fatally flawed, no-mojoed, flabbergasted: what would shakespeare say?

Howie Meeker, Leaf of a happier era

Howie Meeker, Leaf of a happier era

“Maple Leafs stay hot by crushing Ducks,” was a headline in The Toronto Sun once, a long time ago, in mid-December. Things have been not so good of late: heading into tonight’s game in New Jersey, the team is in its worst losing streak in 48 years, having won just one of 13 games in January. Following, to help navigate the woe, a sampler of headlines from selected Toronto media over the last month:

December 31

2014: An unforgettable year the Leafs would like to forget
(The Globe and Mail)

January 4

The Maple Leafs’ core is fatally flawed
(The Globe and Mail)

January 6

Randy Carlyle fired as Toronto Maple Leafs coach: ‘Our team was not trending in the right direction’
(The National Post)

Randy Carlyle’s firing was long overdue
(The Globe and Mail)

January 7

Toronto Maple Leafs’ Phil Kessel on criticism: ‘I don’t really care’
(The National Post)

Toronto overrates its teams, sets expectations ‘too high,’ Flyers’ Bob Clarke says after Maple Leafs fire Randy Carlyle
(The National Post)

Jim Thomson

Jim Thomson

January 8

Leafs now on outside looking in at playoff picture
(The Globe and Mail)

January 15

Toronto Maple Leafs shut out again in loss to Anaheim Ducks
(The National Post)

January 16

James Reimer outstanding but Toronto Maple Leafs still lose to San Jose Sharks, 3-1
(Toronto Star)

‘No pity party’ for Leafs: Coach Peter Horachek
(Toronto Sun)

Moribund Leafs have lost their mojo, and identity: DiManno
(Toronto Star) Continue reading

this week, several others: why do people find these leafs so hard to like?

12835015933_55eaed7e9a_oMinnesota’s Ryan Suter paid US$81,058.72 to elbow Pittsburgh’s Steve Downie in the head. That was a while ago. More recent was Zac Rinaldo, of Philadelphia, for whom the price of charging Kris Letang from the Penguins, and also boarding him, was US$73,170.72.

Boston’s Brad Marchand paid US$48,387.10 to slew-foot New York’s Derick Brassard.

And Dan Carcillo? Of Chicago? For him, the cost of cross-checking Winnipeg’s Mathieu Perreault and upper-body-injuring him was US$40,243.92

Sports Illustrated wondered: Are the New York Islanders for real? (Answer: yes.)

It’s a while back, now, hard to recall, but Randy Carlyle was coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this year. On his last day on the job, he was in North Bay, Ontario, when GM Dave Nonis called him to set up a meeting early next morning in Toronto. “I’m not going to drive five hours back and through a snow storm to get fired,” Carlyle told him. “You might as well do it now.”

“We’re trying,” Toronto’s Phil Kessel has said subsequently, of the losing Leafs. “I don’t know if people see that. We are trying. I don’t know. We can’t find it right now.”

At The Walrus, the new editor, Jonathan Kay, profiled the Kelowna man who steered a 10,000-pound truck to the 2012 World Freestyle Championship at the Monster Jam Finals in Las Vegas. “It’s hard to imagine a more gentlemanly monster trucker than Cam McQueen,” he wrote. “He’s like the Jean Béliveau of car crushing.”

Via Aaron Portzline, meanwhile, of The Columbus Dispatch, we got to know the Blue Jackets All-Star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who comes from Novokuznetsk in Russia, where the average temperature in January is -18 degrees and (quote) living in the Siberian city of 600,000 is neither easy nor glamorous.

As a six-year-old there, Bobrovsky wanted to play in goal. When his family couldn’t afford to buy equipment, his coach, Alexei Kitsyn, bought (says Portzline) “some bulk leather.”

“He made the equipment for me,” Bobrovsky said, his eyes getting big with emphasis. “He made it. By himself. By his hands. He made the pads and the glove. My parents bought me the rest of it.” …

“It sounds crazy,” Bobrovsky said. “If you know how some kids today get the best gear, how much money they spend … and that’s how it started for me.”

Another Columbus All-Star was ruminating this week, Nick Foligno, son of former NHLer Mike. “My dad has always said that if you treat the game of hockey well, it will treat you well,” Nick said. “He’s been bang-on with that.”

“Morale is good,” said the Leafs’ new coach, Peter Horachek, at some point. Continue reading

this week + some others: the game’s fast, sometimes guys go into the boards wrong

Embed from Getty Images

“Mon captain,” Yvan Cournoyer said this month, tearfully, “mon captain. Bon voyage.”

With Jean Béliveau’s death on December 2, the country remembered, and paid homage.

“Like a prince, like a king,” said Sportsnet’s Stephen Brunt. “Our royalty.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: “For all the feats he has accomplished and all the accolades he has received, Jean Béliveau has always symbolized the little boy whose only dream was to play for the Montreal Canadiens. Hockey is better because of the realization of this dream.”

“In all of my thoughts about Jean Béliveau,” wrote TSN’s Dave Hodge, “I hear Danny Gallivan’s voice.”

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau stood in the House of Commons. “Mr. Speaker,” he said,

I had an extraordinary childhood during which my father introduced me to kings, queens and presidents, but he was never more proud than when he was able to introduce his eldest son to Jean Béliveau.

Every time I met Mr. Béliveau thereafter and shook his hand, I saw what an impact he had not just on me, but on everyone around him. He was a man who epitomized dignity, respect and kindness.

Jean Béliveau was a man of class, of strength, who demonstrated the kind of leadership that inspired not just players but all who watched and met him. He will be greatly missed, but he will continue to inspire generations of not just young hockey players but of Canadians across this great country.

“Beyond being one of the greatest players in NHL history, Jean Béliveau was class personified,” said Mario Lemieux. “He was a hero to generations of his fellow French Canadians and hockey fans everywhere. Our sport has lost a great ambassador. He will be missed.”

Hockey, meanwhile, carried on.

Connor McDavid mentioned that he had a favourite Canadian Tire memory.

Dave Bidini took issue with a newspaper’s use of the word “belted” to describe a puck propelled by Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf that ended up in Carolina’s net.

“If you can build off a game we lost, we can keep our heads high,” Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux told CSN Philly after his team lost a fifth game in a row.

Though goaltender Steve Mason had a different take. “We’re all tired of moral victories,” he told Ryan Dadoun from NBC Sports. “The team played a good game but you don’t win it. It’s not good enough. Enough of the moral victories. We got to go out and start winning hockey games. Everybody is frustrated and ticked off, but it’s a matter of going out and winning now.”

“Belted” was James Mirtle’s word, in The Globe and Mail:

… Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf belted in his second goal of the season with three minutes left in the second.

Legitimate usage or no? Bidini felt that it belonged on baseball grass and dirt, not ice.

Sidney Crosby the latest NHL player to have the mumps

was a headline, this month.

Another was:

Kevin Klein Loses Part of an Ear, Helps Rangers Down Pens

“Say what you want about hockey players,” mused New York coach Alain Vigneault after that particular game, “but they’re tough SOBs.”

Toronto is likely to miss the playoffs, a professor of economics at the University of Waterloo suggested this month. Dr. Phil Curry is his name, and he works with a group called the Department of Hockey Analytics, gathering up and crunching advanced statistics to (quote) better understand the game. Using a model that incorporates both points and Score Adjusted Corsi, he contends that Toronto will be on the outside looking sadly in when the post-season gets going next spring — oh, and the Calgary Flames are due for collapse, too. Continue reading

this week: instead I ate cinnamon buns

Louis, Louis: Toronto-born artist Jeff Molloy lives and works on Gabriola Island, B.C. To see more of his wonderful work, steer over to http://molloy.ca/jeff/. "I create multi-dimensional, multi-sensory works," he says there, "that explore historical and contemporary culture through the use of humour, stereotypes, traits and artifacts." The box above called "Two Minutes for Interference, Five Minutes for Fighting and Death for Unsportsmanlike Conduct."

Louis, Louis: Toronto-born artist Jeff Molloy lives and works on Gabriola Island, B.C. To see more of his wonderful work, steer over to http://molloy.ca/jeff/. “I create multi-dimensional, multi-sensory works,” he says there, “that explore historical and contemporary culture through the use of humour, stereotypes, traits and artifacts.” The box above is called “Two Minutes for Interference, Five Minutes for Fighting and Death for Unsportsmanlike Conduct.”

From southern Europe, this week, word of an old goalie’s persisting desire: “Martin Brodeur,” noted @icehockeyspain, “aún tiene el gusanillo de jugar y quiere regresar a las pistas.”

Wondered Franklin Steele at Today’s Slapshot: does the NHL have a better line right now than Tarasenko, Schwartz and Lehtera?

Newly indicted Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg remembered growing up in Örnsköldsvik and what he ate there as a young athlete. Sorry, inducted. Inductee Foppa Forsberg said, “I really didn’t eat anything — no meat, no fish — and at school I ate maybe on two days out of five. I didn’t like anything, so instead I ate cinnamon buns when I got home. The rule was max three buns, never four. And when I got to middle school and we were allowed to leave the yard during breaks, I could ride my bike home and eat pancakes Mom had made and put in the freezer. I didn’t start to eat properly until high school, so I went from nothing to everything.”

Goaltender Dominik Hasek is another new Famer to enter the Hall. Chris Ryndak of Sabres.com caught us up on what he’s been up to since leaving the ice in 2012:

In retirement, he says he’s active with the Czech Republic’s Hockey Hall of Fame, enjoys playing other sports — that may include bike rides in the country — and has some business ventures he’s invested in. He also has a new English Setter that he’s looking forward to spending more time with.

The Leafs won a couple of games this week, but before that they lost three in a row. Two of those, to Buffalo and Nashville, were whuppings. Towards the end of the 9-2 drubbing by merciless Predators,

The Leafs won a couple of games this week, but before that they lost three in a row. Two of those, to Buffalo and Nashville, were whuppings. Towards the end of the 9-2 drubbing by merciless Predators,

another jersey

Phil Kessel took a Marxian view: it was a question of class. Asked about it at practice next day, he told Sportsnet’s Mike Johnston,

It’s disrespectful, right? Not just to us but to the organization, to all of the Leafs players that have ever played for Toronto. If you want to boo us, but you’re disrespecting all of the great players and the great teams that they’ve had before us here. That’s the way I look at it. I think that’s pretty classless to throw your jersey on the ice like that.

lucic will

was a non-ironic headline in a Boston newspaper this week. (Lucic mostly did.) Continue reading

this week: a dog like a robot and the guy who’s not god

Ace de Québec: Boy with stick and skates on the street of the provincial capital, circa the latter 1950s. (Photo: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton, Bibliothèque et Archives Canada)

Ace de Québec: Boy with stick and skates on the street of the provincial capital, circa the latter 1950s. (Photo: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton, Bibliothèque et Archives Canada)

Drew Doughty’s 2014 playoff motto was “The heart doesn’t get tired.” That’s not news, I guess, unless you hadn’t heard it before. It’s etched in his Stanley Ring, so that he at least will never forget: #HeartDoesn’tGetTired it says there.

Colorado went to Montreal on the weekend, with their coach Patrick Roy, but without winger Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, who was already there. He’d played for the Avalanche for two seasons before a trade in the summer made him a Canadien. Reminded by reporters that Roy had said that he wasn’t a top-six forward for the Avalanche, Parenteau responded.

“He’s entitled to his opinion, and that’s not to say that I respect it,” he told The Gazette. “His opinion, it’s not the truth. This guy is not God, it’s not him who invented hockey, either.”

Buffalo lost 5-1 to Anaheim. “That,” said Buffalo coach Ted Nolan when it was all over, “was like an NHL team playing a pewee team.”

Toronto, meanwhile, lost 4-1 to Detroit on Friday night. Said, Leafs’ defenceman Jake Gardiner afterwards: “It seemed like they had more players on the ice than we did.”

Not a lot of South Floridians went to see the Panthers play at their rink this last week, which made for a sorry sight for cameras panning across empty seats. Announced attendance for the game against Ottawa Monday night was 7,311, the smallest in the team’s 21-year history. @FlaPanthers had a message afterwards for the few, the loyal, the lonely:

Loyalty is best earned on the back of virtue, honor and integrity. Together, we climb. Thanks to all who came. #FlaPanthers

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston revealed that Toronto defenceman Cody Franson is, quote, unafraid to use his body and possesses a booming shot. He also has excellent on-ice vision.

Carolina called up 23-year-old centre Brody Sutter this week, Duane’s son, making him the ninth Sutter to play in the NHL. “There will be more,” Uncle Darryl warned from Los Angeles.

In that Detroit loss, it was widely agreed, the Leafs were outplayed from the moment the puck dropped. Towards the end of the game — and for the second time in this young season— a less-than-gruntled fan threw a Leafs’ sweater to the ice. From the broadcast booth, former goaltender Greg Millen said it was tough to watch. “The ultimate insult for a player is that. For a lot of them. For sure.” Continue reading

I said let grief be a falling leaf

carlyleThe Toronto Maple Leafs lost eight games in a row to round out the month of March. April came in like a bit of a cure: the Leafs beat Calgary and Boston this past week before last night’s loss to Winnipeg appeared to kill their playoff hopes. The following anthology of disappointment is a composite of quotes from the month that was, culled from newspapers local and national, wire reports, and the Twitter feeds of a scattering of discouraged beat reporters.

“Obviously we were pretty flat the first period,” Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. “It looked like we were still in our afternoon nap. Playing an afternoon game just took us a good part of the game to get warmed up and get awake.”

Losing the game was one thing, built on ill-timed mistakes and mental lapses. But why the lacklustre Leafs couldn’t match the intensity of a team outside the playoff race left goaltender James Reimer and others grasping for answers.

“Why are we losing? It’s different reasons all the time. If it was one thing we would correct it,” said Joffrey Lupul.

“We could not make two passes,” Carlyle said.

They looked like a team that had been beaten and given up, a dead team skating, both that night and again in practice early in the week. Continue reading

this week: greatest belgian hockey stories + the most thankless job

The House That Smythe Built: Heritage Toronto and Ryerson University unveiled a plaque on Thursday, November 14, to commemorate the Leafs' first home, now reborn as Ryerson's Mattamy Athletic Centre and ... a Loblaws. (Drawing by Ross and Macdonald, architects. The Journal, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, viii, October 1931)

The House That Conn Built: Heritage Toronto and Ryerson University unveiled a plaque on Thursday, November 14, to commemorate the Leafs’ second home, now reborn as Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre and … a Loblaws.
(Drawing by Ross and Macdonald, architects. The Journal, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, viii, October 1931)

The Hall of Hockey’s Fame opened its doors to five new members this week, as reported in The Bangkok Post.

At the ceremony in Toronto, Scott Niedermeyer’s smoothness was recalled. “It was fun to be his teammate,” said Scott Stevens.

Ken Daneyko said he was effortless, graceful, “like a thoroughbred.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called Brendan Shanahan “my personal favourite.” Shanahan, of course, is the league’s Senior Vice President responsible for Player Safety — or, as Bettman called it, “the most thankless job.”

“I think his contributions to the game based on what he’s doing now will even exceed what he did in the 21 years he played,” Bettman said.

Shanahan said that Geraldine Heaney is tough and talented. Also that Ray Shero’s gentlemanliness is a tribute to his father, Fred.

“He’s just a good man,” Gretzky said of the final inductee, Chris Chelios.

Brian Leetch: “I always tell people that Chris Chelios is America’s version of Mark Messier.”

“They’re similar in that they love the game and have a passion for it. They love to compete and winning and doing things as a group are very important to them.

“They played with an edge, whether it was a stick up or a glove in the face. They would drop the gloves if they had to. You knew if you were in a competition with either of them it wasn’t always going to be clean and you were going to get the worst of it because they would not back down.”

The IIHF.com took the time to check in on Mike Keenan in Russia and he’s doing fine. He’s coaching Metallurg Magnitogorsk, and the team is near the top of the standings in the KHL’s Eastern Conference.

His new favourite food item, Keenan owned, is Russian pizza, which is sometimes topped with mackerel and red herring. New favourite Russian saying?

Spasibo, which means thank you,” Keenan said. “Also, dobroe utro, which means good morning.”

From The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle we learned, this week, what the new Buffalo coach told his players after the first period against Toronto. Said a Sabre source of Mirtle’s: “Ted came in and told us ‘You guys are garbage.’”

Detroit’s coach, Mike Babcock, is getting a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, from his alma mater, McGill University in Montreal, next week, on Monday, November 25.

A former hockey co-captain of the McGill Redmen, Babcock (BEd ’86) is being cited for “coaching winning teams” and “the achievement of excellence,” which is, according to a McGill press release, “the subject of his 2012 book, Leave No Doubt, highlighting the theme that one cannot accomplish great things without facing great adversity and making peace with uncertainty.” Continue reading