Toronto Maple Leafs: 5 Outrageous Predictions for 2011
If the NHL preseason is the time for making bold predictions about our favorite hockey teams, then what is the end of the offseason for?
That’s easy enough to answer.
It’s the time for making even bolder predictions. In fact, it’s the perfect time for making predictions so bold that they border on the outlandish.
By now you have probably read plenty of articles predicting this or that. I promise this piece won’t be another rehash of any of those.
What follows are five predictions about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ season so outrageous that you will either walk away shaking your head in amazement or wagging your finger in disgust.
Luke Schenn Leads the League in Hits and Giveaways
Luke Schenn pummels Derek Roy
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Okay, so this first slide is not as unrealistic as you may have expected.
Luke Schenn was eighth in the league last year with 251 hits—85 behind league leader Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild. He was third in the league with 95 giveaways, only nine behind leader Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils.
With another year under his belt, Schenn will play with a chip on his shoulder, plastering anything and anyone in sight. But his contract extension will remain open for most of the season as the Leafs’ brass shuffle their feet.
This will leave Schenn feeling betrayed by the Leafs front office and that will translate into a record number of giveaways for the fourth-year pro.
Brian Burke Trades for Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos Scores
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
In what becomes the blockbuster trade of the season, Brian Burke orchestrates a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Going to Tampa are Mikhail Grabovski, James Reimer and a first-round draft pick. Coming to the Leafs are Steven Stamkos and Dwayne Roloson.
Unbelievably, Roly-the-goalie has a great year with the Leafs, posting a goals-against-average of just over two and a save percentage of .931. Simultaneously, Reimer has a stand-out season for the Lightning.
Stamkos gives the Leafs that top-tier centre they so desperately needed, and he immediately helps the Leafs become one of the top teams in the Northeast division.
He will be the only Leaf represented at the All-Star Game, though others will be nominated.
Phil Kessel Bags 50 Goals but Shuns the All-Star Game
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
But in a show of defiance for his treatment at the event the prior year, he snubs the affair and goes on record stating that the whole All-Star event is a joke. While some critics denounce Kessel's actions, most fans are overjoyed at his new-found chutzpah.
By the end of the season, Kessel is the NHL's leading goal scorer with 53, and the Leafs make the playoffs as the No. 2 team from the Northeast division behind the Boston Bruins.
Joe Colborne Gets Nominated for Rookie of the Year
Claus Andersen/Getty Images
After the Grabovski-for-Stamkos trade and an injury to Tim Connolly, there is an opening for a centre on the Leafs’ roster. Joe Colborne is brought up from the Marlies and almost immediately begins to pay dividends.
His size and skill allow him to adapt to the speed of the NHL game quickly. Even though Connolly returns from injury within a month, Colborne is made the second-line centre and never looks back.
By the end of the season, he has over 20 goals and 50 points and is mentioned on ESPN as a possible rookie of the year candidate. In the final voting he comes up just a bit short, but is heralded by Leafs' fans everywhere.
Ron Wilson Wins Coach of the Year
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Unfettered by a team with a losing record, Ron Wilson returns to his former self and basks in the glory of leading his team into the playoffs.
Unburdened by the need to motivate or teach his players anymore, Wilson can relax and show an uncommon calmness behind the bench and with the media.
The players respond to Wilson 2.0 and make the third round of the playoffs where they lose to, you guessed it, the Tampa Bay Lightning. It seems that Reimer will have an outstanding series, standing on his head for shutouts no less than three times, closing down the Leafs 4-2 and leading the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Even so, Wilson will pick up Coach of the Year honors as the Leafs will by far exceed their opening day expectations, being the most improved team in the league. Back in Toronto, Wilson is lauded in the press and given a contract extension by MLSE.
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