When Shayne Corson looks back on last season, his first with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he divides it neatly in half - half good and half bad. Corson hopes to scrap the division exercises this season.
This time, Corson and the Maple Leafs want to see the good stretch in an unbroken line from the regular season right through the playoffs. And his chances are excellent primarily because of one thing - his health.
"I'm completely healed, 100 per cent," Corson told The Toronto Sun in August. "This is probably the best I have felt in a year. Injuries or no injuries, I didn't have the season I expected of myself, and I plan to make amends for that."
As far as the Leafs and their fans are concerned, Corson has already done that. He might have finished the regular season with a disappointing eight goals and 18 assists, but he made up for it with a superb performance in the playoffs.
There was no dramatic increase in Corson's scoring totals. He finished the playoffs with one goal and one assist in 11 games. The difference was that the importance of the kind of game at which Corson excels is more crucial in playoffs, where defence makes the difference. Corson was assigned by head coach Pat Quinn to shadow Ottawa Senators star Alexei Yashin in the playoffs' first round. He held Yashin pointless and the Leafs swept the Senators.
In the second round, Corson's defensive work against Jason Arnott and Scott Gomez was a big reason the Leafs extended the New Jersey Devils to seven games.
"We knew Shayne had done this before in his career," Quinn says of his move to install Corson as his top defensive centre. "We knew if we gave Shayne this role he would do it well and enjoy the assignment. He did everything we expected."
Looking back, though, Corson can't help but be disappointed in his regular season. It was a dream come true when he signed as a free agent with the team he had idolized as a boy in his home town of Barrie, Ontario. But things went badly right from the start. A stomach virus kept Corson out of last year's preseason schedule. It also left him feeling weak and took 20 pounds off his normal playing weight of 205. Then he broke a finger on his left hand late in the season. And he fractured a bone in one foot and suffered a deep bruise on the other, although they didn't interfere with his playoff heroics.
"It took about a month after the season for the feet to get back to normal," Corson says. "Dating back to that virus in training camp, I probably played the entire season about 15 to 20 pounds lighter than (normal). Now, I'm just over 200 pounds, which is my normal playing weight. I'm excited to get going and show what I can do."
DAVID SHOALTS is a hockey writer for The Globe and Mail. This story was taken from the Leafs Insider magazine, 2001-02, Issue 1