On The Rock

By Gerald Gosse

The St. John’s Maple Leafs 2001-2002 came to an end on May 1st, 2002. The Leafs first season playing out of Mile One was a roller coaster ride for sure. The Baby Leafs finished the season with a 34-27-17-2 overall record, a 19-13-8 record on home ice and a 15-16-9 record on the road. The teams 87 points were good enough for 3rd in the Canadian Division, 7th in the Eastern Conference and 13th Overall in the AHL.

Let’s look at the St. John’s Maple Leafs forwards that helped the team get to the Eastern Conference Semi-finals.

Year-End Review: Part One: Forwards.

#2 Morgan Warren-RW/C

The 6’2″ 193 lb. forward from Kensington, PEI played all 80 games for the St. John’s Maple Leafs this season. Morgan recorded 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points while picking up 46 minutes in penalties. Morgan improved his goal, assist and point totals from one year ago: 2000-2001 season: (2, 10, 12) vs. 2001-2002 (11, 14, 25). Warren is a 4th line player, maybe a 3rd line player on some teams, but that is as high as he will go. To his credit he worked hard and played with determination each and every night. Working in the corners, in front of the net and along the boards is the way this grinder has to play to be effective. Grade: C

#5 Robb Palahnuk-LW

After spending much of the season in the CHL with the Memphis River Kings the Leafs called upon the 6’1″ 198 lb. Palahnuk. In nine games with the Leafs he recorded one goal and two assists for three points, he was a minus two and had 20 minutes in penalties. To his credit he liked to mix it up and was very effective in his brief stint in that role for the Baby Leafs. Although we did not see much of Robb here in St. John’s, given some AHL seasoning he should be able to compete and contribute at the AHL level full-time.
Grade C

#7 Andre Payette-LW

The 6’2″ 205 lb. forward from Cornwall, Ontario quickly turned into a fan favorite in St. John’s. It is rare when you can find a tough guy who can actually contribute to the team with his hockey smarts, not just with his fists. Payette played a regular shift, created lots of room for his team-mates, created many scoring opportunities, worked in the trenches and was willing to drop his gloves at the tip of a hat. In 33 games with the club the thumper recorded two goals and eight assists for ten points, had a minus one rating and piled up 157 minutes in penalties. Payette has to stop taking “stupid” penalties, but his over aggressiveness in certain situations is a part of the package, needs to play like it to be effective. Blue and White is Payette’s colour. Grade B

#9 Bob Wren-LW

There was no other player on the Leafs that had more energy than the 5’10″ 185 lb. center from Preston, Ontario. Wren constantly dazzled the crowd at Mile One with his skating ability, quick passes, and his ability to twist/turn behind the goal line to position himself away from defenders. Bob played 69 games this season and recorded 24 goals and 49 assists for 73 points, had a minus seven rating and 83 minutes in penalties. One knock on Wren is that he is too unselfish, yes too unselfish, he passes the puck too much and does not shoot enough. Countless times at Mile One, the pivot found himself in the high slot and dished the puck off to his wingers. Shoot the puck Bob! Passing the puck is a big part of the center position, but Wren has to shoot more. This is easy to correct so it does not affect his grade. Grade A

#10 Donald MacLean-C

The 2001-2002 AHL Leading Scorer…enough said, but we will go further. The 6’2″ 199 lb. center from Sydney, NS had an outstanding year for the St. John’s Maple Leafs while leading the AHL in scoring. MacLean compiled 33 goals and 54 assists for 87 points in 75 games. MacLean a fifth-year pro had his most consistent year, which saw him stay out of the major slumps that he is well known for. It was even more impressive because MacLean received and took a lot of abuse from opposing players. MacLean seemed to develop an attitude during the latter part of the season. For example: when MacLean was overlooked as a call-up during the season it looked like he stopped playing, but to his credit he quickly snapped out of it and went on a tear to end the season. Grade A

#11 Nikolai Antropov-C

Antropov did not finish the season due to a knee injury, but his play through 34 games was enough to grade his performance. The 6’5″ 205 lb. center from Vost, Kazakhstan in this writer’s opinion does not belong in the AHL. Antropov was going at a better than a point per game clip before the knee injury. Through 34 games he scored 11 goals and added 24 assists for 35 points. He also had a plus nine rating and 47 minutes in penalties to boot. Antropov made things look easy here in St. John’s with his passing ability, his skating ability; his shooting touch and ability to find open ice. One thing that was surprising about Nik was that he could play the physical game and he did not shy away from it. Being in St. John’s gave Antropov the chance to work on the little things and fine tune his game for the NHL. The question becomes will he be the same player after this injury that he was before it? Guess only time will tell. Grade A

#12 Jonathan Gagnon-C/LW

It was clear from the first game in a Leafs uniform that Gagnon was not ready for the style of play at the AHL level. The 6’1″ 199 lb. center/left wing from Longueiul, PQ was not a factor in any of the games he played for the Leafs. In 12 regular season games with St. John’s he recorded no goals and three assists for three points. Gagnon scored at the CHL level, so maybe with a little AHL seasoning he will score at the AHL level. Needs to get tougher. Grade D

#16 Paul Healey-RW

The 6’2″ 185 lb. forward from Edmonton, Alberta was one of the best additions of the St. John’s Maple Leafs organization in its 11 seasons here in Newfoundland. Although Healey did not finish the season in St. John’s he was an important piece of the team. Through 58 games this season Paul recorded 27 goals and added 29 assists for 56 points. What was impressive about the flanker was his defensive play. He finished the season with a plus 20 rating and he was always the first man back to help the D. Healey’s skating ability and great shot were welcomed additions to the club. With the big club now, Mile One may have seen the last of #16. Grade A

#17 Doug Doull-LW

The 6’2″ 216 lb. forward from Glace Bay, NS played an aggressive game all season long. After returning from a brutal injury to his ankle Doull played 36 games scoring five goals and adding eight assists and 166 minutes in penalties. Although his skating leaves much to be desired, but no one can question his work ethic. Never one to shy away from a good fight the portsider was there to protect his fellow mates. If Doug Doull’s game could be summed up in one sentence it would be this: do the little things right and the rest will take care of itself. Grade B

#19 Jeff Farkas-LW

The 6’ 190 lb. forward from Amherst, NY is one of the fastest, smoothest skaters on the Leafs. This season Farkas failed to produce at the pace he did last season and when the game became physical ex-B.C. Eagle faded to the background. For the year he potted 16 goals with 34 assists and was minus seven while recording 49 minutes in penalties. Farkas is still relative young and a good season last year and a so-so season this year, looks like next season will prove if he has a chance or not. Grade C

#22 Craig Mills-RW

A hockey players’ hockey player. Mills can hit, skate, shoot, pass and fight. When the Leafs needed a boost Mills would be the player to give it to them. The 6’ 190 lb. forward from Toronto, Ontario played 74 games and had 10 goals, chipped in with 21 assists, was plus four and counted 137 minutes in penalties. Mills was a leader on and off the ice, set an example for the others on the team and has captain potential written all over him. Grade B+

#23 Alexei Ponikarovsky-LW

The 6’4″ 196 lb. forward from Kiev, Ukraine has the makings of a good NHL player. The “Tank” played better each and every game. “Poni” played 72 games with the Leafs scored 21 goals and added 27 assists for 48 points. Ponikarovsky was plus four and recorded 74 minutes in penalties. One of the best things about Alexei is that during the season he played both a finesse game and a physical game. Toughness is not an issue with #23. Grade A

#24 Luca Cereda-C

Considering what Luca has been through last year this season has to be judged a success from a personal point of view. Cereda recovered from heart surgery to play the game he loves. At the beginning of the 2001-2002 season he looked tentative and out of sync with what was happening. He found himself in the press box or limited in the amount of ice time that he received. Coach Crawford and his assistants have to be given credit for turning him around. They coaching staff made him a regular on the PK and from that point on he played with great confidence. The Swiss native finished the year with five goals and eight assists for 13 points. One important thing here is that Luca Cereda is learning to play defensive hockey first and the scoring will take care of itself. Grade based on personal challenge would be an A, but on hockey play it is lower. Grade C

#27 Bobby House-LW

The PP specialist was a workhorse for the Leafs this season. The 6’1″ 190 lb. forward from Whitehorse, Yukon played 71 games this season recording 36 goals (14 on the PP) and added 20 assists for 56 points. House was minus 15 and received 40 minutes in penalties. Houses is a leader on and off the ice, but he is a quite leader not a vocal leader. One point in the season House went into a scoring slump and he committed himself 100% to his defensive play. The knock on House is that his skating is not up to par, but the big man gets the job done. Grade A

The One Minute Mile

The St. John’s Maple Leafs 2001-2002 Team Award Winners:

Pepsi MVP: Donald MacLean
NTV/OZFM Leading Scorer: Donald MacLean
The Telegram Best Defencemen: Nathan Dempsey
Rogers Cable Rookie of the Year: Sebastien Centomo
Aliant Telecom Sportsmanship and Dedication: Craig Mills
Molson Canadian Plus/Minus: Donald MacLean
Overall Molson Cup Winner: Bob Wren
Molson Cup Runner Up: Donald MacLean
Brookfield Dairy Group Community Service Award: Mike Minard & Morgan Warren
Grub Club Hardest Working Player: Donald MacLean
Atlantic Lottery Players Choice Award: Nathan Dempsey
Booster Club Award: Nathan Dempsey

Francois Bouchard is no longer for the AHL having just signed a contract to play for the Iserholm Panthers of the German Second Divsion. The defenseman, signed by the Leafs last year from Djurgartens in the SEL, missed most of the season’s first half with a separated shoulder.*

*As reported by Brendan McCarthy of the St.John’s Telegram

Want to add your two cents? You can do that on the
Toronto Maple Leaf Message Board