No, not a sexual reference. Just a comment as I read a couple of articles over the last 24 hours with respect to the state of our Toronto Maple Leafs. While I loathed the attention they were getting when they were 0 and whatever, you knew it was coming and well it was quite deserved. One thing the MSM in this city is good at is piling on the negativity when things are bad. I mean how many loserville articles do you need?
So you can imagine my shock when I read the articles by Damein Cox and Michael Traikos today. Here are the highlights:
“After all, there aren’t too many sports or leagues in which a team could play 12 games and win just one of them yet still be well within range of a playoff berth.
Yet there were the Leafs Sunday, after losing in a shootout to Montreal on Saturday, sitting with six points in the standings, seven points behind the eighth-place Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference.
Now, you may think the Leafs stink, and you may have little or no regard for Wilson’s coaching acumen or Brian Burke’s ability to build a team.
But you’d have to agree seven points is hardly an Everest-like mountain to climb. If the Leafs did catch the pack, it wouldn’t go down as one of the greatest hockey comebacks since the Miracle on Manchester.”
Huh??? This is clearly not your father’s Damien Cox….
“Are the Leafs actually getting better? The evidence would suggest so. But more important, other than the Carolina Hurricanes, no other team has gone through the same nightmarish losing streak as have the Leafs.
But they will. You can bet four or five teams, or perhaps more, will mirror the struggles the Leafs endured in October.
So while some may have already written the Leafs off as a potential playoff team, or already exiled them to an embarrassing last-place finish, the basic math of the NHL points system says neither is the case at all. In fact, improving just slightly on the pace of the past week in which five road games netted five points would see the Leafs improve on last season’s 81-point output.
Moreover, despite disappointing extra-time losses in Dallas, Buffalo and Montreal, many of the indicators are pointing upwards for MLSE’s hockey wing.”
Perspective?? No, really, this can’t be from the same Damien Cox can it???????
“They showed great guts in fighting back to almost steal wins against the Sabres and Habs. Tomas Kaberle has been superb for the past four games, as good as he’s been since he was clocked by New Jersey goon Cam Janssen several years ago. Right now, Kaberle leads all NHL defencemen in points.
In Jonas Gustavsson, the club may have a bona fide No.1 goalie. Although the numbers might not say so, Mike Komisarek played his best game of the season against the Habs. Ian White is again proving smarts and talent may overcome size. Mikhail Grabovski is showing vastly improved hustle and hunger these days.
Then there’s the NHL’s best power play. Yup, as of Sunday, the Leafs were No.1 with the man advantage, fascinating given the Leafs’ perceived lack of offensive talent. Given the fact there’s no shortage of hockey wise men who would tell you the modern game is decided by special teams, being capable on the power play has to mean something.”
Seriously, how long has it been since any journalist anywhere had a decent thing to say about the play about the Maple Leafs? No, really. Think long and hard – it’s been years since anything has been written (or deserved). This is clearly new space. What’s more insane is that it is being written with the team being 1-11! I mean the crap Berger is writing these days is what we have come to expect no?
“October was a month that the Toronto Maple Leafs would like to forget.
They got off to their worst start in franchise history. They allowed 20 more goals than they scored. And after playing 12 games, they managed just one win and six points in the standings.
But there is reason to believe that November will be better.”
Umm, Michael is that because you are about to say things can’t really get any worse????
“For one, Phil Kessel is expected to make his long-awaited debut in Toronto as early as Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. And, after picking up points in each of the last four games, there are signs that the team is finally turning the corner.”
Now, 2 things come to mind. Yes there may be signs that the team is turning the corner- but with comments like the first one, who exactly is it that is viewing Kessel as the savior, the media or the fans, or is it the fans within the media ? 🙂
“Though he is only a 24-year-old rookie, Gustavsson seems ready for an extended workload. His goals-against average (3.22) is not spectacular, but he has provided the team with its only win and picked up points in each of his last three games.”
I am high on Gustavsson too, but I am not entirely sure how you arrive at he is ready for extended workload based upon his past workload. I mean he is a kid, and one who has had some injury flareups. Either way, we don’t usually see these types of comments.
“Mike Komisarek ranked third-last in the league with a minus-9 rating.
Francois Beauchemin and Jeff Finger were minus-6. And Garnet Exelby and Luke Schenn were minus-5.
The forwards, who were a combined minus-40, and the goaltenders should share the blame. But the biggest disappointments have been Beauchemin, Schenn and Finger.
Beauchemin, with one goal and two assists has shown none of the traits of a two-way defenceman. Schenn is averaging six fewer minutes per game than he did as a rookie last season. And Finger is essentially being paid $3.5-million US to watch from the press box as a healthy scratch.”
No, you see I totally disagree with the last statement. Everyone in the mother dissed Fletcher for the Finger signing. There were no expectaitons of grandeur there. Is he an overpaid 7th defenceman? Yes he is. Did you expect anything else? Not me. With regards to Schenn, I am not disappointed with the minutes, nor am I surprised. When Burke went out and acquired the guys he did you knew Schenn’s minutes were going to go way down; they had to. You don’t go spend the money on the guys Burke did and not play them. What’s disappointing is how poorly Luke has played when he has been on the ice. Beauchemin has been a disappointment, but to me, nowhere near the disappointment that Komisarek has been. This is a guy who I expected big things from. Smart play, leadership, solid work. I have yet to see much of any of that. Kaberle and White are the lone two defencemen playing anywhere near respectable hockey.
Did you see this gem from Mark Spector today?:
“So, what’s really bugging him?
How about the fact his general manager, Brian Burke, made way too much noise about the Maple Leafs being a playoff team. But then the season started, and now it’s Wilson who has to stand in front of the microphones every day and answer for a roster that Burke oversold.”
Clearly one of the dumber things Spector has ever written. Is Spector suggesting that Burke threw Wilson to the wolves? I mean, we are talking about Brian Burke here right. Has Burke ever refused an interview request? I find it hard to believe that Burke won’t talk to Spector or anyone else about the Leafs current state. Hell the guy said that all 8 of his acquisitions had gone south, certainly sounds like accountability to me. Then he said a lot of players would be changed before his coach would be. Sounds like support to me. Furthermore, for the last freaking time, Burke said that he expects his team to compete for the playoffs. What the hell should he have said. We expect to finish dead last to get a better draft slot that I already traded away? He didn’t say they would make the playoffs, he said that is the goal. The goal can’t be anything else, at least not publicly. I think what’s gotten Wilson hot is that many of the veteran players that they thought would be improvements have been liabilities. That and dumb questions from the MSM.
This from our friend Bill Houston:
“Toronto Maple Leafs Joe Bowen is a good hockey announcer, but on some nights he just seems to mail it in. In a span of two minutes during the game last Friday against Buffalo Sabres, Bowen told us that Sabre rookie Tyler Myers plays for the U.S. national team, when in fact he’s a Canadian citizen and is part of the Hockey Canada program. And he described Leaf Nik Hagman passing the puck to his “countryman” Rickard Wallin. Unless Finland and Sweden are one and the same, they aren’t countrymen.”
Finally, someone calls out Joe Bowen. I am not sure what is getting more tired, NHLPA leadership changes, wholly macinaw’s or calling Gustavsson the Monster. I know I am in the majority, but I think it’s time for MLSE to find the next Joe Bowen. I am sure I am going to get heat for it, but it’s just plain time. The song and dance hasn’t changed in years and you know it’s just time. I know it won’t happen anytime soon…but maybe it should.
It was interesting listening to Bob McKenzie talk to Dreger on Leafs Lunch today. First, it reinstated the point that a host Dreger is not. As good a commentator as Dreger is, it was painful listening to him question McKenzie. What was interesting however was when the topic turned to the Carolina Hurricanes. McKenzie said that compared to the Leafs, who while on their winless streak had some parts of their game that were worth speaking of none of the elements of the Canes games are noteworthy, they are bad all over. It’s itneresting because I seem to recall in the thick of the streak guys like Berger and Cox saying that the Leafs were just plain awful with little to talk about in positive light. It’s funny how perspective can change over time.
Lastly, allow me to editorialize on two issues. First, the not so serious. McKenzie has a book out on being a hockey dad. It is a fantastic read for sports fans of all ages. For those of us who had kids in sports or who were kids in sports it is a must read. As the holiday season is coming up I highly recommend it as must reading for the hockey fan. If there is interest we can try to get signed copies for those of you interested in buying the book. I read it in a couple of days and it is terrific. It’s great to read what Bob went through as a parent and to see how much he truly loves the game.
Now the serious. Kitchener Rangers defenceman Ben Fanelli is currently in critical condition in a hospital as a result of a hockey related injury. I don’t wish to engage in a debate clean hit vs. dirty hit. I am going to get on my soapbox and say just one thing. It’s high time we take a big long look at safety in the game of hockey. I don’t know why our society is so reactionary as opposed to being proactive. I don’t know why we will wait for a tragic death to do something. Something has to be done to make the game safer. I don’t pretend to have the answers. This is a time bomb waiting to blow up. Someone, a little kid, an older kid, or the father of some kid is going to die on the ice. Bigger rinks, stricter rules, better equipment. Something has to be done to minimize the chance of serious injury or fatality. As Fred Sanford said, It’s the Big One- it’s coming. Why we don’t do something to minimize the probability of it coming. I hope that Ben Fanelli makes a speedy and full recovery. I hope that Michael Liambas has guilt free nights ahead of him. I hope that those in charge of the game so many of us love take their heads out of their proverbial butts and get proactive.