Friday, January 11, 2013

Time Flies

Too much time has passed. So much time gone. So little accomplished. 

I remember when Paul Maurice was hired. Young, smart guy. Honoured by the gig. Oh, the optimism. Since, he's been fired, almost guided a rival to the cup final, then split for Russia. Back then it was like, huh? What just happened? It was only yesterday he...

We should have known.

The Burke hiring was a great moment. So much promise (or promises) accompanied him to a place where people were so starving for something decent. We could feel it then. It was going to be worth it. Our patience would finally be rewarded. Yeah, ah... wishful thinking. It's over already, and we can't feel a thing. He's stunned. We're stunned. What the **** happened to the grit and greatness sold on us? Looking back, yes, there were many chances for Burke to make good on his plan. Several of them, moments, seasons. There was plenty of opportunity to resurrect the sleeping giant. None of it however was enough. It's hard to believe, man. After all of that, the fact Burke's tenure concludes without anything of substance produced is simply surreal. Again. Nothing.

When does this end?

And when does it begin?

So here we go, again. Another start to what most just have to expect will be a lacklustre finish to follow. And again it's Burke's understudy tasked with mopping up his mentor's mess, in addition to at last breaking the Leafs' perpetual, comical succession of failure. Good luck! But give Dave Nonis credit. He's done it before, like Burke had done it before. Just not here. See, that's where just about everyone who comes and then goes from this organization is linked.


Other places. That's where things happen for these hockey people. They come in with cred. Then start re-building it minutes after lift-off from a runway at Pearson. So what about us? What about here? When does success grace this place? The one that clamours for it most, yet continues to go without?

Well, I will say it like I've said before: It is our time, again.

It's always been our time.

So, until the next... we hope.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Burke against the world

It really is. Brian Burke against the world.

The man is down to his last play as GM. And he's going to play it his way, or get fired trying.

Credit the man. Criticize the general manager.

Burke is lauded for his honesty; but after an hour's worth of saying just about nothing enticing or encouraging in his year-end press conference, one should hope he's actually lying through his teeth. Because the truth, coming from Brian Burke, really hurts.

This is his mess. Based on what he's telling us, I don't feel confident that he's going to succeed in cleaning things up in time. I do believe he's been trying. And will continue to. Until the Chairman's next apology and thanks. Not to Leafs fans, but to Brian himself.

More Burke and playoff predictions

Monday, April 9, 2012

Little to say

I don't know about you, but there's not much Brian Burke can tell me that will improve my opinion of his hockey club.

My hope is that he'll keep his annual end-of-season "state of the team" address brief, focused and humble.

There's no need for Burke to get defensive or puffy chested. He has little success to brag about, or even any irons in the fire to talk up that might get a disgruntled support base stoked. In essence, he's got nothing. So there's no point in him trying to sell anything.

What the embattled, embarrassed GM should do first is apologize for the mess his team has become. After that, pledge himself to trying yet again to resurrect the franchise. The last thing Burke should do is request that Leafsnation continue on as the unabashed foundation of the club. We know that most Leafs fans aren't going anywhere; but a demonstration of appreciation for their patience, and a public repentance for abusing it is more than worthy in a dire, dumpy, desperate time like this.

Playoff picks:

Pens over Flyers in 7 (Philly is crass, but Sid and the Pens are class)
Predators over Wings in 7 (Wings are again good, but special? Why not Nashville?)
Canucks over Kings in 5 (Vancouver has a mission: Win the Cup)
Senators over Rangers in 7 (Sens played them well, will upset)
Capitals over Bruins in 6 (Caps had better overcome or Dale is headed back to London)
Blues over Sharks in 6 (Blues run isn't done, Sharks disappointing)
Coyotes over Hawks in 6 (Coyotes solid, consistent, due for series win)
Devils over Panthers in 6 (Deboer's new team is better constructed than his old one)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Under review

Everyone and thing involved with this organization should be under review starting directly after game 82 in Montreal.

The Leafs are top heavy, yet gravely thin where they should be strong and healthy. I don't see the head coach or his traditional style of play going anywhere. So those on the roster either not willing to adapt, or who just can't get the 'defense first' strategy, could be gone. I think Phil Kessel would be included in that mix. One way or the other. Carlyle has needs to win. Brian Burke must fulfill those needs this off season.

On fans staying away to demonstrate displeasure...

The fans who would boycott the ACC to make a statement aren't going to the games anyway. If walk-up sales were key to the Leafs bottom line, we'd no doubt see numbers decrease. Who would, on a whim, drop dollars on this product? The thing is, most of those seats are sold well in advance. They're Birthday presents, Christmas gifts, corporate perks, etc. As we know, Leafs tickets are considered "special" if not rare, and not easily obtained by the average fan. And hey, those people who simply go for show... will again show up. Some just want to be there. Others have to be. So whether fans are in the seats during this brutal period really doesn't matter. Nor should the fact that the building is generally full be held against team supporters. If the Leafs performance isn't a deterrent, there's nothing fans without a ticket can do to keep those who have them at home. Plus, loving those "let's go blue jays" chants.

Want to make a difference without forcing yourself to divorce the movement emotionally? Don't support the organization financially. Write about your displeasure. Call, speak, shout, stand up and demonstrate! While boos rain down inside the ACC organize a protest outside of it. You might not be able to get in, but you can get involved. At this new low point in team history, it's high time you did.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Evan born

Our second child arrived today. Evan Norman James was born at 4:45am Monday, March 19th at Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario. So far his wait for a Leafs Stanley cup winner has been all of about 12 hours.

Tightening up:

In 7 of the 9 games with Randy Carlyle behind the bench the Leafs have surrendered three goals or less. Toss in three one goal games, a pair of regulation shutouts and it appears the Leafs are beginning to get the hang of being a defensively responsible club. It's an encouraging sign. The next crucial steps going forward will be to transform from a stingy team into one that is equally opportunistic offensively. Despite this two game run, it'll be a challenge the rest of the way, especially without key contributors up front. Though, Phil Kessel is still around. Hopefully scoring goal number 35 in Ottawa lit a bit of a fire under his ass. He's got a legit shot at reaching 40 for the first time while helping to make things interesting down the stretch. If he figures out a way to create his own space and manufacture chances, he could be into some historic business by game 82. And perhaps beyond? First up, time to nut up. Against an old foe that should have it coming.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Leafs win

Despite general hopes for despair it is kind of nice to see the home team come out victorious. For me, right now, I'm watching to see who does what. Team success might not be an indicator of what's to come, but even in "garbage time" players can emerge. I'm expecting James Reimer to get the bulk the starts down the home stretch so the Leafs can really see what they've got in him. For his sake, I hope he tightens up. As in his play. Not his mentality. 


Why do so many people believe that Phil Kessel is an untouchable? He's a member of a failed roster. Everything and everyone on it should be under review. Considering he's having his best season to date Kessel wouldn't be reviewed for poor play. Instead the team should consider how his style of game fits into the future plan. He needs better players around to him make things happen. Where are those better players going to come from? And how long will it take to get them here?

The addition of Joffrey Lupul was a terrific one from Kessel's perspective. And the intention going forward would be that those two pick up where they left of a month ago, next season. That's still possible. But how do we know that Lupul's comeback campaign wasn't just a thing of singular beauty? How many of us thought this team was home and cooled in early February? Yeah, and look at how that turned out. Point is, there are never any guarantees with this club. Without Lupul, Kessel isn't the best he can be. And as evidenced lately, nowhere close.

Back on the "Trade Kessel" front, I believe it would be smart business for the Leafs to at least sniff around to see what could be had for this potential 40 goal scorer. Perhaps a player of similar stature and age but who brings a different set of characteristics to the club? It's worth a call or two. Kessel's value may never be higher. What's certain is that his annual pay rate will soon spike. And the Leafs are already paying too many guys who do too little too much money. So too bad for Kessel. If he's going to make $7 million plus as the team's best player, he'll need to pick up his own slack plus theirs too. Kessel might be the best offensive player on the ice. It's his two-way game that many doubt will improve. And if you're playing for Randy Carlyle, it had better.

Again, I'm not saying deal Kessel for any dirty old draft pick. Just take a look around. See what's out there and how it might apply here. He'll be coming off a career year. Question is, when's the team going to have one of those?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Just end it

Anyone else ready for the NHL season to end?

Since the Leafs have had forks stuck in them in shocking then pathetic fashion, there's really not much of a reason to watch any more. Unless you're rubbing necking? In which case I wouldn't exactly blame you. We all do it.

Witnessing this nonsense doesn't hurt. We're numb to it. But man, enough is enough.

Sure, I'll tune in during the playoffs, quietly hoping a certain team other than the Leafs goes all the way. But like the team I've followed so closely for so long, I've been zapped of interest. Sadly, horribly, it's become a Spring tradition.

The math:

The Leafs are 3 points better than a 3rd selection at the upcoming draft. Forget pride. A high pick is the only true solace in enduring this new low. We know it. The organization knows it. If only they could concede it. It would save time, the team's little effort, and the mountain of embarrassment it's causing all of us.


If you're an OHL fan I'm sure you're pumped for an Attack-Sting first round match-up?! Depending on what Mike Halmo gets for his super body check on Nail Yakupov, expect something nasty... if they hook up. Owen Sound is defending a title. Sarnia thinks it should be considered a favourite to win the next one. Plus these two will have just battled it out for 4th in the Western Conference. Should be good.

On the TV end of the things, we'll be up in Sarnia on Thursday to get reaction from Alex Galchenyuk on his season debut. Plus we'll dig a bit to get an update on Yakupov's condition. We only care because they could be future Leafs, right?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Alex is back

Sting forward and potential NHL first round selection, Alex Galchenyuk will make his season debut in Sarnia tomorrow evening versus the Saginaw Spirit. It's been a long grind back. A knee injury knocked him out of action September 16th. Unfortunately he'll return to a team without pal and former line mate, Nail Yakupov.

This from GM and Head Coach, Jacques Beaulieu:

“It’s a very exciting day both for Alex and his family along with our organization. It was unfortunate this injury occurred however injuries are a part of the game and we have all dealt with it as best we could. This is a testament to Alex and the work ethic he possesses. It was truly incredible to watch how hard Alex worked throughout his rehabilitation. Also a lot of credit needs to be given to Dr. Giffin and his staff at the Fowler Clinic and our entire team of Doctors including Dr. Vargo and Dr. Barwitzki”

More from Beaulieu:

“Its great that Alex is able to get in a few games prior to the playoffs to help regain some of that game shape that will take some time, that being said how much he plays and in what situations he plays will be monitored very closely. We have to keep in mind what is best for Alex not just this season but for his career moving forward. He has a bright future in this game and that is always the top priority when dealing with any of our players.”

Galchenyuk stories

Tanks, we're good

What's with this tanking stuff?

Brian Burke telling Damien Cox that the idea of his team purposely tanking "ain't happening".

Got news for Burke: Don't worry about it, bud. Your Leafs have it taken care of.

Not sure the GM has been watching his club in action? Perhaps in the same way he'd been ignoring it's play around the time he fired Ron Wilson? Back then he said he still believed in his group. Really? After a slide like that? BS. Inside he had to know it was over. And he has to know it's over now.

Try as hard as they might, the Leafs' sail has zero wind propelling it forward. At this point, the oars are out. But rowing against the current once set adrift is futile, like any mini-run towards 10th the Leafs might attempt to go on.

Burke's loyalty is admirable, but it's also become a serious fault while in Toronto. He can talk up his players and people all he wants, but it doesn't mean he'll be rewarded with effort that's equally admirable. So far, here, he's been letdown on that front big time.

Call a spade a spade, Burke. Your team will be lucky to win 3 games down the final stretch. Knowing what's stake, that's not a bad thing. Just admit it. Make peace. Then make your pick.

Galchenyuk returns
Give Burke more time

Monday, March 12, 2012

One more year

Before we book Brian Burke a ticket on the midnight train to Siberia, let's take a breath, calm down, and re-organize our angst.

There's no doubt that based on the results his tenure with the Maple Leafs appears a failure. The team he built, bolstered, and bragged about is in one of the worse death spirals in franchise history. The optics are horrible. And going forward, in terms of gaining any serious respect or trust, the embattled GM really doesn't have a pot to piss in. So what then? Fire him? And replace him with who? Dave Nonis? Let's just wait a second. Brian Burke still has more to give.

Special case

Under most circumstances someone in Burke's position would be relieved of his duties, either on the spot or following the season. See Montreal: Pierre Gauthier is on borrowed time. But Burke is in Toronto as more than a general manager. He's the president of the club. And more importantly (or annoyingly) the bombastic figure head of the organization. He was installed to make the team a champion, and to keep the Leafs the top talk of Canadian sports. While he hasn't improved the team's image much, he has kept the club on the tip of tongues across the country. Burke is everywhere. In good times (the few) and the bad. To get him out of "office" it's going to take a lot more than this recent fall from however close to grace the Leafs were. We should just deal with it. Besides, considering Burke's trade history there might be a good deal or two left for him to make.

Making amends

If there's one guy who'd die trying to make this organization respectable again, it's Burke. Look at him now. He looks like he's aged 10 years over the past 4. It can't be vain. Burke made this mess and you know he's willing to die just a little more to clean it up. It's a hockey thing, and a pride thing. Because right now the hockey sucks, and his reputation is a close second. It's going to take another off-season (or two) for Burke and his brain trust to right the ship, so settle in. Endure this slip to the bottom. Get excited and prepped for a high pick in the draft. And maybe, while you're champing at the bit, throw the AHL Marlies a bit of attention. After all, Burke built them into a Cup contender.

Galchenyuk stories
Why not trade Kessel?