The Leafs have been competing hard for Carlyle, and that was certainly the case again on Saturday night at home against the visiting Flyers.
I was among those not exactly enthralled with the proceedings (from an entertainment point of view) but it would appear that, for now, we won't be able to have the best of both worlds. We can watch dull, efficient hockey and hope for some narrow victories. No longer will Grabovski and Kessel fly around, it seems. We'll have to settle for 2-1 wins.
I'm sensing that would be just fine for most Leaf fans, though that wasn't the approach in the much more exciting Quinn years, or more recently under Wilson. But it it's effective, then winning trumps all, I guess.
Gustavsson certainly played well. Too bad the other guy did, too. That may be, partly, a function of the "new" defensive system Carlyle is insisting upon. Goalies will get a clearer look at most shots.
That shoot-out move by Giroux was the kind of thing we'd try (not that neat, but sort of...) on the river when we were playing outdoors on the local ice ponds as kids. But it was a lot more impressive watching him do it. Wow.
I’m not interested in re-hashing the Coach’s Corner debate from last week about whether the Leafs have/need/should have Ontario-born players. But it does raise a matter that I’ve touched on only a bit here over the years—and one that I tried to delicately address a while back when it comes to the Montreal Canadiens (click to read more…) and their history.
What I tried to say about the Habs is that, as a long-time hockey guy whose family and cultural roots go back to French-Canada, I still wish the Canadiens actually had more French-Canadians on their roster. No, not to the exclusion of athletes from anywhere else. Simply that I like the idea that a team based in Quebec, with a rich legacy of great players- and many wonderful French-Canadian players - would see that continued somewhat in its modern-day roster make-up.
I’m sure not everyone agrees. I’m guessing not even everyone in Montreal agrees, or that all Quebecers would adopt my perspective. I get it. It’s just that, for me, there should always be the modern-day equivalent on the Habs of a Bouchard, a Richard (see the great old picture of the "Rocket", Maurice Richard, at right), a Beliveau, a Savard, a Lafleur—a player of significance who also happens to bring that extra dimension as well as, I suppose, a touch of...let's call it cultural nostalgia.
When it comes to the Leafs, I often hear it said that Leaf fans don’t care where our players are from. In fact, people will say, “I don’t care if they’re all from (insert location), as long as we win…” and I get that, too.
I guess for me the feeling is a bit different than that. It’s maybe not so much an Ontario thing, or a Greater Toronto Area (GTA) thing. But it is a Canadian thing- for me.
Listen, I have loved a lot of Leafs who weren’t “Canadian” over the years. I’m sure you all have too. Once they wear the blue and white, they’re Maple Leafs and we’re justifiably proud of them. I don’t have to go through the entire list, whether they have originally been from Sweden, the former Czechoslovakia, the United States—wherever.
But I’d be a bit surprised if people honestly wouldn’t care if, say, the entire Maple Leaf roster was made up of Americans. Or Russians. Or Germans.
Is it simply narrow-mindedness on my part to suggest that I like the idea of having some Canadian guys playing for the Leafs?
When I was a kid (and I did not grow up in Toronto, though I was raised in Southern Ontario), the Leafs drew guys from across Canada, though rarely from Quebec and very seldom from Eastern Canada. The Quebec reality was more the fact that most of those players were owned by junior Clubs affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens. (I should mention for the record, though, that my favorite Maple Leaf of all time, Dave Keon- shown in early 1960s action at left - was born and raised in Noranda, Quebec…) As far as Eastern Canada, there simply weren’t as many guys who played enough through their formative years at high levels in Maritimes (someone correct me if I’m off base here) to get a shot very often at playing in the NHL. That’s just the way it was.
Most of the guys who played in the NHL were from Ontario, Quebec, or Western Canada and as a result, most of the Leafs were Canadians from those regions. Of course, in those days (the 1950s and 1960s) there were precious few Europeans in the NHL (one that I remember, in the mid-‘60s, was the Swede, Ulf Sterner, who I have written about here a bit before…) and one American—Boston Bruin forward Tommy Williams. That certainly changed big-time in the 1970s, as more and more Americans were playing and making it through to the NHL, and more Europeans like Maple Leaf stars Borje Salming and Inge Hammarstrom (and some WHA guys who courageously defected from their former Eastern block countries) made their way, as well.
In any event, I’m guess what I’m really doing today is simply posing the question: does it matter to you where Maple Leaf players come from? I understand that we all will say we simply want the team to win, but I would be interested in an honest perspective from people.
I acknowledge that personally, I would not be thrilled with a team full of Russians, 23 guys who have no identification with Canadian hockey except that they play for the Leafs. (And hey, some of the Leafs I’ve loved the most in relatively recent years have been guys like Yushkevich and Marekov, and now Kulemin and Grabovski…)
Send your thoughts along: would a team full of Americans, for example, be just fine with you?