Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Word Is Leaf: November

Hey Gang! Sorry for the absence of posts and updates from this corner. Time and inspiration are in short supply these days.

Someday, I'd like to do a post reflecting on the life and career of Pat Burns, celebrating the great work and character that he brought to the game. He had a wonderful impact here in Toronto, as he did everywhere he went. He will be remembered and missed.

I'm kinda cheating with The Word Is Leaf this month. There were a lot of things said, a lot of excuses, and a lot of cynicism, but none of it seems humourous now, and only one quote really deserved merit and pointing out:

"You can say all you want about getting shots, but guys are playing soft in their end and in front, guys aren't competing, getting to the hard areas. It's pretty easy for their defencemen to box our forwards out. We're just not battling hard enough... Have a little will, take pride in getting to the net and take pride in scoring goals. Goals don't come free in this league. From the perimeter, guys have to be a little more hungrier."
-future Captain Luke Schenn

Here's a rundown of some random thoughts;

* I really feel for Schenn and Gustavsson as I think they've both been really good this year. I feel bad for Kaberle too and I think he's been excellent overall despite struggling with players that don't have his offensive imagination. However, without a dramatic turnaround and fast, Kaberle's usefulness and value will quickly diminish. For his own sake, I hope Kaberle finds a way off this sinking ship before it's too late.

* Versteeg at the point on the powerplay with Kaberle has been a good adjustment.

* While Mitchell and Lebda are obvious scapegoats, Tyler Bozak has been the biggest disappointment from an expectation perspective.

* Kessel doesn't really seem like himself lately. In October; 7 goals, 2 assists, 9 points in 10 games. For November, 3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points in 13 games.

*Clarke MacArthur has suddenly run cold with just 1 assist in his last 5 games and no goals over 12 games since November 2nd.

* Nikolai Kulemin, this week's Leaf Of The Week, has scored exactly half of the Leafs goals over the last 5 games - 4 out of 8. Kulemin has 4 goals in the last 5 games while the entire rest of the team has 4 goals combined. And Versteeg has 2 of those.

* Kadri added a brief spark when he was brought in - 4 assists in 5 games - but it didn't take long for him to adjust to Wilson's style and attention to detail and in the last 3 games Kadri has settled in as a minus 3 with no points.

* And now the really bad news. The Leafs have 4 wins in their last 19 games. 4-11-4 since opening the season 4-0-0.

* In the last 19 games, the Leafs have been shutout through 2 periods of play 10 times. Since that miraculous 4-and-oh start, the Leafs have scored a goal in the opening 40 minutes less than half the time...

* It's hard to fathom that the two above points can occur without a coaching change being imminent. How can a team endure a 4-11-4 slide without the coach being fired? How can a team go into the 3rd period without a goal 10 times in less then 20 games without the coach being held accountable?

* The ACC has often been described as a morgue, but on Tuesday night, with the Leafs ahead 3-2 and just 12.5 seconds on the clock, I was astonished to see the crowd sitting in their seats for the faceoff in the Leafs end after the time-out. Just a dozen seconds away from snapping a two-game losing streak and securing a 4th consecutive victory on home-ice, after a gritty performance by Gustavsson and a limb-sacrificing shift from Mike Brown, and the Toronto audience - the best hockey fans in the world in my estimation- aren't standing and clapping and urging the Leafs on to victory. They're just sitting there, passively observing. It's curious. My first inclination was that these fat cats in the gold and platinum seats just don't care about hockey the way the middle-class and working-class do, but that's a pretty silly generalization that unfairly judges people I don't know. I don't understand how the economy works so I can't really discuss it, but there's no law that says that any amount of money you have should stop you from caring about whatever you want to care about, including hockey teams.

Instead, what I think we're seeing, and it's not just limited to the sushi-crowd but is actually happening in every corner of Leafs Nation, is total disenchantment. A reluctance, nay even a refusal, to embrace and believe in our own fantasy constructs. Complete emotional disengagement while remaining utterly fixated. The Toronto Maple Leafs are the Britney Spears of the NHL. The world's most popular train wreck.


Harold said...

Your final point is difficult to accept, but I think you're right. One can only have their soul crushed so many times.

I think the Leafs have been doing poorly since the lockout for me. They see that I am in university and know that if they play well, my focus will be on them instead of my studies. They have not made the playoffs during my entire 4yr degree - knowing full well that playoff hockey and final exams do not mix well. Having said that, I graduate in 2011. My expectation is that the Leafs will once again be a viable NHL franchise for the 2011-12 season, with a nice long playoff run. Y'know, once I am able to fully enjoy it.

2012 Playoffs!!!1

buddha hat said...

* Kadri added a brief spark when he was brought in - 4 assists in 5 games - but it didn't take long for him to adjust to Wilson's style and attention to detail and in the last 3 games Kadri has settled in as a minus 3 with no points.

It's funny because it's true!! Dear God, does everyone have to be crushed by the Blue and White? can't we let this one kid's imagination live just this once?


Navin Vaswani said...

Great post. Well said.

general borschevsky said...

@Harold: Thank goodness you aren't in medical school!

Thanks buddha hat and thanks Navin!