We all remember a few years back when the Leafs couldn’t beat Ottawa during the regular season, but knocked them out of the playoffs every spring.
Who knows why certain teams struggle against certain other teams?
This season, the Leafs can’t beat Buffalo and have competed well against the Senators yet the Sabres can’t handle Ottawa.
Leaf fans will likely be watching their newest college signee, Brayden Irwin, but we may be wise to also spend some time focusing on a player who is quickly becoming the next big thing in the NHL, literally and figuratively: 6 foot, 8 inch Tyler Myers of the Sabres.
The just now 20 year-old rookie defenseman hit a wall some weeks back, but has seemingly broken through that wall to play more excellent hockey. Whether or not he wins the rookie of the year award matters little. What is much more important is that the Sabres clearly drafted wisely (12th overall in 2008), and have an emerging star who can play, already, in any situation—including against the other teams’ top forwards.
How good can this young man become?
Just one more indication that you don’t always have to pick first overall, or in the “top three”, to identify someone who can make a huge difference on your hockey team.
Some months back I posted on a very particular memory.
It was about a game between the Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings in the 1961-’62 season. I was quite young, 8 years old at the time. However, I vividly remember watching on television that night, at the Gardens, as the Leafs fell behind by a score of 3-0.
They came back to win the game 4-3.
My memory obviously can be off, but what I remember about the comeback is that a then young Leaf forward, Les Kozak (click on his name to read the original story), scored the game’s tying goal, before Dave Keon scored the winner.
Kozak was a rookie, and I never remembered him scoring another goal with the Leafs.
He was sent to the minors after playing about a dozen games with the Leafs. But I was not living in Toronto at the time and Leaf coverage through the media was not as pervasive as it is today, so I never really knew what happened to him.
In my post, I wondered if anyone knew whatever had happened to Kozak.
Well, I received a nice note this week from someone close to Les, indicating that he indeed retired from hockey at a very young age after suffering a serious head injury playing in the minors that same ’61-’62 season.
Nevertheless, Kozak achieved great success in his later chosen field—scientific research. He earned his PhD from prestigious Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana and has carved out a long and distinguished career in the field. He is a professor and works at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
My memory was correct—the goal Kozak scored was the only one in his NHL career. Though injury prevented him from continuing with his athletic pursuits, he clearly went on to attain great success in a very important field of endeavor.