Where is the intensity?
"Who did this?"
My mechanic asks this question while inspecting a driver’s side mirror that is now dangling precariously. His eyes have narrowed. His voice is strained.
"I have no idea," I reply. "We left the car on the street and someone must have passed too closely and knocked it off."
"People are unbelievable today," he says, shaking his head and taking two steps back. Then pointing at the mirror: "This is unbelievable!"
Frankly, the situation seemed rather believable. Dude, someone hit my car. It's no big deal. Now how much to make it right?
But this is why I like my mechanic. He is intense. He glowers. He gets worked up about things I take for granted. He gets lost in small details. His game face is his only face. He gets so utterly consumed with the task at hand – the problem, the remedy – that he simply leaves no room for ambiguity or error.
This is unbelievable! Here’s what we do. We put two screws in the bottom and seal the plastic casing with high-grade silicone. The power cables are still fine so this is cheaper than replacing the whole mirror, which is what most places would try to do. Unbelievable.
I spent several hours yesterday re-watching game tapes from this godforsaken skid.
The Leafs have lost seven consecutive games. Over the past 40 years, the team has only dropped seven (or more) games in a row on eight occasions.
Before the season started, so much was made about "culture change" and the war on blue-and-white disease. Complacency and entitlement, this was the enemy. An absolute insistence on winning, this was the new attitude.
So here we are and what gives?
Yes, the Leafs are not scoring. Yes, special teams are dismal. Yes, within the realm of possibility, both of these problems can be remedied. Or as Ron Wilson says, this team can win again.
But you know what struck me while re-watching tapes? The lack of emotion.
It was breathtaking and baffling.
By all accounts, the guys in the room are concerned with winning. What's increasingly troubling, though, is how unconcerned they seem with losing.
Kris Versteeg has a Stanley Cup ring. His teammates gravitate toward him. He really does seem like a terrific guy. But as a fan, honestly, this quote from yesterday’s practice made me cringe: "I've played this game my whole life and if you can't have fun and enjoy the game because you lose a couple of times, then maybe you should look for something else to do."
What? Lose a couple of times? Fun? What?
Then there was this quote from Brett Lebda: "We're not finding ways to find pucks and put them in the net. And that can wear on you. Especially in an eight, nine-game losing streak, whatever we're on right now."
What? Whatever you’re on right now? You don’t even know how many games you've lost? Shouldn't you be acutely aware of this fact? Shouldn't your stomach feel like it's filled with molten lava as you painfully relive every minute of every loss every morning?
People, I don't know. I just don't know.
Like my mechanic, Darryl Sittler used to get worked up about small things. Like my mechanic, Wendel Clark's eyes often narrowed as he patrolled the wing, delivered thundering checks, dropped the gloves and unloaded his howitzer of a wrist shot.
And if there were a way to bottle and sell intensity, make no mistake, Doug Gilmour would now be richer than Bill Gates. They didn't call him "Killer" because he told funny jokes in the room.
This is a young team with lots of new faces. They genuinely seem to like each other. They are bonding and adjusting to life in the biggest hockey market on the planet. They are breezy bordering on carefree.
But here's a radical idea: Instead of having fun, how about getting angry? Instead of seeing the big picture, how about focusing on the small details? Instead of rolling with the punches, how about throwing some, figurative or otherwise.
It's time for everyone to put on their game faces*. It is time for this team to get consumed with the task at hand.
*Dear Leafs, for examples of intensity and game face, please refer to this video:
PHOTO: DANIEL HULSHIZER/ASSOCIATED PRESS