There is just a touch of heavy-handedness when the media team behind The Leaf: Blueprint drive home their point. I say this lovingly because I've loved all of the episodes of this show, but when they describe Morgan Rielly as "Workmanlike" and show a montage of him putting up a wall for Habitat for Humanity, I can't help but pause and snicker.
Rielly's was not one of the tales of redemption that made up tonight's emotional arc, however. Rielly was a side note, an example. He's a kid who was drafted by the Leafs and is doing everything right -- but how about Jonathan Bernier? How about Nazem Kadri?
Those are the storylines we follow in tonight's episode. It starts with Bernier's introspective monologue about his journey through the minors. "It's such a fine line between being on top of your game, or just a step behind," Bernier says, foreshadowing his fall.
Bernier talks us through the beginning of his season. Now back with the Leafs in his rightful role, he can tell us his emotions, from the very first moment that he learned that he'd been demoted, through to his first win of the season with the NHL. That first moment, though, was tough to listen to: "When Babs showed me the schedule," Bernier says, "I thought it was a schedule of the games I was going to play. When I really looked down, I thought, 'Those are not NHL teams right there.'"
And my heart totally said, "Oof" along with him.
The episode takes a small tour of the Toronto Marlies and talks of Bernier's accomplishments there, while he discusses how he simplified his life by deliberately not watching any Leafs games. The result was three shutouts and a loss, and an invitation to the Leafs Christmas Party.
The party marked the turning point in Bernier's story arc, and had two interestingly absurd moments. (1) Bernier and his small child both parked atop a very strong Santa's lap. (2) Hockey players talking excitedly about Oliver the Jeweler.
Who the heck is that? You might ask, if you (like me) are from Orlando, Florida. Apparently he's a famous local jeweler who makes crazy ads that are actually (according to investigative journalism) somewhat true:
Now I know?
Bernier's story continues when Garret Sparks' injury forces him to play the rest of a game. Back in the net, Bernier is given another chance with the Leafs, and makes as much of it as he can. It takes him another few games to get a win, but he slowly improves, and finally he is rewarded -- his first win is a shutout, at home, against the LA Kings. By that time you're cheering for him!
The goaltender who was left voiceless in Episode 3 is given a voice, and you get to hear his story from the perspective of relieved redemption. This is his redemption song, now that he's part of the Leafs again, confident again.
Kadri's story arc was similar, and I want you to play a game with me. Put a penny onto a stack every time you hear the word "confidence" or "confident," and tell me how many Canadian pennies high it ends up by the episode's end. Was this the leitmotif, the philosophy the media team wanted to convey? ... Yeah, I think so, probably.
Next episode is all about Peter Holland, and it looks fabulous!