It’s been a genuine pleasure to interact with the many thoughtful Maple Leaf supporters who have frequented this forum over the past few years. In fact, this post marks the “5th anniversary”, if you will, of the VLM site.
As I approach almost 1,500 stories/posts here, I recall that my initial inclination, back at the end of September, 2009, was that Vintage Leaf Memories would be exclusively a site where I would indeed share memories about the “old days”. For me, that brings me back to when I was a child in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I really enjoy harkening back to the good old days. Whether it relates to memories of Eddie Chadwick (in late 1950s action against Gordie Howe and the Red Wings, lower right), Johnny Bower, Don Simmons or Bruce Gamble, all Leaf neminders of my childhood, or any number of other Leaf greats, talking about hockey from those golden days brings back warm memories.
Early on, readers seemed to “get” the kind of dialogue I was looking for and picked up on the overall tone of this site. And I thank everyone who has contributed over the years.
On the one hand it seems way too early to make many, if any definitive statements about the Leafs. We’re still in the midst of the exhibition season. That said, the regular season begins next week. Roster decisions are being made already. Guys are fighting for jobs. It’s almost always an interesting time of the year.
Some early musings…
- Interesting to hear that Kadri was shopped over the summer (if that’s true). I have written here in the past that I was convinced management tried to move him a couple of years ago, but I sensed they had moved past that line of thought. The brass seems to have a love-hate relationship with the young center. They surely see how cagey a player he is, his vision, etc. But they must feel something is missing. At 24 (in early October), he is maturing into a go-to offensive player. What’s the next step for him?
- I wonder if I’m pinning hopes too much on a young defenseman (Rielly) and a veteran (Robidas) who has been hurt a lot recently? I see Rielly’s upside as very high, but it’s a lot to ask him to be a difference-maker as a 20 year-old. As for Robidas, I like his pedigree, but he’ll have to be on the ice to have an impact. There are still questions along our blue line.
- Reimer looked good in his first exhibition start, but struggled early on his his second start. To his credit, like the "old" Reimer, he played much better as the game wore on. Bernier is the guy in net, but the Leafs need two goalies this playing season with confidence.
- The more I think about Nylander, the more I’d prefer he get a year of high-level development before we start thinking he has to be a top line guy with the Leafs. We all like his skills and hands. But I’d rather he be absolutely ready before he takes that step. I’d rather not see him bounce up and down to the Marlies. Once he’s here, I want him to stay.
- Komarov is not a savior, but I do think he will help the Leafs re-establish an edgier, hard-to-play-against style.
- I have precious little to base this on, but I choose to believe Clarkson will have a bounce-back season (though the injury he sustained against the Sabres now clouds the picture). Not necessarily in terms of points, though I do think he will contribute offensively, but overall. It’s his second year here. Playing in Toronto is oh-so-different from playing in New Jersey. I know there is concern about where he will “fit” in terms of linemates, but let’s let this play out.
- I’m interested to see what, if any, role that Peter Holland has. At 23 he is still young, but this is his time to step up and show that he deserves ice time.
- As we work our way through training camp, I still wonder if there could be a roster surprise. Leivo?
- Can Lupul still be the Lupul we have all loved at various points in his Leaf tenure?
- I know there is not a lot of support for the coach going into a new season, and there are valid reasons (roster deployment, relationship with his players, etc.) for this. That said, I want to see the players accept responsibility, too. They need to be “accountable”. Yes, it is the coach’s job to put players in a position to succeed. But there is also an onus on players to do their job. Maybe the new assistant coaches will bridge whatever gap seems to exist between Carlyle and the team, but regardless, I expect more from the players as well.
There’s more we could bat around, but for today, this is s start.