December 30, 2006

Toronto Maple Marlies

These aren't your daddy's Maple Leafs, oh no. After a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Leafs are back at .500, and the season is just about 50% in the books. As of tonight, the Leafs are in 11th spot in the Eastern Conference, two points out of a tie for 6th place. It's tight. The Leafs are in a dogfight, and are probably exactly where they should be.

These really aren't the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are the Toronto Maple Marlies. I think ten players in the lineup tonight were coached by Paul Maurice in the AHL last year. Ben Ondrus, Aleksander Suglobov, Kris Newbury, John Pohl, Ian White, Carlo Colaiacovo, Boyd Devereaux, and right now I can't even remember who else. The point is, there's way too many minor leaguers in this lineup. I guess this is the reality of the salary cap era when injuries strike.

No Wellwood, Ponikarovsky, Antropov, or Peca. Darcy Tucker joined the walking wounded tonight with a bone bruise on his right foot. He's unlikely to play tomorrow against the Senators. Devereaux got the call from the Marlies to replace Tucker and assisted on the lone Toronto goal by Mats Sundin.

Poor Mats eh? Here I am always complaining that he's got the worst linemates and look who he was playing with tonight - Bates Battaglia and Boyd Devereaux, both players who didn't play a game in the NHL last season. Brutal.

The injuries provide opportunities for others to step up. Hopefully Devereaux can have a positive impact on the team and earn a long look from management. I still think the Leafs could use the playmaking abilities of Erik Westrum, who's the number one guy with the Marlies. I'm not sure why all these other guys are getting the nod in front of Westrum. It's classic Leafs management right there. Westrum won the scoring title in the AHL last season. You'd think with all the injury problems the Leafs have he'd be the first one to get a sniff. But that would be the most logical thing to do, so clearly, the Leafs won't do it. The Leafs manage their team like George Costanza - they always go with the opposite of their first, and usually most rational, instinct.

I guess all the Leafs can hope to do right now is tread water until some of the troops are ready to return to the lineup. Just stay afloat. The injury bug has seriously been an issue this year. This team isn't that good to begin with. It's so hard for the Leafs to succeed when they're dealing with injury after injury.

The game tonight was pretty weak. Aubin, who's obviously taking notes from Raycroft, let in the customary weak goal of the game. Other than that, it was all about the Pens power play. With Crosby and Malkin, it's way too much to handle. The Leafs need to figure out that they can't play undisciplined hockey against such a skilled opponent. How many times can you beat the same message over the team's head? It seems they just don't get it.

Paul Maurice's interview from practice today was rather refreshing. He said both Aubin and Raycroft had played ok this year, but neither of them are bringing their "A" game every night. So right now, he's going to play both of them, and ride the hot streak when one of them wins. The Leafs' goaltending ranks 25th in the league right now. That's just sad.

The statistic that most frightens me? Ed Belfour's GAA is only 2.71 and he's got a save percentage of .900. Raycroft's GAA is now 3.09 and his save percentage is now at a pathetic .892.

Number one goalie my ass.

As for the Raptors, they got smoked tonight by the Chicago Bulls - the 15th straight time the Bulls have beaten them.

That is whack.

TJ Ford was hurt in the game as he sprained his ankle.

Pray for him.

The injury bug that is attacking pro sports in this city cannot spread to TJ Ford. That just wouldn't be fair, it wouldn't be right.

Enough, please.

It's been a terrible night for both the Raptors and Leafs.

So 2006 comes to a close for Sports And The City on a sour note, as I'm heading up to Lagoon City to celebrate the New Year.

If you're out there and reading, I thank you, and I wish you all the best in 2007.

I also wish a prosperous 2007 for the Leafs, Raptors, and Jays. And Andrew Raycroft. He really needs some help - some divine intervention type of stuff.

Belfour's stats are better! That makes me sick...

Goodnight, Toronto, and Happy New Year...