This blog topic is probably the most viewed by Leafs fans, as the frustration in Leaf land mounts. It's easy for all of us who don't play the game at a professional level to disect every mistake made by our Leafs, but hey it's their job to entertain us so we can rip into them from time to time. I have always been a Leafs fan and always will be, yes I am an idiot LOL.
I often compare my love for the Leafs to that of a relationship where one partner sleeps around and the other partner no matter how many times the other cheats, thinks that will be the last time. Of course the cheating in this case is not winning the Stanley Cup.
I have known for quite some time that the Leafs were gonna hit a rough patch when it came to the playoffs but I never thought we would be this deep in the basement for this long. It never just boils down to one player making the team a bad team, so I will give my 2 cents on who I think is not pulling their wight and why.
First on the chopping block:
Jason Blake-2yrs/6M: Oh Blake where do I start, I let him off the hook in his first season due to his health issues. Last year I though he had a decent year but not at 4.5 million. Blake was hastily signed after a 40 goal campaign on Long Island and has yet to produce anything like that since getting his big contract. In 2+ years in Toronto he has averaged 20 goals a season and only has this year and they are both on the power play. We are paying big bucks for this guy and he isn't producing as much as he is getting paid, I hate to say I told you so I knew this would happen and believe me I wanted Blake to prove me wrong. But after 20 games this season Blake is on pace for less then 10 goals this year. He is slowing down and he was praised for his speed when we got him. There is more on Jason Blake that I can rant about but I am only giving this much of my blog space.
Mike Van Ryn-1yr/3.35M: I know your thinking Van Ryn? Who is that again? Well he was our great return for Florida Panthers Captain Bryan McCabe. I won't be long on this guy. Van Ryn was having a decent year last year before he started running into his nemesis the injury bug, through not fault of his own it all started with a nice hit from behind by Canadien's forward Steve Begin. Then from there he got nailed by a Wendel Clark like Milan Lucic, in which Van Ryn broke the glass when he got hit. What frustrates me is this clown waits until the start of the season to decide to have surgery, what about all off season? This guys is getting paid 3.35 million dollars this year he will have 0 minutes and 0 points at the end of the year. Enough said.
Lee Stepniak-1yr/3.5M: He was acquired in the trade with St Louis, when we sent often injured Carlo Colaicovo who by the way finished with career numbers last year, and Alex Steen. To Lee's credit he has 10 pts in 20 games, so he is on pace for 41 points not a bad year for being on a bad team except for his salary. I would be okay with Stepniak being resigned at a lower rate, some where around 2 million/year after all we are off the hook for his salary as off April.
Francois Beauchemin-3yrs/11.4M: Again let me say when we signed this guy in the off season I was pumped, I loved this guy since he came into the league and especially in Anaheim. His struggles have been mighty so far in Toronto and I don't know why, it may be the system or maybe the nerves of playing in such a highly criticized market. I am sticking by Francois though even though at this point he is disappointing I think he will turn it around by season's end. His stats are fine except for the ugly -9 that is what bothers me. His worst season in terms of +/- was a -9 in Anaheim in 07-08 when he played in all 82 games. I think at the end of this contract we will all look back at this and say it was a good signing. An added bonus is that he is making 4.2 million this year but in the final 2 years of the deal his salary will dip to 3.6 million.
Jeff Finger-3yrs/10.5M: Jeff Finger, I can honestly say I wasn't a fan of this signing when Cliff Fletcher signed him. He was unproven and got overpaid, surprise surprise. Jeff did score a nice goal this year, I'll give him credit for that, but that is not why we pay him the big bucks. One thing I replay in my head over and over is Finger getting beat to the outside by players with average speed. Finger gets paid 3.5 million/year in his contract and he was a deal compared to other defence men 2 July 1st's ago but we still overpaid for him. Finger is a -8 through 11 games as he has been splitting time with fellow defence men Garnet Exelby. Finger has 6 points with 1 goal. Jeff is only 29 but he is not going to get any better, he is just going to see his skills decline over the next years. Anyone else counting down the days to the end of the 11/12 season? That is when his contract is up.
Luke Schenn-2yrs/1.75M: Okay Luke gets an honorable mention. Luke is having a disappointing season. Now that having been said I am not the average fan saying trade Luke now he stinks. I am saying send him down to the Marlies before his confidence is gone completely. Luke fell victim to having a great rookie season last year and with that comes bigger expectation for this season and Luke has not come through. Schenn is going to be a good shut down defence men in the future but he still has a lot to learn, hence my decision to send him down to the Marlies. Luke is making next to nothing because it's his entry level contract, so we can deal with him being -6 through 20 games. Again what worries me is his confidence, he is not gaining confidence by getting schooled on an almost nightly basis. Luke has a lot to learn especially in his own end. I know the NHL is the ultimate learning tool and that is how good players learn to be great players, but what good is it if you can't get anything out of the NHL.
Vesa Toskala-1yr/4M: Okay everyone's favorite dart board in Toronto lately is last, you gotta save the best for last right? Vesa is a good back up not a starter, now with that being said he is having an awful season and that is putting a pretty bow on it. He is playing like a minor league goalie right now. He has played 8 games and has 0 wins, 4 losses, and 2 overtime losses. His goals against average is a dismal 4.26, and he has a deflating save percentage of .854%. Those numbers are not worth 4 million dollars let alone even 2 million. I wanted to give Vesa the benefit of the doubt last year when he had a shaky year too. We all later found out he had to have hip surgery and I was willing to let that be the problem, but now there is no reason for this play he has shown us this year. I can't see Burke bringing this guy back especially at a ridiculous 4 million a year, and if he does then Burke is not the GM I thought he was. So I guess the only thing as Leafs fans we should do for Vesa is help him pack his bags so he can leave town. Come this April Leafs fans should see Toskala play his last game as Leaf.
It pains me to see the Leafs this bad. But as I said in earlier blogs I am a sucker for them and one day we will eventually win the Cup again, I just hope I am alive to see it. Think of how sweet it will be to see them raise that Cup.
Well it's not the good times that make you a fan of a team it's the bad times, I can be proud to say that no matter how good or bad Toronto is I'll be there cheer for them to win. GO LEAFS GO!!!!
In my next blog I will be taking a break from the Leafs and talking about the fight outcomes of UFC 106.
My UFC106 winner picks are:
Amir Sadollah winning avenging an early stoppage loss in his last fight.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueria winning, Little Nog making his older brother proud in his 21st career MMA fight.
Paulo Thiago winning making his 13th fight, lucky number 13.
In the co-main event I have Anthony "Rumble" Johnson winning by KO in the 2nd round over Josh "Kos" Koscheck.
Now for the main event, I have Forrest Griffin ending his 2 fight losing streak by decision over the returning Tito Ortiz. Forrest really needs this fight for his confidence after being tooled by Anderson Silva. I think Tito has been outta the game for too long, he will win again I just think it has been too long between fights for him. I guess he and Dana should have made up sooner. Tito still has 5 fights left on his contract after this fight.
See you all for the next blog, lets see how my picks turn out.
P.s. Check out the free under card fights on SPIKE TV.