Wednesday, October 13, 2010

31 Shots: Parade Planning Edition

phaneuf leafs goal
I’m frenzied. The Leafs have started their march to the playoffs by going 3-0. Last year they didn’t win their third game until November 7th. The last time the Leafs started a season 3-0 was 1999-2000. That year they won the Northeast division with 100 points before losing in the second round to the eventual Stanley Cup winning New Jersey Devils.

If you were expecting a long thesis driven piece you’ve come to the wrong place. Here are 31 random, crazed thoughts about the Leafs so far, based on Elliotte Friedman’s excellent series titled 30 thoughts. Originally, I intended to name this series 41 Shots after the Bruce Springsteen song, but that is actually about the police shooting death of Amadou Diallo, which isn’t really a light topic you relate to on your hockey blog. Plus, 41 harebrained thoughts are hard to come up with.

Why 31? It’s one more than 30.

Get ready to shake your head.

- I’m telling myself to quell my excitement. The Leafs beat two mediocre teams in Montreal and Ottawa and squeaked by a banged up Penguins squad tonight. Plus, it’s only three games into the season. It’s premature to have a Leafs Boner, but I like what I’m seeing so far.

- After the Leafs won their first game everyone made jokes about Leafs Nation planning the parade route. The same tired jokes were made after the second game, but people started to take notice of the Leafs after the way the dismantled the Sens. I’m sure the parade jokes are still flowing free, but now there isn’t as much of a guffaw after the jokes. People are nervous. This is the New Leafs.

- Granted, it is only three games. The Leafs began to show cracks at the end of the game Wednesday, but managed to hang on for the victory over the Penguins. Will this play continue? I’d be skeptical if the Leafs were winning games by dangling their opponents or getting lucky breaks here and there, but the wins are largely a product of hard work and relentless forechecking. They can replicate this.

- The end of tonight’s game was pretty exciting. It seems like the Leafs will win by building a lead early and hanging on for dear life. They don’t have the offensive firepower to pour it on, so they’re going to have to protect, protect, protect. It’ll be interesting.

- Speaking of defence, Dion Phaneuf didn’t make any bold predictions or guarantees when he stated the Leafs’ goal was to make the playoffs. A goal isn’t a guarantee. Everyone’s goal at the beginning of the season should be to make the playoffs, even if you finished dead last five years in a row. Stating that your ambition is any lower just helps cultivate a culture in which losing is acceptable. Hasn’t that culture been present long enough in Toronto?

- The internet was abuzz after the Leafs fell to the Senators 5-0 in the opening game of the pre-season as if 2010-2011 would just continue the previous six seasons. Ridiculous. I don’t put much stock into the first game of a playoff series, there is no way anyone should put any stock into the first game of the pre-season.

- If you’re mad that Colby Armstrong is making $3 million to play on the third line just realize that Clarke MacArthur plays on the second line for $1.1 million. It all evens out. Unless they both play like they should be on the fourth line.

- I didn’t know anything about Clarke MacArthur before the beginning of the season except that he was super fast in NHL 10.

- If you’re mad that the Leafs gave away two first round picks for Phil Kessel just think back to the beginning of last season and imagine someone asked you what the Leafs would have to trade to obtain Dion Phaneuf. You’d immediately suggest a first round pick in the package. Somehow the Leafs got Phaneuf without trading one.

- Doing positive spin on these things keeps me from abandoning hockey all together.

- But if you’re mad the Leafs didn’t take the slow and cautious route of re-building through the draft just remember that the Florida Panthers are on their 10th year of another re-build, so the draft is far from a sure thing.

- I’m tired of everyone talking about Luke Schenn’s sophomore slump. Yes, he was a healthy scratch for an extended period of time last season and he did look lost at times, but after returning to the line-up he actually played really, really well (with the odd dud thrown in here and there). Just because he was a healthy scratch doesn’t mean you’re allowed to make up your mind and write off his season.

- Now the only talk of his sophomore slump is in relation to his current play and how it differs greatly. Meaning, this year he’s more like the rookie of a few years ago who mucked it up with anyone and had a nasty edge to his game.

- What’s even more impressive is that Luke Schenn is looking positively Kaberlesque this season. He holds the puck for that extra split-second which freezes the forecheckers, allowing him to make simple passes out of the zone. He’s even taking snappers from the point that don’t fly right into the forward’s shin-pads.

- The Kaberle-Schenn pairing is looking like money early on. They complement each other’s strengths so perfectly.

- I can’t believe how hard I trashed Tomas Kaberle all summer and now he’s playing out of his mind. That’s how you light a fire under a player. Ron Wilson should take notes.

- For the record, immediately after the August 15th trade deadline I compared Kaberle to a stale fart that won’t leave a room. I was angry. Forgive me, Kabs.

- The defence is far from perfect, but they’ve been solid over the first three games. What’s most impressive is that they’re actually using their sticks to deflect passes. Shocking, I know. It’s like someone is actually coaching them or something. Or maybe it’s that they finally have players who recognize the value of their coaches.

- I’m usually very patient with young players, but with Brett Lebda available to play (soon) I’m putting Carl Gunnarsson on notice.

- I know it’s ridiculous considering Gunnarsson led the Leafs in +/- last season, but he struggled during the pre-season and hasn’t looked comfortable to start the regular season. Is this a sophomore slump? Is this all too much? It’s been three games! I need to keep telling myself that.

- The Leafs finally have a third line. That’s weird to say considering the Leafs of the last few years consisted primarily of third liners. However, most of those third liners got a taste of first line minutes and thought a little too highly of themselves (Matt Stajan Syndrome). It’s refreshing to see a third line that actually battles along the boards and willingly blocks shots.

- The biggest difference from last year is the goaltending. The Leafs are getting timely saves that they never got last season. In wins over both the Habs and the Pens, both Giguere and Gustavsson came up big at the end of the game making great saves to preserve the win.

- Last year, if the Leafs were winning in the third period it was a guarantee that they’d let the opposition tie the game in the dying seconds and proceed to lose in overtime. It happened so often there was no surprise. I prepared for it.

- Again, can we blame last season on Vesa Toskala? Yes. Let’s shake him down for the second overall pick.

- Colton Orr’s fight against Deryk Engelland tonight was a classic punch-for-punch battle where no one blocks their face. I certainly didn’t like seeing Orr take the K.O. but when your job is to punch people in the face every few nights it’s likely that you’re going to take a few beatings each year.

- However, it’s always troubling when a fighter takes a knock-out. Can they recover or does their knock-out show everyone else in the league that they’re mortal. Is this going to get into Orr’s head and make him a tentative fighter? Am I over-analyzing a fight in the third game of the season?

- I’ll relate this to the Jersey Shore. Jwoww, who started the season walking around looking like a shark in blood infested water, lost a fight to Sammi Sweetheart in decided fashion in one of the early episodes of season 2. After Sammi took it to the champ Jwoww lost her edge. She didn’t mix it up in the house and wasn’t the force she was before the beat-down.

- Although, Jwoww made her pro wrestling debut on Monday (airing Thursday) for TNA, so I’d say she’s hasn’t lost it just yet.

- Talk to me when Tyler Seguin scores 30 goals. I don’t dispute that he will be a good player, but everyone’s bashing the Kessel trade as if Seguin is already pencilled in as MVP for the next decade. He’s scored one goal. So far, I’m thoroughly unimpressed.

- Here’s a great tweet from eyebleaf, the most optimistic (yet sane) Leafs fan on the internet, “Seguin goes pointless and -2 in his NHL debut. Maple Leafs win the Phil Kessel trade. Nice.”

- However, if the Leafs give away another lottery pick I’m going to start following cricket.


Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

Kaberle's still mad at you, dude. It's going to take a little bit more penance.

And cricket isn't so bad. Give it a shot.

Unknown said...

You should be less critical of Kabs and Cricket!

Dr. Marla Shapiro said...

I think the biggest overlooked fact is that the Leafs traded away Jason Blake, dumping him on an american team, how is he ever going to get healthcare down there with a preexisting condition? That is just pure awful, Burke is effectively trying to kill Blake.

By the way his preexisting condition was and is throwthepuckonthenetitis and not the good kind Don Cherry speaks of

Matt Horner said...

Kenny, at first I thought Cricket was a nickname you gave Gunnarsson. I love baseball, so I don't have anything against cricket considering they operate on semi-similar principles. The only thing that worries me is that games can last for days. What's up with that?

Ted Rigby said...

Lots of good points... mostly because you stole them from my livejournal! Jksin, jksin.

Kabby is redeemed since we're winning so far. I don't think the issue was ever his skill, it was the fact that he represented a valuable-tradeable veteran this summer, and after a 29th place finish, we were all thinking in the future, where an older Kabby ain't that useful.

Orr needed to get beat so he knows his role... get those soft hands the fuck out of here, with that tip-in goal, and smash some faces!

Also, Komisarek is like Snooki cause he's short and likes pickles... I'm assuming.

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