Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Two things we know about the 2008-09 Maple Leafs

I'll have some more detailed thoughts about the first ten games later this week, but for now here's a quick summary of the two things we've learned about this team.

Fact #1 - They're not very good.
The forwards struggle to score goals. Shot selection is iffy, they don't crash the net especially well, and just plain don't have the skill to create offence out of nothing. Even the so-called skill guys don't have much finish. Only a handful of guys can hit with any authority, and nobody on the team can fight.

The defencemen are solid but prone to mistakes, still get caught out of position too often, and so far as a unit have been less than the sum of their parts. They've been OK, nothing more.

Goaltending has been average at best. Toskala has been excellent some nights, and downright bad on others. Joseph looks like a 41-year-old backup.

In short, they're pretty much what we expected: a bad team.

Fact #2: They just do not quit.

This team skates hard from the opening faceoff to the final buzzer. Every shift. Everybody forechecks, even the guys who everyone knows aren't good at it. They attack the other team's zone relentlessly, pepper shots from everywhere and just never stop swarming.

If they fall behind, they keep coming at you until they can find a crack somewhere to get back into the game. If somebody gets hit, somebody else steps in and does something about it. They seem to genuinely like playing with each other.

Everybody blocks shots. Everybody finishes checks. Everybody competes. If they don't, they sit down next game and somebody else gets a chance.

Bottom line:

Half of these guys probably shouldn't even be in the NHL. On pure talent they should challenge for last place overall.

Over the course of a long season, talent usually wins out over will. I'm not sure a team can work this hard for 82-games, and when that letdown finally comes things could spiral downward very quickly.

But in the meantime... This year's team seems like they would be a really, really hard team to play against. And that's the first time you can say that about the Leafs since the Quinn days.

On paper, this team is far worse than last year's squad. But I'd rather watch these guys any day of the week.

They either don't know that they're bad, or they don't care. It can't last. But as long as it does, it's a really fun ride.


  1. On paper, this team is far worse than last year's squad. But I'd rather watch these guys any day of the week.

    That right there hits the nail on the head. And haven't you noticed how much less stressful this season is? As big of leaf fan as I am, I must admit that there were days I wished I wasn't (especially living in Montreal for the last two years).

    But now, at least through 10 games, these guys entertain me, and have yet to disappoint. Which really, short of a Stanley Cup, is all I want (for now).

  2. Fact #1 - They're not very good. should read...

    Fact #1 - They're not very good and not that bad.

  3. Nice review. Totally agree. Leaf fans are going to start wearing their Leaf jerseys in public again.

    Is it too early to give Wilson the Jack Adams?

  4. gotta agree with the general, Wilson's a Jack Adams winner, and with Puck Buddy; "They're not very good and not that bad..."

  5. Isn't this pretty much the best of both worlds? One the one hand, a team we can actually stomach (or enjoy??) watching. On the other hand, a team that should lose enough games to set us up for a solid draft pick - thereby giving the front office flexibility and options when building. Win-win.