TORONTO (Jan. 7) — Okay, even I’ll admit this is getting scary.
Though the Anaheim Ducks couldn’t score in a brothel, the manner in which they were upended on home ice by the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night caught my attention. Big time. Yes, the Leafs were rested and in jolly spirit after dismantling St. Louis in the third period on Saturday at Air Canada Centre. And, yes, the Ducks have been — by many miles — the biggest disappointment in the first half of the National Hockey League season. But, 4–0? With Jonathan Bernier white–washing a team from So–Cal for the second time in three weeks? The same Jonathan Bernier that couldn’t handle bouncing pucks from center–ice in October and November? Perhaps someone can explain to yours truly, in detail, what is happening.
Because I am thoroughly confounded.
The easy answer is that Mike Babcock has sprinkled angel–dust over the club. But, again, look at the roster. Look closely. This is a team devoid of anything that resembles an elite player — up front and on the back end. Goaltending has been sporadic. Leo Komarov is the team’s best player. Leo Frickin’ Komarov. I love the guy and I should cash some chips with his agent, Mark Gandler, after he (the agent) returned a phone–call for this blog (http://bit.ly/1Ph8hGj) on May 27, 2014. Gandler, ever the advocate, proclaimed his client a “difference–maker” and I had to stifle a belly–laugh. Look who’s laughing now? Leo Komarov: NHL All–Star. Sidney Crosby: NHL All–Star spectator. Like I said, nothing makes sense anymore. Help me… if you can.
I have also said — repeatedly — that numbers do not lie.
Since Nov. 18, the Maple Leafs have won 11 of 20 games. Or, 11 games in 40 days.
Last season, which eroded into one of the most horrendous in modern franchise history, the Leafs won 11 of 51 games between Dec. 23 and Apr. 11. Or, 11 games in 110 days.
No one needs Corsi or Fenwick to determine the club’s startling improvement.
But, again… how?
The current roster is simply a modified version of the “five guys named Moe” that wobbled through nearly four disastrous months a year ago. Think about it. The Leafs are winning with Matt Hunwick, Shawn Matthias, P.A. Parenteau and Byron Froese. Anaheim is losing with Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa. Something is dreadfully out of whack in the solar system. And, perhaps, far beyond.
I know… games are played on the ice and not on paper. But, these Leafs looked like they were skating on paper during the first month of the schedule. Since then, “five guys named Moe” have compiled an unblemished 8–0–0 record in games against Dallas, St. Louis, Nashville, Los Angeles and Anaheim — clubs that were expected to be a solar system more proficient than the Blue and White in this season of “pain.”
Maybe it’s the Martin Marincin factor.
While covering the Leafs for the Toronto Sun in 1977, my ol’ pal, John Iaboni, insisted he would munch on a shredded copy of the newspaper if Toronto lost to Philadelphia in a best–of–seven Stanley Cup quarterfinal. A photo of John with a plate of “Sun” accompanied the story. When the Maple Leafs romped to victory in the first two games at the old Spectrum, Iaboni anticipated a delectable helping of steak, potatoes and Caesar salad. A quartet of Philadelphia triumphs later, and my pal is still vomiting newsprint.
Undaunted, I’m beginning to consider a pledge of my own. That these Leafs cannot possibly make the playoffs with this roster… and after a 1–7–2 October. Maybe I’ll eat some Tofu. Or, maybe not.
One other thing:
As of today, Leo Komarov is 62nd in NHL scoring with 28 points.
Jonathan Toews is 90th with 26 points.
Help me. Please.