Friday, January 25, 2008

Thank you very much, and we hope we passed the audition!

On Wednesday they were like nervous teenagers trying out for the school musical (which in this case would surely be Les Miserable’s), as the Toronto Maple Leafs took the stage anxious to prove themselves for the new director.

With Cliff Fletcher encamped in the box that John Ferguson Jr. once stood watch from, the Leafs showed their stuff Wednesday night with taking a hard fought battle with the Washington Capitals. Each no doubt hoping to show a few hints to their new boss that there is still something to show and something of value for the blue and white.

In what was almost a fairy tale style of ending, it was the much discussed captain Mats Sundin who provided the spark for the 3-2 victory, a reminder for the new/old GM that there was a reason Fletcher acquired the Swede oh so many years ago.

The Wednesday game seemed to provide a glimmer of what hope for Leafs fans that maybe, just maybe they would get untracked in time for a run for a playoff spot, a hopeful step for the future, and one which suffered a setback less than 24 hours later in a return match in Washington.

Thursday the Capitals reversed the tables on the Leafs, coming away with a 2-1 victory and leaving the Leafs a battered and injured squad heading into the all star break.

The Capitals out hit the Leafs, taking the play to them and playing a hard nosed style of hockey that not only resulted in a victory, but added to the Leafs manpower woes leaving a number of Leafs thankful that they now have a few days to rest, recover and ruminate about where they will go from here.

Doing most of the thinking however will be newly announced GM Cliff Fletcher who will now have to make some key decisions about personnel, including whether to try and convince Sundin that he and the Leafs would be best served by a move.

A player of Sundin’s quality would still command a good price, providing the Leafs with some much needed acquisitions that could prove to be building blocks for years to come. For Sundin it could be an opportunity to leave behind the bad karma that seems to have enveloped the Leafs in recent years.

Perhaps even providing the long suffering Leaf with a chance to play on a Stanley Cup contender in the twilight years of his career. There are many questions for Cliff Fletcher to try and answer, the heart and determination of his captain won’t be one of them, but the value of him either as a roster player or as a commodity will be perhaps Fletcher's biggest decision to come.

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