Another season is upon us. I had October 13th marked on my calendars for months. Yet the day came with no anticipation, no butterflies, no Christmas morning feeling. It was quite evident that the Leafs latest playoff debacle had taken my 27 years of fandom and optimism and made me re-evaluate the commitment I give.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the off-season additions. Being a fan of a team constantly fighting the cap, I knew our options were limited. However, I was looking forward to the “wizardy” Dubas and company would come up with.
They didn’t disappoint, first and foremost they made sure to get a complimentary 1B to Jack Campbell. Followed by a “not putting all your eggs in one basket” and signing both Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase. The Bruins did the opposite and put that money towards a Nick Foligno contract. Lastly, we signed Michael Bunting, who after 3 games looks like the re-incarnation of Brad Marchand.
Following a 82-game season with “Post Game Thoughts” a huge focus is on game to game evaluation and formulating narratives that you ideally like to prove or debunk over the course of the year. Therefore this early on the narratives are either the sky is falling or let’s plan the parade. Without further ado let’s get into it.
Here are my Post Game Thoughts:
•I have 3 things I want out of our players who make $11 million dollars. Firstly, I want them to be a point per game player. Secondly, I want the analytics and eye test to support that they have constant positive impacts on the ice. Thirdly, if you’re not doing #1 you sure as hell be doing #2.
As of right now we’re 3 games into the season and Mitch Marner and John Tavares have accounted for 2 points. Actually 2 assists, no goals. Many will say “But they were close” and “snake bitten” but how many times does an NBA player miss a windmill 360 dunk before you don’t care about the flashiness and just want the results?
Granted they have played stellar in every other facet. You would just expect more instant chemistry. Instead, they’re giving Leafs fans who blamed Nylander for Tavares lack of production a hole to crawl into. We all know Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews have ungodly chemistry but it shouldn’t matter. Either of these players should be elevating everyone around them. Right now I get the sense they’re both wondering what the hell is going on.
•I can’t tell if I’m too high on Rasmus Sandin but everytime I watch him, I get the feeling we’re watching a top pairing defenseman develop right in-front of us. Both him and Travis Dermott have been absolutely solid as a 3rd pairing duo. This play particularly on Saturday night left me going Morgan who?
This is a completely replicable play that could become the hallmark of Sandin’s offensive ability. Taking the puck down the left wing wall and threading a tape to tape through defenders for an easy tip in. This play screamed confidence to me. At times last year I felt he played sage or timid. This year I’ve seen a player who knows they belong.
Another aspect of Sandin’s game I love that we’ve long missed is a defender who can consistently get pucks through traffic. Watching Sandin on the PowerPlay has been refreshing to say the least. What’s impressive is you can tell he takes a half second to decide where and how to take the shot. He also does this quick enough that the team and goalie can’t adjust to it quick enough.
•Michael F****** Bunting aka Brad Marchand 2.0 aka Greasy Rat. I don’t have enough good things to say about this player. I have a laundry list of players who I want to emulate Bunting’s game more. This is a player who came from the hockey school of hard knocks. I see a player who has had to fight every single day to be where is right now.
This seems to be a Michael Bunting trademark. Head down, shoulders widened, digging away at a semi loose puck in the blue paint. I’ve seen him do this several times throughout three games already. Bunting also has also flashed signs of what looks like a competent top 6 playmaker.
What I liked most about this goal is it mixed grease with skill. Bunting pulls back, keeps his head turned like he’s looking to pass, then snipes it short side. I think players are going to hate having Keefe tell them to play more like Bunting. It’s still early on but this signing might have been the biggest steal of the summer.
•I see Ondrej kase, Michael Bunting and Pierre Engvall making collectively what Alex Kerfoot does and wonder why, just why? There are so many trade scenarios involving Kerfoot and none of them make the Leafs worse
•Timothy Liljegren had a great debut. It wasn’t without mistakes but you trust when you play your prospects they’ll learn and correct these mistakes
•William Nylander, that’s it. He’s our #2 RW and probably a #1 RW on 25 other teams in the league
•Nick Ritchie looks like a player not cut out to play in an uber skilled teams top 6 but I will never write him off. I know when playoffs come around he’ll go up against the likes of Tom Wilson and Ryan Reaves with no issue.
Author: Josh BeLeaf