Hey, let’s be honest: it’s nice to be able to nitpick about the Leafs after another win, eh? I mean, it’s almost no fun talking about these guys anymore. Over the past nine years, we’ve been able to complain about bad trades, signings that didn’t pan out, questionable coaching, guys we couldn't sign, poor goaltending, wonky defensive play, a lack of team toughness, not having enough ‘top-six’ forwards, etc..
It’s a long list so I’ll stop there.
But now the team is winning and we’re saying the same thing just about every night. We're getting pretty good goaltending (very good some nights) and seeing a strong work ethic, some tough checking, and enough offense to win games—especially from someone named Kadri.
What can we complain about, really?
Before I get to that, I’m not going to go on at length about Kadri. Most of you no doubt saw the Islander game. You know what Kadri did. That was a virtuoso performance by the young center. He could have had even more points, based on his playmaking that was on display as well on the Island. (I will only say this as a modest qualifier—while I like just about everything about Kadri’s game, that Islander team sure does a lot of stick-checking. Lazy play was in evidence on the Phaneuf OT winner and on a couple of the Kadri markers. Yes, Kadri is a shifty guy, but he was treated like Gordie Howe by the Islanders. They were backing off all night. If our guys checked like that, we’d want to send every one of those “soft” players out of town tomorrow. But good for Kadri…)
Kudos to Colton Orr. He was a presence on the van Riemsdyk goal, parked as he was around the net- a familiar spot for him this season. Phaneuf scored the aforementioned winner, after one of his "off" efforts the night before. (We wouldn’t have been happy losing back-to-back games going into the short break in this hectic schedule—and if it weren’t for a goalpost, we would have dropped this one in overtime before the Phaneuf winner.). Kostka continues to play significant minutes and I would argue that he is far from hurting us. I’ve liked him all season, as I’ve said here before. Fraser did err on the tying goal in the third period and finished a minus 1 on the night, but that has been a rare occurrence for the ever-steady and previously unheralded rearguard.
If someone had said we would have a record of 13 wins and 9 losses at this point, would you have been happy? I think so. (Yes, I’ll miss a Saturday night game this weekend, but these guys need a break…)
My question of the day however is this: we can all agree there are plenty of nice signs, but do you have any legitimate concerns, despite the optimism that we all feel after this heady start (almost at the half-way point of this shortened season—amazing to think) to the new season?
To get you pondering, here are a couple of areas that might be worthy of discussion:
- What about the goals we have given up the last couple of games? For a team that prides itself on shutting down the opposition and playing it close to the vest every night, we have allowed 8 goals (excluding an empty-netter) against middlish opposition the last two games. (The Habs are not, in my mind, an elite team.)
- Not to pick on Kessel, but he was minus 2 on Thursday night…what’s that, minus 6 in the last two games? Is it just Phil being Phil, or are a few guys dealing with a bit of a malaise lately?
- Even if we set aside the last two games, there have been some other recent games where we haven’t exactly been sharp defensively. Are you seeing what I’m seeing?
- Are you OK with Grabovski this season?
- Are you still good with Reimer and Scrivens as a tandem to get us to the playoffs? (Remember, finishing 9th does nothing for us—that doesn’t give our young players playoff experience, or net us a high draft pick…)
- If you have any concerns, will they leave once Frattin and Lupul return?
- Do you want to see Gardiner back?
- Are you satisfied with the roster as is, or do you need to see a trade to recalibrate the roster a bit?
- Finally, some are expressing discontent with Carlyle’s lines and how and when he is deploying his manpower. Any concerns about what the coach is doing?
- Do you see this team improving as the season moves along?
I gotta say, I don’t see much to argue about, but I’m open to hearing that there is an iceberg out there that I’m not seeing. Let me know.