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The Maple Leafs at the mid-way mark? Still befuddling….

Usually when I’m watching the Leafs something triggers an idea for a post—a question, issue or possibility that hopefully will generate some interesting discussion here.  But while wading through Saturday night’s game in Winnipeg, I considered the possibility that there was nothing new to say (at least from my perspective).

I’ve covered off so many questions and issues here—leadership, the lack of a team identity, coaching approaches, the “bottom six”, being hard to play against, whether Reimer should be dealt, etc.—that it feels as though there isn’t a lot more to say.

When the Leafs are allowed to free wheel (and this has been the case for years now) they can make nice plays, score highlight reel goals and, if their goaltender happens to stand on his head when the offense is finding the back of the net, the Leafs can beat anybody. Not long ago they couldn’t lose, it seemed—they even started the just completed road trip well with that Bernier shutout and beat the Bruins, too. They may have deserved a better fate in Minnesota but had little left in the tank by the time they hit the ground in Winnipeg.

While the team has made some basic strides forward over the past couple of years, it’s not as though every other team in the admittedly middlish Eastern Conference is just standing still while the Leafs are getting better. Look at the long woeful Islanders; suddenly (or not so suddenly) they are a team that competes. Washington, a bubble team like the Leafs, is seemingly finding its way in first year of the Barry Trotz era. Even Florida looks much better than a year ago and while Columbus had an awful start and is ten points behind the Leafs in the Conference standings, they have been impressive of late, and have games in hand on a number of teams.

This is simply to say that the Leafs have some good players and can look pretty good some nights—but that can be said for just about every team in the league.

As the Leafs reach the mid-way point in the season on Wednesday night (game 41), my question today is: does anything give you the sense that the Leafs are really more than a playoff bubble team? Is there anything that you can point to about the current roster (not what we hope may be the case in two years) that makes you believe the Leafs are trending in an encouraging direction this season?

My take?  The Leafs can certainly take a run at a playoff spot, absolutely. But will they soon be in a situation where their “best” players—Phaneuf on the blueline and Kessel up front—will hit the wall that all players hit? Meaning, have we missed the opportunity to win when they were in their prime? But beyond that, it feels like the same players make the same mistakes over and over, which means that the word that we constantly talk about—accountability—seems to be just a word, as opposed to a genuine commitment that every player has made.

It feels like the Leaf coaches preach certain things, and the players respond when and if the mood strikes.

Again, the team is capable of making a playoff run in the Conference. None of us expected them to win at the clip they were before their road trip. And they did win two games on a very tough trip. So they are still poised for some degree of success.

Some fans look behind the bench and suggest Carlyle is holding the team back.  I guess I’m more of the view that, while acknowledging Carlyle has not brought this team to the level fans were seeking, there are too many players on this team that aren’t really prepared to do what needs to be done on a consistent basis to win in the NHL. And this applies to our forwards and our defensemen.  Being willing to take a hit to make a play is one of the most important things that players have to do in the NHL. Its about being hard on the puck all over the ice, including in the corners and the front of the net. Those battles often decide games. Do we have the guys who want to win those battles often enough?

Are they capable?  I think so, yes.  But we’re back to the word I’ve talked about here many times before—do enough Leafs have the ‘will’ to do all the little things that great teams do to win games?

It’s not fair to judge a team by how it plays in the last game of a long road trip.  Winnipeg was flying and we were on our heels most of the night.

But we have lately been back to given up a lot of shots, not playing enough with the puck—and that makes it hard to win games.

What are you seeing?



31 comments:

  1. I thankfully skipped last night's Leafs game and went with Pens-Habs instead. It felt like one of those moments in a damaged relationship where you decide to "see other people" for a change. Reading the Box Score of the game the next day sadly, I feel like I actually did watch the damn thing, as the Leafs seem to have drifted back into that terrible mid-to-late season form that we all endured last year.

    Can the Leafs make a legitimate shot at a playoff run? Sure.... but as a fan base, I think we need to set the bar a lot higher than a couple of consecutive first round blowouts against top tier squads, unless our goaltending becomes otherworldly and carries us through a round. As far as the current "core" being wasted on hovering around the 8th spot in the conference every year, I don't see this leadership group (Phaneuf, Kessel, Lupul, etc..) having the potential to push the team beyond their current middling status. In other words, we got what we paid for, plain and simple. Decent parts to a roster, but not world beaters. Kessel would be if he had a more complete game, but here we are. I look at Kessel like a Patrick Kane, a game changing sniper, but not being asked to lead his team, with the likes of Toews, Keith and Seabrook also in the mix in Chicago.

    Your coaching assessment is the same as mine Michael. I think Carlyle has somewhat lost this group's attention, but then again the identical slide happened to Ron Wilson, and may greet the next coach in line as well. Edmonton has piled through plenty of 'saviours' behind the bench in the last half decade, but a Bowman/Burns/Quinn combo probably couldn't save that roster and drag them up to respectability. Having said that, I think any solution going forward involves coaching and roster changes, but we should be patient and avoid the coaching position being a revolving door.

    The solution? I guess it's obvious, but damned near impossible. I was looking at the 2014 Team Canada Olympic roster on defence today, and not just looking at the nine names, but also who they played for in their day jobs: LA, Chicago, San Jose, Nashville, Montreal, St. Louis, Vancouver. Those teams aren't exactly the dregs of the NHL, and you have to wonder what the Leafs could do with that sort of presence eating up 30 minutes a night on the blue line.

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    1. I remember watching the semi-finals and finals the year Dallas won the Stanley Cup ('99??), Russ. I thought at that time that the guys in the finals had to work so hard just to get that far. There was no guarantee that hard work would ensure success, but the effort I saw from the semi-finalists was a reminder of how difficult it is to win at this level. You really have to be prepared to give everything you have- block shots, finish checks, take a hit to make a play. Guy Carbonneau on that Dallas squad was like 80 years old and still doing all the little things a good team needs to be successful.

      My point? The game changes every few years, I realize, but the basics are the same. Talent is important, but hard work + talent is what wins. Coaching matters, of course, but you need to have skill as well as a room full of individuals who hate to lose.

      The Leafs are not like those teams I described from the late '90s (and for that matter, in the current era, we could, over the past half dozen years, point to organizations like the Bruins, Kings or the Hawks- many of the teams you mention above.

      The Leafs are a nice team, who can look good at times. Full stop.

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  2. Hi Michael,

    The Leafs sure are allowed to pretty much do whatever they want to defensively. I have no faith in Carlyle, never have. He has been here three years too long in my opinion. He is incapable of providing the solution to what ails the Leafs. There is simply no reason to have him behind the bench covering his face while the game is on. His lack of ability is embarrassing.

    As the season wears on, and it is wearing on this fan. I have grown tired of the core of this franchise. I would trade all of them for cap space, save for Bernier and Rielly, and Rielly is a barely keep in my mind. He has been here too long, exposed to the bad habits the core of this franchise exhibits night in and night out. They got beaten last night for the sole reason that Winnipeg was willing to do the things that Toronto was not. We can blame it on systems, or the coach, these players are willing to cash their paycheques, and never be in a position to win anything.

    Would the team improve by removing Randy? Yes, it would also improve in the future by trading all of the veteran core for cap relief, prospects and picks. A long, long time ago, someone took Steve Yzerman aside and told him in no uncertain terms that if he doesn't put effort into his defensive game, he will never win anything. He put in that effort, and he won. The stories out of Washington this year, have Ovechkins teammates telling him he needs to play defense. Apparently, he got the message.

    It is entirely possible that Kessel figures it out eventually, it just isn't going to happen in Toronto. I hated the trade when Burke made it, and I hate it even more today.

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    1. As I mentioned to Russ above, Jim, great teams always seem to have players who will do whatever it takes to win. Right now, the Leafs are not one of those teams. They can play well at times, but as I've mentioned here before, any NHL team will look good at times, just like all NHL teams have really good players and nice prospects.

      The Leafs may make the playoffs, but there is a lot more to do. Thanks Jim.

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  3. Well as usual you hit it right on the head Michael. Really what is new to say about this team? Absolutely nothing. Nothing has changed it is the exact same thing as last year and the year before and the year before that and so on. That I am able to say that again for the 4th-5th straight year is probably the most damming thing I can say. For the first time in decades I have missed games this year on purpose. I just decided I have better things to do. I find myself not checking the internet or the standings every morning and I rarely ever comment anymore on stories. Why is it like this? Because as you stated nothing has changed. They are in the exact same position they are every single year. A maxed out cap team that has to be perfect to make the playoffs. The mushy middle if you will. I have seen this movie before and I know the ending.

    I wondered one thing when all the contract extensions were announced a year ago. I said all the core of the Maple Leafs have been locked up for the next 4 years I just hope we haven't locked up a mediocre core. I guess that question has been answered hasn't it. The Leafs are in a pile of trouble from the immediate, every team they are battling for 8th place has games in hand (some as many as 4) but are all within 2 points, to the long term, a very average core group all signed long term. For the first time in a long, long time I find myself apathetic to the Leafs and that fact hurts.

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    1. You're right, Willbur- there is a fine line between "locking up your core group" and ending up with a bunch of bad contracts.

      Being forever in the middle, neither bad enough to get a great franchise player or good enough to really contend, is not ideal.

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  4. Of course no one person is completely to blame, though if I were to pick one it would be Nonis. I do think Carlyle is a big part of the problem. I would like to see how this team plays under someone else, with different systems and more balanced lines. I don't have a problem moving members of the core at all, I'd just like the evaluation done with someone else coaching for the rest of the season. I don't believe they will ever be more than they are right now under Carlyle and they won't likely be worse with someone else. At least a few questions may be answered.

    I haven't seen anything from Randy for me to change my opinion, only to confirm in my mind he has to go. I thought calling Komorov, of all people, out for a poor game was pretty low-- a player just back after a month off in which he could not even skate, recovering from concussion and playing a back-to-back on a difficult road trip. What did he expect? He could have picked on anyone else.

    Carlyle is careful not take any blame for the last three years unless in small measure as part of the coaching staff. As we all make mistakes in plenty, this attitude bothers me quite a lot.

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    1. I know that a lot of Leaf supporters would prefer a new voice, and sometimes change can make a difference, Colleen. I just wonder if this group will really listen to anyone over time. They've tuned out coaches before.

      All the things we talk about are still issues after all these years- leadership, coaching, etc. As fans, we are sometimes lulled into a sense that the team is better than it is. Watching the 'compete level' of certain other teams reminds us the Leafs still have a long way to go.

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  5. Leafs Fan in MexicoJanuary 4, 2015 at 11:15 PM

    Random thoughts….

    There is no answer to the Toronto Maple Leafs because there is no answer to the Toronto Maple Leafs. We are looking into a vacuum.

    There are no heros on this team either - only humans, whose faults are not all that admirable, and who consistently fail to wow us, grab our hearts, and inspire us…. Sadly, all we really want ….. all we really need is for them to go down fighting every night, and nothing more.

    Are we getting depressed?

    Kormorov. Who doesn’t like this guy? He is fourth on the team with points per game (17 in 26 for 0.65). Only 4, yes 4, penalty minutes, yet he has drawn something like 20,000 penalties in return… ok maybe not so many, but he is a +4 while the only players with higher ppgs have -7, -6 and -4 (sweet to note Santorelli is number 5 in ppg and a +11! Others lower on the forward roster do well too).

    Guy Carbonneau on Dallas, Guy Carbonneau on any team … amazing, totally. Haven’t thought of him for a while, thanks for mentioning him.

    Coaching - It seems Carlyle can no more control the “leadership” end of this team than the leaders seem able to absorb a lesson…any lesson. Tick tock.

    Management - Colleen’s points ring true, but I can’t help think that until very recently the best words to describe Leafs management were: organizational inconsistency. When Carlyle first came to TO, I thought great! Burke wants grit! Anaheim had grit! We are set! (all we needed was Dougie behind the bench as an Assistant!). Back to dysfunction. We are reaping the fruits of yet another generation of disconnect between players, coaches, GM and ownership (the Silver Fox is looking good huh). I am hopeful (Leaf fans always are). And we can see some signs of ice-to-check book consistency, but like any true Leaf fan, I respectfully decline to hold my breath.

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    1. Well said, Leafs Fan in Mexico. To your point on leadership, I recall writing here in the past that the leadership issue may also relate to the fact that we don't have enough good followers- i.e. players who follow the lead of teammates who try try to set a tone.

      And yes, we haven't had a consistent vision from ownership/management in some time. The Wings have that; Chicago had it starting with Tallon; Boston has had it in recent years and the Kings as well under Lombardi. New Jersey (though they re struggling now) has had that for years, though they have changed coaches a lot, too.

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  6. At the start of the year I think I said this was still a glass-half-full/half-empty team. Nothing's changed my opinion. As you mention, all the same problems that we've seen since the days of the 18 wheeler are still plaguing us.
    I'm at a loss to understand how this could be possible. Different coaches, different players, different management team... same result. Year after year. After year. Even when we win, we aren't doing the essential things needed to win consistently. I think we've played two, maybe three games this year where it looked like we'd turned a corner... then we slipped right back to our bad habits and losing ways.
    In my opinion, if we continue down the road we're on, we have no hope of making the playoffs this year. Even if we do, it'll be the old "squeak-in" way. What kind of triumph is that?
    I'll be honest - the management of this team infuriates me. Mediocrity personified. Every time I watch Clarkson make a bonehead play, I grit my teeth. Every time I see Gardiner keep repeating the same mistakes over and over, I shake my head in disbelief. Every time I see 40+ shots against, I want to throw something at the TV. There is something fundamentally wrong with the franchise, starting with ownership and trickling down, and I don't see how it's going to be fixed without a major shakeup.
    Since Bell and Rogers can't be jettisoned, I'd say Nonis and Carlyle need to be replaced; Kessel, Phaneuf, Gardiner, Clarkson (if possible), maybe Lupul should be made available for a trade. Don't get me wrong - I actually like most of those players! But it's clear we don't have the horses and we don't have the leadership. We need to trade them while they've got some value and start all over again. In fact, I'll be amazed if some of them aren't dealt closer to the playoffs.
    I can't think of a stretch over the last 60+ years in which it's been so disappointing - so disheartening, really - to be a fan of this team. Like Wilbur above, I've stopped watching games regularly. There are other ways I'd rather spend my time. And I never thought I'd say that!

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    1. Good to hear from you, Gerund O'. I was nodding along, as usual. I can't help but think, as we have discussed here in the past, that the bar is too low. Just making the playoffs is not much of an achievement.

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  7. Hello Michael,

    At the moment I am still a glutton for punishment so I read Leaf stories on the internet and a lot of the comments that accompany them.

    What I have been noticing recently is that there are more and more Leaf fans like Wilbur and Gerund – fed up with the same old same old year in and year out and starting to lose interest. At times I ask myself whether I should also find better things to do with my time.

    I had hoped that when Shanahan was hired, this would be the start of THE turn-around (maybe it is?) and we would be heading for better days ahead as long-suffering Leafs fans. But unfortunately it seems he wants to be patient and evaluate this team first hand to see what he has - even though a casual observer could tell him exactly what he has!

    The problem, as I see it, is that he is choosing to be patient over the course of a season leading into a draft year where two potentially generational players are available.

    My biggest fear is that this group of players, like others in the past, will put on a little spurt right before the trade deadline and Shanahan will drink the kool-aid and come to the same conclusion that Burke did - this team is one or two pieces away from being a Cup contender - even though we know this core needs to be blown up and a fresh start made from the ashes.

    For the moment I am willing to be patient and wait and see what happens at the trade deadline. At that point I will know what I need to know about how this organization plans to move forward over the next 5 to 10 years - if Shanahan isn't a seller, then may God have mercy on all our souls.

    Of course the problem with trying to be a seller is that you have to find a buyer to complete the transaction and in this day and age that is a more difficult proposition because of the salary cap. And let’s be honest, who exactly would the buyers be for some the core group which needs to be moved out?

    It really saddens me to think that we, as Leafs fans, are destined to live this Ground Hog Day of a nightmare over and over again for the foreseeable bleak future while we wait to get out from under some of these back-breaking contracts.

    As I re-read my post above, it seems like it was written by a suicidal manic depressive, but sadly that is what this Leafs organization has driven most of us Leafs fans to over the past almost 1/2 century.

    What curse has been placed on this organization and how do we get it lifted?

    Happy New Year to all my fellow VLM'ers.

    Wayne

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    1. One of the things I wonder, Wayne, is whether (when we talk about the possibility of dealing some of the high-profile core players on the roster) the mix of this group is simply not working. In other words, could certain individuals (Phaneuf, Kessel, etc.), if they went elsewhere, be contributors to a successful, Cup-contending team?

      The problem with that notion is that many pieces on the roster have moved in and out over the past several years and yet the same inconsistency remains. So there do seem to be roster-related issues, along with coaching and management questions.

      The Leafs will no doubt win again and play better soon but the question will always be: can they consistently play with not only the skill but the determination required to succeed at this level?

      Happy New Year, Wayne!

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  8. I am pretty much just echoing more of the above. Nothing new to see here..move along. playoff bubble team at best. They are the Groundhog Leafs with Bill Murray waking up to "I Got You Babe" every single game.

    I have said my piece about Carlyle in the past about not making every single player accountable and his lack of adjustments in systems/lines/etc. If the players ever really did listen to him most are not now. Look at the comments lately from Winnik about how surprised he is that lack of systematic play he sees overall on the team especially in the last 15 games. And it is not the first new guy that has alluded to that issue. Carlyle needs to go.

    I have mentioned the core of the forwards being built around the wrong position, wingers instead of the middle. Bad contracts given to Clarkson and really Phaneuf's to a lesser extent as well and awfully soon we will look at Gardiner's that way as well. Lack of intensity or lack of playing any system by the top talent on the team too many nights.

    I realize lots point at the defense as the issue but to me it as much or more an issue how the forwards work with the defense in their own zone that is the crux of the problem. Not to absolve the defensemen of blame either as they can make their share of boneheaded plays. But too often they have no one to pass to on the breakout with the skilled lines on the ice. The play breaks down and back into their own zone they go...again..over and over.

    Lots of fingers needed to point at the pieces of the missing jigsaw puzzle in Leafland these days.

    I watched the first two periods of the Sharks/Blues on the weekend and went "ahhhhhh, THIS is how hockey is supposed to be played at the NHL level." What a nice entertaining no stress brand of hockey to watch.

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    1. Your last paragraph relates to my earlier thought on the '99 playoffs. When you watch teams who really hate to lose, you can see the difference. Thanks Pep.

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  9. AP's article's are always mandatory reading in my opinion. This piece that just came out is one of his best and kind of sums up a lot of what we discuss here on an all too frequent basic.

    http://mapleleafshotstove.com/2015/01/05/leafs-notebook-january-5/

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  10. I've just read Anthony's article. (Thanks, Pep) Wow! I have to agree that it's one of his best. The MLHS site is excellent but I always look forward to Anthony's Notebooks.

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  11. Something else I was thinking about today (based on the current slide), is the notion of "untouchables" on the roster, players that are in a lock box that you wouldn't trade for bags full of gold. Looking at the past 5 years of the Leafs offers an interesting history on the subject. The first untouchable on the list was definitely Luke Schenn, the big young defenceman that media and fans gushed over, prematurely anointing him as the next long term captain of the squad, and not a player that would ever enter into trade talks. Ultimately, we got very lucky with the JVR deal to allow Schenn to move on, and get a much better piece in return. Luke is a healthy scratch some nights, these days. He's a minus 8, with 3 points so far this season. Next on that list started 3 years ago with Jake Gardiner, that mobile D-man we were going to build the team around, and come Hell or high water, he was NOT leaving the Leafs roster. How's that assessment looking today, as Jake struggles endlessly, especially after landing the big contract. Next on that list is obviously Morgan Rielly, the latest untouchable to grace the blue and white. This isn't meant to be a knock on Rielly, as he seems to be a pretty solid player, but then again the others did as well.

    I bring this up as an investigation of maybe overvaluing youngsters on the Leafs, both as fans and media. It's a unique place to play, where even a 4th liner with limited skills will get full segments on sports talk shows in Toronto, and I think sometimes it makes us add value that might not necessarily be there. Pressure is a funny thing, where some players seem oblivious to it, and others turtle and lose their game at the hint of adversity. You want to talk about real pressure (and the ability to handle it), just look at PK Subban. A holdout looking for a large contract, vilified by some for having "too big of a personality" (whatever that is), and look how he responded after getting the deal. You can't sink into the woodwork in Montreal, and kudos to PK for absorbing the pressure and using it as fuel to elevate his game.

    Reading Pep's assessment earlier of watching the Sharks/Blues tilt is a great point. The great teams bring the juice pretty much every night. It's ironic to hear hockey media types refer to the Sharks as failures, based on their lack of a Cup. As a Leafs fan, I would have happily lived with my team offering the so-called "failure" the Sharks have provided over the past decade.

    Sorry if I wasn't exactly focused on your original theme Michael, but venting brings down the blood pressure slightly.

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    1. Venting can help!

      When you mention the Sharks, I harken back to the Quinn era, Russ. Even then, I well recall many fans were unhappy, yet Quinn helped deliver results every year. Yes, the Leafs had the advantage of being big spenders pre "cap", but they were a wonderful combination of goaltending (CuJo, Belfour), grit, (Roberts, Corson, Markov, etc.), moxie (Kaberle) , finesse (Mogilny) and so many of the attributes we like to see in a team. They could hit, win puck battles, score goals and fight.

      Would we appreciate that now?

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    2. There's the name I've been waiting for, and the basic premise of the Vintage Leaf Memories theme.... Gary Roberts. Not a Leafs memory, but I remember Gary playing for the Penguins in an early playoff round his first year there. The end of the first period, and one of his team mates took a cheap shop at the whistle. Gary violently rag-dolled the guy against the glass for half a minute, then the player door opened up, and an interesting thing happened. Roberts was set to be the interview leaving the ice for the first period, and there was a small female reporter waiting on the other side of the glass, looking uncomfortable as she'd just watch the glass shake as Roberts tuned up his opponent. Gary did that interview like he'd just been playing chess with a buddy over a cup of tea, calm and polite, talking about the great fun of a playoff atmosphere. Similar to Gordie Howe.... a gentleman off the ice, and a talented but absolute prick during game action. My God, the Leafs could use Gary Roberts as an example and inspiration right now.

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    3. To use today's vernacular...Gary Robert's was a beauty!!! We have not had a player of his ilk since he left in 2004. Uncle Leo might be the closest thing as a poor mans Robert's and that is NOT to belittle Leo in the least. More to the overall lack of character of player we have had in the last decade.

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  12. I'm hoping that Brendan Shanahan does not end up suffering from analysis paralysis at the trade deadline if the opportunity to obtain a reasonable return on one of the core (not Rielly) arises. I was already guarded about investing my heart fully into another season looking through optimistic glasses. I'm with Gerund, Wayne (yes, it is ground hog day with the Leafs), Pep, Jim, Willbur... well... pretty much everyone who questions why we 'enjoy' or 'should enjoy' this particular version of the team. It hasn't been very enjoyable to watch and wonder when a 2 goal lead will disappear and if we can eke out a point or undeserved win...

    I'm ready to see what we look like with some changes to free up some cap flexibility and attempt to 'stock up for some delayed gratification' with a new generation. I fast forwarded through every Sweden game to catch every Nylander shift I could find. He doesn't have the same shot, but in every other respect he seems to be Kessel ++.

    Willie was regularly seen stealing pucks in the defensive zone (where you could actually 'see' him on the monitor, you know, in the zone providing an outlet). He is such an effortless skater that he doesn't seem to 'work' that hard, though efficiency is lauded in most areas of life! He stays out of danger, but will lower the shoulder and work through a check. Though he seems to be seeking the open space (like Brett Hull) ever ready to pounce. I like the kid and wish Phil would try some of the same things (with his bigger body). Also, glad Nylander is being given time to grow in frame and game.

    Perhaps we should hope that the Leaf brain trust is ready for the next wave of talent (with Rielly, too) rather than keep trying to surf a wave that has already gotten ahead of the board!

    Happy New Year, VLM friends!

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    1. I wonder if the mood in Leafland is indeed moving toward the idea of a re-boot, InTimeFor62. As good as some of our core players have been, our reality seems to be that we are not winning anything of consequence with this group.

      Would a move to start again, as you suggest, create better possibilities? I don't really know. But right now, the expectations aren't nearly high enough.

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  13. Hi Michael:
    There is little to add as only team depth has improved, but not results. However, the business side of me is seeing the disillusionment that has been growing over the last 3 years. In most cities in North America, attendance and revenue correlate with winning. Somehow the Chicago Cubs and Toronto Maple Leafs do not fit the pattern. I gather the Argos and Blue Jays do fit the pattern.

    I have the opportunity to see many Western Conference games, and I am in total agreement that these offer a significant upgrade in quality of play. I decided to do my own simple analytics which relates the average cost of a ticket (2014) to enjoyment provided (i.e. wins). For comparison purposes, I assumed all arenas had 19,000 seats for 41 games. I created spreadsheet for 5 teams. Lo & behold, Toronto's wins (26) cost fans $11.1 million each and Anaheim wins (30 cost $2.44 mill each), Boston wins (28 cost $6.2 mill. each, Montreal wins (29 cost $6.6 mill. each), and Pittsburgh wins (36 cost $4.4 mill. each). This does not include other costs associated with attending a game where Toronto is also top end. Leafs average ticket was $369 per seat (the highest), Boston ($223), Anaheim($94), Montreal ($257), Pittsburgh ($204). If this comparison was taken to the whole league, it would show that Leaf fans are getting the least bang for the buck. My conclusion is the Leaf fan is getting fleeced and this has gone on for many years. Yet, Leaf fans patiently keep buying in fear that someday Leafs will win, and then tickets will be worth it? (to corporations not families). Living in the south, I view Nashville and Carolina games regularly, and ticket deals are great. In the retail game, if a store sells a flawed product they provide discounts!!! Do the Leafs give discounts, refunds, support minor hockey in Toronto, children being able to attend games? Just go ka-jing$.

    Mark Cuban was quoted last week as saying that the NFL was going to be in trouble within ten years because of their greed. This could easily apply to hockey as well. An analysis of ticket prices shows a tremendous difference in revenue potential around the league. The Toronto franchise is the most valuable, but you would never know by the level of on-ice success. Other than Randy, who doesn't have the answer, there seems to be a lot of silence coming from the executive suite. Shanahan may want to be patient, but there seems to be a growing unrest.

    Michael, the best way to vent is to lock your wallet, but it does not seem to happen re TML.





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    1. As I was reading your post, Ralph (RLMcC) I was thinking back to the last time the Leafs won a playoff series- the spring of 2004. Leaf fans were paying high prices them, too (we always have, of course) but at least we were entertained and there wasn't this "hope" about maybe being good in a few years- the Leafs were contending for a Cup every year, not just trying to make the playoffs. The playoffs were assumed. Thanks Ralph.

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  14. I think it may be as simple as - they had a hard road trip and by the end of it they were exhausted and banged up.

    I'm still optimistic that this team can regain their early-season form and get back to the sound defensive game and depth-contributions that were aweing us all at times.

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  15. Hi Michael,

    So great news today. The Leafs have relieved Randy Carlyle of his duties behind the bench. The great part is that we can stop talking about why he needs to be fired.

    On to Kessel. I read AP's post that you guys were all raving about. I for the most part agree with his assessment of the player in question. The Leafs have one piece of the core 5/6 that is needed to win the Stanley Cup. The problems I have with his evaluation that you should keep Kessel because the Leafs need more pieces not fewer, is this. Every team has at least one piece, each and every one. The Leafs have the least desirable one of the six pieces. The enigmatic scoring forward. No stud d'man, no elite two way centreman. Enigmatic, offence first, offence last, scoring winger.

    What is the suggestion made to acquire the other pieces? It's rare, but sometimes you can trade for a Jeff Carter, huge trade, lots of high profile players back and forth. Seguin trade, same deal. For the most part though, you have to draft these players. Crosby, Kopitar, Toews, Malkin, Datsyuk, are not going to be traded in their prime.

    But Jim, sometimes a Claude Giroux, or Getzlaf falls in the draft and we can get them then. That sounds a lot more like wishing than a successful strategy for building a cup contender. The Leafs need top 3 picks, we need a Doughty, not another Jiri Tlusty.

    Look at it this way, being in the bottom 3 is only a little bit worse than what we are right now. It won't be so bad to at least have our hope back. I miss at least the potential of being more than some degree of mediocrity.

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  16. It's sad because there HAVE been centers available in trades over the last few years and the Leafs had no cap available/ trade-able assets to go after them. (I probably shouldn't get started on "Why I Want Nonis Fired".)

    I haven't been overly impressed with Phil this season either. He barely seem involved at all. I harp on trying Santorelli with him because he seems to have the ability to get the best out of his line-mates. The team in general have played of late more like they did at the end of last season--No structure, individual efforts. I would like to see the sort of offense Kessel could create with strong defensive support backing him up.

    The lines today look the same. I hope Horachuk and Spott see the need for change.. An interesting few weeks ahead.

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  17. Hi Michael and a happy new year!

    I already wrote my comment last sunday when my Internet broke down and I had no connection for the whole week.

    I wanted to put another comment under the article before, after the Tampa game, but I held it back and I saw a week ago that your newest articel fits my thoughts very well so I decided to use them as my comment here.

    If this team does not start to fight, and I am not talking about fist fights, they won't go anywhere.
    I am talking about fighting for loose pucks, the agressive forechech Carlyle talked about in training camp, winning battles along the boards,take hits to make plays, winning faceoffs, making the time in front of our net miserable for opponents, taking some good timed hits, get in the way of shots and passes and take away time and space for the opposing team starting in their own end. Last year Carlyle said compete level after every game and everybody said same old, same old, but this is what it is all about.
    And if our best players are not willing to do that night in and night out this team won't go anywhere positive. It sickens me that our top six forwards and our top D-men provide the worst player of the game more often than not.

    This group needs to be evaluated, I think some players should not be touched but more or less there is a decision to make about every player of that group:
    Kessel, Bozak, JvR, Lupul, Kadri, Clarkson, Phaneuf, Franson, Gardiner and Robidas.
    This is the "core" for me. And there were 30 games or more this season where you could find the worst Player of a game in this group.

    And again I think we have to question us as fans, I was very suprised that last week (now 2 weeks ago) a lot of people easily said: let's sign Kadri and Franson. They way this team plays and how the contract structure is, I think there is no easy answear to that question.

    After the Tampa game Jamie McLennan asked on radio if there is one player that strikes you as an intelligent player. I can't remember the conversation after that question but there was only one player that came to my mind: Stuart Percy. And that is a sad answear.

    A few weeks ago you asked about the habs and I sometimes compare them to the Leafs here and I can send you on a funny trip here. I asked some time ago why they are better than the Leafs although they were worse in 2012. Look up the cap situation they have. Which players are signed to long term deals, what kind of players and how flexible they are because of their contracts.

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    1. Happy New Year, Marcus!

      I agree- you're talking about the right kind of "fighting"- fighting for space, and in the corners and in front of the net. Our best players need to lead by example in that area.

      And yes, the Habs have seemingly built a team that can compete!

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