The Toronto Maple Leafs know just how fragile a season can be. The Maple Leafs missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second-straight season, falling just one point short of the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference.
Clearly, health issues played a huge part in Toronto’s failure. Darcy Tucker, Kyle Wellwood and Mike Peca all missed significant time because of injury. But injuries cannot be an excuse in a physical sport such as hockey. So, Leafs General Manager John Ferguson Jr., has spent much of the summer addressing the depth of his team. He added a potential No. 1 goalie in Vesa Toskala, a 40-goal scorer in Jason Blake, a potential second-line winger in Mark Bell and goalie depth in Scott Clemmensen.
Those additions, especially Blake and Toskala, will have a huge impact on the 2007-08 season and will hopefully translate into the one point in the standings that Maple Leaf nation obsessed about all summer.
But make no mistake, it is the returning cast that will define the Maple Leafs’ season. Captain Mats Sundin is back for another year, signing a one-year deal. Defensemen Bryan McCabe, Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle also will be looking to rebound with stronger performances this season. Goalie Andrew Raycroft, meanwhile, will be looking to hold onto the No. 1 job in the face of a stiff challenge from Toskala.
It's a tribute to him, and everything he's done and deserved is coming to fruition tonight with his jersey in the rafters. He's going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. And I said today, if he's not, take my stuff out. If he doesn't deserve to be in there first ballot, no one does. Except for (Wayne) Gretzky, I guess.
— Hockey Hall of Fame member Brett Hull on former teammate Mike Modano, whose No. 9 was retired by the Dallas Stars on Saturday