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.
I've been getting frustrated lately, and the only thing keeping me sane was the team winning and other people stepping up and scoring. Then you just kind of let it go and realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment, and that's what happened.
— Montreal forward Max Pacioretty after scoring the OT winner in Game 4 -- his first career playoff goal -- to eliminate the Lightning and send the Canadiens into the second round