Islanders Up; Maple Leafs Down
October 29, 2009 by Big Tony
The Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders are in similar positions right now in that Toronto has one win while the Islanders have two. That said, despite having only one more win than the Leafs the Isles have recorded nine points in eleven games to Toronto’s four points in ten games. So what’s the difference between the two teams? The biggest difference comes from the collective mindset of the two clubs. No I don’t mean one team is “mentally tougher” than the other, that’s too cliché and probably does not really apply anyway. The difference is that the Islanders have an identity; they are a young team with a fair amount of raw talent that over time can and will develop into a unit that contends for the playoffs regularly. Knowing what they are the Isles can be comfortable with what they can and can’t do at this point and simply go out every night with the goal of playing their hearts out, learn from every experience, and simply get better with every shift. It also helps that the Isles are getting some decent/consistent goaltending. So while they’re not winning a ton of games they are picking up some points by keeping games close and losing them in overtime/shootouts which is significant because no matter when you pick up points they carry the same weight and can do a lot to build the confidence of a team that is growing.
On the other hand Toronto has absolutely no identity really at all. They had been stockpiling draft picks and putting some young players in place hinting that they were building for the future. Then the club decided to send a few draft picks away to Boston for Phil Kessel which is puzzling, are you building for the future or aren’t you? Phil Kessel has yet to play so his impact remains to be seen but in the meantime the Leafs have managed only one win, have had poor play in net (although Gustavsson and MacDonald will likely provide some stability in that department), and their penalty killing has been awful to say the least. It would behoove Toronto to become a self-aware organization; decide whether it is going to happen this year or it isn’t, you’re either rebuilding or you’re retooling. Stop sending mixed messages to the players and fans about what your goals are and how you hope to attain them. Right now the Leafs are a team with no direction and it shows in their play on the ice. In their first win of the season at Anaheim Toronto showed that they can in fact be a viable hockey team when things come together. So please Toronto, figure out what your goals are, find out what you’re good at and then harmonize the two in order to become a better team in every aspect of the game. And that is the difference between two teams in similar situations yielding much different results from one another.