November 30 2016 09:59AM
Photo Credit: Perry Nelson/USA TODAY SPORTS
Well, winning a second game on the road was a start, yes, and whether we want to consider it a "statement" win or not over a team that hasn't made the playoffs in coming up to 11 years or not, points are points -- on the second-last evening of November or the first night of April.
Toronto was an ugly 1-5-4 away from the Air Canada Centre (where the bounces, the execution, and the response to their play have been quite enthusiastic and friendly). After a couple seasons where it wasn't terribly fun to go to see the Maple Leafs play live (combine the hit to your bank account for tickets and concessions AND the listless apathy of fans and players alike, at times), but things are maybe more rapidly changing than anyone could have foreseen, even with the knowledge Auston Matthews would begin his NHL career here.
So last night's 4-2 win over Edmonton, their first road triumph since November 3rd in Buffalo (against a Sabres team without Jack Eichel and Zach Bogosian), can certainly lead to a successful Western Canadian road swing where the results have been quite barren and ugly in many recent previous years -- the Canucks, for example, are 7-1 in their past 8 home games against the Leafs and have outscored Toronto 33-15 in those contests.
But what I said in the early fall about the Maple Leafs is something I still believe. This will be a much more threatening team to steal points from more talented and experienced teams in February and March than it will be able to do in November and December, and I think that is still to bear itself out that way.
November 11 2016 11:55AM
It's been a long, strange, careening trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame for Eric Lindros, but the airplane does truly touch down this weekend. Along with former Kings (& Team Canada 1976) goalie Rogie Vachon, and Russian great Sergei Makarov (yes, the only 31-year old Calder Trophy winner there is, was, and will ever be), and the only Maple Leafs coach Lindros had during his brief tenure in Toronto, the late Pat Quinn, it's perhaps with some irony, Lindros goes in, without contemporaries, without players he played with or against (outside of a couple games involving Makarov when he was a Flame or a Shark), and much later than anyone really thought possible when he retired just before the 2007-08 season, after muddling throught a lost-looking season as a rather anonymous Dallas Star.
But he is going in, and deservedly so, and without disparaging the inferior players that have already made their acceptance speeches, waved to the sold-out Saturday night HNIC crowd, and had their bust placed where all can see, we may never truly know what the delay was. Pavel Bure, Doug Gilmour, and Adam Oates all paid their dues in waiting. Oversights of less-impactful careers like Vachon's, or Makarov's, or Mark Howe or Phil Housley have been serviced. Patience is never easy, but life keeps clicking along for all of us sometimes, until, BOOM! -- it's that person, that moment, that phone call, that job interview, that vacation, whatever it is, changes our course, our perception, or how we are, indeed, perceived by others.
That moment does seem to have happened with Lindros, as we're no longer debating that he IS a legitimate Hockey Hall of Famer, but more discussing why he didn't go in when first eligible in 2010.
But what is real and what is mythical of Lindros and his Maple Leaf history? And, surely, when you put "Lindros" and "Maple Leaf" in the same sentence, we all think more of just the scant 33 games (all regular season, no playoffs) he suited up as a Leaf for, and there are three numerous sidebars to consider:
October 30 2016 10:02AM
Photo Credit: Eric Bolte/USA TODAY SPORTS
The first meeting of 2016-17 between the Leafs and Canadiens felt important, felt a little more special, after two home games against "the Florida teams." Leafs fans know what it means to step into Centre Bell on a Saturday evening around 642pm -- it just has that "feel," doesn't it?
As someone who never got to an NHL game at the Montreal Forum, I'm beyond envious hearing of others' experiences there, same as the Boston Garden, Chicago Stadium, or the Olympia in Detroit (didn't get to those, either). But there's still a bit of an energy jolt the Leafs/Canadiens games need to "next level" things among all generations, isn't there?
It's a spark, a candle, a burning emphasis on the importance of the outcome -- it's been missing for some time, hasn't it? So, despite a 2-1 regulation loss last night which displayed not very many surprises about both teams (the Leafs are awfully skilled and raw at the forward position, the blueline is easily rattled into giving away chances, and Carey Price is the steadiest, calmest, most skilled goaltender on Planet Earth), wouldn't you agree the game, despite a couple scrums and some jawing, felt more tame than usual?
October 15 2016 01:36PM
Photo Credit: Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY SPORTS
It's what could be considered some form of "synchronicity" (no, not just the Police's 2nd best album of all-time behind "Ghost In The Machine", but events that can be considered "meaningful coincidences"), Auston Matthews became the first-ever NHL player to score four goals in his first game, followed 48 hours later by the Maple Leafs introducing their Top 100 All-Time Maple Leafs list, which of course, as it's supposed to do, sparked debate, discussion, and even mild controversy.
No, Matthews isn't on the list already. But it's truly all there for the taking. Yes, number ONE is available, if Matthews plays 15 years of All-Star level hockey and accomplishes the mere task of adding any sort of hardware to the Leafs' collection.
October 01 2016 11:06AM
Photo Credit: Kevin Souza/USA TODAY SPORTS
OK, the tournament's over. No, honestly it is. It didn't take as long as you thought if you rightfully avoided all the roster selection debates (which are fun, I admit, unless you're Phil Kessel) and the pre-tournament games. So does that mean the criticism and the jokes about poor attendance, apathy, and the potential for Team USA players to destroy desk chairs at the downtown Hilton in Toronto now ends? Well...not yet.