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Can we panic now….can we panic now? (To the tune of children screaming… "Are we there yet…are we there yet….”)

I doubt many fans bought the Burke idea that all the pent-up trade deadline pressure these past few weeks caused the Leafs to stumble.  But because Leaf management put us on that trail, it was natural for that same fan base to anticipate a big effort from the blue and white in their first game after the deadline had finally passed, since the “pressure” and distraction had been eliminated, right?

That said, the effort was not what we were anticipating—or looking for.  Giveaways got us off on the wrong foot.  (We can’t blame an Aulie pinch this time…) But it wasn’t just that.  We were underwhelming in terms of smarts, second-effort, and in many aspects of the game required to pick up two points at this level.  This was the case even against a team with a mediocre roster, missing a top player (Versteeg) and relying on a retread goalie (the very hot and cold Jose Theodore).

Not to make more than need be of a slide that has seen the Leafs earn only 3 of the last 20 available points over the past ten games, but even the biggest Leaf believers have to feel a sense of dismay right now.  This was the home stand against beatable teams that we had looked forward to—to get the team back on the right track.

Hey, they may well turn it around. Teams almost always do.  But confidence right now is, well, fragile.


Some additional thoughts:

  • While the Leafs have plenty of time to start winning and earn that playoff spot, what is impossible to determine is this:  how will the teams they are competing against for the final spots play over the last 20 games?  Many, like Washington and Winnipeg, have been really poor at times this season.  But the Caps came from behind in the dying seconds Tuesday night, and they have now captured five of their last six available points. I think they have the wrong coach in place, but they may still be in the running down the stretch.
  • People can keep blaming the goalies if we want to.  But we’re missing what’s in the mirror right in front of us if we think that’s our biggest—or only—problem.  Superlative goaltending would help, sure.  And maybe even inspire a better—and more confident—performances from the team.  But can we honestly watch this squad play, with its mistake-prone young defense and 7 or 8 fourth-liners, and really claim it’s all goaltending?
  • Some of you may recall a post I penned a while back here.  I cited the notion that, if a team struggles at home, the classic line that is inevitably trotted out is “we need to get away from the scrutiny, so we can relax and bond on the road and not worry about entertaining our fans, etc…”.  When a team loses a lot on the road, they often say “we need to get home to our own beds and some home cooking.  It will be great to have the fans behind us”.  As Harry Neale said when he was coaching the Red Wings in the ‘80s (and I paraphrase) ”We  can’t win at home and we struggle on the road.  Our problem is finding a place to play…”
  • The Leafs not making more trades at the deadline is not an endorsement of their present roster, nor should it accepted at face value when such statements are made.  All it means is Burke was willing to move any number of players, but did not get what he believed was enough compensation to make a deal.  So he kept the roster— but not because he wanted to.
  • For a regime that was supposed to be about “no complaints and no excuses”, it has very much become exactly that.
  • It would appear the philosophical yo-yo has, for now (and to save face) shifted back to hoping to squeak into the playoffs—and not worrying about being good enough to compete for the Eastern Conference title (i.e. win a round or two in the spring).
  • Presumably, the “long-term” plan remains intact—to be contenders every year.  While we can all support that objective, blind acceptance of bold-sounding words doesn’t make us good “fans”.  We all have different views, and that’s  part of the fun of being fans. But I think it’s fair to say this management team has, a little too often, misread their team and its potential.
  • Remind me where is Florida in the standings...As I've posted here many times over the past few months- how long has Tallon been there?
  • It would have been nice—and more credible— for management (GM and coach) to have made any supportive comments about the goaltenders before the deadline.  Making such statements after they could not get the veteran goalie they wanted rings hollow.
  • Why save percentage is sometimes a meaningless stat:  albeit looking at one game in isolation, the Panthers had relatively few shots early on Tuesday night, but who would have stopped the first two Florida goals—on the first two shots of the game?  Reimer then made some huge saves in the second to keep it at 2-0, but his “save percentage” was not good.  So we have to look how easy or dangerous shots are for that kind of stat to tell a real tale.
  • If I had to choose between my current goalies and my goalie coach, I would keep my goalies.  I’m sure Allaire is a great goalie coach.  But as I’ve said here many, many times (and yes, long before the mainstream media started saying the same thing) I’m not seeing it with any of the guys he has tried to influence/mold during his years as the coach in Toronto.  (Surely we will set Monster free at the end of the season.  Please.)
  • On that note, it has been revealing to hear Leaf television analyst (and former longtime NHL goalie) Greg Millen tiptoe around the obvious Allaire teaching-style issue.  Everyone knows if you want to cover the Leafs on Leafs TV, you cannot criticize the home team.  Millen, though, has been gingerly repeating the message on recent broadcasts (without even mentioning Allaire by name in some cases) about the style the Leaf goalies use—and how much he dislikes that particular style of goaltending.
  • My guess is both Reimer and Gus are so confused at this point, they would benefit from a change of scenery (Gustavsson) and a new goalie coach (Reimer).  For that matter, a head coach that can inspire his goalies, not throw them under the bus when things get tough (is that what real “leaders” do?) and who knows how to put the right goalie in the right game (and situation) to succeed would be kind of nice, too.
A question before I sign off for now.  Just to pick one player, in isolation:  Dion Phaneuf played almost 25 minutes (less than many nights this season.)  But more to the point—although his fatigue is already clearly an issue some nights—he earned three assists against Florida.  He was “even” in terms of plus/minus.  When a defenseman helps set up three goals, you would normally say he played an outstanding game.

Did he?

Did anyone?


  1. I just want to take this opportunity to give a harangue about the play of Tim Connolly. I am sorry but this guy has to go, he has talent but he just does not have the drive to win. He does not fight for the puck, he is lazy, and I dont think he really cares...

    Of course the "Con" (my new nickname for Connonlly) was not only to blame for this, it falls on everyone from the players to the GM(I was especially disappointed with Wilson). Wilson has unfortunately let it get out of hand. Players should be held accountable for their mistakes. The Con was clearly too lazy to backcheck which led to the second goal, and lost almost every puck battle except for one on the penalty kill. Yes, many blamed Komi for the second goal but he made the right play, he was holding the line and his job was to slow the play down so the forwards can catch up. Too bad the Con thought he should wait to see if anything developed instead of chasing his man down!

    With Phaneuf, we all new what we were getting. But blame should fall once again on Wilson for allowing Phaneuf as well as others to have ice time that was not necessarily earned. We were told that only players that earned a spot would play, yet Phaneuf is still putting up 25min a game, Franson is in the press box while schenn is leaving pucks behind, and the Con is averaging the fifth most ice time out of our forwards. Does this make any sense?

    I wanted to save the best for last. I know you will not agree with me but the most confusing decision to date is playing Reimer! In the month of Dec, Reims was given a chance to show us what he has, and replied with 3 wins 7 loses and a SV% of .871. Gustavsson was given the month of Jan in which he produced 7 wins, 4 loses and SV% .927. It does not matter if stats are indicative of the goalie's talent, bottom line is Gus should be in net...

    Thanks for letting me vent!

  2. To answer your last questions no and no. Dion was all right but I would hardly classify this as a great game. The only reason he finished even was because you don't get a minus on the PK. That would be Phanuef that the Florida player blew by to get the third goal, the one that really finished them off.

    On a bit of a snarky note wasn't that 2 powerplay goals against, both that ended brief Leaf rallies before they could really get rolling? I thought this was the best PK in the league the last month? That sure looked like the PK we saw for the first 285 games. I'm not sure who to believe anymore, Burke or my lying eyes.

    This team looks beat. They are just waiting for the axe to fall now. After every goal against the players all look skyward then skate off with thier heads down. The coachs post game conference looked like a guy with no answers. My first thought on seeing Wilson tonight was he looks beat, like he is shell shocked. Even the question about the Fire Wilson chants couldn't get a response out of him. He looks like a guy who is waiting for the executioner. Riemer's customary smile and good cheer is buried under a mountain of self doubt right now. Listening and watching his interview after the game, I really felt for the guy. He just looks totally lost. Phanuefs interview was robotic like a guy who has seen too much and has no answer for any of it. Plus, he brought up the deadline saying you can't use it as an excuse and then doing just that 3-4 times.

    This could be a very ugly last 19 games. You get the sense that everybody knows it is over, they are just waiting for the official call. It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion now. I want to stop watching but can't.

  3. Thanks Bester30. You can vent here anytime.

    What you have voiced here with regard to Connolly very much mirrors what Buffalo fans (and media) had been saying about him in his last season with the Sabres. That is why not a peep was heard when he left in free agency. They couldn't wait.

    On your Reimer/Gustavsson point, I actually have posted consistently here that Gustavsson needed to be given a chance to play a run of games, not just one here or there. Every time he loses, he gets pulled.

    Look under his name under categories on the right hand side of this site and the posts should come up. I like both guys, and I've opined here (probably too often) about my frustrations with how both have been handled. I feel like I'm watching the '80s again with Bester and Wregett (and we're supposed to have this outstanding coaching staff in this modern era).

    Well said. Thanks Bester30.

  4. Willbur, I don't know what to say. As I was posting tonight, it struck me that some people will wonder why I sound harsh.

    Even one of my older sons mentioned the tone of yesterday's post. I thought it was absolutely fair and balanced, but perhaps it showed signs of wear and tear?

    I want this to be a place (and I've always said this, since I started this site two and a half years ago) where hockey and Leaf fans can come, relax, read and talk hockey in a thoughtful way. I don't want to be critical all the time. But I don't like bullshit being thrown at me as though I don't see what's going on. And I;m guessing there are a few others who feel the same way. It goes way beyond agreeing or not agreeing with a particular managerial or coaching move. That's their job, not mine. I respect that they have to do what they believe is in the best interests of the organization.

    It's an "attitude" and right now, it feels no better than the supposed "blue and white disease" and "entitlement" thing they came here to deal with (I never bought that, by the way, as I've posted here many times...that's just more of Burke and Wilson trying to puff themselves up...)

    Maybe I need to take a break.

    In any event, I can't argue with you because we'e reading the same book.

    Thanks Willbur.

  5. Can we panic now?

    I am not going to sugar coat it. I am not going to be emotional. I am going to be scientific:

    "Lost to Florida 3-5, playoff odds down 14 to 16.5%"

    16.5% chance of making the playoffs means there is no reason to panic. We are past that point of panicking. They are not slipping..they have slipped. Their fate is pretty much sealed.

    This is the point after the panicking where you calm down and start accepting your fate.

    The odds of not making the playoffs is 83.5% Sure there could be a miracle run, but the odds are that it comes up short.

    One of the little joys of being a Leafs fan is that you have often have free time in the spring...and gardening is a good hobby.

    In my yard I now have over 500 flower bulbs. I have 3 varieties of Crocus, over 10 different varieties of tulips, 150 daffodils, Gladiolas, Asiatic and Oriental lilies. Last year I started growing Oriental and trumpet lily hibrids. The Crocus flowers look so good that people think they fake.

    People ask me how I get time to do all this gardening, especially in the spring. I answer:

    "I'm a Leafs fan, so I often have free time in April."

    They usually say something like a drawn out, "Ooohhh..." and I watch their face change from curiosity to pity.

  6. I actually thought your post last night was spot on. Its just hard to take watching another futile season unfold. Somewhere during the second peroid tonight I actually stopped caring. I'm not mad anymore, I'm just sad. I'm tired of all the stupid jokes, I'm tired of cheering for a team that just seems to continually shoot themselves in the foot over and over. I'm tired of listening to coach speak about how great he is without any results in 4 years. I'm tired of listening to acoach tell us if only the stupid players would listen to his genuis the winning would begin. I'm tired of an arrogant GM blustering away at straw men while yet another season goes down the tube.

    I could be wrong but it looks like to me we are watching the end of an era yet again. I'm sure Wilson is a goner, but I'm starting to get the feeling that Burke could well be on his way out too. I'm just tired and it seems like every one on the Leafs is feeling the same way. It feels like a friggin funeral watching a Leafs game right now. I guess I'm just beat down being a Leaf fan right now.

  7. Great post, as always.

    I can't say I blame you for any negativity given the play of the team over the last month and the position they've put themselves in. I also feel that standing still at the deadline was my third of three choices. Having a negative reaction to negative action is sane. I think a lot of people can't handle realistic observations about someone or something they love, and that's understandable, but unrealistic. I see a lot of promise on the current roster and in the system, and once management begins to patch some of the bigger holes this team will produce. It's sometimes difficult to be patient, but necessary to be critical. The team doesn't employ us to stifle our concerns.

  8. Michael I think your post was spot on. As far as your question re Phaneuf is concerned, I think he is a problem for us.
    I think he is a very poor captain to try and build a team around. In my view, his playing skills are not good enough or consistent enough to lead by example. It is difficult to assess his locker room leadership skills but suffice it to say he has not been able to keep the team on an even keel during tough times and he has not impressed me during any of his press interviews.
    Another point - I see Phoenix beat Vancouver last night and is a contending team in the West. They have no "superstars". They have Shane Doan as their captain and not much else in the way of "big name" players. Leaf Nation has not been desperately calling for Burke to trade for any of their players! How do they do it? Good coaching? Players listening to the coach? A good Captain to foster and maintain a team building "we're all in this together" attitude?
    When you compare the 2 lineups on paper, I think Leaf's personnel would be considered at least as good as Phoenix, if not better. BUT they obviously do not have the better team.
    Understandably the Leaf coaching staff has been under fire for the poor results but I think the question of Phaneuf as captain needs to be addressed also. I'm not confident we have a good candidate for captain on the team at present. I think Burke needs to address this issue next summer and trade Phaneuf for a player with both good playing and leadership skills to assume the captain's role
    Another great post Michael. I really enjoy visiting this site to get your views and I also appreciate all the thoughtful comments of the many contributors to the discussion.

  9. no break michael! even if the players and management aren't displaying it on/off the ice, here in the digital realm, your readers visit several times a week to enjoy/embrace/remember/learn of our favorite team.

    i like wilbur's description of the team playing like they're waiting for the axe to fall... and wilson appearing dumbfounded. the leafs need a player to step up as a leader and take the healm. WHO is that player? it needs to be someone with some skill... but also with some grittiness... come on guys!

  10. I'm not a big stats guy, DP, but in this case, the "numbers" do provide a sobering perspective. Thanks.

    And thank you for giving me an early morning smile- the gardening reference is perfect. (10 varieties of tulips- that sounds like much more than in a normal family garden...)

    Yet we live in hope!

    Great stuff.

  11. Thanks Willbur. If I had to guess, Burke will be here a while. If MLSE thinks Colangelo on the basketball side (talk about having the wool pulled over your eyes) is still the great executive he was thought to be when they hired him, Burke has even more clout.

    It's hard for frustration not to set in. Lots of words from on high, little action.

  12. It's been tough being a Leaf fan this past stretch of 10 games. Frustrating. Painful. I want to think they'll be able to turn it around, but with a long road stretch coming up, it looks doubtful.

    What's especially painful is that up until these past 10 games, the Leafs looked good - hey, remember those back to back games against Pittsburgh where we looked really good? How quickly things can change.

    On the onset of the season the general consensus was that the Leafs were a playoff bubble team. Let's keep that in perspective! At least we're not the Sabres! Kidding aside, this slide is one of the most difficult I've had to endure as a fan of the Blue & White.

  13. Brent, very well said. You hit the nail on the head. I agree there is promise here, and have certainly stated that here often. But while we have all preached patience, yes, as fans and observers we have the right- and the need- to question.

    And thank you for the kind words.

  14. “Burke was willing to move any number of players, but did not get what he believed was enough compensation to make a deal. So he kept the roster— but not because he wanted to.” It appears to be a classic situation of Brian Burke “having made his bed and now he has to lie in it.” Burke’s bravado can be a self-imposed trap. His stance on signing restricted free agents, for example, probably led to the likely overpayment for Phil Kessel, and the needless loss of Dougie Hamilton, or that first round asset at least. His public endorsement of Ron Wilson, makes it more difficult for him to salvage the season through a bold coaching change, as Michael alluded to Lou Lamoriello having done in the past. If we are to believe the media reports, assets were available in the form of futures, but that would take real kahoonas, not just hot air. It would have meant a backwards step in losing the likes of Grabovski for example, even if just for four months, and promoting raw talent in the form of Kadri, Colborne, Ashton, or whatever the return was for the traded players, a high risk/reward move with uncertain effect. Hanging on to Gustavsson when you have already thrown him away is yet another strange non-move, betraying a lack of confidence in your own actions.

    Of course, we don’t know what was being offered by other teams, if they were table scraps or tangible assets. The problem is that the team is not as bad as it now appears to be. Nevertheless, it seems that the current roster lacks a certain something, dare I say it, muckulence, and that coach/management error in the form of bad goaltending management precipitated the precipitous fall. Without doubt, Burke’s hubris is his strength and weakness. It is one thing to make a display of being consistent and quite another to actually be consistent, something which is, ironically, temporal and more subtle than what is being presented to us as such. To be fair, Burke has made concrete strides in rebuilding the Leafs. I would certainly not throw him under the bus. Then again, he will probably have to swallow his pride and learn to stomach eating his own words if we are to advance during his watch. And if we do advance that movement will have to be genuine, not postured or ego-driven. We don’t need more ass-covering politicians, we need genuine leadership. Like it or not, our eyes are firmly fixed on the BS meter now.

  15. Ed, you have put things in perspective. Well said.

    It's difficult to watch other teams with similar or less talent "on paper" as you say, achieve more. (And year after year...)

    Look at Florida as well. And Ottawa. And Winnipeg....etc., etc.

    Thank you, by the way, for your supportive comments. It's good to hear and much appreciated.

  16. Alex C. Thank you for the encouragement. My caution to myself is to ensure the ongoing assessment is fair and, hopefully, well-written enough that people who visit will want to continue checking out Vintage Leaf Memories.

    Willbur's comment is on the money, yes. The guys need a jolt, a big goal, something to inspire. It doesn't need to be much.

    With that in mind, the point you make on leadership is key. Who can do it? Who will do it?

  17. Hogie. Good point. There no question this team can rebound. I believe it will.

    We all know the old line that a team is not as good as it seems at its "best" and nowhere near as bad as it would seem to be when playing its worst.

    You are right about the pre-season consensus. Trouble is, so many teams in the East have had lousy seasons, I think we expected more at this point than a mad dash to the finish line!

    Thanks Hogie. Always well said on your part.

  18. Hi Bobby C....As Hogie just quite rightly pointed out, this is the same group that waxed Pittsburgh twice, so as you cite, the Leafs are not as bad a team as it now "appears to be", for sure.

    I love the rest of your comment as well. And that's what I'm getting at when I speak of Burke. Is he a shrewd, smart, tough hockey/business guy? Absolutely.

    But his ego does box him into corners.

    He's not "the best", and his track record (as I've outlined in earlier posts) demonstrates that.

    He didn't invent the position of General Manager. But he's one of a number of people in the sport who are pretty darn good at what they do.

    I just need less hubris, and more results.

    Thanks as always Bobby C. for a tremendous post.

  19. Spoken from a Sensfan, Wilson is done. God knows we can spot a doomed coach since the lockout.

    However the leafs problems are far more systemic in nature. Their top 6 has 1 player drafted from the leafs and neither Kadri or Colbourne have played well enough for the permanent spots in the big leagues. Their goaltending has no blue-chip prospects and their D is inconsistent.

    A point I have to stress since its partly why Ottawa is in the playoffs, this is a very weak year in the Eastern Conference. Tampa, Washington and Montreal have all had bad years. The leafs could not capitalize on the collapses of last years playoff teams, that should be the most sobering thought.

  20. There is a sense of "entitlement" or blue and white disease with lombardi, connolly, armstrong and Komisarek. They play poor hockey - either by - lack of apparent effort, or by
    - not being good at hockey or
    - due to injury

    But there is no accountability when you waive or demote a player like
    - Boyce (who has no talent but tons of heart)
    - Kadri/Frattin (who may need to polish their NHL game)

    The team "rewards" bad contract/bad players like Komisarek/Connolly and punishes the heart/effort and players that want to win like Boyces/Kadri.

    I would bench someone significant for a game - Phaneuf? and Connolly. Phaneuf sounds crazy, but lets see what the team does without him, and he has made mistake - he needs to refelct a bit.

  21. Anon (Sensfan) Thanks. Very good points and sobering, as well.

  22. Most recent "Anon"- wow. Plenty of food for thought in what you said. Interesting that you raise the "entitlement" issue. I've tried to raise that here as well....

    It ties in to the supposed "meritocracy" that is in place.

    Good post. Thanks.

  23. "And thank you for giving me an early morning smile- the gardening reference is perfect. (10 varieties of tulips- that sounds like much more than in a normal family garden...)"

    You try to structure the varities for height (tall in the back,short in the front) and bloom that you have a costantly blooming garden.

    I started this in the spring of 2006, the first time since the 1998–99 season that the Leafs did not make the playoffs.

    It's now good enough to make old ladies jealous and little kids marvel.

  24. Thanks spring, perhaps I can start adding gardening tips here- I've been thinking on ways to expand readership on the site.

    I'll need your expertise, though!

  25. The problem is WILSON.....the problem is the unaccountable system that Wilson has committed to. There are a dozen teams that are more successful than the Leafs with what I feel are a less talent...COACHING!! The Leafs are simply not responding anymore to Wilson......Yes there has been some success at times this year but what has been present all year is a style of play that gives up WAY too many breakaways, 2 on 1's, 3 on 1's, etc. The Leafs 'run and gun' style would never hold up in any playoff round!! This irresponsible system, continually puts their defensemen and goalies in fragile positions! Even Lunqvist (NYR) or Thomas (Bos) would have a brutal save % and GAA if they had to play in this system! Unfortunately, Burke's loyalty to Wilson has cost the Leafs a playoff opportunity this year and has also cost the Leafs an opportunity to develop youngsters such as Kadri, Colborne and Kadri?

    Wilson MUST be fired ASAP.....bring up Eakins or make a commitment to Carlyle?

  26. For all those Leaf season ticket holders who pay thousands of dollars each year to watch the Leafs... you might as well watch the Marlies if all you're going to get is players who are "developing". We're certainly seeing minor league mistakes.
    I'm feeling harsher than you are, Michael. As I've mentioned for a while now, pro hockey is about winning. It's not about a feel-good story here or an overly patient coach there. It's winning. Period.
    My hunch is that Burke wasn't being offered fair exchanges for the players he might have traded, but nevertheless, from this point on, he is accountable for what happens. He said he didn't want to "blow this team up". Why not? Who do we have that is truly indispensable, if the right deal comes along? Who is the heart and soul of this team, the Bobby Clarke or Gary Roberts who will not accept defeat and does something about it?
    And don't get me started on "meritocracy"....
    I laughed at DP's comment about gardening... I know that feeling exactly!

  27. Reimer is not the issue - the play of the Defence is, as is the lack of two-way playing skill of much of the forward corps.

    The Leafs cannot go inside deep in the offensive zone - which you need to do to go far in the playoffs.

    The last game in Vancouver displayed all of the weaknesses of this team.

    I still don't like The Monster - stats notwithstanding. He is predictably easy to beat in clutch situations.

    Wilson has to go and should go, but he won'e be going. Burke waited until they showed some early promise and then used that as an excuse to extend his contract.

    If the Players to not know what is expected of them now, then it is clearly a coaching issue.

    TC should have it explained to him that he flushing his NHL Career down the commode. He needs to wake-up, before he becomes a persona non grata.

    Burke wasted an opportunity to build a team around Rick Nash. What a shame.

  28. Thanks Anon. I'll simply let your comments re Wilson/the "system" of play stand.

  29. Gerund O' your point on watching guys with potential. Well said. And it's a lot less expensive to watch the Marlies.

    You know that we agree on the question of leadership. Virtually all really good teams have it- one individual or veterans who lead by word and most importantly, example. You and I remember Bobby Clarke, and while it's hard to find that kind of leader today, we can at least identify the need.

    Others here today, including Ed, have questioned whether the Leafs have exactly what you are talking about.,. including in terms of the present captain.

    And yes, I think we're all bemused at this point by the notion of "meritocracy"...

  30. Hi Shaftesbury...really good post.

    Won't comment on all your points, will simply say that, in reference to Nash: It will be interesting to see how this roster develops. If the current roster (with some additions) develops as Burke anticipates, then all will be well.

    But if the team does not make significant progress and start winning playoff rounds next season, then it will be fair to wonder what might have been, since Nash, yes, did seem, at least on the surface, to offer some of the very traits that the team needs (power forward who can score). Those kinds of players can take years to develop in your "system"
    and are awfully valuable...

  31. I think you have hit the nail on the head with the goaltending trouble this season and I to hope that a move will really help Gus's frame of mind and in turn his game in the NHL, he has all the tools he just needs a better fit on a team to get up and running at the Nhl level.

  32. Thanks SixPackPadStack...I have to believe Gus will find a happier home elsewhere. I may be wrong, but I just sense he needs to play the way he was born to play, the way he played back home in Sweden. Too much coaching can be worse than not enough.

    Goalies have enough issues without worrying constantly about technique, as important as that obviously is.

    Can we imagine if someone had messed with Hasek, for example, and told him to play a stand-up style, or whatever?

    Will Gustavsson ever be "great"? I have no idea. But he has shown flashes and I hope he earns a job somewhere. He's done his best here, under adverse personal and team conditions.

  33. I'm still shell-shocked over the first 5 minutes of last night's game, so I'll stay off the usual topics.
    Gerund- as fortune would have it, I'm going to my first-ever Marlies game on Saturday, and I'm super excited. 10th row behind the bench with a bus load of teachers. The timing is perfect, as I get to see Ashton Carter and Fraser in action. I think all of us should try and get there to see a game- they certainly deserve our support.
    Other than that, Michael, you have nothing to apologize for "tone" wise. Dark times in Leafland call for the willingness to talk about dark issues, and I suspect most of us would agree you're the most even-handed Leaf blogger we know. The site is growing in popularity and your reputation is preceding you to places beyond these pages. Keep doing what you do.

  34. Totally agree about appreciating the Marlies, KidK. (I sense what Geruod and I want is the guys to get up here as soon as they're ready!)

    Sincere thank you for the kind and supportive words. I have precious little notion of how the site is being received, "out there". I see some raw "numbers" which seem to suggest significant growth in readership, bit it's impossible to know how a site is "thought of" (which is the really important thing) if you know what I mean.

    I've worked to provide a sense of balance and perspective through a historical lens from when I started here in September '09. I hope to continue, if people are interested.

    Thank you.

  35. To all Leaf fans who are furious, discouraged, hurting and thinking about a cold spring where gardening is our only solace, I send my love. Like so many of you, I turn to this website for wisdom and comfort. We all feel as if we are in a bad dream these days and I for one do not feel it is disloyal to demand more from everyone. We are Leaf fans win or lose; we just hate losing. I don't think tulips come in blue and white.

  36. Anon (Sensfan), if you think that Montreal is bad because they're having a bad season, I'm sorry to say but you're a tad deluded. Montreal is a mediocre team that vastly over-performed their quality last year. Tampa Bay is pretty much the same. They have a bad defensive corps and mediocre goaltending, problems that plague the Leafs and it's not surprising to find them similarly placed in the standings.

    Tampa and Montreal are teams that are pretty much doing what is expected of them right now. Stories of them having a "bad year" are vastly exaggerated. When teams like Ottawa, Florida, and Winnipeg fall back to earth next year, fans will cry "bad year" but in fact it will just be a return to expectation. The Southeast is benefitting from WAS having a terrible year and getting to play each other 6 times during the season.

    In any case, there are obviously many problems with the Leafs as currently constructed. Wilson will not be coach next year, and I think Reimer will find himself partnered in a 1A/1B kind of goaltending situation.

    At this point, I would honestly be ok with the Leafs shedding virtually any player on the roster with the exceptions being Kessel, Gardiner, and Gunnarsson. Phaneuf, as good as he can be, is overpaid and underperforming now. If we could get a good return for him, I wouldn't really be too shocked or disappointed if he left, especially if it resulted in someone like Suter coming to the Leafs to slot in as the #1 guy.

    Komisarek, Lombardi, and Armstrong absolutely need to be off the roster this year. Connolly, Schenn, Liles, and Phaneuf could go and I wouldn't be too upset. I think people underappreciate what Connolly does because he's not a goal-scorer, but I think he does seem disinterested at times.

    This team needs a fiery presence in the locker room and on the ice. Armstrong was supposed to be the shit-disturber but injuries have basically ruined him.

    This season is just exhausting. Frustrating. Excrutiating. Heartbreaking.

  37. Thank you, Elizabeth.

    For those here that may not know, Elizabeth is the granddaughter of Conn Smythe and daughter of Stafford Smythe. Conn first founded and owned the Maple Leaf organization for decades. Stafford then owned the team with two other individuals, John Basset Sr. (for a time) and Harold Ballard, until Stafford's passing- whereupon Harold Ballard assumed ownership.

    Elizabeth provides a perspective that, really, no one else can about the history and legacy of the Leafs. She continues to be a devoted and loyal Leaf observer to this day.

    Elizabeth, you make the key point, it is because fans care that they follow, are passionate, have suggestions, experience joy and frustration. They love the team and want to see it achieve success. It is indeed not disloyal to care, or to expect more, and even demand it.

    Beautfifully said. And thank you for your kindness in commenting about the VLM site. It means a great deal.

  38. Darryl, well said with regard to what the Leafs are looking at going forward. I can sense the frustration- which is shared by many. Thanks.

  39. Being both a proud Dutch kid and a proud Leafs fan, I had to put Elizabeth's statement to the test- I think these qualify.
    I hereby name them Tulipa Baun-Bowerii.

  40. With respect to your comment about Burke not being satisfied with the compensation: If any player on the NHL team for whom there is a potential replacement available could have been moved, he should have been moved regardless of the return. Given the Leafs' current position, the concept of addition by subtraction doesn't just mean getting rid of a bad element, it also means freeing up salary cap space and a spot on the roster for kids who are in the plans for next year to get valuable exposure and, in the case of Kadri and Holzer, for the team to properly evaluation what they have (I think they're already certain they have a real NHL asset in Colborne).

    If someone like Kadri wasn't called up because in a medium-term sense they believe more in MacArthur than Kadri, then Kadri should have been moved. I say this not as a Kadri fan (I myself don't believe he'll be a great NHL talent), but rather as a comment about the process that should be employed by re-building teams.

    You've talked about the mis-handling of the goalies and I totally agree. A question: My sense is that the team adjusts to the regular goalie (eg where rebounds go, playing the puck, etc). Do you agree with this and/or is there any evidence? If it's true, it shows the wrongness of the tandem/win and stay in approach. Instead, you would tell Reimer he's the #1 goalie and you're going to work him back in no matter the short-term results (see Ryan Miller/Enroth - Miller seems to be all the way back).

    Finally, I'll bet anyone that if Wilson isn't fired before the end of the season, he doesn't get fired during the offseason either. Burke's got a bad conflict of interest here and he's looking out more for Wilson's interest than the organization's. The only way Wilson goes is if he quits or he asks Burke to fire him (so he can get severance).

    Sorry for the long comment. And thanks for doing this great blog. I read it all the time.

  41. OK KidK...are you telling us these are indeed blue and white tulips? Did you doctor this photo or something?

    Another smile for the day. Thank you.

  42. GMan, solid post. Easy to follow. Good stuff.

    I hear your point on assets/cap space as it relates to building a team that will be successful in 12-36 months, as opposed to just squeaking into the playoffs this season.

    Given not just the team's recent play, but given your (above)- and more importantly, if I understand it correctly- also Burke's stated objectives (i.e. giving experience to the young guys who will be the future when the team is good) then I, personally, can live with Kadri, Colborne and Frattin with the Marlies. I like the idea of keeping guys down on the farm as they get bigger, better and learn the pro game. (I strongly dislike the yo-you thing they have done with Kadri...but I've discussed that many times here before.)

    But all this said, it is disturbing when under-perofmring vets play while good kids wait their turn. If the brass honestly believes that we aren't winning a Cup this season, or even making a deep run in the playoffs, then why keep playing guys who won't be key pieces down the road? Why not move in, if management truly believes they are NHL-ready, the promising young players?

    On your point around goalies, if I understand the question, I do agree. Not that there always has to be a distinct "number-one" guy, though that is usually a good thing. But the indecision, stating this guy is "number-one", that the other guy can't handle that responsibility (as was said about Gustavsson earlier this season) then in fact relying on him to be "the guy" confuses everyone- the goalies and the rest of the team.

    And to your point, a team gets to know a goalie, his tendencies, etc. This year, especially of late, there seems a minor hesitancy in our game, and I don't know if this is fragile confidence, fear of mistakes or poor communication with goalies- which may harken back to your point.

    I've said here all season, give one of the guys a shot, and let them play 10 games, and make sure they know they're not coming out after a soft goal or a loss. Only then, given the circumstances, can you hope to re-build a young goalie's confidence.

    Still not too late on that front (it probably already is for Gus), but we're getting there....

    As for Wilson, I know what you're saying. I'll just say this: someone is responsible if the team ends up under-achieving this season in a very average Eastern Conference. Either the coach hasn't worked out, or the GM has not done a good enough job.

    Thanks GMan. Enjoyed your post.

  43. Thanks for the kind response Michael. You're the one with the great blog!