Just two weeks ago things were starting to look grim for the Maple Leafs. From Jan. 4-10 Toronto lost four games in a row and were outscored 21-7 during that span. Memories of past collapses stirred Leafs Nation to wonder if the same was about to happen in 2013-14 and calls were being made to change the coach, change the roster, change anything.
But now that seems so long ago. Toronto, the most unpredictable team in the NHL this season, has now won six in a row. The last time they went on a run like this was from Dec. 23 2005 through Jan. 2, 2006, the first season of the salary cap era.
In the world of sports, eight years can feel like a lifetime. The last time the Leafs were winning as much as they are right now, all of the following were also going on:
• Chris Pronger was still beloved in Edmonton
• Dany Heatley was in his first season with the Ottawa Senators after being acquired from the Atlanta Thrashers. He would score 50 goals in 2005-06…and score 50 more the following season as well.
• The Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues, Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks were the worst five teams in the NHL.
• The Winnipeg Jets were still an NHL dream we all hoped would come true again.
• Jerry Moyes was owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, Wayne Gretzky was their coach and no hockey fan had ever heard of Judge Redfield T. Baum.
• Jim Balsillie was making a play to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins, his first attempt at owning an NHL franchise.
• It was the first year of the shootout and the best goal-celebration combination that will ever be had in it happened.
• Brendan Shanahan, Jaromir Jagr, Vinny Prospal, Joe Sakic, Olli Jokinen, Simon Gagne, Brian Rolston, Markus Naslund, Marc Savard, Jonathan Cheechoo and Michael Nylander were all top 30 scorers.
• Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival led the league with a plus-35 rating.
• Sixteen NHL teams averaged three goals or more per game. This season, five teams average that amount.
• Edmonton and Carolina met in the Stanley Cup final – Taylor Hall and Jeff Skinner weren’t even a twinkle in their eyes.
• Martin Gerber, I repeat, Martin Gerber was fourth among goalies in wins.
• In fact, Gerber, Marty Turco, Manny Legace, Alex Auld, Curtis Joseph, Mathieu Garon, Manny Fernandez, J-S Giguere and Rick DiPietro were all 30-game winners.
• Miller and Lundqvist were the best rookie goalies; Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin were far and away the best rookie skaters, eclipsing 100 points each.
• Marek Svatos and Petr Prucha hit the 30-goal mark as NHL freshmen.
• Mario Lemieux scored seven goals and 22 points in 26 games in what was his last hurrah as one of the greatest NHLers of all-time.
• Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille were other future Hall of Famers who called it a career after 2005-06 (maybe Dave Andreychuk, too).
• Joe Thornton had just been traded from Boston to San Jose in return for Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart.
• The last time the Maple Leafs won six games in a row, Pat Quinn was their coach and Paul Maurice was the head man for the AHL’s Marlies.
• And I was still a year away from starting work at The Hockey News.