Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Greybeards get greyer

Never mind next year's salary cap, the question in Toronto, is how many guys will qualify for the Canada Pension Plan in the next couple of years. A "seasoned" team got a bit more seasoning today as the Leafs, announcing that Ron Fracis has signed up and is ready to help the Leafs in their quest for Lord Stanley's Mug.

Waiving his right to refuse a trade with Carolina, Francis will add yet more depth to the Maple Leaf centre ice spot. The Leafs adding the veteran for a mere fourth round draft pick in 2005, yet another impressive move by Leafs GM John Feguson. Who won the hearts of Leaf fans last week with his acquisition of Brian Leetch, now with Francis in the fold the message is quite clear, "this is going to be the Year", or at least it will be if all goes according to plan.

Earlier in the day, Ferguson surprised Leaf fan's by announcing that Callie Johannson would be returning to the team for the run for the Cup. Johannson had left North America prior to the start of the regular season, supposedly retiring from professional hockey. However, saying that he is coming back purely for a chance to win the Cup, he'll be back on the Blue line shortly even if he's only played rec league hockey all year. Leafs management claiming he keeps himself in excellent shape and should be game ready in two weeks or less. A welcome development from the sound of the Leaf's dressing room, as many Leaf's claiming Johannson will be a great addition to the Leaf's blueline. Perhaps this is the strategy to help out Eddie Belfour's back problems, have a solid enough defence on the ice that there are no shots to deal with at all.

In a lesser proflie move, the Leafs also added Chad Kilger to the lineup, picking him up off of the waiver wire from Montreal. He won't be listed in the same category as the Leetch, Francis and Johannson add ons but for him it must be like winning the lottery, going from no ice time to a role player position on a possible Stanley Cup contender.

Three weeks ago the Leaf fan base were stumbling all over themselves worrying about the fate of their beloved Leafs. Beflour's wonky back giving them the night sweats. Slowly Ferguson has eased them back into the fold, the moves of the last two weeks have many Leaf fans planning parade routes for late June. But then, Leaf fan's are always making plans, never quite having to take the TTC to the route on parade day.

As ever the question will be goaltending, the Leafs chose not to upgrade the back up spot, so it's Eddie all the way. Should he stumble, or tumble then all may be lost. It might be considereda vote of confidence in Trevor Kidd. But with Tommy Salo accepting fate as a back up in Colorado, one wonders if he may not have been a solid addition for the playoffs in Toronto. The other factor may be weariness, with the amount of near old timers on this squad, lengthy drawn out playoff battles may not work in their favour. The key for the Leafs will be quick wins in each series, giving their players a chance to rest up.

It's said the players added are not only impact names but players that are good in the dressing room . A nice gesture but all the locker room speeches in the world won't put pucks in the net. With the likes of Greg De Vries and Martin Rucinsky, amongst others signing elsewhere, impact players as opposed to names, are strengthening the other contenders. It's a gamble for the Leafs, they're hoping their line up has enough gas in the tank to finish the trip. It remains to be seen if they run out before they get to the final exit.

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