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The more we complain, the more the Leafs win….the lesson is: don't stop complaining.

It’s odd, eh…we have spent a good chunk of time in recent days bemoaning the fact that the Leafs have not played consistently well yet this season.  They have lousy puck possession numbers, they give the puck away too much, injuries have piled up, they haven’t been as physically 'edgy' as they had been at times last season.  Our blueline corps has been judged to be less than stellar.  And here we sit, ten games into the season and the Leafs have lost a grand total of three games.  And arguably, we could easily be 8 and 2. (Though taking the opposite point of view, we could probably also be 5 and 5.)

My point is, simply, we Leaf fans have every right to comment on the team’s seeming failings.  We can opine on the ways they need to be better—and get better—in the weeks and months ahead.  But the bottom line is, without vaunted newcomer David Clarkson in the lineup and minus reliable players like Kulemin and Fraser (and with a lot of young Marlies in and out of the lineup) they have continued to win games and pile up points in the standings.

So I say, let’s keep complaining and picking at the things they need to do better.  It seems to work for Calryle, who often talks publicly about what they ought to do, though they don’t always do it.  Yet we know that privately the coach knows precisely who is doing their job and who isn’t.  While the old coach may be more patient perhaps than earlier versions of himself, in my mind there is no doubt that he still gets his message across. 

And just like Tuesday night against Anaheim at the ACC, the boys rebounded from a pretty awful start and delivered an impressive come-from-behind win against a team that had been awfully hot coming into that contest.

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I’ll get back to the Leafs in a second, but if I don’t jot this down now I will no doubt forget to even mention it.  Some of you who visit VLM may be aware that I released an eBook, “The Maple Leafs of My Youth: what being a Leaf fan means to me” recently. Until now, the book has only been available to those with iPads (Apple iBooks/iTunes).  However, I just was informed today that anyone with a MAcIntosh computer who has downloaded the new Mavericks operating system can apparently access my Leaf book as well if they are so inclined.  That means the book can now be read on computers as well as iPads.

I’m hoping to be able to announce that the book will be available on even more platforms really soon, but for now this is great news.  And let me thank all those who have already written to me at Michael@prospectcommunications.com to say how much they have enjoyed the book.  A lot went into developing the “The Maple Leafs of My Youth” so believe me when I say it is heartwarming to get such positive feedback. It’s nice to know that people have been interested enough to purchase and download the book.

If you haven’t been able to check it out yet, the Canadian link to see the book’s preview page is here; U.S. readers can visit this link.  I know there are a lot of Leaf supporters across the ocean so here is the U.K. link.

The book is available in most other countries; I just happen to have those links.  Thanks again.

**

Some quick Leaf notes:


  • I thought Reimer deserved a chance to start Tuesday against Anaheim, based on the fact that he had played an outstanding game a week or so ago and then had to leave his next start within the first minute of the game.  But this is yet another indication that Carlyle—and the brass upstairs—see Bernier as the guy. In a game Carlyle wanted badly against the team that fired him, he went with Bernier.
  • Kessel can sure close.  Almost on cue, with people making the standard “Has Kessel been playing lately?” comments, he absolutely buries three goals against Hiller and the Ducks. 
  • Not sure if Paul Ranger ‘turned a corner’ Tuesday night (it’s not as though he has not been playing hard) but it was nice to see him grab an assist and end the night a plus 2.
  • David Clarkson returns without, as others have noted in this space in recent days, feeling as though he has to do too much.  In this instance, that’s a case of almost perfect timing.
  • For better or worse, Morgan Rielly is not going anywhere. (Maybe to rent a room in town, but that’s about it.  No travel out west…)
  • My guess is Leaf fans will like Dave Bolland the more they see him in a Leaf uniform.
  • You have to believe that Phaneuf playing about 24 minutes most nights—rather than the 28 or so he has been playing in recent years—will help in May when the team needs him to be good against elite forwards at playoff time.
  • For all my concerns about Gardiner’s play in his own zone, he’s a plus 3 ten games into the season.
  • van Riemsdyk is a guy the Leafs would miss if he was gone for any length of time.  He can fall into that somewhat streaky offensive category, but like a few of his teammates, he has those nice hands.

Of course not all will be rosy.  There will be bumps in the road and we will want to check back at the 20-game mark to see where things stand.  But for today, let’s keep complaining about how they need to be better—and then quietly take ‘yes’ for an answer, at least so far.




13 comments:

  1. As you commented, it is probably a good indicator of 'who has the lead' in the goaltending 'competition' when Carlyle chose Bernier for the Anaheim game, but part of me is still 'hopeful' that Reimer might have a bit of a stiff neck (or the like) after having it wrenched around so violently in the Leivo collision. I will be surprised if we don't see Reims Friday or Saturday (given that James really had earned the net the game before the incident).

    Now that the minutes are being spread more evenly amongst defensemen, I think we're seeing what Phaneuf can do when he's not worked beyond his 'best before' minutes! He's been more solid and noticeable so far.

    JVR sure showed some nice playmaking attributes with Kessel last night... seems like Bozak handling significant defensive responsibilities is leaving the other 2 lots of room to be creative when the mood strikes. Actually, it's not just Bozak, both linemates are showing more defensive awareness than earlier versions of themselves... it's almost like they are maturing and rounding out their games (or something)!

    I'm looking forward to see what David Clarkson will bring to the table - having a few weeks to perceive that he doesn't have to do everything he might have expected of himself earlier, he just has to be better than the Marlies he's replacing and play the game that made him attractive to the Leafs in the first place :)

    It was good to see the team come alive in the 2nd... they were in danger of being shut down for a 3rd game... glad Randy didn't go ballistic in the 1st intermission... even though the game was clearly important for him personally.

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  2. I heard today that practice was a soccer game behind the MCC. Apparently, to their surprise, Orr had competed in soccer for Manitoba during the Canada Summer Games as goalie. Gunnarson and Kadri had also competed on teams well into their teens. What a great Charity Challenge that would be. Nothing to do with the topic but I found it interesting. A great way for Randy to get the work-out done, have fun and settle some nerves after what I'm sure have been some intense practices. I like his methods. Looking forward to Friday and hoping for another Hangout episode soon. C.N.

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    1. I think there is a method to Carlyle's madness, CN.

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  3. Apparently Reimer told the coaching staff he had a bit of flu earlier in the day, so he may not have been cast into the #2 role quite yet. I still prefer to think that it doesn't matter - we'll need two good goalies to get through this schedule, and it won't hurt that one of them is familiar with the teams from the West.
    It's true we may have won at least one game we didn't deserve to, but that's essential to a good season, isn't it? When you get right down to it, whether we "deserved" to win or not doesn't really enter into the picture. I'm encouraged that we've managed to get to 7-3 with our patchwork quilt of Marlies and Leafs. There has been lots to look forward to in the play of the call-ups.
    I think Ranger has been improving slowly but steadily. On Tuesday, he evidenced a mean streak, which I like in a D man. I don't know if the TV coverage showed it, but he was physically quite a force out there. As was Phaneuf. Why do I get the feeling we're about to see his best season as a Leaf?
    Gardiner is, as you point out, playing better too. In fact, I think our D is rounding nicely into shape. I still don't see who sits when Fraser returns, assuming Rielly will stay (because I think he's earned it). As we mentioned the other day, we need a Fraser back there. A little more punishment for opposing forwards is always a good thing!
    I was particularly struck by the speed of the Kessel/JvR breakouts on Tuesday. Sometimes television neutralizes the speed by following the action (as in downhill skiing or figure skating, say), but at the rink, man! They were flying!
    So all we need is one other line to start scoring - a refrain we sounded often last year. In fact, it looks like we may have three lines with scoring potential, once all the bodies have returned. Improved defensive play - which we saw on Tuesday, I thought - and a little more feistiness (which showed up about halfway through the Ducks' game) and we could have a team that will contend all year long. But if the team that showed up for the first half of last night's game makes too many more appearances, I'm afraid it'll be tears in the beer again.
    But here in O'Malley land, the glass is more than half-full at the moment!

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  4. I must admit that my confidence was wavering after the Carolina and Chicago games but the Anaheim game (at least the last 35 minutes) was an eye opener. In retrospect they showed this sort of resilience last season, answering lulls in performance with an eye opening effort.

    I have come around to feeling that the acquisition of Bernier was not only a good move but a vital one. Seeing Bernier dropping to the ice with his mask flying made me a believer. The Leafs are now fortified against an injury to a goalie. I believe that both Bernier and Reimer will play important roles this season.

    The defense is still a work in progress but there have been some very encouraging signs. The goals against averge has dropped, albeit with a small sample size. Phaneuf''s play has elevated to another level with decreased playing time. Gunnarsson has been steady and even feisty in the Anaheim game. Franson looks to me like he is becoming a top two defenseman. Ranger is not yet at his Tampa level but the rust seems to be slowly coming off. Gardiner is not yet back to his 2011-12 form but I have high hopes in that respect. Rielly has been impressive but we can expect the inevitable rookie mistakes. It will be interesting to see what happens when Fraser comes back. I wonder if Rielly will be released to play for Canada in the World Juniors. With Brennan tearing up the AHL and with Blacker, Liles, Percy, MacWilliam, Granberg and Holzer in the wings we are certainly covered if injuries strike.

    The forwards have done a creditable job given that they have had their power forwards injured and suspended. With Kulemin and Clarkson returning and Van Riemsdyk healthy I would expect the forecheck and possession time to improve. As it is they stand 5th overall in goals scored average (3.26) and 9th in goals against average (2.37). It was encouraging to see the play of Leivo, Broll and Ashton. Most of our forward prospects are at least a couple of years away so it was nice to see we have at least 3 who can compete at the NHL level.

    Special teams have been lights out; 2nd in power play % (28.2), 5th in penalty kill % (86.8) and 1st in combined. What a great tribute to the coaching staff. When I think about special teams under Wilson, I shudder.

    I am extremely optimistic about this team. Yes they have some obvious flaws but this team is young and the flaws are fixable. My glass is definitely much more than half full. It will be interesting to see how we feel after 20 games.



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  5. All good points, Pete Cam. I especially like your thoughts on the goaltending and the fact that the Leafs have integrated several "kids" into the lineup pretty successfully. It may OK to be optimistic, Pete!

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  6. Michael, there has been a lot of talk about shooting percentages. I don't generally pay a lot of attention to these stats but I had a look at the NHL Shooting Percentage charts from 2009 and on. It was very interesting. The top end grew from 9 to over 12% though less and less teams achieved the highest percentages, or maintained them for more than a season. Yet, not only did the Leafs maintain high percentages from 2011 and on, they've increased them substantially. The Leafs are at the top for 2013. I wonder what this says about the sustainability of these numbers and what it says about the Leafs. C.N.

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    1. I'm not one to focus on shooting percentages, C.N. So may factors go into a statistic like that. I guess if a team (or a player) had a high shooting percentage and they maintained it over a period of years, sure, it might mean something.

      We've often seen coaches/media talk about a player and this stat, and the suggestion is, if he only shot more, he'd score more goals. Not necessarily. What usually happens is a guy shoots more and his shooting percentage simply goes down. Thanks C.N.

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  7. Michael, your lesson goes against every instinctive bone in my body. If we can't control the medium of the plae, i.e. "the puck", we'll have little control over the outcome of said games. But I do love your optimism; it's contagious. It almost carried us over the Bruins last spring. But, the wind will change.

    Not that I want it to. But all my sensible senses tell it will happen. As sure as the upcoming "Bon Jovi -flag" hanging from the rafters, we'll get caught up in this latest early season hubris. I just can't be optimistic, anymore.

    Now, of course I want to be wrong. Your chatshows all but tell me I already am. They're good, sensible material. But maybe I just couldn't keep the faith.

    In either case, I'll stay in touch

    Tapio

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  8. I think you know, Tapio (CGLN), that I fully understand your reservations. I have them, too. But for now, I'm choosing to be publicly "optimistic" but I well understand the Leafs are playing with matches if certain habits continue unabated. Good to hear from you!

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  9. I'm not at all sure I like the timing of Clarkson's arrival. I feel it would have better for the team to be playing better without him for a game or two. As it is, despite the fact we have been winning, there will be a lot of pressure on Clarkson to change how the Leafs have been playing. I would have liked to have seen Kulemin and Fraser back first. However it's very hard for me to ignore the Clarkson bandwagon. He's that good. C.N.

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