Raking Leafs

Mixing metaphors and casting cliches about hockey and the Maple Leafs for the ether's pleasure since MCMLXVII.


Goals for, or Goals Against? That is the question

The former was the popular choice in the pre-season, and continues to be the favorite meme for most league observers, to the point of ignoring the facts. If you don't believe me, go check some of those power rankings. The seven game skid in which they scored 9 goals, seems to be the expected performance level of the Leafs this year. Which is just silly.

Today, Mike Zeisberger acknowledges the most obvious flaw to recent editions of the Leafs: defense. And many thought the summer acquisitions would solve the sieve that was the 05-06 Leafs. But personnel wasn't the main issue last year, but rather the problem was a lack of execution of a sound team game plan in all three zones. Any team that is successful at keeping the puck out of their net does this, and the reason it works is because any schmuck can score a goal against the best defender in the world given the right position on the ice. Be it a two on one, or a takeaway, or gaining a quick positional advantage, if the defending player isn't where they are supposed to be and taking care of the puck with the proper support, they aren't defending anything.

I think we're a team that comes to play every night. We have skilled players for sure, but I think working as a team and giving our all for 60 minutes every night has been the key.

That is a laugh. Yes, the effort has improved, but in no way, shape, or form is it consistent. And as a result team D is still a problem. And even more worrying, Maurice is pinning this shortcoming on personnel as well.
It's a matter of (the) style of players that we have...We have an offensive-minded team...The guys up front, maybe with the exception of Mike Peca, all think they're offensive guys. When they get a good feeling and a positive feeling, they're looking to make plays...Because of that mindset, there are nights that we go out and look really good with the puck and nights that we don't. Our challenge is to introduce a bit more of a grind to our game, a bit more of a defensive mentality to our game without hurting our players' chances of doing what they do best.
While it is fundamental to play the game to a team's strengths, neglecting the important part of winning, i.e. not letting the opposition score, could be considered mental. I see this lack of focus and pride in defense as a coaching issue. Sure some players are "offensively minded", but great players are the ones that learn to take care of their own zone first and foremost.

And they learn that important lesson from who?



Wellwood ailing "for a while now"

That, according to coach Mo, may explain the performance variances from game to game from young master Wellwood, as he at times looks hungry and had jump while at others he looks passive and predictable.

My apologies, and more appropriately, thanks, to all who keep returning here despite the lack of original content the past few weeks. This time of year for me is like April for a CPA, so I'm just not finding the time to rake Leafs, despite the fact it is my favorite chore. Hopefully after today's year end account closing I'll get a chance to opine on why the Leafs can't handle the trap, on how Kubina and Carlo should get the Leafs to the post-season, and when Steen will get a scoring role.

Check out Tom Benjamin if you want to learn about the Pens' fate.

Say goodbye to Chris Young over at JABS, as he is moving on to bigger and better things despite the fact that he is the biggest and bestest MSM blogger out there.

And go see if you made Santa Rant's list for NHLers and bloggers alike.

Happiest of Holidays to you and yours, especially to those I've lost touch with recently. (sounds like a New Years resolution, if I do say so myself)

Peace out

P.S. - The Blogroll will be reciprocally updated soon. Thanks for the love.

Week 12 Rankings Round Up

CBC - week 12 - 19th (+2) (Updated 12/15/06)
Moore - week 12 - 14th (+1) (updated 12/21/06)
Sagarin - week 12 - 20th (+2) (updated 12/21/06)
DeGroat - week 12 - 18th (+8) (updated 12/17/06)
Johnson - week 12 - 13th (+7) (updated 12/19/06)
CBS - week 12 - 17th (+6)(trend)(updated 12/19/06)
TSN - week 12 - 16th (-3) (updated 12/18/06)
ESPN - week 12 - 16th (+2) (updated 12/18/06)
NBC - week 12 - 20th (-4) (updated 12/14/06)
SI - week 12 - 10th (+6) (updated 12/19/06)
Mirtle - week 10 - 19th (-7) (updated 12/05/06)
Spofi/Skydivedad - 20th (-4) (updated 12/11/06)



Week 11 Rankings Round Up

CBC - week 11 - 21st (-6) (Updated 12/08/06)
Moore - week 11 - 15th (-2) (updated 12/13/06)
Sagarin - week 11 - 22nd (-4) (updated 12/13/06)
DeGroat - week 11 - 26th (-11) (updated 12/10/06)
Johnson - week 11 - 20th (-8) (updated 12/12/06)
CBS - week 11 - 23rdth (-7)(trend)(updated 12/12/06)
TSN - week 10 - 13th (-7) (next update 12/18/06)
ESPN - week 11 - 18th (-4) (updated 12/11/06)
NBC - week 10 - 16th (-6) (updated 12/07/06)
SI - week 10 - 16th (-2) (updated 12/05/06)
Mirtle - week 10 - 12th (-4) (updated 11/28/06)



Tonight, the streak ends

Reasons for optimism:

-Aubin is getting the start. A little competition in the crease is healthy, I say. I'm not going to rue the fact that the team had the goal tending solution in house. Yet.
-Kubina is rounding into form. He should help stabilize the back end by providing more time in the offensive zone, and a more physical presence on the right flank. We were given a tease earlier this season, and I hope we'll be seeing the Pavel that commanded huge FA dollars.
-Sundin is due for a monster game. His early demise is greatly exaggerated. Bum elbow and all, he can still take over a game.

It might be the holiday party drinks talking, but this string of losses can't go on much longer.


First period update: I don't think Tucker's non-goal was in, but if it had been called a goal, I think the video goal judges might have come to a different conclusion. Aubin's goofy footed catching glove/blocker set up looked like it wasn't covering any net. He's got to bounce back from the two excellent shots that beat him. He stoned Marty St.Louis in all alone, so hopefully he can build on that. Kaberle passed on a couple of shot opportunities with players around the net. He has to fire those pucks. Forget the pretty play. Ugly is what is needed. Tucker made a great defensive play late in the period, breaking up a stretch pass that would've been breakaway number two. Carlo went for a hip check at the blue line and almost cold cocked his head on a forward's hip. Easy buddy.

Second period update: What a period from Kilger and Peca! The veteran trio with Tucker bring the team back to tie on in-your-face hockey plays. First Tucker rips a slapper on the break, and Chad gets to the net and pots the rebound. Next, as a Gill penalty expires with under a minute to play, Kubina hacks the puck carrier on the back check, then fires a pass to a streaking Peca who passes just at the hash marks to Kilger on his left who one-times the puck up high past Holmqvist. (I have the SUN South feed, and the color guy's favorite word is "atrocious" to describe the non-call on Kubina. It's hard not to agree with him, but at this point, I've got my blinders crazy glued to my temples.)

I've got to agree with Maurice's time out and replacing Aubin. J.S. wasn't on his game. He's got to make at least one of those saves, though the give away on Richards' goal was responsible. (Boy, am I consistent.)

Come on boys. This is where you've got to have your best period of the season and get off the no comebacks after being down through the first period schneid.

Third period update: Wellwood hucks a pass from half-board to half-board, Sundin spins and fires high for Tucker to redirect the puck downward past Johan Sebastian Blach to take the lead on the powerplay. Then O'Neill steps up and scores after trailing the rush of Bates on the wing with the puck who feathered to Pohl on the doorstep. Beauty. Too bad for Kilger who rung one off the cross-bar going for the trick.

After taking the lead, the Leafs didn't go into a shell and their play was actually inspiring confidence. When St.Louis scored right after Mt.Torterella called time out, I got on my knees. Figuratively. But the team finally closed one out. Nice work.



Team Memo

Quote of the Day - "We're all pissed off here, guys are breaking sticks and losing it a bit...It's not like we want this shit to be going on, night after night. Once again we had the lead late in the game and came away with no points. We're trying our damndest to win a freaking game and it's just not happening." - Jeff O'Neill

UPDATE - The only good news this morning is that the CBC has the early lead to retain broadcasting rights. Though, they are negotiating in an exclusive window granted to the incumbent, so this really isn't news at all. And yes, my cornflakes were yellow this morning.



Week 10 Rankings Round Up

CBC - week 10 - 15th (-5) (Updated 12/01/06)
Moore - week 10 - 13th (-3) (updated 12/06/06)
Sagarin - week 10 - 18th (-1) (updated 12/06/06)
DeGroat - week 10 - 15th (-4) (updated 12/03/06)
Mirtle - week 10 - 12th (-4) (updated 11/28/06)
Johnson - week 10 - 12th (-1) (updated 12/05/06)
CBS - week 10 - 16th (-6)(trend)(updated 12/05/06)
TSN - week 10 - 13th (-7) (updated 12/04/06)
ESPN - week 10 - 14th (-2) (updated 12/04/06)
NBC - week 10 - 16th (-6) (updated 12/07/06)
SI - week 10 - 16th (-2) (updated 12/05/06)


Look out below!!!! 7th in the East and falling fast

TOR vs ATL Dec.05/06

Line Combo TOI

I'm so disillusioned today. How can team embarass it self more than by consecutively giving away third periods? Why even play well the first two if you are going to shit the bed when it matters? What is Raycroft's save percentage by period I wonder? Not that he is soley responsible, but he sure isn't coming up with "timely" saves.

This team lacks finish, but it isn't the kind around the crease that has me worried. I don't know where this sense of entitlement comes from, but I wouldn't bet a cent on the Maple Leafs in a back-alley, or divisional, dog fight. It is almost as if the opposition is rope-a-doping them, lulling them into complacency. And the even scarier aspect is that when the team steps on the gas again, they are easily picked apart. That doesn't leave many appealing options when you can't play careful and you can't play aggressive.

And the media blaming referee revenge? Yeah, the refs rigged the puck so White would clear it over the glass, and put double-sided tape on Gill's stick so he'd be called for hooking repeatedly. And made Tucker a hot-head. Though, his reaction was somewhat welcome considering the lack of reaction from the rest of the team.

Since my optimism for this season is dying a quick death, here is how the 07-08 team is shaping up under the projected $47.5m salary cap:
Mats Sundin $6.3 million
Bryan McCabe $5.75 million
Pavel Kubina $5 million
Tomas Kaberle $4.25 million
Hal Gill $2.1 million
Andrew Raycroft $2 million
Chad Kilger $900,000
Kyle Wellwood $875,000
Mat Stajan $875,000
Alex Steen $720,000
Staffan Kronwall $612,000
Ben Ondrus $475,000
Andy Wozniewski $475,000
John Pohl $462,500
Other considerations:
(Ed Belfour buyout $700,000)
Total salary cap commitments: $31.5 million
Salary cap remaining: $16 million
UFA: Mike Peca, Darcy Tucker, Jeff O'Neill, Nik Antropov, Wade Belak, Bates Battaglia.
RFA: Alexei Ponikarovsky, Ian White, Carlo Colaiacovo, Alexander Suglobov, Brendan Bell, Jay Harrison.


Peachtree Dream Ends

TOR vs ATL Nov.30/06

Line Combo TOI

Can the phrase "anything can happen" be banned from all interviews of league and team employees? I feel a strange familiarity to that phrase's affect; like the Bush&Co. propoganda machine is trying to contort my grip on reality. Repeat bullshit enough, and bullshit achieves a degree of legitimacy. But rather than fear, they hock hope. And its an easy sell with the increased parity of the new-NHL (that phrase can stay, cause it ain't the same old NHL). But "anything" can't happen to every team each season. So can it, at least until after the trade deadline.

Ok, now that I've got that off my chest, onto the game. The streak over Atlanta had to end sometime, and boy did it come screeching to a hault last night, ushering me to continue with my surly comments. But first some praise for Atlanta, who were ubnbelievably good at gaining position along the boards, shutting off the direction the forwards wanted to cycle. It was uncanny. Like clockwork. Somebody has been doing a little scouting, and it paid off handsomely. And what can you say about Hossa. About the only thing he didn't do last night was score on his first breakaway, of which there were way too many. Hey Mo, you think teams exploit the fact that the D is activated most of the game? (I guess I couldn't hold off the criticism for long)

Here are some bullets that hopefully the team can use a motivational ammo:
-How disinterested did Raycroft look in the third? Geez. Aubin needs to get more starts if that is the level of compete we are going to see.
-Kubina best pick it up right quick. Son is looking shaky. On Hossa's first, he was nowhere on the PK, afraid to move from his perch beside the crease despite the fact he was covering nothing except a patch of ice with his shadow.
-Enough with the passes from behind the net into the slot. No one is ever there to recieve them. If they are, they aren't in good position (usually waaaay early), and if they manage that, their sticks are up in the air. Sticks on the ice boys!
-Fucking hit some folks! Holy crap?! Is this a Leafs team? I don't care if you are on the first powerplay unit, hit someone when given the chance. Passing up the opportunity to take the body 80% of time does not make this team harder to play against. And it gives teams the better ice because they know we don't own it.
-It was nice to see Steen with Sundin a man up. He also showed good instinct early in the first, as he curled out of the corner and when nobody picked him up he looked for a shot and got it off. Keep it up, Steen.
-Kaberle split his ES time between McCabe and Kubina. Keep an eye on this. McCabe might be losing his feeder.

That's all I've got for today. I'm going to go an enjoy my Friday night.

UPDATE - Steve Milton of the Hamilton Spectator provides a 10-point list to get things going again.