Saturday, Jan 31, 2009, 7:00 PM EST
Air Canada Centre
Pre-Game: 6:30pm LeafsTV
Broadcast: 7pm Hockey Night in Canada, AM640
Post-Game: 10pm LeafsTV
Leaf of the Day - Jan 30-Feb 1, 2009 - Doug Gilmour about 21 hours ago
15 comments | 0 recs
about 21 hours ago
31 comments | 0 recs
If Doug Gilmour had had this season any year other than the one where Mario Lemiuex came back from chemotherapy for non-Hogdkin's Lymphoma he would have been the league's most valuable player. As it stood he put together the greatest season by a Maple Leaf in my memory if not ever although I guess the caveat would be that he didn't win the Stanley Cup. Not that we're not all still bitter about how that closest of runs came to a grinding halt.
Gilmour's enduring legacy is that he put the Maple Leafs back on the map. This might shock a lot of people that were too young to remember or came to the Leafs later in life but they were a laughingstock from the early 70s until January 2nd, 1992. Through a single owner's meddling (wait, isn't one of those supposed to be the solution?) and incompetent management they wasted the careers of Borje Salming, Darryl Sittler, Lanny MacDonald, and a host of others while simultaneously throwing away the opportunity to add players like Scott Niedermayer.
There had been numerous false dawns (and much more frequent dark periods) in the intervening years including a seven game defeat of the Islanders in '78 and some good young groups of players in the late 80s. The trade that brought Doug Gilmour to Toronto from Calgary was the catalyst that launched the Leafs on a decade of success and close calls. The team got pulled apart between 1995 and 1997 but MLSE's acquisition gave management the money needed to compete year in and year out. Four trips to the conference finals between Dougie's arrival and the lockout helped to erase a lot of the memories of the Ballard years.
So, Opposition fans and sportswriters will once again wonder why the Leafs are honouring the jersey of a player that did not win a Stanley Cup. Leaf fans will know that the financial and cultural juggernaut that they have become and the expectation of success that has developed owes a great deal to the travails of a 5'9", 175 pound guy from Kingston, Ontario.
I have actually had the distinct pleasure of meeting the man himself on two very different situations. The first was a fundraising brunch at BCE Place in downtown Toronto that I attended with my dad. The guests of honour that day were Fredo and Dougie and the pictures that we took (sadly, on a back-up drive at my parents') that day highlight the reason that fans took to Dougie more than the big swede. In the first picture, the Leafs' more recent captain stood, almost seriously, between the two of us with his arms at his side. In the second, Dougie was all smiles and looked like he was just a third friend in the picture.
The second time I met him was just a few months later. I was in Kingston in January with a couple of friends prior to heading off to Europe. The three of us decided to spend one lst night at the Peel Pub (not the Peelers' Pub!). As the night was winding down and we were being reminded that there was in fact a closing time in staggered two famous Kingston boys. Kirk Muller, Doug Gilmour, and a friend of theirs were out on the lash. I am not sure if the other patrons didn't recognize them or if we had actually outlasted everyone else but we were the only ones to leap up and immediately start making them feel at home.
Dougie not only accepted the beer (not a surprise!) but he talked with us, took a couple of great pictures including one where he has our friend in a headlock (he's a Canucks fan), and seemed to enjoy the attention. To be fair, Kirk liked it too but his friend wouldn't let us take a picture of him punching our Canucks fan friend which in retrospect made sense. However, at a time when he could have been surly and asked for some privacy he again became part of the group. I'll try to get the pictures up at some point because they're all actually really good.
In anticipation of tonight's ceremony Down Goes Brown slacked off and only looked at his top ten moments. Don't tell Wendel Clark that DGB disrespected his favourite player.
Oh, and apparently there is a game tonight. The horrible news: Tomas Kaberle is out for a month with a broken hand. He should be back just in trime to get traded. Stralman's been called up to fill the Kaberle role.
Anyway, here's FrankD from Pensburgh with your preview:
The Devils outshot the Pens last night by a vomitous margin of 43-16. Amazingly the Pens weren't shutout. At one point they had three shots on goal and were winning 2-0. But as is the case with any team that fails to put the puck on net, it was only a matter of time. Pitt kept handing Jersey a lot of stupid opportunities. Careless play in short. Petr Sykora went to the box for a double minor in the third period when the Pens were up 3-1. I laughed at the irony when another former Devil, Brendan Shanahan, took only four seconds from the penalty to score a powerplay goal.
So when the score was 3-2 Pens and you could actually see the team starting to dissipate on the ice, it turned into a game of countdown - a Pens fan's favorite game. This is basically when your team, notorious for giving up the lead, begins to show signs of weakness. Rather than support their lack of an effort (after all, if they won't try why should you care?), you begin to count down from the time remaining on the clock.
I made it to 31 seconds. In came of the consolation game of "Well, let's get a point a least." Unlike the countdown game, this is merely a matter of looking on the bright side of a dark season. A "take what we can get" approach.
Yet no matter how much you prepare yourself for that pity point, you hope and pray another one will pile on. Which is why it still hurts and stings beyond comprehension when the other team scores a goal with one minute remaining, right around the time when Countdown Part II begins. So much for that.
What does this mean for the Leafs? To tap into the age old saying "anything is possible," well, anything is possible. The Penguins will give you plenty of opportunities with their careless play, flawless imperfections (ie. they're perfect at sucking is what I'm trying to say) and lack of attack. So really Toronto, it's your game to lose.
Don't worry, the Leafs will do their level best!