Leafs/Hurricanes Preview


    Warning: The following could make your eyes fall out, your ears explode, and cost you years of therapy. How’s that an introduction for you?

    To say the least, battle of the basement. To say the most, one of them has to win, so kudos to that club, you managed to be less terrible. For the Leafs, on what was supposed to be a somewhat optimistic season, reaching the quarter mark of the season has really made fans shout out their true appreciation for Ron Wilson. Oh, I’m sorry, did I say appreciation? I meant the new sign up sheet for the Maple Leafs Lynch mob that has been circulating Toronto.
    Before I begin on the break down between these two clubs and the updates, I’d like to address something. For those of you criticizing Luke Schenn on a day to day basis, you need to recognize something. First of all, there was an interview on TSN with a former player who discussed Ron Wilson destroying Oleg Tverdovsky’s career in Anaheim. Now, we have a young, defensive minded prospect who is being thrown under the bus for the rest of the team being terrible. He’s 20, he’s still expected to make the mistakes he has been making, but the Leafs seem to be benching him as if it is all his fault. I will not be surprised if Ron Wilson and Brian Burke are using Schenn to be the team’s scapegoat this season so they can trade him away for another under performing American. I have nothing against American hockey players, but the ones that play for the Maple Leafs are anything but “All-American”, consider them the rest of the league’s “All American Rejects”, yes I made a music joke in a hockey thread.
    But if the Leafs were really that upset with Schenn’s performance, why not send him down and allow him to develop his game with Gunnarsson? I’d much rather have him continue to develop on a team that actually cares about giving him direction, rather than demanding he play on his off defensive wing and remain on his half of the ice. Essentially, no crossing over – which is what caused two of the goals against the Leafs in their game with the Senators. It’s poor coaching and lack of development to boost his confidence, not Schenn’s fault entirely. Also, since when are we able to pin point down the team’s F performance this season to one player? Last I checked, they all sucked.
    As for tonight’s game, in my opinion, this is the biggest test of the Leafs this season. If they lose tonight, pack it in boys, I’m going home. It is unacceptable to support a team that has no desire to win. I don’t care what Brian Burke is or is not trying to do right now behind the scenes, he’s losing his credibility. Luke Schenn finishes an evening at a -1 and is benched for an entire third period. Meanwhile, Francois Beauchemin continues to give up the puck on several occasions, finishing games at a -4 in which he had 2 points in, and he doesn’t get so much as a slap on the wrist. I’m sure if he was American he’d be promoted to captain.
    The Leafs are looking for a playmaker to set up Phil Kessel. Everyone in the world knows he can’t accept passes that are 10 feet behind him anymore, and he creates his own scoring opportunities. But where on Earth is Carmen San Diego? She’s with that playmaker in the AHL. Mike Zigomanis. It’s time to bring him into the lineup and see if he can transfer his excellent 13 assists in 7 games for the Toronto Marlies to the big club. I’m sure there’s no harm in trying him out, after all, Mike Komisarek and Garnet Exelby have played a combined 26 games and neither have a point. Zigomanis would be on par with them in his first game. He’ll also be just one point shy of tying Wayne Primeau, Colton Orr, and Jamal Mayers the second he steps on the ice. Or, to be even worse, he’ll only need 2 points to tie Rickard Wallin and Luke Schenn, and 3 points to tie Nikolai Kulemin. You get the point.
    Scratch That: It’s now be brought to my attention in quite the polite way that Zigomanis has signed on with Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Elitserian for the remainder of the season. Way to miss the boat Leafs…
    It’s why I don’t understand why the Leafs accept any of this. You could easily waive Jason Blake (who is no better than anyone they have in the AHL and is on pace for a whopping 9 goals this season), Jamal Mayers (who is in the final year of his contract), and Rickard Wallin (who has provided nothing to this team offensively, nor defensively). Bring up an entire line from the Marlies, have them all play together and see what happens. I promise you, they can’t be any worse. The reason they can’t and won’t do this is because the Leafs management are liars who have made us all believe that no one has earned a spot on the club and will be tested on a night to night basis. Time and time again we were told players had to show they belonged on the club or Burke would waive him. I believe he felt it safe to state that as he did not expect his team to lose more games in a single season than there are Twilight fans – and that is a lot of dumb people. No, nothing has changed since the JFJ era, aside from the fact that we have learned that the Leafs woes early on were due to Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan only.
    Also, on the Matt Stajan front, he has been taught to be a defensive minded forward for the last few years, and managed to have a couple of productive seasons. Now the team is demanding for him to be an offensive player and he’s having a hard time adapting to the new game. There’s a simple way of looking at this – the Leafs have put pressure on a kid who is not a scoring threat by any means. He is a decent two-way third liner, not a first line offensive centerman.
    The bottom line is if the Leafs lose tonight, and come the weekend nothing more than line shuffling occurs, it’s time to start following your playoff teams. Don’t even try and to tell me you don’t cheer for any other team during the playoffs. You’re about to have your 5th Leafs-less playoffs, I’m sure over the last 4 years you’ve found a way to enjoy something rather than going nearly 6 months without hockey.
    Another thing to consider, which is easier to do now since we know the outcomes of the risks management have taken in the trade avenue the past few years, is how pathetic the Leafs of the future are going to be. Now that we have no draft pick to look forward to in Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall this season, nor a pick next year (and really, how much better can they be next year?) the Leafs have successfully drafted Luke Schenn, Nazem Kadri, Jiri Tlusty and acquired Phil Kessel over the course of their potentially 6 years without making the post-season in our “rebuilding” phase.
    Enough is enough. Get the ball moving or get the hell out of Toronto. That is my message to this team. You’re professional athletes playing on a team that is at the cap. You expect the fans to sit back and baby you all for a 5th straight season? This is supposed to be the hockey capital of the world, but it seems that no one in Toronto knows how to even play.
    I will not be surprised to hear Phil Kessel requesting a trade anytime soon. God forbid the kid might want to actually win another game this season. I’m sure he’ll never request for it, but frustration certainly must be sitting in with every player on this club, no matter how well they hide it. Phil Kessel is absolutely the acception to the rule, essentially. He is clearly the face of the franchise moving forward, and hopefully the young players that are to be his supporting cast that are currently on the franchise can start to be handled and dealt with the appropriate attention.
    I am all in favor of benching a player for his unacceptable mistakes, but if you do not do the same to rest of the team, it sends the wrong message to us as fans who get to feel and think this way about the team, and to the player you are seemingly targeting. It is safe to say that Ron Wilson and Brian Burke do not want this to be a losing franchise by any means – that would be asburd. But there has to be a change made if this team wants any chance of salvaging the season.
    Here is the breakdown between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Carolina Hurricanes. Or, to put it simply, the 29th and 30th placed teams in the league – where souls go to die.
    Team Comparison:
    Powerplay: TOR 4th (25.0%), CAR 126h (14.6%)
Penalty Kill: TOR 30th (71.4%), CAR 19th (79.8%)
Faceoff % – TOR 19th (48.9%), CAR 20th (48.9%)
Average Shots For: TOR 4th (33.3), CAR 14th (30.4)
Average Shots Against: TOR 18th (30.1), CAR 16th (29.8)
Average Goals For: TOR 24th (2.47), CAR 30th (2.10)
Average Goals Against: TOR 30th (3.68), CAR 29th (3.60)
5 on 5 Goals For/Against Ratio: TOR 29th (0.66), CAR 30th (0.60)
    Leafs Lines in Practice:
    Alexei Ponikarovsky – Matt Stajan – Phil Kessel
Niklas Hagman – Mikhail Grabovski – Jason Blake
Lee Stempniak – John Mitchell – Nikolai Kulemin
Wayne Primeau – Rickard Wallin – Colton Orr/Jamal Mayers
    Tomas Kaberle – Jeff Finger
Francois Beauchemin – Ian White
Carl Gunnarsson – Luke Schenn
Garnet Exelby
    Jonas Gustavsson is expected to start.

    Note: I’m sure I’ve upset many people and that I should be more positive about this team, but enough is enough. I want a change in this club, and until they show us all that they are willing to do what is necessary to move forward and show positive signs of future success, there has to be a start to cutting this team’s ego down the size. While the boo birds at games do help, the seats are still sold out now aren’t they?

    Micheal A. Aldred