Is there more to life than “Just Win a Round”?
seldo: Absolutely. The goal of the team in general is to just win a round, but this is a wicked fun regular season team and we should do our best to enjoy it. I understand using that phrase to cover for how much you’ve been hurt, and you don’t want to get emotionally invested again. That’s fine, but you’re going to miss a lot of awesome goals on the way to winning a round. It’s TV, it’s entertainment. I’m going to let myself be entertained.
Brigstew: So I’m told.
Katya: One round is not enough for me, and I was amused to find my words about that echoed by Wayne Simmonds in All or Nothing. He wasn’t going to be satisfied with just that win over the Habs. Neither am I. The Leafs are supposed to be peaking. I don’t give the proverbial how hard their early opponents are because of the division, you need to win three or I think you’ve failed.
Hardev: Winning a round is like starting an assignment or writing out the subheadings for an essay. It’s a start, especially if you’re stressed about the essay, but no one’s giving you a grade for it or throwing you a party.
Species: I usually get sick of the long slog that is the NHL season by January. It will be even worse this year with the dual Olympic and All-Star breaks stretching it out even more. By the time April 29th comes around I will be so done and ready to move on to the playoffs that there’s no way I will be satiated by one single round. If that’s all we get again, I will not be happy, and you don’t want to see Species not happy.
Can the Leafs really avoid one of those games that gnaw at our souls and make us doubt the existence of happiness?
seldo: Oh no, that’s built into the heart and soul of this franchise.
Fulemin: It doesn’t feel like it. Not to mention, with regular season performance being utterly devalued for Toronto by this point, we’re more prone to those sorts of games: any setback is a disappointment when expectations are high.
Brigstew: If they can, I may actually have some hope going into the playoffs.
Katya: I don’t think these games are a curse from imaginary deities or some sort of Jobian trial. They aren’t supernatural or mystical. They are a fully foreseeable consequence of the roster construction, the personalities of the key players and the style of game they play. Shake this team a little and they forget the steps in the too-complex dance they’re doing in the offensive zone. They get frustrated, and the formula for success is to work harder at the same thing that didn’t work a minute ago, and they’ve never been tasked to do those things in their entire lives. No, that scoring winger isn’t good at finishing his checks and winning board battles, and yelling won’t make him Mark Stone! Eventually, you get tired of your failures and check out. Sorry this isn’t a joke answer, but this is the thing that makes me feel the way most of you feel about “win one round”.
Hardev: Further to Katya’s point, do I see this Leafs team having obviously terrible nights? Yes. This team doesn’t have Barrie and Ceci anymore, but Holl hasn’t inspired me with confidence, and as good as Rielly on the whole is, he’ll have bad nights too. Sandin is going to show his youth a lot, I think, and it’s very possible to get bum seasons out of the now more expensive depth players. Against the worst opponent, this could all come crashing in on itself again. But that’s the case for every team. No one remembers the Arizona Coyotes outscoring the Lightning 17-2 in two games, or the Avalanche losing 8-3 to Minnesota last year while only giving up 19 shots, or Scott Foster! It’s a story here because everything is a story here. Adam Brooks gets claimed on waivers, suddenly there are inquiries into the competency of the franchise, dumb stuff like that.
Species: The last game of the season is against the Bruins. They really better have locked up the playoff spot before that game.
What do you hope for?
seldo: The Leafs hang around the top of the standings all season so we can prove the “They were in the North Division, it was so easy” haters wrong.
Fulemin: I’m trying not to just say “win a round” in response to half these questions, but...
Brigstew: Well I actually will give a different answer than “win a round”. I hope that their important players stay healthy, the slew of wing depth they signed provides real value, and they actually do one of those embarrassing games they have a few times a season. They can blow leads, but make it because of refs screwing them or something. Make us mad at someone else as a reason why they blew a game they should have had for once!
Katya: The North Division was easy, and everyone’s stats are overrated from that division. Also, if one round isn’t enough for me, where does that leave me? I want to see some improvement on the emotional response to adversity. I do want them to collapse into emo piles of frustration a lot less. I hope to never see a stretcher on the ice, and for the cross-checking crackdown to open up goal scoring and for no one ever at all to say, “sometimes you gotta just make a save.”
Hardev: That the coaching staff learns to make adjustments this season. I know it’s important to stick to the plan and not go chasing statistical ghosts, but it’s not their job to have perfect data sets to make evaluations, it’s to make decisions.
Species: Leafs-Oilers Cup final. Leafs win.
What do you dread?
seldo: The Leafs prove those people right.
Fulemin: That we’re going to realize the actual best Leafs team, and the best chance to win with it, was in 2019.
Brigstew: That nothing changes. They still lose those games a few times, they do it again in the playoffs and lose in one round, Dubas is fired, he’s replaced by a Hockey Man(TM) who, rather than solving their problems, makes the team slowly worse over another few seasons until Matthews doesn’t re-sign and the Leafs decide to blow it up and rebuild and we just wasted almost a decade of our lives filled with real hope that this core would finally win the Leafs a Cup.
Katya: I dread goalie injuries, and Michael Hutchinson taken away from the Marlies where he can win them a cup. Seriously, almost nothing else can truly destroy a team and their chances like two goalies injured at once. The way you respond to goalie troubles is the measure of the GM.
Hardev: I dread that this team has been given another season of status quo and no one is going to try and fix what was broken last year. I’m talking less about coaching and more about the players themselves. I want to know how Matthews has augmented his game so last season’s playoff disappearance is less likely to happen again. That point doubled for Marner. His playoff performance was telegraphed all season, but he got an assist or two a game so it didn’t matter. I don’t want to see him getting all floaty at the top of the zone, or acting like a third liner blocking shots and not scoring. That’s not what he’s here for. He’s here to be dominant every night, so be dominant every night.
Species: The first round exit. Or, more specifically, the aftermath of that which I am sure will make the team worse for several years than it would have been.
Do you think your take on the team right now is rational, or are you still too emo to think straight?
seldo: I think I’m rational, or as rational as a raging homer can be. Last year is over, I’m working from a clean slate. I have the scars of so many seasons past I can’t let one get me down,
Fulemin: I think I’m at the pessimistic end of rational. I’m erring on the side of misery, but hey, I have a lot of evidence for that stance.
Katya: I worry that I’ve suppressed so much skepticism about Kyle Dubas’s three dogs in a trenchcoat method to replace Zach Hyman, that it might burst out at some point, but in general, I think my take on the team is fairly fact-based.
Hardev: I usually am slightly more optimistic at the start of the season than I should be, but who isn’t.
Species: I am perfectly rational right now. Ask me this question again five minutes into the game on Wednesday and you may get a very different answer.