Deep Blue, See?

Back after an extended holiday vacation. (Best Christmas presents: a new Stiga table hockey set in the standard Leafs vs. Detroit configuration, an extra set of Leafs players in their home blues and a bottle of white Testors clear-coat enamel. A quick coat of paint on the extra mini-Buds and the Bluebud household has been intra-squad scrimmage city since Boxing Day morning).

Here’s what I want to know following the undefeated start to the new calendar year: is there a deeper team in the NHL than the Buds? Consider who’s been missing during the Leafs’ recent burst into Eastern Conference playoff position:

  • Darcy Tucker, who remains tied for the league lead in power-play goals (13) even though he’s missed 6 games;
  • Kyle Wellwood, whose 31 points in 35 games would have him on the inside track for the Calder Trophy if he were a rookie;
  • Evgeni Malkin had honored his contract with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, and Slovenia had a decent pro league to keep Anze Kopitar out of the NHL;
  • Michael Peca, who routinely has been one of the Leafs’ top 3-4 centres, and last but not least
  • Alexei Ponikarovsky, the team’s top Ukrainian-born player.
  • With holes this big in the side of the boat, it wouldn’t shock even the most ardent Leafs fan to see the vessel taking on water. Instead, The Good Ship BlueBud is steaming toward a pier in Playoff Harbour. (As this is typed, the Leafs are in eighth place in the East. Think the conference-leading Buffalo Sabres—who have already lost two games in 2007—are grateful the playoffs don’t start tomorrow?)

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