The cameraman always seems to catch the moment correctly, never on the basis of a fluke.
Whoever is behind the lens, they’ve noticed Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson roaring “let’s go!” to his roster, glaring up and down the bench with an aging countenance of despair.
Another conceded goal, he must be thinking.
The next shot is cut to general manager Brian Burke, usually visibly stone-faced in anticipation of being plastered all over TV and Sportscentre.
Another blowout, he must be swallowing.
This cameraman assembles rows upon rows of images that bear the same reality. This person is the team’s unknown tormentor, although commendably so. For he or she is the truth teller.
And the Leafs, who filed a 3-1 loss against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, couldn’t have provided a more predictable template to continue the trend for viewers across Canada.
Playing good enough to lose, however, has different ramifications. It summons, like worms after a rainy day, the if question.
If it wasn’t for the five penalties committed in the first period, Wilson may have stood witness to his team’s opening victory to the season. A smile, we may guess, was vaulted for another day.
If Roberto Luongo hadn’t maintained his composure after making 35 stops for the Canucks, the game may have been pushed into overtime. A point, we may imagine, would have been displaced.
If Alex Edler hadn’t stealthily cupped his hand over the puck in Luongo’s crease, maybe the Leafs would’ve led a comeback upon a penalty shot. A streak broken, we could suspect.
But at 0-7-1 (enough for Toronto’s single worst start to any season, ever) pretences aren’t tolerable.
Panic isn’t the operative term anymore. No, describing the Leafs current debacle is harder than that. It’s past the point of merely dismissing the team’s legitimacy, to take refuge in the it’s-too-early-in-the-season argument.
For almost a month, nothing notably good has come out of the Leafs’ locker room. Wilson couldn’t fire up his squad after six days of preparation for their road swing, despite that being the longest span of consecutive days off in franchise history.
Instead, the Leafs will spend the next five games away from Toronto’s dropping temperatures and equally glacial agony.
Players have shouldered the blame for their inadequacy, defenseman Mike Komisarek in particular, and have realized all the concerns that had initially been posed before the first faceoff.
Undisciplined penalties have prevailed, to no end or fix in sight; goals have appeared as scarcely as leaves clinging to an autumn tree; and goaltending has been inconsistent, to put it plainly.
Fights have been breaking out without any positive effect and singing Joey MacDonald, an import from the lowly New York Islanders, has suddenly taken on unwarranted significance.
"We can't lose hope. We're working through this. We're going to get through this together," said Komisarek, who was openly contrite about his performances in prior interviews to the game.
No, the Leafs are clawing at the Kleenex box, blowing their noses and are trembling under a nagging cough, and they hope, as any flu-ridden victim does, it doesn’t become chronic. They hope, unfairly, that hyped acquisition Phil Kessel can apply a touch of grace and aid the Leafs into a healthier form.
For a team that had tacked playoffs on their to-do list this season, it’s absurd that one player has to carry the weight of the city for redemption. And out of some act of cruelty, should Kessel not perform, where will this team be headed?
Burke, facing the heat of the Toronto media for the first real time in the last week, has had to reaffirm his confidence in his players’ abilities. They can play better, he says. They need to learn each other, he repeats.
But it’s no longer premature to suggest how bad the Leafs are. Records have been posted and comparisons to the ugliest Leafs squads in history have ensued.
At this point, they’re 10 points below the last playoff berth, 17 points behind the league-leading Pittsburgh Penguins, waiting on a saviour, and are palming an evasive idea of hope to soothe their angst.
As this story continues to be weaved, though, it will be up to the cameraman to track down the same victims, the same expressions, the same sufferers and witnesses.
The storm hasn’t passed. It’s in full force. And one win won't change that.
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