It just has to do with being in the right place at the right time. Constantly thinking the game. Finding the places on the ice where other guys don’t go. Making the smart little plays under pressure that other players generally don’t make.
The problem in trying to assess this is that, in my view, having watched this sport for 55 years, sometimes what makes a player ‘smart’ is so subtle we fans can’t necessarily ‘see’ it and so we can’t quite pinpoint why we feel this way, and certainly cannot define it properly.
With that as a bit of an ‘excuse-me’ overview, I will still put the question out there: who has been—in this twisty-turny, upside-down, sometimes confusing shortened NHL season that will now end up in a playoff berth for the blue and white—the ‘smartest’ player on the Leaf roster?
By all means, since I have done such a lousy job trying to explain what I’m looking for, establish your own criteria and frame the question in a way that works for you, in terms of how you, as a fan, see the game and how this Leaf squad plays.
I have three guys that jump to mind as the ‘smartest’ Leafs in the way in which I tend to look at the game, but I won’t jumble the picture even further by sharing those names just yet. I would mostly like to hear from you.
The Leafs are down in Florida enjoying the sunshine. In a week, they’ll be playing intense, playoff-style hockey (though as I've tried to say here, for better or worse, they've been trying to play that style all season...). So let’s hope that, while they enjoy themselves and unwind a bit after the pressure-cooker of trying to make the playoffs, they also are—here’s that word again—smart enough not to enjoy the warmth too much and leave their mental toughness (or skating legs) on the beach. (Though a mental break can certainly be a good thing, I well realize…)
So you have my question for the day. And once the playoffs begin, we will need all the ‘smarts’ we can get—in addition to goaltending, good break-outs, physical play, solid special times, timely goals, breaks and everything else that goes into a making success possible at playoff time.
As always, I’m interested to hear what you have to say…