- When players got paid more to do TV guest shots than they did actually playing in the NHL playoffs!
- How tough it is for athletes to retire
- The list of "could be" Leafs grows by the day
- Defensive hockey madness and Carlyle's impact on Kessel and Phaneuf
- Phil Kessel's absence (yet again) at the recent World Hockey Championships
- How money, fan expectations and our macho culture end up harming too many athletes
We’ve all heard the expression: less is more. That’s often what NHL coaches ask of certain players when the coach senses they are “trying too hard”. They want the player to relax, and not try to do too much. By simply doing the little things well and not trying to do more than they should on the ice, sometimes the results- while not spectacular- are better.
So here we are in the midst of down time for the Maple Leafs organization. They haven’t been in a position to make trades (technically they could, but not really), draft anybody or sign players other than their own previously drafted players (like Komarov). Yet, we could kind of argue that they are a better “team” right now than they were, say, in early April. And they haven’t done a thing to change the roster.
Some of the young pieces they have drafted or acquired via trade in recent times are now beginning to blossom on, or perhaps in some cases, even ahead of schedule. You all know the names, but some of us have been able to catch more than a small glimpse in recent days of players like Kadri, Colborne, D’Amigo, etc. (I don't really include Frattin and Gardiner in this group because, let’s face it, they were already Leafs. And on that note, maybe it's a good thing the Oilers didn’t ask Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and some of their other budding stars to play in the playoffs with their Oklahoma City affiliate; the young Oilers might have had the edge…)
I think a lot of us believe that the Leafs should be able to integrate at least a couple of Marlies into the Leaf line-up next fall, without hurting the team. In fact, I would argue we’d likely have more jump with some of these kids on the roster than a few of the Leafs we all saw night after night this past season.
In any event, my point is simply that patience sometimes (not always, of course) pays off. And while I’m far from predicting stardom for the Marlie players who may be able to make the jump at the training camp, there are some pieces that I have to believe can only help. This run in the AHL playoffs doesn’t guarantee anything, but it has provided some very useful “big-game” experience for many of the Leaf hopefuls.
The moral of the story? Sometimes you can get better by doing nothing…