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As the Leafs close the season out in Montreal, what’s your assessment of the 2011-’12 blue and white?


Games in Montreal are always fun, even when there isn’t a lot of “meaning” in the game.  It’s always been this way, even when the Leafs struggled at times in the ‘70s and ‘80s and the Habs were so strong.  When I was a kid in the 1960s, (it’s hard to imagine this, I’m sure, for young Leaf fans nowadays) but the two teams met 14 teams a season- seven times at the Gardens and of course the rest of the time at the equally legendary Montreal Forum.


The '60s battles were remarkably intense just about every time out. When you play that often there is a natural rivalry of course, but throw in that the two Canadian franchises represented very different and passionate fans bases and you had a recipe for tremendous hockey most nights. (Check out the great old Harold Barkley photo at right, of long-time Leaf captain George Armstrong sandwiched along the boards by Hab defenseman Terry Harper and former Leaf great Dickie Duff on the left...)

The Leafs almost always got up for games at the wonderful old Forum (I’ll never forget the first game I ever saw their, live, in the mid 1970s…the lights were so bright, it felt like being at an opera or the theater or something along those lines…) and that seems to have continued in the new building where the Habs play.

So it’s a nice way to end the season- one that was filled with so much promise back in September, seemed to meet or even exceed expectations at times, and then, as we ll know, kind of fall back in the second half and down the stretch.

So with the season at a close, I’ll hopefully pull together some season-end thoughts over the next couple of days, but today I really wanted to get some input from you— the tremendous and thoughtful readership that has evolved here at Vintage Leaf Memories.

Specifically, with one game left in the regular-season, I’d like to hear from you with some objective views (as best you can, once you get past the emotion), as you stand back and reflect on what has transpired over the past six months or so with this hockey team, on what happened lately—and where this team and this organization goes next.

Are you discouraged or encouraged?  Do you still believe in Burke’s “plan”?  Are you hopeful that the young players have what it takes to develop and be contenders starting next season?

Are some of our youngsters over-hyped and over-rated?  Will they ever be more than third or fourth-line guys?

Are we on the cusp of something, despite this winter’s setback, or are we so far away from Boston, New York, Philly and the Penguins that we can’t even see them?

Are we going to be in the mix next season, or are we still two or three seasons away from being a team that will make noise in the playoffs?

Give it some thought and let me know.   I always enjoy hearing different perspectives, and appreciate the great contributions that you all make to this site.

Fire away….

16 comments:

  1. Long suffering Leafs fanApril 7, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    I honestly don't know what to think. I feel like I been on one of those roller-coasters that you read about when they go horribly wrong. From the drop of the puck...whoosh the cars went, and the excitement mounted when Reimer and Leafs had shutout the Habs! To the long painful drag of waking up in the wee hours of the morning, and digging a small grave for my weeping daughter, whose Boarder Collier puppy of 5 months had died of poisoning. (We are still confused of where he came into contact with poison). I just didn't know this was a sign of things to come. The coaster ride had its peaks and lows for 53 games in. But like sooo many tragedies that do happen, those in charge of the ride choose to ignore the warning signs that the equipment was becoming very weak in crucial areas. "Keep it going" they said, "we believe in the product we built!" So whoosh, whoosh we went, going down a from high en-climb, when the rails became separated and the Leafs fun car came to a devastating crash!

    At this present moment Mike, I honestly do not see a lot of hope of them getting out of this cloud of mediocrity that has been hanging over this franchise for the last 7 years! Maybe I will feel differently when the summer spin show begins, but at this present I only see more of the same.

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  2. weird how psychological biases work... if the leafs started the year by losing every game in october and half of november, and then had a winning streak here at the end of a couple of months, i would be optimistic! however, since the opposite occurred, i feel pretty lousy going into summer. i guess we'll have to see what kind of deals can be made this summer.... acquiring a veteran goalie with some predictable skills has got to be near the top of the list. tonight we'll determine whether the leafs are part of the draft-lottery or not... i'm not sure how i feel about this (beating the habs is always satisfying, but getting a top pick carries so much potential... hmmm!).

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  3. Thanks Long Suffering...the thing is, management "believed", as you put it, in the product they built right through the trade deadline, but then got rid of the coach, who was the orchestra leader.

    They've kind of crawled to the finish line, looking like neither "fish nor foul" under Carlyle.

    The summer inevitably brings hope, eh, Long Suffering!

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  4. You've expressed the internal Leaf fan conflict well, Alex C.

    I think mostly, we'll be relieved that it's over. It's been a long, difficult second half. The summer will bring hope, as I said to Long Suffering- and some moves, no doubt.

    Thanks Alex.

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  5. In spite of all the recent disappointments, I honestly believe we are on the right track. I think this was fairly demonstrated by the teams early success. The subsequent failure only serves to illustrate that we are not quite there yet. This forum has discussed at length the team's shortcomings and in my opinion, leadership and team toughness are the main missing ingredients.
    I think we have goaltending and defence on the team or in the system, we have excellent talent upfront in Kessell, Lupul, Grabowski, MacArthur, and Kulemin. We have young and developing talent in Bozak, Frattin, Kadri, Ashton, and Colborne up front as well.
    Yes it would be nice to have a Nash or Ryan or Stamkos, but their presence didn't guarantee success for their current teams. There are successful teams without big name stars - St. Louis or Boston come to mind.
    We do have some useful players in Crabb, Steckel and Brown that are the kind of players every team needs, but we also have some misfits such as Armstrong, Lombardi and Connolly. They are not bad players but have yet to find any role or synergy with any other members of the team.
    I really don't think we are that far away from being a very good team. Development of our youngsters and the addition of some veteran leadership could do the trick. I think that veteran presence itself might result in the development of team toughness.
    I am eternally hopeful I guess but I don't think we need to jettison the whole team and start over as some might have you believe!

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  6. Thanks for posting, Ed. You've identified the "core" that will likely form the backbone of next year's Leaf squad.

    Of course, changes are always possible, but the moves may not be as drastic as (as you note) some might anticipate....

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  7. I am actually somewhat hopeful.

    The Leafs are a long way from being an elite team, but they might be just a few players from being a good team...one that makes the playoffs next year. Some of these players might even be in our system

    I don't really believe in Burke, but I like some of our young players and the talent he has assembled.

    I think Kadri will stick with the big team next year. He is tearing it up in the AHL. Kadri now has goals in his past 5 games, and points in his last 6.

    Scrivens looks solid. Perhaps we bring in a veteran on a two year contract, let Gustavsson go and let Scrivens work his way in over the next two years.

    Another 60 or 100 games in the AHL might be good for Scrivens. Vancouver didn't rush Cory Schneider. Schneider got 3 seasons and 136 games in the AHL. Look at Schneider now.

    We should have been that careful with Gustavsson. If Reimer struggles, we could also send him down and play the veteran with Scrivens...but I think Reimer will bounce back.

    Matt Frattin or Bozak might continue developing.

    Lombardi and Kulemin could also have better seasons. Coming to the end of his contract Lombadri might be a good deadline trade.

    Marcel Mueller has 45 points and +17 with Marlies, at 6'3" and 232 pounds he might add some size to the lower lines.

    Luke Schenn could also have a better year. Cody Franson seems to be making progress under Carlyle.

    I'm hoping that we move up in the lottery and could grab Mikhail Grigorenko. I think he could be the closest to NHL ready from all the international play.

    Other than a veteran goaltender, I am not exactly sure on the other players that the Leafs could get. I don't think Parise is coming to TO.

    Burke, time to work some magic in a trade.

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  8. I like your point on Scrivens/Schneider, DP. I, too, like to see young players, especially goalies, develop nicely in the AHL.

    I'm a fan of Frattin's ceiling, for sure. I like Bozak and feel he made some progress this season. I sense there is more there, too.

    I don't know about Mueller but we'll see!

    The rest that you mention probably falls between what we hope could happen and reality.

    Thanks DP!

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  9. Maybe it's the fact that I'm about the watch the Leafs play the Canadiens in the final game of the season ONCE AGAIN and it not mean a damn thing other than draft order placement ONCE AGAIN, but I can't help but have little to no hope for next year. There are too many things this team needs, from goaltending, to defensemen, to forwards. Yeah, the whole team. Every other year that the team has missed the playoffs, I've looked to the summer with hope for an improvement on the roster, and to the fall for an improvement on the ice and an eventual playoff spot. This year, I'm not even angry with the team. I just feel apathy towards them. It's a bad feeling, and I don't think this team, or any version of it in the near future, will make me care about the Blue & White like I once did.

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  10. Twisted Sittler....I can understand your sentiment. Some of what you are expressing was reflected in a piece I posted a few days ago....why missing the playoffs this season is particularly upsetting. Thanks for chiming in.

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  11. RLMcc from AtlantaApril 7, 2012 at 9:49 PM

    Probably fortunate that we don't see Maple Leafs very often in the south, and thus find it difficult to comment on individual players.

    Suggest you try another approach. How many of Current Leafs and chattels would make Pittsburg, Boston or New York lineups? The suspected answer may be depressing but probably realistic.

    Out of Box Comment - Trade all Leaf Management and players for counterparts in Phoenix. Throw in some of MLSE riches $$$ and they can keep their team in Phoenix. Their lean approach seems to have had greater success (Playoff team in tougher conference) than the team with the most assistant General Managers.

    Hope everyone has a good summer. I Continue to enjoy your blog.

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  12. This is the most dispiriting season in my memory. For the first time I can remember, I have no hope for next year, and the players showed nothing in the last 10 games to make me change my opinion. There will be no quick fix for the mess Brian Burke has put us in.

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  13. Thanks RLMcc...

    Long, difficult season now in the books, for sure. There were some nice individual moments but overall, it was not good enough by quite a bit.

    You make a very fair point in terms of our roster versus the elite teams in the East. The Leafs can beat top teams on occasion, but we are a long way from being able to compete with those teams on a consistent basis- which would be required to win a playoff series.

    Maloney has indeed done a tremendous job under difficult circumstances in Phoenix. Leaf management has talked a very good game but it's falling on deaf ears with at least some Leafs fans.

    Have a good summer as well. I'll be (hopefully, as in past summers) posting regularly, so I hope you can drop by from time to time.

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  14. You're not alone, Gerund O'.

    There are some pieces in place but it is sadly discouraging that we should be heartened by the prospect of a fairly high draft pick.

    Hope you'll drop by throughout the summer, Gerund. Stay in touch.

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  15. Well the season is over and not a moment too soon. I don't see the optimism for next year either. I keep hearing about how the Leafs are the youngest team but that is only age wise. all the core "young" guys on the team are anywhere's from from 4 (Schenn) to 8 (Phanuef) year veterans. There are few raw rookies excepting Gardiner that are impact players on this team.

    Even the good Marlies team is somewhat of smoke screen. A quick glance at the scoring shows only one young guy in the top 5 scoring (Kadri) and he is not even at a point a game pace.

    My question is this how much better can these guys play? After 4-5 years in the league have we not seen what these players are capable of? Let's look at Bozak for example, most of see some more upside for the guy thinking he's young he'll improve. But is he young really? He is in his fourth year next year, he will be 26-27 years old how much better will he get?

    We have a ton of money tied up for next year already without re-signing Franson and a couple of others as well. Burke is going to have to pull off some miracles this year and judging by his track record the last 4 yers I have little to no confidence he can get it done. I truly believe this team is at least 2 years away from just making the playoffs. Next year brings more of the same. It is going to be at least 3-4 years from now before this team is considered a legitimate threat and that is everything goes right.

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  16. You raise a valid point on our "youth". Being young is one thing; having young players who will actually become more than replaceable parts is another. Do we have young players who will be legit impact Leafs? That is the real criteria. There is no proof we're on that path.

    I hope to post in more detail about the look ahead over the next couple of days....

    Thanks Willbur.

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