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Seven Reasons Why The Leafs Will Take The East

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Old
03-04-2004, 11:54 PM
  #1
Trottier
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Seven Reasons Why The Leafs Will Take The East

Putting aside the usual disclaimers (e.g., major injuries; Mats Sundin getting suspended for a month for hurling his stick into the crowd :p , etc.), have a very strong feeling that this is the year the Leafs make it to the Cup Finals. Note that this poster has absolutely no affinity for that team, and thinks a few of its loyal fans are wacko for preferring a youth movement at this time to acquiring perennial all-stars for its roster. But there are compelling reasons why they will will win the East:

1 - They enter the playoffs with the #2 rated goalie in the game come playoff time. That's "playoff time." Not the regular season, but when it's for all the marbles. Belfour has a long, proven post-season track record. Outside of Brodeur, doubt you would find a coach who wouldn't want his experience and winning pedigree in net come April.

2 - They now have an impact, top-tier dman. A couple years back, this team replaced Yushkevich on the backline with Svehla...and now they have Brian Leetch. That's called an upgrade of significant proportions. Say what you want about him being old, brittle, whatever. If he is standing come April-June, the Leafs will boast a differencemaker, a catalyst on D. And Kaberle, McCabe, etc. suddenly look very impressive when not asked to be the team's quasi-#1 backliner.

3 - Mats Sundin is a bonafide differencemaker. Yes, old news. But for some, the tired stereotype of the talented, but soft Swede still applies at this late date. However, over the last couple of years (including this season), this observer has seen a much different player. Elite skills as always, but determined, relentless and never hesitant to enter into the fray, the high-traffic areas. Not that he ever was a wimp to begin with, but the feeling here is that Gary Roberts' presence has helped Sundin mature into a true team captain with heart and courage. And Cup teams always need their special players to "be truly special" and lead.

4 - They are as physical a team as there is in the NHL. Not likely to be the sole "differencemaker" in winning a seven-game series, but the Leafs will NEVER back down from any team and they are capable of wearing a few teams down. And, the guessing here is that they will channel their aggresiveness properly this time around (to their advantage), having learned from some prior mistakes.

5 - Veteran experience. Roberts, Nolan, Sundin, Mogilny, Leetch, Belfour, etc. Enough said. These guys seem to still be very hungry at the later stages of their careers. Importantly, they have experienced losing in the playoffs together, several times over. That can be an advantage. (If you need an explanation, don't bother.) Plus Mogilny is fresh, having missed a lot of time. That will benefit him once he hits his stride again. A sprinkling of huge, energetic youth (Antropov, Ponikarovsky) in supporting roles compliments the core well. And, perhaps as much as any team in the league the players on the Leafs know their individual roles.

6 - A coach who has been there. Rip Pat Quinn all you wish (and people do, daily), the guy has taken two other teams to the Finals. He remains the right greybeard coach for this group of greybeard players.

7 - Finally, the planets are aligned properly in the East for the Leaf's opponents to come up short. Unless Stevens comes back and comes back strong, NJD will not repeat this year. Philly is a very solid team with a superb coach, but JR is a question mark, and more importantly, they fall short in goal. Boston will be a bonafide contender, as Gonchar changes their complexion bigtime. But a rookie behind the bench and a rookie in goal come springtime is not the winning ticket, IMO. Tampa Bay is a very strong team and on the rise for the forseeable future, IMO. But they, too, lack playoff experience as a group, and may be peaking a month too early. Ottawa, my pre-season pick, could well be the Leaf's biggest obstacle. But ultimately, close series often come down to goaltending, and until proven otherwise, advantage Belfour over Lalime. Montreal is a wildcard, a bonafide sleeper. NYI is an eighth place playoff team, with a rookie coach and inexperienced goaltender. Enough said.

Who knows what trades are still to be made, who will get hurt, etc. But the money here is on Toronto to be playing this June.

Just one opinion.


Last edited by Trottier: 03-05-2004 at 04:00 AM.
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Old
03-05-2004, 12:00 AM
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trottier
Putting aside the usual disclaimers (e.g., major injuries; Mats Sundin getting suspended for a month for hurling his stick into the crowd :p , etc.), have a very strong feeling that this is the year the Leafs make it to the Cup Finals. Note that this poster has absolutely no affinity for that team, and thinks a few of its loyal fans are wacko for preferring a youth movement at this time to acquiring perennial all-stars for its roster. But there are compelling reasons why they will will win the East:


Great analysis Trottier, and I completely agree. By no means will it be easy and of course once the playoffs start anything can happen. But if I were to pick one team to favour over the others in the East it would be Toronto. Of course I am a Leaf fan (unlike Trottier) so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but this is the best I've felt about this team at the trade deadline in years.

Excellent comments on the "wacko youth movement fans" as well. I really could not agree more.

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03-05-2004, 12:02 AM
  #3
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Alas poor Trottier, I knew him well..

Well, I hope you're right Trots. I do agree with many of your points but I do see the East being a big dogfight (Philly, NJ, OTT, Tor as the main group and TB and Bos nipping at their tails).

Time will tell.

Just one additional point; I think the signing of Joe Nieuwendyk has been very crucial. He gives the Leafs a very good second line center, provides great leadership and has really been key in the development of guys like Antropov and Ponikarovsky.

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Old
03-05-2004, 12:02 AM
  #4
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Good post with many worthwhile points. I'm just praying you're wrong.

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03-05-2004, 12:08 AM
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trottier
Putting aside the usual disclaimers (e.g., major injuries; Mats Sundin getting suspended for a month for hurling his stick into the crowd :p , etc.), have a very strong feeling that this is the year the Leafs make it to the Cup Finals. Note that this poster has absolutely no affinity for that team, and thinks a few of its loyal fans are wacko for preferring a youth movement at this time to acquiring perennial all-stars for its roster. But there are compelling reasons why they will will win the East:

1 - They enter the playoffs with the #2 rated goalie in the game come playoff time. That's "playoff time." Not the regular season, but when it's for all the marbles. Belfour has a long, proven post-season track record. Outside of Brodeur, doubt you would find a coach who wouldn't want his experience and winning pedigree in net come April.

2 - They now have an impact, top-tier dman. A couple years back, this team replaced Yushkevich on the backline with Svehla...and now they have Brian Leetch. That's called an upgrade of significant proportions. Say what you want about him being old, brittle, whatever. If he is standing come April-June, the Leafs will boast a differencemaker, a catalyst on D. And Kaberle, McCabe, etc. suddenly look very impressive when not asked to be the team's quasi-#1 backliner.

3 - Mats Sundin is a bonafide differencemaker. Yes, old news, but for some, the tired stereotype of the talented, but soft Swede still applies at this late date. However, even over the last couple of years (including this season), this observer has seen a much different player. Elite skills as always, but determined, relentless and never hesitant to enter into the fray, the high-traffic areas. Not that he ever was a wimp to begin with, but the feeling here is that Gary Roberts' presence has helped Sundin mature into a true team captain with heart and courage. And Cup teams always need their special players to "be truly special" and lead.

4 - They are as physical a team as there is in the NHL. Not likely to be the sole "differencemaker" in winning a seven-game series, but the Leafs will NEVER back down from any team and they are capable of wearing a few teams down. And, the guessing here is that they will channel their aggresiveness properly this time around (to their advantage), having learned from some prior mistakes.

5 - Veteran experience. Roberts, Nolan, Sundin, Mogilny, Leetch, Belfour, etc. Enough said. These guys seem to still be very hungry at the later stages of their careers. Importantly, they have experienced losing in the playoffs together, several times over. That can be an advantage. (If you need an explanation, don't bother.) Plus Mogilny is fresh, having missed a lot of time. That will benefit him once he hits his stride again. A sprinkling of huge, energetic youth (Antropov, Ponikarovsky) in supporting roles compliments the core well. And, perhaps as much as any team in the league the players on the Leafs know their individual roles.

6 - A coach who has been there. Rip Pat Quinn all you wish (and people do, daily), the guy has taken two other teams to the Finals. He remains the right greybeard coach for this group of greybeard players.

7 - Finally, the planets are aligned properly in the East for the Leaf's opponents to come up short. Unless Stevens comes back and comes back strong, NJD will not repeat this year. Philly is a very solid team with a superb coach, but JR is a question mark, and more importantly, they fall short in goaltending. Boston will be a bonafide contender, as Gonchar changes their complexion bigtime. But a rookie behind the bench and a rookie in goal come springtime is not the winning ticket, IMO. Tampa Bay is a very strong team and on the rise for the forseeable future, IMO. But they, too, lack playoff experience as a group, and may be peaking a month too early. Ottawa, my pre-season pick, could well be the Leaf's biggest obstacle. But ultimately, close series often come down to goaltending, and until proven otherwise, advantage Belfour over Lalime. Montreal is a wildcard, a bonafide sleeper. NYI is an eighth place playoff team, with a rookie coach and goaltender. Enough said.

Who knows what trades are still to be made, who will get hurt, etc. But the money here is on Toronto to be playing this June.

Just one opinion.
excellent read. i don't know what toronto's lines are, but a team like this is devastating to play against

Roberts - Sundin - Mogilny
Nieuwendyke - Antropov - Nolan
Tucker - Stajan - Fitzgerald
Renberg - Reichel - Domi

Leetch - Klee
Kaberle - Marchment
McCabe - Berg
Berehowsky

Belfour
Kidd

great depth in terms of pilar, ponikarvsky and belak and perrot but the only weakness is quite apparent - the backup job

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Old
03-05-2004, 12:08 AM
  #6
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Very good post, I was expecting a laughable list from a Leafs homer, but I was pleasantly surprised.

You've brought up some good points and I agree with most of them. I'm still not sold that they're going all the way though.

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Old
03-05-2004, 12:12 AM
  #7
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The biggest fear the Leaf fans should have is that they have a lot of players that had injuries in the past. And the kind of injuries that have a nasty habit of making returns when you least need it (knee, shoulder, groin). Staying healthy is a challenge in itself for most teams these days.

Second biggest problem is that they don't have the trap to fall back on. The trap is like an insurance policy for teams. Even when you are playing poorly you might eke out a win.

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03-05-2004, 12:13 AM
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MoS
excellent read. i don't know what toronto's lines are, but a team like this is devastating to play against

Roberts - Sundin - Mogilny
Nieuwendyke - Antropov - Nolan
Tucker - Stajan - Fitzgerald
Renberg - Reichel - Domi

Leetch - Klee
Kaberle - Marchment
McCabe - Berg
Berehowsky

Belfour
Kidd
Well, a couple of definite changes. For one Ponikarovsky is firmly entrenched in the lineup. He plays with Antropov and Nieuwendyk on the "SKY" line.

Marchment is the 7th d-man (for now).

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Old
03-05-2004, 12:18 AM
  #9
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how good is eddies back? i wouldnt argue with the analyse but it seems that some suspect eddies back as a problem.

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03-05-2004, 12:21 AM
  #10
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Agreed Hat! I like Ed and I like Mike but...how good is Belfour's wonky back? He's been plagued by that thing for 10 years now.

 
Old
03-05-2004, 12:29 AM
  #11
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I'm going to make a far-fetched prediction by saying the canadiens will come out of the east. that team is primed to kill some contenders. good luck to their first round opponent.

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03-05-2004, 12:36 AM
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Montreal is a wildcard, a bonafide sleeper
Ouch... you did hurt me right there.

About the leafs, add to the reasons that the team HAS to win this year. They are getting old and now is the time for them to do it and they will step up knowing that.

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03-05-2004, 12:44 AM
  #13
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how's eddie? he's allowed 11 goals in his last 9 (or something very close to that)

face it if any team loses their #1 they're in trouble. how for would nj go?

Quote:
Second biggest problem is that they don't have the trap to fall back on. The trap is like an insurance policy for teams. Even when you are playing poorly you might eke out a win.
you haven't been watching the leafs lately have you? the leafs play the trap sometimes.

"'|).

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03-05-2004, 01:18 AM
  #14
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**bookmarks this thread.

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03-05-2004, 01:28 AM
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trottier
...


Interesting read !

As much as it pains me to say it... I agree with every single points you made. It's disturbing. :p

I never believed in the leafs chances in other years but this season... there's something special about them. If they're healthy they are the team to beat. I really hope they don't take 1st or 2nd place in the east. I'd rather face any other team for the 1st and hopefully 2nd round.

I also agree about the habs being the eastern conference wild card. We need some good match ups, theo being hot and a bit of luck though to get past the first round.

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03-05-2004, 01:40 AM
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Definitely a good read, and some solid points made. I don't necessarily agree, I personally don't see the Leafs making it out of the second round. Just a gut feel I suppose, but I think a list could be made for a number of the competitors in the East. There are about four or five legitimate contenders in the East. An argument could be made for any of them, but at least this one is an intelligent, thoughtful one. Nice work.

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03-05-2004, 06:54 AM
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That's a nice little analysis you have put together. I'll say my peace and be done with this. Goaltending for the Leafs is questionable due to Belfour's recent back injury. He may be a great goalie but age and health concerns on his back aren't what you want to have heading into the playoffs. As far as leaders, all the top teams have them in the East. NJ, PHI, OTT & TB have their leaders doing the job for them. Every team has experience on their roster. Flyers probably have more than TOR and NJ has guys who have won 3 Cups. As far as TB goes, they are a good, young team that no one has been able to beat. It doesn't matter if they face Colorado or Chicago, they beat either one soundly. Quinn is a coach who has been there right along with Ken Hitchcock and Pat Burns as far as winning Cups goes. Did Quinn every win one coaching VAN, TOR and even PHI? I don't think so. Every team can match up with them when it comes to being physical. Thing is, they don't play that physical anymore in games (from what I have seen).

As far as other teams in the East:

Flyers -- Goaltending is a question mark as usual. However, if the defense plays solid every game, the goalie doesn't get a lot of shots. Flyers have Eric Desjardins returning at just the right time. Primeau is less than a week away and JR is aiming for a playoff return. With those 2 you also have Zhamnov, Handzus, Lapointe and Sharp. When 25 & 97 come back, you have 2 centers that move to the wings. Knowing Clarke, he will get a d-man to replace Therien who is the only weak link in the defense.

Devils --- Doesn't matter where they are in the standings. They just get in the playoffs and go from there. They may not have guys leading any categories besides goaltending in the regular season, but in the postseason their guys are leading the way. They have playoff clutch performers. They have the best goalie in the league and tons of experience.

Sens ---Lalime has been a question for them but with their defense, they can stop teams from even entering their zone. Lalime hasn't been bad as of late. If he is on, they might actually win it this year. They have everything else needed, scoring, defense and strength.

TB --- no playoff experience means nothing. They go out there and play their game no matter what team is out there. They have speed, consistant defense and solid goaltending. Whoever has been placed in front of them, they have beaten with ease. The minute you think that they aren't going to do anything due to playoff experience, you lose.

BOS-- did improve on defense but still don't think they are deep enough with offense. Can Joe and Glen carry the offense against a team like OTT? I just don't see it.

All the teams near TOR in the standings are just as stacked as TOR is, and some arent' done acquiring players. TOR has been embarrassed by the Flyers with the same roster they have now minus Leetch. You aren't going to sell any Flyer fan or any other fan out there saying they have what it takes to beat OTT, PHI or NJD in a series. Even more with OTT and NJD because these are the 2 teams who duked it out last year for the conference title. So, I realize it's just an opinion but I don't think it's a well thought opinion.

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03-05-2004, 07:34 AM
  #18
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The Leafs could come out of the East, but as usual a lot will depend upon match-ups.

The Leafs still do not match-up well against the Flyers.

Odd how it works but as a general rule:

Leafs will beat Sens
Sens will beat Flyers
Flyers will beat Leafs

the seedings will become very important.

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03-05-2004, 09:01 AM
  #19
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Trotts, nice analysis, but like many around here I can't get passed you completely ignoring Belfour's injury problems since the new year. Since it became 2004 he has played 15 games, was rested for 1, and missed 14 games with back and leg injuries. He has missed 11 of the Leafs last 14 games with back injuries. His back is a HUGE question mark. Besides Jersey, the Leafs are in the worst situation if their starter goes down and Brodeur has never had injury issues. One of the top questions in the league come playoff time will be, can Belfour's back hold up through the grind of the playoffs? I for one have some serious doubts about that.

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03-05-2004, 09:03 AM
  #20
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Don't forget Joe Nieuwendyk..

Here's a very nice read on him: LINK

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03-05-2004, 09:52 AM
  #21
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I still think Ottawa has a better team and just as much depth as the Leafs. Philly with Primeau & Desjardins back very soon will be adding 2 key players into the line-up w/o losing anyone. Add to the fact that JR is skating now and will be back for the playoffs, the Flyers have more depth then Toronto. IF Stevenes is back NJ will be tough as well. With all that being said the only area where TO has a definite advantage over Ottawa or Philly is in net and Belfour has not looked exactly great against Philly in the recent games he has played against them.

I would rank TO's chances of winning the cup right BEhind Philly and Ottawa.

Call me a homer if you want but once everyone is healthy Philly has the best 4 lines in the east depth wise.

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03-05-2004, 10:22 AM
  #22
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Good points, but there are a few ifs. The big "if" is the health of the Maple Leafs. As we all know, TO has some of the worst luck with injuries come playoff time(in recent years at least). Belfour's back is a bigger concern, no Eddie, no Cup. While the Leafs defence core can now pretty much match up against anyone in the East, as a team, Toronto isn't as good as Philly or New Jersey at stopping quality scoring chances. Philly has question marks in goal, but their coach is Hitchcock, and a great goalie isn't necessary for him to win because of his defensive scheme. Still, if I were a Flyers fan, I would've liked a wee bit more playoff winning experience in goal.
The Senators have a question mark in goal too, but they also have a good defensive scheme. However, their tendencies to blow leads as of late is a big concern. Rumours are they're interested in Brandon Witt, so that would really shore up their blueline.
I wouldn't count out Montreal either. They're potential giant killers with Theodore in net. He's stolen a series for them before and he can do it again. It'll help with Souray firing blasts from the point again.
Predictions right now can be kind of iffy because no one knows the seedings yet. Depending on the seedings, you can get favourable or unfavourable matchups. The Leafs don't want the Flyers, the Sens don't want the Leafs, the Flyers don't want the Sens(based on past performances in the playoffs). And the trade deadline isn't done yet.
As of right now, I'm not sure if the Leafs are the team to beat, but they damn sure are making a good case for it.

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03-05-2004, 10:24 AM
  #23
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Originally Posted by Modano = God
Don't forget Joe Nieuwendyk..

Here's a very nice read on him: LINK
Yeah, hope his knees hold up until the season ends. The guy is a winner and will be very important for the Leafs.

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03-05-2004, 10:34 AM
  #24
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I have Serious questions on whether the Leafs D will be able to handle the physical play that will take place in the playoffs. Their top 4 gives up over 20lbs a MAN to the Sens top 4 (and somewhere inbetween to the Flyers or Devils). I seriously question how much succes they will have on the PK (letting Eddie see shots) and against the cycle (which can wear them down).

And if Eddies back goes, they are also completely done.

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03-05-2004, 11:08 AM
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Flyers Fan
The Leafs could come out of the East, but as usual a lot will depend upon match-ups.

The Leafs still do not match-up well against the Flyers.

Odd how it works but as a general rule:

Leafs will beat Sens
Sens will beat Flyers
Flyers will beat Leafs

the seedings will become very important.
I'll agree to that as well. I also think the 3 remaining contenders are longshots win the East this year. New Jersey I think lacks the motivation of the other contenders (having won it all last year), as well as Stevens possibly not being as dominant if and when he comes back. Tampa is young and IMO they will lose to a less talented opponent with more experience and veteran savvy (but it will be a great learning experience for Lecavalier and co.). For Boston to win the East Rycroft will have to outplay 3 consecutive opposing goalies (since Ott, Tor, NJ, Phi and TB are all better teams at this point), which I highly doubt will happen.

So with that, I think the East comes down to a simple game of paper (Ottawa), rocks (Philly) and scissors (Toronto). :p (jk I can't choose between those 3)

P.S. I suspect any team that comes out of the West *coughRedWingscough* would like to see Toronto in the finals, since they will most likely be battered and bruised after coming out of the Eastern war zone.

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