The Weekend Warrior

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

Elvis signs on: Danny (Elvis) Markov inked a multi-year contract with the Maple Leafs on Friday… the deal is rumored to be for 2 years with the team holding an option for a third… Markov made quite an impact in Toronto during his rookie campaign 2 seasons ago… fans quickly fell in love with his exuberant, physical and often reckless performances on the Maple Leafs’ blueline… for some reason, Danny’s overall level of play took a tiny step backward last season… on a more positive note, Markov provides the team with a needed tough guy in the rearguard and also possesses the skill to eventually become a bigger factor in the attacking zone… the new contract reflects management’s faith in Danny’s ability to get back on track this year…

Blueline answers: Leafs’ Executive Bill Watters reiterated this week in an interview with Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun that the team will remain patient in addressing real or perceived shortcomings on defense… at the same time, Watters didn’t entirely discount the possibility of recruiting additional veteran help should the need arise… “We want to look at our own people — Petr Svoboda, D.J. Smith, Allan Rourke, Nathan Dempsey, Dimitry Yakushin — some young legs, if someone comes along before the start of the season (via trade or waivers), we’ll look into it.”… even if all six starters from last season (Yushkevich, Kaberle, Karpovtsev, Markov, Cross and Diduck) are present when Training Camp opens in Kitchener, one or two newcomers will have an opportunity to grab an NHL job… we’ll be watching the youngsters named above in September and reporting every move back to you here at Hockey’s Future…

Healy deal also looming: The Leafs are inching ever closer to a multi-year pact with veteran backstop Glenn Healy… although he’s not called upon to play all that often in Toronto, Glenn is a formidable presence in the Leafs’ dressing room… he is well respected by teammates for his professionalism and for his legendary sense of humor… Healy’s new contract will undoubtedly involve a significant reduction in salary… at this point in his career Glenn seems intent on staying in Toronto (his hometown) where he can play for a contender while also building a post-NHL career in broadcasting …

Leafs Trivia I: During the 1980’s, only one Toronto player captured a major NHL award – in this case the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender… name this player (answer below Whatever happened to)…

Leafs Trivia II: Complete this deal… Damian Rhodes and Ken Belanger to the Islanders on January 23, 1996 in exchange for (answer below Trivia I answer)…

Who am I: On February 23, 1980 I scored a hat trick against the Winnipeg Jets… these three markers were only part of a promising 24 goal rookie campaign… originally a 2nd Round choice by the Maple Leafs in the 1977 Entry Draft, I patrolled the right wing for parts of 5 seasons in Toronto before wrapping up my NHL career with the Penguins in 1984 (answer below Trivia II answer)…

Prospect thumbnail – Nathan Dempsey – D: Now something of a fixture on the blueline in St. John’s, this native of Spruce Grove, Alberta is smart, very mobile, quarterbacks the team’s powerplay and plays with ample belligerence… originally drafted by the Leafs in 1992 (11th Round), Nathan has now completed 6 full seasons in the AHL… Dempsey possesses leadership qualities and has recently served as team captain for the Baby Leafs… size (he’s listed at 6-0, 180) will always make Dempsey’s quest for full time employment in Toronto very difficult to achieve… however, a strong work ethic and a good feel for transition hockey will afford Nathan an outside shot at the NHL roster this fall… at worst, he will return to spearhead a reversal of team fortunes in Newfoundland and be ready to answer the call when injuries strike in Toronto…

Whatever happened to: Jiri Crha…

Trivia I answer: Sorry for the trick question… the Maple Leafs acquired goalie Michel (Bunny) Larocque from the Canadiens for Robert Picard in a deadline deal on March 10, 1981… following the season, Larocque was awarded the Vezina Trophy (along with Denis Herron and Richard Sevigny) in recognition of his efforts while with Montréal…

Trivia II answer: Kirk Muller… expectations may have been a little too high in Toronto when this deal was consummated… by 1996, Muller’s years of elite offensive production were over and his stint in blue and white was largely disappointing for both team and player… today, with his conversion to rugged defensive specialist now complete, Kirk is a valued member of the Dallas Stars… interestingly, the deal actually involved 3 teams with the Senators and Islanders exchanging players on the same day (including future Maple Leaf Bryan Berard) and the Leafs also receiving goaltender Don Beaupre from Ottawa in a complex transaction…

Who am I answer: Former “Kid Line” regular Rocky Saganiuk… Saganiuk’s spirited play, along with promising performances by linemates John Anderson and Laurie Boschman and fellow youngsters Bill Derlago and Rick Vaive seemed to provide Maple Leaf followers with much reason for hope back in 1980… few realized t the time that the franchise was actually preparing to plunge into a deep abyss where it would remain until Cliff Fletcher’s more than ten years later…

New series on the upcoming season starts this week: Watch for the first in a 2 part series of articles identifying keys to the Maple Leafs’ 2000 / 2001 season appearing this week at Hockey’s Future…