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Maple Leafs Watch: The good, bad, and horribly ugly

We’re approaching the quarter-pole of the NHL’s 2009-10 regular season, but supporters of the Toronto Maple Leafs already are filled with enough bitter memories to last ‘til the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012. At least.

Three wins (or four, depending on Tuesday’s tilt with Ottawa) in 19 games will do that to a fan base, I’m afraid. But let’s rehash not-so-ancient history anyway and break down The Good, The Bad, and The So-Bad-It’s-Not-Good–But-Rather-Really-Just-Painfully-Bad of Toronto’s campaign so far.

The Good: At times, rookie Jonas Gustavsson gave the Leafs their best goaltending since Ed Belfour patrolled their pipes prior to the ’04-05 lockout season; and Phil Kessel has looked every bit the top-end forward the organization has lacked so sorely.

As well, Tomas Kaberle’s point totals are trending toward a career-best; and Ian White, the defenseman Toronto forgot about at the start of last season, arguably was their most consistent blueliner.

The Bad: Where to begin? Their biggest free-agent signings – D-men Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin – haven’t delivered performances commensurate with their salaries.

And outside of Kessel, the forward unit has been less dangerous than a fly fart in a windstorm. I’ve seen senior citizen aquatic aerobics classes with more impressive guns. Am I making my point about the forwards?

Finally, the less said about the potential ramifications of the Kessel trade, the better. Let’s just note Toronto’s 2010 and 2011 first round draft picks (as well as their 2010 second-rounder) now belong to Boston and forget we ever engaged in this exchange of information.

The So-Bad-It’s-Not-Good–But-Rather-Really-Just-Painfully-Bad:
To decide about potentially retaining or cutting ties with Vesa Toskala at the conclusion of this season, Leafs management was prepared to give the veteran netminder lots of time to retain or lose his job as their starter.

Turns out he didn’t need many minutes at all before the verdict arrived: at least one odious goal in virtually all of the Finn’s early-season appearances gave management all the evidence they needed to go with Gustavsson and relegate Toskala to the bench for the majority of the foreseeable future.

This article also appears in the Toronto Metro newspaper.


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