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Patience suddenly replaces impatience in the Leaf offices? Where will the leadership come from while we wait?


When Dave Nonis spoke with the Toronto Sun this week, (before the lopsided loss at Madison Square Garden) the watchword, not surprisingly, was patience.

It takes time, we were reminded, to build something good.

Well, it’s hard to argue against patience as a virtue—including in building a hockey team.  I’ve posted on that very subject here a few times over the past many months.

But clearly I misunderstood Burke when he said, on many occasions in the past since taking over here in Toronto, that he, in fact, had no patience for the classic five year “re-build”.  We were told he could and would do it in much less time, that this was indeed possible.

Now, as I’ve also often posted since this site was launched in September of 2009, the truth remains:  Burke will need at least five years to get this team in a position to be a true contender. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if he really can make it happen and the organization builds a Cup winner.

I just wonder why, if patience is now what’s being asked of fans, why this wasn’t the message from the get-go?

Is this simply an indirect amd belated admission of failure, as the organization now (finally) publicly acknowledges that there is no quicker fix and that a five year re-build can in fact be the only way out of the reality they walked into?

The brass likes to talk about the “blueprint” and the “plan”.  On the heels of a bad loss is probably not the right time to make an assessment on the "plan".

So yes:  patience, patience.

As a famous New York Mets reliever (Tug McGraw?) said back in the early ‘70s, when things looked bleak, “You gotta believe”.

**

After the loss in New York, a relevant question may be:  where will the leadership come from now?

Teams sometimes get hammered.  It happens.  Much better teams than the Leafs have had this kind of thing happen this season.

But the challenge is, how do they respond?

Well, the easy answer includes all the usual clich├ęs:  including, every guy has to “dig deep” and “work even harder”.  We’ll no doubt hear someone say the Ranger loss was “unacceptable”.  Well yes, every guy will have to lead in their own way.  Three losses in a row is not the best chaser to a mini win streak on the coast.  So someone will have to help pick the team up.  Goaltending can help, for sure.

Where does Phaneuf fit in this regard?

Still a young captain, is he, at this stage in his career, the kind of guy who can actually—by his play, by his body language and demeanor, by his words in the dressing room—be the leader this team needs?

As importantly, is he a guy that others will actually follow?
**

Falling behind in the first period in New York Wednesday night harkened back to some games earlier in the season when the Leafs unintentionally put themselves in an early hole.

Gustavsson may be blamed, but unless I was missing something, there seemed to be a lot of standing around in the Leaf end, and the result was three quick goals.  Gustavsson’s fault?  Not to me.

Now, I’ve posted regularly here that the Leafs need extraordinary goaltending to have a chance most nights, and the truth is, The Monster has not been able to deliver that for a while now.

Reimer did for a span of games, and Giggy did on Saturday against Calgary, but overall this season, we’re still waiting for that consistently outstanding goaltending that good teams generally need.

**

It’s funny.  I was wondering, before the game, how Gaborik would perform after he was benched on the weekend.

Four goals was the answer.

Gaborik has been a bit of an enigma in his career.  Supremely gifted from the day he joined the Wild as an 18 year-old rookie, he played under the stifling Jacques Lemaire through his best years.  Despite injuries and Minnesota’s defensive system, he has managed close to 300 career goals already, in just over 600 career games.  Still, people, including his coaches over the years, have wanted more.

When healthy—and motivated—he remains, clearly, one of the more dynamic guys in the game.

**

There was a headline yesterday about how the Leafs hoped Versteeg’s return would give them a boost.  It’s natural to think that a player coming back from injury will help, but that kind of headline just seemed like a stretch to me.  While Versteeg has played some good hockey at times in Toronto, the Leafs need more than one guy to return from injury to be successful.  They need total effort from every guy, every night. 

And it didn’t happen, for whatever reason, against the Rangers.

**

The Leafs were in one of those interesting situations heading into the New York game.  If they had won and, say, proceeded to go on a three-game winning streak, optimism would  trump all.   It may have seemed as though this team had turned a corner, especially on the heels of a good west coast road trip.

However, such is the fragile nature of life in the NHL that, having now lost three games in a row, things look, if not bleak for most Leaf fans, then at least as though things sure aren’t where they should be.

1 comment:

  1. OK I get fans being upset with inconsistent play as many still don't think this is a young rebuilding team. What I don't get is how such intellectual hockey knowing fans can't figure out why Burke or Leafs management came out from the get go that they were doing an accelerated rebuild and now asking for patience... I mean is it really that hard to understand that the tickets for a Leafs game are amongst the highest in the league and do you think its prudent to not say anything other than we want to win and win now to justify the cost of those tickets? Have you missed all the interviews where they pretty much say that?

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