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Great Expectations

by John Ferguson / Toronto Maple Leafs
Some losses you never forget. They are etched in your memory.

Like Jeremy Roenick beating Ed Belfour, short-side, top-shelf to end our series in 2004.

Years ago when I was in college at Providence, we had a 3-1 lead in what would be my final game. We gave up two late goals, one off my skate when I was covering my man. In the overtime we had at least one shot hit the post but we gave up a floating shot that just made it into the net.

Last year, it was Wade Dubielewicz’s poke check on Sergei Brylin to help the New York Islanders beat New Jersey and knock us out of the playoffs.

The difference, of course, is that in the first two instances we at least had control of our situation. Last year, even after a great win over Montreal in our final home game, we had given up that control and it cost us.

We are really confident about our upcoming season and very excited to get started but, as I said, in this business you never forget some of the losses.

We are talking about going into a season where our expectations are making the playoffs and competing for the Cup. Clearly one has to precede the other, but we are not going to solely concentrate on qualifying. We want to consider making the playoffs something we pass along the way to accomplishing higher goals.

Last year was about making the playoffs. Our expectations, my expectations, are higher.

The players who were considered younger players, Ian White, Carlo Colaiacovo, Matt Stajan, Kyle Wellwood, Alex Steen, Andrew Raycroft, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Nik Antropov, we are expecting all of them to be better pros.

We have upgraded our goaltending with Vesa Toskala and added more grit with Mark Bell and goal scoring with Jason Blake.

I am very optimistic and confident for the year, but I am also legitimately setting a higher expectation for our group. That’s something I know our group is ready to handle, but it’s also the message we’re going to communicate from day one. The expectations and the demands, are going to be raised.
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