Leetch among the best in D class

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:38 PM ET


 Better late than never, the Maple Leafs have learned how to connect the dots that link the best defencemen to the Stanley Cup.

 They've found the line that runs through the Norris Trophy to the Conn Smythe to the Cup, which spells out names such as Nick Lidstrom, Rob Blake, Chris Chelios and, in their own case, Brian Leetch.

 The names of all but one Norris winner during the past 20 years have been engraved on the Cup at some stage of his career, with only Chris Pronger yet to complete the journey. Leetch, Lidstrom, Scott Stevens and Al MacInnis are all Smythe playoff MVPs, too.

 The Leafs previously had an all-star calibre defenceman in Borje Salming, and though they made the semi-finals a few times with a mixed cast during the past decade, they haven't won the Cup since expansion in 1967. With Leetch aboard, they've re-entered the big leagues.

 "All good teams have that kind of a defenceman, who doesn't panic with the puck, who skates well with it out of the zone and makes a crisp, first pass on the tape," Alex Mogilny said. "You need that in the regular season and the playoffs. That type of guy doesn't come around very often."

 Everyone in Leetch's class has a signature: Stevens' body check, MacInnis' fearsome slapshot and Chelios' various forms of skulduggery.

 Leetch is wowing the Leafs with his no-look passes, which come in handy for freezing the other team's defencemen on the power play.


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