To the surprise of many the Leafs called players up to face the Devils on Friday night in Newark. Toronto used the final call up bringing Carter Ashton and only with injuries could they modify their lineup. Injuries to Clarke MacArthur and Matt Frattin gave Randy Carlyle the opportunity to make emergency call ups, which were awarded to Ryan Hamilton and Nazem Kadri.
Kadri is making his third appearance with the Leafs this season, which is hopefully a bit more productive than the previous two. He has improved tremendously since his lacklustre start in the 2010-2011 season in which he spent most of his time with the Marlies, but he still has yet to truly earn the trust of an NHL coach. This is not a completely fair statement as this is his first stint under Randy Carlyle, but if his defensive zone coverage hasn’t improved he likely will be no further ahead than he was with Ron Wilson.
Ryan Hamilton will see NHL for the very first time, and according to Dallas Eakins it couldn’t happen to a better guy. I will confess that I don’t see very many Marlies games, so I don’t have a whole lot of input on the player himself other than to say both congratulations on the promotion and good luck.
There really is not much to say about the game itself as only one team has playoff implications. Toronto fans are understandably upset with the on goings, but the white flag was truly waved when Ron Wilson was dismissed. Twenty games is far too short to implement a new system of play, so as the saying goes in Leafs Land, maybe next year. It should be noted that the 747 crash that the Toronto season has become, they may have company in the province. Ottawa is sliding right down towards the 9 spot in spectacular fashion.
Over the past several years since the departure of Ed Belfour, Toronto has employed more than a dozen goalies. All of these goalies eventually was deemed a failure or not good enough to be a starter. Many are making the familiar cat calls towards James Reimer while most have written off Jonas Gutavsson. This is no surprise as both have played quite poorly at times.
A story Leafs fans should read into with eyes wide open is that of Mike Smith, the current starting goal tender of the Phoenix Coyotes. Smith was the pylon the Tampa Bay Lightning most often dispatched last season before acquiring Dwayne Roloson from the Islanders. To the credit of the Lightning, Smith was at most times average for them when he was with them and eventually ended up finishing the season with the Norfolk Admirals before leaving Tampa as an unrestricted free agent.
He entered the Phoenix Coyotes organization at the request of goalie coach Sean Burke, who saw something that he liked in the downtrodden goalie. Not even one full season later Mike Smith is one of the top goaltenders in the league with only one fewer victory than the Maple Leafs team. Smith didn’t all of a sudden wake up and remember how to play his position, he had a couple things go his way. First he had a coach that believed in the goalie himself and was not trying to install a system on him, something none of the tenders on the Leafs have had. Second he has a head coach that applies a system that empowers the goalie by allowing them to face fewer quality shots.
Why should Leafs pay attention to this? Just look at the guy he replaced. Ilya Bryzgalov was other worldly good in Phoenix but would anybody last year have suggested that the Coyotes wouldn’t have a noticeable drop off with Smith in net. Toronto could learn a thing or two about building around the strength of the net, and not looking to have that kind of superhuman strength. Nobody in the organization knows how good or bad Reimer or Gustavsson are because they have never had the proper support from defense nor have they had the latitude from the position coach to do what is natural for them.
Other sports news related to the NHL
The NFL decision to suspend Sean Payton and members of his former and current staff sent a loud message to all of the teams in the League. This was a flat out ballsy move which has already upset many in what the call “who dat nation” (ridiculous, I know) as well as many mainstream media members. The fact is the NFL has integrity and apparently intends to protect it. The NHL could learn a lesson from this with it’s handling of discipline. The NFL had no choice, they are being sued for patently ignoring player safety issues and stand to lose a lot of money. The NHL may not be far behind and don’t think that it won’t happen.
Thoughts from the game:
– Joey Crabb and David Steckel are two players that will almost certainly be back next season. Carlyle has been giving both tons of ice time, and both seem to play safe minutes.
– Congrats to Nazem Kadri on the welcome back goal, but more importantly a huge congratulations to Ryan Hamilton on his first NHL point.
– Enough of the Mike Komisarek hate, it’s old and it’s played out. Not one word on how awful his partner Schenn is by the majority, but Komisarek gets the lion share of the blame. He is what he is, and he will be a Leaf for at least 2 more years.
– Holy James Reimer. The kid is the only reason the game was close.
– Hate how it takes the oppositions commentators to point out the complete and total lack of jam. Chico was being his normal self, but he was far from wrong in pointing out that the Leafs don’t defend anybody on the ice. This needs to change before next season.
– Nice shootout move by Kadri in potentially the worst shootout ever played. 5 goals on 6 shots, brutal.
– Tank nation losing their minds again, probably not half as bad as they will when Brian Burke holds the press conference announcing that the pick has been traded. Enjoy the games.
– Phil Kessel could not have had less to do with the game tonight. Jay Rosehill was more noticable.