It seems James Reimer is the best Leafs player these days. Having said that, it makes me wonder about the best player on the vaunted Bruins, not to mention the Caps. I mean, not that I'm complaining, but Crabb playing alongside Ovie says it all. One word:parity.
So, in an era when on any given night, the Leafs can play and compete effectively against the pundit-annointed best teams, who are on the whole supposedly bigger and much more talented, the Toronto Maple Leafs only need to improve in the luck and timing category. Notwithstanding the decision to pick the best from the talent pool, whether annually in the draft, or throughout the year via waivers or trades.
Luckily for fans, it seems MLSE have now invested in a stopwatch for the coaches. The Leafs played a really good game last night and outhit the Bruins, leaving quite a few crumpled at the foot of the boards. In terms of best players, as defined by cost, it's very likely Kessel tops management's lists, but having Orr in the lineup to propel themselves past their current equally mediocre league-mates seems like a wasted content opportunity if he does not slug it out with Lucic. I'm not buying the nice guy needs a pension theory.
No one claims to have a magic wand or a quick fix, but with a perfect storm brewing being so close to the payoffs (oh, did I say payoffs and not playoffs) and new ownership led by Larry Tannenbaum breathing down his neck, general manager Dave Nonis is surely seeking solutions other than a 2-game win streak to appease the bosses.
in this era and foreseeable future of league-sponsored team parity, currently being exemplified in this shortened and intensified season, aforementioned luck and timing, an injury or bad bounce, are impacting the outcome of games, moreso than any one defining skill set, augmenting mistakes made by coaches.
Men playing in the NHL over the decades may have become statistically bigger, and possibly even statistically better, but one thing is certain they are better trained, better fueled, and have access to supremely better technology on so many levels, to the point now whereby to the cynical observer the league has evolved into teams of honed machine facing off against honed machine.
The more I hear their top line is facing off against our top line, I laugh. Yes, each team has four lines of varying sizes and skill sets upfront, but during the game these match-up theories get thrown out the window.
In the short term, Matt Frattin will continue to enjoy the spotlight and fill in for the injured Joffrey Lupul and there are other Marlies—Ryan Hamilton and Joe Colborne—eager to answer the bell, though the former was sitting in the press box last night for his call-up effort, resting while we had a look at newcomer Frazer McLaren.
Speaking of pundits, albeit somewhat qualified, a few years ago former assistant GM Bill Watters swung into the local pub I was visiting for a quick lunch, and when asked about the club's prospects, he could sing no higher praises than for Ben Scrivens. He said the kid was exceptional. That was then, this is now.
In the locker room as well as on the ice—not to mention in the face of cameras and microphones—captain Dion Phaneuf and his alternates must step up to the plate and continually provide inspired leadership. In the wake of Keith Aucoin recently joining the New York Islanders, it might be interesting to see if another deal might be swung in exchange for a package including one of the Marlies' competent goalies in Jussi Rynnas or Mark Owuya.
Of the current Leafs players that come to mind who haven't been enjoying admirably productive seasons, Nikolai Kulemin and Phil Kessel would draw interest. I'll go out on a limb and say Kessel remains untouchable, given his cost of acquisition, but it might be time to move Kulemin.
Kessel must continue to shoot the puck aplenty in order to score. He seems healthy and seems to be having fun, and he is shooting pucks aplenty. Kulemin does not seem happy though. Speaking of shooting and missing, at least Phaneuf is listening to his (arm chair) critics and beginning to shoot low, and nowadays seemingly preferring to loft in a shot, hoping for a decent tip, rather than blasting in a "cannonating" drive from the blueline. I think that quote was courtesy of Danny Gallivan.
The last time I saw the Hurricanes play the Leafs down at ACC, it was an early week game a few years ago and our boys were slapped silly and lost something like 9-2. Let's hope history does not repeat itself on Monday night.