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Islanders Up; Maple Leafs Down

October 29, 2009 by Big Tony · Leave a Comment 

Maple Leafs Islanders Hockey
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.

Early Season Salute

October 11, 2009 by Big Tony · Leave a Comment 

I have to give an early season salute to the Ottawa Senators. I didn’t (and still don’t) think they would be very good this year but I have to give credit where credit is due. The Senators are 3-1-0 which puts them atop the Northeast Division. Granted, the Senators have defeated three teams that are hardly playoff teams in Atlanta, Toronto, and the Islanders. Nevertheless, when you’re a team that has experienced the problems the Senators have over the last two seasons you take what success you’ve had and run with it. Will they build off of this and ultimately make it to the playoffs? Not likely. But they have won three of four so far and as a football coach once said you are what your record says you are and right now Ottawa is a 3-1 first place team.

Another early season salute to the Calgary Flames. There is a lot of pressure on them to win and win now; that said this is about as good a start as one could have hoped for in Calgary. Not only do the Flames start 4-1 but three of those wins are against division opponents including two against provincial rival Edmonton. Division wins always carry a little extra weight in the standings but it’s especially sweet to take two from their biggest rival in pretty short order. Mikka Kiprusoff has been solid thus far posting a 4-0 record as back up Curtis McElhinney was in net for the loss. Perhaps the best part of all in this strong start is that Jerome Iginla is fourth on the team in scoring, which means other guys are getting the job done. If Calgary wants to continue to be successful that’s the type of production they need to get from Iginla’s supporting cast; so far so good.

On the flip-side, an early season razz to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Nobody reasonably expected Toronto to be a great team but some thought they would be competitive and possibly contend for a playoff spot. But so far they have not shown up. Toronto has zero wins (one point thanks to an OT loss on opening night) and have looked terrible for the most part. The one good thing they have going is new goaltender Jonas Gustavsson who is currently injured which negates that for now and Vesa Toskala is dreadful. They’re so-so on offense, not so good on defense, and have an awful penalty killing unit, ergo he Toronto Maple Leafs stink, the end.