The Point of it All
One of the most common barbed comments you often get from readers is the following:
"What game were you watching?" Or, "Were you even watching the game?"
Well, thank goodness The Star's beat writer Ken Campbell was watching the game Thursday night in Buffalo between the Leafs and Sabres and was able to detect the real story out of that game.
Too much focus, you see, was placed on a power play opportunity for Darcy Tucker that, if successful, would have tied the game late in the third period. It's so much nicer to emphasize a great save by the opposition goalie, after all.
Campbell, on the other hand, correctly focussed on the winning goal by the Sabres on which Leaf head coach Pat Quinn indentified Tucker and Jason Allison as players who "quit skating" to create the opportunity for Mike Grier to score the goal. Quinn could probably have thrown in Nik Antropov's name, as well.
Well, thank goodness. The coach, as his tenure behind the Leaf bench likely winds down, has decided to get honest and let the public know what he thinks of the play of a number of his veteran players.
He has, after all, benched Jeff O'Neill, possibly permanently. He sat out Tie Domi, and at least Domi has responded with some spirited play.
And as far as what Tucker and Allison did on the winner Thursday night, that stuff has been going on all year. Both have put together strong offensive seasons, but, as Campbell pointed out, there's a reason Tucker is minus-10 this season and Allison is minus-15.
"We were in good shape, but both Allison and Tucker quit skating coming back," said Quinn, referring to Grier's winner. "It's why we're not a playoff team right now. That's the kind of play we're getting."
Exactly. Thank goodness the coach has finally said it.
Captain Mats Sundin, on the other hand, looked at the game in a very different way.
"I thought we played as well as we played in this rink for a long time," he said.
But that didn't quite cut it, did it? Isn't it about time somebody on this team understood that effort isn't optional. It's the least anybody can bring to the party, and then more is required after that.
See, the way out of this jungle for the Leafs is to start being honest with themselves, and wouldn't it be interesting if Quinn decides to lead the way?
See, the Leaf organization has never been big on honesty since the day Mike Murphy was canned. It prefers to pretend, to promote and market itself in a specific way, rather than deal with the issues that have held it back from being a real winner.
In a matter of weeks, Quinn has, in effect, taken on O'Neill, Domi, Tucker and Allison, all very prominent veterans. By installing Marlie grad Ben Ondrus in the lineup and playing him regularly, he has shown his exasperation with the work ethic of others.
Good for Quinn. A little honesty probably won't get the team to the playoffs, but it could be of major service to the team down the line.