Round and Round We Go
Just as the Leafs are rolling and the blueline is slowly moving towards being completely healthy someone went and tore a ligament. Unfortunately, that ligament resides in Mats Sundin's elbow.
I am Mats' total lack of surprise.
Thankfully, the Leafs have just finished one of their busiest stretches of the season and have entered on in which Mats could miss anywhere from 7-12 games (3-4 weeks is the prognosis) depending on whether his famed ability to heal quickly has stood the test of time. Shoalts feels that the captain's absence will hurt much more now than during his eye-induced vacation last season. Rather than worry me this situation reminds me of one of Shakespeare's most well-known lines:
Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.Luckily this comes during November rather than April. The Leafs have had a reputation recently of being able to roll with injuries (Playoffs 2002, Mats' absence last year) and this year has been no different. The youngsters and reclamation projects have a great chance to show that they are ready for prime time.
- Act II, Scene V, Twelfth Night
Kyle Wellwood started the season brightly but has tailed off. The game in Buffalo was his best game in a while and it will be vital to the Leafs' success that he carry that momentum forward. He will most like centre Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky to create the forwards answer to Fred and Barney (Gill and White). Clearly, Paul Maurice has quite the sense of humor if he is going to use the Soviet Bloc to bookend the Leafs' smallest forward.
Matt Stajan has been one of the Leafs best forwards this season and his incredible workrate has been vital in helping Jeff O'Neill in his path towards a renaissance. Add Alex Steen to the mix and this will probably be a line that will be depended upon for offence. Paul Maurice earlier noted that Steen had maybe taken his defensive focus too much to heart (playing with Peca will make you do that). This will be a perfect opportunity for his to showcase the offensive talents that led to a 45 point season last year as the line will probably see more powerplay time.
What other steps Maurice takes to address Mats' absence are anyone's guess. Judging by his line juggling they probably would not be good guesses. However, between tomorrow's game against Boston and Mats' return (Nov 28th against Boston at the earliest and hopefully December 7th against Boston at the latest barring surgery) the Leafs' coaching staff will learn a lot about their young forwards. Ian White and Brendan Bell continue to do admirable jobs while the Leafs deal with injuries on the backline. What will be seen is which of the forwards grabs their chance at greatness.