Well, it’s that time of year. Fall has fell. I’m assuming that’s how the saying goes. I’m just taking the lead of the classic “spring has sprung” phrase. Wait a minute. What’s the saying for summer and winter? Or maybe it all goes together. Alright, here’s my guess: “Spring has sprung. Summer was a bummer. Fall has fell. And Winter is cold as hell.” That can’t be right. I rhymed fell with hell and they aren’t in the same sentence, or season. Summer isn’t a bummer. And hell isn’t cold. Oh well, at least it rhymes. But now I’m bothered by this. What rhymes with Summer and Winter? “It’s Summer and we’re dumber?” Makes sense. There is no school during the Summer. “It’s Winter, don’t get a splinter.” A splinter from what? A shovel? A wreath? Now I’m really reaching. Anyways, although the leaves are falling from the trees, the Toronto Maple Leafs remain atop the NHL standings, with ease. Now that, boys and girls, is called a segue. And it rhymed. Nailed it.
If anyone is still reading after that idiotic, 2:40AM, attempt at an engaging introductory paragraph, let’s talk hockey, shall we? More specifically, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The regular season is eight games young and the Leafs are one of the best teams in the NHL with six wins, and two losses. Last season, it took the Leafs eleven games to win their sixth game. This season, it took them seven. And they have done it with a depleted roster, which is being held together by individuals that are younger than me.
I guess that’s one way to know you’re getting old. When people younger than you are becoming stars in professional sports and you’re sitting at home with a bowl of chips in one hand and a channel changer (that’s right) in the other. I’m dreading the day where I buy a Leafs’ jersey and the player’s name on the back belongs to someone who is much younger than me. Maybe I’m alone on this, but it would just feel weird.
Back to the team.
I feel the urge to call some fans out of their closet, right now, regarding their reactions to two moves the Leafs made this summer. The first one being, the Jonathan Bernier trade. Hmm, it’s funny how winning takes care of everything and gives people amnesia. When the trade happened, some fans complained about giving up too much (Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens, and a 2nd round pick). I wrote a blog post about it at the time and said that the Leafs did not give up any assets that were seen as untouchables or that they must keep.
Bernier has come in and looks impressive. Albeit, it’s only been a few games. However, some Reimer supporters have jumped ship. Remember how high everyone was on “Optimus Reim” last year? I hate that nickname – probably because I’ve never paid any attention to Transformers. Also, I no longer hear anyone sobbing in their pillow at night, crying for Frattin and Scrivens to be back on the team. As far as the 2nd round pick goes…the Leafs have a history of not drafting well. Why do you want to keep a pick that they will probably use to draft a player who will never amount to anything in the NHL? That’s what our draft history indicates. Might as well trade the pick for a player who has already solidified a spot on an NHL roster at a young age.
So, the goaltending has been solid. I don’t mind a two goalie system. The Flyers did it in 2010. None of their goalies started more than 33 games during the regular season. They made the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s been done. If Carlyle continues to play the hot hand in net, the hand will never go cold…hopefully. It’s not a goalie controversy; it’s a goalie luxury. Some teams don’t even have one reliable starter – we have two. As long as the team wins games, it doesn’t matter who the Protectors of the Piped Pagodas are (shout-out to the voice of the Leafs, Joe Bowen, for that one (he has no clue who I am)).
Is a parenthetical statement, inside a parenthetical statement, allowed? I’m breaking writing rules, aren’t I? These rhetorical questions are getting to me now.
The other move of the summer, the Leafs made, was to buy out the contract of Mikhail Grabovski. He went to Washington. He scored 3 goals and 1 assist in his first game. Since then, he has 2 points in his last 6 games. Wow, the Leafs sure made a mistake on him. We could use that production. Sure, we wouldn’t have any money to sign Kadri or Franson, but it’s MIKHAIL GRABOVSKI!
Grab a towel, that last paragraph was oozing in sarcasm. After Grabovski’s first game with the Capitals, I saw people panic and think that the Leafs made a horrible mistake. Let me explain something. Grabovski had the game of his life. You cannot judge a player based on one game. And sure, I just judged him based on his past six games, but I did it to show that he is not the second coming of Wayne Gretzky. That his first game was a career night, and not a coming out party. He is still the same, inconsistent, diminutive forward, who can score 50 points in a season, but does not fit in on the Leafs roster, or payroll. Oh, he got demoted to the third line the other day, too. So there’s that.
Also, Grabovski plays on the power play with Ovechkin and Backstrom. Of course he is going to have multi-point games. Mike Ribeiro benefitted, greatly, from playing with those two superstars, last year. Now, he is in Phoenix and it took him four games to register his first point. He had 49 points in 48 games last year. Don’t think that his numbers weren’t inflated, just a bit, by the players he played with.
Now onto some new faces on the team. Mason Raymond. Wow, thanks Vancouver. I guess you don’t want a guy who can play in any situation and has a knack for scoring 15-20 goals every year at a cheap price. No worries, we’ll take him. Raymond’s career high for points in a season is 53. Grabovski’s career high is 58. Raymond is being paid 1/5 of what Grabovski was making. Can I rest my case on this Grabovski debate yet?
Up front, guys like Leivo and Broll are getting a chance to make a name for themselves, while others recover from injury or serve their suspension. Hey, you want a replacement for Matt Frattin? Here’s two of them. It will be interesting to see if they stick around once JVR, Clarkson, and McLaren return. Maybe they can place Carter Ashton on waivers and keep one of the kids – not a fan of his.
As for the defence…oh man, it’s ugly. It really is. Phaneuf looks slow. Gunnarsson is just…so Gunnarsson. Morgan Rielly has looked impressive. I was shocked to find out he’s 6’1. He skates like he’s 5’7. Cody Franson is Cody Franson-ing. Jake Gardiner always seems to find himself in a doghouse. And Paul Ranger – I knew he was bad news the moment I saw he was wearing Kaberle’s old number fifteen. Carlyle mentioned that he might be a top four defenceman during the preseason. Top four? He’s not even a top six. They need help on defence. Mark Fraser returning from injury won’t do much. At least they have Bernier in net who absorbs every puck he stops. That’s refreshing.
Other than a few things, there isn’t much to complain about. They get outshot a ton. The line combinations aren’t what they were supposed to be. The regulars are injured and suspended, but somehow, they have six wins and two losses.
It’s exciting, but the Toronto Blue Jays taught me to never get too excited – especially this early in the season. The Leafs could go on a ten game losing streak for all I know. Their hot start surely won’t last all season, right? The annual collapse in January will strike again and we’ll be forced to pick this team up.
Until then, the only leaves that need picking up are the one’s on your lawn.