Beat 'em in the alley, and beat 'em on the ice

John Lofranco
March 17 2012 09:12PM

It’s not a good time to be a Leaf fan. The current situation really calls into question your reasons for being a fan, and for watching hockey. The way I see it, there are two ways to watch: macro and micro. What am I on about? Jump the jump to find out!

If you are a macro type, then you are probably cheering for a loss. Why? Well, you know the season is out of reach, and if the Leafs can fall nicely in the standings, a good draft pick will be the reward, or at least a draft pick marginally better than the one the team would get if they finished close to, but out of, the playoffs.

If you are a micro type, you still hope for a win. Even if you know it’s better for the team in the long run to lose, you get off on seeing goals, saves, hits, and in the end, wins. You watch each game to enjoy it. You probably watch more than just your own team’s games.

I’m a micro-type. I can’t cheer for a loss. I just can’t. Especially not against Ottawa. When I think about which players I would want the Leafs to get rid of in the off-season, I can’t really come up with any names. I just want the players we have to play better. Maybe this is unrealistic. Not maybe. It is. I know.

I think the macro-types shouldn’t bother watching the game at all. Why not just check the final standings and decide from that whether or not you will derive any pleasure from your team’s performance? I’ll say this: it’s probably easier on your health to do it that way. And aren’t these some of the same people who criticise the “build through the draft” methods of the Edmonton Oilers and the like? I guess it’s no surprise that Leafs fans are not consistent, given how the team plays.

But I digress. Realistically, most people are a combination of both types. Who doesn’t jump out of their seat during a Kessel rush? Who doesn’t rub their hands with glee at the promise of an 18-year-old in a ball cap in June? I think most of the “tank-nation” folks are really micro types who live and die with the team, and are just rationalizing their disappointment.

Well, put aside those rationalizations and join me in an enthusiastic and thorough enjoyment of the Leafs’ 3-1 win against the incomprehensibly playoff-bound Senators. If you can. Because now we’ve run into another problem. The Leafs are winning, but the games are about as exciting as CPAC committee broadcasts. The esteemed CBC analysts were saying on the broadcast last night that the Leafs’ roster is built to be a rush team, and that they can’t pull off the cycle game Carlyle wants them to play. Some “journalists” are suggesting a roster overhaul is necessary, including trading Phil Kessel. I wasn’t even going to mention that, but why should I protect the stupid? Lucas Hardonk (love the handle!) and Greg Thompson claim there are problems in the room. Tall foreheads would have us believe there's not much to hope for.

And yet, the team has won two games in a row, and other than the games against Florida and Boston, has been very good defensively since the new coach took over. That a team of young, offensively-gifted players would take some time to adjust to a new, defensive system is not a surprise. It seems the Leafs have bought in rather quickly, in fact. Nor is it particularly surprising that offense would take a little longer to come around in such a system.

This so-called “rush team” managed to rush their way out of the playoff race. It’s certainly not likely that they are going to cycle their way back in, but at the very least, they will cycle their way out of a lottery pick. See above rant. Perhaps team complement was not the problem.

In any case, the game was about as interesting as free beer on March 18th, until the Leafs scored, then it became a hard-fought defensive battle. Ok, no it didn’t. It was a gong-show. Both teams played poorly. So poorly in fact that Norris Trophy candidate and Glenn Healy’s adopted son Erik Karlsson managed to go full-Phillips and pot one off the back of his own tender’s skate. Tim Connolly got credit for the good guys. Phil “Trade Bait” Kessel sniped on a power play early in the third, and halfway through the final period, Captain Caveman Phaneuf angrily slapped a puck past Ben Bishop. For the second time in as many games, James Reimer snatched a one-goal game from the jaws of a shutout, giving the few Senators fans who made the trip to Kanata something to cheer about.

More importantly: Daniel Alfredsson got booed in his own building. Hilarious. Also, there was quite a bit of the old drat. Comrade Grabovski noticed known pineapple apologist and all-around loser Chris Neil trying to push Carter Ashton around. So, in an action that clearly indicates problems in the room, and a lack of solidarity among team-mates, Grabbo stepped in beat Neil so badly, the $5.5 Million-Dollar Man received two game misconducts. Previously, Sergei Gonchar got upset that he’s still playing for Ottawa, and asked Clarke MacArthur to punch him into the off-season. Clarke obliged. Also Luke Schenn beat up Nick Foligno. Fun times!

So where are we now? Cycle game? Beat ‘em in the alley? Competent goaltending? If this is the kind of game the Leafs are going to play in the future, that’s fine by me, as long as it wins games. Yeah, it hurt the draft chances, but come on, did anyone really think the Leafs were going to lose out the season?

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I live in Montreal, which is tough for a Leafs fan. To pass the time, I teach writing at Concordia University, and I coach a distance running club called Montreal Endurance. I've been published in the Toronto Star, National Post, Reader's Digest, and Canadian Running Magazine, as well as online at Maisonneuve.org
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#1 A. Bates
March 17 2012, 09:40PM
Trash it!
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trashes
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props

Leafs win: good news in my book.

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