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.

The deal that never was: For a while, it certainly seemed as though I’d be writing about a very significant Leafs’ trade this week … while the Maple Leafs treated their fans to a wildly exciting 5-5 tie with Colorado on February 18th, most discussions in the pressbox down at the ACC concerned news that the Lindros trade was finally going to happen … long standing Philly compensation demands (any 2 of Kaberle, Antropov or Markov plus picks) had been met by the Leafs and only the completion of a contract with Eric’s representative remained outstanding … this was accomplished in very short order on the 20th … Quinn and Dryden then presented the trade and the contract to the MLSE Board … when approval was obtained for both, Quinn contacted Bob Clarke in an attempt to arrange a teleconference with the NHL’s Head Office in order to complete the deal … that’s when Clarke insisted that Tomas Kaberle be included in the deal rather than Danny Markov – he insisted that the Flyers were concerned by reports from the team’s medical staff (I didn’t realize that the Flyers had a medical staff) regarding Markov’s injured back … everyone in hockey knows that Pat Quinn considers Kaberle to be a pivotal building block in Toronto’s long-term plan … Quinn immediately reasoned that Philadelphia had never really intended to complete a trade with the Maple Leafs and that they had actually been disrupting his operation with carefully placed news leaks for several weeks … the next day, after practice, the Coach/GM announced plans to move on, canceling future discussions with the Flyers on the Lindros matter … Eric Lindros may yet suit up for his beloved Maple Leafs but don’t expect it to happen this season … incidentally, expletive laced remarks made by both Bob Clarke and Flyers’ owner Ed Snider after talks broke down said more about the situation in Philadelphia than anything that I could possibly add here …

Rumours: Though the acquisition of Wade Belak (see thumbnail below) cannot be considered a major move by the Maple Leafs, don’t be surprised if the hulking Saskatoon native is given an extended audition before the team decides whether subsequent additions on the blueline are needed – Toronto’s personnel people are very high on this player … despite this fact, it is known that the Maple Leafs are still scouting several teams intensively as they prepare for the trading deadline now roughly 2 weeks away … Carolina is very willing to move summertime acquisition Sandis Ozolinsh to the Maple Leafs and he is more than capable of improving Toronto’s power play – just don’t expect it to happen unless the Hurricanes eat a major portion of the $16.5 M that Ozolinsh has left on his contract … sources in Miami suggest that veteran Robert Svehla may be available as the Panthers attempt to restructure for future seasons and the Leafs might be well advised to explore this opportunity … a return to Toronto for the Isles’ Kenny Jonsson was first reported as early as last summer and those stories have really never gone away …

Leafs Trivia I: At the 1979 Entry Draft, the Leafs took a promising netminder from the Quebec Remparts with their 4th round selection … his first real NHL opportunity came in 1981/82 when he played decently in 40 games with the Maple Leafs and seemed as though he might well be the team’s goalkeeper of the future … unfortunately, the youngster played in only one game for Toronto during the following season and was subsequently dealt to Pittsburgh before fading from the NHL scene … name this player (answer below Do you remember) …

Farkas earns a chance: Rookie pro Jeff Farkas was recalled from St. John’s on February 17th … Jeff had been on fire with the Baby Leafs in recent weeks (7 goals and 11 assists in his past 11 games) … he certainly looked right at home in his first start against Colorado that night … Farkas spent much of the evening on the 1st line with Sundin and Roberts … the former NCAA star brings much needed speed and creativity to the team’s struggling forward ranks …

Minor trade: Though the Lindros trade imploded magnificently this week, the Maple Leafs did manage to swing one small deal with their favorite trading partners in Tampa … Toronto sent 22 year-old forward Konstantin Kalmikov (who was playing in St. John’s) to the Lightning in exchange for 27 year-old Russian defenseman Maxim Galanov … Galanov has appeared in the NHL this season with Tampa Bay but his new team has him earmarked for the AHL where the Baby Leafs have struggled to replace Nate Dempsey’s contributions since his promotion to the big team over 2 weeks ago … though Kalmikov had struggled to find his niche in the Toronto organization, I know him to be a gifted player and very fine young man … I certainly wish him good luck in a fresh start with the Detroit Vipers of the IHL …

Baby Leafs demote two: Defenseman Hugo Marchand and winger Jacques Lariviere were reassigned to South Carolina of the ECHL by the St. John’s Maple Leafs on February 23rd … Marchand, a bruising 6’3” 215 lb. rearguard had played 5 games in the AHL on an emergency recall but the addition of Maxim Galanov (see above) and the return of David Cooper from Toronto helped to eliminate the defensive shortage in St. John’s … rookie pro Lariviere (also 6’3” 215 lb.) had scored once and contributed 88 penalty minutes in 33 games with the Baby Leafs this season … it is hoped that his development can be accelerated by playing more frequently with the Stingrays for the remainder of the regular season …

Leafs Trivia II: Complete this deal … Jim Dorey to the New York Rangers on February 20, 1972 in exchange for (answer below Trivia I answer) …

Leafs Trivia III: During his second tour of duty with the Toronto in 1980, Punch Imlach acquired 2 defenders who had each previously been first round picks by the Atlanta Flames (in consecutive years) … name these blueliners (answer below Trivia II answer) …

Prospect news: This week we return to that hotbed of Maple Leafs’ prospects, the Ontario Hockey League … 2000 first rounder Brad Boyes remains 3rd in league scoring with 80 points (43G, 37A) in 48 games … Ottawa defender Jonathan Zion is currently tied with Guelph’s Kevin Dallman as the OHL’s top scoring defenseman … Zion has generated 61 points for the 67’s (16G, 45A) in 52 games this season … power-winger Miguel Delisle remains one of the most improved players in the entire league although he still lets emotion affect his game too often … Delisle has 57 points (29G, 28A) in 50 games … Khazakh forward Vadim Sozinov seems to have hit the Euro rookie wall and will need to demonstrate much improvement next season on order to advance into the professional ranks … Sozinov has 33 points (17G, 16A) in 50 games for Ottawa … Sault Ste. Marie’s Vaclav Zavoral has but 8 points (4G, 4A) in 51 games for the Greyhounds … Zavoral is a tough defensive blueliner whose pro prospects remain very bright based upon his play this season … North Bay defender Peter Reynolds has jacked up his offensive game of late … Reynolds now has 25 points (1G, 24A) in 50 games but still owns a troubling –16 … 2000 2nd rounder Kris Vernarsky certainly hasn’t made the offensive breakthrough that he had hoped for this season in Plymouth … Kris has 29 points (12G, 17A) in 50 games with the Whalers …

Who am I: I joined the Maple Leafs blueline in 1968/69 as the club attempted to infuse an aging roster with young blood … although I would be a Leaf for only 2 years, I later enjoyed modest playing success in Vancouver and in Atlanta (where I served as team captain for 2 seasons) … in Toronto, I am best remembered for a devastating bodycheck on Bobby Orr delivered during the 1969 Stanley Cup playoffs … (answer below Trivia III answer) …

Prospect thumbnail – Wade Belak (D): In truth, Belak is now probably more a project than a prospect … in 23 games with Calgary this season, the 24-year-old Belak had no points and 79 penalty minutes … in 108 career NHL games, Belak has one goal and four assists along with 327 penalty minutes … there is no ambiguity about Wade’s role with the Maple Leafs: he’s here to knock people down, keep the slot area clear of potential obstructions and to protect his team mates whenever needed … though he’s a trifle slow afoot and can struggle against teams that play an up-tempo game, Wade possesses prototypical NHL size (6’5”, 225), owns a very hard shot from the point and is one of the NHL’s up-and-coming heavyweight contenders … Belak was originally drafted by the Quebec Nordiques, 12th overall, in the 1994 entry draft … he was subsequently included in the package that sent Theo Fleury to the Avalanche in 1999 … for their part, the Leafs seem willing to hand Belak the 7th blueline position (usually reserved for developmental players such as Chris McAllister) due to his impressive physical attributes …

Do you remember: Derek Laxdal …

Trivia I answer: Vincent Tremblay …

Trivia II answer: Pierre Jarry joined the Maple Leafs in this late season trade … although the former Ottawa 67’s scoring star had earlier posted solid offensive numbers with the Rangers’ farm team in Omaha, he struggled to find the net consistently at the NHL level … Pierre managed 19 goals during his only full season in Toronto … after moving on to Detroit and then to Minnesota, Jarry would post career best numbers for goals (21) and points (39) with the North Stars in 1975/76 …

Trivia III answer: David Shand and Richard Mulhern …

Who am I answer: Current Leafs’ Coach and GM Pat Quinn …

Leftovers: I really hate to say this but Steve Thomas is looking very much like Wendel did last year – the spirit is still willing but the body (and more specifically the hands) just aren’t getting it done – the season long slumps that have gripped two thirds of the top line (Sundin and Thomas) are more directly responsible for team’s current predicament than any other single factor … I love Darcy Tucker’s spunk and I suspect that his value to the team may really grow at playoff time – that said, Tucker should pick his spots a bit more carefully – the line between “pest” and “jerk” can be razor thin at times … Eric Weinrich was sent to the Bruins by Montreal this past week in exchange for little used defender Patrick Traverse – Weinrich could certainly have helped the Maple Leafs down the stretch … it should come as no surprise to regular readers of this column that the Leafs were unable to acquire Rob Blake, dealt by Los Angeles to Colorado on the same day that the Lindros trade collapsed – in the end Toronto was simply unwilling to pay the price that the Avalanche paid for such a short-term rental – I really can’t fault the Maple Leafs for adopting this position – splashy pre-deadline deals engineered by Colorado during the past 2 seasons ultimately led to little playoff success – I still anticipate the Leafs will be at the front of the line when Blake hits the open market in July … finally, kudos to the MLSE Board who this week again clearly proved that money will not be an impediment as the team strives to become a perennial contender – the proposed contract for Eric Lindros that they accepted represented an annual payroll increase of roughly $10M US per season – not an insignificant amount of money …

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

Thanks also to “the Bay Boy” for his on-site reports from Newfoundland.

You’ll find all the hot news and rumours concerning the Toronto Maple Leafs’ organization here at Hockey’s Future – we’ll see you again next week.