Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, NHLN (US), WGN-AM 720
Please Hire These People So They Will Shut Up: Pension Plan
The Maple Leafs suck out loud. They barely have an ECHL caliber roster right now. But that’s not the way their craven fanbase sees it.
To be perfectly equitable, the Leafs are “better” than last year. Under surefire Cock Adams finalist coach Mike Babjack, the Leafs have jumped in their share of 5v5 possession from 46.4% to 50.9%, a commendable improvement considering what this roster is supposed to be willfully and by design. Any doubt about the Leafs’ tank job was laid to rest last week when captain Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Senators for reasons no one can quite yet find on the Senators’ end of things. And with Nazem Kadri hurt, the table has finally been set for Mark Arcobello to rightfully assume his spot among the league’s elite, proving so with two goals against the juggernaut Vancouver Canucks on Saturday evening.
The trades of Kessel and Phaneuf have been interpreted two very different ways among the mainstream media and sycophantic Leafs fan base, both of them wrong. The likes of Steve Simmons would have his readership believe that toxic personalities have been jettisoned, and the “please hire me” crowd thinks that these two just were too expensive for not producing in all of the obscure meaninglesscolumns on War-On-Ice.com. And both believe that the shedding of salary surely means that Steven Stamkos is destined to play for the Leafs next season. None of this is true.
The Leafs have no clear-cut timetable for being good, even if they bottom out and get the #1 pick and select consensus best player and center Auston Matthews, so there was no need to retain Kessel or Phaneuf. Kadri, while a fine player and a middle tier #2 center, is a restricted free agent at the end of this season, and not only are there no takers for Tyler Bozak and his $4.2 million for this year and next, but the leafs seem to outwardly like him for whatever their reasons are. Maybe he’s got similiar pictures of Shanahan the way Brandon Bollig did of Quenneville. There’s no reason to believe that Steven Stamkos would want to play for this adrift ocean liner even at max money, especially given the value of the Candian dollar and the self-created crucible that the Toronto hockey market is. And though the Leafs have some fun forward prospects in the pipeline (William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapenen), all of whom will surely be hall of famers and win Art Ross trophies on their ELCs and promptly be traded because any contract for a good player is bad, they still have nothing coming on the blue line and the crease is a mess.
A mess might be overstating it a bit, as James Reimer has played excellently once again behind jack and shit of a blue line in front of him, to the tune of a .925 save percentage overall and .941 at evens. But the there has been no clear indication whether or not Reimer or Jonathan Bernier is a solution for a long-enough term for either to be good when this team matters again. And among the defensemen in front of them, Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly might be decent bottom-four puck movers at some point, but there’s nothing slotted ahead of them right now to truly log any difficult minutes. The rest of the group is just cashing checks.
So while the plan is clear in Toronto, they’re still a long way off even if every single on of their prospects hits at the exact same time. And it will be insufferable to hear about either way.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, 1 point out of 6 at home is far from ideal, even if all three of those teams are in playoff position currently. With Marian Hossa out a couple weeks, it appears that Richard Panik, who wasn’t good enough to jump from the Marlies to the Leafs, will now get top line detail with Jonathan Toews just in time for the Leafs to come to town. A finer job of trolling an opposing fanbase and their very specific psychoses by Quenneville has not been seen in his tenure here, so kudos to him on that front even if in an ideal world Teuvo should get a full time look on the right side with Toews. Andrew Shaw managed to cut himself at the morning skate, and it’s surprising that this is the first time that’s ever happened to him, so it’s unclear whether or not he’ll play tonight either.
On the blue line Erik Gustafsson remains punitively scratched in favor of whatever it is Viktor Svedberg does besides get windburn. Additionally Scott Darling will get the start at home tonight even with the Hawks needing to stop a mild skid, because that’s how little the Leafs matter.
Anything less than two points in regulation will be shameful, but no matter the outcome on the actual scoreboard, Leafs fans will manage to claim victory in some column by digging through War On Ice.