Maple Leafs Dress Up As Hockey Team For Halloween

On Saturday night the Toronto Maple Leafs were on the road taking on the Montreal Canadiens and despite it being a little out of the ordinary Mike Babcock let the players wear their Halloween costumes at work. If you looked close enough you wouldn’t see anyone on the team dressed up as a firefighter, police officer, Spider-Man, Batman, or any other mainstream costume. Carey Price dressed up as a brick wall/destroyer of hopes and dreams but that’s completely besides the point.

No, the players on the Toronto Maple Leafs all decided to dress up as a hockey team and this wasn’t a knock off costume that they might have made with scraps from their garage. They were solid in every aspect of the game and really looked the part. The fact that they lost the game doesn’t take away from the fact that they played one of their best, if not the best, games of the season so far. You could tell everybody was having a great time.

Perhaps too great of a time because they clearly forgot they had to work on Sunday…

After putting up such a good effort in a 2-1 loss to Montreal they came out the next night and proceeded to play one of their worst games of the season. For a team that blew a 4 goal lead to Winnipeg, a late 2 goal lead to Chicago, and just got crushed by the Lightning less than a week ago, that’s saying something.

Leafs fans are currently at odds with each other over where they think this team can finish in the standings. Some are willing to go bold and proclaim that this team can contend for a playoff spot while others expect them once again to be bottom 5 in the NHL. And honestly, they’ve been so inconsistent it’s hard to say which group will be right in the end.

Myself, I think the finish somewhere between 20th and 25th. This is a young team that has proven time and time again that they can generate offence and score goals. The amount of creativity that Matthews, Nylander, and Marner display on a nightly basis is enough to amaze even their harshest critics. But they’ve also been forced to lead the way far too often while some of the veterans take a back seat. Defensively this team is either hopelessly lost or just a little confused when it comes to playing in their own end. Not exactly a winning combination.

The difference is we don’t need the Leafs to win this year. It would be nice if they did but it’s not going to happen. Just like no matter how much you might want Nolan Patrick you shouldn’t want them to come in last again by tanking. This is the year we figure out exactly what we have in the young talent we’ve been accumulating. If we were going to tank this year there would be no reason to have Nylander and Marner in the NHL. Why? Because they’re really good at hockey. If we were tanking again I wouldn’t scream at the tv every time Hunwick and Polak step on the ice. I would want them on the top pairing playing against the best players on all the other teams.

You should want the Leafs to do as well as they possibly can. If that means they make the playoffs then we can celebrate because the rebuild is farther along than most of us thought. It will be young players that get us there not an aging core that relies on James Reimer channeling his inner Ed Belfour and making Randy Carlyle look like a masterful tactician. If they do finish near the bottom of the standings then we can at least take solace in the fact that we’re getting another really good young player that we can add to the best farm system in the entire league.

The good news for the Leafs is they’re still young and this core will get the opportunity to grow and learn together. Once Frederik Andersen finds his footing and the team in front of him tightens up on the back end a bit, they will automatically become noticeably better. It’s going to take a long time before they’re contenders but there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to build off of what they did last season and continue to take steps forward. They are not going to be the worst team in the NHL again. They’re too good for that.

Watch the games and don’t get too discouraged about the results you’re seeing on the ice. After surviving David Clarkson as a top 6 winger, Ian White as a future captain, and Raycroft and Toskala battling it out for the number 1 job, we’re much better off sitting where we are now. This organization dressed up as a hockey team for the last 10 years (remember in 2013 when it was believable for a second?) and we’re finally getting the rebuild we always wanted. This isn’t the year the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup but they still have a lot to look forward to. If you ever find yourself upset about the way things are going just sit back, take a deep breath, and remember.

Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner are Toronto Maple Leafs.

Follow me on Twitter @_JaredClarkson

Now Is Not The Time To Panic. That Comes Later

I don’t take losing well and I really don’t like it when the Leafs lose (insert joke about Leafs losing)

Growing up I was rarely allowed to stay up to watch the entire game if it was a school night. I was able to watch the first two periods and then I had to go to bed. But rather than go to sleep and have to wait to find out the score I would either sit at the top step just out of sight or I would listen on the radio. The Toronto Maple Leafs were, are, and forever will be an obsession.

When I was considerably younger the Toronto Maple Leafs kicked off the 2005/2006 by losing back to back shootouts to the Ottawa Senators. I was considerably upset to the point where my mother had to give me an ultimatum; I could start being less upset that the Leafs were losing or I wouldn’t be allowed to watch the games for an undetermined amount of time. Not watching the games has never been an option for me. Even last year when the Leafs came last I watched approximately 70 games and when I wasn’t watching I was constantly updating my phone trying to find out the score. To this day my schedule is still built around when the Leafs are playing.

At the start of this season I was as excited as I had been in a very long time. This team won’t finish high in the standings but the difference this year is there are young, talented players that make up this roster. My excitement  was validated when Auston Matthews scored his 1st NHL goal against the Senators on opening night. Before the night was done Matthews became the 1st player in the modern era to score four goals in their NHL debut. The Leafs also lost the game 5-4 in OT.

Through the first 5 games of the season the Leafs sit 7th in the Atlantic with a 1-1-3 record. It’s disappointing because they could (should?) easily have at least 3 wins. On Saturday night they had the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks on the ropes and they squandered a 2 goal lead with less than 3 minutes to go. The disappointing thing is it wasn’t a game lost by young players making rookie mistakes. If that was the case it would be somewhat understandable and could be used as yet another teachable moment in this young season. No, this was the veterans that let this one get away from them. Roman Polak and Matt Hunwick were brought in to help stabilize a young blue line. Veterans that have grit, play the game the right way (Polak’s questionable hits aside), are real good pros, or whatever cliche you feel like using.

This is the 1st goal the Blackhawks scored on Saturday night.

https://www.nhl.com/video/embed/panarin-dances-in-for-great-dish/t-277752844/c-45564303?autostart=false                (Courtesy NHL.com)

Now lots of things are happening on this goal.

  1. Kadri gets danced pretty badly by Artemi Panarin. Not great defending but it happens
  2. Leo Komarov doesn’t really pick up anybody in this scenario. Not advisable. Common sense dictates that 5 on 5 there will always be someone for you cover.
  3. Nikita Zaitsev also doesn’t come away looking good. He’s actually in a good position to take Anisimov when the Hawks enter the zone but as soon as Kadri gets beat he comes over to help. He obviously recognizes the mistake because when Panarin makes the pass, Zaitsev turns his head and notices that Anisimov is wide open.
  4. Matt Hunwick is JUST getting into the zone as the puck goes in. On the replay he decides to step up into the neutral zone despite Chicago already going on the counter attack . That’s a pretty awful read from someone who is supposed to be one of the reliable veterans on this team. Are we really sure that Zaitsev is the NHL rookie?

Here’s a still from moments before Richard Panik tied the game late in the 3rd period

hawks-tying-goal                    (Courtesy @Draglikepull)

That’s right. Polak and Hunwick, the two veteran defence man in this group, let two Chicago Blackhawks get in behind them with just under 90 seconds left in a 1 goal game. HOW? WHY?

You can criticize Frederik Andersen for some things early on this season but how is a goalie supposed to make a save when he has two players standing almost right on top of him, and then a third player (Panik) comes and puts the puck into an empty net. That’s right. Not only are the Leafs D not doing anything to prevent Toews or Hossa from scoring, but when Panik picks up the puck seconds later Polak decides the best thing to do is to play  goalie. How was this pairing rewarded for their stellar coverage in their own end?

THEY WERE ON THE PENALTY KILL IN OVERTIME!

Despite blowing a 3rd period lead in all but 1 of their games the Leafs aren’t actually in a bad spot. Their goaltending hasn’t been great, their defence is horrid, but they are scoring goals and the rookies in the lineup have been fantastic. The biggest issue has been the veteran players not pulling their weight. If we are still in this position after 20 games then there might be a little bit of cause for concern but until then just enjoy the ride. This is a rebuild after all. They tend to take awhile

When Mike Babcock was hired he promised there would be pain and fans thought he just meant last year. They were wrong. We’re just getting out of surgery now and still have to go through post-op and the recovery time. Did you honestly think we could have Dave Nonis run our team and come out of it day-to-day? Not a chance.

Follow me on Twitter @_JaredClarkson

Auston Matthews Is Just One Piece Of Giant Leafs Puzzle

5. 6. 8. 13

Close your eyes for just a second and picture where you were at 7:11 PM on April 30th, 2016. If you’re anything like me you were sitting in front of a tv watching the NHL Draft Lottery show on Sportsnet. What you may not realize is at that exact moment, the Toronto Maple Leafs fortunes were trending in an unmistakably upward direction. The general public just didn’t know it yet.

Coming into the 2015/2016 season Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had promised fans that there would be pain and he was completely right. Even the most diehard fans had a problem getting through all 82 games. There were more than a few hopeless nights but as the losses piled up the fan base was more content than they had been in a long time. The team was losing on the ice but behind the scenes the pieces were being put in place to ensure that this time, the pain of defeat would be followed by the joy of success.

Brendan Shannahan, Lou Lamoriello, and the rest of the front office have put together the Leafs deepest, and most talented prospect pool the organization has seen in decades. William Nylander is down in the AHL leading the Marlies on what hopes to be a deep run in the Calder Cup playoffs and Mitch Marner is averaging just over 2.5 points in the OHL playoffs with the London Knights. Those are just the most high profile names. You can add Kasperi Kapanen, Jeremy Bracco, Dmytro Timashov, Connor Brown, Travis Dermott, and Scott Harrington and you still haven’t listed everyone. The Leafs are making a puzzle but they’re missing some of the pieces. It seems like they’ve been perpetually looking for a #1 centre and the goaltending has seen it’s fair share of ups and downs.

5.6.8.13

At 7:11 PM on April 30th, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced to a room of team representatives that the Toronto Maple Leafs were the winners of the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery. Everyone outside that room would have to wait until after 8pm for Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly to announce the winner on live TV. The Leafs had found, maybe not the final, but easily the biggest piece of their rebuild.

But who’s name are they going to call?

It’s difficult to say with 100% certainty that the Leafs are taking Auston Matthews with the 1st overall pick this summer but it’s largely considered to be the consensus among among the people that really matter. There is the odd contrarian that thinks Patrick Laine should be the player that puts on the jersey (not a lot is being made of the fact that whomever they pick will be putting on the new jersey the team is unveiling for their centennial season) but the odds of it being anyone other than Matthews are so slim it’s almost not even worth mentioning. He’s the big, highly skilled, potential cornerstone 1st line centre that the Leafs have been craving since Mats Sundin packed his bags and moved west to play in Vancouver. Matthews will be the 1st overall selection in June and will most likely break camp with the big club. He’ll have to earn his spot but he shouldn’t have a problem doing that.

Aside from his obviously elite skill level, the other thing worth pointing out is that the Scottsdale, Arizona native (how cool is it that he’s from Arizona?) has an added level of maturity than some of his peers. Being a late ’97 birthday means that Matthews will have celebrated his 19th birthday before the puck drops on the 2016/2017 season. He’s only 6 months younger than Mitch Marner but because he was born 2 days after the cut off for the 2015 draft, he had to wait an extra year. Rather than spend that year in the NCAA or the WHL with the Everett Silvertips controlled his rights, he elected to turn pro and spend the season in Europe playing for the ZSC Lions in Zurich. The Swiss League might not possess the cream of the crop in terms of talent but it’s still a professional hockey where he had to battle against men as opposed to players similar to himself in age.

Winning the draft lottery is a giant victory for the Leafs. The team made tremendous strides this past season towards learning how to play the game with structure and discipline and the last place finish was not indicative of their progress from the year before. Adding another elite player provides Mike Babcock with another weapon to deploy  throughout the regular season but while the 1st overall pick is an important building block that will help the rebuild, it only represents a single puzzle piece. Any talk of this being the piece that turns them into a playoff contender is far too premature. There are still holes that need to be addressed, and will be over time.

If you’re a Leafs fan don’t feel bad about celebrating this win and don’t let anybody tell you that this pick doesn’t matter. Not all wins take place on the ice. For years the Leafs lost in the front office and behind the bench long before the puck was dropped. After everything this fanbase has been through it deserves to celebrate a big win. Pretty soon you’ll get to cheer on Matthews wearing the blue and white but at the end of the day; He’s a puzzle piece. A really, really important puzzle piece

 

 

 

 

It’s Ok To Celebrate Patrick Kane

Since October 17, Millions of hockey fans from around North America watched as Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane put up point after point until Tuesday night. The final tally reads 16 goals and 24 assists over the 26 game streak. It is the longest points streak in the NHL since Mats Sundin in ’92/93. In an era where people complain about the lack of offence, one would think that fans of all ages, walks of life, and teams would be celebrating such a substantial achievement. If it wasn’t for one off ice incident they would be

On August 2nd, Patrick Kane was accused of rape.

A 3 month investigation concluded earlier this year when Erie County district attorney Frank Sedita released this statement on November 5th and did not charge Kane with a crime.

Before that day, the court of public opinion had sentenced Kane to a life of being labelled something that can stick with you for the rest of your life. Despite never being found guilty and never being charged with a crime, the public treated him like he had done it

Sports are meant to be fun but every so often an incident happens that pulls back the curtains on professional athletes personal lives and exposes them to the public. Fans are constantly pushing for further access to their favourite players but the life of a millionaire in their early 20’s is not always that of a model citizen. People make mistakes and when they are in the public eye it magnifies both their triumphs and their flaws.

Patrick Kane is far from perfect off the ice. Every hockey fan likes to point out the 2009 incident with the cab driver but very often the people we are at 20 are not the same as when we are 26. He made a mistake and faced the consequences.

The two incidents are of course not the same. The cab incident was chalked up to a young man making the mistake in the public eye. This investigation was for a much more serious crime. It can be difficult for people to give you a 2nd chance but getting a 3rd chance is nearly impossible.

Over the summer this was the most important story that happened in the hockey world. This is about more than just a story.  Celebrity or not, Kane is a real person and like I said, the reputation that comes with being falsely accused of rape is not something that is easily, if ever, forgotten. His accuser is also a real person and should not have been vilified the way she was. The people that did so should be embarrassed at the way they conducted themselves. It is possible to believe what the accused is saying without shaming the alleged victim. You are allowed to have your view point without taking down the people that disagree with you. In no way is attacking either side conducive to maintaining a healthy dialogue on serious issues

Many people were quick to pass judgement. To a large number of them Patrick Kane is a hero and an idol. He brought three Stanley Cups to Chicago Blackhawks fans and quite often the actions of players on the ice allow fans to excuse their actions off of it. Players should be held accountable for how they conduct themselves away from the rink but teams have a much easier time forgiving a star player rather than a player just on the fringe of the NHL. On the other hand there were people that felt that by defending Kane, it was deciding that you did not believe his accuser.

Enough time has passed and in an effort to be as honest as possible I’m willing to admit that I believed Patrick Kane. He is not my friend, I have never met him, and it’s entirely possible that I never will. For years I have watched him play for the Blackhawks but I would never pretend to know the man. No matter what society tells me I should do I cannot see a person as guilty until it was proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he/she is. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a phrase that I put a lot of stock in. Perhaps it is a flaw in my character that I think this way but I believe that it is a fundamental right for people to be given the presumption of innocence. It would not have mattered what crime he was accused of.

I read article after article telling me that a person does not have to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that somebody is guilty. That is the job of the courts and the courts alone. By not standing with the alleged victim you are calling her a liar. By calling her a liar you diminish the importance of what allegedly happened to her and countless others around the world that have found themselves in similar circumstances. I believe every person that wrote those articles are entitled to that set of beliefs. I also happen to agree with a lot of the things said surrounding rape culture, and victim blaming. Sports has made strides to become a more inclusive and safe space for people from all walks of life and must continue to do so but by calling Patrick Kane a rapist, you put that label on him for what could be the rest of his life. Before a person has been convicted of a crime they should not be treated like a criminal. In no way do I wish to deter people from reporting crimes that have done to them and if he had been found guilty in a court of law I would have no problem with him being sentenced for as long as the legal system would allow.

But he was never charged with a crime.

It’s easy to say that people defended him because he’s a celebrity but would anybody have known about the incident if he didn’t have that profile? Nobody would have paid any attention to the story at all. Instead for 3 months Patrick Kane, his mother, father, and anybody close to him had to read that he was a monster. I do not know what happened that night but I do know that the evidence that was gathered from the investigation was not enough to make a case that Kane had committed the crime that he was accused of.

On October 17th, Kane scored a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets. What he did for the next 25 games is an incredible feat that should be celebrated for what it is. It is the longest streak ever for an American born player, the longest streak by an active player, and the longest streak in the NHL in over 20 years.

So if you’re a hockey fan you should be able to celebrate his accomplishment. And you should never feel ashamed for doing so.

 

 

In Defence Of Ken Hitchcock

It’s been a week since the Leafs beat the St. Louis Blues 4-1 and the people are still debating whether or not Ken Hitchcock should have pulled goalie Jake Allen after P.A Parenteau scored to make it 3-1. What followed was this exchange:

(Skip to around 49 seconds)

If you haven’t guessed from the title, I’m taking Hitchcock’s side on this one. Before you say mean things to me lets go through the goals Allen gave up before getting the hook so you at least understand my thought process.

Toronto Maple Leafs 1-St. Louis Blues 1

Leafs tied the game 1:17 to go in the first period and it’s not a great goal if you’re Allen. Komarov comes over the blue line, throws the puck to the net, and Allen makes a mess of it. If you follow hockey you’ve become accustomed to the idea that a goalies job is to make the first save and after that it’s up to his teammates to clear the rebound. This is only partially true. Your job is to control your rebounds to give your team a chance to clear it. You should not be letting rebounds fall right in front of you which is what Allen does. The fact that Komarovs shot comes from a bit of a distance makes it even worse. Allen has to find a way to swallow that puck up or at least knock the puck into the corner (you even see him try to swat the puck in the corner and miss). Now don’t get me wrong, the Blues’ defence does a terrible job helping out their goalie. Nazem Kadri gives up 4 inches and 24 pounds to Jay Bouwmeester and wins the battle for the loose puck. But Allen should have done a better job with the initial shot and he knows it

Toronto Maple Leafs 2-St. Louis Blues 1

You’d have to be crazy to put this one on Jake Allen. Roman Polak lets an absolute cannon go from the point (I didn’t even know he could do that) and Brad Boyes tips it in because he’s obviously some sort of hockey playing ninja with the reflexes  of a cat. Also what was Blues defence man Colton Parayko doing here? when he’s not standing right in front of his goalie he looks kind of lost. He would have been far more affective if he had looked to his left, seen Brad Boyes, and tied up his stick .

Toronto Maple Leafs 3-St. Louis Blues 1

So this another one of those goals where the Blues’ defence does essentially nothing to help out their goalie but Allen himself should have done better. P.A Parenteau back hands the puck along the ice from the hash marks and beats Allen through the legs. I don’t care how bad your defence is playing in front of you, that goal should never go in. I know for myself if I let in a goal like that I would be more upset with myself than I am with any player on my team. As a starting goalie in the NHL, Jake Allen should hold himself accountable for 2 out of the 3 goals he allowed. His defence didn’t do him any favours but his job is to bail them out when they make mistakes. It’s not fair but that’s what he signed up for and he didn’t do his job that night

So after giving up 3 goals on 22 shots Jake Allen’s night is done and Brian Elliot comes on relief. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE! Brian Elliot only actually played 2:18 before Allen went back in to finish the game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen before and I don’t like it

There’s an old saying that says “the inmates will not run the asylum.” It basically means that the employees are making the decisions rather than the boss. On a hockey team there has to be a dialogue between the coaches and players as far as the direction of the team but the coach is still the boss. Whether Ken Hitchcock was making the right call or not he is the one in charge. Imagine somebody showed up your boss at the place you work at. Now imagine they did it while a national audience was tuned in. Like it or not professional athletes have to be conscious of their image and how that image impacts the team that they represent.

There are numerous reasons Hitchcock might have elected to pull him. He may not have liked the way he was playing and felt he wasn’t giving his team the best chance to win. It’s entirely possible that it was done to light a fire under the rest of the team which is something coaches do. It’s also possible he did it instead of using his timeout because Allen went back in just over 2 minutes later.

Jake Allen is a competitive guy or he wouldn’t have made it to this stage in his career. He plays in the best hockey league in the world and you don’t get their without being competitive. There is a time in a place to question a coaching decision but it should be done behind close doors. This was the 2nd time in as many starts that Allen had been pulled and he let his emotions get the best of him.

Habs Sing “Let It Go” With Fantastic Results

The Montreal Canadiens have released the video of the holiday season with their own rendition of the hit song “Let It Go” from the hit Disney film “Frozen” It will easily be a new favourite of yours because it’s hilarious, and any young kids you have because well, it’s “Frozen”.

*Disclaimer* I also cannot sing. At all

Best

PK Subban

You can tell that PK Subban either came up with the idea to do the video or was the first to agree to it because nobody has more fun then him. You could have just got him to do the song by himself and there would have been no objections. I’m not even 100% sure he knew they were filming.

Brendan Gallagher

Gallagher has a tough job in this one because he’s got to set the tone and he doesn’t disappoint. The patented Gallagher grin makes an appearance throughout the whole time he’s singing. I don’t know if he has a future in music but he should give it a shot

Michael Condon

Condon might be 2nd to Carey Price on the ice but when it comes to the recording studio he’s got him beat. The amount of emotion displayed in his performance is something that everybody can learn something from.

Dale Weiss

Dale Weiss is a true performer and a showman. Gallagher passes him the baton and he just runs with it. The vocals are there, the hand gestures are a brilliant touch, and when he looks into the camera it’s like he’s staring into your soul. It was truly breathtaking to watch

Tomas Fleischmann 

Fleischmann doesn’t give the best vocal performance on the team but you have to love the enthusiasm he gives. Holding that high note on “free” (at 1:57) is a sight to behold and the inspiring call to arms at 3:24 were more than enough to sell me on his spot in the top

Worst 

Max Pacioretty

I’m not sure if Pacioretty knew that he was singing a song because he actually just speaks his one line. This seems like an instance where he wanted no part in doing the video but was convinced to because he’s one of the best players on the team. I like to imagine Subban following him around singing the song to try and convince him to participate

Tom Gilbert

I. Don’t. Think. Tom. Gilbert. I’m sure you get the point. I don’t know if Gilbert is singing or doing a really bad Barack Obama impression. The long pause can sometimes add some drama and emphasis to what you’re saying but when you’re singing it sounds very strange. At least it seemed like he was having fun

Alex Galchenyuk

Galchenyuk is an exciting player to watch on the ice but in this video it seems like somebody had just woken him up and asked him to say/sing his lines before he had any coffee. It kind of reminds of the cartoon Droopy Dog. It’s a good thing he’s a talented player because he’s not the most enthusiastic singer.

Andrei Markov

I contemplated giving Markov a pass because it’s hard enough to speak a different language let alone sing. Then I thought back to the enthusiasm Fleischmann showed during his parts and decided that if he can do it so can Markov. The effort just wasn’t there but hopefully he turns it around for the Easter video.

Tomas Plekanec

Plekanec might be my favourite for many reasons the least of which is that he isn’t even close to following the beat of the song. Mostly though it’s hard not to laugh when the camera cuts to him and he lifts his head and speaks his line “here I stand” as if it’s the beginning to a really epic speech you would give your team before a playoff game. It wasn’t very good singing but you can put me down as inspired.

Follow me on twitter @_JaredClarkson and let me know your favourite performance