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Trades give Leafs a shot of confidence

by Mike G. Morreale
NEWARK, N.J. -- Ever since Toronto General Manager Brian Burke pulled off two trades in attempt to upgrade the Maple Leafs' roster, there has been a sense of greater confidence oozing from the dressing room.

Not only that, Dion Phaneuf's No. 3 jersey is selling like hotcakes in and around Toronto.

"That's great to hear (that the jersey is selling so well)," Phaneuf said. "The fans have been great so far and I look forward to playing in front of them and giving them what they deserve. That's a solid effort every night. It's definitely humbling to hear that the jerseys were selling good."

Coach Ron Wilson can already sense the impact both Phaneuf and Giguere, the former Conn Smythe-winning goalie with the Anaheim Ducks, have had within the dressing room.

"I think (they can have an impact) the remainder of the season," Wilson told "I think we've picked up one of the top 8 defensemen in the League, to be perfectly honest with you. My guess is he was having not the same year he's had in the past. But for some reason he was available and Burkie saw it as an opportunity for us to really accelerate our growth as a team."

On Sunday, Burke acquired Phaneuf, forward Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie from Calgary in exchange for forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and defenseman Ian White. A few hours later, he sent goalie Vesa Toskala and forward Jason Blake to the Anaheim Ducks for goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Phaneuf, who spent the previous four-plus seasons in Calgary, has compiled the most hits (131) of any Maple Leafs player and is tied for the lead with a plus-4 rating. In a 3-0 victory over New Jersey Tuesday, Phaneuf registered a game-high six hits and three blocked shots while finishing a plus-1. Giguere also made a sparking debut, stopping all 30 shots in his direction, to become the second goalie in franchise history to post a shutout in his debut (Ed Belfour on Oct. 2002 at Pittsburgh).

"I was as nervous as I've ever been when I got the start," Giguere told "Playing that game, I had all kinds of emotions. I think we're all kids at heart and when a situation like this happened, you can't help but be nervous and stuff like that."

Much like Phaneuf, having an opportunity with a new team has given Giguere a fresh outlook.

"I was super excited about getting a new chance in this League and although I was saddened to leave Anaheim, since I've been there the last 11 years, I'm looking forward to come back East and play for a new team," he said. "I'm really excited about that."

He's also excited to be a part of what he considers to be a pretty dynamic defensive unit.

"You know all about Dion -- the leadership, size and physicality he brings," Giguere said. "He's the full package. You don't get to have a defender like this all the time on your team. Actually, if you look around at the group of 'D' we have, I really like what I see and I'm looking forward to playing more games with them."

Not only are the Leafs getting better with their new pickups, but Wilson is glad to see they're getting younger as well.

"We were on the upper end in terms of average age to now being one of the youngest team in the League and you can sense the enthusiasm in the room," Wilson said. "Immediately, these guys (on Toronto) see they will have more of a chance to play. They're not looking over their shoulder. As a result, their personalities will blossom."

Contact Mike Morreale at

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