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.