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.

Fanatical behavior: Just for the record, I heartily agree that the play of Ukrainian forward Dimitri Khristich has been routinely poor (and often bordering on pathetic) throughout the 2000/2001 campaign … that said, I will never understand the habit of booing a specific player each time he touches the puck – a strategy recently resumed by the faithful down at the ACC … as if that sort of treatment could possibly produce anything positive … does this action mean that the fans no longer support this particular Maple Leafs’ player and don’t want him to accomplish anything … the problem with this approach is that any attempt to mess up Khristich (who is still a part of the home side) is counter-productive when practiced by the team’s supposedly loyal supporters … the last Leaf to attract this sort of treatment was defender Larry Murphy and he was eventually dispatched to Detroit for purely humanitarian reasons in 1997 … if I’m not mistaken, Murphy has played a significant role on 2 Stanley Cup winners since that deal was made … no one is saying that we don’t have a right to express displeasure at what we see on the ice from time to time but this sort of treatment just seems cruel and pointless to me … after all, the Leafs really haven’t made too many missteps with their various personnel moves under the current regime …

Mair returns: Gritty center/winger Adam Mair was recalled by the Maple Leafs from the “Rock” on December 5th … this move was almost certainly a response to health concerns surrounding Nik Antropov (post-operative knee), Steve Thomas (37 year-old knee), Shayne Corson and Gary Roberts (possibly just too rugged for their own good) … Mair’s playing style should blend well into the changing landscape in Toronto’s dressing room … if needed adjustments have recently been made with respect to positional play and to the elimination of unnecessary penalties, Adam may well be in the NHL for good this time …

Dempsey impressive: The challenges imposed by a 23 player roster limit and further compounded by the NHL’s complicated waiver regulations make it very difficult for clubs to find good experienced reserves when injuries strike … the Maple Leafs are fortunate to have an experienced hand like 26 year-old Nathan Dempsey available for just such emergencies … Nathan has been consistently outstanding throughout the early portion of this season for a resurgent St. John’s team … in games played since his recall, Dempsey has been quietly effective and could obviously play regularly for several teams in the NHL … in fact, he may have already earned an extended stay with the Maple Leafs … in any case, the organizational depth provided by accomplished players like Nathan may become a key factor as Toronto contemplates possible trades in the future …

King packs it in: Kris King of the Chicago Blackhawks announced his retirement from the NHL on December 3rd after clearing league waivers … the 34-year-old had an opportunity to continue his career in the minor leagues but cited family reasons for his decision to leave the game after 13 seasons … King had signed a one-year deal with former boss Mike Smith in Chicago after the Leafs bought out his contract this past summer … Kris always gave an honest effort while on the ice and was equally hard working off the ice on behalf of several charitable concerns … there are simply not enough gentlemen like Kris King in professional sports and he will be missed …

Leafs Trivia I: In the illustrious history of the Maple Leafs franchise, the club has deployed six goaltenders whose last name began with the letter “P” … all of these players made their first appearance with the team since the last Toronto Stanley Cup win in 1967 … name all six of these puck stoppers (answer below Do you remember) …

Svoboda demoted: The Maple Leafs dispatched rookie defender Petr Svoboda to their AHL affiliate in St. John’s on December 8th … though the youngster certainly hasn’t looked at all out of place in the NHL this season, Leafs’ Coach/GM Quinn has said consistently that Svoboda would stay with the big team only as long as he could earn regular icetime … lately, primarily due to the solid play of former St. John’s co-Captain Nathan Dempsey (see above), Petr has been unable to crack the line-up on a consistent basis … clearly, Svoboda would have preferred to remain in Toronto but he certainly has no reason to be discouraged by this latest development in his short career … he has already exhibited the skill and poise needed to become a fixture on the Leafs’ blueline in the not-too-distant future …

Leafs Trivia II: Complete this deal … Todd Warriner to Tamp Bay on November 29, 1999 in exchange for (answer below Trivia I answer) …

Prospect news: We’ll begin this report with news on Alyn McCauley (as he is now officially a prospect again) … McCauley has played well in two games with the Baby Leafs but has only a single assist in 2 games so far … OHL standouts Brad Boyes and Jon Zion were both invited to Canada’s National Junior try-out camp this week … the Leafs will likely have a few other prospects taking part in this tournament, which will be held in Moscow between December 26th and January 5th … Vadim Sozinov of the Ottawa 67’s has been named to Kazakhstan’s team … Kris Vernarsky of the Plymouth Whalers was selected for the USA’s team and Vaclav Zavoral of the Soo Greyhounds will represent the Czech Republic …

Who am I: I hold the Maple Leafs’ record for the most points in one season by a right winger … I was chosen 2nd overall at the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft and would go on to score 356 times in 946 NHL games before retiring in 1988 (answer below Trivia II answer) …

Tellqvist: Recently, the Swedish sensation registered his fourth shutout of the season against Timra (18 saves) … however in the next game against Malmo, the results were not nearly so positive … Djurgarden outshot their opponent 30-10 but the score was tied 2-2 after 65 minutes … in the ensuing penalty shot contest, Tellqvist stopped 2 of 4 shots but Djurgarden’s attackers failed to score … the team fell to third place in the SEL with this loss (2 points behind Brynas) but still held two games in hand on the league leaders … after taking one night off, Tellqvist was back in goal against Lulea … this was a was very exciting game of the sort rarely seen
in SEL … in a very feisty, gritty and emotional match, Djurgarden was soundly beaten 6-3 … Lulea’s wingers ran the net continuously and it was virtually impossible for Mikael to perform his magic under these circumstances … he desperately needed Dave Manson in front of him on this night … since early December, Mikael has been sporting a new mask (coloured blue and white) but this was apparently inspired by Swedish singer Thomas Ledin rather than by the team colors of the Maple Leafs …

Prospect thumbnail – Konstantin Kalmikov (C/W): Konstantin is an above-average skater with good size … he is surprisingly agile and also possesses an effective shot, which he unloads quickly … a player with Kalmikov’s physical gifts really needs to play on a scoring line and most preferably with a good play-making centerman … unfortunately, he has rarely been deployed in this way since arriving in St. John’s over 2 seasons ago … Konstantin experienced several well documented problems with his previous coach, Al MacAdam and must have been greatly relieved when the Maple Leafs replaced MacAdam with Lou Crawford prior to the season … although he is seeing much more icetime this year and is generally playing well, Kalmikov’s offensive numbers remain uninspiring (21-3-7-10) for a player with so much natural talent … his ability to increase this output during the remainder of the 2000/2001 season will almost certainly dictate Konstantin’s long range future with the Toronto organization …

Do you remember: Per Gustafsson…

Trivia I answer: The six netminders in question were Mike Palmateer, Bernie Parent, Bob Parent, Jacques Plante, Felix Potvin and Darren Puppa …

Trivia II answer: Toronto received only a 2000 3rd round draft choice in return for Warriner – the 4th overall pick in the 1992 Entry Draft (selected by the Quebec Nordiques) … Tampa’s 3rd round selection has since been converted into the player generally considered to be the Leafs’ “goaltender of the future” – Sweden’s Mikael Tellqvist …

Who am I answer: The best single season scoring performance by a Maple Leafs’ right winger to date was turned in by Wilf Paiement who tallied 97 points in 1980/81 … Wilf was originally drafted by the defunct Kansas City Scouts franchise and was dealt to Toronto in the infamous Lanny McDonald trade after the team relocated to Colorado (as the Rockies) …

Leftovers: To put the emerging personality of this year’s Maple Leafs club into a football vernacular, Toronto has had “big play”, “long bomb”, “quick strike” ability ever since Pat Quinn’s arrival as Head Coach – with the additions of Tucker, Roberts and Corson during the past 12 months and more importantly, by playing them all together on one line, the Leafs now possess a ground game … don’t be too surprised if the Leafs have both Eric Lindros and Rob Blake in their line-up before the playoffs – I’ve been hearing lots of stories from usually reliable people in the game about how badly both of these players want to play in Toronto now and for the remainder of their careers … many of you were upset by comments made in this space last week regarding Al MacAdam’s challenges in handling European players at St. John’s – just to set the record straight, this information was obtained from several players that were on the team and who were born and bred in Canada …

Jan Buben’s contributions in covering the Leafs’ prospects over in Europe are, as always, very much appreciated.

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