Leafs Put “Optional” in “Optional Practice”

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a big game ahead of them today. If you’re on the “keep trying” side of the spectrum, you want this historically bad losing streak to end, and the Oilers are vulnerable. If you’re on the “Tank Nation” side of the aisle, a loss puts the Leafs just nine ahead of Edmonton for 29th place with 28 more attempts at failure to go. Either way, this game matters.

…why is nobody at practice?


Now, I’m not huge on turning what we see on the ice into narratives; I’m one of those weirdos who thinks there’s a logical explanation for just about everything. If you’ll permit me to channel my inner tabloid journalist here, this is a team that has lost eleven games in a row. 

This is a team that’s being questioned for its ability to conform to structure. 

This is a team that needs to find some way to get it together, and should be using every opportunity it has to gel as a group.

So, what do we have? We have tonight’s backup goalie in James Reimer, frequent scratches Trevor Smith and Korbinian Holzer, an injured Dion Phaneuf, a slew of players recovering from injuries, and two guys who would’ve played themselves out of the lineup if they weren’t paid so much in David Clarkson and Stephane Robidas.

Realistically, the only big-minute players who are fully healthy that decided that they should take part in this skate are Tyler Bozak and Morgan Rielly.

Not participating and expected to be in the lineup tonight are James van Riemsdyk, Phil Kessel, Richard Panik, Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul, Mike Santorelli, Daniel Winnik, Peter Holland, Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson, Roman Polak, and Jonathan Bernier.

That’s a heck of a lot of presently struggling talent deciding that the way to break out of their slump is to play less hockey. Again, I’m not a narrative guy (all evidence in this post to the contrary), but when it’s this bad, that begins to raise an eyebrow.

  • Alex

    I agree, it “looks” bad, but I bet there are reasons behind it. A lot of players were probably getting treatments (Horacheck said some of them are banged up) from trainers or doing some kind of off-ice workout during this time. I don’t think it’s a big deal and would have any kind of impact, especially because they just played last night. Going over systems, watching video as a group is probably what they will do this morning.

  • CMpuck

    How can anyone not be excited for tonight, a lose in regulation marks the official reign of glorious Tank Nation. Management will be forced to recognize our rightful claim to this franchise.

    I’m a narrative guy and finally after over a decade the proper narrative is crowned. Noth this time will we be oppressed by the privileged whims of the Muskoka Princesses who stole our rebuild behind wuss NMCs. No more will Tank Nation be dismissed as the fringe, no more will it be excluded from the conversation in favor of the semantics of analytical interpretation that yields nothing but divisive jargon.

    Off with their heads, in Pete we trust.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Actually, Jeffler, there is a logic behind narratives. There’s a logical explanation to narrative structures and there are competing narratives for what make rival logics compelling….but that’s just a pedantic aside.

    I would not make a big deal of this.

    But I would also say that making practices “optional” when the team is in a funk like this is moronic. It’s just ia green light for mixed signals. If everyone shows up, what’s the point of calling it optional; if someone(s) don’t, then they get singled out?

    Make it a practice, or don’t. Jesus, someone has to take the reins here.

  • CMpuck

    it looks like they don’t care to put in the extra work especially after 11 straight losses but at the same time, big names like kessel/jvr/kadri, need their rest. can’t be more tired than they already are and the starting goalie can’t practice on the day he’s playing. the others could be putting in extra work in the gym or something idk. but those who did show up who didn’t need to (bozak/rielly), it shows that they want to improve which is nice (and i don’t even like bozak). good for them. so i understand both sides of it.