The Weekend Warrior

By Randy Nicholson
Another in a series of weekly articles designed to summarize activities in Leafland during the previous 7 days – with some personal observations, commentary, prospect updates and fun thrown in for good measure.

Penny for your thoughts: The Maple Leafs plugged a gaping front office hole this week when the signing of former Vancouver Canucks executive Mike Penny was confirmed… Penny brings more than 20 years of NHL player personnel experience to the party, all of it within the Canucks’ organization… among the gems unearthed during Penny’s tenure in Vancouver were Mattias Ohlund, Pavel Bure, Petr Nedved and Trevor Linden… in Toronto, Mike will be responsible for overseeing all amateur and professional scouting activities… Penny is a seasoned hockey man who perfectly fills Toronto’s need for a proven talent “birddog” created when both Nick Beverley and Joe Yannetti left to join Mike Smith in the Windy City last month…

Keith Acton joins coaching staff: The hiring of veteran NHL player and coach Keith Acton on Friday came as something of a surprise… after all, many names had been thrown around as possible candidates to replace the departed Alpo Suhonen and Acton’s had never been one of them… moreover, he has no previous connection to Pat Quinn or to the Maple Leafs… Acton was born and raised in nearby Stouffville, Ontario and had previously held coaching positions in Philadelphia and in New York (Rangers) following a solid 15 year playing career… although his specific responsibilities in Toronto have yet to be defined, it is thought that the personable Acton may act as a needed buffer between the club’s “old school” coaches (Quinn / Rick Ley) and the dressing room…

Leafs sign three: Leafs’ executive Bill Watters successfully landed 3 of the team’s restricted free agents this week when Jonas Hoglund, Yanic Perreault and Alyn McCauley agreed to terms for the 2000 / 2001 season this week… all three players signed one year deals… at this point in time, the only veteran players without contracts are Alex Karpovtsev, Danny Markov and Glenn Healy…

Leafs Trivia I: During the 1960’s, three Maple Leaf players captured the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year… name all three players (answer below Whatever happened to)…

Leafs Trivia II: Complete this deal… Al Iafrate to Washington on January 16, 1991 in exchange for (answer below Trivia I answer)…

Who am I: I am the Maple Leafs all-time career leader in assists with 620… I am also 3rd in games played with 1099 and 4th in penalty minutes with 1292… following 16 distinguished in Toronto, I closed out my career with Detroit in 1990 (answer below Trivia II answer)…

Lindros rejects Flyers’ qualifying offer: Eric Lindros’ rejection of the Flyers 8.5 million dollar contract offer this week shocked many in the hockey world… certainly, from a purely financial perspective, the move doesn’t seem to make a great deal of sense… the Lindros camp is said to hold a great deal of ill will toward Bob Clarke and this is certainly understandable given the many personal attacks launched by the Flyers’ President against both Eric and his family… it is more probable that Eric’s motivation was simply to escape being under the direct control of the Philadelphia organization any longer… if he had signed their qualifying offer, the Flyers would have been able to deal Lindros to a team of their choosing (including presumably to their favorite trading partners in Tampa Bay) and his only recourse in this scenario would have been to sit out… by rejecting the offer, Eric can now be actively involved in the selection of his next playing address… we have been speculating ever since the Entry Draft in June that Lindros will eventually end up with the Maple Leafs and can see no reason to rethink this position now… Eric’s preference is clearly to resume his career at home in Toronto… though some say that Lindros will ultimately opt to sit out all or part of the upcoming season, this may also be a ploy designed to reduce the Flyers’ asking price for him… reports indicate that serious negotiations are already underway between Toronto, Philadelphia and Lindros’ representatives… we expect something very significant to develop in this story before Labor Day arrives…

Murray Oliver joins Scouting Department: The Maple Leafs further bolstered their scouting department with the signing Murray Oliver this week… Oliver, a former Leafs player in the late 1960’s, has many years of NHL scouting experience and previously worked for Pat Quinn and Mike Penny in Vancouver…

Prospect thumbnail – Mikael Hakansson – C/W: A mature player (Mikael was drafted back in 1992 and is already 26 years old), this Swedish forward was recently signed by the Maple Leafs following several years in the Swedish Elite League… something of a late bloomer, Hakansson has vastly improved his game during the past couple of seasons… in fact, many observers in Sweden feel that he had become one of the top players in the SEL by the end of 1999 / 2000… Mikael possesses size (6-3/200), above average skating and offensive skill, sound defensive technique and will play a physical game when asked to do so… if you are looking for a dark horse candidate to make the big team from the group of young forwards attending this year’s training camp, this might be your man… it is very unlikely that Hakansson would have interrupted his burgeoning career in Sweden simply for a chance to play in the American Hockey League (with no offense intended to you good people in St. John’s)…

Whatever happened to: Walt Poddubny…

Trivia I answer: Future Hall of Famer Dave Keon won the Calder Trophy in 1961… Kent Douglas was named the NHL’s best rookie in 1963… Brit Selby was the Calder winner in 1966…

Trivia II answer: Bob Rouse and former Marlie junior Peter Zezel … both players would eventually play important roles during the successful playoff runs of 1992 and 1993…

Who am I answer: Swedish legend Borje Salming, who joined Toronto in 1973… Borje was essentially the first European trained player to achieve NHL stardom… unfortunately, it would be another 20 years before the Maple Leafs would enjoy similar recruiting success in Europe…