Something in the Water
Number one! Number one!
When was the last time Leaf fans could claim that in any category
with the exception of team least likely to qualify for the
playoffs? With 19 goals in their last three games (Hello, Mike
Murphy), the Leafs have vaulted or at the very least remained at
the top of several categories as leaders, co-leaders, or
contenders in areas they have not led, well, perhaps in my
The Leafs have not had back-to-back seven-goal games since, dare
I say his name, Coach Carpenter was at the helm. That was a team
that was all offense, no defense. Here things are different.
The leader of this team is the goaltending. Quite frankly, the
real reason the former number one goalie bolted was that he was
sick of hearing his teammates claim how much more confidence they
had with Curtis Joseph in net.
Perhaps most surprising is the rise of certain players to the
forefront. Quinn seems to be able to get production from guys
who Murph couldn't. Berezin is playing well, so is McCauley. In
my humble opinion, the addition of Cote is paramount. He is, on
most nights their best player, as well as the leading player in
ice time. He has brought a confidence to the blue line that
certainly has not been there since Sylvain Lefebvre was shipped
out. With no apologies to Macoun and L. Murphy, Cote is the real
Speaking of real deals, some scribes certainly are eating crow of
late. I'm sure you all recall the dailies crucifying Mike Smith
for dealing holdout Schneider to the Rangers for Alexander
Karpovtsev. What a horrible deal, one wrote. The worst scribe
of them all claimed this nothing more than Smith getting another
Soviet on the squad and that he should be fired for it. Well,
suffice it to say, Smith has been saved by the play of Potsie to
say the least.
While few have come to like Smith, it is difficult to not respect
him. So many verbal darts, or should I say missiles, have been
fired at him he certainly would not be blamed for taking some
credit for the success of the team. He has been totally
professional. He has not said a word, not complained about the
treatment, or anything for that matter. All the while he has
been spending the bulk of his time at his ailing wife's side as
she battles cancer.
So the team is going well. They are 3-1 on a current seven-game
home streak. The holiday trade freeze is currently in effect and
should the Leafs continue on such a pace, Smith's phone will keep
on ringing. The former number one goalie continues to sit at
home and not collect a pay check. Smith on the other hand has
all the power and leverage. I'm sure the Leaf brass is only
sorry that the former number one goalie did not pull this
earlier, it would have saved them some cash.
So Smith has the ability to sit and wait for the right deal.
Actually, he MUST wait for the right deal. He has passed up,
missed, or failed to complete trades for some good players, such
as Linden, Renberg and maybe, depending on how you see things,
Niedermayer. In waiting this long Smith has in one way hurt
himself. Whatever they end up getting will be measured against
these deals, and he MUST do better than that, or at the very
least something comparable.
The team has started to dribble out news of the big move to Air
Canada center. There will be some huge going-ons in the new year
starting in early February. The last game on the 13th will be a
huge event, followed by a parade to the new building. It
certainly will be a fun time and ESPN 2 will carry it for those
living south of the border.
Happy Holidays to all!