Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Leafs Buyers? Yeah, maybe a small one.


The Leafs continue to win and have one of the best offences in the NHL. But they have a young defence who continue to show weakness in their zone. To be fair, the forwards have had to start doing their fair share too.

I am the first to admit that watching the Leafs is fun. They are one of the most exciting teams in the league. Their games are full of action, up and down like a yo-yo. No lead is safe, which can be negative or positive.

I have witnessed many games where leads have become an adventure because a forward is trying to add to their stats. I am there right with all the Leafs loving all the offence, but most fans know it is defence that wins cups. The 1980s style of "run and gun" belongs in the past. Yes, the offence has to be part of the game, but total abandonment of the goalies cannot be tolerated.  The Leafs have to play with common sense.

The question is how to fix it? It is common knowledge that the Leafs are desperately looking for defencemen. The big name is Erik Gudbranson from the Canucks, but the price is a problem.  The Canucks will probably want a high pick with a prospect. I am not sure the Leafs are close enough this season to make that trade.

The Leafs have other options of trade bait beside picks and prospects. Tyler Bozak may be on the market. JVR is another name. The Leafs still have not made up their minds what to do.  Are they close enough to keep him and risk getting nothing for him in the offseason? Or there is another option? Perhaps making a "hockey trade" with a team in the West. (Meaning a trade to fulfil both teams' needs.) The third option would be to trade for some prospects and picks and use the assets for a future deal.  Kadri continues to be untouchable for the Leafs, as they are not interested in trading Marner.

For now, it looks as though the Leafs will remain a small buyer, adding small pieces for a run.  The situation is not likely to change, as they seem to be entrenched in that third spot. No one is catching up, but neither are they able to catch up to the hot Bruins.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Worrying signs

There have been some disturbing trends with the Maple Leafs lately. Do we blame the offence for the lack of scoring of late, or is the defence just weak?

I personally think it is a little of both. Or is it the system?  It sure seems like the Leafs go into this defensive shell and take their foot off the gas pedal.  They seem to be afraid of making mistakes with the lead.  When you play like you are trying not to lose, that is what happens — you lose.   The Leafs have to play like they are tied or behind all the time.

The lack of being able to put a team away is very puzzling. Think of about the offence the Leafs have on the roster. There's this Matthews guy, and then there is JVR, Nylander, and many more.  The tightness on the sticks has to loosen up. What do I mean? The Leafs have to go back to the basics.  Go to the net, shoot more, and most important, want it more than the other team.

If this game were based on talent, the Maple Leafs would one of the best teams in the league.  But it isn't. It is based on heart and hard work. The Golden Knights are the proven example of that. There is no other team that outworks the Knights.  The Leafs have to get back to hard work. Defense first and the offence will take care of itself. They have to work as a unit and not as individuals. Lately, the Leafs have had too many me's and not enough we on the roster.

I am looking at  Kadry and Bozak here. They have to become the leaders of this team. They have to start working. Take out the garbage.  There can be no passengers on this team. The Leafs have to realize that they can't win on their looks; it will take hard work. There are no easy wins in this league. The time for playing is now.

Andersen was right in speaking out on this team.  The Leafs have taken to many periods off, especially in the third.  It is time to stand up and start working as a unit. Boy, I'd give anything for some muscle right now.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Book Review Gluten-Free Murder

Erin is looking to clean the slate and starts over.  When she comes to Bald Eagle Falls to open a specialised bakery in her Aunt Clementine's old shop, is she in over her head?

Erin has to come to grips with a suspicious death in her bakery. The most ornery woman in town is the victim. There is no shortage of suspects, including herself. In fact, some would say she is the most significant prospect. Erin will learn what everyone already knows — that there are many secrets in this small Amercian town.

Full-time baker and part-time detective, Erin often butts heads with Officer Terry Piper. Erin's top priorities are to clear her name and find out the truth, and she is willing to do almost anything to get it done. She soon hires new assistant Vicky, and together they make Officer Piper's life more interesting! Not only does Terry have to find the killer, but he spends almost as much time telling Erin and Vicky to stay out of the investigation. Then there is the fact that just maybe the killer might be a little testy about getting caught.  You will not be able to put this book down, with all the twists and turns this murder mystery takes.

Trying to open a business is hard enough without trying to figure out who she can trust, including her assistant Vicky. Life in this small town is more than Erin bargained for; what has she gotten herself into?

A terrific cozy whodunnit you won't be able to put down.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Leafs Update

You have to be quite happy with the Leafs' play of late. There is still the worrisome play in the defensive zone. We still need that fourth or fifth dman that I have been barking about for the last little while.

The game in Colorado had some positives.  The Leafs never quit. Every time the Avs scored, the Leafs scored. The secondary scoring came through for the Leafs with Martin and Polak each getting a goal. So we got a dose on Pickard's debut in Colorado.  Pickard was not bad, and the Leafs might very well put him on showcase for the teams who are shopping for a backup goalie. Or in the Islanders situation, any goalie.

The Leafs showed heart in the contest. They still have a problem with defensive zone coverage. On the bright side, the Leafs are searching long and hard for another veteran defencemen. We do have Bozak, Marner, and JVR for bait, all of whom have been rumoured to be available. They continue to tell teams that Kadri is not.

The price of defencemen is going right now is JVR plus. At this moment, the Leafs are not willing to go that high. Yes, Marner is there, but the Leafs really want a quality dman in return. They would prefer JVR or Bozak as part of the package.  Overall, things are going quite well, but the Leafs have to keep an eye on the surging Bruins, they cannot let up.  Curtis McElhinney continues to be on the sidelines with an upper-body injury, so the Leafs will get a look at Pickard.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

What do we have here?

It is amazing what listening to your coach can do.  Last time I blogged, the Leafs were throwing all caution to the wind. Defense was gone. In fact, it was banned from their vocabulary.   Andersen was the defense everyone else was in the other end.

So what changed? It certainly was not Babcock; Mike has been teaching "defense first" all season. The forwards were not coming back into the defensive zone at all, paying too much attention to the stats.  They were following the leaders of this team, so when the leaders changed, the teams changed. Kadri was the first to change when he started playing with intensity. JVR and Bozak are beginning to do what it takes. The even better news is, the offense has remained as the Leafs defense has improved.

Babcock knows darn well what wins cups.  Defensive responsibility in their own end. The offense will take care of itself. The Leafs no longer have to score five goals to win.  Because forwards are coming back, the defense doesn't have to panic. Giving the defense a target to pass the puck is vital to this team success. Sometimes, it may take a couple of passes to get out of a zone, and that is a good thing.  Get excited people: this Leaf team could be special. Come along for the ride.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Maple Leafs: Defense, defense, defense - same old story

The Leafs had a rough road trip as their defence was, let's say, exposed. But to be fair, the forwards were not exactly helpful,  Still too many giveaways in our zone and too many mistakes.

The biggest problem is defensive zone coverage let-down. It seems that someone is not getting the memos about common sense. Two or three times a game, someone will lose track of where their man is, allowing him to score. Forwards are cherry picking and not coming back to help the defence. Too many passes to no one in particular, causing two-on-ones. The defenseman left back has no idea of what he is doing, leaving Andersen to his own devices.

Please get us a defenseman. Ron Hainsey has been all right since signing, but he cannot do this on his own. Forwards have to come back. Marner is struggling and has to contribute in other ways in the defensive zone. Of course, he has company. I could easily mention other forwards, but I would be here all day.

The offence is awesome, but sooner or later it will slow down. Before that happens, the Leafs have to shore up the defence.  Don't take shortcuts. Start working together as a team. It is easy to blame the defence, but the forwards are going to have to plug the gaps.

Matthews is still day-to-day. Bozak is going to have pick up the pace to fill in the offence. Kadri has to continue his play and JVR has to keep up his numbers. Everyone has to pitch in; offence by committee.

The last two games, Andersen has bailed out this team. He plainly stole the game against the Wild. He continued in his play against the Bruins. With Matthews out, the offence might be harder to come by.  The odd time 3-2  instead of 6-5 would be what the doctor ordered. If the Leafs are going to successful, it all begins in their own zone. Forwards and defence have to know their coverage.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Maple Leafs update

There is like the lot to be happy about with the State of the Leafs.  Matthews, JVR, and Kadri are running havoc with the team's roster. The forwards are flying; there is no doubt about that. The offence is not a problem; it's the other part of the game which seems to be a problem,

Mathews leads the team in goals and points — eight goals and six assists. He is playing like a leader; when the teams need a push, they lean on Matthews to get the big goal.

JVR is almost on a point streak with five goals and four assists for nine points. JVR is using his strength to his advantage, making it hard on opposing defences. What I like most about his game right now is he is a pain to get off the puck. JVR is running on all cylinders, giving a major support on the offensive game.

Kadri is off to another good start. He loves getting into his opponents' heads. His best talent is getting the good players off their games. He loves messing with people. Although, he has to watch the stupid stuff keeping shenanigans to a minimum.  He is too good of a player to be sitting in the box.

Mr. Reilly is improving every season, playing well offensively. He leads the team with eight assists. Reilly has a lot on his shoulders, being the leader on this weak young defence. Reilly still needs to improve his defensive zone coverage, but he is not alone in that area. I worry about putting so much responsibility on a defencemen as young as Reilly. There is a concern he will burn out too early.

The main problem and the only problem is the team's defensive zone. If the team could learn to play more defensively, the leads would not be as scary. The perfect example was the Rangers' game jumping out to a 5-1 lead in the first period, then proceeding to blow the lead in the second. Fortunately, the team came up three in the third to win it.

The Leafs' win in AH was a reason to smile. Andersen rebounded after the last two losses. Andersen made several key saves to hold the Ducks at bay. Still a concern with too many blown coverages in the defensive zone.

Whether Mr. Babcock can work out the kinks in the defensive game or Mr. Lamoriello can work out a deal, the defensive issue has to be worked out. The other solution is going to the farm, but I am not sure that is the answer.