Archive for category Leafs’ Radio
The Leafs beat the New York Rangers 4-2 tonight, ending their fathers/sons road trip with a 1 – 1 record. They played a solid game against the Rangetrs who are one of the suprise teams in this early NHL season, sitting near the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Recent Leafs acquisitions Tim Connolly, Cody Franson, and Joffrey Lupul scored for the Leafs while David Steckel added an empty netter. Franson has had a frustrating start to the season spending a lot of time in the press box, but with a few injuries on the back-end, he has now been given an opportunity and has played well.
This is one of the key differences this year for the Leafs. They have NHL caliber players sitting in the press box where as the last few years they had AHL calibre players playing significant NHL minutes.
On Saturday Ron Wilson told the media that Gustavsson would be playing that night against the Bruins, but at game time James Reimer got the start, causing a bit of a radio, twitter, media rift. Burke threw his 2 cents in defending his coach to what is essentially a non issue. So when Ron Wilson said that Gustavsson would be starting today, it was a surprise to the Toronto media when Gustavsson actually got the start. The Monster had a solid game and came up with 30 saves.
The Leafs will try and build off this win when they suit up versus the New Jersey Devils tomorrow night at the ACC.
The Leafs have had strong start to the NHL season so far. This is not suprising after some very strong moves Brian Burke made over the past year to add solid depth to the lineup. What is surprising is their inability to put up any resistance versus the Boston Bruins in four games this year. In these four games the Leafs have been dominated, absent of any confidence when playing the defending Cup champs.
I expect the Leafs to continue to play well this year and make the playoffs, they have the defence, scoring, and goaltending to get there, but what does thei inability to compete against the Bruins say about their character? About their abiliry to win the big game? It says they still have a ways to go until they can be considered contenders.
These two teams don’t play again till March. During this time the Leafs are going to have to build enough character that when they do meet the Bruins, they won’t be intimidated, overwhelmed, or unfocused. They need to put up a better preformance against Boston as it will build their confidence going into the playoffs, especially if they happen to meet Boston in the playoffs. They have the horses, they just need the will.
A few years ago I was talking to my dad about leadership. He asked me who I currently looked up to as a leader. The Anaheim Ducks had just won a Stanley Cup and Brian Burke was a co-arctitect of that champion team. He made some great moves and added great experience to a young and budding group of stars. Even though Brian Murray built the core of the team, Brian Burke added the finishing touches. I bought into his self praise and sanctimonious attitude and told my dad that Burke was my guy. It wasn’t until he got into his feud with Kevin Lowe that I began to realize how much he loved the sound of his own voice and really, how self important he came across.
I slowly turned from a Burke fan into a Burke pessimist. So when he got to Toronto and traded 2 first round draft picks and a second for Phil Kessel, I was ecstatic. What an incredible blunder! No-one outside of Toronto was disillusioned in thinking they were a playoff team let alone a contender. Not only did he make a move that would do little to help his team now, he also took away all Leafs fans’ hope. Those draft picks were the only things they had to mitigate the failure of their team and they had just been given away for an awkward, defensive liabitily who yes could score goals, but also had the unfortunate distinction of having the same haircut as Ralph Wiggum. Burke seemed to drink a little too much of his own kool-aide and had thought he had brought about a quick fix to a very old problem. He hadn’t. He had only exacerbated the problem. Set himself and the Leafs 2 years back. So for 3 years, his team sucked and sucked really badly. The were among the worst in the NHL year after year.
But last year, as the trade deadline approached, Burke did something very unBurke like. He dumped a bunch of bad contracts and underperforming players for draft picks and solid young prospects. He traded Beauchemin for Gardner and Lupul, two solid contributors to the Leafs current lineup (how much would the Ducks love to have those 2 guys back right now). He traded Tomas Kaberle for Joel Colbrne and a 1st round draft pick (probably a pity trade from Boston as they felt guilty for the Kessel trade). And then traded Brett Lebda for Matt Lombardi and Cody Franson. These three trades are absolute steals and are the reason the Leafs have been able to turn the corner this year. These moves had given the Leafs incredible depth and hope for the future as well.
These trades were a change in course for Burke, perhaps an admission that he had made mistakes and was willing to rectify those mistakes, that he was willing to start over. I have a great deal of respect for that. I’ve been a huge critic of Burkes over the past few years but I am happy to give him credit when credit is due.
I recently moved to Toronto (Burlington) from Vancouver. As I prepared for the move I thought about my hockey allegiance. I’m a Canuck fan. Always have been. But Canuck games start late in Toronto (usually 10:00 pm) and so I knew it would be hard to follow the Canucks as intently in TO as I did in Vancouver. So which Eastern team was I going to become a fan of as a local alternative? It wasn’t going to be the Leafs, that’s for sure. No self-respecting Canucks fan could. That’d be like a Catholic going to the synagogue on Saturday for service.
So I decided I’d follow the Sabres. They’re a good organization close to my new home, have a solid team, great uniforms, and ownership committed to winning. I thought it would be a good fit. But there was one problem I didn’t foresee, there is no Buffalo Sabres coverage in Southern Ontario. Not on the radio, not on the TV, sure there was the internet, but I can follow any team on the internet. I don’t have internet radio in my car. I don’t have internet video on my TV. So I was stuck listening to Leafs radio, watching Leafs TV, reading the Leafs paper following Leafs analysis, on the road, at home, it would be Leafs talk. Then something started to happen. No, I didn’t start to become a Leafs fan, that’s just not ever going to happen, but I was drawn to the daily happenings of the Leafs. I became fascinated with Leafs nation, with the manic-depressive behaviour of Leafs fans.
The Leafs got off to a great start. Fans were cautiously optimistic, a term they used every time someone talked about where they were in the standings. But also, every time they lost, there was talk of the wheels falling off, another term that was used too loosely. Everything was dependant on the night before. A win and the team was a contender, a loss and the team was a joke. Then in late October they managed to win enough games to get to first in the NHL. Cautious optimism was lost. They were first! In the league! The Leafs! That’s right! Leafs radio was going crazy. They brought Leafs alumni onto the radio for interviews to talk about the last time the Leafs were in first place, you know, the good old days. Backup goalie Ben Scrivens just had a great game, and he was their 3rd string goalie. Everyone talked about the team’s loaded depth. How Ron Wilson deserved to get a contract extension. Why hadn’t he been offered an extension? Then that Saturday night the Leafs got blown out by Boston (again). Then they lost to Florida. The goaltending was terrible. The defence was suspect. There was talk of benching newly signed young star Luke Schenn. They needed better depth in goal. They needed to trade a defencemen to balance the depth. The needed more veteran leadership. Ron Wilson needed to be fired. Why wasn’t Ron Wilson fired? The wheels were officially falling off. This was two games after being first overall in the league. I must admit it is very similar in Vancouver, the passion, the analytical dissection, the nervous appreciation of success. It is the fortune of having a committed fan base that cares what happens every night.
Last year I went to a Canucks game in Anaheim and the post game show had no post game discussion at all. It had an hour-long interview with a player’s wife discussing a charity she was involved with and how her kids loved playing ice hockey. They never once discussed the game. They obviously haven’t figured out how to market the game properly down there. They haven’t figured out the power of constant coverage. So as a Canucks fan, I will continue to follow the Leafs, not as a fan but as a person who finds the soap opera reactive fan base fascinating and dispassionately appreciates their exteme highs and lows.