Let me ask the Leafs fans: Should we be happy with the team this season?
I was very pleased that we have brought up the kids and let them play. We need to know the state of our kids. We have to know exactly what we have in our prospects bank. The only way we can do that is by playing them. Honestly, we have nothing to lose. The results are not an issue right now.
Who are the kids I refer to? Finnish gold medal hero Kasperi Kapanen. Swedish number one pick William Nylander. The highly-skilled Russian Nikita Soshnikov. These are the names that come to mind when I mention the kids coming up.
The so-called tank issue is in full bloom right now.
But the tank mindset cannot enter the dressing room. Don't get me wrong; management cannot be too unhappy with losses. But they cannot allow the players to be satisfied with losing. The tanking issue has to be nipped in the bud now.
So what does this mean? Management has to be smiling on the inside, not the outside. They want to lose, but they do not want the players to want to lose.
SO WHAT CAN WE EXPECT OF THESE KIDS?
They have to do what it takes to win. We need these kids to do what got them on the Leafs roster in the first place. Each of them needs to trust in their ability and play to their strengths. They do not have to be perfect, but they do have to care, and they have to try. They will make mistakes, but they have to learn from those mistakes. For in a true player's heart is their ability to cover their weakness. The Leafs have to start breeding champions.
I have no doubt that all three kids will be on the roster next year. So why not prepare them for the days ahead?
SO HOW CAN THEY BE GRADED?
By playing them in every aspect of the game. They have to play in power play units. Do they know how to distribute the puck? Do they know where to position themselves in the powerplay? Are they getting in position to receive the puck? They must be constantly aware of where the puck is.
They have to play in penalty kill situations. Are they defensively sound? Are they responsible in their own zone and do they cover their man? Are they me players or team players?
All these questions have to be answered. The only way to get to know the kids is to play them. Remember, they are our future.