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The Official Site of the Toronto Maple Leafs

After the gold rush, a hard dose of reality -- Part II

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John Iaboni

John Iaboni has been covering the Maple Leafs and the NHL for nearly 30 years. For the last 10 years, he has been the managing editor of the team's game day magazine and now you can share his exclusive inside access.

This month's schedule was daunting before Joseph was injured. The degree of difficulty increases minus Joseph. From March 4 to 30, the Leafs face Washington (twice), Detroit, Montreal, Philadelphia (three times), Boston, Dallas, the Islanders (twice), Buffalo, Tampa Bay and New Jersey.

April brings Detroit, the Rangers (twice), Florida, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Ottawa. In the National Hockey League these days there are no "gimmes". Aside from their starting goalie (Joseph), the Leafs will also miss their warrior on defence (Dmitry Yushkevich) and one of the most talented forwards in the league (Alexander Mogilny) entered March in the "out indefinitely" category.

The Leafs are fortunate they built up their points along the way, meaning they've got some breathing room for now. But as their National Basketball Association brethren Raptors have learned, a cozy position in the playoff list can be nullified rapidly by a prolonged losing streak. Compare the NBA standings before the All-Star Game to the ones of March 3 to see how quickly a lead can evaporate.

With the NHL trade deadline fast approaching, if the Leafs are forced to land a goalie, insiders point to Plan C as an option. That one suggests the Leafs going after a young goalie new to the No. 1 role but with a big upside. The price tag for someone like that would be more, that's for certain, but it may be better than bringing in a seldom-used veteran who wouldn't fit into the team's long-term plans.

Alex Mogilny is close to returning from back problems.
Graig Abel Photography
The play of Schwab or Centomo will dictate the way Quinn will play his goaltending cards without his ace. But filling in for Yushkevich won't be easy either, especially when one considers that he always draws assignments against the best shooters from rival teams.

And what of Mogilny? His offensive skills are beyond compare and he was just hitting high gear when he suffered his back injury.

Quinn has learned that squads like the one he had at the Olympics are truly dream teams, so deep in talent that keeping everyone happy is of paramount concern. Now that life is back to the NHL, he's dealing with the delicate balance that comes when a rash of injuries turns a stable environment into one that could be reactionary.

Does Quinn stand pat? Or does he shuffle the deck because of necessity? Either way, Quinn won't have any time just yet to savour the success at Salt Lake City. For Quinn, that Olympic saying "let the games begin" takes on a whole new meaning now.

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