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The Official Site of the Toronto Maple Leafs

Needing a final piece, part I

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Gord Stellick

Gord Stellick is host of The Big Show, the popular afternoon radio program on the FAN 590. The former general manager of the Maple Leafs is also a hockey commentator on numerous local and national television shows.

With the Leafs off to a solid start for the 2001-02 regular season, it appears Pat Quinn has to be satisfied with both the newcomers and holdovers he has this season in the blue and white.

The summer of 2000 saw the Leafs adopt a philosophy of making the club a stronger team for their Stanley Cup playoff run. The additions of Shayne Corson and Gary Roberts proved to provide exactly that element as the Leafs enjoyed a decent playoff run after an ordinary regular season.

Aki Berg joined the Leafs at the 2001 trading deadline and was a pleasant surprise on the blueline. (Credit: Harry How/Allsport)
To get to that next level in the 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs it is obvious that the Leafs have to be firing on all cylinders. As a minimum they have to continue their solid regular season play into the playoffs. Curtis Joseph must give the expected excellent goaltending performances. Newcomers like Alexander Mogilny, Robert Reichel, Mikael Renberg and Travis Green have to continue to grow in their roles on the team.

The last cylinder could be the final piece or pieces of the playoff puzzle. That comes down to the NHL trade deadline and what Pat Quinn, the general manager, is able to swing to help Pat Quinn, the coach. As much as Quinn finds the constant trade talk and rumours distracting, it has been the final ingredient of most of the recent Stanley Cup champions.

Witness the Colorado Avalanche adding Theo Fleury in 1999, Ray Bourque in 2000 and Rob Blake in 2001. A team has to make these types of bold moves if they are serious about winning the Cup. To the Leafs credit they were also very much in the hunt for the services of Blake last spring. Thc Lcafs offered Los Angclcs a package that was rated equal or possibly superior to what Colorado ultimately dealt to the Kings. The key point for the Leafs was their proposed trade was contingent upon Blake signing a new contract with the Leafs and passing up becoming an unrestricted free agent. Blake refused and the trade talks were terminated.

It seems like the first example of the modern-day trade deadline success story was in March, 1980 when the New York Islanders acquired Butch Goring from the Kings for winger Bill Harris and defenceman Dave Lewis. Goring provided the Islanders depth at centre behind Bryan Trottier and two months later Goring and the Islanders were hoisting the first of their four consecutive Stanley Cups.

For the Maple Leafs, I can recall two occasions that the Leafs made bold trade deadline deals on a team that was deemed to have somewhat of an outside chance to win the Cup. In 1978, general manager Jim Gregory and coach Roger Neilson felt Dan Maloney of the Detroit Red Wings was that final piece. It was a high price in return with Errol Thompson and two first-round draft choices heading to Detroit for Maloney and a second-round pick. In fairness it proved to not be a bad trade at all.
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