The Toronto Maple Leafs are not once they once were.
After seasons in which the Leafs became the first back to back regular season champions, the first (and only) team to top 11,000 points, the first team to win back to back Stanley Cups, and the first team to put together a regular season championship and a Stanley Cup victory in the same year (an accomplishment that was matched by R.Johnson Sr. and the Buffalo Sabres last season), the Leafs now find themselves 2000 points out of top spot.
Gone is the defense that boasted Pronger, Lidstrom, Niedermayer, McCabe, Gonchar, and Weber and racked up over 3000 points a year.
Gone is the goaltending tandem of Luongo and Turco that could post 1400 points a year.
Hope however is not gone, and this last week proves it.
In the past week the Maple Leafs gave fans an indication that while the ship has slowed, it was only to raise new sails. Outside of Kipusoff, who routinely leads the team in weekly point scoring, the next nine players on the weekly scoring chart are all under 25 years of age. Stamkos, Sekera, Schenn, Benn, Callahan, Bozak, Stortini, Weber, and Butler all contributed in a positive way to a 324 point week.
The Leafs had high expectations for Stamkos, Benn, and Wilson this year, and outside of Wilson, who suffered a serious injury in camp, the young forwards have not failed to deliver. Colin Wilson has returned from injury in the AHL and has become one of the dominant players in the league suggesting his NHL payload could arrive this spring.
Looking ahead, the defense with Schenn, Sekera, Butler, and Weber may not ever meet the levels set by their Hall of Fame predecessors, but they have the potential to be an above average unit.
With Nathan Horton's arrival it is clear that the focus continues to be on rebuilding on the fly. One has to wonder how Pronger and Kiprusoff fit in, though no team has ever been successful without key veteran leadership.