Jan 15, 2010

Jekyll and Hyde team

In a season of uncertainty, only one thing is certain. Whenever this edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs takes to the ice, you never know what team you are going to see. They will win 4-0 on one night and then lose 6-1 the next, just because they can.

Who gets held responsible for this result? Brian Burke can't be blamed because an astute fan knows that Rome wasn't built in a day and they'll grant some grace to Mr. Burke since he's only had one NHL draft and one off-season at the helm of the franchise. He is methodically placing building blocks within the organization knowing that the sum of the parts, when all in place is greater than the part itself on its own and he doesn't have all his components yet. Ron Wilson can't be blamed because he just got a rousing vote of confidence from his boss in declaring his job secure for the foreseeable future. Plus, he isn't that bad of a coach. The rookies that are being bounced from the AHL to the NHL and back again can't be blamed since they are just expected to learn from their callups and attempt to light a fire under the contract player who is keeping their roster spot warm for next season. We can't blame the media or the fans, though many do try! So what does that leave?

The only people responsible for this result is the players themselves. Perhaps they all needed a dictionary to know what the definition of truculence was and the book still hasn't made its way around the dressing room. Maybe they are still having trouble adapting to Ron Wilson's type of game. It is after all, only the second season. (insert sarcastic laugh here) Ron can coach and teach, but the players are having a difficult time executing. Why? I don't know, if I knew the answer to that question I'd be employed by the Maple Leafs right now and be correcting it. What I do see though is a team not willing to engage. To win the battles, you have to be in the battles and on a lot of nights this season the Leafs have too many spectators on the ice. I'm not going to name players, but we all know the usual suspects. When the puck is in the corner the defenseman needs to be the first player in and the first player out. When he hangs back hoping to hit the offensive player he's already lost the battle because the puck has been moved and the hit now puts himself out of position. On the forecheck, the forward needs to be the first to the puck and not hanging back hoping to hit the defenseman because the defense has already moved the puck and once the hit is made that forechecking forward now has a long way back for an effective backcheck.

Here's where the Jekyll and Hyde personality comes in. When the Leafs do play aggressively and are the first team to all the puck battles they usually win the game. When they show up second to all the puck battles they are usually behind the play all night and lose significantly. Again, here's where Burkie gets frustrated, when the team plays aggressively and executes Ron Wilson's game plan the goaltenders look great and the players can play and compete against the best teams in the league. So the players can win, when they want.

For this season, I don't believe there is any solution. There is a silver lining in knowing that we have some good young prospects just about ready to make the jump. But for now just hope the team can get enough wins to get Boston a pick that's outside the Top 5 or Top 10 and look forward to the next one ... yet again.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Go To Top