Five Current Maple Leafs Fans Could Remember For A Long Time
As a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, whether the star player of the team or the two-minute-per-night man on the fourth line, you're going to get talked about. A lot.
There is no such thing as the offseason, there are always rumours swirling, and there isn't a day that goes by without constant dissection from every media outlet and fan in the city.
Thus is the nature of playing in the most hockey-crazed city in the world.
It's just how things work in Hog town, so writing an article on much-talked-about players on the Leafs who fans will remember for a long time might seem a tad obvious; but what I'm talking about goes deeper than your everyday banter in line at Tim Horton's.
What I'm talking about are the young players on the team who have a chance at being more than just a guy who came in and filled a roster spot for a few years before moving on and getting replaced by the next name on a sweater.
I'm talking about the guys who when their career ends with the Leafs, their popularity just continues to grow as fans remember 'the good old days' they laced them up for the blue and white.
And as the youth movement in Toronto has seen the team stocked with numerous key pieces for the future, there is a chance that a few of them could have such an impact for years, so their names are never forgotten in this city.
The type of player that when their name is mentioned, any fan can instantly recall their favourite memory of the past involving them. Wendel Clark. Steve Thomas. Curtis Joseph. Tie Domi. Darcy Tucker. Mats Sundin.
These names, along with others, are the kind of guys who make a team what they are. They don't have to be the captain or the face of the franchise. They don't have to be the leading scorer or the starting goaltender.
They don't even have to be one of the best players on the team.
But they do have to bleed blue and white, have the heart and passion rarely seen, and create the sort of memories that don't just turn them into fan favourites forever, but give fans the feeling of a certain connection that they don't get with just anyone.
These players are special, and there are a few on this current Leafs roster who have a chance to one day be on the list of names already mentioned.
Players that fans of the Maple Leafs will remember for a very long time.
He might have had the most impressive season as a member of the Leafs last season, and Tyler Bozak only appeared in 37 games.
He recorded eight goals and 27 points in that time; putting him on pace to win the rookie scoring race had he played a full season.
After Leafs GM Brian Burke signed Bozak from the University of Denver, he expected him to be a solid addition to a team that needed a center for the top two lines so desperately.
Little did he know the immediate impact he would have, injecting the team with an energy and skill that they didn't see coming right away.
Though he was only a rookie last season, Bozak is already 24-years-old and has had enough playing experience already in his hockey career to be considered a full-time player for the Leafs.
His speed and skill is fantastic, and his enthusiasm this season made him an instant fan-favourite in Toronto.
He also had instant chemistry with a number of players, including Phil Kessel, which was encouraging to see on a team that was lacking in the offensive department.
As the upcoming season looms, Bozak will have his first opportunity to play an entire 82-game schedule, after which fans and the organization will have a better idea of how his career in the NHL will pan out.
He's got everything he needs right now to become beloved in the city that never sleeps when it comes to hockey, and as the new generation of Leafs begin what they hope to be the turnaround year for the franchise, Bozak should be one of the guys that stands out from the rest.
All signs point to Leaf fans remembering this guy for a long time...of course, after watching him play for a long time first.
As the Leafs first-round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, Nazem Kadri is going to get talked about a lot and will be remembered for a long time in Toronto.
Whether things turn out well or not.
As the seventh overall pick, expectations are high for Kadri, who will turn 20 just a day before the 2010-2011 season kicks off.
He played one game for the club this season but is expected to make the roster full-time next year as one of the top two centers, or even on the wing.
His offensive flair is uncanny and he's always willing to drive to the net to make things happen. With the Leafs as young as they've been, he could play a major offensive role right away.
There has been criticism, even from his own teammates and coach, about his attitude and chatter in the change room and on the ice, but a full season in the league should put him in place, and make him realize that it takes a few trips around the block before you get to run your mouth at will.
He'll learn, and in the process he could turn out to be a lethal weapon for the Leafs who are begging for someone to help Kessel score goals.
Born and raised in London, Ontario, and drafted by the team he grew up watching just a few hours down the road, all signs point to Kadri belonging in Toronto.
It's now up to him to make sure that people remember him long after he's gone. Even if that's a little ambitious to discuss just yet, since he hasn't actually started yet.
The newest member of the Toronto Maple Leafs will most assuredly be one of the most loved very early on into next season, as Colby Armstrong brings the hammer to Hog town.
Armstrong's style of play is similar to another fan favourite that used to call Toronto home in Darcy Tucker, both players who make a living getting down and dirty.
Fans and teammates alike love players like this, because they do whatever is asked of them and stick up for anyone wearing the same sweater. They're the kind of guys who can bring a team together.
It helps too that Armstrong can fit in both the top and bottom six on the team, used in different ways, maybe the most important being on the penalty kill-a place where the Leafs have sat in the basement for the past two seasons.
With his scoring ability mixed in with the grit and toughness that he brings, the love shown to him by the city could be up there with the kind that Tucker received.
People will never forget what Tucker did while he played in Toronto, and that was evident this year when Colorado came to town and he received a heartfelt ovation during a commercial break.
Armstrong will thrive in the spotlight of Leaf Nation, and if he can have the success he's had thus far in his career it will transfer into the team's success, and the undivided love from an entire city.
Armstrong could be the kind of guy that memories are made of.
If there is one thing that's been missing from the Leafs since the NHL was locked out in 2004, it's a solid goaltender between the pipes to lead them to the playoffs.
They hope they have that now in Jonas Gustavsson.
The young Swede went through a tough season this year with health issues, the death of his mother, and struggles on the ice, but there is no doubt that he has the potential to be a great number one goalie for the team for years to come.
He went 16-15-9 this year with a .902% SV% and 2.87 GAA, but it was at the end of the year, the final month, where he showed he had what it takes to be a legitimate NHL goalie.
He finished the season on a 7-2-1 stretch and obviously found his game after the problems he went through for much of the rest of the year. It also helped that the team around him improved-as they continue to do this summer-which gives him an even better chance at improvement next year.
He's likely going to share the load once again with Jean-Sebastien Giguere who is in the final year of his gigantic contract, but after that the stage will be set for 'The Monster' to take this team and run with them.
The Swedish International team fell in love with the 25-year-old this year, and as time goes on in Toronto, depending on how things shape out, Leafs fans will end up in the same situation.
And if Gustavsson can get this team into the playoffs and beyond, then fans will remember him for a long, long time in Toronto.
He's a must to be on a list like this, mainly because Dion Phaneuf was just named the new captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that's not the only reason why the defenseman with no shortage of snarl will be remembered in this town for years to come.
There is no denying the talent Phaneuf has, both offensively and defensively, and he adds to a Leafs D that is now the most physical it's been in a long time.
Through five seasons in the NHL, Phaneuf has 77 goals and 238 points, while missing just six games due to injury in that time; proof of his toughness since he plays at full speed every shift.
He's a no-nonsense kind of guy, and now the unquestioned leader of a team that needed one so badly. He demands respect on the ice, and commands performance from the players around him.
If Phaneuf can get his teammates to both practice and play the way he does, the Leafs could be a force to reckoned with sooner rather than later.
And if he were to achieve such a lofty task, the city of Toronto would be his for the taking.
Not that he isn't already the talk of the town.
As a captain of one of the most historically rich teams in the league, he is already on a list of men that who will be remembered forever in TO.
But with the missing-the-playoffs streak increasing, the Stanley Cup drought now the longest in the NHL, and the patience from fans thinning by the day, he has the chance to be remembered as the captain who led the Leafs back to glory.
And if he were to do that, Phaneuf would not just be remembered forever by Leaf Nation, but there would be statues resurrected, songs written, and children named after him for generations to come.
No pressure, Dion.