With the new NHL season just a month away, Kivalliq hockey fans, like fans across the country, are hoping for big things from their favourite teams and predicting gloom, doom and despair for their rivals.
For the first time in many-a-long year, a lot of conversation is revolving around the Toronto Maple Leafs, as pundits, fans and arch rivals try to gauge just how good this young hockey club really is.
The Leafs biggest move of the off-season was to bring in aging star Patrick Marleau, who still has some gas in his tank and game in his abilities. Judging by his first few days at training camp, the longtime sniper is quite happy to be a member of the Maple Leafs.
Marleau will provide experience and, hopefully, leadership to the young Leafs. He also still has the wheels to be an effective scorer, especially if he lands on the team’s top unit with Auston Matthews and William Nylander.
Make no mistake, Marleau has done pretty much everything an NHLer can accomplish except see his name engraved on Lord Stanley.
This is, in all likelihood, Marleau’s final NHL contract and he wouldn’t have signed in Toronto if he didn’t believe the Leafs could win the Cup in the next three years, no matter how much money was dangled in front of him.
The Leafs have a number of skilled wingers stuck in the AHL given there’s no room at the parent club, so fans have been clamouring for general manager Lou Lamoriello to trade a prized winger and draft picks to land a top-four defenseman for the club.
It makes sense on a number of levels, but this is a pivotal time for the Leafs. They could take advantage of their top three stars still being on entry level contracts and add some top skill at the trade deadline, to go for it all as the Chicago Black Hawks did with young Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane leading the way.
But they could also convince themselves the team is better than it is and then be stuck with the big contracts they brought in along with those of Matthews, Nylander and Mitch Marner, which, in the salary-cap era, could be the kiss of death.
Unless a trade is offered he just can’t say no to, Lamoriello is making the right move in waiting to see how the Leafs perform before going all-in on a run to the Cup.
But, rest assured, if Lamoriello and Leafs president Brendan Shanahan like what they see and believe the Leafs are Cup contenders, the money will be spent and the players added to give the young team every chance to bring Stanley back to Toronto.
Who would have thought, just three short years ago, we’d ever be talking about this scenario?
It promises to be one of the most exciting NHL seasons in a long time for all those lovable losers who call themselves Leafs fans.