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.

Berard news: Media reports this week indicated that there may now be renewed hope for Maple Leafs’ defenseman Bryan Berard in his bid to resume a once promising NHL career … Berard recently consulted with Connecticut-based eye specialist Dr. Donald Teig who is said to be optimistic that surgery to replace the lens in Berard’s right eye could give him the necessary 20/400 vision needed to play in the NHL again … before this can happen, Bryan requires at least one more procedure to clean up scar tissue left over from the original injury … after this has been accomplished, a decision can be made on the eye’s ability to hold such an artificial lens in place … if it can be successfully implanted, the lens would essentially replace the iris that Berard has lost and he would have a legitimate chance to pass a qualifying sight test … the Maple Leafs have been completely unable to replace Berard’s sheer bravado on the blueline and would certainly welcome him back with open arms if he can play again …

Rumours: The ACC was abuzz when principal owner Steve Stavro visited with Pat Quinn in the Coach’s room following the loss to Washington on the 6th – speculation centered on a major player move that might require high level approval (to significantly alter the team’s payroll) – it is also widely believed that getting Eric Lindros into a Maple Leafs’ uniform is one of Mr. Stavro’s personal goals – lastly, the decision to hold Danny Markov out of the game that night was interpreted as an indication that the young defender was to be included in an impending deal (though Markov himself insisted that he missed the game due to injured ribs) … barely 48 hours later, the New York Post reported that trade talks between the Leafs and Flyers regarding Lindros had broken off and that a joint press release confirming this fact was imminent – Pat Quinn was quick to deny a story that, to most observers, seemed absolutely ridiculous in the first place … later, the situation was further complicated when Flyers’ Chairman Ed Snyder publicly ordered Clarke to break off all negotiations with Toronto on January 11th – this latest action is being widely interpreted as another obvious ploy to gain negotiating power – unfortunately for both the Flyers and the Maple Leafs, no one can seize and maintain effective control due to the 3-sided architecture of the situation – stay tuned for further developments in this story … lately, reports out of Montreal have brought up the possibility of a Yanic Perreault for Eric Weinrich deal – this one seems somewhat realistic as both players will be unrestricted free agents next July … the Maple Leafs have also recently been linked with the Wild’s Sean O’Donnell who is also an impending free agent … more Rob Blake to Toronto rumours are bound to surface now that the Kings’ kingpin has agreed to discuss a contract extension with interested teams …

Leafs Trivia I: Only 4 Maple Leafs have racked up 60 or more assists during a single NHL season … name all 4 players (answer below Do you remember) …

Revolving door continues on defense: In a move that was widely anticipated, Czech rookie Petr Svoboda was demoted to the Rock on January 8th … though the young defender possesses much potential, he is clearly not yet ready for primetime … Nathan Dempsey (barring a trade for another NHL defenseman – see rumours above) remains the most likely candidate for eventual promotion to Toronto … Dempsey, recently named to play in next Monday’s AHL all-star game, was sent to St. John’s over 2 weeks ago on order to prevent him from becoming locked into the Leafs’ roster by participating in more than 10 NHL games (and thereby needing to clear league waivers in order to be returned to Newfoundland) … speculation is that Toronto’s braintrust is now prepared to make Nathan a permanent member of the big club … if this move does actually come to fruition in the coming days, it would be a wildly popular one in the team’s locker room …

Ponikarovsky summoned from St. John’s: A minor leg injury suffered by Russian sniper Sergei Berezin prompted the Maple Leafs to recall rookie pro Alexei Ponikarovsky from St. John’s on January 9th … Ponikarovsky, 20, was St. John’s second leading scorer with 30 points from 11 goals and 19 assists in 41 games … his point total ranked him 4th in AHL rookie scoring … he is also a plus 8, has 108 shots on net and 3 powerplay goals … the 6-4 Ukraine native was originally drafted by Toronto in the 4th round (87th overall) of the 1998 Entry Draft … in his first start against the Lightning on January 10th, Ponikarovsky acquitted himself well, demonstrating size, speed, toughness and creativity just as advertised … Alexei added his first NHL point (an assist) 2 nights later against Phoenix …

Cereda returns to Toronto: The Maple Leafs welcomed 1999 No. 1 draft pick Luca Cereda back to Toronto this week, almost three months after he underwent heart valve surgery in his native Switzerland … he will be examined by team doctors and a determination of his fitness level will then be made … if cleared by doctors, it’s expected the 19-year-old will begin a rehabilitation program under the direction of Leafs’ club therapists Chris Broadhurst and Brent Smith … Cereda has already begun skating and swimming as part of his recovery regimen …a heart murmur detected during Training Camp medicals led to the discovery of a faulty valve, which he has apparently had since birth … Ottawa 67’s boss Brian Kilrea had been hoping to add Cereda to his club’s line-up some time in February and is holding one of two available import positions open for him … it seems more likely, however, that Luca will not get involved in game action again until next fall … the Maple Leafs will take absolutely no chances with such a valuable commodity …

Leafs Trivia II: Complete this deal … Jerry Butler and Dave “Tiger” Williams to Vancouver on February 18, 1980 in exchange for (answer below Trivia I answer) …

Leafs Trivia III: Name the Toronto goaltender who holds the team record for the most shutouts in a single season (answer below Trivia II answer) …

Prospect news: This week we turn our attention back to Newfoundland … forward Mikael Hakansson has now been back in the line-up for 2 weeks and is proving to be a very formidable 2-way player – he has 21 points (6-15) in 26 games … defender David Cooper has been contributing heavily on offense of late – the former NHL first-rounder has 23 points (11-12) in 42 games … rookie forward Jeff Farkas is coming on nicely after a slow start and now has 24 points (10-14) in 41 games – he may yet hit the 25 –30 goal plateau before the season ends … hard-luck center Don MacLean is back on track with 22 points (10-12) in only 23 games … Konstantin Kalmikov is showcasing phenomenal skills on a nightly basis although his point totals should be much higher … Konny now has 17 points (7-10) in 35 games … Alyn McCauley continues to shine for the Baby Leafs with 15 points (4-11) in 17 games – he has arguably been the Baby Leafs’ best player in virtually every game that he’s played … incidently, rookie Michal Travnicek recently scored his first goal of the season and has 15 points (1-14) in 42 games …

Who am I: I am the only individual to have served as the Maple Leafs’ Captain, Coach and General Manager throughout the club’s storied history (answer below Trivia III answer) …

Prospect thumbnail – Jimmy Waite (G): It would certainly be misleading to call the 31 year-old Waite a prospect … originally a 1st round pick by Chicago way back in 1987 following a standout junior career with Chicoutimi, Waite was signed by the Maple Leafs in the summer of 1999 … the contract called for Waite to receive a minor league salary as the starter in St. John’s during the 1999/00 season and a guaranteed NHL salary for the 2000/01 campaign … this unusual arrangement was designed to provide Toronto with quality goaltending insurance in the event that current back-up Glenn Healy could not be convinced to accept a significant salary reduction as a free agent this past summer … in the end, Healy did re-sign with the Leafs for 2 seasons in July and Waite (ably supported by back-up Mike Minard) once again became the cornerstone of a rebuilding St. John’s club and a competent insurance policy for the big team … Jimmy was felled by vertigo-like symptoms towards the end of Training Camp in September and got a late start with the Baby Leafs this year as a result … upon his return, he quickly regained the prominence that he had achieved in Newfoundland last season … although Waite has enjoyed several successful limited runs as an NHL starter (most recently with Phoenix in 1998/99), he has inexplicably been unable to establish himself as an NHL regular … now arguably the best goaltender in the AHL, Jimmy leads his younger team mates by example in St. John’s and would undoubtedly acquit himself well if summoned by the parent team for any reason …

Do you remember: Martin Prochazka …

Trivia I answer: Toronto’s top playmakers are Doug Gilmour (95 assists in 1992/93, 84 in 1993/94 and 61 in 1991/92), Darryl Sittler (72 assists in 1977/78), Borje Salming (66 assists in 1976/77, 61 in 1980/81 and 60 in 1977/78) and Vincent Damphousse (61 assists in 1989/90) …

Trivia II answer: Although most would agree that Punch Imlach’s 2nd tour of duty with the Maple Leafs was an unmitigated disaster, this trade certainly represented his finest hour … although the deal cost Toronto one of its true spiritual leaders (Williams), Imlach managed to pry two young and extremely gifted players away from the Canucks in Bill Derlago and Rick Vaive … both would later become significant offensive performers with the Maple Leafs … Derlago, only 21 years old at the time of trade and Vancouver’s 1st draft choice (4th overall) 2 years earlier, had scored a phenomenal 96 and 89 times respectively during his final 2 junior seasons in Brandon … in 5 full seasons in Toronto, the slick centerman recorded goal totals of 35, 34, 13 (in an injury shortened year), 40 and 31 … as splendid as these numbers were, Derlago always left observers with the impression that he could have easily accomplished far more … Vaive, a precocious 20 year old at the time of the deal and Vancouver’s 1st choice (5th overall) at the previous draft, had been a big junior scorer with Sherbrooke of the QMJHL … during the 1978/79 season, Vaive was one of the famed “Baby Bulls”, scoring 26 times (and earning 248 penalty minutes) with Birmingham of the WHA … in seven full seasons with the Maple Leafs, Vaive became one the NHL’s most feared shooters, tallying 290 goals and becoming the first Toronto player to score 50 times in a single season – a feat that he ultimately achieved in 3 consecutive years … named the team’s captain in 1981/82 after only 2 NHL seasons, Vaive did his very best to fill the role but a cantankerous and meddlesome owner, very mediocre management and a seemingly endless coaching carousel were collectively far too much for any single player to overcome … after being traded away from Toronto prior to the 1987/88 season, Vaive made stops in Chicago and Buffalo before retiring in 1993 … in all, he completed 12 NHL campaigns and never scored fewer than 20 goals in any of them …

Trivia III answer: Hall of Famer Harry Lumley established the Maple Leaf’s single season standard for shutouts with 13 in 1953/54 …

Who am I answer: Clarence “Hap” Day …

Leftovers: The Leafs’ recent performances must be setting off alarm bells among loyal fans all around the world – something (although not necessarily a monstrous shake-up) needs to be done soon in order to address glaring weaknesses on the blueline – the winnable points that are being surrendered with shocking regularity lately are going to seriously hurt the team’s ability to achieve a favorable play-off seeding at season’s end – tick tock … is anyone else out there utterly, absolutely, emphatically and thoroughly debilitated by the near daily dose of self-serving rantings from David “Bummer” Wells – OK, we get it Dave – you want more guaranteed dough before you get too old and fat to score another deal – now please shut-up and stop embarrassing yourself … not too much happening in Sweden this week – Djurgarden played twice, defeating Bjorkloven 7-2 behind Mikael Tellqvist and losing to Brynas 5-3 behind back-up goaltender Martin Holst … so pleased to see that Toronto has now added a centerman named Keon for the stretch run – shame that it was the Raptors making the deal rather than the Maple Leafs though …

Many thanks to European corespondent, Jan Buben, for his weekly updates from Sweden and elsewhere.

We welcome the “the Bay Boy” to the column this week and look forward to his future input regarding Toronto prospects playing in St. John’s.

You’ll get all the necessary information concerning the Toronto Maple Leafs organization here at Hockey’s Future – I hope to see you again next week (or perhaps sooner if something significant transpires).