The good news: March 4th, 2009, the NHL trade deadline, is just 44 days away. The bad news: the trade value of Leaf players continues to plummet. Three players whose trade values should be of key interest to Leaf management saw their ice time reduced last night. Frogren was only on for 8:31, Kubina saw limited time in the 3rd and finished at under 15 minutes (14:52) well below Stralman (20:43) and also White, Schenn, and Kaberle, who were all 23+. Antropov also had reduced minutes (13:07) compared to Blake (18:47) and Hagman (16:53). In fact, only May, Mayers, and Tlusty had fewer minutes then Antropov.
Hard to showcase trade value that's playing poorly or not playing at all.
More good news: Toskala has found his niche. It's the first period. Four straight first periods without giving up a goal. Now he just needs to focus on the 2nd and the 3rd. Admittedly, he played a good game last night, but for the 23rd time this year he was the 2nd-best goaltender on the ice.
Is there more good news? I'm trying, I'm trying. Let's see: There's a clear divide in the standings now, with the Leafs 8 points behind Carolina for 10th, but only 4 points separating them from 29th overall. The Islanders, 12 points behind (ahead?) of the Leafs for last place, do not look like they're going to be caught. Thankfully, that's what the draft lottery is for. The Leafs have 3 games left against Tampa and 3 games left against Ottawa, but have used up all of their opportunities against Atlanta to gain (lose?) ground.
This isn't good news at all: Van Ryn, who was hoping to get back with the Leafs as early as last night, didn't play because he failed a baseline test earlier in the day.
"He didn’t pass the test,” disappointed coach Ron Wilson said after the 2-0 loss to the Hurricanes. “He’ll probably keep having to rehab, resting it a bit.”
Baseline tests are compared against the results of similar exercises recorded at the beginning of the season, testing a player's memory and reaction time. Losing Van Ryn like this has hurt the Leafs as much as anything else this season. In the 17 games that he has appeared in, Van Ryn contributed to the Leafs' having a winning percentage of .588. Without MVR, the Leafs' winning percentage is below .350. It really pisses me off that Cliff Fletcher went through all this trouble over the off-season to secure something, anything, in return for the departing McCabe, only to have that bastard Kostopoulos erase it all with his thug-hit on the defenceless defender. That Kostopoulos only got 3 games for such a cruel and vicious hit is disgusting, and it sends a very dangerous message to any team heading into the playoffs - illegal, career-killing, line-up destroying hits from behind are only going to cost a 3-game suspension. Heads up, Andrei Markov. I believe there's some karma coming with your name on it.
The best news of all: It's still just a sport. We may be passionate about it, but it matters to us only as much as we want it to. I'm very thankful that I don't have to deal with some of the horrors that we see in the main section of the newspaper and I wish that no one else did either. Losing sucks, but there's always tomorrow, and then there's always next season. Or I could also just turn it off. That might be the best option right now, but at least it is an option. There's always hope that things might get better someday, and in the meantime, we have each other to commiserate with. We can cry, we can try to laugh, we'll keep each other company, and together, we'll celebrate the small victories whenever they come our way, until that glorious day when we parade down Yonge St. Until then, I can still feel smug and satisfied, knowing that we are the best fans of any team, anywhere, from here to oblivion, even if that's where we're going.
Finally, in the interest of entertainment, and since there isn't anything else positive to express, for your viewing pleasure we present: Jason Blake's Spirit Quest, a pictorial-montage of one player's exciting journey in search of the Fist Pump.
Leafs Notebook – The Final Two Weeks – March 27
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