One of the things that has given me genuine pleasure over the past now almost two and a half years of producing Vintage Leaf Memories (as a site) is the tremendous feedback I receive from readers. Most especially, I enjoy the outstanding comments that are posted here by those who a) clearly know what I’m trying to do with this particular niche site, and b) also know hockey and c) understand the Leaf ”situation”, if I can put it that way.
They are thoughtful individuals who know their stuff and provide intelligent commentary—whether they agree of disagree with my own view on various topics.
In any event, every once in a while someone comes up with something that is particularly well-stated. Recently, a regular VLM follower, Bobby Craig, (Bobby C. as I tend to call him) made one of his usual cogent observations about the blue and white, in response to a post I did on the need for the Leafs having enough true (I don’t mean fighting) toughness and grit once the games become crucial down the stretch in February and March and into the playoffs this coming spring. He first raised it a while back and I really like it.
His term: “muckulence”.
I thought it was a perfect word to describe what good teams need at playoff time. Of course we all know that Brian Burke came to town a few years ago with that "truculence" word almost tattooed to his everyday vocabulary. But beyond that, “muckers” was one of those great words that hockey people used years ago (along with “grinders”, for example) to describe a certain type of hard-nosed player.
For me, muckulence just seemed to be the perfect word as soon as I heard it for the first time. I like it even more now.
Yes, the game is changing, and speed and skill are crucial. But those traits have always been invaluable. That’s nothing new. Those, combined with more than a dash of guys who don’t mind the rough going, well, it’s an unbeatable combination, if your team has also the required high-end work ethic.
Heck, that’s largely how the Habs won so many Cups from the 1950s through the ‘70s (16 or 17 Cups in those three decades alone, was it?), and how the Islanders and Oilers did it in the ‘80s.
Skill- and a big dose of heart and grit.
The Leafs right now have some skill, and they have some grit. They certainly don’t lack for effort most nights. But I’m concerned that they may be a couple of forwards shy of the necessary component I have been talking about recently that will make them truly “team tough” come April- and a difficult team to play against all over the ice.
All the better if a player has both, of course—skill and toughness, like a Clark Gillies, a Bob Gainey, a Dave Hunter, Brendan Shanahan, Tomas Holstrom—or whoever comes to mind for you as the guy that provides that wonderful blend of both. (Old-time Maple Leaf fans from the '50s and early '60s will remember long-time Hab winger Bert Olmstead, who was one of those old-time players who demonstrated more than a little "muckulence". When Bert joined the Leafs, he was an inspiration to many young Leafs on the squad Punch Imlach was re-building. Eventually, Olmstead, seen with the Canadiens at right, was a key piece in the Cup the Leafs won in 1962.)
But regardless, I think that particular trait is still a necessity in the “new” NHL. You have to have it sprinkled throughout your line-up, preferably in the “top-six” and “bottom-six”.
But mostly today, I wanted to give credit where credit is due- to Bobby C. and his “new” word.
Maybe it’s been used elsewhere before, but it was new to me.
Thanks Bobby. I hope you’ll keep visiting.