Toronto Maple Leafs
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Sports Illustrated Ranking: 14
By Luis Fernando Llosa
While goaltender Curtis Joseph spent a quiet off-season riding
horses with his three kids on his new homestead in King City,
Ontario, the Maple Leafs' front office was undergoing a frantic
reshuffling. When the dust finally cleared, president and general
manager Ken Dryden no longer had G.M. responsibility, and
associate G.M. Mike Smith and assistant G.M. Anders Hedberg had
quit in a huff. Coach Pat Quinn, who turned the team around in
his first year with Toronto last season, wound up sitting
comfortably in the general manager's chair.
| 1998-99 Leaders |
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Quinn may have to juggle two jobs in 1999-2000, but Joseph will
shoulder the heaviest burden. After signing as a free agent in
July 1998, he carried the Maple Leafs to the Eastern Conference
finals last season with his spectacular netminding. (It was the
first time the club had advanced beyond the opening round in five
years.) Stuck behind a poor defensive team, Joseph still won 35
games, the second most in the league. "I don't know how to
measure his worth," Quinn says of Joseph. "He allowed a young
defense to get away with a lot of mistakes."
Quinn isn't making it any easier on Joseph this season. The coach
is confident that the Leafs can thrive on the same "aggressive
and adventuresome" brand of hockey that saw them score a
league-leading 268 goals last year. The offense had six players
with 20 or more goals, led by Sergei Berezin, who scored a
career-high 37, and captain Mats Sundin, who finished 12th in the
NHL in scoring with 83 points.
But there are some nagging problems besides the porous defense.
For one, the Leafs cannot count on making a serious playoff run
with shoddy performances again from their special teams. Despite
its high-powered offense, Toronto converted only 14.4% of its
power-play opportunities (17th in the NHL), in large part because
the unit lacked a quality quarterback; defenseman Bryan Berard,
who was acquired last season from the Islanders for goaltender
Felix Potvin, was inconsistent running the power play. Also, the
team's penalty killing ranked 24th in the league. The Leafs were
fortunate that only two players, center Alyn McCauley and forward
Igor Korolev, suffered serious injuries.
Quinn understands what the Leafs are up against. "A lot of things
fell our way last season," he says. "We're not concentrating on a
certain number of points, but we want to improve as a
Issue date: October 4, 1999
SI's Scouting Report Main Page
SI's Pierre McGuire Insider Rankings
Curtis Joseph lived up to his big free-agent contract by winning 25 games, posing a 2.56 GAA and finishing second to Dominik Hasek in the Vezina voting.
New no-harm, no-foul rules in crease situation may help a crasher like Mats Sundin get back to 100-point level.
Can the team count on a combined 52 goals from Steve Thomas (28) and Derek King (24)?|
Contract talks with D's Bryan Berard and Dimitri Yushkevich have stalled, leaving Greg Andrusak and Terran Sandwith with increased roles.
People, Places and Things
GM: Pat Quinn
Coach: Pat Quinn; 2nd season (45-30-7); 14th overall (402-315-109)
Assistants: Rick Ley, Alpo Suhonen
Captain: Mats Sundin
Last year: 45-30-7 (5th overall)
Playoffs: Def. Philadelphia 4-2; def. Pittsburgh 4-2; lost to Buffalo 4-1
PP: 17th (14.4%)
PK: 24th (80.3%)
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Sat., Oct. 2: The Leafs head to Montreal for the first opening-night meeting with the Habs since 1991.
Mon., Oct. 4: Home opener vs. Boston.
Thu., Mar. 23: Toronto at Ottawa in what should be a pivotal game for positioning in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
256th: The 1994 draft position of Sergei Berezin, who scored 37 goals last year.
"We have a system that is more suited to the way our team looks. I think we have a good skating team with a lot of good, young guys. We played with a lot more skating and tried to be more creative." -- Mats Sundin