Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Could things actually be getting better?

Regular readers know that I'm not typically a "glass half-full" sort of guy. I tend to expect the worst from the Leafs, and they're usually kind enough to prove me right.

But a couple of back-page stories from the past week have given me a tiny twinge of cautious optimism that maybe, just maybe, this team may be making baby steps in the right direction.

First, here's Ron Wilson on the radio today taking what appears to be a fairly obvious shot at Mats Sundin and friends:
To me, there hasn't been any leadership. You don't squander leads. You don’t fail when it matters most, if there’s leadership on the team.

I can understand you can blame one coach and say "okay, we tuned him out at some point" but I’m now the third coach in the past four years. There comes a point where you say there's something going on here and it just can't be the coach and the general manager's fault. The players have to shoulder some of the responsibility.

Understanding, too, as an outsider coming in, that a lot of players wouldn’t hang around and face the media, those are leadership issues… not holding yourself accountable. How are you going to win?
"The players have to shoulder some of the responsibility"? What a novel concept!

Now you could argue, as some of you will, about whether Sundin deserves that sort of criticism. And you could certainly argue over whether Wilson would be better off keeping quiet on the matter, at least if he actually wants Sundin to re-sign in Toronto.

But you have to admit, it's refreshing to hear somebody, anybody, in Toronto actually raise the subject. For over a decade, Sundin's leadership abilities have been one of the Maple Leafs sacred cows, and nobody -- players, coaches, management, media -- has been allowed to question it.

Sundin is a great leader, end of story, nothing to see here, and pay no attention to the last-place finishes or country club dressing room behind the curtain. Even thinking about maybe possibly implying otherwise was reserved for the mouth-breathing blogger types.

So by even daring to ask the question, Wilson is already breaking new ground in Toronto. And after all, if Wilson is willing to hold the golden boy Sundin accountable, you know that the holiday is over for the rest of the also-rans on this squad.

Meanwhile, one of our least favorite Leafs also had some eye-opening quotes. Here's Jason Blake looking back on his first season in Toronto.
Last year was a disaster for me on the ice and personally. I was brought in to do something and it didn't happen... For me, after having a downfall, you've got to prove yourself again to play, to play at a high level, and to be counted on again to score goals and produce offence. That's what I'm looking to do this year.
No excuses. No McCabe-like pretending that things weren't really that bad. Just an honest (and accurate) admission that he was brutal, and a promise to be better.

Wow. Maybe things really are changing.




14 comments:

  1. Amen brother!!

    Everyone needs to stop bitching and moaning about all the negative crap about the Leafs and start focusing on the few bright spots.

    I think bringing in Ron Wilson was the best thing the Leafs have done in the last 5 years.

    Oh that and getting Fletcher to come in and clean house!

    Less than 2 weeks boys till pre-season! :)

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  2. Hey, nealio -- the guy who nailed Cox on the flip flop --welcome aboard! I hope you enjoy the blog.

    Everyone needs to stop bitching and moaning about all the negative crap about the Leafs and start focusing on the few bright spots.

    Hm... on second thought, this may not be the place for you.

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  3. No worries, I can handle it my good man.

    We'll get turned around in no time.

    The glass is half-full, honest.

    :)

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  4. They should have hired Andre Racicot for a goaltending coach instead of Corey Hirsch.

    It's still nice to hear some honesty instead of canned responses and...Leave. Mats. Alone.

    ;)

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  5. At this point I only want Sundin to play for Toronto if he doesn't have a no trade clause.

    The Leafs won't make the playoffs with Sundin, but he'll be able to pull them out of the draft lottery. If Toronto can't move Sundin at the deadline for high picks and prospects, he might as well retire.

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  6. I like Cocoon DGB. Hopefully no one goes into the YMCA and finds the real DGB.

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  7. Nice post.

    You don’t fail when it matters most, if there’s leadership on the team.

    It's hard to argue with that. Forget last year, which had no soul, and was a complete disaster. Remember 2007, when Sundin was just 1 goal shy of equalling Sittler and the Leafs were 1 point out of the playoffs with 12 games to go. Sundin had only one goal in those last 12 games, tying but not passing Sittler , who travelled around with the team for the remainder of the year waiting for Sundin to finally do it, and the Leafs missed the playoffs by 1 point.
    It was like the opposite of what Mark Messier would have done.

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  8. Well, yes and no. Wilson also said that if Sundin wanted to play again, he himself would be the one at the door welcoming him back into the fold.

    The leadership on this team consisted of more than one player. Look at who was moved out the door, and look at who they've brought back (or at least tried to).

    --1967ers

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  9. Also, I think it's great that Country Coach RV Ratings picked up your post.
    Nice job. They know about coaches, for sure.

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  10. Also, I think it's great that Country Coach RV Ratings picked up your post.

    WTF?

    How did you even find that?

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  11. Mats and Messier are considered great leaders of teams that failed over and over again. It drives me nuts when people talk about leadership and Messier in the same breath (oops...) missing the playoffs like 8 times in a row negates what you did earlier in your career....

    Great blog DGB. It's time to move on, isn't it?

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  12. It drives me nuts when people talk about leadership and Messier in the same breath (oops...) missing the playoffs like 8 times in a row negates what you did earlier in your career....

    Didn't Mess totally redeem himself when he led the Pylons, while eating Lays chips with his free hand? I'm assuming he used his other arm (okay, elbow) to cold-clock a beer leaguer in the jaw.

    DGB, this a different tone from you. Unless this post was a deftly played sarcastic jab, which if it is, absolutely deserves a metal. I'm thinking brass.

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  13. I could have lived through last year in a happier state of mind if I had thought the Leafs were following a plan that meant they would be better in the future.

    We may yet have to live through that year again this time, but it will be better because there looks like there is a plan.

    No excuses for losing, hey if the Leafs are great this year because they play better then thats fine. But it is all about building a culture and a system. The selfish, cynical and negative players are gone, one hopes. A bad year that might bring the team together isnt a bad thing.

    This is hockey not rocket science. Wilson and Fletcher know what they are doing, the management, scouting and coaching help looks in place. Just no major emberassments and staying competitive till the final buzzer is all I ask this year.

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  14. Don't get me wrong, I love Lays Chips and enjoy with a few beverages when watching a game or two on the tele. Mess is an ambassador for the league and hockey in general.

    Now where is that dill pickle bag?

    Cheers

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