I'm Back: The Return of thatleafsguy
What is the deal people? We are less than 10 days away from the trade deadline and where are the rumors? I’ll tell you what, pay Eklund 20 bucks and see if he can make some up for you.
Where are all the legitimate rumors, everybody seems to be making stuff up these days and some are profiting off of it. But I digress…
As for the Leafs, since the All Star break it’s like a switch has gone off. These guys are playing like a team and getting contributions from different players on a nightly basis. What exactly has happened to turn this team around in such a positive direction?
Has it been the guidance and game plan of Maurice?
Has it been the handing of the number 1 goaltender status unequivocally to Raycroft by Maurice?
Has it been the power play?
Has it been the veteran or not so veteran leadership from within the dressing room?
Has it been the breaking up of Kaberle and McCabe and pairing Kabs with Kubina?
What has happened to this team to make it look far different than the team we saw previous to the all star break?
This turnaround is outstanding. When you look at the situation in the Eastern conference there are some remarkable resemblances to 2 teams from last season, the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens. This years Leafs team is last years Oilers team and this years Habs’ team is last years Leafs team.
The Leafs are coming up from behind in the playoff race and currently sit in 8th, much like the Oil from last year. The Habs on the other hand have plummeted, going on a prolonged losing streak and their best offensive player is a one dimensional defenseman who is ironically heading towards UFA status in the off season, Souray (aka McCabe).
Now I do realize that we still have 20 games remaining, but given the way that Toronto has played the Habs this season and has played since the all star break I cannot for the life of me see the Habs even touch the Leafs in the standings. As I sit here and write this, the Leafs currently sit at 66 points with a game in hand on the Habs who sit with 64 points and continue to spiral down into the abyss. The Leafs will have the opportunity this year to drive the final nails in the coffins of the Habs and they are licking their chops at the opportunity to do it. Revenge is sweet!
Prior to the season staring I had stated that I felt that the Leafs were good enough to finish anywhere afrom 5th to 8th in the conference, they currently are in the last playoff spot and only 5 points behind both Ottawa and Pittsburgh for 4th or 5th in the conference.
The difference with this Leaf team from past Leaf teams is that the Leafs are one of the hardest working teams in the league. Ask the Oilers and Islanders about that. Maurice has instilled a fore checking game that seems to work very well with this team. They use their size to their advantage down low. It seems as though each line has been formed to play to their strengths and advantages, something else Maurice should be given credit for.
The emergence of players like Colaiacovo, White, Pohl, Antropov, Steen, Stajan, Battaglia, Devereaux, Ponikarovsky, a resurging Jeff O’Neill, an overpaid but stable Pavel Kubina, and yes even an oft criticized hulking defenseman in Hal Gill have been huge pluses for this team. Everyone is working hard as a unit on the ice and for the most part are controlling the tempo of the game and spending a lot of time in the opposition’s end of the rink.
This Leafs team is proving most of the preseason hockey critics and media wrong and is heading right to the playoffs. The question is with this strength in team unity and chemistry will the Leafs make a major addition to their lineup come trade deadline?
Will they part with current young or old roster players to make moves that upgrade the team in certain areas?
Will they deal their future in picks and prospects for a run this year?
These will be make or break decisions for JFJ as the deadline approaches. All I can say is that a Bill Guerin, Gary Roberts or Todd Bertuzzi would look very good in a Maple Leaf uniform. The question will be would it be the right move to make for the good of the team?