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.

Off-season Improvements Finally Kick In: The off-season repairs applied
to the Toronto roster were clearly evident as the Leafs beat the Devils
5 – 3 in a stirring comeback on November 2nd … the added muscle
(represented mainly by off-season additions Gary Roberts, Shayne Corson
and Dave Manson) were a huge factor in the victory … the Maple Leafs
competed physically with New Jersey all over the ice, all evening long …
a big hit by Roberts on playoff nemesis Scott Stevens was symbolic of
the club’s overall competitiveness – the type of hit that no one on the
club could (or would) deliver last spring … even frequent passengers
such as Khistich and Hoglund (and dare I say, Mats Sundin) displayed
some grit and fire in this one … miraculously, when the entire club puts
forward that sort of total effort, the missing offense suddenly returned
as well … a very satisfying game indeed and hopefully a portent of good
things to come …

Tucker Extended: Darcy Tucker, another standout against the Devils, was
given a contract extension by the team this week … this was likely done
for two main reasons … certainly the Leafs see Darcy as an important and
popular member of their club and wanted to lock him up for several
seasons … additionally, for the past three years, the Leafs have been
selling their players on a team bonus plan that rewards all members for
achievements such as low goals against and individual trophies … Tucker,
whose old contract contained several personal bonuses, was persuaded to
buy into the team concept instead … Leafs’ contract guru, Bill Watters
stated “It was never an awkward situation but we wanted to get him on
our plan and, in exchange, we gave him the extension” …

And The Then Were 7: When the Maple Leafs traded Gerald Diduck to
Dallas on October 29th (for future considerations), the number of
defenders on the NHL roster was reduced to a more manageable seven … for
the moment, it would seem as though Petr Svoboda’s place is Toronto is
relatively secure so long as he continues to perform well enough to
remain in the regular rotation … that is – unless a trade is consummated
soon (see below) …

Leafs Trivia I: Howie Meeker set the standard for Leaf rookies in
1946/47 with 27 goals … during the 1982/83 season, Walt Poddubny and
Peter Ihnacak broke this record by both scoring 28 times during their
respective freshman campaigns … in 1985/86 the record was smashed again
by a brash eighteen year-old who still holds the record to this day …
name this player (answer below Whatever happened to) …

MacLean Sent Down: Training Camp stand-out Don MacLean was sent to the
“Rock” on October 30th … the team is now officially 1 under the NHL
roster limit … while MacLean had been nothing but a pleasant surprise
for the organization this autumn, the coaching staff apparently wanted
him to get some additional playing time … Don will likely center the 1st
line in St. John’s between wingers Bobby House and Alexei Ponikarovsky …
the Baby Leafs’ regular top pivot, Mikael Hakansson, is out of the
line-up indefinitely with a shoulder injury …

Berard Begins Long Journey: Injured Leafs’ star Bryan Berard now
appears set to resume skating soon as he continues to fight back from
the devastating eye injury suffered late last season … Bryan is feeling
strong and fit again following the resumption of off-ice workouts
several weeks ago … Berard is now anxious to find out how well he can
handle himself on the ice given his current (and likely permanent)
vision limitations … although a return to NHL duty remains a remote
possibility, Bryan seems determined to give it his best effort and we
certainly wish him well …

Leafs Trivia II: Complete this deal … Rob Pearson and Toronto’s 1st
Round pick in the 1994 Entry Draft (later used to select Nolan
Baumgartner) to Washington on June 28, 1994 in exchange for (answer
below Trivia I answer) …

Cereda Recovering: Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Luca Cereda is
recovering after undergoing heart surgery in Lausanne, Switzerland … The
19-year-old Swiss prospect, who was operated on two weeks ago in a
procedure that lasted over four hours, will be allowed to return home
shortly … doctors detected a heart murmur in Cereda during Maple Leafs
training camp and it was later determined to be a faulty leaflet in the
aortic valve which pumps blood from the heart … Cereda, who was drafted
in the first round (24th overall) by Toronto in 1999, is expected to
return to the Maple Leafs during next year’s Training Camp …

Prospect news: Update from St. John’s … the team hovers near the 500
mark, affected greatly by a murderous travel schedule thus far … Mair,
Farkas and Travnicek continue to struggle for points … Ponikarovsky
continues to play well on the top line with 3 goals and 5 assists in 13
games … Hakansson (as mentioned above) is presently injured and out of
the line-up indefinitely … the team’s best players so far have been long
time minor leaguer Bobby House (8 goals and 11 assists in 13 games) and
perennial prospect Nathan Dempsey (4 goals and 11 assists in 12 games) …
David Nemirovsky, who was being counted upon to provide some offensive
punch, has landed squarely in Coach Crawford’s doghouse and will likely
be moved out soon …

Who am I: I am a proud native of Prince Edward Island … following a
stint with the Canadian National team, I debuted with the Maple Leafs in
1970/71 and scored 22 goals during my rookie season … (answer below
Trivia II answer) …

Morris To The Rescue: In the opinion of this observer, there is nothing
wrong with the Maple Leafs that a more potent power-play wouldn’t cure …
furthermore, there is nothing wrong with the team’s power-play that the
addition of a talented blueline quarterback wouldn’t fix … it seems only
natural, therefore, that rumours from both Toronto and Calgary have the
Leafs eyeing Flames’ defender, Derek Morris … undoubtedly a player with
great promise, Morris has yet to play this season due to a contract
dispute and is now threatening to play in Europe …

Tellqvist News: As if to underline his recent nomination to Sweden’s
National Team for the upcoming Karjala Cup, Mikael Tellqvist was again
brilliant for Djurgarden in games played last weekend … first he made 21
saves in the team’s 4-1 victory over Leksand and then on the 29th, in
front of 9,672 boisterous home fans, he recorded his first shut-out of
the season by stopping all 25 shots taken by Lulea … at the moment, he
is the only goaltender in the SEL with a GAA below 2.00 (actually 1.92)
… in short, Tellqvist’s outstanding season continues …

Prospect thumbnail – Mirko Murovic (RW): Although the name certainly
sounds European, Murovic is actually a Montreal native who now plays for
Acadie-Bathurst in the QMJHL … the scouting report on Mirko was verified
to a large extent by his play during the Leafs’ Rookie Tournament – he’s
big and uses his size well, works very hard, skates decently but really
struggles around the opponent’s goal … he must find his offensive game
during his final junior hockey campaign in 2000/01 … he has found a home
on the top line for the Titans and is accumulating more than a point per
game but is still not finding the net nearly often enough …

Whatever happened to: Mike Lankshear …

Trivia I answer: The pride of Kelvington Saskatchewan, Wendel Clark,
scored 34 times during his rookie season in 1985/86 …

Trivia II answer: The Maple Leafs obtained center Mike Ridley and
Washington’s first selection in the 1994 lottery (later used to select
Eric Fichaud) in this draft day deal … this trade came hot on the heels
of another minor transaction made earlier that day (some guys named
Clark and Sundin and four others were involved in that one) … Ridley was
one of the very few players to have become an NHL regular following an
apprenticeship in Canadian Collegiate hockey … a remarkably consistent
player, Mike had previously spent 9 seasons with the Rangers and
Capitals, never scoring fewer that 20 goals and only once counting fewer
than 60 points … unfortunately, Ridley developed a chronic back problem
after joining the Leafs and missed 34 games during his only season in
Toronto … traded to Vancouver during the summer of 1995, Mike endured
another injury filled season there before rebounding to score 20 goals
for the Canucks in 1996/97, his final NHL campaign … ironically, the
players selected with the 1st rounders involved on both sides of this
deal (Fichaud / Baumgartner) have both struggled to make an impact in
the NHL despite the fact that they brought impeccable credentials with
them from junior hockey …

Who am I answer: Billy MacMillan made a big splash during his rookie
season in Toronto, playing on a line with the great Dave Keon …
unfortunately, he slipped to 10 goals the following year and was
eventually lost to the Atlanta Flames in the 1972 Expansion Draft …
Billy later served as an Assistant Coach with the New York Islanders and
as Head Coach with the Colorado Rockies / New Jersey Devils …

Special thanks to Jan Buben for putting HF readers right inside Mikael
Tellqvist’s outstanding season in Sweden.

Visit us often at Hockey’s Future for all important news pertaining to
the Toronto Maple Leafs’ organization.