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Happy Anniversary, Brian!

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Photo courtesy of Le Greener (via his old post).

It was exactly three years ago today that the Toronto Maple Leafs current President and General Manager Brian Burke was hired. That's when the H.M.S. Toronto Maple Leafs began its change of tack, from signing aging veterans in order to squeak into the playoffs, to acquiring younger players and prospects, with the hope of building a real contender. OK, so maybe this was 'coming about', more than it was just change of tack.

The first two years under Burke took Leafs fans through some of the darkest times in the history of the franchise, but the light at the end of the tunnel is looking a lot brighter these days, writes James Mirtle:

They have, in short, become the exciting team Burke promised when he was introduced as GM exactly three years ago – even if flaws remain in their game.

The Leafs also look remarkably like a group that will be playing meaningful hockey in April, whether it’s to clinch a playoff spot or finally, unbelievably, play in the postseason for the first time since 2004.

Well, here's hoping. That's a lot of big talk, but I do think there's something of a collective whisper amongst Leafs fans that is starting to gather confidence. I'm not willing to say what I'm thinking very loudly - yet.

Follow me over the jump for a giant pile of links that should easily get you through your day at work. You're welcome.

Leafs Links:

Leafs Vs. Stars Scoring Chances
The Kessel line got torched in this one at EV. Easily their worst game, in terms of scoring chances, though of course, Bozie did get one on the PP. As you can probably guess by now, this link is to my own work at The Leafs Nation.

Leafs Vs. Lightning Scoring Chances
Sometimes you don't beat an opponent so much as you annihilate every remaining speck of their competitive spirit.

Marlies Take Two in St. John’s, Stay atop North Division
Kyle The Reporter has a few notes on the games. Keep up with your Marlies.

More on Gustavsson—what do "stats" really tell us?
Michael Langlois with a vote of confidence for Jonas Gustavsson. My own opinion? Let's have more Ben Scrivens.

Leafs Prospect Update
Justin Fisher at Hogtown Hockey has notes on Marcel Mueller, Mark Owuya, and Brad Ross.

Marlies Vs. Griffins Preview
From Jeffler at MarliesHQ.


Other Hockey Links:

The Most Important Twenty Games of the Year
It's a debatable whether or not this is true, but if it is, it's good news for the Leafs. From Tyler Dellow.

Shanahan: Letang assumed risk, Max Pacioretty suspended 3 games
Greg Wyshynski at PD has video and quotes from Shanahan.

HBO’s 12 Minute "24/7: Road to the Winter Classic" Teaser
Via Justin Bourne at Backhand Shelf. Hope this year's version is as great as last year's. One thing I noticed about this teaser: the absence of all the awesome music they had last year.

Downward spirals cost NHL coaches their jobs
Unless you've been in a coma for the last 24 hours, this isn't news to you. But, in the event that you have been, Boudreau and Maurice got canned.

Nation Radio
Don't be put off by the football logo at the beginning, Lowetide always has good hockey talk on the docket. From The Leafs Nation.

Ryan Miller isn’t sure Milan Lucic concussed him anymore
...which, ironically, is possibly a sign that he did? All kidding aside, it's true that initial pronouncements on injuries may affect Shanahan's handling of supplemental discipline. From Greg Wyshynski.

Video: Adirondack Phantoms ‘Built This’ hilarious ode to 1980s
Great video. Link from Greg Wyshynski.

Russian star Yakupov pegged to go No. 1 in NHL draft
Darren Yourk reports on a player that the Leafs won't draft, but also won't have to worry about another team drafting with their draft pick.

Old School Video Game Review: NHL 97 for Sega
Loved this game. It was probably second only to NHL '94 for me. From Dirty Dangle.

Fun with PDO
At AIH, Gabe Desjardins has more on shot location.

Bruce Boudreau firing makes no sense
Hawerchuk - like Justin Bourne - isn't a big fan of mid-season firings. From AIH.

Which teams exhibit numerical warning signs 1/4 way through the season?
The Leafs' have some poor-looking Fenwick numbers, but they're not mentioned here by Cam Charron at Backhand Shelf.

Backhand Shelf Podcast: EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING, Coach-swap Edition
From Justin Bourne and Rob Pizzo at Backhand Shelf.

The New York Rangers Winter Classic Jersey, Unveiled
I'm not a jersey nerd, but holy cow, those things are nice. From Justin Bourne at Backhand Shelf.