The mall... the place I would least wanna be on December 17, but I had to get the last of my Christmas shopping done so what could I do?
Of course, my Toronto Maple Leaf apparel drew the usual reactions. The nods and envy of other Leaf fans as well as the laughs and snickers from the Habs and Senators supporters.
As I made my way through the crowded mall, I was suddenly distracted by a chubby white-haired man sitting on a bench outside the Liquor Store. (No... it wasn't John Brophy)
"Psst.....excuse me sir," said the old man.
"Are you talking to me?" I replied with a bewildered look on my face. "What can I do for you?"
"Well young man, I noticed that you had on a Toronto Maple Leaf jacket..."
"Yeah yeah," I interrupted rudely. "Whatever buddy... save your jokes and have another bottle of whatever it is ya just bought in there. I've heard 'em all!"
"No no no... I have no problem with you being a Leaf fan young man," he protested. "No problem at all, but i'm in a bit of a pinch. You see... Christmas is just one week away and I haven't a clue what to bring anybody on the Maple Leafs this year."
It was at that precise moment that I knew who I was talking to.
"Holy crap," I said. "Are you Santa?"
"Ho ho ho," he replied and I knew he was the real deal. "You better believe it. Can you please help me though? Their roster is so new this season and I'm running out of time!"
I decided to go with the obvious.
"Well Santa... you know it's been 41 years...."
"Be realistic Robert," he interrupted. "I'm not a miracle worker you know. I can't just give them the Stanley Cup! They have to earn that on their own, but maybe you can give me some suggestions on what I can get each of them. Then, when put all together, maybe, just maybe, it will add up to a drink from Lord Stanley's mug!"
That seemed fair to me, and after just a few seconds of thinking, I started to rattle off my suggestions for most of the 2008/ 2009 Leaf roster.
Vesa Toskala- Goaltending coach Steve McKichan
McKichan was a huge part of Toskala's success last year in the Finnish netminder's first season with the Leafs. This summer brought plenty of changes in the Leafs' coaching situation and McKichan's contract was not renewed. The result: Toskala has been inconsistent and seems to be back in his net more often than not.
Curtis Joseph- An off-ice job with the Leafs.
Though his age is quickly becoming a factor in his declining play, Cujo remains a class act and the Leafs should keep him around for that reason alone.
Tomas Kaberle- A trade to a contender.
After almost 10 seasons of being the Leafs' best all around defenceman, Kabby is now closing in on the prestigious "Larry Murphy Award," given by fans to the Buds' defenceman they choose to hate in that particular season.
Other past notable winners include Todd Gill, Aki Berg, and most recently, Bryan McCabe.
This year, the early favourite was Jeff Finger and his absurd 4-year, 14-million dollar contract but a slow start to the season now has Tomas ahead. Detroit or San Jose... you wouldn't happen to be looking for an underappreciated Top 2 defenceman would you?
Mikhail Grabovski- English Lessons
Grabovski has been a huge surprise this season with the club and one can only imagine how much better he would be once the lines of communication are open to the fullest. I couldn't help but laugh after a recent victory over the Habs when "Grabby" was interviewed using Alexei Ponikarovsky as his interpreter.
Luke Schenn- Lunch with Luke Richardson
The Leafs' prized rookie Luke of 2008 should have a chat with the Leaf's prized rookie Luke of 1987 regarding when to turn the other cheek. Back in Richardson's rookie season, he dropped the gloves with young Edmonton tough guy Kelly Buchberger, obtaining a broken nose for his troubles.
Schenn, in his rookie season with the Leafs, has fought twice losing handily in both to Ottawa's Chris Neil and Vacouver's Rob Davison. An hour or two staring at Richardson's "bloated beak" should stop the future of this Leaf defence from doing anything stupid the rest of his rookie season.
Domenic Moore- An open ice hit on Todd Bertuzzi
The Leafs don't play Calgary so it probably won't happen this season but it still would be nice to see.
Alexei Ponikarovsky- An accurate shot
There is no question that "Pony" can fire the puck but let's face it, he couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat!
Ryan Hollweg- A steel plate in his jaw
He never wins a fight and has seen more punches than the time clock at the local GM plant.
Matt Stajan- A membership to "The Hair Club For Men"
This guy turns 25 on Friday but has the hairline of a 50 year old man!
Jeff Finger- A deal to become an author
The title of his book: "How I Played 94 NHL Games And Scored A 14-Million Dollar Contract"
Ian White- A razor
Sorry, but that horrible moustache has got to go! He looks like a young Ron Jeremy!
Andre Deveaux- Some fights
Nine games... two fights! He needs more than that if he wants to stay with the big club.
Brian Burke - Doug Risebrough to return to the NHL as the GM of the Washington Capitals
In 1992, then Leaf GM Cliff Fletcher robbed Risebrough of one of his best players when he acquired Doug Gilmour from the Calgary Flames. The principle player going the other was Gary Leeman. If Risebrough returns with the Caps maybe Burke can make lightning strike twice. How does Alexander Ovechkin for Nik Antropov sound?
As I made mention of all these suggestions, Ol' Saint Nick typed away at his laptop with glee! Hey, this isn't your traditional Santa anymore... the big guy's gone wireless!
"Ho Ho Ho," he laughed with glee. "I knew you were the one to see about this. I've been reading your articles at The Bleacher Report!"
"No problem Santa," I replied.
At that moment, he looked at his watch, a gold Rolex with diamond encrusted face.
"Oh my... I have to go now Robert, but you've been very helpful. I hope that all your suggestions add up to to a great future for the blue and white! Bye now!"
And with the touch of his nose, he disappeared out of thin air.
"Wait," I yelled. "I have so many questions to ask you! Whatever happened to that Abominable Snowman after that Yukon Cornelius guy pulled out his teeth? Why was that flying lion so into himself? Were Rudolph and that Dentist Elf gay?"
It was too late... he was gone and it was clear that I was gonna have to live the rest of my life questioning the script of a children's Christmas Special, but at least I was able to help the big guy to make the holidays just a little bit better for Leafs Nation.
I took Santa's cellphone number too just in case I had any other ideas for some of the Leafs I didn't mention so feel free to send me your suggestions.