2010 Playoffs: The Land of Misfit Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently one of the most disastrous franchises in the NHL, and have not seen hockey's "2nd Season" in 5 years as of this year. They have few "blue chip" prospects, and seem happy to just sign College Players that the other 29 teams have all previously passed over , as they themselves have had pretty anemic draft results. But with the last 5 years of rebuild...a number of former Leaf castoffs have had "Post Season Presence" even though the Blue and White have yet to. Here are a few of the players that have been able to stay off the golf course in April to attend the spring dance.
Hal Gill was a steady player in Boston for 8 years, before Toronto as they usually do, overpaid for his services. In Toronto, he was the 2nd coming of "Give Away Gill" with his play rivalling that of Leaf Legend Todd Gill. Booed mercilessly, and people questioning the contract he signed, Gill was never comfortable in the Blue and White. THEN...at the trade deadline in 2009, he found himself calling the Igloo home, playing on a team with the most dynamic player in the league today, and making it to the Stanley Cup Final. A year later, he found himself hoisting Lord Stanleys Mug. Talk about going from the Outhouse to the Penthouse. This year, Gill patrolled the blueline for the Montreal Canadiens, and after being part of the biggest upset in NHL Playoff history by dispatching the over rated Washington Capitals in Round 1...Gill is in his 10th playoff series in 3 year...whereas the Leaf franchis has yest to play 1 in 5 years.
Drafted 21st overall in the 2005 Entry Draft...Tuuka Rask was the goalie of the Leafs future. A "Cant Miss" blue chip prospect, Rask had shone for Finland at the World Junior Tournament. BUT..1 year later at the 2006 Draft, before he even stepped on the ice in the Blue and White, Rask was dealt to the Boston Bruins for Andrew Raycroft , a goalie who had won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, but was quickly heading into "Jim Carey, Net Defective" Territory. The Reason for the Trade....Toronto felt Justin Pogge was their "Goalie of the Future". (Pogge has since tanked at the pro level and was jettisoned to the Ducks for a "conditional draft pick". And what of Rask? Biding his time playing behind Vezina Winner Tim Thomas, the door swung open during this season when Thomas was injured, and Rask seized the opportunity and then some. Posting a 22-12 record with a GAA under 2 and Save % over .930..helped dig the Bruins out of their injury plagued hole to propel them into the playoffs. In the Playoffs, he outdueled Ryan Miller and dispatched the favored Sabres. Leaf fans can only wonder "what if...."
If his work ethic ever matched the magic of his hands...this guy would be unstoppable. But..for the player nicknamed "Well-fed" due to his propensity to show up to camp a little plump....his true potential will probably never be known. Drafted in the 5th Round by Toronto in the 2001 Draft, anyone who followed Junior Hockey saw this as a potential "diamond in the rough" steal. This was a player who was traded in junior for Jason Spezza! But, his lack of effort and lack of ability to progress (his best point total was as a rookie!?), Wellwood became expendable in the 2008 off season. The Vancouver Canucks took a chance, and though they have not been richly rewarded, Wellwood has been a serviceable NHL'er, and has played in the playoffs the last 2 season, and is still alive in the 2nd round facing Chicago...more than his previous teammates have in the past 5 seasons.
Traded to the Leafs in the 2000 Season by Tampa Bay, the "Sideshow Bob" era began for the next 7 years at the ACC. Tucker was signed to a ridiculous contract by the Toronto Brain Trust, giving $3 Million + a season (considering he had never broke the 30 goal mark..and had a career high 61 points). When the Leafs came to their senses, Tucker was bought out and left to find work. The rebuilding Avalanche took a chance on the veteran....and with good drafting and managment, turned the rebuild around in record time and beat out the ever underachieving Calgary Flames for post season positioning.
Really, a non factor in any capacity. The Former Calder Trophy Winner who was traded for the much younger, and more successful Tuuka Rask, is now biding his time as Roberto Luongo's backup in Vancouver. Deemed expendable with the ill fated move of acquiring Vesa Toskala (another bust acquired for a steep price..), Raycroft was bought out and joined former Leaf Tucker on the Avalanche, were he was beat out by Peter Budaj. So...even though he is currently sitting in the 2nd round of the playoffs with no thanks to him...being consistently beat out for top spot everywhere he goes, he has still enjoyed more playoff action than his former friends back in Toronto.
The 95th overall pick by the New York Rangers in 2000, Moore is better known as the brother of Bertuzzi Battered former player Steve Moore. Over the past 10 years, Moore has found work with 7 different NHL teams, roughly 1 of them with the Leafs. But...playing on a team void of talent and depth, Moore earned himslef some quality ice time and parlayed that into 56 points, more than all his previous years in the league combined. This new found success put Toronto management into a bind...do we trade the hot stick or run the risk of typical Toronto protocol and overpay for a career year. (See Jason Blake and countless others). This time the Leafies went against the grain and made the smart move to trade the hot commodity to Buffalo at the deadline, where he fell back to earth with 4 points in 18 games, and the Sabres missed the playoffs. Fast forward to this year, where Dominic played for the Panthers...but luckily found himslef on his 4th team in less than 12 months...and on the "anti Leafs" was the one who scored the decisive goal in ousting the Ovechkin led Capitals in Round 1 this year. So...even though Dominic has bounced around more than Paris Hilton at a kegger...he is living the playoff life to the fullest...outside of the ACC.
Poni Boy...Stay Gold!! Drafted 87th overall in 1998, the Leafs were supportive in keeping this glorified pylong around for this long. Most teams would have buried a player who produced at this clip on their farm team, but lucky for Poni, the leafs were never in a positon to turn down anyone who could skate and show up regularly. Never Cracking 25 goals, and once scratching 60 points, the Leaf Braintrust held on to Poni and "Nik the Stick" (Nik Antropov, another chronic underachiever)...until it was no longer prudent to. Like Hal Gill before him, Poni boy has fallen inot the lap of luxury with Crosby, Malkin and Company...looking to make a long run into post season territory..a trip he rarely made while donning the TLM apparel. (Footnote..Penguin Poni much like Leaf Poni has failed to make an impact..and once again is along for the ride) But, nontheless...he is in a position envied by his former mates.
Stempniak is a "Double Dip" Debacle that the Leafs will not recover from any time soon. Traded by St Louis for Alex Sten and Carlo Call-an-ambulance...giving up 2 underachieving prospects. GUESS WHAT...when they hit St Louis, both had a resurgence and have become important players. Stempniak...he grossly underachieved with the Leafs...only to be deal to the Desert Dogs where he caught fire scoring 18 points in 18 games (14 as goals)...but then reverted back to his Leafie ways in the post season, laying an egg in the 7 game series against Detroit.
Though he has not worn a Leaf jersey in 10 years...Sullivan is just another statistic to show the complete and total incompetence the Leaf franchise has show in the last decade. Acquired in what was one of the greatest trades in Leaf history, when they leveraged Doug Gilmour for Jason Smith, Steve Sullivan and Alyn McCauley...Sullivan, just like the other two players, was wasted by the incompetant Leafs, put on waivers to sign Dimitri Kristich in 1999. Sullivan was snapped up by Chicago where he had a career rebirth, where as Kristich faded asway like most Toronto signings. And, even though Sullivan has played for a few teams and had massive injuires that he has recovered from and persevered...he has STILL played in more playoff games this year alone than the Leaf Franchise has in the last 5 years.
Due to injury he is not currently playing...but even on a bad wheel, Carter has more playoff games than the Leafs in the last 5 years. Just a reminder of what "could have been" had Kaberle waived his no trade. Another botch of the Buds and their Band of Befuddled Brotherhood.