won eight games out of eleven.
They began by winning two straight against Florida teams. First it was the Lightning, followed by the Panthers. From there is was a loss to the Sabres, but the Leafs were quick to pull things back together after being shutout. In fact, they even beat the Habs 3-0 and then went on to defeat Columbus. After another loss, the Leafs beat the Thrashers and the Islanders. Then, they once again lost to the Bruins, before rounding out the hot streak with a pair of wins over the Capitals and Senators.
Since the trade deadline the kids on the Leafs got a lot more attention, and they thrived off of it. The Leafs were the youngest team in the league during the stretch run, and it definitely did not show.
For the majority stretch run, the Leafs played great hockey and got the job done, going 11-6-3.
Tyler Bozak, 23, scored five times and added eleven assists during the stretch run and finished with eight goals and 19 assists in 37 games overall. Luca Caputi, 21, finished with two goals and six assists during the stretch run, and played great in every zone on the ice.
Phil Kessel, 22, is still a lot younger than a lot of people think he is, so he falls into this category. Kessel missed the first 12 games of the season, however he came back to prove that he was a good acquisition for the Leafs. He finished with 30 goals and 25 assists this season.
John Mitchell, 25, did not go through any sophomore slump. He finished with six goals and 17 assists in 60 games on the season. Just like last season, he was a player that the Maple Leafs loved having when it came to the penalty kill and shutting down certain players.
There was many other young players who played great for the Maple Leafs this season, not just down the stretch run but all season long.
During the entire 2009-10 season, the Maple Leafs dominated their provincial rivals, the Ottawa Senators.
On February 6th, the Maple Leafs beat the Senators 5-0, which snapped Ottawa's franchise record 11 game winning streak. Phil Kessel had three points, including a goal, while sophomore defenseman Luke Schenn scored his third and fourth goals of the season in what was arguably the best game the Leafs played all season.
The Maple Leafs continued to beat the Senators by defeating them on March 16th 4-1. That victory gave the Maple Leafs the four games to two win in the season series. They began by loosing two straight the the Sens, before winning four in a row. The Leafs won 3-2 on December 14th, 5-0 on February 6th, 2-1 on March 6th, and 4-1 on March 16th.
It wasn't just offensively and defensively where the Leafs dominated the Senators. Colton Orr and Matt Carkner dropped the gloves four times this season, with Colton Orr taking three of them.
Overall it was a good season for the Leafs when it came to facing off against the Sens.
When Alexei Ponikarovsky was traded for a draft pick and Luca Caputi, many people thought that the Leafs did not get as much as they could have. However, Caputi finished the season with two goals and six assists in 23 games.
He was not only great offensively, but defensively as well.
After two and a half seasons in Toronto for both Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala, they finally got a chance with another team.
In 216 games with the Leafs, Blake scored just 50 goals and added 91 assists. The season before Toronto signed him to that large four year contract he scored 40 goals as a member of the Islanders.
Vesa Toskala also struggled, and also carried a heavy contract. In his first season as a Leaf, he had a save percentage of .904, .891 in his second and .874 in his third. Only once during his time as a Maple Leaf was is GAA below 3.00.
Before coming to Toronto, Toskala had seasons that included GAA of 2.50 or less, and save percentages of .908 or better.
Clearly Toskala and Blake were way overpaid and major disappointments, making the trades that sent them out of town the fifth best thing to happen to the Leafs during the 2009-10 season.
When Phil Kessel arrived many Leafs fans were over joyed. Kessel is an up and coming star in the league, if you don't think he is already. He has even persevered through cancer, and came back better than before. In 2008-2009 he scored a career high 36 goals, 24 assists, and 60 points, in 70 games. This season he showed to be one of the Leafs' best leaders when it came to offense, scoring 30 goals and 25 assists in the same amount of games.
The only problem with the trade that the Leafs made to get Kessel was the fact that they gave up two first round picks, and a second. Only adding to the insult of loosing so many high quality picks is that the Leafs finished 29th in the league, giving the Bruins a great chance at landing the 2nd overall pick.
Therefore, the arrival of Phil Kessel drops to number four on the list.
On June 26th, 2009, Nazem Kadri became the first Muslim to be drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in franchise history, and just the second in NHL history.
Kadri was drafted seventh overall, and was a player that most teams behind the Leafs wanted, including the Ottawa Senators.
Kadri finished the OHL regular season with a total of 35 goals and 58 assists for 93 points, 5th in the OHL, in 56 games
Kadri played well in his only NHL game, an emergency call-up against the San Jose Sharks. He was given 17 minutes of ice time, only two minutes shorter than Leafs star Phil Kessel. Kadri could be considered part of the bright future for the Maple Leafs that includes players such as Tyler Bozak, Christian Hanson, and Luca Caputi.
The summer of 2009 is when Leafs Nation finally began to believe that the Maple Leafs had a chance at the playoffs in 2009-2010. This is because the Leafs went crazy in the free agent market, signing Mike Komisarek, Jonas Gustavsson and Francois Beauchemin, while trading for Garnet Exelby.
Mike Komisarek was perhaps the most wanted free agent defenseman, after not re-signing with the Maple Leafs largest rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. He was big, strong and could lead a team far. However, after just 34 games with the Leafs and posting just four assists, he was told that he could not return to the ice until next season.
Jonas Gustavsson was wanted by many teams around the league, in fact, almost all of them. After many days of speculation, Gustavsson signed with the Leafs. He got off to a great start, but then became streaky. Towards the end of the season he was playing great, he even won seven starts in a row at one point.
Francois Beauchemin won a Stanley Cup in Anahiem when Brian Burke was their general manager. He contributed largely to the Ducks in entire time he was there, which made Burke want to sign him to his new team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Garnet Exelby was a part of the trade that saw Pavel Kubina go to the Thrashers. Most Leafs fans were more excited to see Kubina gone than see Exelby in a Leafs uniform. Exelby had to fight for a top six job on the Leafs, and failed to do so. On many occasions he was a healthy scratch, as he only played 51 games in total and not one of the games he didn't play in was due to injury.
It turns out that after all of these signings, none of them really paid off as much as the Leafs had hoped.
On Sunday, January 31st the Maple Leafs made a highly un expected splash. The Leafs sent a total of six players out of town, and acquired four. The biggest name the Buds acquired was Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
Phaneuf had been struggling all season long with the Flames, but seemed to regain his form once he came to Toronto. Phaneuf played amazing defensively and even seemed to lead the team through rough times, and help carry them to their great success during the stretch run. It is also widely speculated that Phaneuf may be the Maple Leafs' next captain.
The Leafs also acquired Jean-Sebastien Giguere from Anahiem. Giguere, another player who won the Stanley Cup in Anahiem under Brian Burke, had two straight shutouts to begin his Leafs career, and continued his stellar play after that. He finished the season with a GAA of 2.85 and a SV% of .907.
The Leafs also acquired Fredrick Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie.
On the same day the Leafs traded Jason Blake, Vesa Toskala, Ian White, Jamal Mayers, Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman. Blake and Toskala were not well liked in Toronto while Ian White had slowly become a fan favourite.
As you can see, even though it was a tough season, there were still some bright times. Maybe next season we will see even more, including the playoffs.
Stats source: mapleleafs.nhl.com
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