'Tis the season for fearless predictions of things to come in the New Year. So with that in mind, we will try and limit this stargazing to events that will (or won't) happen in Leafland in 2003.
But in the event we are in danger of not fulfilling the mandatory "750 words" quota for this column, a few lame thoughts on the rest of the league may appear as well. January 1
- happy New Year guys, today you'll be travelling to New Jersey! If that's not an omen for things to come, I don't know what is. January 18
- in response to Andrei Markov's empty net goal celebration (and taunting of the Leaf bench) earlier in the season, Toronto's Alyn McCauley goes wild upon scoring the first goal of the game at the Bell Centre, just two minutes into the first period.
Upon further review, McCauley was actually just excited about his first goal in 34 games, but nonetheless, Habs coach Michel Therrien uses the throat-slashing gesture for all to see on Hockey Night In Canada.
| Alyn McCauley do something in bad taste? Not a chance!. |
Dave Abel Photography
- Ed Belfour blanks the Flyers again at Air Canada centre, but the bigger story is Robert Svehla, sending Jeremy Roenick somersaulting through the air with a hip check at the blueline. Although it was deemed to be a clean hit by most who witnessed it --Leafs TV analyst Rick Vaive notwithstanding-- Svehla is given a clipping major and game misconduct. January 24
- the Leafs visit Buffalo for the final time in club history. The game also marks the last ever sellout for the Sabres at HSBC arena, which will soon become the white elephant of western New York. (let the record state that we hope this is not the last trip down the QEW for the Buds.) January 30
- Toronto hits the all-star break by settling for a tie in Atlanta. Still, they finish a run of 12 of 17 on the road with 12 points earned away from the ACC, and maintain a 15 game unbeaten streak at home. (Alexander Mogilny cites a sore back as his reason for not taking part in the all-star festivities in Florida, although he is spotted at a club in Miami, dancing to the sounds of Gloria Estefan) February 23
- the first and only Sunday game of the season, and it's at home to the Nashville Predators! Confusing all the platinum seat holders by not having a home game on Saturday, the patrons (albeit weary) were actually in their seats when the puck dropped. February 27
- the Leafs visit Detroit and are again stymied by Manny Legace, falling 1-0. Wings coach Dave Lewis says he planned to use Legace all along because that's the way the rotation worked out. Cujo again said nothing of substance. March
- with 15 games in 29 days, the Leafs complain about the schedule that confronts them and their push for a playoff spot. March 11
- like he was during the free-agent season, Leafs GM Pat Quinn is accused by the media of being out West when all the action is happening at the trade deadline. Quinn calmly points out that he's also the coach of a team that's on a three-game western road trip at the time, but does take the schedule maker to task for having the trip this late in the season. March 28
- the Leafs enter Nassau Coliseum on Long Island for the second time this season, but this time, with Gary Roberts. All heck breaks loose in the opening minutes, the Leafs win the battles and the game, proving again that Roberts is the heart, soul, guts and everything else of this Leafs squad. Roberts is questioned by reporters afterwards about his looming unrestricted free agent status, to which he offers "no comment". April
- the Leafs sweep their final three games, in New Jersey and home to the Wild and Senators, to finish 5th in the east, narrowly missing home ice advantage in round one. But, given the fact they start on the road in Philadelphia, it doesn't appear to be much of a problem. Look back at other Brian Duff columns: