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Duffer's Early NHL Observations

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

by Brian Duff

October 18, 2005

(TORONTO) -- On the morning of the season opener here in Toronto, I found myself in the event level hallway directly in front of the Leafs dressing room as a few of the Senators straggled in early in advance of their morning skate.

Even Krusty thinks the Leafs are solid.
(Dave Sandford/Getty/NHLI)

It was here, during a casual conversation with Daniel Alfredsson, the Ottawa captain offered up some words that should be music to the ears of Leafs fans.
"These guys have a good team," said public enemy number one (depending on the day of the week).

It wasn't the exact words that were of great significance, but rather how he delivered them. In my mind his six words came out like, "Why is everyone in this town so worried about this team? They've got a great mix, their offseason pick-ups were terrific, they already had talent and now have even more, and have you seen their size down the middle?"

Indeed Ottawa's No. 11 seemed pretty impressed by his counterparts on the other side of the Battle of Ontario. And after falling just short in a pair of head-to-head shootouts, I'm sure the Leafs aren't too worried about their playoff series unbeaten streak against the boys from the capital being ended any year soon.

My NHL wasn't supposed to have the Rangers in first place (in their division) this late in the season.

Is the Jagr of old back for good?
(Dave Sandford/Getty/NHLI)

Is Jaromir Jagr on his way to a sixth Art Ross Trophy? If he wins it will people get off his back? I'm as guilty as the next guy for criticizing him some nights, I just don't know why it became such an epidemic? I suppose it's the old "what have you done for me lately?" situation, but even in his last two "off" seasons, he's barely been outside of the top ten in league scoring. Granted his mood swings tend to go in the opposite direction of his salary (24% rollback not included) and as we all know, contracts can become an albatross for a player in the eyes of the paying customer.

Still with J.J., will his Czech mates Straka and Rucinsky be able to keep up with him? Rucinsky has never been one of the league's top point-getters (although he did have 75 the year he was part of the Roy deal and was sent from Colorado to Montreal), and Straka hasn't been able to stay healthy in any of the last 3 NHL seasons.

In 2000-01, the Top 10 scorers included Jagr, Alexei Kovalev, Jason Allison, Martin Straka, Ziggy Palffy, and Peter Forsberg. At their current pace, all six could be there again, all on different teams from five years ago.

2000-01 Leading Scorers
Player GP PTS
Jagr - PIT 81 121
Sakic - COL 82 118
Elias -NJ 82 96
Kovalev - PIT 79 95
Allison - BOS 82 95
Straka - PIT 82 95
P. Bure - FLA 82 92
Weight - EDM 82 90
Palffy - LA 73 89
Forsberg - COL 73 89
And still with the Rangers top trio, does their effectiveness, coupled with the potential tandem of Hasek and Vokoun, make the Czech Republic co-favourites in Italy '06?

Steve Sullivan, Curtis Joseph, and Ric Jackman...three former Leafs worth keeping an eye on.

Could someone please tell Sergei Gonchar, Sergei Fedorov, Scott Niedermayer, Scott Gomez, and Trevor Linden that the lockout is over? You'd think Linden would know...

Now for an obscure comparison...who will end up with more points, Marc Chouinard or Manny Malhotra? With seven in his first six games, the 28-year old Chouinard should obliterate the career-high 21 he posted in 03-04. The 25-year old Malhotra has four pts in six games after a 25-point season before the lockout. Both players are with their third organization.

And who would you rather be...Hal Gill or Brad Lidge? The Boston defenceman nearly became Gal Gill thanks to a boot to the lower Bruins from Ottawa's Martin Havlat. Lidge, the also previously impenetrable (sorry Hal) Astros' closer was one strike away from a World Series appearance before being victimized by a phat Albert Pujols three-run homer.

I'm not sure there's an easy answer for that question.
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