*(but! i've been noticing the past few games we're not taking as many calls - and when we do, we're killing them off... so that should rise! See! Positive!)
If the Playoffs Were Today
I'd be very worried - depending on what team decided to show up that period
Also ... Jim Mora says it much better than I:
But. the most important thing is that if they were today we'd be in, and we'd still be playing Pittsburgh. (which I think would be the best series ever only due to the utter gong show that could potentially happen. It would be the highest scoring series in history.. if our #1 line ever showed up).
(we also have a 4+ lead on Carolina & Philadelphia. NJD now owns the third spot in the Metro with 37 which means we have to watch those three teams. I don't care if it's December - we still need to watch it).
On the Shelf
Dave Bolland - still broken. Heard that he's now walking without crutches - still no word if he's had skates on or taken the ice yet.
Trevor Smith - broken hand, 4-6 weeks.
Tyler Bozak - torn oblique muscle - ready to go, but can not be activated until Dec. 29th against Carolina.
Though - going by his State of the Union address - nothing is happening until Summer. Which - you know, I can stand behind that. If the team plays their way out of a playoff spot. Good. Because this year is clearly showing that Providence, Wilkes-Barre & Grand Rapids can play in the NHL and keep their teams afloat.* There's no reason why the freaking Leafs + several AHL players can't do the same. It also gives the team what a lot of us have been clammouring for: accountability. If Nonis were to make a move to try to save a playoff spot (now) - would it really teach the team to play/work harder? Mayybeee. Mayybeee not. The Onus is on the team to work hard.
*(yes. I know - we were hammered down the centre, but again - still. STILL).
Also - ditto on saying Carlyle won't be fired this year (pretty much) (now if we miss the playoffs and start slow at ALL in October, he's probably gone - or depending on who gets fired after the playoffs, he could be in trouble) - and after watching 24/7 - have to say, even with some of his bizarro changes, I'm #TeamCarlyle (I won't spoil it, but there will be some quotes I'll be using here).
However - it will also not surprise me if James Reimer is not long for this organization before the summer starts.
"Play for the Sweater. If Not That Play for Each Other"
I wish the Leafs would do this more. Honestly - this team is breaking my heart, because it's like... they smoke Chicago. And then they play well-ish (Pittsburgh) then play like poo-flinging monkeys (Florida) and then play well-ish (Phoenix) and then they didn't know how to play against Detroit so they decided to alternate throughout the entire game. I even said something like this in the GDT:
"Why no, Detroit! Why don't you try to score now, we don't need the two points." --The Toronto Maple Leafs
"Screw that."--Jonathan Bernier
because that's how they seem to be playing. And the weird thing is - I don't think the Chicago game was a fluke, because even with the flat start, you saw that game (minus scoring) in Pittsburgh #3, you saw it vs. LAK, you saw vs. Anaheim and you saw it vs. Pittsburgh #1. When this team wants to play well, it can play well.
Not to use too much 24/7 here but Randy said something re: Playing for the Sweater. and I agree. They need to earn that sweater they are wearing. Again - the losing wouldn't even be that bad, if the Leafs were just playing hard game in and game out. And that's where the play for each other comes in.
A majority of this team are playing like individuals right now. And it tends to happen during funks - you want to be "that guy." But the funny thing is - that never ever works. You'd think after seeing the Chicago game and it was literally by committee - that it would sink in but nope. Not. at. all.
There was something during the third? period, and a defenseman (either Gardiner - it wouldn't surprise me if it was him) or Phaneuf was standing behind the net and he literally could not make a pass. He couldn't lug it out either (because if he got pressured it would have been a 4 on 1 (or 4 on 0). Everyone just did a line change. Seriously? (and you could tell it wasn't even a good one because Defenseman was GOING to make a pass and the way he was waiting there was like... erm, what?)
And that's been plaguing the Leafs all season. the fact that the wingers are way too high for that first outlet pass, leaving the defensemen stranded.
Regardless of your feeling for Reimer (and I posted this a lot tonight so go read it in the goalie thread) - this team just doesn't even give the guy a break. A poop performance against Columbus, a poop performance against St Louis, an epic poo flinging monkey performance against Florida and a poop performance against the wings. (I personally feel that Reimer doesn't help himself out in some of of these situations either but that's a, as Joey from F*R*I*E*N*D*S would say - that's a Moo point).
But - there are some positives. (yes - there are some positives)
A: we are really starting to bring our shots down.
B: we're starting to outshoot some of our opponents!
C: our penalty kill doesn't suck (as much - we've been killing some of them off)
after that I've got nothing. talk to me after I have some truffles.
(this team is going to make be blow up like a whale, I swear).
But the saddest thing about this entire thing - the game plan against the Leafs is literally "just play our game, and sit back, because Toronto will implode themselves." (someone said that on the radio, after speaking to someone on the LA Kings). How pathetically sad is that. We don't really have to do anything - they'll implode on themselves.
And I chalk only a little bit of that due to psyche and youth. Just a smidgen.
Because I think it's obvious for the most part we play a lot like this:
"Player of the Week"
Morgan Rielly. Boy's a beaut! (best Don Cherry voice). Game in and game out he's getting better and better. Though he's making some mistakes, they are more of a "Oh this totally worked in Junior... welp! Not In the NHL!" variety, and not of the "Oh no, Ice the Puck! Oh crap, it's in the net." variety of Jake Gardiner (sorry Jake - love you too, smootches). But he gets the award this week, because he got his first goal (awesome) and he really is the best player. I think there was a bit of pressure (of not knowing if he was going to Sweden or whatever) but he's our guy.
And the thing is - you can see the "special" dripping off this guy. (so please. please please please, Nonis get him a partner that won't mess him up). But he's going to be Something Great. (it also speaks volumes that Carlyle thinks he's Something Special, as he was tossed out there for a Detroit Powerplay...along with Jake).
Why I think that calls for a ..
Honourable Mentions this week: .......................no one.
"Leafs at a Glance"
Short week, because it's CHRISTMAS!! (or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate)
I have to agree there is a real lack of playing for each other out there and working hard every game. Which is all the more infuriating when you see what they have the potential to do, but they rarely actually do it. It's like watching the team version of Antropov or something .
Rielly has definitely looked great. Is making those rookie mistakes, but also learning as he goes. One of the few guys who can skate it up, see an opening and just go right into the opposition zone to take a shot.
The craziness continues with this team. Will have to see what next week brings.
Great write up as usual. The snail picture representing Nonis got a good laugh out of me
They have a winnable January up ahead. If they can't create some separation in the standings with that January schedule and with players expected to return to the line up, then they likely don't deserve playoffs and they likely won't make playoffs.