Leafs Turnovers Against Playoff Teams will Spell the End

Yes, the title of this blog is a little doomsday, but no less true. If you watched the National broadcast of the Leafs game Saturday against the Ole' Habs you will have heard the endless chatter of the leagues worst perpetual turnover machine. If you've been watching hockey for at least the last decade you will have heard the the prototypical playoff mold is the never-give-the-puck-away Detroit Red Wings. Don Cherry will tell you that off the glass and out is an effective and respectable method of playing defense. The Leafs have combined the two theories and decided that they should get the puck out of their own zone at any cost, but not do it over knee height. As in the past 4 fruitless seasons, the Leafs can get the puck to their blueline, but inevitably try and press it through the boards or pass it back into their own zone.

I ask you logically: Can 18 separate men all make the same horrible decisions with the puck given the infinite options in any situation? I'd answer yes for John Mitchell who just won't shoot unless he's already passed through the slot and any screen has disappeared. But for the rest of the team I would say that the coaching has given them a few options that are either too hard to remember or execute. Team panic is high now, and after 2 absolutely terrible turn over goals(I cannot address the Komisarek turnover as I am clinically dead inside ofter the 5th replay), the Leafs went back into "Holy-crap-we'll-never-score-again" mode. You can't teach good decision making skills, but you can teach good habits. In the 6 games the Leafs have won, 5 of them have been full of quick, clean break-outs and penetrating fore-checks. These things are possible when you don't give the puck away. I think it's important to mention that it does count as a turnover when you just throw the puck up in the air and give it away. The Leafs are in constant retreat mode. They give the puck away when they just don't have to and their opponents don't have to work for their offense(Komisarek's give away).

These woes still beg for an overall defensive zone system. At this level, under this much scrutiny, the lack of system, or of buying into said system, is overwhelmingly apparent. And just to be redundant I would like to add that Zigomanis is still languishing in the minors while John Mitchell spins down the ice with his stick in one hand playing helicopter collecting penalties. The next week offers ample practice time before playing teams the Leafs have traditionally folded for. Buffalo on Friday and Ottawa on Saturday. With the Stars on Monday the Leafs have an unfamiliar foe that they may get away with a win, like the Nashville game last week. But they better get their nerves settle before the weekend.

One thing for sure is it wasn't Gustavsson's signature on this loss. His frustration on his wasted effort on display after the powerplay give away goal with a wide open Cammalleri in the slot. How many things went wrong on that play? It wasn't just Komisarek's pass into the slot(really, who does that when you have possession on a penalty kill?) but the fact that he was the only Leafs player within 30 feet of the net. This is not behavior that encourages your goaltender to continue to play lights-out.

I'm not suggesting a coaching change for these issues to be resolved. I'm suggesting almost ALL the coaches be replaced(keep Allaire). None of the things these people are coaching are working. I'm not fooled by two games that the powerplay is fixed. The penalty kill was batting 0.000 on Saturday. The power-play was scored on again and they couldn't buy a faceoff. It would be a big difference if this was anomalous, but the Leafs have 19 games behind them. Winning 6 games per 20 brings the season point total to somewhere around 70 points. Spend money to watch that for how many more years?


Leafs Versus Nashville Versus The Odds

No, not the Vancouver Rock band. You know, The Odds. Odds are Wade Belak will be inserted into the lineup. If you haven't seen the article on Wade Belak now being the longest in the NHL without a goal, it goes like this. Wade Belak hasn't scored a goal in 121 NHL contests which makes him the non-scoring King after Derek Boogaard scored against the Oilers and broke a 235 game drought(if that's what it is when a 265 lb bruiser doesn't score for a while). The record is 255 games. Odds are Belak will score on the Leafs.

The Predators have won 2 in a row after dropping 5 consecutive prior to that. Coming into Tuesday's game the Preds have scored 11 goals in the last 3 games. The Leafs will need to get some better goaltending in the last 8 minutes of the game to get some points. The 64+ foot shot that beat Giguere will put some pressure on him to settle down right after the puck drops. Odds are he'll play well again, as he hasn't had a real stinker this year and seems to be playing pretty confident(which may have lead to the goal in the first place).

Steve Sullivan will be in town Tuesday. He has 9 points in 15 games and is one of the only plus players on the team. Odds are he's due for a multi-point night, as the Leafs usually have a cure for what's ailing the opposition. In this case, it's a slow start for the Preds offense overall. The difference between the Preds futility and the Leafs is that the Preds have put together 3 brief winning streaks that have them in the thick of 8 teams that have 17 through 20 points and 6th place through 12th. The Short version of that sentence; win 3 in a row and the Preds are in 8th. If the Leafs win 3 in a row they might get into 10th or 11th place in the East. Odds are they won't.

The Predators would be a great place to start a streak, though. The Leafs have been historically good at ending streaks of other teams, whether it's no-business wins against contenders on a win streak or the Edmonton Oilers on an infinity losing streak. Odds are the Leafs could squeak a tight game out tomorrow and get at least a point. Then move on to slap around the terrible New Jersey Devils. The Leafs always seem to get it up for the Habs on a Saturday, which could garner another single point. These points all depend on a much higher commitment to positional play. It's the middle of November now and there really isn't any more room for talk of new guys not being used to the "systems". The only real system I've seen this season is when Mike Zigomanis was winning faceoffs on the penalty kill and the Leafs weren't letting in goals 3 seconds after the PK started. Other than that, the forwards positional play has been horrendous, with the wingers standing around when the puck is in their own end. The Leafs forwards' ineptitude at clearing the zone has returned from last year, as well. Possession 3 inches inside the blue line turning into a goal is unacceptable at this level(who am I kidding, at the JR level).

We've all heard this and are getting sick of it, but the Leafs need some scoring. One of the things I liked about Kris Versteeg when he was in Chicago is he was an interesting interview. Now he is coming off as aloof and uncaring. Quit talking about having fun and get professional. As a fan who pays to watch, I would like to have a little fun myself. Odds are, I won't this week.


Leafs Look Sloppy

Good day people. Long time no whine! I have to tell you, it's been a bit of a struggle to get back to writing about the Leafs. When they were winning(a month ago) I was having issues with my PVR, so watching games was a chore. SO, through that, I have seen the Leafs win 2 games. I know that's 40% of their wins, but, come on, throw me a frickin' bone. Not to mention he fact that, living in Victoria, the Habs - Sens game was on THREE channels and I couldn't see the Leafs game, because (I'm assuming) there is no deal in place with Centre Ice for the specific purpose of me getting to see the leafs play when other Canadian teams are winning more games.

Do I have any ideas for the Leafs to start playing better? Sure, thanks for asking!
  • Score.....ever. The Leafs are 2nd last in the conference in goals-for, only leading New Jersey by 6 goals
  • Toronto has only allowed 3 more goals against than for and are 9th in the league in average goals allowed per game at 2.46. Goaltending is (for once) not a problem(you could argue against that stat with the timing of some of those goals against, but that stat is still impressive). This stat doesn't reveal how some of those goals are from mind-numbingly tragic turnovers from the defensive corp. My fix for this is STOP DOING THAT PLEASE....off the glass and out....even Juniors know this
  • 2 of the 31 goals against have been penalty shot and two losses in shootouts. Please practice these skills, it may come up again in the next 69 games
  • All is not lost! A point per game and a few 5 or 6 game streaks and this is still a playoff team(end fantasy time). the Leafs had a great 4 game win streak which can be repeated a few times with some motivation and confidence
  • Speaking of motivation....calling out the players in public has been working so well for two years, Wilson should keep doing that FOR SURE. My fix, hold a few practices. Is it just me or does the schedule seem REALLY lax this year? No excuse to not get the team playing Wilson's "systems"
  • If players aren't performing, start living up to promises that players will be sent down if they don't perform. It wouldn't break my heart to have Zigomanis back in the line up(why was he swapped out for Mitchell? I will always hate that guy, such a waste of decent skillset).
  • I'm not jumping on the Kadri should be playing bandwagon....until Kadri is a point per game in the minors and can play in his own end, I'm not interested.
  • Korbinian Holzer gets a callup for zero points and a minus 5?
  • The day Komisarek is tied in scoring with Kris Versteeg and Tyler Bozak, the coach should be fired....oh LOOK!
I could go on forever because I haven't written this year, but that's enough for today. I need to get a little more focused before the next game......just like the Leafs.



2010 1st Round Playoff Skinny - Eastern Conference

With the Leafs out of the playoffs again, I thought that I would give some insight from the timezone in North America that can watch any games they choose. Being in Victoria you might think that I'd be cheering for the Canadian team closest to my home town....you would be wrong. Below are the big stories this playoff season for the Eastern Conference(okay, I didn't feel like doing them all today):

Montreal (8) vs Washington (1)

Washington may just have finally realized, after two goals on two shots, that they should have buried Theodore in the minors and got a proven goaltender months ago. Symeon Varlamov may not be able to pull of the heroics he did last playoffs. Having to score their way out of 3 goal deficits will eventually take it's toll. But if anyone can save this team, it's Nicklas Backstrom. Eschewing his usual role of puck-disher, he has 4 goals and an assist in 2 games so far. Playing at a point-per-game clip last playoffs, expect more of the same this season from Backstrom. Washington in 7

New Jersey (2) VS Philladelphia (7)

I think the only things going on here is Ilya Kovulchuk finally showing up for the playoffs and Brian Boucher having to stop him. The only true weapon that the Flyers have is Mike Richards. This kid can carry a nation on his back, why not an NHL Team? I give this one to New Jersey on the goaltender showdown alone(have you seen? Brodeur is growing a BEARD!!!1!) New Jersey in 6

Boston (6) VS Buffalo (3)

I couldn't figure out who to cheer for here. I think I'll have to wait til the next round for the winner of this abomination of a playoff round out for good. Miller is looking human, but so is Tuuka Rask. The offense advantage goes to Buffalo. Chara can't score every goal. Buffalo in 6

Pittsburgh (4) VS Ottawa (5)

This is a true goaltending duel. As in, who will let in the worst goal from the furthest distance from the net. Both teams can score while neither team is playing defense. Look to this series to be one of the highest scoring in the first round. I will give Pittsburgh the advantage here, but the Penguins will need Crosby to basically run the show; including saving goals from in the crease. Pittsburgh in 6


Leafs Will Beat Buffalo Thursday

Do you know how I know? I crawled out from under a soiled Leafs practice jersey to see if I would see my shadow. I blinked from the glare of the static left after the Punjabi Leafs coverage has gone off the air(we don't get Leafs games out west anymore on Saturdays). I saw a long, very wide, shadow along the wall leering down over me in my living room. This was surely the sign I was waiting for. It was a sign that the Leafs would finally solve Ryan Miller. I read up on my favorite team's activity today and found that they were going to play that new fella from the higher learning barn they just signed. You know, the guy who had the 15 goals and it was supposed to impress me. Well at least he will be the largest Leaf in the ice tomorrow. Maybe he and Luca can work out together and get those final 15 pounds onto Caputi's frame.

After taking 6 weeks off from blogging about the Leafs, I think I can hammer out at least this one before I start getting ready to watch the playoffs with aloof belligerence. Even old faithful Miikka Kiprusoff let me down this year(not really, even with all those high-scoring ex-Leafs, Calgary can't be averaging a goal for a game). So basically, I have the mild curiosity of which over-rated goaltender will be in the finals; Fleury or Theodore. I'm sure Jimmy Howard will get the Carey Price introduction to the playoffs and be a shattered hull of a man for the rest of his North American career. The true hockey highlight the last month, other than the second over .500 month of the season, had to be the Don Cherry movie on CBC. I was truly amazed and the story has stuck with me. To be honest Cherry had crossed the line into get-off-my-lawn-isms and become a caricature of the person the masses had always thought he was. I grew up in Alberta, I'm used to people without book smarts still being a great human being with tonnes to offer. That was how I viewed Cherry for decades. Then he broke when his wife, Rose, died. He went downhill and hasn't really recovered. The movie reminded me of who I used to look forward to watching between periods(back when I couldn't fast forward the breaks).

I'm going to try my damnedest to get blogging 'til the end of the season and see if I can get my readership back up over 4 per day. I'm sure they're looking for Russian brides or blankets with armholes, but I never look a gift horse in the mouth.


Leafs Use Adrenalin To Steam-roll Devils

I knew I better get something up about tonight's game. The Barilkosphere will be awash with opinion after a win like the one over New Jersey tonight. The impression left by Phaneuf is an accurate one. He is playing the same as he always has in Calgary. His shot is almost always on net, averaging, I'm sure, 95 MPH. He didn't get too many chances to rush the puck, but when he does he can get to the net and has moves when he gets there. He dropped the gloves capably and landed several decent hits. Don't be shocked when he misses one, though and gets caught a little out of position. That's why he's with Beauchemin.

Let's move on to the one of the other two additions. Fredrik Sjostrom truly is fast and showed the rest of the Leafs just how you kill a penalty. He rushed the point and swung his stick with abandon, blocking a shot in the process. Looks a little better out there than Blake, which I compare him to because of his speed. The difference is that Sjostrom goes to the net, not past or around it.

The final debut to talk about is Jean-Sebastien Giguere. The Leafs have had decent luck with French Canadian goaltenders. Especially in the last 20 years. I have been critical of Giguere....and I don't see that changing too much. Giguere is a little slow and relies on technique and angles. That's fine and good when you have a little luck on your side, as he did tonight. Overall he played a good game and I will save the scathing opinions until he inevitably has a bad run. I hope his bad run this year has passed. I watched the game against the Edmonton Oilers where he snapped on Ryan Smyth for getting too cozy in the crease. Giguere pulled himself from the game and went on a horrendous run afterwards. I like a little passion in Leafs goaltenders(like Belfour and Cujo), but it can get out of hand too.

The Leafs cruised to a 3 - 0 win tonight on the juice added to the drink and a Dion Phaneuf straw to stir it. Dion will end up with at least 17 goals this season and a C on his chest b y October(yeah, I know I said that the other day, just making sure you heard me).


Burke Hits Reset on Rebuild With Phaneuf Trade

I would like to chime in with my 100% emotional response to today's trades. While obviously giving up way more goals than he got back, Burke is trying to shore up the leagues worst defense. Say what you will about Phaneuf's "attitude", but he brings something the Leafs have lacked for many seasons; heart. By the way, NHL teams don't give A's to locker room misfits. Oh, and you heard it here first, Phaneuf will be Toronto's next Captain. You might not like it, but I would welcome it, for sure.

With the Flames being my "backup team" for several seasons, I have seen quite a few games in the last 10 years. Phaneuf has been waylaid by being essentially replaced by Jay Bowmeister. Not to mention the Avery "drama". The flames were roasted in the playoffs last year and not by lack of defense or goaltending.

Speaking of goaltending, I have spent the better part of the last few months hoping against all hope that J.S. Giguere was not coming to Toronto. Well, he is. And he brings with him his 4-8-5 record, 3.12 GAA and .900 SP. Not astounding numbers. They are better than Toskala's, but at double the price. Back to how I feel about the trade? I will never be as happy to see a goaltender leave Toronto. Yes, even happier than when Raycroft left. I've never witnessed a longer leash on a more terrible goalie.

The biggest heartbreak for me will be Niklas Hagman leaving. Hagman gave it 100% every night and was one of the only players to show any emotion from playing on such a terrible team. Hagman was easily the worst healthy scratch decision on this team all season.

What we were looking for back from the trade never materialized; a draft pick....ANY draft pick. If you asked me what the players were worth in "pick value", i would say the following:

Hagman and White - First rounder
Mayers and Stajan - Second rounder

Did we get the equivalent back? Time will tell with Aulie. He is a big kid and primarily a shut-down defenseman. Sjostrom is fast as hell and looks like a Draper-esque defensive specialist. He had an offensive flair in his history, which Wilson may choose to draw on.

Overall, the Leafs will be a fundamentally different team on Tuesday. Especially since they will need to call up at least one forward. A biting disappointment to me is the added responsibility to the least deserving players on the roster; Mitchell and Wallin. I have a feeling that Mitchell's name was proffered a few times and the response was a resounding "We have enough pucks, thank you."


I'd Like To Enjoy Watching The leafs Again

Wouldn't you? I've grown tired of the predictability of the outcome of every game. I am weary of how far people will stretch to find a story in a lost season. My favorite is the trials and tribulations of Kessel trying to get his groove back. Matched with the stories of the lost draft picks and how we would have gotten Taylor Hall, for sure. Does the possibility sting? Hell, yeah. Can w, as fans, do anything about it? Not a chance in hell...... What's left after all the whining, conjecture and grave digging is done? Maybe actually getting entertained watching the product we pay to see. My Maple Leafs don't need to make the playoffs every year. They do have to entertain me. The biggest slap in the face this season for me was that the Leafs at Florida game was set to be televised on CBC. It was then switched for the Montreal/Rangers game. With no alternate feed, not even the Punjabi telecast, I was left to watch updates on a borrowed iPod. Having dropped over $200 CAD on Center Ice, I found that I was being mocked by a universe where big money had lost interest in it's prime market.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have finally become what all of the Leaf-haters have been calling them all these years......irrelevant. As far as I can see it, the one thing I better start seeing fast, before I completely lose interest out of contempt, is some kind of effort to entertain. I find myself missing Colton Orr picking a fight for no good reason, like the beginning of the season. Maybe seeing SOMEBODY score a bloody goal here and there. Thomas Vokoun is not an elite goaltender anymore. Nor does he have a shut down defense. Let's see some action Leafs. Give me something to keep my passion. I've watched some lousy Leafs teams in the last 20+ years, but at least I had some icons to cling to or ten point games to reminisce about. It's time my beloved Maple Leafs......it's time to give back. (oh, and you owe me $2.38 for the game I missed on Saturday).


Leafs Look To Rebound.......Hard

With the Maple Leafs only winning once in their 6last games, I am sure that Ron Wilson will eventually run out of witticisms. Toronto lost 6 -5 in a shootout against Carolina in November for their last meeting with the 'Canes. Having a friend that is a 'Canes fan is a mixed blessing. On one hand he can more than feel my pain regarding the suckitude of his team (especially because he watches them in person) and on the other if the 'Canes beat the Leafs it is more than humiliating. I can always say "At least I'm not a 'Canes fan", except when we lose to them. All he has to do is rub in the fact that the 'Canes lottery pick will look great in red next year. Then I weep, like a small child.

I'm getting to the point where I have to stop looking for the small moral victories, too. I can't even celebrate a PK because the Leafs let 4 of 5 in over 2 games. Honestly I can't see how anyone can still think that the Leafs have a chance to get back into the playoff picture. When they were 3 points out, they may have had a chance if they had gone on a 5 game win streak. Alas, this did not happen. This leaves us as Leafs fans to watch a team that may or may not be getting better in the next two years. This leads me to........Please Let Me See The Kids If They Are Going To Lose Anyways! And WHY NOT NOW!?

Yes, my stress level has risen and my patience has worn. Also the "FF" is wearing off on my PVR remote. All I'm really asking for is a little hope. That is a hard thing to grab onto with the PK the way it is. I turn my head and wait for the goal horn to let me know it's over. Moving forward I will be watching for the scoring droughts to end. Once that fails, what's next?


Maple Leafs New Years Report

I have been slowly stewing in my own juices for the better part of 3 weeks while watching the Leafs effectively eliminate themselves from the postseason. I am back now and will attempt to make sense of my emotions connected to my insane attraction to the Maple Leafs train wreck. With the Leafs having gone 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, they have firmly entrenched themselves in 14th place in the Eastern Conference. The fact that the Leafs cannot put together a good 10 game stretch also lets me know that the playoffs are a moot point. What if they made the playoffs? You need to win 4 of every 7 games. Am I left to hope that there is another 8th-seed-makes-it-to-the-finals scenario like the Oilers?

The injuries to be felt the most over the next while are the Primeau and Mitchell injuries. Primeau's because the third line has been stopping the bleeding somewhat defensively and the Mitchell one because he will be coming back Tuesday. I can't wait to watch John Mitchell circle the offensive zone twice before turning the puck over. It's like it was just yesterday that Mitchell was being overhyped by Don Cherry(he will again, too, probably saying that Mitchell has been sorely missed). Grabovski will definitely learn from the press box while he is off. His 1 shift on the 4th line probably didn't teach him anything on Saturday night. Grabbo has been probably leaned on a little hard with our lack of depth at center, the break will do him wonders.

I have been watching the WJC these last few days and watching our prospects on the big stage. I have to tell you that I am happy Kadri has been kept in Junior for this year( I vote for next year, too). A bit surprise for me(because I had never heard of him) is Jerry D'Amigo. He is dangerous in the slot, but looks as though he has tho have a setup man to succeed. I know that Burke likes him from all the reaction shots TSN had of him. I also noticed that all the Brayden Schenn love from this past draft may have been a little displaced. He shows flashes of competency, followed by atrocious turn-overs and blatant give-aways. He's at least 2 years from the NHL with L.A. Especially with all the young guns ahead of him on the depth chart. I'm not upset the Leafs "missed out" on him in the draft for sure. I have a feeling that won't be a popular opinion amongst Leaf fans, but my cup is definitely half empty this season.

I think we still have a few more seasons of sub-mediocre play. I say this as the relief from the bottom doesn't seem to be there. Management is holding off on kids coming up from the minors. Stalberg is on the 4th line for "energy". They must not feel that Bozak is ready, even with the season going as badly as it is. Beyond that, are there any young hopefuls that I should add to my please-someone-help-this-franchise list? I need someone to fill my cup......please make it runneth over!