New president and general manager Ken Dryden has written four
books on a variety of subjects, and new associate general
manager Mike Smith has 10 volumes on hockey and coaching to his
credit, which means that between them they have written more
books than some general managers have read. If Toronto were
going to challenge its rivals to a spelling bee, it would be an
overwhelming favorite. Too bad the Maple Leafs play hockey.
Dryden, a Hall of Fame goaltender who has been away from the NHL
for 18 seasons, has inherited a team with a star center in Mats
Sundin, a solid goalie in Felix Potvin, a few decent defensemen
and three enforcers less than 6 feet tall, and that's about it.

In the past 12 years the only draft choices to bloom in Toronto
were Potvin and forward Wendel Clark, who was the No. 1 pick in
1985 and is on the downside of his career. The Leafs not only
drafted poorly, but Cliff Fletcher, Dryden's predecessor who was
fired in May, also argued that Maple Leaf Gardens ticket prices
were too steep and Torontonians too impatient to sit through a
rebuilding process.

During the off-season Bill Watters, who was acting general
manager while Dryden kept failing in his efforts to hire a
general manager before finally settling on himself, signed a
group of middling free agents who might buy Toronto some time:
forwards Derek King, Kris King and Mike Kennedy and goalie Glenn
Healy. Derek King hasn't scored 40 goals since 1992-93, but he
will play on the No. 1 line with Sundin and 25-goal
second-year-man Sergei Berezin.

Toronto had no first-round pick in the past two drafts, which
prompts Smith to say, "We're at a crossroads because we're
rebuilding, but we don't have any top prospects." Not that the
Leafs should be bereft of optimism. Twenty-three-year-old Jason
Smith, who came from the Devils in a trade last season, will
eventually be a cornerstone defenseman, and center Alyn
McCauley, another former New Jersey prospect, has a strong
junior hockey pedigree and looked impressive during training camp.

Dryden has always been patient and thorough, traits that will
serve Toronto well in its attempt to regain the heights it
reached in the early '90s, when it twice played in the Western
Conference finals. In the meantime, league meetings should be a
hoot. Whenever Dryden speaks, many of the other members of the
Board of Governors are going to need subtitles.





1. Patrick Marleau, Sharks
2. Sergei Samsonov, Bruins
3. Yogi Svejkovsky, Capitals


1. Bill McCreary
2. Kerry Fraser
3. Don Koharski