Okay, so let’s just forget about the whole give-freddy-covid idea from my last article, here, for now (lower body injury—fuck yes!) so we can talk about the next worst Maple Leaf right now. Before we shit on this guy’s head I should say that as a Leafs fan I, and probably you, require a whipping boy. Someone whose every shift I scrutinize, whose every turnover makes me groan, someone who I will implant into every future trade scenario until he either a) gets traded, or b) plays better.
You could go back through all the whipping boys we’ve had over the decades—and you should. But my memory is not so great so only the most recent and memorable come to mind. The one that left the deepest scar, for me, was David Clarkson. The night he was moved to Columbus was honestly one of the greatest nights of my Leaf fandom. I am 39 years old. When Blue texted me, a msg that read simply: “he’s gone.” I leapt from my chair, ran into my bedroom, tried, frantically to explain to my wife the reason I was digging through my closet, explaining where this uncharacteristic manic energy was coming from. Suffice to say she didn’t understand. But in the back of the closet, I knew, was a Columbus Blue Jackets practice jersey I’d found at a thrift store, which I then used white stick tape on to have the back read CLARKSON 71.
After Clarkson there was, of course, Phil. Yeah, he could score. Yeah, he had that whippy little stick. But the man could not win a board battle to save his life, and his long turns behind the offensive zone net drove me nuts.
Phil was quickly supplanted though by JVR. The guy was useless except when he was within arm’s-length of the opposition’s net.
Was it fair to hate the most talented players? Probably not. But a testament to how bad the team was for a while is the fact that I own a Leo Komarov jersey.
Which brings us to this year’s team. Who are not terrible. They’re really fuckin good. I have not had this much fun watching a team play in my life. I have never been a fan of a team with a player as good as Auston Matthews. And, forgetting the goaltending for a moment, there’s very little to complain about.
I’m going to.
John Tavares has been playing like shit and how long before we start talking about his contract being a huge problem?
He’s been nearly invisible. Occasionally we will see a flash of the player we know he can be, but mostly he looks frustrated and, possibly, underutilized.
Is he worth the 11 million he’s paid? Debatable.
When I watch JT I see a guy who gets away with more hooks and holds than anyone besides maybe Zdeno Chara. I see a guy who has two excellent wingers, is getting easy matchups as teams try to focus on the Matthews line, and still is failing to produce much.
I don’t know. Maybe their plan is to play patient hockey. Maybe he’s invisible because he’s being asked to make smart plays, to take no chances. But I don’t think that’s it. I think John Tavares is a very competitive and gifted player who has above average smarts and hands but average skating and average size. I think he’s overpaid. And I think it’s going to be a problem sooner than later. He has an NTC. How long before we’re talking about how Dubas is going to convince him to waive it?