Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs: A New Era For the Rivalry

Felix Sicard@@YeetrocityCorrespondent IOctober 2, 2009

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 08: A ceremonial faceoff takes place in honor of Rememberance Day between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens on November 8, 2008 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Today, the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs kicked off a season that will mark a new era for the storied rivalry between both clubs. Both teams have undergone major changes, but not in the same way.

In Toronto, General Manager Brian Burke is changing the identity of the Maple Leafs. When his Ducks won the Cup in 2007, Burke had established a culture in Anaheim, a culture in which the team bullied its way to wins. This strategy proved effective, and Burke was able to bring in the right personnel for that system. When teams faced the Ducks, they knew that they'd be in for a tough game.

Now, Burke is trying to implement that same ideology into a Toronto squad that has lacked an identity since the departure of now-retired Mats Sundin.

And so far, he has done an admirable job in achieveing that goal by bringing in players such as Mike Komisarek and Colton Orr. Along with the additions of Phil Kessel, Francois Beauchemin, Garnet Exelby, and the expected the progression of franchise face Luke Schenn, the Leafs are finally a legitimate playoff contender.

While the Leafs are no where near Lord Stanley's mug, their ship has definitely been put back on track after having missed the postseason four times in a row.

"And while there remain some significant details to be ironed out, I believe—I believe a broad consensus exists for the aspects of the plan I just outlined."-Barack Obama

While I'm sure the President doesn't know about what is going on in Toronto, one could easily imagine Burke saying the same thing.

The offense is still the team's major issue, but the Leaf's G.M has the full backing of the fanbase in Toronto.

In Montreal, change is the name of the game.

Gone is long-time captain Saku Koivu. Gone is the beloved Alex Kovalev. Gone is the heart-and-soul of Mike Komisarek. And those are just a few names. Out of the 11 unrestricted free agents in Montreal this summer, not a single one was resigned by G.M Bob Gainey.

Instead, Gainey decided it was time for change in Montreal. And while he may have met that end, does that mean the Canadiens are better, or just different?

That question has been plaguing the club all summer. The preseason has been a source of encouragement, as Scott Gomez, Michael Cammalleri, and Brian Gionta all proved that they could excel early on. On the blueline, Jaroslav Spacek and Andrei Markov have been meshing nicely, and the colossal Hal Gill has finally brought some much-needed size in the back end.

Both teams now have a plethora of tough guys, and that will only add to the rivalry. Mike Komisarek's defection to Toronto has created some more bad blood, and guys like Travis Moen and Georges Laraque will always have playmates when it is time to drop the gloves.

It should be an interesting year for both clubs, and it starts tonight.


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