My hate affair with the Toronto Maple Leafs started during the Harold Ballard years. Before that old SOB came along, the Leafs were Canada’s team. The legends of the 1967 Stanley Cup Champions had every 2nd kid west of the Ottawa-Hull border wearing the blue and white jersey.
And even though Ballard’s Maple Leafs had Sittler, McDonald and Tiger Williams…even though they were coached by the legendary Roger Neilson, they still became a joke of a team. After Neilson was fired as Toronto went on a real skid, Ballard wanted to re-hire Roger before the next game, but have him come out to the bench with a paper bag over his head.
What showmanship! What suspense!
The circus back then makes even the modern Tampa Bay organization look like a model of prudent decision making.
So now, we all love to hate the Leafs. But even that has become harder these last couple of years. These Leafs became so moribund that it was almost over-kill to cheer against them.
Yep, we even started to pity them.
Pity until Cliff Fletcher started to re-organize them. Took away the country club sense of entitlement that had invaded the dressing room. Traded away or bought out the liabilities. Added youth and speed and then brought in a disciplinarian like Ron Wilson to sort them out.
Set the table pretty nicely, didn’t he Mr. Burke?
I’m writing this after the game, not during. No sense reporting what you all saw. Jim and and Mark did a credible job of letting the Leaf fans down easily. Kept talking about the number of shots on the Canuck net. Kept talking about the amazing Roberto. Kept talking about the never say die attitude of these young Leafs.
But that wasn’t the story.
Sure, Roberto was great early…and unsuccessful 5 on 3 power plays are often game changers…but that wasn’t the only story.
The Canucks have quietly become one of the top scoring teams in the league, meanwhile holding onto (courtesy of Lou) to one of the better goals against. I’ve said previously that only the media worries about filling out the lines. But Coach V is more interested in duos, which allows him to plug and play the third member of any given line depending on a host of variables. Who’s hot. Who’s skating. What the score is. What the momentum is.
With the return of Demitra to play with our new hero Wellwood, the Canucks have three duos that can score at any given time. Certainly Henrik and Daniel can be relied upon when there is secondary scoring to back them up. And Kesler and Burrows have been opening eyes since the beginning of the season.
With Demitra and Wellwood as the third scoring duo, we suddenly have three lines that can score at any given time.
That’s what sunk the Leafs tonight as much as anything. Sure Roberto was great. But as soon as the Leafs stopped to scratch their young heads, one of our guys was putting in a highlight reel goal. And something I noticed in the third period was that when Hansen played with Ryan Johnson, we suddenly had a fourth line that could be dangerous as well.
And Hansen is a perfect plug and play guy. His speed and tenacity shows up on any line. I suspect coach V will try him with the twins one of these days and we could really see some fireworks.