Canada

The Maple Leafs talk has turned to adversity, and it’s time for them to act on their words

Article content

Just two weeks ago — it seems much longer than that — Jake Muzzin talked about anger.

Advertisement

Article content

Taking questions from the media on the morning of the club’s 2021-22 regular-season opener, the veteran Maple Leafs defenceman noted that players were “pissed off” after the Leafs fell apart in the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens last spring and there was a “little anger” in the group as it returned for training camp.

“We’re going to need that throughout the whole season,” Muzzin said on Oct. 13.

As the stumbling Leafs blow into the Windy City for date with the hapless Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night, we wonder: Where has that anger gone?

The Leafs haven’t met the lofty standard they hold themselves to, never mind what’s expected of them in Leafs Nation, skittering to a record of 2-4-1.

A club that went to lengths to convince itself during the off-season that it’s a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and would learn from past failures has done nothing of the sort.
Suddenly, the Leafs are a group that, in the words of Sheldon Keefe, could learn a thing or two from the Carolina Hurricanes, alleged by the head coach to be a Cup contender after they bottled up the Leafs 4-1 on Monday night.

Advertisement

Article content

Sure, it’s early. But do you really think the Leafs figured they would be in this spot barely 14 days into the season?

If the Leafs beat the Blackhawks on Wednesday, don’t bother trying to measure whether Toronto has taken a step forward. Hawks captain Jonathan Toews and star winger Patrick Kane were among a handful of Chicago players on the COVID protocol list on Tuesday and, without a victory in six games to start, the Original Six franchise has brought embarrassment with its play (which is nothing in comparison to the details in the independent investigation, made public on Tuesday, into a sexual assault allegation involving the team in 2010).

If the Leafs lose? A reminder that they don’t play again until Saturday in Toronto against the Detroit Red Wings, a void in which there would be time for changes to be made.

Advertisement

Article content

The Leafs are a team that says a lot but often doesn’t take the next steps to rectify its collective lot in life. It’s an organization that hits reset on everything but the core when the annual post-season failures occur and then can’t get past yet another insurmountable hurdle.

The buzz word following practice in Chicago on Tuesday might have sounded familiar.

“Everybody comes into the year fresh with enthusiasm and wanting to be world-beaters to begin and now we face adversity,” veteran centre Jason Spezza said.

“The true test of a group is how you react to this type of adversity.”

So there’s a recognition, at least, that talk won’t solve the problem.

“It’s a good thing to go through adversity if you can come out on the other side of it and learn from it and make your team better because of it,” forward Alex Kerfoot said. “But it’s easy to say that and we’ve actually got to go out there and do that. It’s not a good thing if we let it spiral and we start losing a bunch of games.”

Advertisement

Article content

For Keefe, the Leafs’ work ethic isn’t necessarily an issue.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

“You can’t survive in the league if you don’t work hard,” Keefe said. “Everybody is working hard. But there’s another level to get to and I think we’ve yet to get there. That’s the reality.

“The good teams are the ones that are doing it most consistently. And they’re keeping that focus all the time. It doesn’t come and go, and that’s where we’re at.”

Keefe has discussed the fact that he likes what the Leafs do for stretches in games, that they get their scoring chances. Puck management, though, especially in the defensive zone, hasn’t been up to par, and turnovers are becoming more common.

“We have lots of great ingredients and good players and we’ve played some good hockey, but some good hockey doesn’t cut it,” Keefe said. “We’ve got to put it all together.”

The stars should be the most accountable. Mitch Marner has one assist in seven games, Auston Matthews has one goal in four games and captain John Tavares has three points in seven games.

For Spezza, it has to be a group approach.

“A big thing for our guys is realizing that we get out of this as a team,” Spezza said. “We’re not looking for one or two guys to climb us out of this. It’s really a team sport, hockey.”
A healthy dose of anger just might help the collective cause.

[email protected]

twitter.com/koshtorontosun

    Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.




Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button