We all knew it would be a long season for Leafs fans—the team is up and down, they have trouble holding leads, and the season is (most likely—I mean, it is still early) going to be one big growing pain.
As it usually is with teams that are in the midst of a rebuilding or "talent growing" phase, the diehards will study all offseason to gauge how the new additions might fit into the system, who they are, and what their jersey number is, amongst other things.
The more mild-mannered fan—and yes NHL, mild-mannered Toronto fans do exist—doesn't let the summer-movement bog him down, be it good or bad. He knows that the season is 82 games long and that he'll have loads of time to gauge his new roster and learn the new faces.
Sometimes, learning those faces is easier than others—especially when those new faces stand out, be it good or bad.
My Dad is one of those mild-mannered fans.
Because of his longevity as a Leafs fan, he's learned to be more concerned only when the games matter. It's not that the offseason moves don't matter, it's just that he knows that he'll learn the team as he watches them play, and that rosters are never "set" to begin with in the NHL.
After the Leafs' first game against Detroit, my dad's email centered on one thing—the excitement over the new season.
"I don't know the kids names, but I'm sure gonna learn them." That phrase alone showed me that my dad, like most other Leafs fans, was excited about this new up-and-coming roster.
While names like Nikolai Kulemin are starting to become pronounced with more proficiency on Toronto tounges, and Mikhail Grabovski has looked to be well worth the risk (despite the point deficiency), there's one name that has become synonymous with the early-season struggles of the Leafs and their fans.
Back in July, I was against the trade that brought the "energetic" forward to Toronto. Although I had agreed with Cliff Fletcher's decisions to bring in Jeff Finger, Curtis Joseph, Jamal Mayers, and Nik Hagman, I couldn't bring myself to jump for joy at this decision.
It had me even less enthused when Greg Caggiano outed himself as probably the biggest Anti-Hollweg man in the history of Ryan's NHL career (which consists of a surprising 201 games).
The trade that sent Hollweg to Toronto led to Greg basking in glory, quite possibly posting his shortest article in his Bleacher Report career, as I advised him to take the day off and drink himself into a joyous stupor at the news.
I joined him a few hours later to drown my sorrows in my own pint.
Needless to say, after the drinking, I heeded Caggy's wise words about not putting too much stock in Hollweg, and I'm glad I did.
As has been his "hallmark" in his NHL career, Hollweg did bring some energy to the ice. In fact, I was starting to doubt myself after the Leafs' first preseason game and started to contemplate giving him a little love.
After all, he could've just had a rough time in Broadway Blue, right?
As the preseason went on, though, I started to stifle these thoughts. I mean, this was the guy who couldn't win a fight last season, and had trouble playing within the rules.
When the Leafs' preseason wrapped up though and Hollweg received his first suspension of the season, I found myself scrolling through Greg's article to find this:
It seems the only time he does check someone, it's when the player has his back to him and he gets a boarding call. In fact, I singlehandedly blame him for the second-round loss to the Penguins this season: just as the Rangers tied Game Three and took momentum, he got whistled for checking a player who was fifteen feet from the puck.
It was kind of like Mission Impossible 3 where the movie starts at a portion near the end, and you get to watch the build-up to said ending? It was exactly like that, except I didn't get to see Tom Cruise get slammed into a car (the only reason I ever saw MI:3 in the first place).
I had watched Ryan Hollweg cost the New York Rangers their shot at the Cup, and then watched as he put his "agitator" display on in the preseason for Leafs fans. Before you knew it though, he was nailed for hitting from behind.
The suspension was only for two games though (the standard for three hitting-from-behind penalties in 41 games), so I felt confident that Hollweg could have learned his lesson.
Then I found out that Matt Stajan would be benched in favor of Hollweg, marking the trouble-maker's return to the lineup.
In no way could this turn out well.
In fact, it didn't. We all know that Hollweg clocked Alex Pietrangelo—his second Blues victim in as many games—and was tossed from the game. The move to bench Stajan came back to bite the Leafs in two ways:
1) If Stajan stays in the lineup, then you've got a good two-way forward who could help play some quality minutes against the Blues offensive threats (because reason number two would have never happened) for the remaining two periods.
2) The five-minute power play would have never happened, essentially crippling the Leafs for a quarter of the second period.
Essentially, my DVD player had just skipped and I was forced to watch the middle third of Mission Impossible 3 once again. Yet again, Tom Cruise didn't get thrown into a car.
So now, Hollweg is suspended for at least three more games, and it'd be in the Leafs' best interest to either bench the annoyance, ensuring he never kills the Leafs again, or teach him the value of a dollar—then maybe he'll be interested in sticking around long enough to earn one.
Either way, I think it's safe to say that the Leafs can't afford to be bogged down by a player who can't spell clean let alone hit clean, especially when they need to be concerned with so many other things right now (like finishing a game with a faceoff percentage above 50 percent).
So Ryan Hollweg, either shape-up or ship-out. I'm sick and tired of this Mission Impossible 3 rerun.
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