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.

Nik’s Return Nears: Nik Antropov should return to the Maple Leafs’ line-up in time for their game with Edmonton on the 22nd … apparently, an assessment will be made after one or two NHL starts in order to decide whether or not the Khazakh prodigy would benefit from a short conditioning stint on the “Rock” … the 6-foot-6 centerman (who had 30 points in 66 games last season) has been practising full contact with his team mates for a couple of weeks now … the Leafs have an open spot on the 23-man roster and an extra pivot in Alyn McCauley and so have felt no need to rush Antropov’s recovery … whenever he begins playing again, it will inevitably launch another round of trade rumours (likely involving McCauley, Yanic Perreault, Dimitri Khristich and Igor Korolev) as the local media attempts to help Coach/GM Quinn keep his roster neat and tidy … in any case, a serious analysis of Toronto’s potential to succeed this season cannot be made until big Nik returns to form – he is just that essential to this club …

Leafs’ Legends Back in Town: A team of graying and slightly rounder Maple Leafs’ veterans put on the blades once more last week and recorded a 7-4 win over a group of Hockey Hall of Famers before about 9,000 patrons at the Air Canada Centre … old linemates Paul Henderson and Ron Ellis teamed up once more (although long time pivot Normie Ullman was sadly absent), Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald and Tiger Williams were reunited, as was the 1980’s unit of Rick Vaive, Bill Derlago and John Anderson … Allan Bester tended goal for the Leafs … the Toronto lineup also included Brad Marsh, Dave Burrows, Mike Pelyk, Rod Seiling, Tom Fergus and Brian Conacher …

Leafs Trivia I: The 2000 Hockey Hall of Fame induction took place in Toronto last weekend … there were 4 Maple Leaf stalwarts elected to the Hall (Syl Apps, Charlie Conacher, George Hainsworth and Hap Day) along with the 2nd class of the 1960’s in 1961 … can you name the first ex-Leaf to go into the HHOF during each of the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s (answer below Whatever happened to) …

We’re Not The Only Ones Talking About Lindros: This just in from the highly entertaining “Caught On The Fly” column in the latest edition of the Sporting News … “buzz is Eric Lindros post-concussive melon is thisclose to bein’ declared NHL-worthy … he’s skatin’ three times a week, and the Rangers-n-Leafs’re ready to talk trade with the Fly’s fave team … the spies spin: he won’t go to the highest bidder; he’ll go to Toronto” …

Leafs Trivia II: Complete this Remembrance Day deal … Ian Turnbull to Los Angeles on November 11, 1981 in exchange for (answer below Trivia I answer) …

On the Farm: News from St John’s … youngsters Adam Mair and Jeff Farkas have improved of late and both are now more solidly involved in the offensive flow … center Don MacLean has struggled (3 points in 9 games) since his recent demotion from Toronto … Konstantin Kalmikov’s play has improved markedly since being deployed at center on the teams #1 line … vet’s Bobby House and Nathan Dempsey continue to be amongst the best performers in the entire AHL … Coach Crawford deploys Ukrainian rookie Alex Ponikarovsky in all situations and he has been a stand-out in the early going … blueliner David Cooper has demonstrated the same traits evident throughout his career – electrifying offensive bursts coupled with a propensity for alarming defensive gaffes … Russian speedball Vladimir Antipov couldn’t crack the starting line-up on a regular basis and has recently left the team to play in his homeland …

Who am I: Only 4 men have both coached and managed the Maple Leafs (though not necessarily holding both jobs at the same time) during their long and storied history … I am the most recent person to do so (answer below Trivia II answer) …

Karjala Cup: The Swedish National Team received strong support from goalie Mikael Tellqvist in a convincing 4-1 victory over Czech Republic on November 9th in Finland … it was the first game for Sweden at the Karjala Cup Tournament … Sweden clearly dominated this game, with Czech RW Petr Cajanek spoiling a Tellqvist shutout bid with just with 2:48 left to play … Swedish GM Anders Hedberg (former Leafs’ Chief Scout) spoke very highly of Tellqvist and praised his performance on television following the game … to everyone´s surprise it was Tellqvist who again emerged in the Swedish goal for the team’s next match against the Russians … in truth, it was one of the worst Russian outings in the recent memory … they did not create any offence as the Swedish side outshot them 30-13 … the result was that Mikael did not allow a goal in a 2-0 victory for Sweden … Tellqvist also played the last game of the tournament against the Finns, who were also unbeaten up to that point (with 4-3 and 2-1 victories over Russia and the Czech Republic respectively) .. the game marked a continuation of an ancient and bitter rivalry between Sweden and Finland … Hartvall Arena in Helsinki was completely sold out … the game started like many others in Mikael´s recent career – some key saves early on and his team grabbing a quick lead … one would guess another easy game … but the Finns quickly realized how to solve Tellqvist … they started to move puck very quickly, they ran the crease repeatedly (sometimes even with two players), they screened him, they bothered him and made his life unbearable … the result was 5 unanswered goals in two periods of play on the way to a dominating 6-1 victory … it would be tough to blame Tellqvist for those 5 goals … Leafs fans will no doubt recall that even Cujo has struggled at times when confronted with this type of heavy action in front (and inside) of his goal crease … hopefully, defenders like Yushkevich, McCabe, Manson and others will be on hand to provide Mikael with the same sort of protection now afforded Joseph when the Swedish star ultimately arrives to play in Toronto …

Prospect thumbnail – Vadim Sozinov (C): Here’s what we said about Sozinov after he was drafted by the Maple Leafs last June … “Very little is known about this player beyond the fact that he was a former playmate of Nik Antropov in far off Kazakhstan … apparently Nik was consulted before this pick was made and the Leafs have to be hoping that Vadim will become a very pleasant surprise in the coming years, just as his countryman was in 1999/2000” … we do know a little bit more about Vadim now, given that he appeared in the Kitchener Rookie Tournament and is currently with the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL … after a rather indifferent performance in Kitchener and a slow start in Ottawa, Sozinov’s play has picked up considerably of late … at this juncture, Vadim is still a classically trained Russian “offenseman” – meaning that his primary function while on the ice is to score goals … essentially, Sergei Berezin plays the same position for the Maple Leafs (with Pavel Bure being the ultimate example of this playing style) … it remains to be seen whether or not a season or two under Brian Kilrea’s tutelage can eventually add any new dimensions to Sozinov’s game …

Whatever happened to: Tommi Rajamaki …

Trivia I answer: They were Cecil (Babe) Dye in 1970, Harry Lumley in 1980 and Fernie Flaman in 1990 …

Trivia II answer: The Leafs received journeyman defenseman John Gibson and former Marlie Billy Harris (a good player then past his prime) in this deal orchestrated by Punch Imlach during his second turn with the Maple Leafs … it marked the continued dismantling of a Toronto team built around a solid group of top players (Mike Palmateer, Borje Salming, Turnbull, Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald and Dave Williams) that had produced successful results throughout the late 1970’s … by 1982, all but Salming had been dispatched in a very misguided attempt to “take back the dressing room” from these proud team leaders …

Who am I answer: Former Leafs’ player, coach, manager and long-time scout Floyd Smith was the last individual to hold the titles in question … Smith coached the club in 1979/80 and was the GM from 1989 until 1991 … by the way, the other three to hold both jobs were Conn Smythe, Hap Day and Punch Imlach …

Leftovers: So good to hear from Dave Keon again as he was in and around town this week – I don’t really understand what’s at the root of his problems with the hockey club but he is obviously much adored by a generation of Leafs’ fans who can still recall better days – you were simply the best Davey … is it just me or is the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to the Gretzky and Ellman concern moving at a positively glacial clip – I am getting really tired of hearing about the numerous deadlines established for whatever – please wake me when its over … Mats Sundin’s return to the line-up immediately after suffering a gruesome facial cut against the Hawks underlines something about the man that is often overlooked – he’s incredibly durable and this is a really valuable trait in a multi-million dollar player … hate to admit this openly but Dimitri Khristich just isn’t getting anything done on the ice this season – his signing is beginning to resemble a colossal mistake … hard to imagine a better group of young defenders in the NHL than Kaberle, McCabe, Svoboda and a vastly improved Markov – Yushkevich is still a reasonably youthful veteran as well – this group is the core of the entire Leafs’ organization in my view …

Thanks to European correspondent, Jan Buben, for this week’s Karjala Cup update.

You’ll get all of the important news pertaining to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ organization here at Hockey’s Future.