Friday, April 14, 2006


Not to be a cup-is-half-full kinda guy, but I finally got a chance to watch the Leafs play last night and - was it just me, or did they look pretty bad?

Considering the Leafs are desperately clinging to their post-season dream and the Islanders dressed nine rookies and a goalie who hasn’t won since November 26, you wouldn’t think overtime would be in the cards.

The Leafs' turnovers were some of the worst I’ve seen (Ondrus didn’t see the ice again after his near terminal brain cramp – he’s lucky Quinn even let him stay on the bench).

There was no sense of urgency whatsoever when they had a 5 on 3 powerplay at the start of the 3rd in a tie game. Did they even register a shot on goal? Where’s the hunger on this club?

Let’s face it, if it weren’t for some pretty spectacular goaltending early, the Leafs’ dreams would have ended like Gatsby’s - shot down dead in Long Island.

Lost among all the horse-race media coverage of the will-they/ won’t they make the post season is the fact that the Leafs still aren’t a very good club. They struggle with basic defensive zone coverage, they clearly need better D for the 3 and 4 slots and they need to find that killer instinct.

My grumbling aside, any time you grab 16 out of a possible 18 points you’re doing something right and should be commended, but I just hope there’s an appropriate assessment of this team in the off-season. Given the ever-shorter news cycles, the ‘round the clock coverage of the Leafs and the long-shot odds of the Leafs actually making the post-season, I have a bad feeling that coverage and analysis of the Leafs is going to move from the horse-race to the glue factory pretty quickly.

As an aside, some of the women that I work with play this odd game where they come up with really strange forced choice questions for each other. The most recent one I can think of was: “Would you rather have a lesbian affair with an enormously pregnant Gwennyth Paltrow or Carmen Electra if she had a permanent unibrow?” (I’m not making this up and yes, I have a great job. FWIW the only time the three of them agree in this game is when Angelina Jolie is involved - be it as a hunchback or any other mal-formed condition - go figure.)

I bring this up because as I was making breakfast this morning, I actually stopped to think about what it must be like to be an Islanders fan.

In the spirit of my very fun, but rather odd colleagues, I wondered, for the past 30 years, would I rather have cheered for the Leafs or the Islanders?

If you choose the Isles, you’d have tremendous memories of those great teams that won the string of cups in the early 80s. You’d be able to fondly recall cheering for Bossy, Potvin, Trottier, Gillies, Nystrom, and one of the craziest goalies ever in Billy Smith. But then there’s the 10 year hangover known as Mike Milbury.

As a modern-day Islander fan, there would be teams I just couldn’t watch – I’d refuse to tune into any games involving the Panthers (Jokinen and Luoungo), the Sens (Chara, Spezza and Redden), Vancouver (Bertuzzi) – the list is near endless when you think of all the bad deals Milbury made. Never mind the whole Yashin thing. I’d have so many sleepless nights trying to undo those trades and re-building all-star rosters that could challenge for the cup that I don’t know if the memories of the early 1980s could compete with Milbury’s 10 year gong show.

On the flip side, the Leafs might not have Mike Milbury’s reign of error, but there are no Stanley Cup banners from the days of my youth hanging from the rafters of the ACC and my
Mike Palmateer hockey cards don’t have any pictures of the team hoisting the Cup or skating a celebratory lap.

What a choice. I'm glad it's one I don't have to make.


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