Toronto Maple Leafs Facing Pivotal Opponent on Way to The Cup

Graeme BoyceCorrespondent IOctober 13, 2009

WOODRIDGE, IL - AUGUST 17:  Head coach Ron Wilson runs drills during the USA Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Orientation Camp on August 17, 2009 at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Well, here we are about half way down the new season and, oh wait, no, it's only 5 games in.  "What me worry?"  I had an ale today at the pub and while at the bar had a chance to talk to some trusted confidants about the Leafs.  So, apparently, the issue surrounds the fact that Brian Burke, who in exchange merely expected a winning team as a product, sellable on the ice and off the ice, supplied Ron Wilson a new team, a supposed big and tough team, and still speedy up front to win. 

This team, however, with a tweak here and a tweak there, would compete and in fact intimidate on a nightly basis on the way to The Cup.  Based on several decent assumptions, such as acquiring a Top 6 forward, or one that might appear or would materialize from among the junior ranks, and likely might yet still appear in young Stahlberg, a winning team would tip the scales sooner than later. 

Okay, maybe not this year, but maybe next.  A month ago, Toronto Maple Leafs players, their managers and executives, and their fans, enjoyed a very entertaining pre-season and happily discussed the team's immediate future.  We fans have continued to question authority, and ignore the fact MLSE profits tremendously win, lose or draw, and today am in a quandary.

The Leafs on-ice product would be improved immediately if the team had a Top 5 goalie.  The Maple Leafs are the Yankees of hockey, and like Steinbrenner, Burke should simply buy our team what it needs.  I expect nothing less.  The team does not exist so that a player can improve over time.  Nope.  I expect nothing but super stars.

The people who control sports and entertainment franchises know the bottom line has more to do with marketing than the actual quality of the product on the ice, which can be defined and manufactured, and so I think the future is now.  Against the Avalanche I want to see some youngsters, as frustrating as that may be or seem; any decent hockey fan has seen youngsters of all shapes, sizes, speeds and sizzle come and go, dutifully who have competed year after year with aging veterans for a spot.

Some things never change, and any athlete over time has always endured this common process of weeding and filtration... in addition to typical successful entrepreneurs or artists today, yesterday or tomorrow.  In that respect only the strong survive, so it's nice to see Darcy Tucker back in town. 

The Maple Fans fans have seen it all before and, yes, have even heard it all before.  Our MLSE executives have prioritized a profit, as opposed to the teams' performance on the ice. We all want a winning team.  The pressure is on.

Brian Burke has brought aboard a few veteran players who should command respect on the blue, who should flatten opponents in a Brian Glennie-like manner, and I think if the Leafs intend on winning then they should begin to understand how to deliver an open ice body check.  A lot of enemy forwards are rushing in, slamming on the brakes, and setting up a shot, without fear of being pounded or chopped liked kindling.

There's a brief moment now, when the attacking forward comes across the blue line and just as he is coming to a typical sharp stop that he would become vulnerable to a full shoulder-to-chest body check delivered with bone-crunching authority by someone like Mike Komiserek or Francois Beauchemin.  I thought they might inspire the other players with their selfless delivery shift after shift.

I'm not seeing that kind of sacrifice.  I'm seeing an effort, but not a great effort.  I see attempt but not selfless attempt.  Funny thing is if they bring in Tyler Bozak, the team is looking at the cap, and that will come into play with Phil Kessel coming along in a month.  Tonight's game against Colorado is critical.  Toronto needs to win, and it needs to be a team effort.

Maybe Tucker will inspire them...