Colossal is the only way to describe it.
Let's begin with Saturday night's epic disaster in this tragedy-filled season. This has to be the worst loss ever. I thought losing to Paul Maurice and the Carolina Hurricanes in a game where Ian White had given the Leafs the lead with 30 seconds to go was the most humiliating that it could get. I certainly never imagined - honestly, no one imagined - the Leafs building a 3-0 lead against Vancouver and chasing Luongo from the net, only to blow that lead and give up the game-winning goal with 2:04 to play, followed by an empty-netter, and then have that bastard Raycrap doing victory laps and waving to the fans at the ACC. A new low. Absolute rock-bottom. The only thing worse would be to have John Ferguson Jr. score a goal against the Leafs himself.
Warning: the video below contains graphic scenes of outright horror that are highly disturbing and may not be suitable for some audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.
Unforgivable. And so, we don't forgive. We blow the whole thing up and forget instead. The guys that lost to Raycoft and Vancouver are not our guys anymore - those are their guys, Calgary and Anahiem - we got new guys now. Not really, but y'know...
Forget that awful game on Saturday, let's get to the reaction of the trades. This is a major shock to the culture of the Maple Leafs dressing room. Six fairly prominent personalities - Stajan, White, Hagman, Mayers, Blake, and Toskala - have been moved out. With the prolonged injury to Komisarek, leadership will weigh even heavier on the shoulders of Kaberle and Beauchemin, and yes, even Luke Schenn. Phaneuf will slide nicely into the top-4 rotation and has a cannon for a shot so he might pair up with Kaberle very well. Hopefully Phaneuf can find chemistry quickly on a blueline that remains surprisingly deep yet was curiously dysfunctional. In Giguere, the Leafs add a Conn Smythe trophy winner to the dressing room and an intelligent mentor for Jonas Gustavsson. Finally, it appears that Bozak is here to stay and that Exelby will likely get his wish for more playing time, though Finger may end up being the next defenceman that gets moved.
Words For The Not-So Dearly Departed
I'm gonna miss Matt Stajan. A lot. I know not everybody's gonna agree with this, but I thought he gave a real honest effort most nights and exceeded expectations for a season and a half. At the time of the trade, he was leading all Leaf forwards in points and was actually chasing down Kaberle (just 2 points behind) for the team lead.
It hurts to lose Ian White, it really does. Since the beginning of last season, when he sat out the first 11 games and then debuted as a forward, White has been earning admiration and respect. One of the very rare pleasures of this dreadful Maple Leafs season was witnessing the continuous ascension of Ian White's stardom. He was the heart and soul of this mostly passionless team, which isn't saying much I guess, but his contributions and efforts were appreciated and will be remembered. His mustache is immediately an honoured inductee in the Maple Leafs Mustache Hall of Fame.
For the first quarter of the season, Hagman was the Leafs most consistent and complete player. He began to fade after that though and never really got it back. It also seemed that Hagman was reluctant to play a physical game and was in the bottom half of the roster for hits and blocked shots. Already a 20-goal scorer this season, Hagman does have fantastic skills, but wasn't a difference-maker often enough.
How ironic is it that Mayers scores a goal and two assists in his final two games as a Leaf? Was his performance the tipping point for Calgary on this trade? Were they not sure until Mayers ripped one by Loungo with 5 seconds left in the first? Hilarious. If so, thank you Jamal, for finally doing SOMETHING. It's too bad things didn't work out 'cause your eyebrows are astounding, but 5 years from now the only thing I'm going to remember about you is that you were a part of this trade. Congratulations, you're Craig Berube now.
AhhHahahahahahahaha!!! What were they thinking? I can't believe somebody actually took Vesa Toskala off our hands. And I can't believe they actually shut down his season last year for surgery that would make him feel great about being terrible! What kind of groin surgery did they do that fucked up his head like that? The VESA2010 was a total disaster and a disgrace. Stupid bio-engineered piece of junk. On the other hand, I now fully expect Toskala to return one day and shut-out the Leafs with a ridiculous 50-save performance, but this time there won't be any mini-lap celebrations, 'cause I'll be there, and I'll be waiting...
THANK YOU ALMIGHTY JESUS! THANK YOU MERCIFUL ALLAH! THANK YOU BUDDHA! BLESSED THANKS TO BRAHMA, AND VISHNU, AND SHIVA! THANK YOU TO ALL OF THE INFINITE GODS THAT EXIST IN OUR UNIVERSE FOR THIS MOST UNDESERVING OF MIRACLES. IT IS TRULY A BLESSING AND A SIGN THAT OUR SUFFERING WILL SOON BE AT AN END! PRAISE GOD, WHOSE INFINITE WONDER KNOWS NO BOUNDS!
For years from now, fans of hockey teams anchored under the weight of outrageous contracts and cap-hits will look to this day and say, "If Jason Blake can be traded, anyone can get traded." I do want to recognize Jason Blake for having a terrific bounce-back season last year, and for keeping his chin up during some very difficult times in Toronto. However, I was worried at the beginning of the season that Blake might have little left in the tank, and even less to prove, and eventually that became apparent and it was time for him to move on. Good luck in California, I wish him well, but every time I see Blake in another team's uniform I'll bow my head and give a quiet thanks to Wendel.
So, it's like a whole new season from here on out, hopefully with new results. The past is the past. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Broken sticks and shin-guard tape goes in the basket. We're past the darkest hour now, and heading for the dawn.