Do you know what it’s like to be a Leafs fan? It borders on mental illness. Why else would someone living in a place that has 90 degree weather in early October stay indoors and watch Canada’s Team™? Why would I spend $169 a year to order the NHL Center Ice package from my cable provider every mid-September and tell friends and family it’s a birthday present to myself? Why would I rearrange my social calendar around Hockey Night In Canada every Saturday afternoon when I live close to the Mexican border?
Four words: Because I love them.
Now that July 1st is almost here it’s beginning to feel like Christmas here in Southern California. This is the time of year when Burkie Claus (that’s what we call Brendan’s father Brian Burke, y’all) signs unrestricted free agents to rebuild this great hockey franchise into a contender and one day into a Stanley Cup champion.
Who will join the Leafs this summer? I would love to have Boston’s Marc Savard, who may become a salary cap casualty as soon as this weekend. I wouldn’t mind a little more truculence in centers Zenon Konopka and/or Eric Nystrom, both of whom would be welcome additions on the fourth line alongside Colton Orr and newly acquired Mike Brown. And how about another forward like Ryan Malone, who can put the puck in the back of the net and knock opposing defenseman on their ass?
This time of year also means saying goodbye to familiar faces. I loved the versatility of Wayne Primeau when he killed penalties and centered the third and fourth lines but he’s not coming back without taking a pay cut. And no matter how cute Rickard Wallin is, there’s no excuse for his paltry goal total he put up this past season. He’s as good as gone on Thursday unless he’s got blackmail material on Burkie or head coach Ron Wilson in exchange for a roster spot.
I really liked Garnet Exelby when he played for the Atlanta Thrashers but he was a human turnstile on the Leafs blueline, and Jeff Finger didn’t do anything this past season to warrant the huge contract former general manager Cliff Fletcher signed him to two summers ago. Will either of them come back? I hope not. I’d rather have one of the Marlies (Phil Oreskovic?) take their places.
What will this summer bring? Hopefully a little more truculence and a lot more goal scoring. Those are the only things we need to make the playoffs this upcoming season.