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The Whipping Boy

Anyone that visited my previous site knows that Nik Antropov is a personal favourite. He has always teased Leafs fans with flashes of the potential that made him a #10 pick but injuries have conspired to limit his effectiveness.

Fans were quick to forget his fantastic end to the 2005-2006 season when his line with Alex Ponikarovsky and Mats Sundin almost single-handedly propelled the Leafs to a playoff spot. Early last season his absence from the lineup was routinely cheered. However, his 18-15-33 stat line in 57 games was enough for the Leafs to offer Antro a 2 year $4M extension which was met with the expected outcry of derision from the fan base.

Nik has never struggled to get the respect of his teammates as Mark Zwolinski's article attests. The fan's view has been curried by the long injury layoffs and a lanky frame that results in a long, loping stride that gives the impression of being less than fleet of foot. They forget how well Pony and Antro have killed penalties together, how Antro has learned to use his big frame to dominate along the boards, or how skilled he is with the puck.

In last night's Blue and White game he put all of his skills on display as he picked up 2 goals and an assist while playing on a line with Mats Sundin and Jason Blake. If Antro can keep healthy this season alongside Mats we could see him post close to a point a game. It's always a big 'if' but training camp is time for hope to run rampant. I should probably light some candles to help Nik.

In Other News

The NHL recently unveiled their latest step towards bypassing network television completely. The new video portal has highlights of the Blue and White game as well as press conferences and it seems to be linked into the online LeafsTV offering.

On the heels of the NHL's deal with Google to post highlight packages on YouTube and full games as well as classic ones on Google Video the NHL is joining MLB in making a concerted effort to developing quality online video content for their fans.