Another Maple Leafs pre-season victory and indeed a great night for Niklas Hagman who is looking superb - definitely earning his first Star - and reinforcing my claim he'll have a stellar year. Also, Matt Stajan delivered some incredibly crisp passes throughout the game, but when Colton Orr (finally) stepped up to the plate and crushed Cote early in the first, his handiwork obviously juiced the Leafs which was effectively followed by Stajan's rather beautiful goal.
It is well-known in the business world there are business models that work. Therefore, as you might expect, in the hockey world there are hockey models too. Funnily enough, the biggest risk in any business is people. Given the rule changes, evolving the game over the past decade, strategies that build a winning (as opposed to merely competitive) team certainly are a primary focus of ownership groups.
So, GMs don't just mold big and fast teams, tough and quick, but simply combine punishing and accurate people these days.
Focus. The players focus on the puck, both where it is and where it's going to be. While the players are focused on the puck, the coach is focused on winning the game and due to their decisions made, the GM who is focused on the future thus makes his decisions.
It's entertaining watching Beauchemin play the point on the powerplay with Kaberle, as opposed to either McCabe or Kubina, because Beauchemin will score. Still, the many detractors of this new-look Leafs team say they don't have any defensemen who can score - because we got rid of Kubina. The Maple Leafs are contenders.
Although inevitable and peculiar intangibles remain to change the flow (or outcome) of a game, in fact it is hard work, discipline and positioning that determine success. Long gone are the days of luck and timing interfering with a management plan to buy a Cup parade. Fault is quickly, very quickly, rewarded with a penalty. The team with the least faults and the least penalties wins, except when our Hagman sees the light and dekes your defense out of it shorts.
The Maple Leafs are not content to live the thug life pundits are expecting.
It seemed the Bay Street Bullies jumped on pucks faster than Philly, and won more faceoffs. Tough break for Mike Komiserek, with a goal off his skate to tie it up in the first, but nice to see him then getting mad, and really getting involved. But he, Beauchemin and Exelby made mistakes. For them, now is the time to make mistakes.
What will eventually give Toronto another Cup is the stalwart determination of both Coach Wilson and Brian Burke to stick to the plan. Gunnarson played alongside the regular new-look defense corps tonight. The reason he was in the lineup is not because he deserved a chance to play, based on his play the night before, but because he was slated to play. Wilson and his coaches and all the Leafs in charge know how well the Swede played in the Worlds, and these games provide an excellent incentive to continue to improve.
Balance isn't solely about age versus youth or toughness versus skill. Here's a classic example, however, of balance being a critical requirement on winning teams, while keeping in mind "they" say thick-headed players, like Carcillo, simply don't have a role. Well, he first pummelled Stempniak (certain to draw a sympathy vote) in the midst of a brawl, and coaxed Jay Rosehill's double-minor actions early in the 2nd, which quickly led to a game tying goal and the then game leading goal.
Stempniak and Allison, looking like a couple of veterans, were executing some pretty nice passes and generating excitement around the net. But with the depth chart the way it is, they're not guaranteed a spot yet and are on the bubble. Nazim Kadri shows us flashes again, but not enough finish, and that's an equation of where he is when he doesn't have the puck, and that's an equation of experience.
I like Rosehill, as well as Ondrus and Deveaux. They are entertaining. But we have Orr. He is money in the bank. After tonight's comeback win, I can't see Jamal Mayers coming back into play any time soon and, btw, I think Hanson has run out of gas.
I said month's ago Phil Kessel is good for the Leafs. Based on the pre-game modeling for the cameras of his new shirt and number, #81, the bona-fide sniper sure as heck doesn't look too introverted, which seems to be the sharpest criticism leveled at him by Bruins fans. He actually seems like a smart young chap. I look forward to his continued impact.
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