How Quickly They Forget

Just one short week ago the Maple Leafs were winless and at the bottom of the league. Well, they are still at the bottom of the league, but have put together three solid games, one win and two OT losses. I'm not sure what part of that modest success would make Niklas Hagman think that he needs to do a pass across the middle of the ice from a prime shooting position with bodies going to the net. There are WAY too many drop passes for a team with maybe 3 players that could be classified as "skill players". Seriously, let's keep it simple stupids. Hit the net when you shoot from a decent angle that doesn't make the puck leave the zone if you do miss. Get somebody over 5'10" in front of the net to pound home some rebounds. I'm not dissing their overall play, but remember what brought the slight return from the basement; hard work and a solid forecheck. That goal with 37 seconds left, short handed, is not going to happen very often this year. As a final note; can the Leafs go ONE game without a power play goal against?(Yes, I know they have had one game without a goal against on the PP, but come on). My last, LAST P.S., does Toronto really have the number 3 powerplay right now? A lot of things change when you play the Anaheim Ducks!


From Out Of Nowhere

One of the reasons it's sometimes hard to be a Leafs fans is the level of expectation that comes with an over-saturation of information. Being a sports fan in general is all about the unexpected things that can happen within an environment bound by strict rules. One thing Leafs fans don't really get to see is something happen that wasn't already thought about, predicted, reviewed, panned or just plain-old bitched about. Other NHL teams have had small surprises, like the Oilers' Sam Gagner on 2007/08. Or huge surprises, like Steve Mason winning the Calder trophy with veteran-like numbers last season. I tried being scientific about finding who the last great surprise in Toronto was, but our spotlight on prospects is a little too bright too. How many teams, in any sport, has a prospect system under as much pressure. Jiri Tlusty can attest to the pressure and the down side of being under a microscope. Back to that last surprise sensation; I would have to say the last stand out that made the camp with little fanfare would be Tomas Kaberle. Some of you may say, "What about Luke Schenn?". I would say that so far he hasn't been an impact player and really won't ever be a gamebreaker in the league. I see Schenn as more of a Adam Foote-type or Robyn Regher-like player that can give some guys some stitches in the crease. But that time hasn't come yet. What's the Leafs next big surprise? I'm, not sure, people like us little bloggers almost make that impossible now-a-days.


Who's The Better Burke Team?

Going into Anaheim, one has to ask which is the better Burke team. Obviously, since Anaheim has a win, they are the better team. I'm not facetious there, either. Coming in at 3-5-1, they still have a better record than the Leafs. Their Achilles heal has also been goaltending, with Giguere not living up to his contract for quite some time. Hiller has matured into a starter, sporting a .921 S% and a 2.72 GA average. This doesn't stop Anaheim from having only 3 plus players on their current roster. Anaheim has 2 bonafide power forwards with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf is under-performing and being outscored by Teemu Selanne. Corey Perry is a point-per-game in 9 games but is a -2. Anaheim is currently 24th in the league at 2.33 goals per game, well about Toronto's 1.88. the only team scoring less goals per game than the Leafs is Nashville at 1.70, but they have 3 wins this season. All these stats aside, who has the better chance of winning tonight? Toronto, hands down. Seriously, how can they not win at this point. They made their point that they were the worst Leafs team ever Saturday with the longest opening to a season without a win or a tie. Get ready for a win, Leafs fans!


Take That Vancouver!

The Maple Leafs took their 6 days off and banded together in order to bring their west coast fans something to cheer about; 25 minutes of good hockey. Unfortunately they also brought their atrocious penalty killing and undisciplined play. Almost full ten minutes of the first period was spent on the penalty kill. Not quite full because Vancouver scored twice on the power play. While McDonald was steady, he wasn't brilliant. It did prove that goaltending isn't the Achilles heal that the media and fans have been grousing about. Putting all your eggs in a basket that has 17 NHL wins is sad day for this franchise. So is wringing your hands waiting for a goalie with no wins to come back and play backup. This team has been losing games. Hopefully the 3rd period is something to build on. While Wilson makes his willie-nillie benchings and scratches, this team is feeling lower and lower. Sooner than later Burke has to make up his mind if he has the team he told us he made and if he has the right motivator running the show on the bench.


On Enemy Soil

The Leafs wind their way onto the ice tonight at GM Place. And in true Leafs fashion the game has been scheduled at 4pm PST. I'm sure that the 18,000+ Canucks fans have already started blogs just to complain about the injustice of having to drive in non-rush hour traffic in order to go to a game(updating them live on their iPhones). They'll also have to turn their hydroponic operations over to their third cousins for the entire afternoon which may end up in a bum crop for the year. All truth aside, not being a superstitious man, I will be wearing a Leafs jersey all day and explaining my Beard-in(tm) to everyone I meet to somehow affect the outcome of the game over 27 kms of ocean. I am growing the beard until 10 Leaf wins have been attained. If the Leafs can find a stride on this road trip there is an outside chance that I won't be Santa's doppelganger by Christmas. Barring that I won't be taking any ID pictures either. Popping out now to get pumpkins to smile and slowly rot on our front porch....somewhat like the season so far. Have a great Once-a-Year-Chance-To-See-The-Leafs-in-Vancouver Day!


Random Thoughts And Generally Judging Without Merit

The Leafs last played to a degrading and debilitating loss last Saturday to the Rangers. A game where their early season problems manifested once again. Those being:

  • The inability to score first or in the first period
  • Forget secondary scoring, where's the tertiary scoring?
  • The lack of trust in there goaltender following a soft goal
  • Forwards not coming back for defensive coverage
  • Not being able to clear pucks over the blueline from 5 feet inside it
  • Players being arbitrary healthy scratches
  • John Mitchell not hitting the net and being somehow exempt from being scratched
  • Jason Blake shooting from 1 degree angles and thinking no one has ever tried a wrap-around and what a great plan it would be

All of this may sound frightfully similar to last year. And the biggest change is that quite a bit of scoring left with Nik Antropov, Pavel Kubina and (not-so-much) Dominic Moore. Not to mention the offense that left with unsigned AHL players that signed elsewhere. Here's a good time to mention that Anton Stralman is looking pretty serviceable in Columbus. Not looking any worse than, say, Jeff Finger or Garnet Exelby. Honestly, the money playing on the back-end is making the people who signed them look horribly inept. The only signing starting to take a little shape is Beauchemin. After a horrid first week, he has settled down and is only turning the puck over at the offensive blueline 2 or 3 times a game. Most of those turn overs are actually a change in the coaching style this season. I've heard that Wilson is asking all(good grief, WHY?) of the defense to stand up on the boards and keep the puck in the offensive zone. This is landed a few of the defense in hot water and a slash in the minus column. The hard part will be watching players that are not already good at this(Beauchemin, Kaberle) trying to get better at it(Komisarek, everyone else). I think that Burke thought this might be a little easier transition that it has actually been. Racking up 7 losses probably wasn't in the Powerpoint Presentation at the opening day meetings. The last thing I want to comment on is the obvious kid gloves being used with Luke Schenn. They constantly have him changing partners and monitor his time. That's all well and good, keep the faith in him. But for crying out loud stop switching sides. Especially when I know that there is an obvious push from within the coaching staff for Schenn to improve offensively.

I encourage EVERYONE to join the beard-in
I encourage EVERYONE to join the beard-in

Oh, the picture I promised of the beard-in is above. I used my cell-camera which is almost as good as a burnt log writing on a flat rock. I know, it's not the camera's fault.


Old Man Winter

I have started my own personal sit-in for the Maple Leafs playing woes. Just before the season started I decided to stop shaving. I thought that I would stop shaving until the Maple Leafs got their first Regulation win of the season. After the Montreal season opener I thought one game might be a little silly as they could have fluked out a win that night and raised my games-won to 10. After last night's debacle, the Leafs are a paltry 0-4-1 and look to have another slapdown coming this evening from the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are 3-1-1 on solid goaltending(?) and bring in a cast of under-rated muckers and scorers. The long and short of my sit-in/beard-growing is that I was being a little cup-half-full for a change and thought that there was no way I would be unshorn into December. Right now I have a 2 week beard that my wife is finally used to. The unfortunate part is that I haven't given the hair a cut in the same amount of time and I am stating to look like Dr. Phil.

Last year the Leafs iced a team that at least entertained and tried like hell until the final horn. The year's Leafs look lost, like "the system" has somehow eluded them. Are there any quick fixes to Burke's allusion to the post-season? A few, really. How about working on penalty killing, for one? Ron Wilson joking about icing the puck is the first time I thought, "You know that you're actually making fun of your staff and not the players, right?". And the endless debate on whether there is a problem with Vesa Toskala(there is) isn't helping the fact that the forwards don't backcheck deep enough into there own end. We are having the same problem as last year of turning the puck over 6 feet inside our own blueline when trying to get it out.......5 on 5. For all the changes to personnel, the system is still either not being adhered to or the system doesn't work. Team defense is not a concept that is being embraced in Toronto. Half-fullers will tell you that the team (mostly the defense) needs more time to "gel". Are you kidding me? October is the month as the Leafs have a few times with 5 days between games. Bag skates are something my Midget coach did when we sucked. Mostly because in 1986 there was no such thing as a "system" in minor hockey. When you have guys making millions to play a game, do you really think that a bag skate is going to "wake them up"? Hopefully being down after tonight until a Saturday rematch against the Rangers, they can work on the defensive play that has made Toskala look so horrid.

In the meantime (and in-between time) are there any bloggers willing to join me in my Beard Protest? I didn't have the presence of mind to take a picture, but I will later tonight and put it up with this post. Is anyone out there good with Photoshop? I was thinking of using whatever pic I get up as a new banner(or at least an avatar).


The Race For The "C"

So as the three alternate captains vie not-so-secretly for the the captaincy, we can watch their performances over the next month and see who's winning. Komisarek took several penalties last night, the most heinous one being an unnecessary elbowing penalty with minutes left in the game, allowing Montreal to tie it. Komisarek had been the focus of the refs all night and should have been may aware of his physical play being under scrutiny. Definitely 15 minutes in penalties is not leading a team to victory. The one thing a team famous for coughing up third period leads could use from it's leader is composure in the dying minutes - Komisarek minus one Captain Token. Beauchemin overextended himself and took unneeded risks pinching all night. I know that the Leafs strategy this year is to crowd the boards with the defense on the forecheck, but a veteran offensive-defenseman should know when to pinch - Beauchemin minus one Captain Token. Tomas Kaberle was wheeling all night and distributed the puck quickly and sharply throughout the game. Kabby accumulated one assist and was the catalyst for Stajan's second goal. Plus one Captain Token. So as far as I can see it, Kaberle's composure under pressure and team play mentality have him in an early season lead for the Captaincy.

Side notes:

Each fight in last night's game ended up giving Montreal momentum and their fourth line dissected the defense and was huge on two goals.

Toronto's face-off percentage was atrocious outside of Wayne Primeau, who had a 78% on the night.

John Mitchell missed the net an estimated 314 times. If he backs through the slot with his legs spread one more time I'm writing an angry letter. Also, he was under 50% in the faceoff circle and a minus 1

Beauchemin and Schenn being a minus 2 is hopefully not a sign of things to come.

Mikhail Grabovski had an assist and was a plus 1 with 20:14 of ice time. Put him with Stalberg for a shift or two, you won't be disappointed. (Or at least get Kulemin back in the line up)

Do we really need Rosehill AND Orr?