Archive for the ‘Toronto Maple Leafs’ Category

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Bill Maher – yes, I’m opening a piece about why fighting does not need to exist in hockey by referencing something Bill Maher said, but bear with me – once was discussing what it would take to get equal rights in America for the gay community. He quoted a statistic that showed how people who are against gay marriage are very old while people who are for it are very young.

His hypothesis was that eventually gay marriage would be legal in all 50 states, but we would have to wait for all of the old voters and their long-held ignorant beliefs to die first. Once you get past the harshness of the idea, it makes sense. For change to occur, people in power need must be replaced by people who aren’t burdened by the notions of “that’s how it’s always been” in the world.

Before we get to hockey, let’s talk about the NFL. I know, but I assure you this all builds to a point.

On Sunday, the New York Giants were playing a football game against the Carolina Panthers. The Giants were thoroughly dismantled, 38-0, in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. The contest ceased to be in doubt by, at the latest if you’re an optimist, the middle of the third quarter. It was a woodshed beating in which Giants quarterback Eli Manning was sacked seven times.

There was a play that occurred earlier in the game before it got out of hand. Giants defensive back Ryan Mundy delivered a devastating – and legal, although a flag was thrown at first – hit to Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell that jarred the ball loose, resulting in an incomplete pass. LaFell was about as defenseless as it gets. It was an extremely violent collision in an extremely violent sport.

At the conclusion of the third-down play, no one on the Panthers ran over to Mundy to challenge him to a fight. Heck, no one on the Panthers had anything to say Mundy in the aftermath of the hit. No one on the Panthers felt the need to “stick up for a teammate” because of the hit. In a game that was over with about 20 minutes left, Panthers coach Ron Rivera did not send out his toughest player to fight Mundy or exact revenge by having a linebacker engage in a fight with a Giants wide receiver.

Suffering one of the more embarrassing losses in team history, no one on the Giants felt the need to “set the tone” for the following week’s game by fighting someone on the Panthers. No one on the Giants felt the need to “fire up the boys” while down 10-0 by starting a fight.

What’s the difference between the NFL and NHL, two extremely violent sports whose players pride themselves on toughness? Quite simply, fighting has always been part of the NHL culture while the NFL does not tolerate it. Fighting in hockey gets you five minutes in the penalty box and the admiration of your teammates and coach. Fighting in the NFL gets you a minimum fine of $26,250 for a first offense and is doubled for a second offense.

If the NHL adopted that policy, Brandon Prust would be filing for bankruptcy by January. Or, more likely, fighting in the NHL would eventually disappear and, after a while, no one would miss it. Read the rest of this entry »

Yup, still scary.

Yup, still scary.

 

Down Goes Brown wrote a delightful post for Grantland about the biggest NHL dirtbags, inspiring this series of posts about the details of their dirtbagginess and resultant injuries. No dirtbag discussion is complete without mention of Darcy Tucker, whose insane facial expressions alone are enough to strike fear into the hearts of children everywhere.

Darcy Tucker. Say his name, stand back and watch the expletives fly from the lips of Islanders fans. And Flyers fans. And Senators fans. And most other people. Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs have a love/hate relationship with him – loving his willingness to fight anyone, hating his dumb penalties and cap hit that lasts until 2014. Like fellow dirtbag Sean Avery, Tucker inspired an NHL rule change. Unlike Sean Avery, he didn’t do it by pissing off a goalie, he did it by destroying someone’s knee.

 

Mike Peca’s Knee

 

Amazingly, Peca's neck survived this crash landing intact.

Amazingly, Peca’s neck survived this crash landing intact.

 

In the first round of the 2001-02 playoffs the Maple Leafs met the Islanders in a series that was more fights and cheap hits than actual hockey playing. Game five was particularly ugly, seeing the end to Mike Peca’s season (and knee) and an incredibly filthy Gary Roberts hit that knocked Kenny Jonsson out for the season (literally). While the Tucker hit wasn’t technically dirty at the time, it resulted in the clipping rule:

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Shot quantity

Detroit Red Wings v Toronto Maple Leafs

In my first year of university, my friend Jeff and I would usually begin the night by playing a few games of chess while having a few beers. Chess is a great game, but requires patience and thinking that doesn’t really suit the university dorm decorum. Just two beers can really change the course of a game, as we generally got a little worse as the night went along.

Never really thought that those nights would become the introduction to a blog post six years later, but I think there was a lot to learn from those nights. Even when I beat Jeff at chess, sober or not, I always knew it was an aberration. He won about 65% of the games we played, but since we played so many times, it’s very likely that there were samples of games that I beat him cleanly, like six-out-of-ten or eight-out-of-fifteen. If I played a friend Rob three times and beat him on each occasion, we’d assume I was a much better player, but it could be a problem with the sample. Jeff and I have played dozens of games against each other and it wasn’t until about halfway through that year when I figured that he was a much better player than I was, or at least his game better matched up against mine than mine did his.

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Shot quality

Toronto Maple Leafs v Boston Bruins - Game Two

If you’re an assistant coach of a National Hockey League team and you say something that immediately sets off the bullshit detector of hundreds of hockey die-hards and analysts, it may be time to seriously question the direction of your franchise.

Meet Greg Cronin, the man behind such lines as “I think Orr has proven he’s more than just an enforcer”, who gave an interview to Alec Brownscombe of Maple Leafs Hot Stove that made the rounds this week. Everything in it just seemed off, and while Cronin seemed to be aware that there are, er, certain metrics that showed his Toronto Maple Leafs were not as good as their wins and losses record indicated.

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Only the toughest matchups for PK Subban. (Getty)

Only the toughest matchups for PK Subban. (Getty)

I’m not entirely sure what the future holds for Dave Nonis and the Toronto Maple Leafs. If I were to wager a guess, Nonis lasts for a few years at the helm of one of the NHL’s flagship organizations, gets another couple of playoff appearances, perhaps a coaching change or two, and ultimately doesn’t win the Stanley Cup.

That’s not to say that I think Nonis is inherently flawed or that the Maple Leafs are cursed, but it’s just unlikely for any team to win the Stanley Cup. You need a great team and great luck, or everything else falls apart.

So far, the Nonis era has unfolded in Toronto rather unspectacularly. If you can say anything about the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s that they’re a hockey team, built as one might expect any standard hockey team to be built. The first line has skilled players. The second line has slightly less skilled players. The third line is players the coach doesn’t like. There are fighters on the fourth line.

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Valtteri Filppula enjoys his last few moments with an intact ankle as Andrew Shaw plots his devious slewfoot.

Valtteri Filppula enjoys his last few moments with an intact ankle as Andrew Shaw plots his devious slewfoot.

For a move that’s worth a match penalty and so inherently dangerous, it’s amazing how often a slewfoot happens. What’s more amazing is how often players get away with it. Somehow the slewfoot is also one of the most-defended moves, with someone always willing to loudly claim it was just a hockey play, no matter how blatant. This year’s playoffs have already had their share of slewfoots (slewfeet?), all of which have somehow avoided anything more than a minor penalty.

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During intermission of last night’s Bruins/Leafs game, Don Cherry was up to his usual routine with Ron MacLean. His focus – nay obsession – was on the Leafs lack of coverage of the points (which is interesting, given how many coaches would much prefer to have the puck up there than around the net, but anyway). His analysis of the play was particularly hilarious in that he didn’t so much analyze as he did watch the video and bellow “POINT!” every time the D touched the puck.

And thus, courtesy Scott Johnson, the Don Cherry POINT soundboard was born. We hope you enjoy.