Custom Search

25 games in, there may be some things we know about the Maple Leafs…

I’m not interested in over-reacting to a regular-season road loss in Pittsburgh, despite the rather uncomfortable way the Leafs found to lose a point.  (It was a tie, in my mind, not a loss.  Shootouts remain the hockey bane of my existence…) Those kinds of games—where you end up losing a game you really should have won—will happen.  They just do.  The Leafs are sometimes on the other end of a comeback, so you win and you lose.

Nor am I intending to fall off whatever bandwagon there is (if I’d done that over the past 55 years of following the Leafs, I’d have no ankles left…) just because they have looked awfully sloppy at times the last few games—and for that matter, even when they were winning game with more regularity earlier in the season.

Some will remember that I said all last season that Carlyle was in experimentation mode—what with a short season and a roster that was not quite what he wanted. This year he is supposed to have the roster he wanted- or at least close to it.  This year, so far, seems very much to be about a) trying to implement a ‘ystem’ that works with the talent at hand and b) in the same vein, establishing some sort of legitimate identity for this evolving squad.

So allow me to make some observations, thoughts you may agree with—or not.  If nothing else, the intent is, as always here, to stimulate discussion.  Not anger, not debate, not pie-in-the-sky optimism, just good ol-fashioned Leaf talk.

We know they are a flawed team—watching them over the past week should convince us of that.  (Do they have the defense corps, for example, to win in the playoffs, as strongly as Phaneuf is playing?) But so is pretty much every team in this league, especially in the Eastern Conference. This is the modern-day cap-world, which has given us "parity".

Once you get past the first two lines and the top three or four defensemen on most rosters, you are into replaceable, middlish, serviceable NHLers. In other words, we wouldn’t notice much of a difference from one guy to the next. And to a certain extent, that even applies here in Toronto, where every little roster move is scrutinized like pronouncements from the Vatican.

So here goes, and feel free to disagree:

  • The Gardiner 'healthy scratch' was not a shocker for me, but I’m sure it was for many fans.  I’ve come very close to penning a piece here lately that would dance gingerly around the subject (because I know so many Leafers love Gardiner): is Jake a bit over-rated?  I say this knowing myself how gifted the guy is, how effortless his skating is and how he seems to never break a sweat.  And he is so calm on the ice.  But while I have said in this space before I think he can be a 50 to 60-point defenseman some day based on his raw skill, right now, the holes in his game that I’ve talked about seemingly forever are, well, still there too often.  What is Carlyle seeing?  I don’t know.  He won’t really say, I’m sure.  But my guess is that they must find each other exasperating.  Gardiner knows Carlyle has been a winning coach. Carlyle sees all that talent.  Yet the marriage feels uneasy sometimes.
  • Not that Bolland was a superstar, but his two-way play, leadership and quiet confidence seemed to inspire others around him. His loss may be the single most important injury of the season for us because he was a key new piece, and seemed to be a bit of a missing link ingredient.
  • I’m trying to figure out if Kadri is progressing as I’d like.  The young man has all the attributes we have discussed here many times—a remarkable ability to see the play develop, to find and create space and he certainly makes wingers better.  And he has that nasty edge to his game.  His point totals are there, but is something still missing? He's still very young, so there is plenty of time to see his career arc unfold further.
  • I’m hardly a coach, not even close.  But it just strikes me (and I realize injuries have been a factor here) that it remains foolhardy to expect to win consistently at this level with your fourth-line guys playing 3-4 minutes a night.  Either turn them into players who do their checking/energy job with authority—so you aren’t afraid to play them—or find guys who can.
  • My sense is Clarkson is rounding into form.  Yes, there have been some points on the table, which surely helps when it comes to the reaction of fans and their pent-up expectations around he and his contract.  But he is a player we can’t help but notice most games because he gets in the play, finishes checks and seems to relish the tough going.  We need that.  Gary Roberts was a rugged difference-maker (who could score, too) a decade or more ago.  We need that kind of impact player now.
  • Are my eyes deceiving me or is our penalty kill slowly slipping this season into mediocrity?  (I’m not a stats junky so I don't even know where we stand in the NHL rankings, but we just don’t seem to be as effective many nights this season.) The penalty-kill was so sterling a year ago during the lockout-shortened season. Was that a one-off? Similar personnel but a different outcome too often this season, including in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
  • I know so many fans seem to dislike Bozak (and hey, I’ve never been a big Bozak guy, but he has always been a nice complementary player, as I’ve written here in the past) but despite missing several games with an injury and needing time to get back to normal, he is a +6 on the season.  Not every Leaf forward is. And he doesn’t cost his team by taking bad penalties.
  • This week I heard a former NHLer/Leaf say Phaneuf was not worth top defenseman money.  That may well be true.  I hate massive, long-term deals.  You just don’t know where a player will be in two years, much less seven.  But as I suggested here a while back, for me, Phaneuf is the one Leaf we would absolutely miss the most if he were to be gone for a prolonged period due to injury?  Other guys (like Gardiner, and probably Franson) could take on the minutes, but which of our other defensemen could actually do his job?  Did I see correctly today that he is something like plus 12 or 13 on the season—though he consistently plays against the best forwards in the league?
  • Kulemin and McClement are providing precious little offense, but a good team can get away with that if they play hard-nosed hockey, don’t allow the opposition to score—and if the top two lines handle the goal scoring for the most part.  I admit I would still like a bit more from Kuli, but at this point I’ll acknowledge that most nights he plays a physical game and contributes.  I guess that’s his role, full stop.  The rest is supposed to be gravy, I suppose. (Again, injuries have perhaps played a role here.)
  • On that note, I wonder if McClement can win the Selke and finish the season with less than 10 points?  I mean, it seems remarkable that he has, what, 2 points in 24 games and still is “even” on the season in the plus/minus category. Especially so given that his job is handling some pretty good players as a third-line checking forward.
  • Long-term, and I mean even this season, it may well be that the Reimer/Bernier thing will simply not work.  Oh it has looked pretty promising so far at times this season, but recent (hell, forever, really) NHL history suggests good teams generally have an established, proven number-one guy that they show public confidence in and a (hopefully) OK-to-reliable backup who won’t “hurt” them when the top guy is out. 
  • Yes, the last time the Leafs won the Stanley Cup, they relied on both Terry Sawchuk and Johnny Bower.  But these were players who were aging, breaking down and who were not capable of playing regularly- even in the days when there were only two playoff rounds.  In more modern times, whenever the Leafs have had any kind of playoff success, they depended on one guy.  It was Mike Palmateer in the late '70s, Felix Potvin (right) in the early '90s and then Curtis Joseph in the early 2000s.
  • I wrote recently that Reimer needed a string of games to get fully comfortable—regardless of whether he had a bad night or let in a couple of soft goals.  Yet after one shaky outing against Columbus, there he was, back on the bench.  It’s the same with Bernier.  These guys need to play in stretches, even if they have a "bad" game or two.  Ultimately this competing against one another thing will blow up.  It’s not how healthy, happy teams are built- just like an NFL teams with two quarterbacks vying in-season to be number-one.  It never works and eventually splits the team into cliques.
  • One thing that is noticeable (besides being outshot regularly and not having the puck nearly enough most games) is that the Leafs have been fortunate to play against goalies that have really struggled many games this season.  Fleury was not the first goalie to have an off night against the Leafs this season.  The concern here is: what might Toronto's record be if they were regularly facing goalies who were on a roll?
  • Question: do we need more from our forwards in terms of defensive responsibility?  Clearly we do not, at this point in their development, have the strongest defense corps in the league. But we all know (and Carlyle surely does) that defense really is a team thing.  If the forwards are not doing their job all over the ice, we have a big challenge on our hands.
  • We broke out offensively in Pittsburgh, but again, it came at the expense of a goalie who was off his game and a back-up to the back-up.  There is obviously firepower here on this Leaf roster, and while we are missing Lupul (and Bolland, of course) we surely can score more goals on a more consistent basis—while still paying attention to the necessary defensive responsibilities.
  • Since this is a bit of a rambling piece, I’ll throw in one of my anti-Leiweke comments.  I try (I really do) to not pay attention to what he says publicly, but I can’t seem to help but stumble across headlines where he says stuff that just annoys me.  Does the guy really believe that by saying things out loud (like about championships) they will come true?  C’mon.

Too long a piece today, but I hadn’t posted in a few days and wanted to cover some things off.  As I said above, I’m sure many of you feel differently, so feel free to share your thoughts.

I still believe the Leafs can be a real player in the East, and maybe even in the playoffs.  We need only check the rosters of all the other clubs in the Conference—including Pittsburgh.

Lots to discuss, and some pretty important games ahead…



21 comments:

  1. Michael,

    I am always pleased when I check the VLM site and find a new post. I also enjoy the Hangout on Maple Leaf Hot Stove, disappointed there was no episode before the Pittsburgh game.

    There are a lot of points in your post today, too many for even me to comment on individually. Some highlights, I guess. The best players on this team, the ones who get the most ice time, need to be more responsible defensively. Each and every game, not just once in a while. That is how winning teams play, see Chicago, LA, Boston. Until the Leafs buy into that, they aren't going to win. Full Stop.

    The goaltending situation isn't working, I agree. I'm afraid of two things. One, they don't get enough in a trade mid-season. Secondly, that the history of choosing the wrong guy continues. I don't know who the better goalie will be 3-10 years from now, I suspect no one does.

    While I agree that panicking over a bad performance in Columbus, or a collapse in Pittsburgh, is the wrong thing to do. It's also not fair to watch 25 games of this crap, and continue to expect things to miraculously get better. They have played 25 games relying on great special teams and fabulous goal tending. The Leafs didn't get a shot on goal in the third period or overtime last night. Coddling this team right now, isn't working. The downward trend in both areas was predicted by many. I have yet to see much of a plan B.

    The other thing that isn't working, playing the meatheads. I hate to do this, but I need to lump Fraser in here as well. If he's hurt, he needs to sit. His toughness isn't really helping anyone at this point. Making an outlet pass, and getting back in the play when you make a mistake, does. Punching the other team after you lost your stick, does not.

    Every team has injuries, the Penguins were without 6 players from their roster last night. Its time to stop harping on Bolland being hurt. He's gone, someone else needs to step up and make him replaceable. He may never play again, and likely not this season. There are plenty of guys in that room who can provide the glue, or whatever.

    Ah development, the absolute worst facet of the Maple Leafs in the last 45 years. I don't know why we don't draft and develop players well. I just don't, but none of them seem to grow and mature here. Take Kadri for example. Last night, with his team in control and up 4-1, he runs into the goalie. He could have stopped, he could have missed him towards the boards. Nope, he takes a dumb, dumb, dumb penalty. We are always as a team searching through the dregs of the League, trying to find someone to fill a gap. Smithson, Bodie, McLaren, Orr, picking up players on waivers from teams that are often lower in the standings. I hope for the day that Toronto becomes one of the teams losing players in this way, instead of picking through the garbage.

    I do hope that tomorrow night there is another Hangout episode for me to watch before the game. I also am praying that we can at least beat Buffalo. That's not too much too ask is it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jim, good to hear from you. (Quick aside- we did end up doing a Hangout Wednesday night. Unfortunately we were a bit delayed so the program did not begin until almost 7 o"clock, I think.)

      It's absolutely fair to say (and I have reiterated here myself) that all teams have injuries. Many Leafs fans were talking about injuries two and three years ago when other teams were absolutely decimated by injuries. We're hardly alone now, either, and most of the injured/suspended guys are all back now.

      You raise legitimate issues- development concerns, using excuses, defensive shortcomings and lapses in discipline are only some of the items that need to be addressed.

      Maybe the biggest concern from my perspective is that, after a tremendous start to the season (always nice, but only impactful if you do something with the points you have in the bank and then play well at playoff time...) the team is not even a .500 team in recent weeks, despite playing a lot of poor squads. There is always an ebb and flow to any season, and the Leafs should rebound well at some point. But there are some concerning trends, yes. Thanks Jim.

      Delete
  2. I always enjoy the long posts, but don't have enough time to write an equally thoughtful response. I'll have to limit myself to a comment on Jake Gardiner.

    I'm with you. I was never a huge fan to begin with. Now we have Morgan Rielly, who seems to bring the same type of game, but also seems to be a bit less of a liability. To be honest I have had difficulty seeing many real differences between the two, but one has played 111 games, the other 20. That tells me all I need to know.

    Fortunately Gardiner is young enough that someone, somewhere will have faith that he will develop and will offer something decent in return.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I like Jake Gardiner, but I am to the point that I could consider trading him with Rielly coming along.

    ...but you only trade him for a good value of what you need. In my mind, that need is a reliable, big minute veteran defensive defenceman that can make a quick pass out of the Leafs zone...someone that can play well in the top four and sometimes in the top 2.

    I liked Denis Seidenberg in his prime, but he's getting older and we can't trade with such a close rival.

    Who is fits the description of big minute veteran defensive defenceman in the West who could be traded for Gardiner? Gardiner is quite a prize so there should be some willing partners.

    Like Bolland, the right defenceman could be a big missing piece for the Leafs and perhaps the last major addition for the next few years from outside the Leafs system.

    I am ok with the goaltending and forwards (Kadri, Clarkson etc.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, there seems little doubt that the Leafs could use a high-end defenseman, DP. That is a piece we need and could make us considerably harder to play against. Finding one won't be easy, I don't suspect, since there is obviously such a premium on drafting and developing those kinds of players. But I'm sure Nonis (like a lot of GMs!) is looking...

      Delete
  4. Thanks for chiming in on this one, Oliver. I have no feeling for what the Leafs are thinking, whether they see Gardiner as a cornerstone piece or an asset that will bring, as you suggest, a real return.

    I'm always hesitant to trade young defensemen with potential. I'd rather have two young defensemen who can move the puck well, as long as we have guys who can tend to our zone. If both mature and became all-stars, all the better.

    ReplyDelete
  5. well Michael I guess that my early season enthusiasm when I suggested that the Leafs could win the Cup has waned somewhat. Watching the game last night I had this feeling at 4-1 that the game was not over and that we would be fortunate to win. I was of the opinion that perhaps we didn't need a dominating center but 4 good ones who could all chip in and that there was that much skill on the wings that it would mask this weakness. It seems like all the elite teams have at least one and in Pittsburghs case they have two. The other thing that troubles me is the penalty kill, they had 3 power play goals last night and this has been the difference between winning and losing. Last year and earlier this year you could count on the team killing off good or bad penalties. That is no longer the case. They don't seem to be as hard on the puck or have the same sense of urgency in clearing the zone. They don't seem to be the hard hitting team they were last year that teams did not want to play. Is it possible they miss Komorov that much? On that note they certainly miss Bolland.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is still reason for optimism, purch. You weren't necessarily off the mark with your earlier comments. But the team has hit a rough patch.

      The penalty-kill has weakened for whatever reason. Yes, I do feel Komarov is missed. His name was mentioned here by a few people early in the season, but while he did not make much of an offensive impact a year ago, he sure was a handful to play against. He is the kind of agitator the Leafs had not had for years- and now don't have again.

      I too am concerned that they aren't hard enough to play against. I felt that, by the end of last season, few teams looked forward to playing the Leafs. That may still be the case, but it would be good if they got back to being a hard-hitting, physical team that still uses its speed and skill. Thanks purch.

      Delete
  6. Hi Michael

    I'm struggling to believe my ears when hearing all the studious concern about Jake Gardiner across the blogosphere. I mean, I agree with you: I don't think he's playing particularly well right now, but whatever happened to the "Defensemen take time to develop, don't rush the young ones" wisdom which far cleverer hockey fans than I - including your sagacious self, Michael - are typically want to preach? Why is Gardiner any different? A dip in form now seems a small price to pay for a player with such an obviously high ceiling in a role that normally everyone acknowledges is a slow to mature one. And as for the whole "but Rielly's coming through and coming along fine" rationale for making Jake trade bait: why on Earth wouldn't we want to keep them both I ask you? That's a pairing with the potential to be our Weber-Suter, our Keith-Seabrook and you sure as hell don't see the Blackhawks in a rush to get rid of either of them, and you sure as hell heard the bells toll when the Preds couldn't hang on to Suter.

    I say, give the kid a break. It's not his fault he has a poorly constructed squad around him. This year's Leafs are not going to win the Stanley Cup: I can't think of a single reason why we'd risk letting him go, unless that reason is Shea Weber. 'Cause isn't your spidey-sense tingling just a little, Michael? Doesn't a Gardiner trade just stink of him becoming our next Tuukka Rask?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I noted in my response to Oliver (above), I'd rather keep both guys. I'm not a fan of trading away young defensemen with talent, and I don't fully agree with the argument that they are the same type of defenseman so we can trade one of them. You need to have a mix of skills on the blue line. What if there are injuries? Ultimately, they all have to be able to play in their own end, of course. But if we project out a bit, surely both these guys could be excellent players down the road.

      That said, I raise the point because I do wonder what the Leaf brass is thinking, and in particular how Carlyle sees Gardiner- and whether they would ever entertain the notion of moving him to help the roster elsewhere. Not a suggestion, just looking at what they may be thinking. Thanks KiwiLeaf.

      Delete
  7. "trying to implement a ‘ystem’ that works with the talent at hand" pretty sums up problem with the team that Carlyle has to deal with. That said, I just don't get his rationale of not using a time out when there is clear panic sets in with the team.

    It was obvious to me the lack of leadership on the team and with all due respect of how well he has played this year, Phaneuf is not team captain material. I have no doubt that he IS the best defenceman on the Leafs but he cannot lead nor having any calming influence when it matters. It seems once a small mistake is made, everyone panics. They need someone to take the reigns and Carlyle needs to do more given his "talent at hand". I get a sense that team unity is missing on this team and when things don't particularly go well, it is that much more obvious which translate to the much talked about "identity". Without leadership there is no unity, and without unity, there is no identity. Wondering why Colorado is doing so well? It's Patrick Roy's attitude and leadership.

    Lastly, one observation I have is that this team has zero push back. I don't care what system you play but if you can't win on the scoreboard, you should at the very least win on the physical front.

    I am rambling now so I'll stop

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To me those are reasonable points to raise, Lukas. All those things go hand in hand- leadership, identity, panic issues and push back. Without a player/players other guys can look up to when things get difficult, it is easy for panic to set in. Who is the calming influence here?

      And if a team is at all fragile, and does not have an identity as a physical, hard to play against team (which I thought the Leafs were becoming), it is not always easy to suddenly try to become something you're not and "push back". Thanks Lukas.

      Delete
  8. I think you're referring to team toughness. It's funny how for a team that leads in fighting majors, I don't get a sense that they are 'tough' to play against physically. On the other hand, Boston ranking 12th at the moment is IMO a tough tough team. Team toughness is attitude, resolve and mental strength. The conviction of;"you don't do that to our players or run the scores in our building" without paying the price applies. Maybe I am old school but I don't get that's the Leafs' make up. There's 2 guys that are without a doubt, are heavyweights, yet when they do fight, it's like: "oh okay, that's my job". There's no sense of why they are doing it. They fight at the oddest times for no particular reasons it seems. Again leadership. A team that has Clarkson, Fraser, Orr and McClaren, Phaneuf, should be at least feared but they are not and if that is something 'you're not', maybe you should be since it is the definition of insanity when you're continue to do the same thing while expecting different results.

    I am sounding like Don Cherry but sometimes, it requires a completely blow up for a reset. There's no way that columbus should be allowed to make it 6-0 without any response or Malkin running around like that hitting bernier. Philly didn't tolerate it and look what happened to them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lukas. I've many times talked about my definition of real "team toughness" here, and it has little to do with fighting. It is, as you suggest, an attitude that runs through an entire team, about how they play, about taking a hit to make a play, finishing checks, being touch in front of both nets, winning puck battles (or at least competing), being gritty and yes, if necessary, dropping the gloves to protect a teammate. The players are in place to have that kind of team. Not sure the results are what I anticipated at times.

      Delete
    2. I remember reading about the first time the Oilers made it to the final and got blown out by the Islanders when on paper, the Oilers were a superior team.

      "After the 1983 Finals, we had to walk by the Islanders' locker room, and we saw guys limping around and putting ice bags on themselves. We didn't have a scratch. We learned a lot about what it took to win."

      Delete
  9. The way I see it there's two options here: either Carlyle is losing the dressing room and we're screwed - we'll continue to lose and the players will continue to become unhappier as they keep geting scratched and so many of them are being called up and down and we'll end up 9th in the East and with a new coach by the end of the season and kind of back at square one, or our Leafs are just going through some growing pains, having to deal with a relatively new coach and 'system', being decimated by injuries to the core leadership group (Bolland and Lupul to be exact) and they'll step up in the coming month through this tough stretch and find their lost unity and identity and make the playoffs and then who knows. Needless to say, of course, I hope the latter narrative is the one at play here.

    A few further observations:
    - Colton Orr is the only guy that finishes his hits on this team. McLaren can't catch anyone and Clarkson and Kuli are being too selective about when to throw a hit. the same goes for the captain but he is excused in my books as he is a defenseman and needs to be responsible. The rest of the team needs to step up their physical game and allow the 'goons' to step in behind them if needed.

    - Gardiner is an awesome player and I really don't like the idea of trading him. As our New Zelander buddy has pointed out - let the kid grow up a little more - he has huge talent and all he needs is time. I have no doubt that he'll again become a force by the time playoffs come around if he's allowed to.

    - I had that bad feeling when Leafs scored their 4th against Penguins the other night and then went on a power-play which they executed in a very cutesy, careless 'we've already won the game' kind of way. I was furious and I can't even imagine how the Coach felt. This is unacceptable. Either the players are gonna recognize that they can't stop playing in the NHL and take responsibility or they're gonna pay (more likely Carlyle is gonna pay).

    - the broadcasters kept repeating that the last 13 goalies who faced Pens for the first time lost the game. Now it`s 14. Reimer should have started that game regardless of his loss the night before in which he was not the one to blame. (This speaks to your point about letting the goalies settle in the net for a few games at the time). I liked the familiarity principle that Carlyle seemed to follow earlier - giving Bernier Western calls and Reimer Eastern opponents. I`m convinced that Reimer would have won us that game. I really really hope the goalie situation doesn`t tip over as you fear Michael - it`s so delicate.

    It's still early in the season and this is Carlyle's first full season with the Leafs. I suspect and hope that things will come together over the next month or so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A balanced perspective, thanks leafdreamer.

      I tend to think your second scenario should unfold- that this is a blip and the team will be re-energized and find its game. That said, there are some concerning issues that we can all see.

      Unless Clarkson becomes 'that' guy, we just don't have a John Tonneli, Terry O'Reilly, Bob Gainey, Brendan Shanahan, etc. blood and guts kind of player. We have guys who "try hard", a few guys who can fight, a couple who, as you say, can finish their checks. But I'm talking about guys with skill and a mean streak, who play hard night in and night out and also have skill- guys you just hate to line up against because they can beat you so many different ways.

      You are right, and I've said it here many times: this is Carlyle's first full season behind the Toronto bench. It's not an excuse, just the reality. I know some would fire Carlyle in a minute and I understand their feelings. But I'm not of that view, at this stage. I think it's a bit too easy to blame the coach when the players are the ones on the ice. At the end of the day, and Lukas said it above, teams win because they laid it all on the line to accomplish a goal- just like those old Islander teams.

      The Leafs have talent. They have lots of "nice" players who can play the game. They are all NHLers. But do the Leafs have the kinds of players that I'm talking about?

      Delete
  10. Lots to chew on here, Michael! The pattern of the Pittsburgh game - big lead, big lead blown, loss in extra time - told me there's been no progress made from last year. One of the questions I had was which Leaf team would we see this year: the one that excelled in the playoffs, or the one that stumble-bummed its way through the (half) season. After our Game 7 close call, expectations were high among many Leaf fans, I think. Well, the answer is in. Despite the changes made, we're still a team that gives up way too many shots, spends way too much time in its own zone, and doesn't exhibit 'muckulence" across the lineup. I'm beginning to think there's a disconnect between the coaching staff and the players. There are only so many times you can say "I taught it but they didn't learn it". It will be interesting to see where we are at the 41 game mark.
    To your specific points;
    Gardiner: as one of those who has always felt he's overrated, despite obvious skill, his play this year has just been more of the same. Too many unproductive rushes that leave him caught up ice, too many hail Mary passes that lead to opposition scoring chances. My guess is teams are sniffing around for a trade, and, thanks to Rielly's upside, he's expendable if the right deal comes along. But before we get too enthusiastic about Rielly, I have to point out that he routinely gets beaten to the outside, and, like Gardiner, he rarely muscles anyone off the puck. Carlyle often says the NHL isn't a development league. I'm sorry to say that I'm doubting the wisdom of keeping Rielly with the big team this year. He's just another kid with the dreaded "potential"!
    Bolland's loss is crucial to my eyes, because we now don't really have an effective center for lines 2-4. And he was feisty, with a timely nose for the puck. We're much easier to defend without him. I wish Komorov could have shown a better scoring touch - we might be able to use him after the Olympic break.
    Kadri is his infuriating self. I don't like him centering the second line. Unlike JvR-Bozak-Kessel, who have an undeniable chemistry and intuitive sense of where each of them is, Kadri plays like a free agent, taking undisciplined penalties and wheeling around in a way that leaves his wingers apparently baffled - and occasionally collision targets. So far, he's a major disappointment this year.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Pt 2!
    Fourth line: I hear ya! I like Orr because he does finish his checks. But if they can't play 8 minutes at this level, what's the point? I guess we're just waiting on Broll to be ready?
    Clarkson: I agree he may be rounding into form - he's had a lot of close calls around the net recently, and he seems a little more comfortable in his Leaf skin.
    PK: I'm hoping it's a temporary blip, with Bozak out for a bit, Bolland gone. They've looked pretty good most of the time. In the Pittsburgh game the Pens scored when Bozak broke his stick, and then when Malkin interfered with Bernier.
    Bozak: I'm a supporter. He's improved every year, and he made some beautiful plays to Kessel and JvR the other night.
    Phaneuf: I don't know why people keep saying he's not worth the money - he's certainly one of the best defencemen we've had in ages. And he's our best Dman this year, with Franson a close second.
    Goalies: I've got a contrarian view here - I think it's working just fine. I don't believe goalies get switched based on play - I think Carlyle has it worked out long in advance. The compressed schedule almost makes it necessary to alternate goalies, with an eye to the playoffs. My question would be whether we're better off with Bernier than Scrivens?
    Do we have the horses this year? At this point, I really can't say. If you'd asked me about the '67 Leafs at this point in the season, I'd have said "no", and there's lots of time to right this year's ship. But I think we are listing a bit, and if we continue to play the way we have been, we'll soon be taking on water.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for chiming in, Gerund O'. Yes, it's tough to figure this team out. You're right about the '67 Leafs. Heck, who would have thought the Kings wore going to win the Cup two years ago? They fired their coach, and then couldn't score a goal to save their life. Yet they won the championship.

      I'm not suggesting the Leafs are in that league just yet, but I choose to believe it can't just be an issue with the coach. These guys have enough skill. They have to be harder to play against and be a lot more consistent in their effort.

      In two weeks we may be having an entirely different conversation. If we're winning, all will be well, eh and hope will return! Thanks Gerund.

      Delete