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.

Khristich finally gone: Toronto’s favorite whipping boy Dimo Khristich was dispatched to Washington on December 11th … the Leafs will receive Tampa’s 2001 3rd round draft choice in return … Toronto will now have 5 selections in the first 3 rounds at the draft next June (the Tampa pick plus Chicago’s 2nd pick in addition to their own selections) … reports indicate that the Caps will be responsible for Khristich’s entire salary (with the exception of a 1 million dollar deferment) … Dimitri previously enjoyed 5 highly successful years playing in the American capital and his new team obviously feels that he can improve upon the highly mediocre results produced in Toronto … they may be right in that Khristich delivered 1 goal and 1 assist in his first start with the Capitals on December 12th …

Thomas sidelined: Classy veteran winger Steve Thomas underwent a successful knee scope on December 11th and will now be out of the line-up for up to 6 weeks … Thomas’ rather difficult season (with only 2 goals thus far) continues … now in the final year of his current deal with the Leafs, Steve may have only 30 or so games remaining in which to re-establish his market value for next season …

Rumours: Word is that ex-Leafs’ Assistant Alpo Suhonen is already on the outs in the Windy City – apparently Hawks’ owner Big Bill Wirtz just can’t wait to put Chicago legend Denis Savard behind his team’s bench – Wirtz’s right-hand man, Bob Pulford, has also publicly stated that he thinks that the job is too big for Suhonen to handle by himself (hardly a ringing endorsement) – I wonder how Mike “the Disheveled Professor” Smith would feel about being forced to axe his long-time associate and personal pet coaching project … although a trade for Eric Lindros’ playing rights may yet prove to be virtually impossible to consummate, Flyers’ pro scout Ron Hextall has been seen at several Maple Leafs games during the past 2 weeks … whispers around the league continue to suggest that a Philly-Toronto trade for Lindros could also include disgruntled winger, John Leclair … don’t be too surprised if a 2nd deal with Washington, this time involving free agent-to-be Peter Bondra, moves to the front burner if Igor Korolev is unable to produce consistent offensive results from his new spot on the Leafs’ 1st line … stories were rampant concerning former Leaf Kenny Jonsson when the team visited Long Island this week – apparently both Toronto and Detroit covet the young Swedish rearguard who is said to be dissatisfied with his present situation in New York … a possible Leafs’ deal involving the Flames’ Phil Housley was put on hold this week when the smooth veteran suffered a concussion in a game against Montreal …

Lindros says deal done: The big “E” announced to no one in particular this week that he had accomplished what Flyers’ GM Bob Clarke had previously asked him to do (arrange a financial deal with an interested team) and was now waiting for the 2 clubs to engineer a trade … though Eric was careful not to specify the other team involved, everyone knows that the Leafs are the only organization that his people have been talking to thus far … Pat Quinn denied that a monetary arrangement with Lindros was in already place but did indicate that he had recently tried to contact Clarke and was now waiting for a return call from Philadelphia … though the team is currently playing as well as it ever has during the Dryden/Quinn era, there are many observers that still believe a resolution to this situation could come very quickly – perhaps even before Christmas … rumours of a trade offer involving gritty Adam Mair and a pair of #1 draft choices were quickly shot down by the Leafs’ brass who are obviously most anxious to ensure that a prolonged dance with Lindros and the Flyers will have a minimal impact on the ongoing focus of their team …

Leafs Trivia I: Since the introduction of the modern All Star Game format in 1968/69, only 2 representatives of the Toronto Maple Leafs have recorded multi goal performances … name both players (answer below Do you remember) …

Tellqvist completes an outstanding year: The Swedish Elite League has entered a year-end hiatus in order to enable the National Team to participate at the Baltica Cup in St. Petersburg, Russia … Anders Hedberg, Sweden’s General Manager, has decided to give the call to a different goaltending tandem for this occasion … Mikael Tellqvist will now enjoy a well earned rest with no further game action scheduled until December 26th … the final two games played by Djurgarden before the break were both wins … the team defeated MoDo 4-2 despite being outshot 27-16 … Mikael was simply outstanding, especially while his team played a man short – including a 75 second 5 on 3 advantage for MoDo during the second period … the second game was not a challenging, with Djurgarden whipping HV 7-2 … Tellqvist faced only 20 shots in this one and was rarely tested … as 2000 draws to a close, Mikael Tellqvist remains the best goaltender in Sweden with a tiny 1.95 GAA and a league best 4 shutouts …

Leafs Trivia II: Complete this deal … Todd Gill to San Jose on June 14, 1996 in exchange for (answer below Trivia I answer) …

Prospect news: Top Maple Leafs’ prospect, Bradley Boyes, is performing strongly at the try-out camp for Canada’s National Junior Team … Boyes has scored a goal in each inter-squad game played thus far … his skating, thought by some to be a major obstacle considering the large ice surface used in international tournaments, has not proven to be a problem … the real clincher for Boyes may well have been his ability to play right wing effectively, given the glut of natural centers also attending the camp … Ottawa’s Jon Zion, the other Toronto draftee attempting to make Canada’s final roster has not been as noticeable in the tune-up matches and is decidedly on the bubble at this time …

Who am I: Most Maple Leafs fans will know that the team record for PIM in one season was set by Tie Domi (365) in 1997/98 … many would also recall that the previous mark was set by Dave “Tiger” Williams with 351 PIM during the 1977/78 campaign … name the Toronto player who holds the current team penalty mark for a defenseman (answer below Trivia II answer) …

Prospect thumbnail – Regan Kelly (D): Toronto’s return from the pre-season trade that sent hulking Chris McAllister to Philadelphia, Regan is now a freshman at Providence College … though McAllister has done very little of note with the Flyers this season (beating the snot out of the Ranger’s Sandy McCarthy being the one notable exception), Kelly is quietly producing an outstanding season for the Friars … Regan has tallied 9 points in 11 games, truly exceptional numbers for a freshman blueliner in a “big time” hockey conference such as Hockey East … the 19-year-old played 46 games with the Nipawin Hawks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League last season, picking up eight goals and 21 assists … he was the Flyers’ eighth-round selection (259th overall) at the 2000 Entry Draft … though he’s still miles away from potential NHL duty, Kelly has quickly become a player to watch in the Leafs’ organization …

Do you remember: Andrew McKim …

Trivia I answer: The Maple Leafs who have scored more than one goal in a single All Star Game were Lanny McDonald (2 goals in 1976/77) and Vincent Damphousse (4 goals in 1990/91) … Damphousse’s performance earned him game MVP honors …

Trivia II answer: Toronto received a former play-off nemesis, Jamie Baker, from the Sharks in this transaction … Baker, who was an effective two-way center while in San Jose, didn’t quite manage to bring his “A” game east … he counted only 8 goals in 71 games with the Leafs and his playing career ended quickly in 1998/99 with HIFK Helsinki of the Finnish League … Todd Gill, though often the subject of criticism while in Toronto, continues to ply his trade in the NHL – he’s currently with the Detroit Red Wings …

Who am I answer: This rather dubious distinction is owned by Brian Curran who sat out 301 minutes in penalties during the 1989/90 season … the former Portland Winter Hawks junior played parts of 4 seasons in Toronto and wrapped up his playing career with the IHL’s Las Vegas Thunder in 1997/98 …

Leftovers: With the team playing far more consistently than in previous years and poised to achieve another 100+ point season, most critics have been effectively silenced – this improvement has been spearheaded by strong performances from each of the “Bay Street Bullies” – early returns on the Leaf’s off-season roster tinkering are decidedly positive … as reported in this space several weeks ago, the NHL’s 2002 Entry Draft will be held at the Air Canada Center in Toronto … never thought that I would live to see a day when my favorite Maple Leafs would be Russians – rearguard Dmitry Yushkevich embodies toughness in a way that very few of the NHL’s goons could possibly understand – Yushkevich didn’t miss a game after stopping an Al MacInnis blast with his foot and breaking 2 toes – sniper Sergei Berezin, always a treat to watch for his consistently dazzling display of pure hockey skill, is sharing the puck with much more efficiency this season … Sergei leads the Leafs in assists (truly unbelievable) and currently sits second in the team scoring race …

Many thanks to European corespondent, Jan Buben, for his weekly updates from Sweden and elsewhere – have a wonderful Christmas Jan!

This will be the final “Weekend Warrior” before Christmas (that’s right – I’m taking next week off). I’ll be back with a new column on December 30th. In the meantime, I hope that all the many thousands of Maple Leafs loyalists out there in cyberspace will have a safe and happy holiday season. All the best to everyone!