The year is 2012, the Leafs are entering the season with a lot of hope and cheer. It might be hard to remember, but let’s look back!
- The NHL avoided another full season lockout, so we were all happy to just get some gosh darn hockey games.
- They had a new coach in Randy Carlyle, who took over partway through the previous year from Ron Wilson.
- They just swindled the Flyers in the infamous Luke Schenn for James van Riemsdyk trade.
- They had all-star winger Phil Kessel, who was a point per game player the year before with 82 points and 37 goals.
- They had another top line winger in Joffrey Lupul, who came to the Leafs two years prior and resurrected his career with 67 points.
- They had certified “Young” Tyler Bozak, who had a career year between Kessel and Lupul at 47 points.
- They had actually young center Nazem Kadri poised to have his first full season.
- Young defenseman Jake Gardiner just came off a 75 game, 30 point rookie season.
- They acquired analytics darling defender Cody Franson the year before, and he had 21 points in 57 games.
- They had captain Dion Phaneuf, who had 44 points the year before.
- They had the MGK line! MacArthur, Grabovski and Kulemin providing great depth and secondary scoring.
- They had Carl Gunnarson and John Michael Liles on defense as well!
- They drafted a young defenseman from the WHL named Morgan Rielly.
- They had two young goalies in James Reimer and Ben Scrivens.
You know I started this as a bit of a joke but now looking at all of that, and putting together a lineup with all of them (that was never actually used by Randy because facepunchers and truculence), I’m actually a bit weirded out at how good it looks. So many of these guys were still good or in their prime. Basically, the team was somewhat young. They lacked a high end center, but they made up for it with some offensive punch and pretty good depth.
I’m wondering what an actually good coach, like Babcock, could have done with that lineup. Or what an actually good GM, like Dubas or even Lou, could have done to improve that team going forward.
JVR - Bozak - Kessel
Kulemin - Grabbo - MacArthur
Frattin - Kadri - Lupul
Komarov - McClement - Brown (as in, Mike)
Gunnarsson - Phaneuf
Liles - Franson
Gardiner - Kostka
But back to the point/joke I was making. That top line was a legitimate offensive force (and the less said about their defense the better). I loved all of them to differing degrees. I loved Kessel’s speed and was mesmerized by his wrist/snap shot. I loved JVR’s big posterior and slick moves in tight. I loved Bozak’s flow and flashes of skill.
(Sidenote that I was just discovering analytics and the idea that possession mattered in this season, mostly towards the end of the year and moreso after the playoffs).
And now, that team I mentioned was never meant to be. Very quickly there was an exodus of that second line. Lupul started getting more hurt. Liles was traded for Gleason. Franson played sparingly. Gardiner used up and down. Orr and McClement and McLaren all played with a bigger role than they should have been. Frattin traded. Phaneuf starting his decline. Gunnarson declining, injured and traded. Scrivens traded. Komarov went back to Europe.
Fucking Randy. Fucking Potato.
But that top line remained. Together, they would combine for 1,050 points in their respective careers as Leafs. What good the team had going for them a lot of the time was from those three.
And then Kessel was traded. JVR and Bozak stuck around for another three years before leaving as free agents. In those three years, they saw Kessel win the Cup twice.
Now, Tyler Bozak is playing in the Stanley Cup Finals with the St Louis Blues. I assume at this point that Fate meant for all three of that former top line to win the Cup, but Randy and the Potato held that at bay long enough for them to be broken up. Since then, Fate is on a course correction to what was always meant to be, one player at a time.
So if you want to start making bets that the Flyers will win next season’s Cup, put your money down now while the odds have a huge payout. You heard it here first!
ONTO THE LINKS
Leafs Musings: Offseason trade ideas and a look at what’s coming on the Marlies | by Kevin Papetti at THAT HOMEWRECKING SITE MLHS!
That brings Nylander to 58 points in his last 32 games across his last five international tournaments for Team Sweden.— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) May 21, 2019
(No one point out that Fedor Gordeev scored that against Ian Scott)
World Championships a ‘really magnificent’ introduction to hockey for almost 70-year-old British adventurer | by Corey Masisak at The Athletic
The St. Louis Blues Are Headed To The Stanley Cup Final | St Louis Game Time
Have a great Monday everyone!
Which of Kevin’s trade ideas do you like the most?
This poll is closed
A top Marlies winger, a goalie prospect and a 2nd for Miller
A Johnsson-based package for Spurgeon or Pateryn
Kapanen for Dante Fabbro or Rasmus Andersson
Anything that gets rid of Brown and/or Zaitsev