Ulmer's 10 Reasons For Hope
Monday, 01.25.2010 / 10:30 AM ET / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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Look, I’m a glass half-full kind of guy.
I am also a guy who likes a challenge. A discoveries made, revolutions waged and lions caged sort of guy.
That said, the Maple Leafs stagger home from a 1-4 road trip. They sit 11 points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot as they prepare for a week of premium opposition in the form of the Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks.
The tenor of the season seems set: a lot more losing.
I think I can make you feel better. I know I can make you feel better. So in the darkest hours of a mostly dark season, let me reintroduce hope.
Not all these facts will catch fire but some will. Better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Eddie Shack said that.
1. Luke Schenn’s spiral seems to have ended. Schenn played a season high 21:47 against the Panthers. He is plus five in his last six games and he is 20-years-old.
2. The Leafs have the league’s worst penalty kill but their rate of incurring penalties is dead average - 15th in the 30-team league. Yeah, I knew this was going to be a bit of a stretch.
3. Jerry D’Amigo, a star for Team USA at the World Juniors looks like a player. So does Juraz Mikus, a six-foot-four defenceman apprenticing with the Marlies. Don’t forget Christian Hanson, signed out of Notre Dame, who has 10 goals and 16 assists in his first year as a pro.
4. Viktor Stalberg has staggering speed and 10 goals and 25 points in 25 Marlies games and should make the Leafs soon. Tyler Bozak has scored just once in eight Leaf games but he looks NHL ready with five assists in that span. Speaking of young talent, the Nazem Kadri watch continues, the London Knights star has 24 goals and 56 points in 36 games and was accorded premium ice time in the World Juniors.
5. Ian White continues as the Leafs little big man, White is plus four with nine goals and 25 points. He is the club’s steadiest player. A restricted free agent, the Leafs should have little trouble in bringing him back.
6. The pre-Olympic trade deadline is February 12. That’s less than three weeks away. Go ahead, dare to dream.
7. With what should be a wide open lineup, the Leafs should be ready to return to the American College market from which they plucked Hanson and Bozak .
8. You didn’t really think they were going to make the playoffs this season, did you. A little perspective. A complete overhaul isn’t a two-year-job.
9. Carl Gunnarsson has turned in a plus three ranking in 14 games. At 23, you’ve got to like his upside. He won’t be on your top pairing but his speed, versatility and hockey sense should keep him in the mix.
10. Jonas Gustavsson continues to adapt to the NHL. He has given up 11 goals in four games. That 2.75 goals against average isn’t terrific but when you consider the Leafs combined aggregate of 3.40, it’s not bad either. He remains a terrific prospect and their future in goal.