Toronto Maple Leafs

Leafs Win! Habs Lose! I'm Full!

leafsI've just returned from the ACC. It was opening night, and that means the 48th Highlanders.

Leafs vs. Habs

I've missed Leafs hockey, and there's nothing like the Leafs and Habs to open the season.

Leafs vs. Habs

There was no anthem singer on this night. The 19,000+ joining me at the ACC did the honours.

Leafs vs. Habs

Every time I'm in these seats, I'm blown away by how close to the ice we are. Growing up, every game I watched at Maple Leaf Gardens was from the Greys. I still can't believe I get to see games from the 3rd row. Thanks, Ford Canada! Sorry about the hefty food bill...

Leafs vs. Habs

The game itself was a lot of fun, after a slow start to the first period. Our Leafs shutout the hateful Habs 2-0 thanks to goals by Lombardi and Phaneuf. You couldn't ask for much more.

Leafs vs. Habs

The first star was obvious. If Optimus Reim plays like this every night, playoff hockey will be back in this town.

One down, 81 more to go...

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2011-2012 Toronto Maple Leafs Roster + Predictions

leafsDo you smell that? It's that opening night smell. The smell of puck drop and hope.

Tonight, at the ACC, the Leafs and Habs face off in the 2011/12 season opener. I'll be there, watching from the 3rd row, dreaming of an 8th place finish and a return of playoff hockey. O Reimer, My Reimer.

Here's our roster heading into tonight's game.

Forwards

  • Mikhail Grabovski
  • Nikolai Kulemin
  • Clarke MacArthur
  • Phil Kessel
  • Tim Connolly
  • Joffrey Lupul
  • Colby Armstrong
  • Tyler Bozak
  • Matt Frattin
  • Philippe Dupuis
  • Matthew Lombardi
  • Mike Brown
  • Colton Orr
  • Jay Rosehill

Defence

  • Dion Phaneuf
  • Carl Gunnarson
  • John Michael Liles
  • Luke Schenn
  • Jake Gardiner
  • Mike Komisarek
  • Cody Franson

Goalies

  • James Reimer
  • Jonas Gustavsson

I'm predicting 8th place in the conference for this team, now it's your turn. Where will we finish in the Eastern Conference?

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Optimus Reim Is One Giant X Factor

optimus reimI wore my Optimus Reim shirt today. You can get yours here. Optimus Reim, a.k.a. James Reimer, gets the start tonight in preseason play. He's a rather important part of the Maple Leafs' 2011/2012 hopes and dreams.

optimus

When I look at last year's team, a team that finished 22nd out of 30 teams, and compare it to this year's team, I don't see a monumental improvement. Sure, we're a little better, but the difference is marginal. We've added no superstars, no blue chippers... it's mostly more of the same with one giant X factor.

That X factor is James Reimer, a 23-year old kid from Manitoba who has played a mere 2080 minutes of NHL hockey. James Reimer didn't make his first NHL start until January 1, 2011, but already he carries the weight of our team's season on his shoulders. If James Reimer stays healthy and plays this upcoming season the way he played last season, the Leafs will be a much better hockey team and playoff bound.

Got that? It's pretty much the same team and will likely finish 10th or so in the conference unless Optimus Reim is the player we hope he is. Then, it's 6th, 7th or 8th!

Go Leafs Go! I see there's only 13 days, 4 hours, 58 minutes, and 44 seconds left until the opener.

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Igor Korolev, Dead at 41

In MemoriumIgor Korolev was 41. He played 12 NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks. His tenure with the Leafs lasted four seasons and 297 games, resulting in 161 points.

korolev

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Alexander Karpovtsev, Dead at 41

In MemoriumAlexander Karpovtsev was 41. He played for the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders, and Florida Panthers. His 125 games with the Leafs in 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 resulted in 44 points.

Karpovtsev

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Suffering in Silence: Wade Belak Was Delightfully Gregarious

medicalLike many of you, I'm struggling with the fact that someone as likable and gregarious as Wade Belak would take his own life. As a die-hard Leafs fan, I knew him from interviews and appearances on television. Here's the Wade Belak I knew, appearing on Leafs TV with Jody Vance.

I see a young, happy, hilarious family man with every reason in the world to live. When Martin Streek took his own life, it was startling and puzzling, but Martin had battled demons. It still breaks my heart that Martin chose death, that he battled depression in silence, but Wade Belak's decision is even more baffling. Wade Belak was set to star on television, had a gig lined up with the Nashville Predators, and had two young children he adored. Wade Belak choosing death is beyond tragic, it's almost impossible to comprehend.

Over a year ago, I wrote about the stigma of mental illness and clinical depression. Wade chose to suffer in silence, smiling on the outside while hurting on the inside. Yesterday, Wade chose to end his suffering by taking his own life.

I can't help but wonder how things would have turned out differently had Wade chose to share his pain, talk about this disease and stop suffering in silence.

If you're suffering in silence, concerned about the stigma of mental illness and clinical depression, please talk about it in the comments. You don't have to use your real name, just share how you feel.

You're not alone.

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Wade Belak, Dead at 35

In MemoriumWade Belak was 35. He racked up 1,263 regular-season penalty minutes during a 15 season NHL career. Six of those 15 seasons were with the Toronto Maple Leafs where we enjoyed his sense of humour and friendly demeanor.

Here's Wade Belak vs Cam Janssen from a 2-1 victory over the Devils in 2007.

This sad news is just breaking, so I don't yet know the cause. I do know that we've heard about the premature passing of far too many NHL players this summer and this one in particular strikes close to home.

wade

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Cody Franson and Matthew Lombardi Traded for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney

leafsSomebody pinch me. Did we just trade Brett Lebda? Really?

And we got Cody Franson back? Really? Is this real life?

The Toronto Maple Leafs have indeed acquired defenceman Cody Franson and centre Matthew Lombardi from the Nashville Predators in exchange for defenceman Brett Lebda and forward Robert Slaney.

The deal also includes a fourth-round pick - Nashville will acquire our 2013 fourth-rounder if Lombardi plays 60 or more regular-season games over the course of the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, while we will acquire Nashville's 2013 fourth-rounder if Lombardi does not play 60 games during the next two campaigns.

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that fellow Leaf fans will love this deal. Looks like a steal from where I'm sitting.

franson-620-thumb-620xauto-92963

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Tim Connolly Signs with Leafs

leafsThe Toronto Maple Leafs have signed free agent centre Tim Connolly, formerly of the Buffalo Sabres, to a two-year deal that will average $4.75 million per season.

The Rangers landed Brad Richards while we scored Tim Connolly. I think Connolly has offensive flair, and I did like him enough to draft him in my playoff pool (thanks for the 2 points, Tim!), but if he's our first line centre, I think we're in big trouble.

When the Kessel / Connolly line is our 2nd line, I'll feel better.

Picture 4

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Leafs Trade For John-Micheal Liles

leafsFrom TSN, it begins...

The Avalanche sent the defenceman to the Maple Leafs in exchange for Toronto's second round draft pick in 2012. That draft pick was acquired when the Leafs dealt Tomas Kaberle to the Bruins last year.

Liles has been with the Avs for all seven of his seasons in the NHL. Last year, he posted six goals and 40 assists in 76 games.

The 30-year-old has 68 goals and 207 assists in 523 career games.

Liles has one year remaining on his contract at $4.5 million, with a cap hit at $4.2 million

I like it. What say you?

BTW, the Maple Leafs 2011/12 Season Countdown Clock is live. There's 104 days, 2 hours, 15 minutes, and 4 seconds left until the puck drops!

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