By Giancarlo Aulino
In this episode of Beyond The Game, VIBE Correspondent Giancarlo Aulino speaks with Jamie “Noodles” McLennan - Former NHL goaltender, TSN Hockey Analyst and co-host of sports radio show OverDrive.
Before working for TSN, the former NHL goaltender, played 11 seasons for the New York Islanders (’93-’96), St. Louis Blues (’97-’00), Minnesota Wild (’00-’01), Calgary Flames (’02-’04, ’06-’07), New York Rangers (2004), and Florida Panthers (’05-’06). During this interview, the former NHL goaltender discussed the young Toronto Maple Leafs’ roster that have become one of the NHL’s top offensive teams, and the much-debated Calgary Flames arena situation.
Giancarlo: Last season, the Toronto Maple Leafs were viewed as a rebuilding franchise, but they surprised everybody by making the playoffs. This year they seem to have picked up right where they left off. Now as an analyst covering this team on OverDrive, and other regional games, what has surprised you most about this young Leafs core over the past year?
Jamie: Well, there’s been a lot of things. Obviously when you get a game changer like Auston Matthews come in to your organization that helps speed up the process and the rebuild because he’s an instant star. They drafted very well with guys like William Nylander and Mitch Marner, so you’ve got three offensive juggernauts up front and they’ve got a good core. They traded for a goaltender, and you’ve got some incumbents there, so the rebuild happened quite quickly. The one thing that surprises me is how resilient this group has been as far as being able to block the outside noise and just play. Also, another surprise is how healthy they’ve been. This is a team that hasn’t had to deal with a lot of injuries or adversities. Everything has pretty much gone according to plan with Brendan Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello, and Mike Babcock. There hasn’t been too many speed bumps in the road for them.
Giancarlo: Yeah, part of what makes this team so special is that young core that you mentioned: Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. They’re all talented players in their early 20s. With that said, where do you feel this Leafs’ team ranks when compared to other teams in the Eastern Conference?
Jamie: Washington, Pittsburgh, Tampa, all three of those teams come to mind when I think of teams that can challenge for that Eastern Conference. But the Toronto Maple Leafs have shown that they could play with them right now. Do they have as much experience as them right now? No, but you have to play the games in order to get experience. You’ve got six games against Washington last year. You’ve played against them head-to-head. You feel that you can go just as long as they can, as far as regular season, and hopefully into the playoffs. This is a team that is hoping to turn the corner faster than expected, but can they be at the top of the Eastern Conference or close to it? Absolutely! Because they proven that they could score, they’ve proven that they’ve got a good goaltender, and Mike Babcock is a good coach that’s trying to get them to play consistent defensive play. They’ve got a lot of pieces there that can make them up to be a threat out east, but certainly the teams that I’ve named will be right there as well.
Find the full interview here.