Vehemently awful?

The Leafs have struggled at times this year but is it really fair to call the Leafs “vehemently awful” as Howard Berger does today? If vehemently awful describes a team which is 6-5-2 when not playing a team with a 13-1 record, what adjectives would you use to describe the Washington Capitals who are 2-9-1 in their last dozen games? The Leafs are not without problems but to call them vehemently awful is probably something only a vehemently biased member of the media would write or say, particularly when you follow that up with “emerging catastrophe.”

As for my opinion, the Leafs need a change. They need a new direction. I have liked a lot of what John Ferguson Jr. has done except for what he has done with his goalies. He has made two major moves with his goalies and both have flopped thus far and the worst move of them all was giving Toskala a 2 year, $8 million extension before he proved he could do the job. TO a lesser extent, I am not convinced that Paul Maurice is the right guy for the job either. For whatever reason he has not been able to get his team to play as a team for a full 60 minutes as and some of his teams worst efforts are against the weaker teams in the NHL. When Maurice was hired he was supposed to be a systems coach (compared to Pat Quinn’s more free flow approach) but I don’t see any kind of system in place. Ian White had a horrible game last night and looked out of place on several occassions but somehow he got rewarded with 24 minutes of ice time. That just doesn’t seem logical to me. Maybe I am wrong and that this group of players aren’t capable of playing a system but if Ken Hitchcock can get the noname Columbus Blue Jackets playing a strong team system and off to a 8-3-2 record I suspect that this crew can too. You cannot convince me that a defence anchored by an aging Adam Foote and waiver pickup Ron Hainsey and first round dud Rostislav Klesla and complemented by Jan Hejda, Kris Russel and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen is any better than the Leafs.

The problem is, the team is playing paranoid. They are playing as individuals. The forwards seem to be trying to do too much on their own rather than play with each other. They are trying too hard to score goals and make the big plays but not remembering to help out their teammates and defensemen in particular once and a while. It’s not that hard. When a defenseman pinches, a forward drops back to protect his place. If you are undertaking a 5 man rush, you do everything you can not to turn it over at the opposing teams blue line as your players are not moiving in the right direction to defend a counter attack (play dump and chase instead if you can’t skate the puck across the blue line). But for some reason this team isn’t playing that way. The players definitely deserve some blame but so does the coach. If he doesn’t have a system, he should be fired. If he has a system but the players aren’t responding, players need to be benched or even called out publicly. But I don’t see that either. And on top of that it seems apparent that Leaf ownership is not committed to JFJ and in turn not committed to Maurice. That is a problem too a the players know that next week, next month or next year there will probably be a new GM and coach in place. Why learn Maurice’s system (if he has one) when a new coach and a new system is likely to be right around the corner. Why do that when I can play all out offensively and pad my offensive statistics which should land me a better contract?

So, while the Leafs are far from “vehemently awful”, that do have some problems that needs to be addressed. If the teams upper management is not going to commit to JFJ and if JFJ is not going to commit Maurice then something definitely needs to be done and it is better it gets done now. There is just too much lack of focus and lack of consistency and lack of committment (from the players to the coach and from the owners to the GM) to justify not making a change of some sort.

This article has 16 Comments

  1. Surprise, suprise, another article defending the leafs. I have a lot to say about why the leafs are not doing well this year, however, I’m tired of a this. As someone pointed out on the radio yesturday after the game, people talk too much about why the leafs are stinkers rather than focusing on why Ottawa is 13-1. I for 1 am tired of anaylzing the leafs, their not worth it

  2. wow, a Leaf fan posting about his team, yeah, thats such a surprise. If the rolls were reversed I’m sure that you wouldn’t find many sens fans sites talking about the Leafs being 13-1. As for the media, they are just catering to the larger fan base, which means higher ratings which equals common sense.

  3. Hey AJ, if you don’t like it here, leave. Oh, and you future pointless inflamatory comment will be deleated so don’t bother. If you have a point to make, make it. If you just want to complain about me or whatever, go make your own website and have at it.

  4. Hey, i have an idea, why not rename this site mapleleafsanalysis insted of hockeyanalysis.

    David, i’ve really liked your site last year as it was really taking a new and deeper look at hockey by comparing different stats. But this year, your only talking about the Maple leafs, wich is becoming boring for other team’s fans like me.

    If you want to make a site about the leafs i have no problem with that but assume it and put a ton of leafs logos on it.

  5. There has always been a lot of Leaf content on this website but there is also a lot of other stuff on this site too. There are the salary cap figures and now that the season is a month old I’ll be posting the adjusted giveaways/takeaway/hits stats as well as player rankings and goals for/against stats when playing with teammates and against opponents. But there is only so much analysis you can do early in the season so it had to wait a bit. Plus I am working on a site re-design which I think will dramatically upgrade the look and feel of it and also make some of these statistics I create more accessible. It is taking a bit of time but I should be done soon (maybe as early as tonight).

    Zerton, what is your team?

  6. The Leafs are actually 3 games under .500 with a 6-7-3 record. In my opinion the are Vehemently Awful some nights and a fairly decent team other nights, an inconsitency which has been evident for the last 3 years. As a Sens fan I have no problem with this continuing but if I were JFJ I would be beginning to wonder if the core of the team didn’t need to be blown up. Could the Leafs be suffering from the same problem that Leaf fans claimed were Ottawa’s woes, namely a lack of leadership, character and grit. You can use injuries as an excuse but at some point you have to accept that spinning your wheels gets you nowhere and changes are needed.

  7. I’ll defend you David. The Leafs take an inordinate amount of criticism. I tune in to the Fan 590 after they lose just to bear witness to some fans falling on their swords. It’s amusing for me. So what if David talks about the Leafs? It’s his website, afterall. I’ve been taken by how much the Sens grace these pages. And, every post generates talk of some sort even if some of it is inane.

    Blowing up the Leafs? I found it ironic that the first rumour I heard about a Leafs trade was Kaberle leaving town. He’s the least of their problems. That would be desperation, pure and simple (and I don’t believe it’s true either). The next one I heard was Raycroft and McCabe for Brad Richards. Interesting….I don’t believe that one either.

  8. The Leafs will never win the Stanley Cup until the fans & media stop piling on them at every wrong step.

    As Jon Bon Jovi once said, “Success is falling down 9 times and getting up 10.” But if you’re always being ‘blown up’ before you get to step 7, you never get to step 10.

  9. Weird, I didn’t know that the fans actually got to play in the games. How are we responsible for the losses? By selling out every game and supporting the players without fail until they start making mistakes?

    No one is booing Antropov now that he is playing well and when McCabe could play defence AND score 50 points no one was tossing boos his way either.

  10. Antropov has been playing well for tears just that he was often injured and that no one recognized it. I have written about Antropov several times on here saying he was a better player than people made him out to be. Larry Murphy was a good player the fans ran out of town. Some how Todd Gill had a pretty good career once he left Toronto (you don’t play 1000 games if you aren’t good) but he was the scape goat when he was in Toronto. His only fault was not being a star player. The problem with Toronto fans is that they expect everyone to be a star player. Antropov was picked on because he was a first round pick that didn’t turn out to be a star, not because he wasn’t a good player. Leaf fans have a history of being player killers and unfairly criticizing their players. Not everyone can be a star, but Leaf fans seem to expect it. Pavel Kubina gets critized but he has 11 points, good for 8th among NHL defensemen, and is a +7, good for 10th among NHL defensemen. Hal Gill gets criticized but he is +5 this year and was a team best +11 last year and potted 6 goals and 20 points as well. For $2 million, thats a bargain but Leaf fans never recognize that.

    And McCabe is a good defenseman, just not a superstar one like Niklas Lidstrom and I can’t imagine what is going through his head when day in and day out he gets unfairly criticized by fans and media. That can’t be doing much good for his confidence and play on the ice. Would you perform any better at your job if you were being called vehemently awful, an emerging catastrophe and generally unfairly ridiculed and booed by 18,000 onlookers? I doubt it.

    So yes, the fans do play a role in the team like it or not.

  11. DJ – If I was doing my job well and was getting called names it would be one thing but if I was doing it poorly then what can be expected? If Leafs fans were jumping on the players before the game started I would agree that it would have an effect.

    The funny thing is that outside of Murphy and Gill you chose basically every Leaf that I argue with most of my friends about and that I have supported. A buddy and I even invented the “Hal Gill Test” so that we could quickly dismiss dilletante fans just by asking them their thoughts on Gill.

    Kubina and McCabe’s problems are largely a function of their salary. If they both made $3.5 (at a maximum) they wouldn’t catch 10% of the flak that they do.

    And Antro getting booed had less to do with him not becoming a star than the fans’ frustrations that a 10th overall pick was seemingly being wasted like so many other picks before in the club’s recent past.

    But these are professional athletes and you can’t tell me that they have made it this far in such a hypercompetitive game and that a few boos are making them play terribly.

    You may think that “Leaf fans have a history of being player killers and unfairly criticizing their players.” but they also have a history of showering the players that bleed blue and white. If the former can hinder them then the latter should motivate them just as much.

  12. No, it’s not the boos that get to them as much as the nonsense that is written about the. There are dozens of 10th overall picks that don’t amount to half of what Antropov has but Tornto media (and thus the fans) don’t realize that 10th overall flops are more common than 10th overall first line players. That’s my point. The Toronto media, and thus the fans, don’t understand reality and expect their Leafs to be superior to everyone else. Calling the Leafs vehemently awful or an emerging catastrophe or having dug themselves into a big early season hole when they are one point out of a playoff spot is nothing more than hate mongering. The players know that haven’t played great hockey and it is one thing to get criticism for that, but it is completely another when you have to deal with the kind of ‘huge hole’ stupidity that the Toronto media, and thus the fans, spew. They have struggled and have been inconsistent. There is no hiding that and the players are probably the first to criticize themselves. But the media, and thus the fans, go way over the line with a lot of their stuff they write and say.

    You may think that “Leaf fans have a history of being player killers and unfairly criticizing their players.” but they also have a history of showering the players that bleed blue and white.

    When the Leafs win some games and get on a roll, yes, the fans keep them going and energize them. When the fans cheer hard work it motivates other players to work hard. It’s just like a reward for them. They gain confidence and play more relaxed and more focused. That is good. Conversely when they get constantly booed and criticized I am sure they play more tense, try to do too much, play tenative, make mistakes and generally don’t play up to par. That is what is happening now.

  13. A lot of my friends have “given up” on the Leafs ever having a chance of winning anything due to their inconsistency issues.

    Alternatively, I have “given up” on trying to convince them the Leafs aren’t as bad as they appear. I know the Leafs are a middle to upper middle level team in this NHL. I also know they’ve had horrible lapses and given up more goals than any team with their skill level rightfully would. You can’t defend their defensive play, and frankly the fact that none of them play anything resembling a system more than 2 games in a row indicates to me that SOMEONE needs to be dealt with. The change-room platitudes won’t cut it at this point, and Darcy Tucker tirades about how he isn’t injured, and everyone needs to leave poor Bryan McCabe and his $7 million dollars alone grow amazingly tiresome. The problem on this Leafs team is a matter of a seeming inability to correct mistakes and KEEP them corrected. They also have a tendency to apologise in the “oops, we did it again… oh well” vein. Complacency, apathy, and a complete lack of accountability amounts to no sense of direction, which as much as I hate to admit, the media have been spot on about.

    Their analysis of the players is complete drivel, they over sensationalise every minor hiccup, but they have a good point when they let Leaf nation know that JFJ has done a bad job of outlining his direction for the club. Paul Maurice keeps deflecting criticism from his players, but he’s obviously growing more pissed off as the season goes on, and the fact that none of the players want to admit they’ve been playing seriously flawed hockey is alarming.

    “We need to tighten up in our own end”… Gee no crap guys. Maybe if they could do it for a week or a month, and make some sort of objective like reducing the team’s GAA I’d take it seriously. Perhaps JFJ could write DEFENSIVE objectives into player contracts. That might actually spark some sort of efforts in the opposite direction.

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