The Toronto Maple Leafs did NOT make the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2010-2011. Still, the author saw something special beginning to emerge as the season unfolded. After a successful start in October, a series of events saw the team plunge to the bottom of the standings, Then circumstances slowly changed, and the Maple Leafs steadily regained standing until time finally ran out, and the playoffs eluded them. The season concludes with what the author sees as a rebirth of hope for coming hockey seasons in Toronto. This book follows the Maple Leafs from the day they named a new Captain for the club until the team's quest for the playoffs comes to an end. Every game is reported upon. Events are analyzed. The contributions of all players are critiqued and evaluated. Problems are pointed out, and possible solutions are put forward. Readers who follow the fortunes of the Toronto Maple Leaf franchise should enjoy reading the story of this past season, and comparing their perspectives of the team with those of the author.
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Heart and Spirit RebornA Fan's Journal of the 2010-2011 Toronto Maple Leafs
By Doug Magwood
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2011 Doug Magwood
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJune 14, 2010
Maple Leafs Name Dion Phaneuf as Captain
In a media conference at 3 o'clock this afternoon, Brian Burke, President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, along with Head Coach Ron Wilson, announced that Dion Phaneuf had accepted the position as Captain of the hockey club.
Phaneuf posed awkwardly for a few pictures with Wilson, then donned a spiffy new jersey that will be worn by the Leafs when they take to the ice in October for the 2010 - 2011 NHL season.
Sharing the podium with Phaneuf were three legendary former Leaf captains, George Armstrong, Darryl Sittler, and Wendel Clark. Seated in the front row of the assembled audience were several members of the Maple Leaf Board of Directors along with current Leaf players Tyler Bozak, Luke Schenn, and Phil Kessel.
An observer would be reasonably accurate in suggesting that the four Leaf players on hand at this ceremony were symbolic of the main qualities that the coming season's team are expected to portray ... size, toughness, speed, and scoring acumen. Both Phaneuf and Luke Schenn are big men, and they will both patrol the blue line. It is going to be an expectation that they will be hard to play against. Tyler Bozak, on the other hand, is of smaller physical stature, but a player who has already begun to impress both management and fans with speed and accuracy in passing the puck. Phil Kessel is the sniper amongst those present today. He was acquired by Brian Burke last year for one reason ... goal production. He lived up to that expectation in 2009 - 2010 by scoring thirty goals in a season that was shortened by a full month to allow him to recuperate from injury. He will need to score at least forty times in the coming season, or he will fall short of a successful standard.
Last week, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. They did so by following a recipe that appears to be a good part of Brian Burke's vision for the Leafs. Youth, speed, defensive toughness, sound goalkeeping, and a potent offence up front will be central to Leaf success in their impending campaign.
It is mid-June, as this is written. Over the course of the next two weeks, Brian Burke and his cohorts in the Leaf front office will be carefully planning a course of action for improving the Leafs by way of the trade market and/or free agency. Those two avenues will afford Burke the opportunities he needs to solidify a team whose sole objective for the coming season will be making the playoffs in the Spring of 2011.
Today, Dion Phaneuf accepted the challenge and responsibility of leading the Toronto Maple Leafs to that objective.
Good Luck, Dion! ALL LEAF FANS WISH YOU NOTHING BUT THE BEST!
September 13, 2010
Leaf Rookie Tournament Gets the Season Under Way
For the past few days, there has been a touch of Autumn in the air. After a summer that has been described as one of the hottest on record, we have all been somewhat taken aback by a spate of sharply cool mornings. In the offices and rinks operating under the direction of the Toronto Maple Leafs, weather is the last thing to occupy the brain trust of this storied NHL franchise. All thoughts are centred upon the beginning stages of the 2010 - 2011 NHL season ... one that promises to be critical in the resurgence of the Leafs back into serious contention for the Stanley Cup.
Twenty-eight names appear on the roster of players for this year's rookie tournament. There are three goalies, ten defencemen, and fifteen forwards. These players range in age from eighteen to twenty five, and represent at least nine major hockey organizations in North America and Europe. Of these players, few, if any will see much action with this season's parent club. Many of them, though, will eventually be assigned to Leaf farm clubs in the AHL, continue Junior terms in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the Western Hockey League (WHL) the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), or continue playing for a University-based team in the USA.
Every one of the players involved in the rookie tournament will be under close scrutiny by scouts employed by any number of NHL organizations. These players have been scouted for years ... ever since most of them were little boys. All of them have dreams of making the NHL. Indeed, they are ALMOST there. In this tournament, they are wearing the uniforms of an NHL club, and I am sure that their every family photo album will forever be adorned by images of these boys attaining the elite level of their sport, However, the reality will be that only a handful will ever wear those colours for more than a brief span of their careers. Thousands of young people aspire to play hockey in the NHL, but the reality is that only about seven hundred secure that level of accomplishment at any given time.
This year's rookie tournament will involve the Leafs, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The games are being played in London, Ontario at the John Labatt Centre.
Training camp for the Toronto Maple Leafs will begin this coming Friday, September 17th. From that day forward, the long and strenuous trek to the Stanley Cup playoffs will begin in earnest. The ensuing two weeks will see the initial roster evolve, and when the first puck drops on October 7th, we will all know the players who will band together to lift this great hockey organization out of the abyss of the past five seasons, and back to the glory that we have all missed so badly for so many years.
September 17, 2010
Leaf Training Camp Begins
This morning, beginning at 9:00 A.M., sixty-three professional hockey players assembled in Etobicoke, on Kipling Avenue, to begin formal training at the annual Toronto Maple Leaf training camp.
Right off the bat, they will all be subjected to a barrage of tests and examinations by the medical staff engaged by Leaf management in order to assess each player's medical status and fitness levels. This initial stage will be critical for any player who has had his career impacted within the past few months by either injury or illness. Mike Komisarek comes to mind. Last year, he missed a significant portion of the season due to an arm injury. This was particularly frustrating for him, since it was his first year as a Leaf, having been signed to a lucrative contract by Toronto after several successful seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. Jeff Finger, Phil Kessel, and Jonas Gustavsson also were confronted by medical issues during the 2009-2010 season, They will be anxious to get medical clearance for the new campaign that looms just a couple of weeks away.
Of the players assembling this morning, only a couple of dozen will emerge wearing the colours of the parent club. Several of the youngest among them will eventually return to teams at the Junior and University levels. Others, still showing that they possess potential in the professional ranks, will be assigned to farm teams in the American Hockey League or another such league in the USA. A very few camp participants may either be traded, or perhaps even advised that their playing days at this level are over.
The players whose levels of skill rank closest to the elite level required in the NHL will, in all likelihood, be posted to the Toronto Marlies, whose home arena is the Ricoh Coliseum, just a few short blocks from the Air Canada Centre.
The next couple of weeks will unfold for all the players in camp with head-spinning speed. In a very compressed time period, there will be physical workouts, both on and off the ice. There will be nine exhibition games played against a handful of other NHL teams, and, as all these events unfold, the coaching and management staff will be making critical decisions that will profoundly affect the development of the Leafs as a team as well as the individual career paths of a considerable number of the players on the training camp roster.
For the record, then, here are the players aspiring to be team members of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2010-2011 NHL season.
* INCUMBENT PLAYERS ARE INDICATED IN BOLDFACE PRINT
Andrew Engelage Jean Sebastien Giguere Jonas Gustavsson James Reimer Jussi Rynnas Ben Scrivens
Keith Aulie Francois Beauchemin Jessie Blacker Mike Brennan Josh Engel Jeff Finger Carl Gunnarsson Simon Gysbers Korbinian Holzer Tomas Kaberle Mike Komisarek Matt Lashoff Brett Lebda Juraj Mikus Drew Paris Dion Phaneuf "C" Danny Richmond Luke Schenn Barron Smith
Colby Armstrong Darryl Boyce Tyler Bozak Tim Brent Mike Brown Luca Caputi Sam Carrick Joey Crabb Andrew Crescenzi Jerry D'Amigo Jamie Devane Alex Foster Mikhail Grabovski Richard Greenop Ryan Hamilton Christian Hanson Justin Hodgman Brayden Irwin Nazem Kadri Phil Kessel Nikolai Kulemin Mike Liambas Clarke MacArthur Greg McKegg Dale Mitchell John Mitchell Marcel Mueller Josh Nicholls Colton Orr Jay Rosehill Brad Ross Ken Ryan Gregg Scott Fredrik Sjostrom Robert Slaney Mikhail Stefanovich Kris Versteeg Mike Zigomanis Wayne Primeau
September 18, 2010
Hitting the Ice
Yesterday, for the players gathered at the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence, was a day focussed upon two main activities. First and foremost was enduring the poking, prodding, and other numerous physical demands of the medical and training staff employed by the Toronto Maple Leafs to assess the preparedness of all candidates for the approximately two dozen roster spots on the team. Secondly, the players were obliged to don their spanking, new uniforms for media photographs and interviews. Several players are obviously used to those routines, while others are less comfortable in the glare of the media circus. However, one thing is certain. Any player intent upon wearing the famous blue and white of the Maple Leafs had better get used to such scrutiny, because in Toronto it comes with the territory.
The focus of today's activities will be entirely different. The players will be on the ice in full uniform. The coaches will be putting them through a regimen of drills and situations designed to bring out the levels of competence that will be required to secure a place on the team. But.......what team?
At his media scrum yesterday, head coach Ron Wilson clearly stated that, by next Sunday, the 26th, he wanted the parent club, the Leafs, pared down to what he called a "manageable number". That number will be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 24 to 26. Who, of the 64 bodies currently in camp, will find themselves in the Maple Leaf dressing room, pulling on the jersey emblazoned with THE big leaf on the front?
At this writing, there are at least fifteen players on the Maple Leafs who are being paid a minimum of $ 1,000,000 for the impending hockey season. While a player's salary is not a guarantee of a spot on the team, it is reasonable to assume that if management is paying an individual in excess of a million bucks, said player is expected to perform on the ice at a skill level high enough to warrant that amount. If one does the math, we can all see that there aren't very many vacancies up for grabs.
There will not be a lot of rookies on the final Leaf roster when the regular season begins. I would suggest that two or three at the very most is all that the Leafs can afford. The precarious position that the team is in ... having failed to make the playoffs in five consecutive seasons ... demands that Wilson and his staff ice a club that is fully aware of the heavy demands required for competitive success in the NHL. Starting today, every player on the training camp roster will be scrutinized like they probably have never been before. The decisions made by Leaf coaches and managers over the course of the next two or three weeks will profoundly impact the careers of dozens of players, for many years to come.
September 20, 2010
My Advice to Young Hockey Players ... (and Others)
If there is an over-riding impression of the players currently in attendance at this year's Toronto Maple Leaf training camp it is their youthfulness. There is only a handful of players whose ages exceed 30. Goalie J. S. Giguere is 33. Defencemen Francois Beauchemin and Jeff Finger are both 30. Tomas Kaberle is 32. The average age of all forwards listed on the roster is 24.6 The team's new Captain, Dion Phaneuf is just 25. In other words, dear readers, most of the current crop of Maple Leafs have their careers ahead of them.
Next week, I will be 71 years of age. I have been an active observer of life in the NHL for more than half a century. From this vantage point, I believe that I am in a position to offer these young men, and any others who may be reading my work, some words of advice that could potentially lead them to successful and productive careers in the world of professional hockey. So ... here goes!
First and foremost, there is a single quality to which ANYONE should direct their life performance. That quality is INTEGRITY. The dictionary defines integrity as:
1. adherence to moral principles; honest
2. the quality of being unimpaired; soundness
3. Unity; wholeness
In my personal career, I spent 18 years as an Elementary School Principal. An important part of my job was that of evaluating teachers, and to that end, I received a great deal of training in order to do an effective job of it. Over the years, I came to the conclusion that, above all of the various individual skills and qualities that people brought to bear in their chosen occupation, personal integrity stood out above everything. I did not always agree with positions taken by others who worked with me in the field of education, but I was able to respect and appreciate that their stance on issues was every bit as valid as mine. They possessed honest and sound beliefs that could be objectively viewed with respect. Such people, in my opinion, epitomized personal integrity, and I have always admired them as colleagues in my chosen profession.
Any young athlete who rises to successful levels in his or her sport will, in all likelihood, be a person who is regarded as someone with a very high level of integrity. That level of respect is something that will evolve over a considerable number of years. In addition, there are other aspects of personal and career development that require a high degree of awareness for success and fulfillment.
I would like to exclusively reserve my next comments to the "arena" of amateur and professional sports. My advice is based upon both personal observations and media reports of real events relating to real people. Young people aspiring to careers in the world of sports need to avoid certain temptations that will inevitably confront them. Those temptations are:
1. Booze 2. Drugs 3. Lust (Personal and Material)
The evils of alcohol are well documented throughout history. Most adults, certainly those of my age, can conjure up the names of people in many walks of life whose careers and personal lives have been adversely impacted by alcohol. When alcohol use reaches the stage of addiction in anyone's life, the likelihood of negative consequences frequently becomes reality. The extreme consequences of alcohol abuse are ruination, and even death. Alcohol abuse in the early years of adulthood is WITHOUT EXCEPTION, bad news. In hockey, the practice of enjoying a couple of "pops" following a game is almost a tradition, but even that more or less "recreational" consumption can lead to trouble. In his book Shooting for Glory, Paul Henderson tells the stories of a couple of his Maple Leaf team-mates whose experiences with alcohol can only be characterized as harrowing.
Excerpted from Heart and Spirit Reborn by Doug Magwood Copyright © 2011 by Doug Magwood. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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