Invitation: The 2009-2010 Maple Leafs End of Season Banquet

Look what I found lying around yesterday…


March 25, 2010

Dear Valued Employee:

As a Toronto Maple Leaf player, you are invited to attend the annual Toronto Maple Leafs end-of-season banquet and awards ceremony.  This year, the banquet will be held on Saturday April 17th, 2010 at Jack Astor’s, unless of course we make the playoffs.  Ha ha, just kidding!  Seriously, though, the banquet is on the 17th at 7 p.m. sharp.

I’m not including a map to (or the address of) the specific Jack Astor’s restaurant we’re going to because it’s important that we keep the location of our team shindig confidential, to avoid having any unwanted guests.  In unrelated news, I’ve told Rickard Wallin (through a Swedish interpreter, he doesn’t read English) that we’ll be at Wendel Clark’s Classic Grille in Oakville.  He has been instructed to arrive early, demand to speak with the owner, and threaten him with trouble if we don’t enjoy our evening (which I have booked under the name “Fetisov”).  Don’t spoil the surprise for Ricky – remember how many stitches it took to close up the wound in Jason Blake’s face last year?  Oh, right, almost none of you were here for that.  Well trust me, it was good times.

The dinner menu at the actual, non-fake, banquet location includes: beef.  If you do not want to eat beef, or if you are a vegetarian or have other incorrect desires, let me just say that Edmonton gets pretty cold in the winter and – as incredible as it may sound – the Oilers are less likely than even us to win anything anytime soon. Jonas Gustavsson can have pickled herring, but only because he has a couple of doctor’s notes and I don’t like to get covered in exploding heart blood.  Remember, for this meal, the “Wellwood Rule” is in effect so portions will be limited to six servings of 48 oz. each.

After dinner of course, we’ll be handing out the end of season awards.  By tradition, your Master of Ceremonies will be the longest serving Leaf player, Tomas Kaberle.  As you know, also by tradition, the M.C. is ineligible to win any of the awards.  We offered to move Kabby out of that spot, but he insisted that he isn’t concerned about winning and wanted to stay (why does this sound familiar?);  in fact, he would like to MC both this year and next.  I can say that we’re prepared to meet him halfway on that one.

Awards to be presented this year include:

  • the David Williams Memorial “Mister Congeniality” Plaque (2010 recipient: Colton Orr – has anybody else noticed no one has disagreed with Colton about anything since he dummied Matt Carkner?);
  • the Wendel Clark “Most Valuable Player” Trophy (2010 recipient: Jeff Finger – shhh, don’t say anything, I’m talking trade with someone whose name rhymes with “Errol Flutter” and this MVP thing may get us Jarome Iginla and a pick); and
  • the Gary Leeman “Best Teammate” Prize (2010 recipient: former Leaf Vesa Toskala, in honour of the unremitting dedication to his craft he displayed.  He doesn’t know it yet, but Vesa will be in attendance at the Banquet courtesy of a burlap sack, some duct tape and the trunk of Jay Rosehill’s car.  Please note that this award will be presented posthumously and as soon as possible:  bring your own blunt object.)

After the awards ceremony, though it’ll be tough to top that last award, we’ll be moving to the entertainment portion of the evening.  Right now, the plan is for Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin and Tyler Bozak to come up with something to dazzle us all. The rest of us will have to hope that’s enough.  So it’s pretty much business as usual.

Since he ought to contribute something to the team this year, Garnet Exelby will be responsible for bringing the beer.  When he screws that up, we’ll just buy some from the bar.  Please note that in view of the numerous unfortunate incidents resulting in so much broken glass at the goaltenders’ table last year, players are asked not to toss bottles to one another at any time.

Remember that while in attendance at this function, you are representing Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Be pleasant and respectful to the wait staff, bartenders and busboys, especially Boyd Devereaux and Justin Pogge.

Stay as late as you like, and enjoy yourself.  Our next meeting as a team will be in Los Angeles on draft day.  Maybe we can go to the zoo or something, we’ll have plenty of time on our hands.

Yours truly,

fake brian burke signature

Introducing Happiness: Nikolai Kulemin

As I am currently disintegrating  into a small pile of trembling viscous goo under the combined pressures of a ridiculous workload at the office and the insanity of trying to make a Christmas in the paltry few minutes remaining to me afterwards, this is not going to be a long or particularly entertaining post.  Nevertheless, after collapsing like a pile of dirty laundry on the couch in front of the Leaf game tonight, I am moved to tippy-tap a thing or two.

I know there will be some gnashing of teeth in the Barilkosphere about OT loss to Buffalo tonight;  yes, there should have been someone in front of the net there when Derek Roy potted the winner, and I’m looking in the general direction of Francois “Happy Trails” Beauchemin when I say that.  Yes, it’s a bummer to lose to a divisional rival (and its apparently super-fucking-human goalie) like seventy-eight times in a row, but there are bigger pictures to see, larger fish to fry, and more metaphors to mix.  In short, there are reasons to take heart.

Hear me, Leafs fans.  Tonight:

  • On a Tuesday night matchup in late December, in a game that would be their third in four nights, the Leafs brought effort and forechecked the crap out of a Sabres team that has been their nemesis for oh, approximately nine years.  In years gone by, Tuesday night + 3rd game in four nights + pre-Christmas ennui = 9-1 shellacking led by a four goal third period from the Sabres’ team bus driver;
  • Viktor Stalberg potted a beauty and may still have the use of both shoulders;
  • the Monster raised everybody’s Christmas spirits by allowing the Sabres to ring enough pucks off the posts behind him to play the Carol of the Bells.  He also battled through some questionable play to post another solid outing without a visit to the cardiologist; and

It’s the last point I want to really focus on.  I’ve been waiting for Kulemin to break out in a way that doesn’t involve a visit to the dermatologist and I think he is now absolutely poised to take his game to the next level.   If he plays every game in his career like he did tonight, it will be a long and fruitful one in Maple Leaf Blue & White, that’s for sure.  Kulemin was on the forecheck aggressively and with physicality throughout the game, showing excellent anticipation and then following through with the physical effort to get himself into the right spots at the right times.  He was the direct cause of several Buffalo turnovers.  He took a tremendous hit along the boards to chip the puck out and generate the rush that produced the second Leafs goal.  He was also quite responsible defensively and used his body to separate the Sabres from the puck, not shying away from some tough customers like Mike Grier.  Terrific game from this young guy.

Whatever, we could’ve had another point, yadda yadda yadda, but I really liked what I saw out of this kid tonight.  Best game he’s played in a Leaf uniform.