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Toronto Maple Leafs on the Rise: Has the Phil Kessel Era Arrived?

Louis PisanoAnalyst IDecember 15, 2009

TORONTO - DECEMBER 14:  Phil Kessel #81 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates goal against the Ottawa Senators during action December 14, 2009 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

By Louis “King of Roncesvalles” Pisano

The Toronto Maple Leafs have now risen from the smouldering ashes that it seemed their franchise had become and are now beginning to soar as the fiery Phoenix of myth and legend.

After a horrid start in their first 12 games and before getting their offseason acquisition in to the line up, young sniper Phil Kessel, the Leafs had an abysmal record of one win seven losses and four overtime or shootout losses.

The Leafs have now seemingly rounded into form, or at least have begun to put up respectable numbers. Since his (Kessel) insertion into the line up, the Leafs have a record of ten regulation wins, seven losses, three overtime/shootout losses, and a shootout win against surprisingly the Washington Capitals.

These numbers aren’t phenomenal by any means, but they are certainly an improvement and are closer to what Leafs Nation expected out of this revamped line up.

After watching from the press box for the last two games, young Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn must be wondering where he fits in. Should he have been left down in the minors, did he need more time to develop, was he hurried into a role he might not have been ready for?

These aren’t the question on his mind but on the minds of the media, management and Leafs Nation.

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Settle down, this kid will be fine and still has future captain potential as everyone tagged his with so early in his young career.

Jason Blake, who has lead the team in shots for most of the season if not from the get go, is scoring some goals and showing a bit better of a touch around the net, thankfully.

Secondary scoring is coming from the players that should be putting the puck in the net when getting clean looks like Hagman, Kulemin, Grabovski, Ponikarovski, Stempniak, and Stajan.

Scoring hasn’t been the problem on this team really, and the Leafs very likely could end up with five to seven 20-plus goal scorers.

The defence core which has looked dumbfounded at points has miraculously pulled together and has begun to play with some confidence in both zones.

Ian White and Thomas Kaberle have had it the whole season, and Kaberle has led the team in scoring from pretty much day one.

The new additions on the backend have woken up, and everyone looks as though they all of a sudden understand coach Ron Wilson's philosophy.

I think back to that first game against Montreal in the ACC, while sitting in the stands and watching them lose a game they should have won, how that may have changed things.

I wonder if they had won that game how far that confidence might have brought them in some of those other close games before Kessel joined the team.

Bounces that went against the Leafs early this season, as in that season opener at the ACC, and many of the games in the first half of this season seem to be going their way now. I guess the law of averages is applicable in Toronto as well.

The goal tending has been so erratic for this team, and if you can’t get into a groove because you are in and out of either a hospital or doctors office or up and down from the minors, it’s not your fault. Injury and a true lack of consistent starts for any of the goalies on this team would be tough on anyone in their position.

Martin Brodeur after coming back from his injury last year wasn’t his regular self aside from his first game, but he has rounded back into form. So it can happen to the best of us obviously, as he is arguably one of the best and sits at 103 shutouts, poised to take over the all time record.

This team is beginning to pull it together and now sits just a couple points back of a playoff position.

Whether or not much of this can be attributed to Phil Kessel doesn’t seem to matter to Leafs Nation, as long as it continues.

Not too long ago people had the Leafs pegged as bottom dwellers for the season, and were wondering why Brian Burke had squandered the possible top draft picks. Oh how the tune has changed, and there seems to be a little more jump in the step of everyone in the city of Toronto who bleeds Blue and White.

In case you didn’t know,  Gabe Morency (formally of The Score ) has launched his new website. Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter, my B/R counterpart, and I will be throwing down our Podcast “Get The Puck Out ” every Saturday from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

We’ll be giving you our opinion and taking your calls on the hottest topics in the hockey world.

The Live Podcast will be broadcast in studio from down town Toronto featuring some betting analysis, fantasy advice, trivia, team/player updates, and more puck talk than you can imagine.

Be sure to call in and let your opinion be known. Don’t miss it, puckheads!
You can catch Morency and “Get The Puck Out” at www.morencysports.com

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