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Plenty Has Changed In One Year

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs season opens this week.

Another year, a million stories.

A year ago, James Reimer was laying claim to the backup goalie job with the Marlies.

A year ago Jeff Finger was looking at the possibility of going to the minors.

A year ago Mike Komisarek weighed around 245, probably 20 pounds more than he does today.

A year ago the assistant coaches working with the Leafs were Tim Hunter, Keith Acton and Rob Zettler. Zettler, Greg Cronin and Scott Gordon wear the track suits now.

A year ago the Winnipeg Jets were a memory and the most likely team to relocate was in Phoenix.

A year ago, Matt Lombardi had signed a free agent contract with the Nashville Predators. He was coming off a career year. Lombardi would slide into the boards in his second game and sustain a concussion.  He hasn’t played a regular season game since

A year ago, Clarke MacArthur, fresh off an arbitration walkaway by the Atlanta Thrashers,  was turning heads on a new line with Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski.

A year ago Joffrey Lupul was still recovering from back surgery and a corresponding infection. He had no idea if he would ever play again.

A year ago Phil Kessel was a talented gunner who needed the right centreman to hit 40 or more goals.

A year ago, that player seemed to be Tyler Bozak.

A year ago, Bozak was thrust into the top job with only 37 NHL games under his belt. Now he has 119 and will start on the third line.

A year ago, Tim Connolly was being pilloried by Buffalo Sabres fans and media for his lack of productivity.  Now he has a chance to either quiet the carping or multiply the volume by 100.

A year ago, Leaf fans were indignant that Doug Gilmour had not been selected for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

A year ago, Colton Orr’s status as his team’s resident tough guy was unquestioned. A concussion sustained in a January fight with George Parros ended his season. Orr says he is ready to play, and to fight, but Jay Rosehill, a more skilled player than Orr, is pushing for the job.

A year ago, rookie defenceman Cam Fowler was the most pleasant surprise at the Anaheim Ducks training camp. His presence and the need for another veteran on the blue line would induce the Ducks to include Jake Gardiner in a trade for Francois Beauchemin. Now Gardiner was the most pleasant surprise of the Leafs’ training camp.

A year ago Matt Frattin was into a season that would see him lead the NCAA in goalscoring as a senior at the University of North Dakota.

A year ago Ilya Kovalchuk readied for the season with a 15-year, $100 million contract from the New Jersey Devils stuck in his pocket.

A year ago John MacLean was the Devils’ coach. He would scratch Kovalchuk after seven games.

In December it will be a year since the Devils fired MacLean and brought in Jacques Lemaire.

A year ago, Grabovski was coming off a 10-goal season and his focus was in question. Now he is the pivot of the team’s best line and his coach calls him the toughest player on the team.

A year ago, Jonas Gustavsson has half a season away from his second heart ablation surgery and was looking at splitting the season with J.S. Giguere.

A year ago, Alex Ovechkin was generally considered a better player than Sidney Crosby.

A year ago a quiet room was a place your kids had just left.

A year ago Darryl Boyce had a pretty nice nose.
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