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The Leafs could use a Tim Tebow-type player going forward

I recognize that many sports fans have probably heard about enough about Tim Tebow these past few months.  His name was resurrected again this past week, however, when another guy who generates significant media attention, Peyton Manning, signed as a free-agent with the NFL Denver Broncos.

This of course let to a chain of events that saw the much-publicized Tebow traded this week to the New York Jets, but only after some back and forth negotiations which kept the story alive even longer.

But while people may be tired of hearing about Tebow (and probably Manning, too!), I have to say something:  The Leafs could use the hockey equivalent of Tim Tebow right now—and for the next few years.

Here’s what I’m talking about.  I recognize that Tebow is not a pure NFL-style passer.  To a lot of football purists he’s not even much of a quarterback.  And for some, he is more about hype and being a larger-than-life media personality (and a guy who is arguably very charismatic) than actually being a quarterback.  But I’d rather focus on the qualities I do see in a guy like Tebow, as it relates to what a lot of us have talked about in this space in recent weeks when it comes to the Maple Leafs.

What have we mentioned here? Well, we’ve stressed that the Leafs lack toughness, including mental toughness.  We lack grit.  We don’t seem to have enough (any?) players with true leadership skills.  We work pretty hard but we don’t seem to compete quite hard enough every night.  As a result of all of the above (and other issues, too), the Leafs don’t win enough. 

So a lot of us feel that we need guys who have won and know what it takes to win.

Well, for those who have followed Tebow’s career, the positive attributes I listed above pretty much describe him.  While not a veteran presence (which is also on our “needs” list and something we would dearly love to have here in Toronto), he has most of the other requisite qualities that we have been talking about.  He’s a tremendous athletes.  He works hard—Gary Roberts hard, I sense—in training. He is constantly looking to improve his skill set.  He is tough, and takes on all comers.  Perhaps most importantly, the guy is a winner.  He was a tremendous leader at the University of Florida, and, playing one of the toughest positions in all of professional sports this past season—at the highest level there is—he overcome his flaws and somehow (with some luck, yes) managed to will his team to victory far more often than it deserved.

And, he took his team to a playoff spot.  He didn’t do it alone, to be sure.  But he was highly instrumental in the success the Broncos achieved, largely because he helped others believe in themselves—and believe that the Broncos could win.

I remember years ago, when I was maybe 20 years of age, I was still playing competitive baseball in the summertime at a reasonably (for Canada, in those days) good level.  I’ll call it "semi-pro" to make myself feel better.  We were playing in a major tournament, and to get to the finals, we had to upset one of the top teams in the event.  In the semi-final game, we were getting crushed in the first couple of innings.  We had no shot to win.  But one of our team leaders, a positive guy, kept saying we’d come back and win the game and get to the championship contest.  I remember looking at him and smiling and basically thinking, “Yeah, right”.

Lo and behold, we had a couple of huge innings, and we did, rather remarkably, come back to win the game against an elite pitcher.  My point simply being, I guess, that good teams need to have somebody who just believes—someone that leads by actions, yes…but also by encouragement, by picking up others when they are hanging their head.  And they lead by just believing their team can succeed—and infusing that belief in others.

So just like my old teammate, and much like Tim Tebow, next season, the Leafs could use a player who instills that kind of belief in his teammates—that they are never out of a game.  An individual that makes teammates feel that, when they are ahead, they  have the confidence to finish the other team off.  And when they’re behind, that they can -and will- come back.  A guy who makes even the non-believers start to believe that maybe, just maybe, the team can be better than they think they are and maybe even better than they really are.

I don’t know what precisely a “Tim Tebow” would look like in the hockey world.  But someone like Tebow certainly could help the Maple Leafs, eh?

10 comments:

  1. "I’ll call it "semi-pro" to make myself feel better. " ... now this is the reason I stop by VLM every night! Hilarious, modest, and humble all at once!

    About your Tebow assertion, I think you may be on to something. Looking around the league, hard to say with the current crop. But this is VLM, so looking back, I think we once had someone similar (though arguably with more pure talent)...would you say Dougie Gilmour fit that bill? I mean the effect he had on teammates, coaches, management? The way (esp as #93 in blue&white) he could take over a game, even opposition players were respectful and sometimes deflated by his prowess. And of course, the way he made believers of fans old and new? Am possibly giving too many props to Tebow with the Dougie comparison, but it's really the "effect" we're talking about, right?

    Cheers.

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  2. Just what I said in a previous comment to you, Michael... a Messier type who has won before and knows what it takes to lead this team. But that piece may be more crucial to win a Cup than to just make the playoffs. I think this most recent skid may be the team trying to learn a totally new system mid-season and it's messing with their heads. When you try and change your methods mid-stream, getting worse is a natural consquence. But I wonder if Lupul may be more suited to wear the C than Phaneuf....a 'C' change certainly didn't hurt things in Vancouver last year...that said, they didn't have that Messier type to lead them to the promised land,either, and still don't.

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  3. I absolutely agree with the Gilmour "comparison". I wouldn't say Gilmour was a stylish guy, though he certainly had skill. But he played with the kind of drive that made him better than, well, anyone probably ever figured he would or could be. So in that way, yes, he reminds one of Tebow- a classic over-achiever (though Tebow by all accounts is a great natural athlete...).

    But it's also the quality you cite, Caedmon, which is that by his mere presence and sheer determination, Gilmour brought up the level of the people around him.

    So while I'm sure some in Leafland would not like putting the two in the same breath, Tebow is something special- even if he isn't a great quarterback. He's a heck of a football player, and Gilmour was that, in spades, in the hockey world. Thanks as always, Caedmon.

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  4. Hey Sean, I well remember your reference to Messier. And we certainly could use a leader like that, no question.

    I think your point about having to adjust to a new coach and system is valid. Though everyone is working to impress the new guy, sometimes an adjustment like this one makes you take a step back before you can take two steps forwards.

    As for Lupul, good point. May not happen, but he should be one of the team leaders next season.

    Thanks Sean.

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  5. Long suffering Leafs fanMarch 23, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    Oh, you gotta love those eternal optimist who ceases to give up hope in spite of the facts. Somehow they always seem to exert their will over the inhibition of their team and push them unto victory! The reference to Tim Tebow is an excellent one Mike, as well as Caedmon comparison of Gilmour. I was thinking on the same vain Monday night when the TV cameras were focusing on the dejected and despairing faces of the Leafs. My mind quickly flash back to another player of the same ike who salvage a season in which was going horribly wrong. Just when most of Leaf nation was thinking about who was available as the 1st over pick, Mr. McNamara on December 19th of 82 made what look like at the time one of those "ho hum" deals when he sent a 3rd round pick to Montreal for a slight center. I remember reading the newspapers saying that upon his first practice "if nothing else, this skinny looking kid has heart. And if the rest of the team ever becomes contagious to it, they may win a few games". Win they did! Affectionately called "Dangerous" Dan Daoust, with his fearless attitude, grit and determination took a pessimist team-and fan base for that matter-and carry them into the playoffs to a almost surprise upset of a heavily favorite Minnesota North Star team. Although, Daoust only had a modest career after that season, however, I will always remember fondly of how a slightly built kid with a big heart changed the atmosphere of a deflated dressing room. And no doubt Dougie will never forget his fearless nemesis who agitated him to the point "that he was fit to be tie" in the 87 playoffs. I still get a kick out of watching that series, especially the battles between Gilmour and Daoust. Now if Mr. Burke could only find someone like them, the playoff drought will end.

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  6. Great memory, Long Suffering. Daoust is a tremendous example....little but fiery guy. He brought up the energy levels of those around him, absolutely, in his early days with the blue and white. Modest career, yes, but a big heart, as you say, Long Suffering....

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  7. Tebow?

    I would just be happy to see Kadri centering Kessel and Ashton for few shifts.

    If it doesn't work at least we get a better draft choice.

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  8. Hey, you might just get your wish tonight, DP!

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  9. Don't leave us hanging, Mike. How did your baseball team do in the final game?

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