It's hard to believe this Leafs vacation is nearly over. My God, time flies when you're not hurling profanities at your TV.
My body went into blue-and-white withdrawal sometime on Day 3. My wife and I were strolling through the lobby at Serenity Hotel in the balmy Republic of No More Losing. She was yammering on about beta-Carotene or new bunk beds for the kids – the memory is hazy – when my right eye started twitching uncontrollably.
"Are you okay?" she asked, as I clutched my face with one hand and braced myself against a marble pillar with the other.
"I'm fine," I said, trying not to blackout. "But it's been 72 hours since I've watched someone giveaway the puck or shoot high and wide on a breakaway. It's hard."
"Isn't this wonderful?" my wife asked, twirling in the sand and grabbing my hand with a coquettish grin.
"I don't really see how they're going to make the playoffs – maybe not even next year," I replied, as palm fronds swayed gently under a quarter moon.
"What?" she hissed, throwing down my hand. "We're on vacation from the Leafs! You promised!"
"Do you think Reimer is for real?" I asked. "I do. How much can the MacArthur line really be expected to do all by itself? How do we get Kessel to focus more so these weird, extended slumps eventually disappear? The poor bastard was even invisible at the All-Star game."
"I hate you!" my wife screamed.
"Listen to me," I said, whispering and grabbing her shoulders. "I feel queasy. My mouth is dry. Okay? I just need five minutes of your time. Help me answer four questions before the Leafs return on Tuesday."
"I feel sorry for you," she said. "I really do."
"One, the Dion Phaneuf trade happened exactly one year ago," I said. "Why has this blockbuster deal – which still seems so incredibly one-sided on the surface – failed to lift the Leafs? Why are they further away from a playoff spot right now than they were a year ago at this time?"
"I don't know," she said.
"Was putting the 'C' on his jersey a mistake?"
"I really don't know."
"Two, what about truculence?" I asked. "Why isn't this team as tough – and I'm talking about team toughness here – as promised this summer? Why is this team not playing like a Brian Burke team? Why do they let other teams dictate the tone and pace each night? Why do they let the other guys set the aggression levels?"
"This is pathetic," she said.
"Three, why can't this team transition for more than a period before the wheels suddenly fall off and puck support vanishes and they start creating sloppy turnovers like unpaid interns at a Pillsbury factory? The backend was supposed to be one of the best in the league. Why do we have 547 giveaways, second only to Edmonton? Why does Francois Beauchmin lead the league in giveaways? Why is Luke Schenn second? Why is Tomas Kaberle also in the Top 10?"
"You need help," she said. "You all do."
"Four, why is this team not ready to play when the puck drops? Why do they look so sleepy? The good news is the Leafs are 11-4-3 when they score first. That's a .611 winning percentage. The bad news is they have allowed the opposition to score first in 31 of 49 games this season. And when this happens, they are a horrifying .258.
"They haven't scored first in a game since January 6, when they beat St. Louis in a shootout. Is it team focus? Is it desire? Is it preparation? Is it the silent return of blue-and-white disease?"
"Are you done?" she asked.
"I just need some answers," I said. "We all do."