After Turkey, We Resume Our Scheduled Programming. . . .
I'm a lucky guy. Whereas the weather in our neck of the woods - the GTA - has conspired in recent years to make outdoor rinks increasingly rare, or at least last increasingly briefly, my family has been able to count on a pond in Milton, Ont. for at least one or two days of memorable outdoor play every Christmas season.
It just makes you think about the game in a different way, know what I mean? You can spend an awful long time trying to perfect a saucer pass when there's no Zamboni barging on to end your session. Surrounded by trees and snow and gusts of wind, the game feels so very different than when you're in a rink. Just does, that's all.
So we get a chunk of that feeling in an utterly breathtaking location every Christmas up in Milton. Lucky us. That's probably what they're trying to re-create in Buffalo for New Year's Day, but there's no chance. That will be like dropping a line in your bathtub and calling it fishing.
Thursday, of course, is usually mail bag day, but the holidays have thrown us off schedule. We'll resume the mail bag next Thursday, so start sending in your thoughts and questions now. Click here to submit a question.
A couple of quickee thoughts for you:
-- Having already shunted Darcy Tucker to a fourth line role, a role he actually is much better suited for on the rare occasions he plays with energy, its a bit of a problem for the Leafs what to do with Jason Blake. Neither Tucker nor Blake is scoring, but while Tucker is basically having a neutral impact, Blake's penchant for giving the puck away all over the ice, and sometimes in critical situations, is becoming a increasing problem
Sitting him down for a game or two would make a strong statement to the rest of the team. But then again, should we simply be applauding the man for being out there as he deals with leukemia?
-- You can look at the Leafs league-high eight post-regulation losses - three by shootout, five in OT - in different ways. Yes, that's eight points left on the table that would have the club in a much better position in the standings. But in a more sensible system, one that gave two points to the winner and none to the loser, the Leafs would be eight points worse off and nowhere near post-season play.
The reality is the Leafs have too many players who either make big mistakes with the game on the line, or can't display the skill they otherwise have under pressure.
-- It's just so funny to watch the folks at Hockey Night in Canada passionately call for changes to the instigator rule every week when nobody else is really debating the topic. They insist this is what the majority of NHL players want, and dismiss out-of-hand the fact the players on the league's competition committee voted down the minor change to the instigator rule forced through by Brian Burke last winter.
The reality is most players mindlessly mouth what they believe to be the company line. Players on the competition committee - Rob Blake, Jarome Iginla etc. - are individual thinkers, less likely to be swayed by the mob mentality.
For a penalty that is almost never called, it's peculiar that the HNIC crowds feels it must discuss the instigator rule every week. It's almost as if certain influential individuals have an agenda. . .
Finally, it's nearly comical that those who want the instigator rule changed - they love to label themselves "hockey people," while those who differ apparently aren't - simply ignore the fact that the very people they want to give more power to police the game - the enforcers - are generally those causing the biggest disciplinary headaches for the league.
Yeah, they'll be great sheriffs.