Over the past week or so, the in-and-out performances of the Maple Leafs have led me to make a couple of conclusions -- always a bad idea, I know, given just a couple of games, but I feel I must, Saturday night's laydown at home against Gretzky's Coyotes the one that really frosted my pumpkin:
|Darcy Tucker: Man, the Leafs miss his bite.|
1 Back when the season was but a gleam in the eye and this here space was just a bouncing baby blog, Darcy Tucker talked about taking a greater offensive role this season, and he surely has, with a team-best 18 goals. But with his absence against the Coyotes, it's clear he has grown in other ways. The guy's played hurt, taken all kinds of shots and kept getting up. He has clearly outgrown the spit-disturber image he carries around. And without him, there's a whole lot of salt and pepper missing out there, which is a lot more than you can say about Mats Sundin, who has yet to return to his usual form (I guess the next move for him is to throw away the visor, thus reigniting that old debate). Tucker has looked more like the blood-and-guts leader of this team than anyone else.
2 I've avoided so far jumping on the Bryan McCabe bandwagon. But having seen the Leafs without him now for a week, he's a lot more important to the overall success of this team than I had given him credit. That might seem obvious. But it wasn't to me, McCabe's giveaways and defensive zone miscues mitigating the offensive prowess and power play results. The ripple effect down through the Leafs defence corps with McCabe out has resulted in more loose defensive zone coverage than we've seen since back in the early season.
Up until now, the Leafs have seemed fine to me as they negotiated their way through the injuries that are part and parcel of a long pro season -- but with these latest two out in Tucker and McCabe, they appear to be very vulnerable in terms of grit and defence. Couple their absence with a couple of road trips coming up over the next three weeks, and this could be a very bumpy patch ahead.
Some other links from this delightful Planet Blog we live in, as we head into a new week:
With the Habs going bad the Claude Julien firing was no surprise, says Jeff J at Sisu Hockey.
The Sports Frog notes that the NHL on OLN in the U.S. reaches 214 households in Los Angeles. I'm kind of tired of hearing these kind of numbers, but on a weekend where NBC began its coverage of the NHL, I guess it's going to happen. (And I'd guess further that the figures are pretty similar to what the Raptors draw in Calgary, say.)
And don't look now, but Peter Puck may well be coming out of retirement. Thanks to Eric McErlain for the link, and that reminds me -- I'll be back later today with a post on last week's Mikey Milbury contest, and some prizes to give out.