Thanks to Reimer, Kessel trade better for Buds

Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer looks up ice during a stoppage in play against the Canadiens at...

Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer looks up ice during a stoppage in play against the Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on April 9, 2011. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:54 PM ET

TORONTO - If Peter Chiarelli wasn’t already hoisting a glass of champagne, he should have been.

It was New Years’ Eve 2010 and the Boston Bruins general manager had every reason to celebrate the year that was about to pass.

Six months earlier, Chiarelli had used the No. 2 overall selection in the entry draft to take highly touted forward Tyler Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers. The pick used to snap up Seguin was one of two first rounders acquired from the Maple Leafs as part of the Phil Kessel deal, much to the chagrin of despondent Toronto fans.

Now here it was, Dec. 31, and Chiarelli needed no encouragement to smile when he took a quick peek at the NHL standings. Sitting 28th overall, third from the basement, were the Leafs, meaning Chiarelli’s Bruins were in line for yet another top-three selection courtesy of Toronto, this time during the 2011 draft in St. Paul, Minn.

But Chiarelli’s luck would run out 24 hours later when James Reimer made his NHL debut for the Maple Leafs. By the time the final horn had sounded, Reimer had backstopped Toronto to a 5-1 at Scotiabank Place on that frosty Jan. 1 evening, the first of 20 victories recorded by the rookie goaltender.

Thanks in large part to Reimer, the Maple Leafs’ second-half push has taken some of the lustre off their ’11 first-round pick now held by the Bruins.

When the draft lottery is held on Tuesday, the Bruins, now down to occupying the No. 9 slot because of Toronto’s late run, will have just a 2.7% chance of winning. In the event they do, they can move up four places to fifth but have no shot under the system of selecting in the top three again.

For the record, the ninth-ranked skater, according to NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings released on Monday, is diminutive 5-foot-10 Kitchener Rangers defenceman Ryan Murphy, who has a significant offensive upside after registering 79 assists this year.

Whether the Bruins opt for Murphy remains to be seen. Either way, their selection position will not be as lucrative as it was four months ago before Reimer came on the scene.

At the same time, with Kessel reaching the 30-goal plateau for a second consecutive year in a Leafs uniform, maybe, just maybe, the Kessel deal will not end up being as one-sided as many of the so-called critics claim.

Now if Brian Burke could only find a legitimate top-line centre to play alongside No. 81 ...

Oh well. He’ll have plenty of time for that endeavour now that the Leafs’ season is over in early April.

Again.

History lesson

May 4 will mark the seventh anniversary of the day the Maple Leafs last participated in a playoff game. On that fateful night in 2004, Jeremy Roenick’s overtime goal gave the visiting Philadelphia Flyers a 3-2 victory at the Air Canada Centre, eliminating Toronto from post-season play.

Even the most sarcastic of cynics would not have predicted this much time would have passed without Toronto making a return visit to the post-season dance.

How much time has passed? Here’s a look at the lineup the Leafs iced on that evening. That should give you an idea.

GOALIES: Ed Belfour, Trevor Kidd.

DEFENCE: Bryan McCabe, Tomas Kaberle, Brian Leetch, Aki Berg, Bryan Marchment, Karel Pilar.

FORWARDS: Mats Sundin, Alexander Mogilny, Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk, Tom Fitzgerald, Darcy Tucker, Chad Kilger, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Robert Reichel, Tie Domi, Nik Antropov, Wade Belak.

If that talented team couldn’t get past the first round, does Ron Wilson really think the 2011 edition is just two or three pieces away from being a Stanley Cup contender?

For Pete's sake

Peter DeBoer deserved better than he got in Florida, where each of his three seasons behind the Panthers bench involved some sort of housecleaning and cost cutting.

This guy is a quality coach. And we’re not the only ones who feel that way. Hockey Canada officials think that too.

On Sunday night, less than 24 hours after being fired by the hapless Panthers, DeBoer received a call from Team Canada head coach Ken Hitchcock asking if he would like to serve as an assistant along with Scott Arniel for the coming world hockey championship.

“Obviously it was a nice call to get at kind of a dark time,” DeBoer said in a phone interview on Monday. “I’m obviously excited to go. Hockey Canada has done a great job with the program bringing in people who might be out of work — Craig MacTavish a year ago, Hitch this time around.”

DeBoer should not go long before another NHL team comes calling.

Last minute of play

Kaberle and McCabe will be making their first post-season appearances since that 2004 visit with the Leafs. Kaberle’s Boston Bruins take on the rival Montreal Canadiens, while McCabe’s New York Rangers face off against Alex Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals ... Think Francois Beauchemin is happy the Leafs shipped him back to the Ducks? Not only is Anaheim in the post-season, the Ducks have home-ice advantage against Nashville.


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