Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Burke's first task: Find an enforcer

OK, enough is enough. The Leafs need an enforcer, or somebody's going to get hurt out there.

Another game, another two huge hits on unsuspecting Leafs. There's no doubt that the Leafs lead the league in being on receiving end of highlight reel hits.

Last year I called the Leafs the softest team in the NHL. The additions of Jamal Mayers and Ryan Hollweg was supposed to fix that, but haven't. Mayers did a nice job tonight against Garnet Exelby, but he's no heavyweight. Hollweg is just awful.

Let's be clear: the Leafs aren't soft the way last year's team was. This year's squad plays a tougher style, doesn't shy away from physical play, and has shown admirably eagerness to stick up for one another.

And that's the problem. They're almost too fearless. They play with guts, and those guts are going to wind up smeared across the ice pretty soon.

So far we've seen Matt Stajan, Jason Blake, and Mikhail Grabovski each get crushed on multiple occasions. Mike Van Ryn got run through the glass by the Bruins before being run through the end boards by the Habs. Luke Schenn almost had his leg broken on a cowardly trip on an icing call.

And guys like Schenn, Alex Ponikarovsky and Carlo Colaiacovo (RIP) have each dropped the gloves more than once to stick up for a teammate. That's admirable, but none of those guys should be fighting.

The Leafs are a team full of small guys who play like they're big. They're willing to skate into a high traffic area. They're will to take a hit to make a play.

That's great. They have big hearts. But they don't have big bodies, and pretty soon simple physics will catch up to them.

Not every team in the NHL has a heavyweight. In fact, some very good ones (like Detroit) don't dress one. That's fine. Not every team needs a tough guy.

But this team does. Mayers and Hollweg don't scare anybody. When the Bruins were brutalizing the Leafs with clean hits, do you think Milan Lucic was worried about anyone looking for payback? When the Habs were brutalizing the Leafs with dirty hits, do you think George Laraque bothered to look over his shoulder?

Right now, if you're a physical player the Leafs are a fun team to play against. There's an excellent chance that some speedy midget will cut across the trolley tracks with his head down, just begging to get knocked out. And if somebody does come after you, there's a good chance you'll have an easy time padding your won/loss record.

Here's hoping Burke has seen enough. Let's find a legitimate tough guy -- a top ten or twenty heavyweight. Preferably somebody who can play a little bit, but I'm not too picky. As long as they're big, can throw, and have just enough crazy in them to do some damage.

The next time some highly skilled Leaf (or Jason Blake) decides to admire his pass, let's make sure the guy closing in on him has something to think about besides "Hey, I'm going to be on Sportscenter tonight!"


  1. Here-here sir. This _will_ be the first area Burke will address. That's why I'm so excited for him to come aboard.

    Mayers has a huge heart and is always willing, but as you say is no heavyweight. Early-season idiocy aside, I give Hollweg credit for answering the bell even when he's hideously overmatched. With full respect to Mayers, Hollweg's value increases tenfold with a Colton Orr-esque player on his line.

  2. I am starting to come around to this idea. Steve's mentioned Deveaux a few times and it might be time to get him up here and see what he can do.

  3. Yeah, Poni should never, ever be dropping the gloves.

  4. Y'know, it's funny. The first thing I thought of the other day when I heard Belak had been waived by the Panthers was, "Wouldn't it be nice to have him cruising around the ACC again?"

    I have been saying since game one the Leafs were lacking some sandpaper. Not toughness, they have that. But a guy who will drop the gloves and actually hurt somebody when he does it.

    Now, I'll go watch the All Heart video again.

  5. More likely Burke will look to replace some of the "midgets" with actual life size hockey players.

    Dan: which is bigger Mayer's heart or his eyebrows? Snap!

    PPP is right instead of shopping for an enforcer just bring up this Deveaux creature and see what he can do.

  6. It can't be just a goon...that will solve part of the issue but not the whole issue.

    Leafs have some big players, Poni isnt small, neither is Antropov, Schenn etc. But these are skill players.

    :eafs lack some power forwards guyswho can paly who you cant push around. And they lack the enforcer.

    Of course it helps to play a little differently. More short passes and chips to gain that final advantage where the speed might actually help.

    The hit on Blake....hmmm Blake had his head down, havent we seen one like that before with him a week or so ago.

    An enforcer would help with the Van Ryn stuff. But last night I saw yet another player in the St Louis game leave his feet taking someone into the boards.....that HAS to stop, totally unecessary. If both feet leave the ice one a boarding you should get a game misconduct, totally unecessary, time to call it.

  7. I like the Deveaux idea. Doesn't hurt that he's the Marlies leading scorer either...

  8. Here's Steve's take on Deveaux if anyone missed it the first time around:

    Here's his hockeyfights.com page:

    Not sure he really fits the heavyweight description. I'm all for calling him up, though, as long as he keeps his number.

  9. Oddly, we had someone like that. Unfortunately, after one (granted legitimately bad) season in Toronto, he's been sent off to ply his trade in Denver, Colorado.

    Darcy Tucker, while somewhat more expensive, has been more effective by the numbers both offensively and defensively than Mayers and Hollweg combined. While Mayers and Hollweg have heart, they don't exactly inspire quite the same fear in the opposition that Darcy Tucker does. Alternately, there was always Sean Avery.

  10. Tucker was never an enforcer. I loved the guy for his heart, but Colton Orr would have killed him dead.

    The guy the Leafs had and got rid of was Belak, who would be available today if they wanted him. But Fletcher shot that down so quickly that I'm assuming Belak was part of the dressing room issues of last year.

  11. Belak, Tucker....NOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    Suck the life right out of the place. Tucker in particular.

    There are a number of these guys out there. But the Leafs have to change from trying to play firewagon offence to the alleged tighter defensive play that was billed at the beginning of the year.

    Leafs are currently playing off plan. Tighten up and then the other team wont feel so free to take shots, they wont want the penalties, speaking of which, fixing the power play actually helps prevent these issues as well.

    Play tighter hockey and the issue drops in significance.

  12. Come one now both Tucker and especially Belak are and should never be in a sentence that has what the leafs need is unless the word not is throw in there.
    Yes its true both players played with heart and most gritty players do as do some players with skill. These guys (except pre lockout/fat contract Tucker did) played with heart but rarely with any brains or skill, sorry but its true.
    I can I was one of the Leafs fans that went out and bought a box of crayons once those two were goners!

  13. Burke is now official.


    He signed!