March 01, 2007

The End Is Near

The Leafs had a day off today. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that a few of the boys hit up Golf Town, to get an early start on some shopping. Golf season is just about upon us, and once again, the Leafs are going to be the first guys out on the links.

Talk about stinking up the joint in a couple of huge games. It's been an interesting few days, to say the least. Two huge losses to the Habs and Sabres have dealt the Leafs' playoff aspirations a huge blow. Not to mention all the drama from Tuesday's trading deadline.

John Ferguson Jr., in an absolutely shocking move, acquired a former Leaf before the 3 pm deadline. "No Panic" Yanic Perreault is returning to the blue and white, for his third tour of duty. See ya later, Brendan Bell. This guy fell so far off the defensive depth chart, he was playing left wing. When you get jumped on the depth chart by Wozniewski, you've got some problems.

Finally, by dealing for Perreault, the Leafs have seen the light and realized that Matt Stajan is no second line centre. Toronto has nothing that resembles secondary scoring, and this is a good trade, although it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. Perreault will help because he's such a great faceoff man, and he's got 19 goals, which puts him third on the Leafs. He's unrestricted at the end of the year, and likely won't be back. I think it's a good trade, but I wonder why Ferguson didn't make it happen two months ago, right after Peca went down with his injury. It's simply too late.

Perreault wasn't in the lineup Tuesday night, and unless he knows how to play goalie, it didn't really matter. I was shocked to see Raycroft back in net Tuesday night, after his pathetic performance in arguably the biggest game of the year on Monday in Montreal. He let in five goals on 15 shots in Montreal, and four goals on 11 shots against Buffalo. Atrocious goaltending.
Paul Maurice has done a great job this season, but he totally dropped the ball in going back to Raycroft Tuesday night. Razor did not deserve to start. You don't put in a performance like he did and just be handed the reigns once again the night after.

What angers me most is that there is just no accountability on this Leafs team. Why wasn't Raycroft held accountable for his performance? Why was he allowed to just go back in there? He clearly doesn't have the intensity or desire that is required to play goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He just doesn't have it. He's not a number one goalie.

The Andrew Raycroft experiment has been a failure. He isn't the right man for the job. It's inconceivable to me why he was in the net on Tuesday night against the Sabres, and it goes back to the start of the season, when he was handed the number one job while not being deserving of it. Raycroft has been the goalie of choice, yet he hasn't had to even work for the job. It's bullshit, and the Leafs season is lost because of Razor's poor play.

The Leafs have their best defense, on paper, in years. Yet Raycroft has given them AHL-calibre goaltending. He let three soft goals against the Habs. Granted, three out of the five were scored on the power play, and one came off the stick of Sheldon Souray. That guy's slapshot can kill you, so I'll give any goalie props for standing in front of it - I'd have been running away screaming like a schoolgirl. But at the end of the night, he just wasn't good enough.

It's sad, because against the Habs, Aebischer was terrible. Yet Raycroft still wasn't as good. He is constantly outgoaltendered, yet it doesn't seem to faze anyone on the Leafs.

I hope once Razor got yanked from the Sabres game, he was watching Ryan Miller and taking notes. Miller is a number one goalie, and a playoff goalie. He kept the Sabres, who were missing eight regulars from their lineup, alive in the first period, making great save after great save, until the Sabres were able to score a softy on Raycroft. There's your difference, right there.

There's no point in bitching about the Leafs anymore. To be a playoff team, you've got to have the stats to back it up. The Leafs are done. Raycroft's save percentage is a mediocre .895. Toronto has let in 72 goals on the power play, second last in the league. Their penalty killing, at 78.8%, is 26th in the league. They have the second-worst home record in the Eastern Conference.

Really, how good can the Leafs be when their last line of defense is Andrew Raycroft. That's not even a "last line", Raycroft is hardly a scribble.

And I'm just so sick and tired of the fans getting on Bryan McCabe. This guy plays upwards of 26 minutes a night, has almost 50 points and is a plus player. Yes, he makes a lot of money, but that's not his fault. I think we all would have signed that contract had it been passed across the table to us. Get over it. He is not the problem. Raycroft is the problem. The thought process that goes into believing Matt Stajan is a second line centre is the problem. Not McCabe. Save your boos. Use them on Raycroft.

And coming up? Friday a date with Brodeur and the Devils and Saturday another visit from the Sabres. That will be four losses in a row, and then the Leafs can officially say goodnight. Hopefully J.S. Aubin will be in goal, and Jeremy Williams in the Leafs lineup.

Another disturbing tidbit: The game with the Sabres ended with Sundin playing on a line with

Bates Battaglia and Boyd Devereaux. Wow. You sure you want to stick around, Mats?

Get those golf clubs ready, boys. As the old saying goes: Golf Leafs Golf!


How about the trading deadline. I just love trade deadline day. It's intense. I find it amazing that all three major sports networks devote a whole day's worth of programming to the event. That's really what it's become - an event.

It was an eventful day and a lot of names changed teams, but the shocker of all came down at 3 pm, with the announcement that the Oilers had traded Captain Canada Ryan Smyth, to the Islanders, of all teams.

Nobody, especially Ryan Smyth, saw this one coming.

It happened on Mark Messier Day in Edmonton no less, as his jersey was raised to the rafters Tuesday night.

Smyth had a going-away press conference at Edmonton International Airport today. Yeah, pretty strange. He was extremely emotional, to say the least. He was balling like a little baby. News dropped today that the two sides were only $200 thousand dollars a year apart on a deal. Smyth was asking for $5.7 while Edmonton countered at $5.4. Not exactly a huge difference. Not a huge difference when it comes to the face of the Oilers franchice, and their heart and soul. If that really is the case, it's extremely shocking a deal didn't get done.

I think Smyth must have thought Kevin Lowe was bluffing. He did not seem like a guy who truly believed that there was any chance he could be traded. I just can't believe they didn't meet in the middle. A guy like Darcy Tucker, who isn't even from Toronto, gave the Leafs a discount in order to make sure he could stay here. Gotta love Darcy - thank you, Tucks! I'm surprised Alberta boy and cowboy extraordinaire Ryan Smyth didn't just give the Oilers a discount and get the deal done.

Smyth's farewell press conference was weak. He was clearly in way too emotional a state to be addressing the media, but it had to be done. He said something along the lines of "I want to win a Stanley Cup with New York, and then bring it back to Edmonton, because this is where my heart is." Who says that? I found that extremely odd. I mean, what would his new teammates think?

As for the trade, I think the Oilers got a great return for a rental player. Three first round draft picks is a steep price to pay for a rental. I guess the Islanders are desperately seeking credibility and a trip to the post-season, and it's a good deal for them in those regards. Smyth should be a great acquisition and get them into the playoffs. It's just going to be weird seeing him in the ugly Islanders uniform.

As for his future, I can see him going back to Edmonton. I think the chances of him stayin on the Island are slim to none.

I've got to give Kevin Lowe some credit. He doesn't put any player above the franchise. He made a ruthless decision to trade Smyth, and knew the backlash it would cause. But he's a man of principal, and he truly believes in what he's doing. He's got a couple of huge balls to pull a deal like that off.

It's just got to be rough to be an Oilers fan, eh? I thought us Leafs fans had it bad. First, you lose game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. Then you watch as the team trades all-world defenseman Chris Pronger. And now Ryan Smyth. Ouch. Must be rough!

But I say screw the Oilers. I don't care about their problems. Ryan Smyth would look great in a Maple Leafs jersey. The Leafs should have a contract printed out for him by now, ready to hand to him at the stroke of midnight on July 1st.


Big win by the Raptors tonight against T-Mac and the Rockets in Houston. The Raps shot 60% in the first half and dominated the best defensive team in the NBA. The scoring was extremely balanced, and Kris Humphries finished with 16 points, on 7 of 7 shooting, with 6 boards and 2 dimes. The Hump brought it tonight.

Bargnani led the Raptors with 20 points and just keeps getting better and better.
I thank the Lord above each and every night for the Raptors. They make the Leafs struggles easier to swallow.

Like I said, I'm done bitching about the Leafs. I've got the Raptors and Jays to worry about. I'm at peace with the Leafs' season, and the fact that it will come to an end without a trip to the playoffs. The dream is dead, until next September, when I'll go through it all over again.

Goodnight, Toronto...