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View from the Clouds...

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
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5:09 p.m.

Valentine’s Day is a week back in the rear-view. Love has given way to intrigue and double dealing.

The trade deadline is Tuesday. That would be, for those of you keeping track at home, precisely a week away.

With that in mind, tonight’s blog will be heavily laced with trade talk. I will take you inside the scene of the press box and the media room, where talk is cheap…and  plentiful.

Stay tuned.

End of first period. 8:11 p.m.

They flashed Mats Sundin’s face up on the scoreboard during the national anthem and you found yourself asking: is it him?

Or Tomas Kaberle?

Or Bryan McCabe?

The trade deadline looms over the horizon. A week and games against Buffalo, Atlanta and Ottawa are all that stands between an indeterminate number of Maple Leafs becoming ex-Leafs.

Scouts from the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers are eyeballing the Leafs/Columbus game. Anyone else is free to watch via the satellite.

The possibilities are endless. Nik Lindstrom’s injured right knee may or may not be a long-term deal. If the news is bad, the Leafs’ glut of defencemen, including front-liners Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle become viable for the Red Wings. Both players have no-trade clauses but the chance to compete for the Stanley Cup could prove irresistible.

The Flyers, too, are said to be looking for a puck-handling defenceman.

Then, of course, there are the possible suitors for Mats Sundin. The Hurricanes have lost Rod Brind’Amour to a knee injury. The Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins could use Sundin to push their offence and leadership into the stratosphere. It’s up to him, as you might have heard.

I’m convinced the Edmonton scout, a very good hockey guy named Mike Abbamont, is just waiting for a lift home.

The scouts may well be looking at Carlo Colaiacovo.

Making his 10th straight start, Colaiacovo notched the Leafs first goal. More of the same from Nik Antropov who scored a phenomenal goal when he knocked down a shot just wide of the Columbus net and then just steered it in.

Nikolai Zherdev scored for Columbus before Chad Kilger scored for the Leafs. It was shot number nine. Pascal Leclaire, in goal for Columbus, wasn’t on the block to start the game. Now he’s even money.

End of second period. 8:58 p.m.

You should know that hockey scouts are the most uninteresting people on earth.

For one thing, they are all men which makes them less interesting right from the get-go.

You would think they would be a repository of stories. You would think you would walk by the scouts' table in the media lounge, or the fancy eatin’ room for the uninitiated, and hear phrases like “if you think Eddie Shore was hard to work with, you should have seen him when he was hung over.”

You would expect the following phrases from scouts such as “my skate laces weighed more than these one-piece sticks,” and “well Mrs. Norris, I’m afraid I couldn’t do that in good conscience.”

What they do talk about is hotels. And restaurants. And highways. And snow tires.

They do not say which players they are interested in. Oddly, one of the pre-requisites for scouting, be it sneaking up on enemy troups or checking out hockey players, is the ability to keep quiet. I can see this. You couldn’t very well have a guy saying “yessir, we’re after Mats Sundin and you rubes better step aside. We’ve got players and draft choices and we can’t wait to spend.”

The circumspection of the scout, as well as the requisite necessities of good judgment and an athletic background are just some of the reasons why I am not contemplating a move into the Leafs scouting department. Sensing this, they have not broached the subject.

End of Regulation. Maple Leafs 3, Blue Jackets 1

There are various ways of whiling away the hours while you wait for the trade deadline.

Here is one of the better ones: Click Here

The next is your list of your untouchables.

The Leafs list is short enough. You need Nik Antropov as your number one centre in the event Mats Sundin is moved..

You need Carlo Colaiacovo. I won’t get a lot of support, but I think Colaiacovo can play in one of your top two spots.

Two untouchables aren’t even in the lineup tonight, Anton Stralman didn’t play, perhaps in an effort to showcase Ian White, and Nikolai Kulemin is in Russia. Kulemin will step right into the top three lines next season. Another, Jiri Tlusty barely played last night but he maxes out as a second or third line player.

You need an offensive defenceman, either Bryan McCabe or Thomas Kaberle. No need to trade them both.

You need to keep goalie Vesa Toskala. Toskala has been terrific and he will retain value if Justin Pogge, another untouchable, continues to progress nicely,

You need a checking centre with some pop. Mats Stajan is maturing nicely into the role.

Those are the guys you can’t afford to lose.

There are monumental contract problems. Jason Blake has four more years and the scouts saw little sizzle from him. Sundin, Kaberle, Darcy Tucker and Bryan McCabe have no- trade clauses. That means, I am guessing, that a maximum of two of those four will be traded. One seems much more likely.

I’m guessing your list is a little different. Why not e-mail it to me at We will post some of the better submissions.

Leafs beat Columbus 3-1 to go 25-27-9 and the numbers were telling Young legs carried the Leafs, Antropov was named the game’s second star. Colaiacovo was named third star.

Matt Stajan garnered 20:48 in ice time, most among forwards. These are the go-to guys right now, the players who will take the Leafs into the rest of the decade.

Let’s see who stays and who goes.

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