The Toronto Maple Leafs were on the verge of a massive upset in the first round of the playoffs last year until the mighty Boston Bruins suddenly came alive. If you are a Leaf fan, you will surely remember it for a long time to come.
Nazem Kadri netted the Leafs fourth goal of the game 4 minutes into the third to give his team a 4-1 lead. With just over 10 minutes left in the game, the Bruins Nathan Horton snapped one by James Reimer to cut the deficit to 4-2, still a tall task to overcome.
The Leafs looked destined for the second round as they kept the Bruins off the scoreboard until the last minute and a half of the game. With 1:22 left on the clock, Milan Lucic corralled a rebound off of a Zdeno Chara slapshot and put it home to make the score 4-3.
This is when Leafs nation collectively broke out in sweats. The Bruins had more than enough time to get one more goal, and now they had all the momentum. Sure enough, it happened. 22 seconds later, as Patrice Bergeron found himself alone in the slot with the puck on his stick after a great feed from David Krejci.
Bergeron wristed it past the Leafs net minder to tie the game at four goals a piece. The Bruins nearly ended the game with 15 seconds left before it even got into overtime but luckily for the Leafs, the puck hopped over stick as he was peering into a wide open net.
Well in the end, it didn’t matter, as the Bruins ousted the Leafs from the playoffs in overtime and went on to the 2nd round, eventually making it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
So as the Leafs season ended in shambles, it opened the door for much improvement and excitement in Leafs nation for next season, which has been sorely missed in Toronto the last few years.
Dave Nonis, the Leafs newly appointed GM, came into the off-season with an open mind, willing to trade basically anybody. His first move as Leafs GM was to acquire Jonathan Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Ben Scrivens and Matt Frattin.
Good trade for both teams in my opinion. Sure James Reimer had made a case for the starting position in Toronto after last season, but it can’t hurt to have two possible starting goalies on your roster. Hopefully they react well to it and push each other to become better.
Frattin might become a second liner one day, but the Leafs have enough depth on their roster to comfortably fill his role. So overall, this trade upgraded the the goalie position, which is never a bad thing.
The next two moves for Nonis were the signings of Dave Bolland after a cup win in Chicago, and David Clarkson, coming from the New Jersey Devils. Bolland adds some toughness to the Leafs lineup along with a lot of playoff experience considering he is only 27. Clarkson, who was in the spotlight as being a top free agent, was awarded to the Leafs after signing a large contract worth $5.25 million over 7 years.
Yes I agree that Clarkson might have been overpaid a little, but hey, the Leafs had the cap space after the compliance buyouts of Mikhail Grabovski and Mike Komisarek plus they were in need of a top six forward. Clarkson is a well rounded player who will do anything to help his team win. He can score, be a playmaker, drop the gloves, and from what I understand, he is a leader in the dressing room.
Nonis did a good job in re-signing the Leafs young core forwards, players like Bozak and Kadri, and he surrounded them with some big character guys with a little added grit. The Leafs defensive core hasn’t changed really, and this is one area that Nonis can “dangle the carrot” so to speak coming into the next trade deadline.
The Leafs still have many assets on their roster that they are willing to deal, but now they just get added time to evaluate and see what they need.
I would look for the Leafs to be active leading up to the next trade deadline, and make some moves to help them make a deep playoff run. They have started to add pieces to the puzzle, but those are only the edges.
Photo Credit: Toronto Star