What a stink bomb! Last night’s game at Madison Square Garden was, by far, the Leafs’ worst effort of the season. I honestly think that if the Rangers had truly wanted to score a dozen goals, they could have. Since my head-scratching finger is exhausted, I am going to refrain from trying to figure out why the Leafs would perform this way. But I do know blowouts can have two kinds of effects on teams. They can fracture or they can galvanize.
The worst stink bomb I ever saw came on February 12, 1984. It was a Sunday afternoon in the NHL’s most boring city – Hartford. In 1983, the Edmonton Oilers had been to the Stanley Cup Final. The Whalers were on their way to another who-the-hell-cares season. Hartford centre Ron Francis scored on a power play just 1:26 into the game, and the disaster was on. Francis, à la Marian Gaborik, scored four times. Greg Malone (Ryan’s father) scored three. Future Hall-of-Famer Grant Fuhr let seven past him in 31 minutes. Andy Moog let in the other four. The Whalers demolished the Oilers, 11-0, on just 30 shots. Greg Millen stopped all 28 Oilers’ pucks fired his way.
All the Oilers did, over the remainder of that season, was win the Stanley Cup. Clearly, that was a galvanizing moment for a great hockey club. Bottom line…sometimes teams toss stink bombs. Now, we all know the 2010-11 Maple Leafs are not the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers. But what will the Leafs do in response to this ultimate embarrassment?
The beauty of baseball is that, almost invariably, teams get a chance to right wrongs the very next day. That rarely happens in the NHL. But the Leafs get that chance tonight, back home, v. the Ducks.
In the Toronto Star, Leafs’ head coach Ron Wilson said, “For the first 10 minutes or so I thought we were okay, then our power play passed up some good shooting options … then we collapsed like a house of cards. Basically, you tear this one up and move on.” Ya, it was the power play that was the problem.
He’s right about the tear-it-up philosophy, though. But here’s what really bothers me. After a loss like that, as a player, I would be furious. As hot as anything. Instead, what I’m getting from the Leafs is, “Oh well. C’est la vie. Life goes on. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.” No wonder they suck beyond belief.
There is no passion in this hockey club. There is no fury. There is no “We’re mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore!” And that, more than anything else, is the biggest issue with this team’s chronic underachievement.
In the Star, Jonas Gustavsson said, “You can’t feel sorry for yourself. If you do, then that stays for a long period of time. You have to come back and work hard and get ready for the next game.”
You know what, Monster, until you start getting fully pissed off at your team playing like rubbish, you and your mates are never going to live up to the hype. And my bet is that this MSG game becomes yet another Leafs’ fracture…of course.