Can we stop talking about ‘last year’ soon? Yes, this season’s start is about as shocking Colton Orr scoring, however it is abundantly clear that this team is different. Not just different in how they play or the ability of their goaltending, it is a different team entirely.
Of course they are different; the same can be said about the President of the USA being different this term compared to last term. There is a key detail left out of the statement, that the man behind the title is different.
Matt Stajan, Alex Ponikarovsky and Jason Blake were the big talent players that went 0-7-1. That’s a talent pool about as deep as a half empty bird bath, but not quite. Three complimentary players with no star power as maxed out potential below 70 points a season.
This year it is Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg. I expected different results, not 4-0, but different results to be sure. Three young, energetic, creative and hungry players, one of them a champion, certainly the opposite of the previous season.
That is only comparing at the top three players from the start of last year. The rest of the team has been shaken to the core, both figuratively and literally. Gone midseason were Stajan, Ponikarovsky, Blake, Ian White (I miss you), Niklas Hagman, Vesa (pylon) Toskala, Lee Stempniak and Jamal (why does anyone want him) Mayers. Into the lineup came Freddie Sjostrom, J.S. Giguere (getting’ Jiggy with it) and someone else, oh yeah, the Big C, Dion Phaneuf. Just to clarify, the ‘C’ stands for captain, not Dion.
When you combine the midseason trades with Kessel playing from game one and departures of Rickard Wallin, Wayne Primeau, Garnet (certainly not a gem) Exelby, Victor Stalberg and demotions of the mostly useless John Mitchell, you get a brand new team. That is 13 players from the start from game one of last season.
Anyone who expected to same team to start this season clearly forgot the number of moves made by the organization last year and in the off season. They could have been worse, they could have been better. Of course this team is playing different, it’s a completely new team for the most part, let’s stop the comparisons now and watch some, finally, exciting Leaf hockey.