by John McCauley
January 10, 2004
(TORONTO) -- Craig Johnson isn't going to guarantee the Leafs the Stanley Cup, but GM John Ferguson hopes he can be an insurance policy against more injuries.
"(The move) was based on a need and I think he can help," said Ferguson, who goes over a list players put on waivers every day. "He should sure up our forwards."
With the number of injuries the Leafs have --five regulars out at this point-- it was an easy decision to add a depth player without giving up anything. Johnson is an unrestricted free agent after the season so there is little financial commitment.
The 31-year-old is a very responsible player in his own end. Two seasons ago he co-led the Kings in plus/minus (+14).
Johnson should bridge the gap until any of Owen Nolan, Robert Reichel, Alex Mogilny or Wade Belak can get back into the lineup on a regular basis.
Nolan is still having some problems with his eye and a return date still hasn't been projected. Originally the injury was to keep him out for two weeks. One week and two laser eye surgeries later Ferguson said Saturday that his injury was "encouraging, but not conclusive."
|Nathan Perrott and Rob Skrlac had a spirited tilt in the first. (Graig Abel Photography) |
Reichel (shoulder) has started skating by himself, but could be classified as a long-term return date. Mogilny (hip), who is skating without equipment should be back sometime in February along with Belak (knee). Defenceman Tomas Kaberle is at least another week away form returning.
Considering the injury outlook, Johnson should get a good look at some point.
The Leafs could have used some of those players or even Johnson for that matter Saturday night against the Devils. Losing their second straight on home ice, 1-0, to the Stanley Cup champs isn't the way head coach Pat Quinn wanted his troops to respond from their 7-1 thrashing on Thursday against Ottawa.
"We have a tendency to play on the outside when we're up against tough checking teams, not the inside where you need to be" Quinn said.
"We were the scramblers out there. We were the guys back on out heals. We had a lot of guys playing in the soft areas. I think we worked hard tonight, but not in the right areas."
Another recent addition, Clarke Wilm, made his Maple Leaf debut against the Devils and looked good on the fourth line with Tom Fitzgerald and Nathan Perrott. In fact they were probably the best unit Toronto put in the ice.
"Clarke was one of our better forwards," Quinn said. "He has to go where you have to go to be successful. He's not a pretty player, but he's willing to do what you have to do."
Quinn also talked about the gap between the forwards and defenceman being completely out of whack, which resulted in the turnovers. The forwards were waiting for the long bomb pass and the defencemen were left to try and do something fancy instead of simply starting the rush with a nice, clean outlet pass.
Pierre Hedin and Mikael Tellqvist were healthy scratches. Tellqvist is likely to be sent down if Ed Belfour is deemed healthy. He played the entire game showing no ill effects so chances are the young goaltender is headed back to the Rock.
The team is likely to wait until Sunday to see if Belfour's groin tighten ups.
Toronto now has to worry about the surging Calgary Flames, who are coming to town Tuesday night. Like the Devils, the Flames will play it close to the vest and wait for the Leafs to make a mistake.
They just might get what their looking for if the Leafs can't make some adjustments over the next couple days.