Monday, January 01, 2007

Its Christmastime. Time to blog about the Leafs

Let's leave the silly topic of politics behind and log about something equally as important - the Leafs.

They have had me banging my head against the wall for the better part of thirty years now. They still haven't won the Stanley Cup in my lifetime, and I'm starting to get grey hairs. This season seems a lot like the last; they came out of the gates really well but have fizzled of late and will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs.

I thought the Leafs were a much better team than last year's version for one simple equation: Lindros out, Peca in. However, the Leafs have been decimated by a recent rash of injuries, not least of which is Michael Peca himself, out likely until the playoffs (if the Leafs even make the playoffs).

I think the best Leaf currently is Chad Kilger (pictured above). He's the type of grinder I, for one, really like. Having said that, Sundin has been on a tear of late, scoring six goals in his last five games, including two this evening in a 5-1 rollicking of those nasty Boston Bruins. I like the type of player that is Kilger; multi-dimensional. He can score goals (usually in spurts), but also grinds away in the corner and finishes checks. He's a lesser version of Darcy Tucker, who just returned from an injury. Between Kilger, Tucker, Peca and, more recently, Boyd Devereaux, I think the Leafs have the makings of a team that could go deep into the playoffs - if they can get there.

As it stands, their blueline is vastly over-rated if not also overpaid. I really don't care what McCabe and Kaberle (whom I like to pronounce "kuh-BERL") do on the powerplay, they're not doing the meat and potatoes job they're supposed to on defence. And they get far too much ice time. Although Hal Gill and Ian White (aka "Fred and Barney") started the season well, their play has been, for the most part, inconsistent. Pavel Kubina just isn't the blue chip defencemen he was with Tampa Bay in 04'. Thankfully, Carlo Coliacovo (I never was able to spell it properly), is back from a long-term injury and I think he's really bolstered their defensive corps.

Goaltending: Andrew Raycroft just isn't Eddie Balfour, nor Curtis Joseph. End of story. The textbook on beating hims is quite brief: the words "HIGH, GLOVE SIDE" written in large font, upper case letters. JS Aubin had a nice run last spring, when Eddie went down, but he just isn't a goaltender that's going to get you very deep into the playoffs, and nor is Raycroft. Maybe they should trade both of them to the Sen-NOT-ors (God I hate the Ottawa Senators! Even more than I ever hated the Canadiens).

As for Captain Mats himself, I still remember where I was when I heard he had been traded to the Leafs. It was in my law school days and some classmates and I were in a movie theatre in Victoria in the summer when one of them broke the news to me that Sundin had been traded to the Leafs for....Wendel Clark!!!!! Aghhhhhh!!!!!!!!! was the only conceivable response at the time, as Wendel had been the heart and soul of the franchise for almost a decade. Now here he was, off to the Quebec Nordiques.

What's relevant about all of that is how long ago it was: 1994....June. In fact, Mats didn't even suit up for the Blue and White until the following January, as the first half of that season was lost to a lockout. 1994....almost thirteen years ago. Sundin has toiled that long for the boys in blue. This leads me to believe that, should the Leafs not have a decent shot at making the playoffs by the beginning of March, captain Mats will waive his no-trade clause and be shipped off to a Cup contender. Some observers have suggested the Disney Ducks (I don't care that their official names has been changed to the "Anaheim Ducks", they will always be the "Disney Ducks of Anaheim" to me).

They've been charting his scoring progress for the Leafs as of late, moving up the all-time lists for both goals and points. I think he's still number 2 all-time for the Leafers, still behind my boyhood idol, Darryl Sittler.

Hey speaking of Darryl Sittler, Cathy and I made a trip to St. Jacob's last summer just before baby Liam was born. She wanted to go to the big market there, and I thought it would be neat to go see the boyhood home of my hockey hero. We had a tourist map which showed where it was but, when we got there we weren't quite certain which house it was. It wasn't as if there was a big sign with the words "BOYHOOD HOME OF DARRYL SITTLER" emblazoned on it.

Wonder if I'll ever get to Sweden to see Mats Sudin's boyhood home? Or at least Chad Kilger's.

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