Remember this guy? I remember this guy quite well.
I’ve seen many Leafs games live, but there’s only one I can remember where a player scored a hat trick. That player was none other than Boyd Devereaux.
Leafs fans owe him a big thank you.
Let me set the scene…
April 11th, 2009 doesn’t seem that long ago, but the current Leafs are completely unrecognizable from the roster they iced that night. In fact, not one player from that night’s roster is still a Leaf today.
It was Toronto’s final game of the 2008-09 season. Martin Gerber was the Leafs’ starter in net. Brad May was the Leafs’ enforcer. Hell – even future NHL all-star Brian Elliott was in his rookie season with the Ottawa Senators.
I was in an awkward position as a fan that evening. Everybody seemed to be on the Tank Nation bandwagon, but that’s a lot easier to do from home. How could I not cheer for the Leafs to win while live at the Air Canada Centre? This was a little different, though.
If the Leafs lost this game, they would get the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. If they won? Seventh.
Boyd Devereaux scored the game’s first two goals to give Toronto a 2-0 lead, but goals from Jason Spezza and current Bruin Chris Kelly knotted the game up 2-2 heading into the third.
After Niklas Hagman scored the go-ahead goal earlier in the final frame, Boyd Devereaux scored a dagger, shorthanded might I add, to complete the hat trick with less than three minutes left in regulation. Hagman got an empty-netter to boot, and the Leafs won 5-2, securing the seventh pick in the draft instead of the fifth.
Brian Burke was heading into his first draft with the Leafs back then. He made it known that he wanted to go after Brayden Schenn. Hell, for a while Leafs fans thought he’d be able to get the first pick to draft John Tavares. But with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the L.A. Kings drafted Brayden Schenn, to the head-shaking disapproval of Burke. Two picks later, Burke was able to snatch up Nazem Kadri, who we all now know Brian Murray and the Senators wanted to pick.
Let me skip ahead and ask you a question:
Would you rather have Luke and Brayden Schenn, or James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri?
It always seemed like a given that Luke and Brayden Schenn were going to end up playing together, but most people seemed to think it would be on the Leafs. As time went on however, Brayden was dealt to Philadelphia in the trade that sent Mike Richards to the Kings, and the Flyers became disenchanted with JVR. At the same time, the Leafs fell out of love with Luke Schenn. The straight up deal of JVR for Luke completed the long-anticipated unification of the Schenn brothers, except with the Flyers instead of the Leafs.
This is a very roundabout way of looking at the situation, but hear me out…
If Boyd Devereaux doesn’t score that hat trick, then the Leafs don’t get Nazem Kadri or James van Riemsdyk.
If the Leafs picked fifth that year, they would have gotten Brayden Schenn. Burke had openly said he wanted to draft both Brayden Schenn and Nazem Kadri, but it seemed pretty obvious he wanted Schenn first. A couple years later, The Hockey News had declared Brayden Schenn the best prospect in hockey, while many were beginning to consider Nazem Kadri a draft bust. After a breakout post-lockout season from Kadri and a significant drop-off from the mighty Flyers, things have evened out.
Burke badly wanted to unite the Schenn brothers early in his tenure with Toronto, and as one of his final transactions as Maple Leafs GM, Burke did just that, except in Philadelphia. That move brought James van Riemsdyk to Toronto. Not only has JVR performed well, but he lead the Leafs in scoring with seven points against Boston in the playoffs, and he now appears to be Phil Kessel’s new partner in crime.
I’m of the opinion that if Boyd Devereaux didn’t score that hat trick, both Schenn brothers would be Leafs right now. Brayden appears to be having a decent career so far. In 123 NHL games, Brayden has 23 goals and 30 assists for 53 points. Not bad, but probably not quite what was expected of him at this point. Luke meanwhile, is scheduled to be a healthy scratch for the Flyers tonight, and perhaps worse, was a scratch on his own birthday this past weekend.
At this point, Nazem Kadri has more points than Brayden Schenn in fewer games. In 114 NHL contests, Kadri has 31 goals and 45 assists for 76 points. Kadri was just shy of a point-per-game pace last season, and looks to be on roughly the same pace so far this season. Meanwhile, James van Riemsdyk looks to be permanently on the Leafs top line, and if everyone keeps getting hurt, he could even transform into the team’s top line centre over the next little while. It’s a long shot, but imagine if the Leafs’ long-coveted number one centre came at the cost of Luke Schenn.
Is Boyd Devereaux the reason the Leafs have JVR and Kadri? Of course not. Too many other things needed to happen for the stars to algn like that. Nonetheless, Devereaux’s hat trick got the ball rolling. Maybe it was destiny. After all, in 627 games, Devereaux had just 67 goals, and 4.5% of them came in that game alone. Maybe it was a goodbye present, as that ended up being the final game of Devereaux’s 11-season NHL career.
Most Leafs fans believed in Tank Nation back then. Good thing Mr. Devereaux didn’t.
Editor’s Note 1: You may notice a #43 for the Leafs in the background of the picture at the top of this post. That obviously wasn’t Nazem Kadri since he hadn’t been draft yet. It’s actually Jay Harrison. Regardless, this hopeless romantic notes the ironic foreshadowing.
Editor’s Note 2: Nations member Chuck McLearn posted my LFR video from that game. Boy, you think I suck NOW? Check THIS out. Oof.