Sunday, November 30, 2008

The November Review

1 -- The month began with a tremendous show of spirit and solidarity in the Barilkosphere. Perhaps all that goodwill created some sort of cosmic-karma-energy-something in LeafsNation, for, that night, the Leafs gave the fans their most exciting victory of this young season with a magical 5-goal 3rd period, to beat the NYRangers, 5-2. Inspired by Mitchell, Moore, and Blake, the fans went wild, lifting the players to a new level, and the players responded with an astonishing show.

It certainly was a burst of energy—it came all at once,” said Dominic Moore. “It seemed like it must have been pent up. With the fans, as well, they sort of released their (energy) all together.”

I just fist-pumped as many times as I could,” said Mitchell.

2 -- The second day of the month was Luke Schenn's 19th birthday, which from now on will be known as "Luke Schenn Day" across LeafNation. Unfortunately, the Leafs lose in Carolina, 6-4. Ian White makes his season debut, scoring a goal and showing off a new 'stache as well.

3 -- Spent the day recovering from Luke Schenn's karaoke party. Realized Ian White's mustache wasn't a dream. The Wendel Countdown begins.

4 -- Another loss to Carolina, this one in overtime. The news isn't all bad though, as the Leafs had clawed their way back from a 4-1 deficit to steal a point, and Grabovski, with a 3-point night begins to emerge as an offensive threat.

5 -- The Dawn of a New Era. The world discovers Hope. politically speaking, that is. Doesn't seem to have much impact on LeafNation.

6 -- The Leafs lose on the road to the Boston Bruins, 5-2. Even worse, John Mitchell is injured with a separated shoulder and is out for the next 5 games.

7 -- I wrote a post about Maple Leaf Gardens. Two weeks later I see Wendel Clark walking through Maple Leaf Gardens on TV. I thought that was pretty cool and wondered if there was a connection. Maybe not, but then I heard this little giveaway from Wendel: (1:45) "There's a lot of memorable fights that keep gettin' brought up, and people see on all the computers 'n stuff, but the last one (number one moment) would've been the 92-93 series and Marty McSorely". Awesome work, DGB. Good job with the computers 'n stuff.

8 -- Leafs win on home ice, a very enjoyable 6-3 romp over the Montreal Canadians. Grabovski shines and gets under the Habs' skin, making him an instant fan favorite. After the game, Carbonneau gives us this delicious quote: "It was the most embarrassing game I've ever been associated with". Yes! That's exactly how I want every Hab to feel after every game with the Leafs. The victory was not without a cost, however, as Van Ryn was the victim of a nasty hit from behind, receiving a concussion, a broken hand, and needing dental surgery to repair his gums and teeth.

9 -- Leaf fans vent their frustration over the Kostopoulos hit. The NHL reviews the incident.

10 -- The NHL suspends Kostoploulos for 3 games. The Habs have a good laugh and realize that losing is sometimes winning. "How could we forget, eh? De' Laffs always get screwed in de' end!"

11 -- Remembrance Day. The Leafs hit the road for 3 games in Western Canada. Their first stop is Calgary, where they lose, 4-3. Jason Blake is a healthy scratch, causing him to wonder about his purpose in life: "Maybe it's not meant for me to be here". At the same time, Sundin sells his house.

12 -- The 77th anniversary of the first game at Maple Leaf Gardens passes quietly. Brian Burke resigns from the Ducks, not so quietly.

13 -- The second game of this western road trip has a better result. Leafs win, 5-2 over the Oilers. Blake responds with his best game of the season, registering two assists in the 3rd period.
Meanwhile, Kaberle, who had a goal and 2 assists on the night, passes Ian Turnbull for 3rd all-time in scoring by a Leaf defenceman.

14 -- Nothing much happens with the Leafs as they prepare for their game against Vancouver by smoking lots of dope. Barry Melrose is fired, and the NHL investigates ballot-stuffing in Montreal.

15 -- The Leafs lose to Vancouver, 4-2. With the Leafs outshooting the Canucks 10-0, our favorite boy by the pool, Kyle Wellwood, scores on Vancouver's first shot, and that was pretty much all she wrote. Toskala, embarrassingly juxtaposed to Loungo, begins to lose his charm with Leaf fans.

16 -- The Leafs lick their wounds and fly home after collecting only 2 points through Western Canada. Kyle Wellwood enjoys the best Sunday afternoon he's had in months.

17 -- Doug Gilmour is announced as the new head coach in Kingston. In Toronto, the Leafs lose 3-2 to the hungry Boston Bruins, as Vesa Toskala continues to hurt the Leafs by allowing early goals. Goaltending suddenly becomes an issue, as quickly and as smoothly as an .878 save percentage becoming a knock-knock joke.

18 -- The Leafs begin a mini-vacation. Toskala is officially on the hotseat.

19 -- With just three days to go until Wendel Night, anticipation begins to build. The Leafs lie low by practicing indoors.

20 -- Only 2 more sleepless nights until Wendel Night.

21 -- With only one day left until MLSE honours one of the most legendary players to ever wear the Blue and White, the Barilkosphere turns out some of its finest work.

22 -- The Leafs finally honour Wendel Clark in a classy and compelling ceremony. John Mitchell returns to the line-up. Sadly, the home team plays well for just two periods, allowing the Black Hawks to come back from a 2-goal deficit in the 3rd to win in overtime. Jeff Finger has his worst game as a Maple Leaf. There's even more bad news for the Leafs as Jonas Frogren, the Hockey Viking that Leaf fans were hoping to see more often, injures his arm with a muscle tear and will be out for several weeks.

23 -- Leaf fans spend a quiet Sunday reflecting on what might have been.

24 -- MONSTER TRADE!! Okay, maybe exaggerating just slightly, but still it's exciting to see Cliff pulling the trigger again. Neither Steen nor Colaiacovo were terribly disliked, but they were both seen as spare parts, while Stempniak appears to have the tools that the Leafs can benefit from right away. While Burke is less then a week away from joining the team, the Silver Fox makes a dramatic exit by momentarily stealing the spotlight.

25 -- The Leafs play possibly their worst game of the year, a 6-3 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers. With Frogren and Van Ryn both hurt, and Colaiacovo traded, Ian White is forced back to the blue line and scraps with Ilya Kovalchuk. Joseph starts and has a terrible night. Blake is injured with a suspected concussion. About the only positive for the Leafs is Stempniak's debut, picking up an assist.

26 -- Despite the effort of Mayers, Hollweg, and, er, Ian White, the Leafs are criticized for a lack muscle. Looking to add some toughness, the Leafs call up the best player in their system born in Free Port, Bahamas, Andre Deveaux. Meanwhile, Dominic Moore shows Jeff Finger what he's gonna do the next time he sees Jason Smith.

27 -- The Battle of Ontario resumes, this time in the Nation's Capital, sort of - actually, it's off the 417 as you're going through Kanata, but that's "sort of" enough for the city that was once technically beautiful. The Leafs losing streak reaches 5 games with a shoot out-loss, but it's a moral victory for The Vesa who looks better and better as the game goes on. Deveaux has a solid debut, and Luke Schenn has one of his best games of the month.

28 -- The Brian Burke (here it comes) Era - wait for it - officially begins - wait! - right about..... NOW!

29 -- Leafs win! The Leafs close out the month with a victory over Philadelphia. Toskala is again outstanding and Stempniak records his first goal as a Leaf. Moore, Antropov, Schenn, and Deveaux all have strong games, and the entire team plays well in front of their new GM. A positive start for Burke and a positive finish to November for the Leafs who struggled throughout the month.

30 -- The month ends on a Sunday. The Leafs have 22 points after 23 games and sit tied for 10th in the east with the NYIslanders - 4 points out of a playoff spot, 4 points out of dead last in the league. Newspapers report that Brian Burke believes Mats Sundin is not interested in returning to Toronto. No one seems to mind. Despite the obvious need for a top line centre, despite the need for veteran leadership, despite the fact that this team is already better then last year's team and that the playoffs are just a short win-streak away, and despite the fact that Sundin is the type of player who truly believes that all 16 playoff teams have an equal opportunity once the playoffs begin, and despite his obvious loyalty and attachment to the uniform and to the city, and despite all the things he said about never wanting to be a rental player, (deep breath!) despite all that, Brian Burke, based on a conversation he had with Sundin while he was GM with the Ducks, feels that the Captain's ship has finally sailed from Toronto and it ain't coming back. A 4-6-3 record through November is obviously not enough to convince number 13 that the Leafs are a playoff contender.

The end of an era. The beginning of another.

November goes out the way it began; with some terrific optimism and hope, but also, uncertainty. The middle part was kinda murky, but the tribute to Wendel kept our spirits up and we survived. Finally, at 11:59pm, in the dramatic final minute, I posted The November Review, and the month was over.



Graeme said...

Despite the obvious need for a top line centre, despite the need for veteran leadership, despite the fact that this team is already better then last year's team and that the playoffs are just a short win-streak away...

Are you kidding me? This is the reason that so many people think Leafs fans are stupid. Can we not just accept the fact that this team is not going to win the Cup this year and move on with the rebuilding - without Sundin? I love Mats as much as anyone else, but his time here is over, and bringing him back would serve no purpose.

Squeaking into the playoffs only to get killed in the first round does not mean the season was a success. That kind of thinking has brought you the last forty years. If Sundin wants to come back for minimum salary, then sure, what the hell. But it's not going to bring the Cup here, and paying him the millions he is looking for (and deserves) is a huge waste of money.

general borschevsky said...

Hey Graeme, thanks for the comment, but I think you misunderstand a little. I don't expect Mats to help us win a Cup.

But I don't think Mats expects to win a Cup either. He just wants to compete for one. Sundin has not participated in the post-season since before the lock out. Everyone knows the NHL playoffs is the only hockey that really matters. Sundin, I believe, is the type of player who feels that once the post-season begins, anything can happen and that all 16 teams have an equal opportunity.

So why would I want Sundin to come back to the Leafs and why would I want the Leafs to make the playoffs even though they have no hope of winning the Cup? Is it because I'm stupid? Well, I think that being in the playoffs is fun - more fun then being out of the playoffs for 4 years in a row. It would be exciting. Seeing Sundin finish his career as a Maple Leaf with one last unexpected hurrah would be way more satisfying then the way he finished last season or then seeing him play for another team.

I don't care if the Leafs win the Cup this year or next year or even in 5 years. But I would love for them to win the Cup in my lifetime. Having said that, I don't expect them to keep missing the playoffs year after year after year forever until they're finally ready to go for it! Making the playoffs, from time to time, would be nice, even if they don't reach the final.

I want them to win every game this year, and win a Cup, and get better next year. I know that isn't realistic, but I'm not the GM. I'm a fan and I don't have to be realistic. This my escapism, get it? It's not my job. It's just entertainment.

Sundin is entertaining. The NHL playoffs is entertaining. I want to be entertained, that is all.

Also, Graeme, your last comment is puzzling. paying him the millions he is looking for (and deserves) is a huge waste of money

Huge waste of what money? It's not my money. Is it yours? Who gives a fuck about the money? The Leafs are so far below the cap ceiling that they could easily afford Sundin. They are one of the only teams that can afford Sundin. MLSE is the wealthiest ownership group in the league. Why do you want them to save money? For what?
That makes no sense! I would argue that every dollar they are not spending is a waste of money, but you think they should save it for some reason.

So I guess tonight you'll be cheering for the Leafs to lose so that they don't make the playoffs, because even if they did they wouldn't win the Cup, and that's fine, that's your right, but I think that is the real reason why people think many Leaf fans are stupid. Me, I disagree. I think that makes you not a Leaf fan.

Graeme said...

I'm with you - I want the Leafs to win every game. I've been a Leafs fan for almost 40 years and I never want them to lose. But I've just seen too many years of squeaking in the playoffs and getting a lousy draft pick, or even worse -- just missing the playoffs and getting a lousy draft pick. For too many years, the team hasn't been good enough to compete and also hasn't been bad enough to restock with high draft picks. Unless you're Detroit, it seems that you have to really suck for a few years in order to build up your team to get good and really contend - see Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, ... I guess I have already resigned myself to the fact that the Leafs are likely to suck for the next couple of years while they rebuild, so my gut reaction to "maybe we'll squeak into the playoffs this year!" is "No! Then the rebuilding will take a year longer!"

That's my December opinion though. If I'm watching the last Leaf game of the season and a win means they make the playoffs and a loss means they don't, then you're damn right I'm rooting for a win. Cause it's the playoffs! Anything can happen! I also know that despite what I've written here and on my own blog, if it were announced tomorrow that Mats had signed with the Leafs, my first reaction would likely be "Oh cool, Mats is back!" <shakes head at my own conflicting opinions>

You're right, I don't really care about the money. My point was that if your goal is to win the Cup, and spending seven million dollars to get Sundin will not help accomplish that goal, then it's a waste of money. But it ain't my money, and MLSE has enough of it, so they can spend it whatever way they want.

general borschevsky said...

Thanks Graeme, for keeping things positive. This Sundin thing is a touchy issue. Check out the comments over at sports and the city!

I'm still not convinced that losing leads to winning. I wrote a post
on the subject a while back. Detroit has not missed the playoffs since 1990! Yet they are still the best team in the league. Meanwhile Columbus has missed the playoffs 8 years in a row. So how come Detroit is in 2nd and Columbus is in 10th? Seems to me like there is more to winning then just sucking for a few years. Seems like having the right attitude might have something to do with it.

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

Great post, General. A Jason Blake FIST PUMP, indeed. You really captured the essence of an up and down month, and the linking was absolutely fantastic.

The discussion you and Graeme have had has been great as well. It's really a polarizing issue, all this Sundin stuff.

One thing that really bothers me about the whole thing is that we never got to properly say goodbye. It's a reason why I would love for Mats to come back. But I'm pretty resigned to the fact that he won't. And that's fine.

And I'm with you, there's no guarantee that losing will eventually lead to winning. There's no guarantees that first round draft picks turn into anything special. I mean, hell, we just traded two of them away.

One last bit on Sundin. I just read DGB's latest post, where he called him a "back-stabber." Here's what I left in the comments over there. I think you would appreciate the last couple of lines:

I wanted the Canucks to sign Sundin before perusing this, your latest post. After reading your cheap shot to end this post, I want nothing more than for Sundin, the "back-stabber," to end up in a Canucks uniform.

I really think it's sad the way you're talking about one of the greatest players to ever play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I hope one day you'll get over your broken heart from Sundin not waiving his no-trade clause and realize that while Sundin could have given us Chris Higgins and a draft pick or two, what he gave us in the end was a whole lot more, and a whole lot more special.

general borschevsky said...

Cheers, eyebleaf. I've been reading a lot of your comments over at PPP as well. I've been super busy today and wasn't able to support you, but you did well enough on your own (as usual). Love the passion. Disagree about Vancouver, but whatever, you're good people, through and through.

I just want to say that hockey shouldn't always be about just wins and losses and playoff positions and draft positions and salary caps and NTCs. Sometimes it's just about drama and celebration. I can think of nothing more dramatic and worth celebrating then the return of the Captain to the Maple Leafs. It'd be fucking awesome! Okay, maybe winning the Cup, but after that, what could possibly happen that would be as dramatic and worth celebrating as Sundin's return?

If we have to finish last in order to build a championship, then fine, but I can wait one more year for that plan. Let's make this year about celebrating the Maple Leafs for the things they do well, first and foremost being, they entertain us. Spirit is everything this year. Sundin should come home.

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

Thanks General. We are nothing if not passionate.