Monday, November 3, 2008

Can the '09 Leafs make the finals? Here are some all time favourite underdog teams:

2003 Minnesota Wild
Andrew Brunette - Cliff Ronning - Marion Gaborik
Anti Laaksonen - Sergei Zholtok - Pascal Dupuis
Jim Dowd - Wes Walz - Richard Park
P-M Bouchard - Darby Hendrickson - Matt Johnson

Filip Kuba - Brad Bombardir
Andrei Zyuzin - Willie Mitchell
Lubomir Sekeras -Nik Schultz

Dwayne Roloson
Manny Fernandez

(*Jeremy Stevenson, Stephane Veilleux, Jason Marshall, Brad Brown)

This was a defense first, Jacques Lemaire team that got hot and cold tandem goaltending from two good guys. Gaborik was the spark of their offense in the playoffs and regular season but it was scoring from everywhere that made their unlikely run possible.

Memorable moments:
Darby Hendrikson's long slap shot goal on Cloutier, game 7
Richard Park's OT winner on Patrick Roy, game 6
Andrew Brunnette's series winning OT deke on Patrick Roy, game 7

Star Players - 1
Offense - C+
Defense - A+
Goaltending - A-
Expectations - 12th-15th in the West
Reality - 6th in West
Result - 2 playoff upsets, Western Conference Final loss to Anaheim

1999 Toronto Maple Leafs

Freddy Modin - Mats Sundin - Steve Thomas
Sergei Berezin - Yannick Perrault - Gary Valk
Derick King - Igor Korelev - Mike Johnson
Steve Sullivan - Alyn McCauley - Tie Domi

Bryan Berard - Dimitri Yushkevich
Sylvain Cote - Alexander Karpovstev
Tomas Kaberle - Danny Markov

Curtis Joseph
Glen Healey

(*Kris King, Chris McAllister, Todd Warriner, Dallas Eakins, Lonny Bohonos)

Pat Quinn coached run and gun team scored more goals than anyone despite only having 1 big name guy up front in Sundin. Cujo bailed this team out of a lot of situations because of their aggressive offensive style of play.

Memorable moments:
Steve Thomas scores 2 in the third to beat Philadelphia, game 1
Lonny Bohonos plays in his 1st playoff game in the middle of the 2nd round, scores on Wregget early
Sergei Berezins OT winner vs Pittsburgh
Gary Valk's series clinching goal vs Wregget, game 6 sending the Leafs to the final 4

Star Players - 1
Offense - A+ (first in the league)
Defense - B-
Goaltending - A
Expectations - 7th-10th in East
Reality - 4th in East
Result - 2 Playoff series wins, loss in Eastern Finals to Buffalo

1996 Florida Panthers

Tom Fitzgerald - Stu Barnes - Scott Melanby
Dave Lowry - Rob Niederymyer - Ray Sheppard
Johan Garpenlov - Marty Straka - Bill Lindsay
Jody Hull - Brian Skrudland - Mike Hough

Robert Svehla - Jason Wooley
Ed Jovonovski - Gord Murphy
Rhett Warrener - Paul Laus

John Vanbiesbrook
Mark Fitzpatrick

(*Radek Dvorak, Terry Carkner)

This team was the biggest underdog of all. This was a team without a star that got very hot goaltending in the playoffs and a good team effort from everyone. They are the ultimate Cinderella story, wish they'd won it all. Dave Lowry's 17 playoff points led the way, followed by Stu Barnes and Ray Sheppard each with 16. This was not a team of star players just a lot of guys contributing much like the '99 Leafs and '03 Wild.

Memorable moments:
Scott Melanby killing the rat (Patrick Roy getting the rubber rats)
Ed Jovonovski's devestating hits in the Philly series
John Vanbiesbrook's performance
(sorry no specific moments for this team, too long ago)

Star Players - 0
Offense - B-
Defense - A-
Goaltending - A+
Expectations - 7th-10th in East
Reality - 4th in East
Result - 3 playoff series wins, Loss in Stanley Cup final to Avalanche

Keeping in mind how all these teams did it, by getting contibution from everyone, solid goaltending and great coaching - realistically could the Leafs of '09 be the next underdog story of the NHL? Sadly none of these teams won the Stanley Cup.