YOUTHFUL INCONSISTENCY

Steve Lansky
October 15 2010 12:03PM

Maple Leafs’ fans, get ready to embrace one of society’s great truths – the inconsistency of youth.

The Edmonton Oilers got a faceful of it last night in St. Paul. They stunk worse in Minnesota than the liverwurst sandwich grandma forgot on the picnic table in August. No zip. No pop. No life.

Last night the name Xcel Energy Center did not apply to the youthful Oilers. And this year, the Leafs are being fuelled by the same type of youthful components as the Oilers - only a tad older.

TAKE ONE

Fans got a taste of it on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. Everyone knows that the offensive hopes of the Leafs this season rest squarely on two sets of shoulders – just-turned 23-year old Phil Kessel and 24-year old rookie Tyler Bozak. In Pittsburgh, they were invisible.

Despite playing a combined 35+ minutes it seemed as though they hadn't even checked in for the evening shift. But that’s OK, as long as guys like 25-year old Clarke MacArthur step up and score twice. Point is, the Leafs’ younger stars are going to have nights like that.

It’s what their teammates do during those contests that will essentially determine long-term success. There are tangible advantages to having a solid core of young players on an NHL team. They grow together. They learn together. Sometimes, they make mistakes together. It takes patience to watch a team like that. And patience is something that Toronto sports fans, frankly, have way too much of.

What other city would watch a team languish for so many years without demanding someone’s head on a platter?

PATIENCE

Former Blue Jays’ GM J.P. Ricciardi bumbled his way around the American League for almost a decade before he was shown the door. Why would a team improve when it’s not demanded by its fans, or owners, to improve? The Leafs majority ownership stake is held by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Think they make many demands beyond, “Hey boys, make us even more dough?” They do not.

TONIGHT'S TILT

Tonight’s game against the Rangers (1-1-0, win in Buffalo, loss on Long Island) will be tough. The excitement of the new season has worn off and Wednesday’s game in Pittsburgh was against the toughest team Toronto has faced thus far.

Any team with Henrik Lundqvist (undefeated against Toronto last season) in goal is going to be a bear to play against despite the fact the Rangers missed the playoffs last year. This will be the Blueshirts first game at MSG this season and a great many factors will be at play tonight in Manhattan.

To escape with a fourth straight, season-opening win, the Leafs likely cannot afford to have Kessel and Bozak have a second consecutive off-game. Fortunately, the third member of that top line, Kris Versteeg was a monster of the Leafs’ PK and goes over twenty minutes a night. No one will dispute Ron Wilson’s job is a tough one. And one of the priorities, right now, is to make sure the Leafs’ youngsters understand the concept and benefits of consistency.

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Steve Lansky's first exposure to the game was at storied Maple Leaf Gardens, running downstairs at the end of every period just to watch the great Dave Keon walk off the ice to the room. A decade later, while he was still in high school, Oilers' head coach Glen Sather asked Lansky, "Hey, how'd you like to be our team statistician?" In 1983, at the age of 22, Lansky became the youngest producer in the history of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, giving him a front-row seat to the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty. Lansky also helped launch Rogers Sportsnet's fledgling hockey coverage when the network made its début in 1998. You can follow him at bigmouthsports.com and at twitter.com/bigmouthsports
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#1 Pension Plan Puppets
October 15 2010, 01:11PM
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Why would a team improve when it’s not demanded by its fans, or owners, to improve? The Leafs majority ownership stake is held by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Think they make many demands beyond, “Hey boys, make us even more dough?” They do not.

Seriously? Terrible.

As for Lundqvist, should have read the preview. He has a career .899 sv% against the Leafs. We're lucky Steve Valiquette isn't in net.

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#2 Eric Johnson
October 15 2010, 02:00PM
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Consistently Inconsistent.

Any team with Gaborik on it is dangerous.

Guy is one of the few guys in the league that can almost beat a team by himself. He's lethal.

Big test tonight.

As for the Oilers last night. It's hard to win the game when the other teams PP goes 4-6. Special teams were exactly that "Special"

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#5 Eric Johnson
October 15 2010, 05:02PM
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Steve Lansky wrote:

Marian Gaborik is overrated. He should be a superstar. He's only a star. He was on one Wild team that went to the Western Conference Final. You can have him.

Yes, big test tonight for the Leafs.

Quit making excuses for the Oilers. I don't give a rat's rump if the Wild had 15 PP chances, the Oilers stunk!

Oh I agree the Oilers stunk up the joint last night but the Wild only capitalized on the PP.

The OIlers PK was abysmal. I will say this the Clutterbuck on MIN is a heck of a hockey player and damn annoying to play against.

Lets see if the parade route gets planned if the Leafs manage a win tonight.

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#7 Eric Johnson
October 15 2010, 05:56PM
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@Steve Lansky

There are 29 other teams that would love that kid in their line up.

It always amazes me how some players develop late. Something just clicks I guess.

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#9 Pension Plan Puppets
October 17 2010, 05:19PM
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@Steve Lansky

Now, it's definitely arguable that Henrik Lundqvist would be a great goaltender to start a team with. I think he's definitely in the top five in the league.

But this:

As a stat, save percentage is about as pertinent as ERA in baseball. Wins and losses are all that matter...and Lundqvist didn't have any of the latter against the Leafs last year.

Jesus, you write that and have the gall to suggest that you're intellectually superior to me? Is it hard to pick your knuckles off of the ground to type your articles?

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