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Ignore the Ranger loss: Would you rather be a Flames’ fan?

We need to understand the Leafs are trying, but this is the end of their season and the lack of zip is to be expected.

Until very recently, they were very competitive, outplaying some times that had a lot on the line—albeit accomplishing what they did in a pressure-free environment.

We should no more be surprised or disappointed by the recent mediocre play than we should be unduly enthusiastic about their prospects because of the little run they were on.

As I’ve suggested a number of times, it will all be way more important how they start the regular season next October, than how they finish right now. Burke will make yet more changes this summer—a trade of Kaberle perhaps the first among them.

Yes, it would have been nice for Gustavsson to win his last game of the season to send him off “feeling good” mentally over the season, but the guys in front of him last night looked as though they didn’t have much left to give this season. Perhaps they over-achieved for a while. It’s possible the reality of a lousy season coming to an end—and having nothing to play for in the standings—has simply caught up with them. Maybe the players, as professional as they have tried to be through a difficult season filled with personnel changes, have hit a wall.

Part of it is, they’re still not good enough.

Last night was just a bad night. We all know Kaberle understands he is unwanted and hasn’t been himself for quite a while so we can’t expect him to lead the way. Schenn and Gunnarsson were a combined -5 last night. That hasn’t happened lately. Kessel isn’t a hundred per cent physically, after a stretch were he was hot. No one will ever say it, but some guys don’t want to get hurt in meaningless games before the upcoming World Championship invitations.

I’ll post a fuller end-of-season assessment (who’s staying, who’s going) early next week.

For now, it’s safe to say last night will be a distant memory come September and training camp.

The last game in Montreal should be, if nothing else, entertaining. Montreal should have their playoff berth locked up by then, but who knows? If Montreal has something on the line, it could be a great game. The Leafs generally compete hard in Montreal. I can’t imagine they want to finish the season with another poor effort.


Leaf fans can ask themselves: would we rather be in the shoes of Calgary supporters?

Here’s a team (Calgary) that turfed their coach for not advancing in the playoffs the previous to seasons. Then Lou Lamoriello let coach Sutter leave without compensation, assuming he was not coaching anywhere else and was simply leaving Jersey for personal reasons, when the agenda turned out to be that Sutter wanted to coach in Calgary.

They spent huge money to build a “Big Three” defense with Phaneuf, Regehr and Bouwmeester.

They got the coach they wanted and the players they wanted.

With the goaltending and defensemen they had in place, Iginla and a supporting cast up front, no one in hockey thought they would miss the playoffs.

They struggled at times, then they panicked and made a huge splash, sending Phaneuf to Toronto and acquiring an emerging defenseman in Ian White, and three forwards, before making an equally peculiar deal with the Rangers.

I said at the time and I’ll say it again: the Phaneuf trade was a terrible, terrible deal for the Flames. They moved a guy in Phaneuf who was supposed to be a centerpiece for years to come. That’s fine. Things change. Management priorities change. Maybe Phaneuf, over time, won’t ever be the impact player we all believed he would be.

Calgary acquired White, a solid player. But Toronto gave up three forwards they were hoping to move anyway. To think Calgary didn’t get a bunch of high draft picks, or at least one truly proven, elite player from Toronto in return for a guy who is 24 and was a Norris Trophy candidate not long ago, is mind-boggling. Wouldn’t Kulemin, for example, have been a better pick-up, a player with more upside? He was already showing signs of becoming the player he will be, when the trade was made.

I’m not blaming the former Leafs for Calgary not making the playoffs. The team played some good hockey down the stretch. White in particular seemed to really contribute in Calgary, as he had in Toronto. I just think they could have driven a much harder bargain, because Burke really needed/wanted another elite player to go along with Kessel that he could build around—and to sell his re-modeling plan to the Leaf public.

Now that the Flames have missed the playoffs, are unlikely to have a high-end draft choice in June and un-successfully re-made their roster before the deadline, where are they? If you look at their roster now and you’re a Flames’ fan, you can’t be happy heading into next season.
Toronto Maple Leaf Blog

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