My expectations of the Leafs were modest, to say the least, heading into New Jersey. And predictably, with the season essentially done, they weren't their recent selves, and played their way to a 3-0 deficit after two periods.
Still, Reimer never gave up (though Giggy played the third), and the team showed their penchant for fighting 'til the end. Bozak's marker (while the Leafs were killing a two-man disadvantage), as he left Kovalchuk in his wake and deked future Hall-of-Famer Brodeur, was particularly uplifting.
Montreal left. Grabbo needs his 30th. That would be a fitting time to get it.
Leaf fans will remember that, on the eve of the “meaningless” last game of the 2009-’10 regular season, General Manager Brian Burke called up Tim Brent from the Marlies to play in the team’s finale.
At the time, it appeared to be a nice gesture (click to read my story on that decision at the time) and nothing more. In fact, it was telling, not only about Burke and the way he operates, but for Brent. (Click on his name to read about how the call-up wasn’t so meaningless after all.)
Interestingly, Brent wasn’t a Maple Leaf draft choice or developed for years in their system. In fact, the ex-St. Mike’s junior was twice drafted by
, and spent time elsewhere, playing sparingly in the NHL, before landing a minor-league contract with the blue and white prior to last season. Anaheim
But Brent displayed so much hustle (when he wasn’t injured) throughout last season with the Marlies that he got the symbolic nod from the Burke when the opportunity arose. The Leafs, as I recall, didn’t need to call anyone up for the game, but they chose to promote Tim for that game and by doing so, sent a signal to aspiring Leaf prospects everywhere: If you play the way we ask you to play, and play hard every night, we are watching.
And, we may just reward you when we have the opportunity.
So Brent got his one game, but parlayed that game into a training camp effort where he turned enough heads to make the opening night roster, when he was not even in the conversation for a center spot, really, back in August.
We all know what he has done with that opportunity. He has become something of an unsung hero, albeit on a Leaf squad that didn’t make the playoffs, a fan favorite because of his determination and willingness to take one for the team in tight situations—including blocking shots with the game ion the line.
I’ve posted a few times here that I really believe Brent should receive the Bickell Trophy, and I hope he does.
So now, I believe that the Leafs have, technically, one more “call-up” available for the last game again this year. They have guys in the press box as it is, so they don’t need to call anyone up. But if Burke is Burke, he will reward somebody.
Some have opined that young Joe Colborne (acquired in the Kaberle deal) will get an opportunity to show his stuff before the season ends. But if Burke is consistent with the values he demonstrated last year at this time, for my money the guy will be Ryan Hamilton. Like Brent last season,
has spent a good chunk of the season on the injured list. But he is a tireless worker, in great condition, a guy who leads the Marlies in a most important category— desire. Hamilton
He also has contributed with strong overall play and some offense (15 goals in only 43 games), too, in limited game action.
He’s earned a chance. I hope he gets it.