excited to meet Francois Beauchemin
While it's obviously far too early to draw any meaningful conclusions about a team, there's no disputing that the Leafs have looked like a different squad over the season's first two games. And sources tell me that's no coincidence. Despite an offseason that seemed strangely quiet to many, the Maple Leafs have implemented several important changes that are paying off so far.
I spent the last several days speaking to players, coaches, executives and team employees. And while none wanted to go on the record, they provided me with several important reasons why the Leafs seem so much better in 2010.
- Unlike last season, we've had several lucky moments when a shot that was headed for our net was deflected away at the last moment by an NHL-calibre goaltender.
- After two years, we all suddenly realized that when Ron Wilson says "left" he means his left, not your left; the entire game plan makes way more sense now.
- While everyone else was watching a fan pour water from various lakes onto the ACC ice as part of our opening night ceremony, our trainer was busy pouring ebola-infected water from the Don River into opponents' water bottles.
- Wisely scheduled the first two games of the season against teams that aren't very good.
- The players have been inspired by the franchise's classy treatment of demoted veteran Jeff Finger, which has included hiring a lookalike to sit in the dressing room and say things like "No seriously, I'm the real Jeff Finger and they didn't actually demote me, why are you all being so weird about this?"
- Finally decided to just pause the game, access the options menu, and move the difficulty slider down a few notches.
- The team bonded after being traumatized by the crushing pre-season disappointment of learning that Nazem Kadri was somehow not yet ready to score on every single shift as a teenager.
- We wanted to make sure that local media had a chance to use their "plan the parade" jokes, since those are unfailingly creative and hilarious.
- The players have been inspired by the story of Mike Zigomanis earning a spot in the starting lineup out of training camp, presumably as part of some sort of reality series that gives people who've never played hockey before a chance to make an NHL team.
- Don't use my name on this because I really want to stay anonymous, but I've been extra motivated to play well so that my dad doesn't start calling up random newspapers again.
- As the franchise's new captain, Dion Phaneuf successfully quells any dressing room dissent by saying "You make an excellent point and I respect your opinion, so it's a real shame that I have to order Wendel Clark to kill you now."
- When we have the puck in our end we've been focusing on simple plays like "off the glass and out", instead of last year's strategy of "turn around and take a point-blank slapshot at your own goalie just to make sure he's paying attention".
- The team has rallied around their new team slogan, "Go on out there and win one for the concept of small sample size".
- MLSE has long had a well-known "don't bother trying to win, since we sell out every game" policy; after hearing a rumour that one fan was actually considering cancelling his season tickets, the board of governors held an emergency meeting and voted to switch to "OK, go ahead and start winning" mode.
- Long story short, it turns out the whole thing was Chris Bosh's fault.
- Kris Versteeg has been giving us motivational pre-game speeches about how amazing it was to win the Stanley Cup as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks before trailing off, looking slowly around the dressing room, putting his head in his hands and sobbing deeply.