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.

Pivotal season for Sundin: 2000 / 2001 will be a very important year for Maple Leafs’ team captain and perennial leading scorer, Mat Sundin … he will surely be determined to prove that he can take the club to greater play-off glory and has never had such a strong supporting cast during his time in Toronto … Sundin will also be playing for his next contract as his existing multi-year pact concludes at the end of this season … for what its worth, both sides have already indicated a strong desire to extend their association for the long haul … an appropriate annual stipend remains the only detail yet to be worked out … don’t be too surprised if the terms on Sundin’s next contract are dictated more by the team’s overall success this season rather than by his own personal accomplishments … although questions concerning Mats’ determination and leadership are constantly being raised by many “experts” covering the team, these same doubts stuck to Steve Yzerman and Mike Modano as well until they eventually became Stanley Cup champions …

Karpovtsev goes home: Though the two sides are said to be less than $100,000 apart on a one year deal, Alexander Karpovtsev and his agent, Mark Gandler, have rejected Toronto’s most recent offer and the blueliner has gone back home to Moscow … had he accepted the team’s proposal, Potsie would have earned the same salary this season as team mate Dimitry Yushkevich (who is presently the highest paid defender on the club) … Karpovtsev will now wait for the Maple Leafs to either reconsider his worth or to trade his rights to another team … he may have a long wait as veteran defenders Manson, Diduck and Cross have all looked sharp at camp thus far and youngsters Yakushin, Smith and Svoboda have also been impressive … can someone please explain to me how Mark Gandler retains so many Russian hockey clients … his handling of this particular situation (and so many others in the past) has been comically inept …

Leafs Trivia I: Nine players have performed for both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the upstart Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association during their careers … name them all (answer below Whatever happened to) …

Leafs Trivia II: Complete this deal … Glenn Anderson and Scott Malone to the New York Rangers on March 21, 1994 in exchange for (answer below Trivia I answer) …

Who am I: During the team’s glory years in the 1960’s, all Maple Leafs’ players became wildly popular in the Toronto metropolitan area … I, however, was the only Leaf to have a popular song written in his honor (answer below Trivia II answer) …

First camp cuts announced: Prior to the annual Blue and White game on the 12th, the Maple Leafs announced the first cuts from the Training Camp roster … goaltenders Sebastien Centomo and JF Racine, defensemen Jon Zion, Peter Reynolds and Vaclav Zavoral and forwards Kris Vernarsky, Mirko Murovic, Miguel Delisle and Vadim Sozinov were all returned to their respective junior teams … defenseman Ryan Shannon and forward Ben Ondrus (a stand-out at Rookie Camp) were released outright …

Call me George: Although he really turned some heads at last year’s Rookie Tournament, the Maple Leafs hadn’t expected to see Vladimir (George) Kulikov in North America again for several years … the club was therefore mildly surprised when the slight Russian netminder accepted their contract offer (at the minimum salary mandated by the CBA) last summer and advised them that he would be reporting to Training Camp in Kitchener … the Leafs must now find the youngster a place to play this season … with all available goaltending positions in the farm system already spoken for, Kulikov is expected to be assigned to a team in the US junior league (just as defender Lubos Velebny was last week) …

New practice facility taking shape: The Maple Leafs worked out at their new training facility for the first time this week … the club has leased the 50 year-old Lakeshore Lions Arena in nearby Etobicoke and will be holding their non game day practices there … although renovations at the Lakeshore Arena are still underway (with the tentative completion date being October 31st), the building will ultimately contain weight training, exercise, medical and dressing room facilities that are virtually identical to the ones at Air Canada Center … in approximately 2 years, all of this new equipment will be transferred back to the team’s permanent practice rink at a redeveloped Maple Leafs Gardens …

ACC to host 2002 Entry Draft: Word leaked out this week that the Maple Leafs have been successful in their pursuit of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft for the city of Toronto … the event is tentatively scheduled to take place on June 22-23, 2002 … the draft and annual league awards gala at the ACC will be combined with a hockey-related festival similar to the one staged for last season’s all-star game … Toronto’s roaring success with the 2000 all-star game clearly helped its proposal to host the 2002 draft … in fact, some NHL officials have suggested that Toronto should become the all-star game’s permanent home …

Prospect thumbnail – Donald MacLean (C): This former Kings’ 2nd Rounder (1995) became Toronto property in an exchange of minor leaguers in February of this year … following a promising start with LA, MacLean’s progress had become derailed by a series of injuries … after joining the Baby Leafs, Donald quickly became the team’s best player and averaged better than a point per game during the remainder of the season … MacLean is very strong on his skates, has excellent size, wins face-offs and possesses a lethal shot … the weakness in his game is a lack of skating speed at this point in his career … MacLean has been a standout during the early part of the pre-season and still has an outside chance to make the team … at this point, Donald’s biggest problem may be that he is attempting to crack a stacked Toronto roster rather than that of Atlanta, Nashville, Columbus, Minnesota etc … if assigned to St. John’s to begin 2000 / 2001, MacLean will be a team leader and could still see NHL time in Toronto if he can continue the torrid scoring pace set last season …

Whatever happened to: Marcel Cousineau …

Trivia I answer: The nine Leafs/Toros were Carl Brewer, Wayne Carleton, Jim Dorey, Paul Henderson, Pat Hickey, Frank Mahovlich, Tom Martin, Brit Selby, Guy Trottier …

Trivia II answer: Mike Gartner brought his legendary scoring prowess and skating skill to Maple Leaf Gardens in this deadline deal … although nearing the age of 35 when acquired by the Leafs, Gartner could still find the net as evidenced by 6 goals in the remainder (10 games) of the 1993 / 1994 season, 12 goals in 38 games during the strike shortened 1994 / 1995 season and 35 more in 1995 / 1996 – his final campaign in Toronto … traded to Phoenix in the summer of 1996, Mike would tally another 44 times with the Coyotes before finally calling it a career … in all, Gartner scored a phenomenal 708 goals during 19 NHL seasons …

Who am I answer: With apologies to the Tragically Hip (who’s haunting “Bill Barilko” has never charted in Canada), the only hit song ever written for a Maple Leafs’ player was “Clear the Track – Here Comes Shack” heralding the exploits of Eddie (the Entertainer) Shack and a Top 10 record on Toronto’s air waves in 1966 …

Leafs’ Training Camp is well underway. Look for continuing coverage of all important happenings throughout the pre-season here at your headquarters for Maple Leafs’ prospect news – Hockey’s Futu
re.