(my recent mapleleafs.com blog)
ENJOY IT WHILE YOU CAN LEAFS FANS
by dr.joey only
I am ever the Leafs optimist. The farm has begun to provide useful stock and it’s a huge relief to me. I am deep in enemy territory. Thus have I patiently endured years of verbal abuse from Canucks fans whose arrogant jargon and verbal diarhea feasted on the Maple Leafs misfortunes laughing at my expense. I am not a bandwagon fan, I waited with patience and in the last two years I began to finaly feel really frustrated. If you think being a die hard Leafs fan is hard living in Ontario, try enduring a decade of utter futility five provinces westward. When I see my team become competitive and exciting to watch again it’s not just about dreaming of the Stanley Cup, it’s about having dignity as a Leafs fan in a place where we aren’t very popular.
The biggest danger for the Leafs will be if they play hard, stay the course and then just miss the playoffs. That would be a huge setback for this group and a demotion in the draft lottery. Keep in mind that this is a much more cohesive and better coached bunch than a year ago. Last year the Leafs were in the playoff picture well into January before their implosion and the end of Ron Wilson’s tenure began, it was close to the the 48 game mark when they fell apart. This is a different team under a different watch, they are having fun and believing in each other. They aren’t going to fall apart this time. Many teams in the East aren’t looking all that sharp so far this year, meanwhile the Leafs are the second youngest bunch of legs in the league which should help them in a condensed season.
Today we are 8-5, good for 4th in the East. It was the first time in a decade that the Leafs were a plus team a quarter into the season, let alone had a player at the top of the league in that category. Who would have guessed that little known names like Mark Fraser (+10), Matt Frattin (+6), Jay McClement (+5) and Nazem Kadri (+5) would be leading the team in responsible play? Who would have thought the goals would pour in from James Van Riemsdyk (8) and Frattin (7) or that Kadri and Kessel would be play makers before goal scorers? Anybody who has criticized Kessel this year ought to be shaking their heads, his game has grown through back checking and play making. Trading Kessel would be utterly foolish, he’s just becoming what we’ve been waiting for.
Even with Reimer injured there should be no reason to panic. It was scary to see him go down after elevating his play to the level a legitimate winning NHL goalie is expected to be at and he has been stellar. But there’s no need to panic, patience is the best thing for Leafs Nation…just a little more patience. We don’t need to trade any of our youth for anyone’s ridiculous contract no matter who they are. This team does not need Luongo to come between it, the philosophy change was to raise a farm and by that logic Ben Scrivens must be given a full shot at becoming an NHL goalie. He will get that chance.
This Leaf team is playing Randy Carlysle’s defensively responsible brand of hockey, Scrivens won’t be hung out to dry quite like goalies of the past. If he can win half of his games till Reimers return the Leafs will still be in the playoff picture. These boys will play for him because so many of them already have in the AHL. On the AHL squad is a wealth of suitable talent, enough to pull the team through the loss of Joffry Lupul who happens to be the most complete player they have. Instead there will be real questions when Lupul and Jake Gardiner are ready to come back, no one stands out as an obvious candidate for demotion. What a great problem to finally have!
Even the fourth line is playing well and they are a big reason for the teams success. This Leafs team is trucculent. With Fraser McLaren, Mike Brown and Colton Orr there are some characters on that line that must give opposing teams nightmares. But if something happens when the blue bomber line isn’t on the ice there’s Mark Fraser and Mike Kostka who aren’t afraid to throw down. Dion Phanuef doesn’t need to risk his hands fighting anymore, the Leafs lead the league in fighting majors. If that’s not good enough they also lead the league in hits thanks to players like Leo Komarov. They appear to be faster than most other teams as well.
This is the team that stood up to Boston for the first time in years then hammered the Habs senseless and proceeded made the Flyers look slow and weak. They’ve lost five. They simply couldn’t beat Ryan Miller and, as youth sometimes do, blew third period leads to both New York teams. Against Boston we were just pleased to lose 1-0 rather than 8-0 for a change, that was after a controversial disallowed goal kept Toronto off of the scoreboard.
With a slight reversal of fortunes in some of those games they may have been able to coral a couple more points. They’ve had a couple bad periods to both New York teams, but there was only one game this season where the Leafs looked really flat. It was the 4-1 loss to Carolina. But on Thursday they will get their chance at revenge.