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Maple Leafs Watch: Injuries no excuse

As the autopsy on the Maple Leafs’ schizophrenic campaign kicks into high gear, you’re bound to hear Toronto players, management and apologists lean heavily on injuries as the prime excuse for another lost season.

“Why, we had to play without Bryan McCabe for weeks on end!,” they’ll say, conveniently ignoring the fact that, prior to breaking his hand, McCabe was among the chief contenders to win the Alexei Yashin Award For Most Egregiously Awful Return On A Multi-Million-Dollar Contract.

“Why, we were also without Mark Bell and Boyd Devereaux and John Pohl for a good chunk of the season!,” they’ll add, before they wonder why everyone they say it to always wets themselves laughing immediately afterward.

The fact is every NHL team has to overcome injuries if they wish to claim the Stanley Cup at the end of the season. For proof, here’s a list of Cup contenders this year, and the players who’ve missed significant time for them along the way:

Anaheim: Corey Perry, Todd Bertuzzi, Mathieu Schneider

Boston: Manny Fernandez, Patrice Bergeron, Glen Murray, Peter Schaefer, Andrew Ference, Aaron Ward

Buffalo: Teppo Numminen, Tim Connolly, Jaroslav Spacek, Drew Stafford, Maxim Afinogenov, Henrik Tallinder

Carolina: Rod Brind’Amour, Justin Williams, Chad LaRose, Matt Cullen, Ray Whitney, Scott Walker

Colorado: Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth, Paul Stastny, Marek Svatos, Brett Clark, Kurt Sauer, Ian Laperriere

Dallas: Sergei Zubov, Philippe Boucher, Jere Lehtinen, Mattias Norstrom

Detroit: Chris Chelios, Daniel Cleary, Kris Draper, Tomas Holmstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Kirk Maltby

Minnesota: Pavol Demitra, Mikko Koivu, Mark Parrish, Kurtis Foster

Montreal: Bryan Smolinski, Steve Begin

Nashville: Steve Sullivan, Jordin Tootoo, Shea Weber, Martin Gelinas, Jed Ortmeyer

New Jersey: Jamie Langenbrunner, Jay Pandolfo, Colin White, Karel Rachunek

New York Rangers: Petr Prucha, Paul Mara, Sean Avery, Martin Straka, Brendan Shanahan

Ottawa: Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Neil, Anton Volchenkov, Dany Heatley, Dean McAmmond

Philadelphia: Simon Gagne, Joffrey Lupul, Derian Hatcher, Scottie Upshall

Pittsburgh: Gary Roberts, Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Maxime Talbot

San Jose: Ryane Clowe, Curtis Brown, Kyle McLaren

Vancouver: Sami Salo, Willie Mitchell, Mattias Ohlund, Kevin Bieksa, Brendan Morrison, Lukas Krajicek

See what I’m getting at? None of the above teams had anywhere close to an injury-free year, yet they’re all angling for a playoff berth in a far more meaningful way than Toronto is.

That’s because, to one degree or another, each of those teams is deeper and more talented than the Leafs – healthy or not – have been in a long time.

This column also appears in the Toronto Metro Newspaper.

Adam Proteau is The Hockey News' online columnist and a regular contributor to His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

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