Hey there, Amrit! How's 2nd last in the league treating you? Not great, eh? Well at least your guys released some nice new 3rd jerseys...
Yes, I know the Leafs are in 10th in the East and 20th in the NHL, but that is 8-10 spots better than expected. It is also 9 spots higher than Ottawa.
On top of that, this team has been genuinely fun to watch on a night to night basis. You never know who is going to be playing together, and you never know who is going to see the most ice. If you had told me that 18 games into the season, Matt Stajan would be the leading point-getter, I would have thought this team was screwed. Thus far, they have done it with hard work and Ron Wilson has really gotten a lot more from guys like Stajan or Steen than was expected. Although at this point, his attempts to coerce Jason Blake to play Wilson's way is like trying to draw blood from a stone, except this stone is due $20MM.
Mikhail Grabovski has been a complete revealation, and has thus far been 100% worth the 2nd and 5th round picks traded for him. It's a testament to how good Montreal is, that they could afford to trade this guy to a division rival. Him and the other 4 rookies (Nikolai Kulemin, Luke Schenn, John Mitchell and Jonas Frogren) have shown some flashes, but have also been prone to rookie mistakes.
I would have liked to have seen what Kyle Wellfed would have done with Ron Wilson as his coach. Wellwood lacked motivation, but getting released from Toronto and then waived again by Vancouver might give him the proper motivation.
Vesa Toskala has also not been on top form this season, having yet to really steal a game. The Leafs of playoff runs of the Pat Quinn-era were built on Curtis Joseph or Ed Belfour bailing out a subpar defense. The defense has been pretty solid, but Toskala has taken a step back from last season.
The single worst thing that could happen would be for the Leafs to hire Brian Burke in the next few weeks. I'd be afraid that he could talk himself into believing that this team is one piece away from a deep playoff run this year, and all they would have to trade is draft picks or top prospect(s).* Please, no more of that. No more Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft, Brad Boyes, Alyn McCauley and a pick for Owen Nolan. This team is not one piece away, it needs time to develop. I would be less upset if Burke was brought in at season's end, but I still believe Burke is an overrated GM. He did a very good job in Vancouver, but could never find a goalie better than Dan Cloutier. It was a glaring hole for years, and he just could not fill it. In Anaheim, he essentially took Brian Murray's team and then lucked into Chris Pronger. Since then, he has destroyed his cap room to the point where he was on the verge of trading Bobby Ryan to the Leafs with Mathieu Schneider just to get rid of Schneider's terrible contract. Also, trading Andy McDonald for Doug Weight was a payroll move.
All-in-all, this season has been fun and interesting to watch. From the re-emergence of Matt Stajan to the spazzing of Jason Blake, I hope this can continue for another 60 games.
* I say "prospect(s)" because the only real prospect with any type of value would be Justin Pogge