Saturday, May 31, 2008

Wait, what?

From Terry Koshan's Sun column today:

...reports indicate that former Leafs coach Paul Maurice, who was fired 3 1/2 weeks ago, either has met with Florida Panthers GM Jacques Martin or will do so at the NHL scouting combine in Toronto this weekend, regarding the Panthers' coaching vacancy.

OK, explain this to me line I'm an MLSE board member.

Why can the Panthers talk to fired ex-Leaf Paul Maurice, but the Leafs can't talk to fired ex-Panther Joe Nieuwendyk?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Mats Sundin owes the Leafs nothing"

This points seems to come up a lot these days.

Howard Berger made the case back in February. Virtually every Sundin article on or Sportsnet will feature several comments from fans that echo the same point. Most recently, eyebleaf made it today over at PPP (edit: and again later on his own site).

He doesn't owe them a trade. He doesn't owe them a hometown discount. He doesn't even owe them a straight answer about what he wants to do next year. He doesn't owe them a thing.

Well, I'm not going to get into a long-winded argument about loyalty in pro sports, because it make me sound like a cranky old man and I'll probably wind up banging my face on my keyboard until I look like Braydon Coburn.

So I'll just say this: for the past few days I've mentioned in a few places that Sundin has made $50 million playing for the Leafs. To be honest, I pulled that number right out of my peddie, but it seemed like a reasonable guess.

Well, tonight I looked it up. And it turns out I was way off.

Since coming to Toronto, Mats Sundin has been paid $73 million by the Maple Leafs.

I know it's pro sports and star players make big money and it's not like he's going to turn it down if they're offering, but.... $73 million in twelve and a half years. No first-team all star selections, no major awards or nominations, no 100-point seasons, and all of four playoff series won with him in the lineup. $73 million.

He doesn't owe the Toronto Maple Leafs or their fans anything at all? Not a thing? Really?

The other side of the Sundin coin

I've been sour on Sundin since the deadline, and this week's speculation hasn't helped matters.

Despite what some think, I don't hate the guy. I've been a fan since he arrived in Toronto, and while I do think he's overrated by most Leaf fans, I've rarely had a bad word to say about him until this no-trade mess.

So in the interest of fairness, here's a post from MF37 that covers the other side of the story. I don't agree with much of what he's saying (as you'll see in the comments), but it's worth a read.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sundin looking elsewhere?

A pal who was at Sundin's media availability today (after he accepted the Messier award) tells me that he gets the strong impression that Sundin is at least open to hearing offers from other teams.

On top of that, apparently another well-known reporter is telling people that he thinks Sundin is seriously considering signing with Montreal.

This is all speculation at this point. If I was Eklund, I would probably rate it as an e3 and then go back to filming my dog and ignoring the blogger contest.

But I'm gathering torches and pitchforks just in case. Who's with me?

Update: Sundin's direct quote, per Howard Berger:
"The best scenario would be if I ended my career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but I'm not going to say that I won't be playing anywhere else either... I know I have a lot of options I can explore."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Passion Returns!

This classic video was mentioned in the comments of the Clark-McSorely post. I mentioned (based on past searches) that the video wasn't available online.

Well, it turns out I was wrong. The full video was uploaded to YouTube a few weeks ago. God bless the webernet.

With a hat tip to youtuber "Jefflered", here's the full video:

Good times.

And seriously... Dougie, WTF?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Great Obscure Moments in Leafs History - Everything that happened immediately after the Clark-McSorley fight

Great Obscure Moments in Leafs History - An ongoing series to honor the greatest, completely meaningless moments in Toronto Maple Leaf history.

Wendel winding up: the last thing
hockey players see before they die
Ask any Maple Leaf to list their top five memories of the past 20 years, and every single one will include the Clark-McSorley fight from the 1993 playoffs. Even non-Leaf fans know the scene by heart: Clark looking over his shoulder at a fallen Doug Gilmour, then without hesitation dropping his gloves and heading directly for the twice-his-size McSorley and rocking him with a right handed haymaker that highlighted one of the best fights in NHL history, with the whole thing called perfectly by Bob Cole ("Oh! Clark is nailing McSorley!").

Every Leaf fan has this sequence memorized. But over time, many have forgotten the comedy gold that came in the immediate aftermath. And that's where I come in.

Today's great obscure moment in Leafs history is: Everything that happened immediately after the Clark-McSorley fight

The Todd Gill vs. Dave Taylor fight

Three things that make me laugh about this fight.

1.) Bob Cole is completely oblivious to it. He doesn't even notice it until after Clark and McSorley are off the ice.

2.) Remember a guy named Dave Taylor who played on the Triple Crown line with Dionne and Simmer in the late 70s? It's the same guy. The night of this fight, Taylor was 56 years old.

3.) The cameras only catch a few seconds of the entire fight, and even then only because they happen to skate by in the background of the main event. What happened in this fight? Who won? Was it any good? Does anyone have grainy handycam footage we could analyze? Can we run some kind of computer simulation to find out what happened?

Gilmour goes after the Kings bench

When I say "goes after", I mean it in the patented Doug Gilmour "look like you want to fight while staying out of reach" way. This may be the least enthusiastic bench confrontation in history, since Gilmour doesn't want to fight, Anderson and Ellett don't know how to fight, and the Kings players are all too busy trying not to make eye contact with Wendel as he skates by so that he doesn't kill them.

Everybody who will somedy
club a guy over the head with a
stick,raise your hand
McSorley goes Sean Penn on the cameraman

On his way off the ice, McSorley decides that he doesn't want anybody to film him. This seems like an odd choice for a professional athlete during a televised sporting event, but in his defence, you wouldn't want to have your picture taken either if Wendel Clark had just punched your left eyeball three inches into your brain.

Also, McSorley is naked from the waist up at this point. Don't ask.

Barry Melrose's mullet

Technically, this wasn't specific to this particular moment, but it still deserves a mention.

We all agree that any shot of Barry Melrose from the early 90s is guaranteed amusement. But the shots of him during this game are made even better by the bright pink Gummi Bears sign directly behind him. Not even Melrose's smoldering mulletude could look cool in front of that sign. It was close, though.

Somebody throws a crutch on the ice

Any loser can toss a cup of soda or a bag of popcorn on the ice. The really hardcore will throw coins or batteries. But you have to be a special kind of crazy to throw a crutch.

Here's my question: did somebody get so worked up that they forgot they couldn't walk and threw their own crutch on the ice? Or did somebody else steal a crutch for a handicapped person and fire it over the glass? I can't even decide which scenario would be funnier. (Yes I can: the second one.)

In either case, how did the crutch's owner get home? Can we even be sure that he did? Is it possible that there's still an angry fan hopping in circles around Maple Leaf Gardens and wondering how the series turned out?

The Gill-Taylor fight ends

That's right, during everything mentioned above, the Gill-Taylor fight is still going on. The John Ferguson Jr era was shorter than this fight. Did I mention that Dave Taylor was 68 years old? Halfway through this fight he retired from hockey and had a rink in his hometown named after him during a quiet ceremony that was marred by the fact the Gill was still hitting him.

Pat Burns charges the Kings bench

This is probably the most memorable post-fight moment. Burns is jawing and pointing at the Kings bench, then suddenly makes a break for it before being restrained by a policeman, various ushers, and a guy in a yellow jacket who appears to be the bass player from Def Leppard.

Clearly, Burns had no intention of actually attacking anyone. This was one of those "fire up the crowd" moments, which would be fine except that 90% of the crowd didn't notice because they were looking somewhere else. They couldn't watch it on the scoreboard either, since back then the Maple Leaf Gardens scoreboard had four colors, sixteen pixels and could only show the word "Noise" and strange images of Mickey Mouse hands clapping.

Pinky finger
The guy in the pink shirt giving the Kings bench the finger

Just as Burns gives up his half-hearted charge, a random fan in a pink golf shirt and what appear to be acid-wash jeans strikes a mighty archer pose and flips off the Kings bench for about half a second before realizing he's on TV and switching to polite applause.

I love this guy. Some day I'm going to track him down and get a picture of him giving me the finger. Seriously, if anyone knows who he is, let me know.

When Nikolai Borschevsky gets his own talk show, I want this guy to be his sidekick. I want him to sit on the couch in his Zack Morris outfit while Borschevsky asks rambling questions, and then furiously flip off the confused guest as we cut to commercial. Make it happen, CBC!

The video evidence

Thanks to the wonders of Youtube, here's the entire sequence. Enjoy...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

These things are heavier than they look

In case you've ever wondered what a Toronto Maple Leaf Stanely Cup celebration would look like.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Shocking news: Winning is fun

From today's Toronto Sun.

Hal Gill needs to send Cliff Fletcher a nice "Thank You Card."

Had Fletcher not shipped the towering defenceman at the Feb. 26 trade deadline from the Maple Leafs to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2008 second-round draft pick and a fifth rounder in '09, Gill would be hitting golf balls right now, not opposing forwards.

"I miss the guys (in Toronto) but this is pretty exciting," Gill said of the anticipation he is feeling about his first appearance in a Stanley Cup final.

He has reason to be stoked. One moment you are playing for a Leafs team headed for nowhere; the next, you are on a star-studded Penguins squad that is on the road to the Stanley Cup final.

Gill admits his days in Toronto seem like a million years ago.

"I kind of fit in here in Pittsburgh right away," he said. "It's not easy to click all the time. Your world is tossed upside down but in this case the pieces all fell into place."

"I'll tell you one thing," added Gill. "I'm sure glad I don't have to worry about facing Mats Sundin in the finals. On that Wings team, he'd be unstoppable, the toast of the hockey world. It's a good thing he doesn't care about winning, or else I'd really have my work cut out."
Yes, I made one of those paragraphs up.

But imagine that. Apparently, playing for your first Stanley Cup ring is more fun than holding your wife's purse while she tries on shoes at the Eaton Centre.

Look, I don't ask for much. But I'm asking -- nay, demanding -- that somebody cut out a few copies of this article and mail them to McCabe, Tucker, Sundin, Kaberle and Kubina.

If you wanted to, maybe add in a bonus item to Sundin's envelope: a photoshopped picture of him playing on a line with Chris Higgens and Jeff Carter. With a little note that says "Thanks for nothing".

Optimism Week is over, in case you were wondering.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Going under cover

Sports Illustrated recently launched an online feature called the Archive, which allows you to search for any player or team and browse through all of SI's articles, photos and videos. It's addictive stuff. And you can learn a lot.

For example: Did you know that the Toronto Maple Leafs have never been on the cover of Sports Illustrated?

According to their archive, no Leaf has ever made the cover -- not even in the background of another hockey photo. That seems odd, although you have to consider that SI's hockey coverage peaked in the 70s and 80s, and the Leafs weren't exactly... um... newsworthy back then. Still, the Leafs have apparently shown up in over 550 SI articles over the years, so it's a little strange that they never even managed a cameo on the cover.

All of which begs the question: if there's an SI cover curse, how bad would the Leafs be if they had ever been on one? Not to worry. Considering the current state of the team, and the current almost complete lack of hockey coverage in Sports Illustrated, I wouldn't expect any cover appearances any time soon.

What about the other Canadian teams?

Montreal Canadiens - Thirteen covers. The team made frequent appearances in the 60s and 70s, but since then have only been on twice -- once each for their Cup wins in 1986 and 1993.

Edmonton Oilers - Ten covers. For some reason this surprised me -- I would have expected more, since SI had a lot of hockey coverage in the 80s. Needless to say, all but one of the covers feature Gretzky and the appearances end in 1989. Another surprise: Gretzky made only one cover appearance as a King, and two more as a Ranger.

Ottawa Senators - No covers.

Vancouver Canucks - Two covers, but in both cases a Canuck is only shown in the background of a cover that focuses on the New York Rangers.

Calgary Flames - Two covers. One featuring Jarome Iginla's face along with a few dozen others on a "Minorities in Sports" feature, and another with an unindentified Flames being run over by Tomas Sandstrong of the Kings. Oddly enough, there is a cover featuring Jim Craig of the Atlanta Flames.

Neither the Jets or Nordiques ever made an appearance.

For whatever it's worth, the Toronto Blue Jays have made the cover eight times, including three weeks in a two in 1992 and this sweet shot of Shaker Mo rounding third at the Ex.

(Note: The SI Archive doesn't seem to be 100% reliable, and they're not completely consistent with how they tag each cover. For example, I found two old Wayne Gretzky covers that showed up under his name but not in a search for the Oilers. So please forgive any errors above.)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Five reasons why things could get better

You people are hard to please.

You all tell me I'm too negative. Then, when I write 20 Good Things About The 2007-08 Leafs, some of you still find a way to call them "thinly veiled swipes at the team". I can't win.

So here, in a wrap-up to Optimism Week, is one last try. Here are five honest-to-goodness reasons for optimism in Leafs land.

They'll be far better at coach and GM

We don't know who they'll be. But we don't need to know their names to know that they'll be an upgrade over Maurice and Ferguson. And while the new GM will need a year or two to dig out from under JFJ's mess, coaches often have an immediate impact. If a new man behind the bench can do things Maurice never could -- like implement a defensive system, hold a veteran accountable, or call a timeout properly -- then the Leafs could get a boost right away.

Could you name an NHL team with worse coach/GM combo last year than the Leafs? Me neither. There's nowhere to go but up.

And the new coach will have one thing going for him...

They're only solid at one position in the entire organization -- but it's the most important one

Realistically, the Leafs are weak on defence and only average at forward (and that's assuming Sundin stays). But the goaltending outlook is solid. In fact, it may be excellent.

Vesa Toskala started slow last year, but in the second half he showed that he can be a top NHL goalie. He's not in the Brodeur/Luongo class, of course, but there are plenty of NHL teams that would trade their starter straight-up for Toskala in a heartbeat. With the exception of the Raycroft era, the Leafs have had excellent goaltending every year since Grant Fuhr arrived in 1991. Toskala looks like he may give that to them again.

And while the NHL club's best player is a goalie, the organization's best prospect is too. Justin Pogge's progress hasn't been as rapid as some had hoped (and Greg Gilbert seems hellbent on slowing it further), but he's still a top prospect with an excellent outlook.

If the Leafs are lucky, we could soon see Pogge playing Potvin to Toskala's Fuhr. And that worked out pretty well last time around.

And speaking of Pogge...

The Leafs have some decent young players

They don't have many decent young players (and they don't have any great young players), but the Leafs have put together a core group of reasonably talented youth. In addition to Pogge, the Leafs have prospects such as Jiri Tlustly and Nikolai Kulemin ready to play a role next year, and Jeremy Williams has shown flashes. Young NHLers such as Stajan, Steen, Colaiacovo and Stralman have shown promise. Even Kyle Wellwood could wake up from his donut coma in time to make a career for himself.

That's not a great list, but it's also not a bare cupboard. The Leafs have enough young talent to fill most of their second and third lines for years to come. And while there isn't a single sure-fire first line player on the list, the Leafs have other ways of filling those spots. Namely...

There's always free agency

It's an old joke among fans of other teams: These poor delusional Leaf fans think every free agent is desperate to go to Toronto at a discount. But the punchline is that it's often true. In the past few years, we've seen players like Gary Roberts, Curtis Joseph, Michael Peca, Eric Lindros and Joe Nieuwendyk turn down more money somewhere else to come to Toronto. And that's in addition to top FAs like Belfour and Mogilny who signed for fair value. Despite the best efforts of Richard Peddie, some players just really want to play in Toronto.

That's not a reflection on the franchise -- it has more to do with geography and history. There are more players from the Toronto area in the NHL than anywhere else, and some of those guys want to play in front of their families and/or for the team they grew up watching.

Combine that with the fact that the Leafs will always be able to spend to the upper limits of the salary cap, and you have a team that starts each free agency season a few steps ahead of most other franchises. It's not fair, but it's reality.

Of course, that doesn't mean they should spend on veteran FA's -- at least not any time soon. But when the times comes, there will be good players waiting for Toronto to call. And that time may not be as far off as everyone thinks, if only because...

We just don't know how long it takes to rebuild in today's NHL

Look, the Leafs are a mess right now. I'm the last guy to argue otherwise.

But at the same time, enough with all the talk of four- or five- or seven-year plans. The truth is we just don't know yet what the timelines look like for a rebuilding effort takes in the post-lockout NHL. But the early returns show it could be quicker than you'd think.

Since the lockout, we've seen some amazing turnarounds. Montreal finished behind the Leafs last year, then won the conference this year. The Flyers had the worst record in the league last year, and are in the final four today. The Capitals went from being Ovechkin and a bunch of stiffs to among the league's top teams almost overnight. And we're not even counting the Penguins, who are a special case thanks to the Crosby lottery.

On the other side of the coin, we've seen the Hurricanes win a Cup, then miss the playoffs in back-to-back years. The Sabres went from conference winner to afterthought in one season. It only took one year for the Canucks to go from contender to also-ran. The Senators did it in half a season.

What does all that have to do with the Leafs? Probably not much. For starters, the Habs, Caps and Flyers all had a far more talented group of young players than the Leafs do.

But the bottom line is that there's plenty of evidence to suggest that teams can go from pretenders to contenders (and back) very quickly in the era of early free agency and the salary cap. If the Leafs ever could get their act together, they could be back in contention much faster than any of the sky-is-falling crowd thinks possible.

(Even me.)

When hockey fans attack

As you've probably heard, is accepting sponsorships for player pages. According to Greg Wyshynski at Yahoo Sports, they sold 100 pages in the first 24 hours. Most have been predictable (kind words from fans and/or advertising), but not all.

You know by now about Pension Plan Puppets nefarious plot to mess with certain targets. Wyshynski is offering fans a chance to take aim at Chris Pronger. And various other folks (me included) have slapped down a few bucks to have some fun at the expense of various players and teams.

Since many folks in the hockey world are having some fun with this, I thought I'd start a list of some of the humorous or otherwise unexpected sponsorships that have appeared.

Here's what I've found so far. I know there's more out there (and more to come, no doubt) so feel free to add to the list by posting a comment or e-mailing me.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wayne Gretzky - Revenge is ours (in a passive aggressive and sort of pathetic way)

We interupt Optimism Week for this breaking news.

No, not Maurice getting fired. I mean something we didn't already know was going to happen.

As you may know, is now accepting sponsorship of individual player pages. James Mirtle was among the first to notice this development, and as a result he snapped up Wayne Gretzky.

I made a joking offer to James to pay half the fee if he'd change the description, and he's agreed (within reason, of course).

So my question is: what should it say?

The leading candidate so far is simply "It was a high stick". I like this one -- the complete lack of context actually makes it seem funnier to me. But I'm open to other ideas.

So please post a comment if you have any ideas or suggestions. I'd like to let James know some time today.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

20 Good Things About the 2007-08 Leafs

Optimism Week continues at Down Goes Brown. My first post this week was kind of a copout, since I spent most of it talking about other teams. Baby steps, people.

But today, we're going all out. For this post, I will choose 20 members of the Leafs organization and say something nice about them.

Can I do it? Is it possible that 20 good things happened in this writeoff of a season? Let's find out.

Wait, why is the goalie wearing blue too?

Bryan McCabe - Offensive contribution was actually greater than stats would indicate, thanks to obscure NHL bylaw that only gives credit for goals scored into opponent's net.

Andrew Raycroft - Much like Martin Brodeur (chip shot off glass) and Rick DiPietro (quick outlet pass from behind net), has developed his own trademark play for clearing the zone: "faceoff at center ice".

Kyle Wellwood - Knows that despite advances in theoretical physics, scientists still can't explain exactly how gravity functions or rule out the slim possibility that it could unexpectedly cease to work in the future. So just in case, bravely dedicated his summer to making sure his couch didn't float away.

Mark Bell - Crushed every Sens fan's will to live by injuring Mike Fisher, destroying Daniel Alfredsson, and then somehow sneaking onto the ScotiaBank Place ice before a playoff game dressed as a fat guy in a gladiator helmet.

Anton Stralman - Certainly cleared up any lingering confusion over that whole "the next Niklas Lidstrom" thing.

Nik Antropov - Was arguably the only Leaf to exceed expectations this year, scoring just enough big goals to singlehandedly keep the team from getting a top draft pick.

It's getting closer, closer... hey, what does that horn mean?

Vesa Toskala - Constantly finding new and creative ways to challenge himself, such as resolving to stop all 180-foot slapshots using only sense of smell.

Jason Blake - Revolutionized youth hockey coaching by dedicating entire season to single-handedly disproving the old "It's never a bad play to shoot the puck" theory.

Carlo Colaiacovo - Successfully read this sentence without hurting himself.

Andy Wozniewski - Showed impressive courage and determination by repeatedly suiting up for NHL games despite being really, really horrible at playing hockey.

Jeremy Williams - Showed tremendous respect for the head coach who gave him two minutes of ice time a night, eventually realizing he was embarassing him by scoring every single game and cutting that out.

Cliff Fletcher - Is proactively working to improve the team the best way he knows how -- by repeatedly calling up Minnesota GM Doug Riseborough and asking him if he feels like trading his best players for a five-pack of crap.

Darcy Tucker - Fulfilled obligations as corporate spokesperson by always remembering to wear his "Kewl" brand hat during post-game interviews, or would have, had he ever done anything that would warrant a post-game interview.

Alex Steen - His play served as a soothing reminder for Leafs fans that all those first rounders JFJ traded away wouldn't necessarily have ended up being very good anyways.

Justin Pogge - Currently with the Marlies gaining extensive experience in not taking part in the playoffs, which will be invaluable once he graduates to the Leafs roster.

Pavel Kubina - Played about 20 minutes a game, scored a handful of big goals, and wasn't bad defensively. And hey, that's about all you can ask from a $5 million defenceman, right?

Ian White - Not one of those obnoxious spotlight-seeking pro atheletes who tries to hog media attention by ever actually doing anything noteworthy.

"What the hell, go ahead and take most of October and November off too."

Paul Maurice - Is a totally cool boss who lets his employees leave two months early every year.

Tomas Kaberle - Four-for-four performance in accuracy shooting during NHL Skills competition answered the age old question "Is Tomas Kaberle physically capable of actually shooting the god-damned puck?"

Mats Sundin - Sent a powerful message about loyalty, leadership, and finishing what you start, which will no doubt prove exceedingly inspirational for his new teammates once he signs with Detroit this summer.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Trade Deadline '08 - Why it's good news for the '09 Leafs

Apparently a few readers have noted that this blog tends to take a somewhat pessimistic view of the Toronto Maple Leafs. This is probably a fair observation. I do tend to be a tad negative about the Leafs, largely due to the fact that I have two eyes and a functioning brain.

But the whole "wah wah, go cry emo fan" routine can get stale after a while. So I'm pleased to announce that this week will be Optimism Week. For one solid week, it's going to be nothing but puppies and birthday cakes here at Down Goes Brown. Enjoy it while you can, we'll be back to reality next week.

Today's post: a look at the 2008 NHL Trade Deadline, and why it's shaping up to be good news for the 2009 Maple Leafs.

I know, I know. The 2008 deadline was a disaster for the Leafs. Their desperately needed rebuilding plan was torpedoed by Mats Sundin and the rest of the loser brigade, tying the hands of Cliff Fletcher and dooming Leaf fans to another half decade of soul-crushing misery.

Hm, this optimism thing is harder than I thought.

But in addition to watching a bunch of fat millionaires destroy the Leafs rebuilding plan, the 2008 deadline was also notable for a constant theme in the coverage leading up the big day. Story after story made sure to point out that recent history seemed to show that deadline blockbusters didn't work out. The big deals in 2007, such as Ryan Smyth to the Islanders, Keith Tkachuk to the Thrashers, Ladislav Nagy to the Stars and Peter Forsberg to the Predators had all amounted to a big hill of jack squat come playoff time.

So let's take a look back at the '08 deadline, with an eye towards how the big deals have impacted the playoffs so far.

- The Penguins acquire Marion Hossa from the Thrashers - Probably the biggest deal of the day. When the trade went down, most observers agreed that the Pens had given up too much. Fast forward ahead two months, and the Penguins have rolled through the first two rounds of the playoffs, knocking out the Rangers today thanks to an OT winner by Hossa. They'll be heavy favorites in conference finals.

- The Sharks acquire Brian Campbell from the Sabres - This deal moved the Sharks from solid contender to quasi-favorite. They closed the season on a tear, and were touted by many as Cup favorites. They knocked out the Flames in round one, and as of this writing are still alive against Dallas (although hanging by a thread). Speaking of Dallas...

- The Dallas Stars acquire Brad Richards from the Lightning: Richards had four assists in his first game with the Stars, and has been a steady contributor ever since. The Stars shocked the experts by knocking out the defending champion Ducks in the first round, and are on the verge of eliminating the heavily favored Sharks in the round two.

- The Capitals acquire Cristobel Huet and Sergei Federov in separate deals - Thought to be playoff longshots, the Caps loaded up at the deadline and went on a tear. The stormed through the rest of the regular season, winning the division on the final day. While they lost a seven game heartbreaker to the Flyers, the Caps put themselves back on the hockey map thanks in part to their aggressive dealing.

Other teams also made efforts to bulk up. The Flyers added Vinny Prospal, and are headed for the conference finals. The Avs picked up Adam Foote and free agent Peter Forsberg, and won a playoff round before being overcome by injuries. The already stacked Wings picked up Brad Stuart and are looking like odds-on favorites to take the title right now.

Meanwhile, some teams stood pat:

- The Ottawa Senators were struggling badly and looked like they needed to make a big move. But as per team tradition, the went deer-in-the-headlights on deadline day, only making one minor deal for Martin Lapointe who had no impact during his Sens stint. Instead, the team continued to freefall. They almost missed the playoffs, backing in on the season's final weekend, and then were embarrassed during a listless first round sweep.

- The Anaheim Ducks, who had won a Cup the previous year without making any major deadline moves, once again stood pat. They were pushed aside with relative ease in the first round.

- The Montreal Canadiens actually managed to get worse at the deadline, moving Huet to the Caps for a draft pick. The looked strong to end the season, but their lack of goaltending depth killed their promising post-season chances. They managed a round one win over the eight seed Bruins (barely), but surrendered easily to the Flyers behind Carey Price's best Andre Racicot impression.

Bottom line: For the most part, the teams that went big at the deadline have reaped big rewards. The teams that played it cautious are sitting at home with tire treads on their jerseys.

What does any of this have to do with the Leafs? Simple. When next year's deadline rolls around, we're going to hear all sorts of talk about how the 2008 playoffs were shaped by the trade market -- especially if the Stars or Penguins win the Cup. And all that hype can only be good news for the teams that will be selling at the 2009 deadline.

And make no mistake, the Leafs will be sellers next year. When it comes time to trade whichever veterans are left -- McCabe, Tucker, Kaberle, Blake, Sundin, or even (dare I say it) Vesa Toskala – there should be a very nice seller's market waiting for them. That could translate into a nice windfall if the new GM plays his cards right.

It will be a year too late, but good news delayed is still good news.