Toronto Maple Leafs: All They Want For Christmas Is?

December 19, 2008

by Rob Ellis… The mall… the place I would least wanna be on December 19, but I had to get the last of my Christmas shopping done so what could I do?

Of course, my Toronto Maple Leaf apparel drew the usual reactions. The nods and envy of other Leaf fans as well as the laughs and snickers from the Habs and Senators supporters.

As I made my way through the crowded mall, I was suddenly distracted by a chubby white-haired man sitting on a bench outside the Liquor Store. (No… it wasn’t John Brophy)

“Psst…..excuse me sir,” said the old man.

“Are you talking to me?” I replied with a bewildered look on my face. “What can I do for you?”

“Well young man, I noticed that you had on a Toronto Maple Leaf jacket…”

“Yeah yeah,” I interrupted rudely. “Whatever buddy… save your jokes and have another bottle of whatever it is ya just bought in there. I’ve heard ‘em all!”

“No no no… I have no problem with you being a Leaf fan young man,” he protested. “No problem at all, but i’m in a bit of a pinch. You see… Christmas is just one week away and I haven’t a clue what to bring anybody on the Maple Leafs this year.”

It was at that precise moment that I knew who I was talking to.

“Holy crap,” I said. “Are you Santa?”

“Ho ho ho,” he replied and I knew he was the real deal. “You better believe it. Can you please help me though? Their roster is so new this season and I’m running out of time!”

I decided to go with the obvious.

“Well Santa… you know it’s been 41 years….”

“Be realistic Robert,” he interrupted. “I’m not a miracle worker you know. I can’t just give them the Stanley Cup! They have to earn that on their own, but maybe you can give me some suggestions on what I can get each of them. Then, when put all together, maybe, just maybe, it will add up to a drink from Lord Stanley’s mug!”

That seemed fair to me, and after just a few seconds of thinking, I started to rattle off my suggestions for most of the 2008/ 2009 Leaf roster.

Vesa Toskala- Goaltending coach Steve McKichan

McKichan was a huge part of Toskala’s success last year in the Finnish netminder’s first season with the Leafs. This summer brought plenty of changes in the Leafs’ coaching situation and McKichan’s contract was not renewed. The result: Toskala has been inconsistent and seems to be back in his net more often than not.

Curtis Joseph- An off-ice job with the Leafs.

Though his age is quickly becoming a factor in his declining play, Cujo remains a class act and the Leafs should keep him around for that reason alone.

Tomas Kaberle- A trade to a contender.

After almost 10 seasons of being the Leafs’ best all around defenceman, Kabby is now closing in on the prestigious “Larry Murphy Award,” given by fans to the Buds’ defenceman they choose to hate in that particular season.

Other past notable winners include Todd Gill, Aki Berg, and most recently, Bryan McCabe.

This year, the early favourite was Jeff Finger and his absurd 4-year, 14-million dollar contract but a slow start to the season now has Tomas ahead. Detroit or San Jose… you wouldn’t happen to be looking for an underappreciated Top 2 defenceman would you?

Mikhail Grabovski- English Lessons

Grabovski has been a huge surprise this season with the club and one can only imagine how much better he would be once the lines of communication are open to the fullest. I couldn’t help but laugh after a recent victory over the Habs when “Grabby” was interviewed using Alexei Ponikarovsky as his interpreter.

Luke Schenn- Lunch with Luke Richardson

The Leafs’ prized rookie Luke of 2008 should have a chat with the Leaf’s prized rookie Luke of 1987 regarding when to turn the other cheek. Back in Richardson’s rookie season, he dropped the gloves with young Edmonton tough guy Kelly Buchberger, obtaining a broken nose for his troubles.

Schenn, in his rookie season with the Leafs, has fought twice losing handily in both to Ottawa’s Chris Neil and Vacouver’s Rob Davison. An hour or two staring at Richardson’s “bloated beak” should stop the future of this Leaf defence from doing anything stupid the rest of his rookie season.

Domenic Moore- An open ice hit on Todd Bertuzzi

The Leafs don’t play Calgary so it probably won’t happen this season but it still would be nice to see.

Alexei Ponikarovsky- An accurate shot

There is no question that “Pony” can fire the puck but let’s face it, he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat!

Ryan Hollweg- A steel plate in his jaw

He never wins a fight and has seen more punches than the time clock at the local GM plant.

Matt Stajan- A membership to “The Hair Club For Men”

This guy turns 25 on Friday but has the hairline of a 50 year old man!

Jeff Finger- A deal to become an author

The title of his book: “How I Played 94 NHL Games And Scored A 14-Million Dollar Contract”

Ian White- A razor

Sorry, but that horrible moustache has got to go! He looks like a young Ron Jeremy!

Andre Deveaux- Some fights

Nine games… two fights! He needs more than that if he wants to stay with the big club.

Brian Burke - Doug Risebrough to return to the NHL as the GM of the Washington Capitals

In 1992, then Leaf GM Cliff Fletcher robbed Risebrough of one of his best players when he acquired Doug Gilmour from the Calgary Flames. The principle player going the other was Gary Leeman. If Risebrough returns with the Caps maybe Burke can make lightning strike twice. How does Alexander Ovechkin for Nik Antropov sound?

As I made mention of all these suggestions, Ol’ Saint Nick typed away at his laptop with glee! Hey, this isn’t your traditional Santa anymore… the big guy’s gone wireless!

“Ho Ho Ho,” he laughed with glee. “I knew you were the one to see about this. I’ve been reading your articles!”

“No problem Santa,” I replied.

At that moment, he looked at his watch, a gold Rolex with diamond encrusted face.

“Oh my… I have to go now Robert, but you’ve been very helpful. I hope that all your suggestions add up to to a great future for the blue and white! Bye now!”

And with the touch of his nose, he disappeared out of thin air.

“Wait,” I yelled. “I have so many questions to ask you! Whatever happened to that Abominable Snowman after that Yukon Cornelius guy pulled out his teeth? Why was that flying lion so into himself? Were Rudolph and that Dentist Elf gay?”

It was too late… he was gone and it was clear that I was gonna have to live the rest of my life questioning the script of a children’s Christmas Special, but at least I was able to help the big guy to make the holidays just a little bit better for Leafs Nation.

I took Santa’s cellphone number too just in case I had any other ideas for some of the Leafs I didn’t mention so feel free to send me your suggestions.

Merry Christmas.

What If Mats Sundin and Thomas Kaberle Had Agreed to Trades?

December 9, 2008

by Rob Ellis… On Jan. 22, 2008, Cliff Fletcher returned to familiar territory and began his second housecleaning as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club.

Sixteen seasons earlier, he had been brought in by new majority owner Steve Stavro to fix the sinking Maple Leaf ship.

That is where the similarities end.

In 1991, Fletcher didn’t have a whole lot of talent to trade. He had Vinnie Damphousse, who was coming off a 73-point season, and former 50-goal shooter Gary Leeman, and both would be gone within six months, bringing big names like Doug Gilmour, Grant Fuhr, and Glenn Anderson to Toronto.

This time around, “The Silver Fox” inherited a roster full of veterans, five of whom were carrying no-trade clauses in their back pockets courtesy of former GM John Ferguson, Jr.

As the Feb. 26 trade deadline approached, the media reported that Mats Sundin, Thomas Kaberle, Bryan McCabe, Pavel Kubina, and Darcy Tucker had all been asked to waive their no-trade clauses.

Fletcher is one of the best general managers that this city has ever seen, but even he could not salvage anything from this situation. By the end of the day, he had only moved Hal Gill, Wade Belak, and Chad Kilger for picks.

In Cliff’s defense, he did his job and fielded offers for all of the players, but it was their right to choose.

Tucker was the first to announce his answer—a flat out “no.”

Reports from the Toronto media indicated that McCabe could waive if the right team came along, but nothing came of it.

We never did hear what the offers were for the above players, but the deals for the other three were well publicized. In the end, all refused to waive, but what would the Leaf roster look like today if they had?

I know that there is no guarantee that the Leafs would have selected the same players that were picked in the NHL Entry Draft, but we’ll ignore that fact just to make it more interesting.

Mats Sundin to Canadiens for Chris Higgins, and First, Second, and Third Round Picks

The 25-year-old Higgins is off to a slow start for the Habs this year, but had 20+ goals in each of his first three seasons in the NHL.

The first rounder was eventually traded to the Calgary Flames in the Alex Tanguay deal. The Flames selected winger Greg Nemisz from Windsor in the OHL. Nemisz has size (6′3″, 197) and has 13 goals and 20 assists in 29 games for the Spitfires this season.

The Habs selected Danny Kristo of the USHL’s Omaha Lancers in the second round. Kristo has scored six goals and 12 assists this season.

The third rounder was used to take winger Steve Quailer. Another big kid at 6′3″, Quailer is playing college hockey at Northeastern University where he has 11 points in 16 games.


This one is a no brainer considering the Leafs are about to watch Sundin sign with another team while getting nothing in return. Higgins is better than he has shown and is hidden in Montreal’s depth. Kristo will play on the US team in this year’s World Junior Tournament in Ottawa. Nemisz and Quailer are big kids and this would have been a great deal even if only one out of the three turned into a decent NHL player.

Thomas Kaberle to Flyers for Jeff Carter and a First Round Pick

Carter has quickly blossomed into a gritty scoring winger in his fourth NHL season with 19 goals and seven assists in 26 games.

The first rounder was sent to the Washington Capitals in the deal that brought Steve Eminger to Philly. Washington selected American defenceman John Carlson with the pick. Carlson is 6′3″, 210 pounds, and has six goals and 15 assists in 21 games with the OHL’s London Knights this season.


If Kaberle had waived, the Leafs would have won this deal hands down. Carter would fit perfect in a rebuilding program and would easily be their top winger. Carlson is the top scoring defenceman on the first-place Knights and looks like a pretty decent prospect.

Pavel Kubina to Sharks for Kyle McLaren

The Leafs were interested in this deal purely for salary dump reasons. The 6′4″, 219 pound McLaren is a stay at home defenceman who was better suited for the “old” NHL. This was proven when the Sharks sent him to Worcester of the AHL this season.


Sometimes the best deal is the one you don’t make and this is a prime example of that. The Leafs are in a rebuilding mode and need young players in return for their veterans. McLaren is 31 years old, the same age as Kubina, and no longer an “NHL defenceman.” Kubina has bounced back this season and will fetch more at the deadline this year.

There is no doubt that both the 23-year-old Carter and 25-year-old Higgins would be top six forwards on the Leafs this season and a huge part of the rebuilding process.

As mentioned above, there is no guarantee that the Leafs would have drafted the same players that the Flames, Habs, and Caps did, but there seemed to be some good prospects available and they would have drafted somebody of value.

If either Kaberle, Kubina, or both had been dealt then Carlo Colaiacovo would probably still be a Leaf right now.

Sundin, Tucker, and McCabe have all moved on with only Mike Van Ryn to show for it thanks to JFJ’s “gifts.” Kaberle and Kubina will both be moved by the March 4 trade deadline if new GM Brian Burke can convince them to do what Fletcher couldn’t: leave!