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The real battle is about to start

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Joe Bowen

Holy Mackinaw! In his 20th season of calling the action of the blue and white, Joe Bowen is the definitive voice of the Maple Leafs. You can listen to Joe do the play-by-play on Leafs TV and radio broadcasts and now you can get his insights on the what's happening with the team.

The nine preseason games are over and the real battle is about to be fought. Pat Quinn and his Toronto Maple Leafs have a big chore on their hands and that is try to live up to the expectations of Leaf fans around Ontario and across Canada.

Last year the Leafs were a crossbar and goalpost hit by Mats Sundin in Game 6 from eliminating the New Jersey Devils. It may have meant a trip to the Stanley Cup final. It didn't! As a famous philosopher once told me "If, ifs and buts, were candies and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas!"

So the Leaf front office went to work upgrading the skill level of this team. They went overseas to grab Mikael Renberg and Robert Reichel. Then they dipped into the free agent market place to grab Alexander Mogilny. All three players will take part in this winter's Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and the players they are replacing on the Leaf roster will not be in attendance at that world tournament. Add to that trade-deadline acquisition Aki Berg who seemed to regain his confidence through the playoff run a year ago and the Leafs are a much different team than at this time last year.

They should score more and be more exciting but the big question mark will be can they throw up a big enough defence in front of Curtis Joseph to make it all pay off? That will be the major question to be answered, not only now, but also in the spring when the Stanley Cup playoffs get under way.

Not having Tomas Kaberle to start the season will hurt. This young man is just becoming a premiere defenceman in the NHL although to think that he was the deal-breaker in the Eric Lindros talks seems ludicrous to me. I don't think Bobby Clarke would have taken the CN Tower and Vince Carter in the deal. The Flyers were just dead set against sending Lindros to where he wanted to go. If the contract talks with Kaberle remain unresolved the Leafs will definitely be in the market to trade for a veteran blueliner.

I think we are in for a very exciting season. I predict Mats Sundin will have his best year in a Leaf uniform. Alexander Mogilny will score 40-50 goals, Bryan McCabe will blossom into one of the premiere defenceman in the NHL, and Curtis Joseph will contend for the Hart Trophy.
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