No sooner than I heap praise on the unexpected team leader in Matt Stajan, he goes down with a strange non-hockey related injury.
Toronto has had it's fair share of strange and/or ill-timed injuries or other maladies over the years. Here's a look a few:
In his first game back after being traded to Toronto at the deadline in 2003, Gilmour had a career ending knee injury in the second period versus Calgary. Gimlour was clearly in the twilight of his career, however, he had scored 11 goals and added 19 assists in 61 games. Now I'm not saying he would have been the difference maker, but that series against Philadelphia was dreadful and Gilmour certainly could have provided a veteran and leadership presence on a team that managed to lose those traits as soon as the post season began.
Once a promising young defenseman, Pilar was well on his way to a solid NHL career. He wasn't a tower like Pronger, or as naturally gifted as Lidstrom, but he had all the tools to be a great player for many years. Unfortunately, in 2002, Pilar was diagnosed with a viral heart infection that was the undoing of his career. He missed too many games in some of the most important years in a defenseman's development. He managed to fight through the infection, recover and return to the AHL in an attempt to recover his career. He may have done it, if it wasn't for a relapse of the same virus that ultimately put an end to his efforts.
A player drafted 24th overall by Toronto in the 1999 entry draft, Cereda was touted as one of the smartest players in the draft and could have been a fantastic grab at 24th. But much like Pilar, Cereda succumb to a heart infection that eventually ended his career. He missed an entire season in 2000-01 recovering from heart surgery. He was added to the list of 'what could have been' when he went back to europe in 2004 before retiring in 2007.
December 28th, 2002, while getting ready for a game, Renberg was tying his skates just as he did every game when a small blister on his hand broke. The next day he had a raging infection, high fever and his hand swelling dramatically. Quick work by the team doctors and hospital staff controlled the infection and Renberg recovered within a two weeks. Staphylococcocus Aureus is the medical term for a staph infection. Renberg was lucky. If he waited much longer, it's likely his hand would have been amputated, and at worst, he could have died.
Belfour had a simliar, yet not quite as serious infection as Renberg, earlier in the year when he cut his finger on his skate eyelet.
Just when Mark Bell was beginning to show limited signs of returning to his Chicago Blackhawks form, he got into a fight with Ryan Malone and had his orbital bone shattered. Three months later Bell returned with a full face shield protecting his surgically repaired face and he proceeded to destroy Alfredsson in the hit that I had been waiting for ever since Alfredsson hit Darcy Tucker from behind in the playoffs, separated his shoulder, then scored the tie-breaking goal. See the hit here.
Marian Hossa managed to change the face of the Toronto defense corps for years to come when he proceeded to scoop out Berard's eye with an uncontrolled follow through. Careless use of the stick they call it. Thus began my hatred for Marian Hossa. You can read all about it. Berard was a fantastic talent that had great potential as a puck moving defenseman with a great shot and sound defensive awareness. He would never be the same after this. Sorry for poor quality, it was all I could find in my 30 seconds of youtubing.
I'm sure there are many other odd injuries that relate to the Leafs that I am forgetting about. If you can think of any, throw them in the comments. I'd love to have a refresher.
You can read a similar list as it relates to all sports over at Bitter Leaf Fan.
Kyle Dubas with Jeff Marek / Greg Wyshynski
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