Showing posts from January, 2013

The Myth of the Maple Leaf Mid-week Malaise

Last night, while listening to the Leafs hosting the Islanders game (which Toronto dropped 7-4 after leading 3-1) I heard at least a few times from the broadcast team of Dan Dunleavy and Jim Ralph a reference to the Maple Leafs "mid-week malaise". This is in reference to the fact that neither the players or the fans can gather up enough intensity for home games that are not on Saturday. The theory goes that a Saturday night game in Toronto is such a magical experience, it is difficult to get up for a game during the middle of the week. Apparently ex-coach Ron Wilson even espoused such a theory before being turfed last season.

Well, it's bullshit.

I checked the game records going back five full seasons, and here's the results. I counted mid-week home games as Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. In fact I believe every "weekend" game not in that group were Saturdays.

Mid-week 9-10-5
Weekend   9-7-1

Mid-week 7-11-7
Weekend   9-5-2


Randy Carlyle and the 1981 Norris Trophy

I like Randy Carlyle as the coach of the Maple Leafs. I'm also old enough to remember him as a Norris Trophy winning defenceman over 30 years ago. In the 1980/81 season Carlyle was named best defender in the NHL after scoring 16 goals, 67 assists, 83 points in 76 games. This despite the fact he also posted a Minus 16 +/- rating. Did he deserve the Norris Trophy that season?

The voting for the Norris was extremely tight. Carlyle collected 120 voting points, Denis Potvin 113 and Larry Robinson 100. Potvin had finished second to Carlye in defenceman scoring with 76 points in 2 fewer games, but Potvin finished with a Plus 38 +/-, 54 better than Carlyle. Robinson missed even more games that year playing only 65 yet still put up 50 points and a Plus 46 rating.

Perhaps more revealing is the voting for the First and Second All-Star squads after the 1980/81 season. Here, Carlyle finished behind Potvin and by a wide margin. Potvin collected 194 All-Star votes to Carlyle's 168. Robinso…

James Reimer will be just fine.

43 Games 24 Wins 10 Losses 6 OT Losses 4 Shutouts
2.59 Goals Against Average .920 Save Percentage
These were the career numbers of Maple Leaf goalie James Reimer on Sunday, October 23, 2011. This of course was the day after he suffered a concussion thanks to the knee of that dirty Canadien Brian Gionta. Reimer returned to the lineup six weeks later only to miss two week chunks of the season three times the rest of the way. He never returned to full form until the very end of the campaign. Over his last five games his Save Pct. was .915.
James Reimer is 24 years old, still two months shy of his 25th birthday. In my opinion, he should be given every opportunity to regain his spot as Leaf goalie of the present and future. In a 48 game season, I would give Reimer 30 to 35 starts, if he even approaches his pre-concussion numbers of 2.59 GAA and .920 Save Pct. the Maple Leafs will be just fine.
Now is not the time to bring in a Roberto Luongo. He would only serve to be a roadblock to a hopefully…

The Month Tim Horton was a Scoring Forward

January 1965. The Toronto Maple Leafs were three-time defending Stanley Cup champions. In an effort to win their fourth straight chalice the squad encountered an unusual rash of injuries as 1964 turned to 1965. A 3-0 loss at Boston on Friday January 1, 1965 dropped the Leafs to under .500 at 12-13-8 and fourth place in the NHL.

In this game, on top of George Armstrong, Andy Bathgate and Dave Keon being absent due to injuries, rookie sensation Ron Ellis sustained a concussion and would now miss time as well. The Leafs were scheduled to play the next two days and were desperately short of forwards. It was at this point that Punch Imlach moved Tim Horton from his All-Star calibre defence position to play right wing.

The next night back in Toronto the Leafs beat the New York Rangers 3-1. Tim Horton had two of the three goals, one of them shorthanded. They would travel to Boston for the third game in three nights and tie the Bruins 3-3. Dave Keon returned for this game but Horton remaine…

Oh Well, That Didn't Work

306 NHL regular season games. That's how many Brian Burke was in control of the Toronto Maple Leafs since he took over as G.M. on November 29, 2008. His team's record in over that span was 129-135-42 for a Points Percentage of .490 and of course, zero playoff appearances. In the 306 games that Toronto played PRIOR to Burke taking over their record was 146-122-38, a Point Pct. of .539.

When he took over in 2008/09, Toronto had a 7-9-6 record on the season and were a mere two points out of the NHL basement. The question is, are the Leafs any better off now than they were then? Perhaps the answer is an obvious one or else he would not have been fired, but let's compare the rosters of the Leafs before and after Burkie brought his truculent brand of hockey to town.

On Nov. 27, 2008 Toronto lost 2-1 in a shootout at Ottawa. The average age of the roster that night was 27.2 years. Their top six forwards were Jason Blake, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Nik Antropov, Mikhail Grabovski, Matt…

Punch Imlach & His Faceoff-Taking Defencemen

It's part of Toronto Maple Leaf folklore. And really, that's all that keeps us Leaf fans going is folklore. Game Six of the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals. 55 seconds remaining. Who does coach Punch Imlach have take the defensive-zone face off to the left of Terry Sawchuk but defenceman Allan Stanley. Of course, Stanley would beat Jean Beliveau on the draw and eight seconds later George Armstrong sealed the Leaf Cup win with an empty-net goal. The truth is, Imlach using his defencemen to take the defensive zone draw was more of a normal than a rarity.

Punch Imlach had actually started this practice as far back as the early 1960's. His thinking was that the defender could simply run right through the opposing centre with little concern for the puck that was being dropped. This actually led to the introduction of an interference penalty being assessed to such actions. Even still, Imlach enjoyed throwing his d-men out for defensive draws.

I watched this very game recently and decid…