This post, like many others, is inspired by a comment on PensionPlanPuppets. From the Good Doctor Steve, who also writes an excellent blog at leafs.hockeyanlysis.com:
Can we give Stajan the Larry Murphy treatment this year? Make it official and such?
I don't really agree with this statement and I'm not sure I agree with the whole idea. But it did get me thinking about who on the Leafs might be a worthy and legitimate target for our collective scorn if the team underwhelms and underperforms. Again, I'm not sure I agree with the whole principle of the concept, but nevertheless, here's my list of candidates:
Best season: 2006-7; 40G 29A 69P
Last season: 25G 38A 63P
Blake rebounded from a horrible first season with the Leafs to put up impressive numbers. He led the team in goals and points and provided a few highlight-reel moments as well. Still, it's hard to shake the perception that Blake carries a "me-first" attitude and there's no denying his sense of entitlement: "Here I am, a 10-year vet ... I just don't know what he's trying to do," he mused to reporters in response to his dust-up with teammate Grabovski during a practice in March. Blake was fortunate to find chemistry last year with Dominic Moore but this season he'll have to find new friends to razzle-dazzle with or his popularity could quickly plummet.
Best season: 2007-8; 12G 15A 27P
Last season: 7G 9A 16P
Salary: $1,333,333Jamal didn't impress much last season and really struggled to look comfortable, especially early on. He redeemed himself somewhat with the Kostopoulos fight and a decent second half, but overall his numbers were disappointing and his contribution uninspiring. With the recent addition of Primeau (not to mention Orr, Bozak, Wallin, and Hanson), it's hard to see where Mayers will fit into the bottom six this year. If he continues to look uncomfortable again this year and the team struggles early on, I doubt Leaf fans will have much patience for his ice-time when it could be going to a developing asset. Slow and worn-out is a dangerous thing to be on a losing team in Toronto.
Best season: 2008-9; 15G 40A 55P
Last season: 15G 40A 55P
I don't really understand the hate that gets directed towards Matt Stajan. I suppose if you're from Port Credit and you happen to hate everything that's from Mississauga it makes sense, but otherwise it seems a bit unfair. At the beginning of last season I thought Stajan was a longshot to hit 25 assists. He finished the year with an astonishing 40, despite missing 6 games. I think the greatest knock against Stajan is the perception that he's soft, and certainly getting bounced out of the line-up by a soccer ball doesn't change that view much. Having rookies repeatedly coming to your rescue doesn't look so good either: "Luke’s been there for me... It seems like every time I get hit, he jumps in." It sure makes Schenn a popular guy, but I don't think it's all that flattering for Matty. Here's a serious suggestion for Stajan that'd be guaranteed to turn him from a zero to a hero in Leaf-Nation forever: Simply beat the crap out of Jason Spezza once and for all.
Best season: 2006-7; 27G 25A 52P
Last season: 14G 30A 44P
Salary: $2,500,000Lee seems to have been a diligent understudy to Matt Stajan's early "Invisible Man" act and is now running away with the lead role. Stempniak (or Suckniak as I call him, also known by others as Stempnisuck) needs to find his comfort level in Toronto and start producing consistently or I fear the patience of the Blue and White faithful will be very short. Maybe some fans just miss Carlo and Steen and find Stempniak's, er, lack of presence to be a haunting reminder of their absence. This year, I think Stempniak will be under a lot of pressure to make things happen right away.
Best season: 2008-9; 6G 17A 23P
Last season: 6G 17A 23P
Salary: 3,500,000Last season's big free-agent splash may be feeling the squeeze on a crowded blueline and will need more then just a really impressive last name to distinguish himself. His enormous salary draws immediate negative attention and doesn't leave much room for sloppy play or indifference. Fortunately for Finger, he's yet to make a glaring error or stand out , but the new-look Leaf defence has added some serious moxy, mojo, and sandpaper, and some people might begin to wonder why we're paying 3.5 million for quiet consistency. One thing is for sure, being the least popular Leaf defender is not a comfortable ride.
Best season: 2006-7; 4G 15A 19P
Last season: 2G 9A 11P
Salary: $4,500,000Will it be difficult to accept a former rival wearing the Blue and White? Are expectations high for a free-agent defenceman earning 4.5 million? What happens if the Leafs go 3-7-2 in October and Komisarek bangs the puck into his own net to conclude another 3rd period collapse? Just wondering... I think Komisarek is a good signing and that the Leafs defence has improved but that doesn't mean I like him just yet. If he can help us forget Kubina, he should eventually find plenty of fan-support.
Best season: 2008-9; 10G 16A 26P
Last season: 10G 16A 26P
Salary: $850,000Are there still Ian White detractors out there? White had a remarkable season last year but it still might not be enough to guarantee him a spot on the blue line in October. Some of the knocks against White are that he's small, he's not a fantastic playmaker, he's better as a forward, and that he hides his insecurities with facial hair. His effort is always solid but there's only so much a man with a mustache can do. Just talented enough to be a trade-able asset, but not so talented that we shouldn't be able to get something better in return. Funny how that works. My advice to Ian White: keep improving. Leaf fans are not always so subtle when it comes to a player and his diminishing trade value.
Best season: 2006-7; 26-10-1 2.35 .908
Last season: 22-17-11 3.26 .891
I think there's going to be a lot of pressure on Toskala right from the first drop of the puck to look sharp and focused. Save percentages around the .880 mark will not be tolerated for long with the Monster ready to step in. Last season was a mess for the Vesa as he struggled right out of the gate and all through December and January, and then just as he seemed to be finding his groove, had his season shut down in favour of a bio-technology upgrade. Will it all be worth it? I think of any Leaf on the team, Toskala has the most to lose or gain from this upcoming season, and I think he'll also be the most influential factor in determining our failure or success.
So there you go. If I've missed a Leaf on the roster that you think deserves to be the target of our organized wrath feel free to let me know in the comments. There's a good chance I'll make this topic my next poll in September. Hopefully we'll have a season with a lot of positive vibes and not too many negatives. It'd be nice to be without a McCabe or a Hollweg or Raycrap, a Wozniewski or Mike Craig, Jason Allison, or Larry Murphy. Just a Leaf team that we all love from top to bottom.
Still, if you had to choose one...?