Heard On Episode 4.6 of A Foot In The Crease
After a shockingly unexpected defeat of the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings in their season-opening contest was followed by four less-than impressive outings, reality is now beginning to set in for the 2008-09 Maple Leafs campaign.
Opening night euphoria has quickly given way to the stark truth of what likely awaits Leaf fans this season. But all is not lost.
The play of top prospect Luke Schenn has been very encouraging. He has consistently been among the team leaders in ice time, while arguably becoming the Maple Leafs’ most reliable defenseman in his own zone.
Nik Kulemin’s play is starting to remove the folklore that was built up around him from media speculation since the Maple Leafs drafted him out of Russia, instead replacing it with shreds of optimism and truth that say, “yeah, this guy might just have some talent.” I
f anything, despite the Maple Leafs’ poor record in shootouts, Kulemin has shown a far-too-unfamiliar knack to the Maple Leafs, scoring consistently in that facet of the game.
Mixi them in with the remaining group of young players, including Mikhail Grabovski, Anton Stralman, and Jiri Tlusty, and all of sudden there is the potential for some meaningful development this season.
Just a few seasons ago, the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues were in very similar positions, long on young talent but short on experience. However, after suffering through some difficult seasons, their young prospects have developed to the point where they are now leading their respective teams to very successful starts in the always-competitive Western Conference.
For the Maple Leafs, this is a season all about patience, and the hopes riding with many of the young players they have on their roster now will soon lead to the improvement, as seen in the cases of the Oilers and Blues.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Leafs Nation won’t quite be built in just one season, either. But hey, all that was just rigmarole.