If hacker-slasher loudmouth Sean Avery didn't provide enough incentive for Dion Phaneuf or Mike Komisarek to pound New York's goalie Henrik Lundqvist with pucks—and neither did booing Beantown fans for Phil Kessel each time he touched the puck a game earlier—then surely long-time rival Ottawa will provide the requisite opportunity for Toronto's vaunted snipers to burst out of their slump.
In another must-win (actually, must score a goal) situation for the Leafs, against an admittedly tired opposition, they actually found another way to lose, while providing ample fodder for television commentators, as blocking shots is now a highlight-reel defensive strategy.
In all the years I've been watching the Leafs, there has always been a gung-ho, rah-rah guy who manages to provide "the spark," regardless of strategies, and I'm not seeing that player on the ice right now.
If I were Brian Burke, I'd be itching to pull the trigger and pull up rookie Nazim Kadri. More importantly, I'd certainly be packaging both Nicolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski, for a trade. Yes, as youngsters, they have both done the job in the defensive zone, but during this past week when first place was on the line they did not step up and score a goal.
The Toronto Maple Leafs play has been atrocious this past week, and they've managed to lose their way out of first place in the division by simply not scoring, notwithstanding the opposition's supreme ability to block shots. A good excuse to fire the coach is to explain, after the fact, that the GM can't fire the whole team.
At the moment, if I were Burke, I'd keep Luke Schenn, who at least blocks people.
On another front, Jean-Sebastien Giguere has ably proved his starter role to begin this season. It's not apparent to me why backup Jonas Gustavsson was selected to start against Boston the other night. Perhaps it's because Brian Burke might be looking to ship Giggy out and thus is quite cognizant to keep his stats padded as the season progresses.
I like Giguere but he won't be back next season. I thought perhaps during the recent "Summer of Talk," he might be put on the block in order to bring in Marty Turco, who backstopped another 'Hawks win last night.
Speaking of goalies, good ol' Andrew Raycroft nailed a shutout last night and blanked the Sabres, and speaking of blanks, Boston shut out Ottawa.
So, along comes Ottawa on Tuesday, who are also not without an ample amount of trade talk these days. As opposed to saying how naughty he thought Dany Heatley was for demanding a trade, perhaps Burke should have found a way to sign him.
Having said that, I really doubt any trade is useful between these two so-called rivals nowadays, though I'd certainly take Mike Fisher.
The answer to Toronto's winning is found in the locker room, and it is contagious and it spreads onto the ice. It is brought there by the players, and they are the only ones who can carry it. Some call it the will to win—this is what Toronto lacks today. They have enough players who know what it's like to win, and win it all, as in the Cup—but these players are not leaders yet.
We all know Burke has not finished his re-tooling job. It seems to me, however, that Ron Wilson is finished. He can juggle lines, sit players and send players to the press box, but he cannot motivate or inspire players and this is a young team and they need leadership—above and beyond day-to-day training and development of skills sets.
Having said that, it is on Phaneuf's angry shoulders to provide the spark—he needs to accept that responsibility—to deliver the will to win. I don't think Gilmour is ready to step into Wilson's shoes, but certainly Craig MacTavish is in fact, ready, willing and able.