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[Recap] Toronto Maple Leafs 4 at Buffalo Sabres 5 (OT)

It took an entire day and other teams blowing leads either of the huge or late variety to awake me from my depression. Between the Leafs, Habs, Oilers, Flames, and Canucks there is maybe one good hockey team total and I can live with that situation. It sucks that Ottawa is probably going to win another President's Trophy but I'll start panicking when they have won three games in the Stanley Cup Final. Caution: What follows is a lot of ranting.

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Obviously, opposition fans and the media are having a field day with the situation. Damien Cox even went so far as to suggest that McCabe be traded since he's getting the Larry Murphy treatment. Sorry, but Murphy proved to be a competent enough defenceman to get into the Hall of Fame once his fragile psyche left the Leafs. McCabe is no HoFer. He's more like Todd Gill. Or Todd Fucking Gill for those that actually watched him play for the Leafs. Dave Hodge didn't think that the Leafs would win any trade that they made for McCabe but I think that he is completely off base. Not only would the Leafs get his salary off of the books ($5.75M cap hit) but they would open a roster spot for one of Anton Stralman or Staffan Kronwall. In the long run that would be much more beneficial to the team than having McCabe endure almost 4 more years of booing.

Speaking of the salary that McCabe is stealing nightly, Darcy Tucker had the audacity to suggest that the fans do not have 5.75M reasons to boo McCabe each night:

It really bothers me that people always keep bringing up that he makes this much money. You know what? He's still goes home to his wife and his daughter and has a family. And he still has to go out on the ice and try to perform. He's one of the guys that prepares the hardest. ... It's not like he's not trying."

Sorry Darcy but when you play a game for a living for a ridiculous amount of money that most fans won't see in their lifetime then you can expect to get booed when you are making child-like mistakes. He can afford to hire an elite coach or even any 9 year old that has played hockey to teach him that when one defenceman is in the corner the other stays in front of the net or that if a player has control of his stick he can still score or if your shot is going to get blocked dump it in the corner (I actually saw McCabe do that once Monday and I almost fell out of my chair). Larry Murphy chimes in to whine about how he was booed:

It is a big distraction obviously...You have to ask the question are they real fans? do they want to see the Leafs win because it's not helping.

Cry me a river Larry. Maybe if you had manned up then you would have received the unparalled adulation that any Leaf that puts forth 100% gets regardless of results. All that fans want for scrounging to pay the ridiculous ticket prices is some honest effort. And seeing that you are learning from your mistakes might help.

The coach certainly doesn't help when he gives him an out:

"Clearly we've got a guy that's hearing it and I think he's feeling it a little bit. To his credit, with the exception of putting the puck in the net, he played a helluva game for us (Monday). There were at least two other defencemen who were galactically bad in comparison to Bryan."

Why not mention that those other two terrible defencemen were the veterans Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill. Also, Paul, it was three because Wozniewski once again showed why the AHL should represent the ceiling of his career. If he's willing to make Jeff O'Neill and Bates Battaglia healthy scratches to emphasize that they need to play well in order to get in the lineup why not McCabe? Oh, and coach, call a damn timeout!

Right now, a trade would be the best thing for both sides. McCabe can't be hidden in the AHL like Lamoriello did last season and he also isn't eligible for long-term injury unless a Leafs fan takes matters into his own hands and runs him down on the street (note: I do not condone such behaviour). It would be a tough deal to swing but even if the Leafs had to accept equal salary at least that player wouldn't have a NO MOVEMENT CLAUSE and he could be dumped on the Marlies. A change of scenery would probably result in McCabe becoming amazing since that's what players do when they leave Toronto but right now he is a massive detriment and distraction to the squad. Forget about Mark Bell going to jail after the season or Blake's fight against leukemia, booing McCabe has somehow become the massive story in TO and it will remain that way for the rest of the season if his play continues.

The comparisons to Antropov and Raycroft have been made but yesterday shows that McCabe might not be as mentally strong as either of those two. Raycroft was mercilessly booed last year to the point that the ACC was chanting 'Raaaaaaaaay-croft' during the Canucks game. A new goalie was brought in to replace him! What did he do? He took the booing in stride, accepted the challenge of competition for starts, worked hard over the summer, and he has returned a much better goalie.

Antropov's name was cheered when it was announced that he was a scratch last year before he returned. Fans were fed up with his injuries and with his seeming lack of competitive fire. He stuck with it for seven years even when his bright spots (post-Olympics 2006 especially) were clouded over quickly by injuries and loss of form. This year has been the best Leaf bar none. McCabe doesn't strike me as the type of personality that can handle this booing. While the other two met with the media every day during their ordeal (there really is no other word for dealing with the local media) McCabe hid from those same reporters yesterday.

Anyway, phew! that's it about McCabe. As for the game, Antropov and whoever he was on the ice with were awesome. He's using his large reach and frame to dominate the ice and his vision was evident on the amazing pass he made to Kilger to make it 3-2. Gamache showed that while you can criticize a lot (read: most) of what JFJ does you cannot deny that he is brilliant when it comes to small deals. The Leafs actually played about 50 minutes of good hockey until their brains shut down. The top line was atrocious as they were on the ice for all 4 goals in the third period. The Leafs' website has a video called "Game in Six Minutes" and sadly, it took just over that time period for a hardfought 2-0 lead to turn into an OT disaster. On the bright side, help is on the way!

The Other End of the Rink

The Leafs will not improve until they improve their discipline. 7 games played, 49 times short-handed. By contrast Buffalo has played 5 games and been short-handed just 21 times. Minnesota is even better (5 games, 19 times SH). You make the game a lot easier on yourself if you’re not constantly chasing the puck on the PK.