Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The Leafs and Obama: Work To Do
By now you all know the big story of the night... the Leafs lost 5-4 to the 'Canes in OT, after attempting, again, to be the comeback kids.
Kidding, obviously. The big story was, of course, the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. To those who think politics has no place on a Toronto-based sports blog: get over yourselves. Elections alone are big news that happen only once every 4 years, and this one in particular was a monumental event. Plus, the reality is that no matter where you live, you are affected in some way or another by the USA. So deal with it.
Now, in keeping with my metaphor, much like President-Elect Barrack Obama's upcoming challenges, the Leafs have got a lot of work to do. While the offense has been clicking, there are a few areas of the club that need some attention:
With a strong goalie in Vesa Toskala, a stable of young and capable d-men and Ron Wilson's system, defense was supposed to be the hallmark of this Leafs team. Unfortunately though, they have given up 18 goals in the past 4 games. Yikes. That's an ugly stat. As pointed out by Cox today, the Leafs "started out the year in the top half of the league defensively but is now tied with Atlanta for the most goals given up (46) by any team in the Eastern Conference." They can't expect to be keep that up and continue to be competitive in games. The offense will, inevitably, go through stretches of drought and the defence will have to carry them. Captain Ron and his crew need to hit the film room and practice ice with a new determination over the coming weeks to tighten up the leaks.
2) Keep Developing the Youngsters
The play of Borat has been borderline spectacular over the early part of this season, and the addition of Hagman has been a revelation. However, the focus can't come off the youngsters. While Stajan and Poni have had their moments, Schenn continues to be steady and Grabovski currently leads the team in goals, we can't forget that Steen continues to disappoint, Kulemin has a long way to go before being able to perform to his full abilities night after night, and Tlutsy was assigned to the AHL. All these guys need to keep seeing the ice night after night and Ron & Co. need to keep working their magic during practice, as well as keeping the kids focused for the long haul. (Note: I still think a vet like Shanny would be a good add if we could get him on a 1 year deal at a decent price. Jason Blake sucks ass and is obviously not providing the kind of on-ice leadership this team needs.)
3) Make a Trade
As noted above, we've got a log jam on the blue line. We can't continue sitting guys like Ian White and Carlo in the press box night after night. While the prospect of being benched is a nice carrot/stick motivator for Wilson, its a waste of resources to sit all those guys on a nightly basis and certainly not helping their development. Grandpa Cliffy has got to swing a deal for a forward who can be a part of this club for the long haul. Obviously Kovalchuk would be an incredible add - but I have no faith in that happening with the parts we have to deal. Next move is yours, Gramps.
4) Forget about Sundin
He's in SoCal right now looking at the Ducks, 'Nucks and even Kings. I can't blame him entirely for wanting to live in a nice climate with no focus on hockey. He gave us his best years and the decision is his to make. Let's all just move on.
DISCLAIMER: The following is a rant about U.S. politics and journalism. Turn away now - or rip me in the comments - if you think it has no place on this site.
How about this piece of crap from the Wall St. Journal (a paper I admittedly subscribe to for business news), which goes on to spew about the "disgraceful" treatment current President Bush has received over the past few years. The author's main contention seems to be that simply saying that you're going to be bipartisan, and acknowledging that you'll need the support of all Americans, means you somehow were bipartisan and should somehow be immune from that criticism?!? I think that an illegal and unjustified war, keeping prisoners locked away in Gitmo with no due process rights, torturing other prisoners, conducting warrant-less wire-tapping of your own citizens, politicizing the Justice Dept, overseeing an economic collapse of monumental proportions, etc. etc. etc. might make you deserving of most, if not all, of said treatment. What's been disgraceful is his two terms as President. End of rant.