When you lose like this the temptation can be to look for a scapegoat, to find the weakest guy on the team, perhaps, and bay for his blood. There is a desire there to want to find one or two players to hold the blame, like the one guy holding the loot in the get away car. He’ll do more time. He’ll get punished. There is a burning desire to not want to admit that it was everyone.
It was everyone.
This isn’t like the last time it all fell apart and the Leafs played poorly against a good team. That time they put together some good play, executed a bit of a comeback, and still got trounced by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
This is a different kind of collapse. This one was more about some pumped up self confidence from a winning streak (Edmonton, Buffalo, Vancouver) the led everyone to think they were pretty special when they aren’t in fact a very good team at all. Not yet.
The Los Angeles Kings are a very good team. They don’t just have skilled players who are also big, tough guys. In fact, they have a lot of declining skilled players—guys on the downslope of the ageing curve. But what they have that the Leafs just don’t is knowledge down to their bones of what they can do now on the ice. What works. What fails.
If Jeff Carter isn’t what he was five or six years ago, it doesn’t matter, because his team knows exactly where this Jeff Carter will be on the ice and what he can do. They have Tyler Toffoli, who isn’t a kid, he’s 24, and he will never be a superstar, but he plays within that team to perfection. Together they are greater than the sum of their parts.
The Leafs have a lot of parts. Very, very good parts. But at times it seems as though their certainty on how to execute Plan A might be a little weak, their memory of Plan B is hazy and Plan C is written on a card in their back pocket.
The Kings have Plans A - Zed memorized in their bones.
So now what? It’s over. It’s done. Forget about it and move on? Find a ritual victim and make him sit in the press box.
I think Mr. Marincin is going to get to know Mr. Press Box pretty well.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) November 9, 2016
Maybe. Maybe Mike Babcock will tinker with the lineup. Here’s what he had to say:
“You’re not going to just get up tomorrow and everything’s going to be rosy.”
Sometimes it just isn’t a very rosy morning. But you can’t crawl back into bed and hide from it. You have to get up on your feet and stop making excuses. You can’t just flush the bad game and forget it. You must turn and look at it full on.
“They showed us tonight that we have a long way to go.”
Some times that’s just how it is. You’re at the bottom of the mountain, and you have to climb. A journey of a thousand miles, and all that. He talks about how they’ll look at the video today and figure out where they go from here that gets them on the path they want to be on.
He agrees with Babcock that they were almost in that game at the beginning, and they let it all slip away.
Babcock was asked if there would be significant changes to the lineup. He said, “That’s a great question.” Which is his way of telling the reporter he’s not going to answer that. He said this:
“I’m going to wake up tomorrow, and I’m going to go through the game like I always do and get ready for practice and by Friday I’ll have a plan.”
Maybe everyone’s desire for a scapegoat will get realized. Maybe there will be some ritual benching, some blame, some singling out of particularly weak players, but if the plan on Friday when the Leafs host the Flyers is going to work, it’s going to need the Leafs to be a better team. Not parts of the team to be better.
Why do we even watch sports if not to contemplate how to go on from such a defeat on the morning after? It’s a bit of an emotional slot machine, watching the Leafs. Put in your coin, pull the handle and get despair or joy or chagrin or any of a million other things to feel. Hate. You can get that if you want it.
No one is going to make us do a penance at practice today as Babcock is. No one is going to make us ever watch that game again. Confession: I hardly watched it at all after goal three. No one is going to make us reflect on our own deeds and thoughts. No one is going to make us improve, to pull together, to be a better team in order to make the world a better place. No one is going to Babcock us with a stern disregard for our tender hearts.
If you want someone to tell you to get up and stand up and don’t give up the fight, you have to go find it somewhere else.